Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham spoke with the media on Friday. Below is a look at what they had to say. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET:
On RB Mikel Leshoure being loaded up the same as a veteran running back: "We'll see how the game develops. All of our players, all of our 46 that will be active, have to be expected to play significant roles. Just the way it is in the NFL. But we'll see as we get through tomorrow, as we get closer to game time and then go through the game."
On why he was so important to get: "Same things we talked about when he did it. He was a player that fit a role that we had for him. We like that he was multidimensional. We liked a lot of things about him obviously to feel strong enough about going up and getting him. We've been waiting for a while for that confidence to be rewarded and now he gets a chance to do it."
On blitzing: "We blitzed an awful lot in the first game and it was very effective. It depends on personnel matchups, it depends on quarterbacks. It depends on a lot of different things. You can't be one-dimensional. You can't be one-dimensional on offense and on defense you need to be able to change up some pitches and things like that. It's an important part of what we do."
On the starting cornerbacks returning: "It was good to get those guys back on the field. We'll get to Sunday and see how they're going. We've been light particularly at the corner position, at safety position also. Anytime you have players returning it's helpful."
On S Amari Spievey having a few snaps at the end of last week's game against the 49ers: "It was just a package that we run. Amari has played a lot of football for us and we liked him in that package, just like anything else that we do. We had a role and thought he did a good job at it."
On LB Stephen Tulloch's progression: "He was very young when we drafted him. I think he was 20 years old. He had been three years and done at N.C. State. Drafted him and he played special teams at first, which he had never in his life done. In high school, college, he had never played special teams. He became one of our better special teams' players and when our middle linebacker got hurt late in the year he came in and played well. (He) started a playoff game, made a lot of tackles. He's always been productive in making tackles. Probably his biggest progression over the course of his NFL career has been pass defense. There's a lot to learn in pass defense. It doesn't matter who you are, but particularly for linebackers, it's a very difficult thing. You have to know all your run-fits and all your blitzes. But pass defense is probably the biggest challenge and just looking back on him from him as a rookie, that's the thing that he's improved the most on. He's always been a distinctive defender when it comes to the run. He's been a short tackler, those sorts of things. But he's become much more effective against the pass."
On if he takes into account a team like the Titans having a level of desperation in their play while preparing for a game: "Maybe a little bit here and there. There are some things, the way a game situation might come up or whatever. Maybe somebody might be tempted to fake a punt or do something like that to make a play if they've been struggling on offense. Maybe they might blitz more if they have been struggling on defense or vice versa. Maybe they're struggling with the blitz and they don't blitz as much. So you always take those kinds of situations and what happened in the first couple of games into account, but the most important thing is always the way we play. We have good players and a scheme that fits them. We need to go execute. If we do a good job of that, then it makes the other stuff moot."
On Titans QB Jake Locker's mobility: "Yeah, he's a very good scrambler. He's strong; does a good job of running. They actually even had some designed runs for him, they ran a quarterback-draw backed up. Made a nice chunk of yards on a first down but they got called back with a holding penalty. He obviously...going to back to college he moved around real well. He's actually their leading rusher right now. They got behind in both games and everything else. You don't want to read too much into that. But we know he can escape the pocket. We know that he can get first downs rushing and that's what we have to stop him from doing."
On DT Sammie Hill: "Sammie's improved every year in every way from experience to technique, strength, and all those things and improved his condition. He probably weighs maybe a little bit less than he did as a rookie, but he's in much better condition. He's developed very nicely and when he's out there he makes plays."
On WR Calvin Johnson's maturity level progression over the years instead of getting frustrated: "Over the last few years he's worked hard to combat things like that. He'd never line up in the slot, I'm going back four years, but he never lined up in the slot. Now he lines up in the slot. (His) line-up is number three in a three receiver side. Motions, all those different things; he's in command of everything that we do offensively. He's not just an outside receiver. He makes a lot of plays on the inside part of the field. (He has a) very good run after the catch and when you do that it makes it difficult for teams to try to take you out. I mean there was another team last week that did a good job of taking those deep balls away but what; did he have eight catches last week? Their goal was keeping him doubled on every play. I think there was one play that he wasn't doubled. He still had eight catches. So it shows how he can still be effective even when people take the approach of trying to limit him."
On being satisfied with the job the rotations of defensive backs have done: "We're 1-1. There's not a whole lot to be satisfied with so far. We can do a better job in all phases. Not just our corners. Not giving up the deep balls, that's one of the things we want to do. But we also need to get off the field on third down. We can do a better job of that. Limiting first downs; there are other things that we're judged on. Tackling and all those different things. We haven't played poorly but we can play better and we're trending that way getting a couple more guys on the field also."
On CB Jerome Murphy caught up enough to play on Sunday against the Titans: "If he's active, he'll be caught up enough to play. If you're one of our 46 that we make active, we expect you to be able to play. If it comes to Sunday and he's active then you'll have your answer."
On Leshoure's pitch count: "If I did have one I wouldn't be disclosing it. I mean why would we tell an opponent what our plans were with a guy? He worked very hard in the two weeks he was not able to practice. It showed this week in practice how much work he's put in. He's trending the right way. Everybody that's active on Sunday, we expect them to contribute."
On QB Matthew Stafford doing uncharacteristic things in the first two games: "Quarterbacks throw the ball. It's a little bit like talking about our corners. Can we play better? Yeah, we can play better. We can play better at every position, wide receivers, quarterbacks, offensive line, D-line. Everybody can play a little bit better. We don't have any worries there."
On defensive backs stepping up due to injury: "That's the name of the game in the NFL. I don't get to watch very many games, but I caught a little bit of last night and a guy that got cut five times goes and rushes for 113 yards of whatever it was. Receiver that didn't have very many opportunities became the go-to receiver and over 100 yards. That's what this League is all about. Everybody gives a lot of attention to the guys that are at the top of the roster, the well-known guys. But you have 46 on game day and all of them are expected to contribute and all of them can contribute. For a lot of them it's an opportunity and when they get that opportunity they need to respond well and some of our guys have."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM QUOTE SHEET:
On what he sees from the Titans so far: "All I know is they won nine games last year and I'm big on looking back. Chris Palmer runs the offense, and I saw (Jake) Locker play in college. You know, for whatever reason I was looking at defensive players and saw him. What I see is a competitive young kid. He can run. I don't know how fast he is but somebody said he's 4.7 and I said, ‘look, I've been doing this a long time and he's a lot faster than that.' You know, young quarterbacks, he's typical of guys that have come into the League. He's strong, he's got a big arm. And Chris Johnson, I don't care what his average is, I think he had 154 carries last year for three yards or less, but he had about 40 for 10 yards or more. A lot more, you know. So, they have the fire power. (Kenny) Britt's back, you know, I don't know if he's 100-percent but he looks pretty good.
"So they've got good personnel and for whatever reason teams have things happen the first couple games. I hear it every week, the anointing of the Super Bowl team, you know, after one week or two weeks. I think Tom Brady said it best, ‘it's one game at a time and don't anoint anybody'. They tried to get him to tell them at halftime who is better Pittsburgh or Cincinnati and you can't make those kind of statements. I know Mike Munchak about as well as anybody. He's got a lot of coaches that I worked with down there and they're a well-coached team and we're expecting their best. So I hope we muster up and give them our best."
On his defensive line rotation and targeting number of snaps: "No, you know, really the starters have played in the 40s, low 40s and like, Sammie Hill and Nick (Fairley) had 30-plus last week. So the rotation, it will get a little bit more 50-50 as we go but sometimes it depends on the game and how the game's going on what we do there."
On if the defensive line rotation is an indication of player performance: "No, no not at all. Matter of fact, Sammie Hill had a pretty good game and had a good practice. Nick's (Fairley) definitely rounding into shape. He's running again and, you know, I have a lot of faith in all of those guys. I don't care who is out there."
On DT Sammie Hill's development: "He just graduated, I guess, you know. I kid him about that. Our first year together he and I stood and talked and I said, no, I was talking to him about if he went to a higher level school other than Stillman, like Auburn or Alabama. You know, I said ‘there's no telling. You probably wouldn't be standing in front of me. You would've got drafted a lot higher.' And at the end of that meeting that night he came back and he said ‘Gun, tell me the truth. What do you think would've happened if I went to Auburn?' I said ‘You probably would have been a second round draft choice at least, you know?' He has that kind of ability and now he's rolling into the equivalent of a four-year player. He's really been coached and it's not Stillman's fault, you know. They don't have the people you need to develop a guy like that. But you can see after four years with us he's really come a long, long way."
On increasing his blitz philosophies: "Well, we're still a work in progress there. We blitzed a lot when I first came in and Jim (Schwartz) and I talk about these things a lot. Right now, I'm a little bit disappointed in how we're doing it. Not in the coverage element, you know, it's tough for John Wendling to cover Vernon Davis. It's tough for anybody to cover that guy. And what we're doing is we're not winning those one-on-ones right now and I got pretty upset this week about it. It's more of a mindset. You know, I think a lot of the front people think ‘well, I got my gap.' Well, that's not the deal. You get your gap and take everybody with you to the quarterback. We've come a long ways in a couple practices this week, so."
On the advantage of having CBs Chris Houston and Bill Bentley back in the secondary: "Well, I just like messing with Chris. Had a good day this morning at the walk-through. I challenged him and he goes ‘come on over, bring it on.' You can tell he's getting well and laughing and smiling. He's done a great job of covering and Bill's the same way. Early this week we had one-on-one and Tom Lewand and Sheldon White and I were all standing together watching and he looks like a Ferrari. I mean, he can run fast and I'm happy to have him back out there."
On not defending well against the run against SF: "Oh yes, I saw it. Yeah, I thought last week's practice was as good a practice as I've been part of in a long time. It was excellent and we had it, you know. I think was happened is the game. The game got us and I saw it before the game. You know, when you've been there a long time and seen players come out, they were so hyped up. And the linebackers, one of their things was they were going to jam Vernon Davis. Lost their keys a couple of times and we had seven runs that I was really upset about. Each one of them was a guy not proper keying, not aligning properly and that was disappointing. I was really disappointed at the end of the game. Obviously, you don't sleep after you come back from an all-night flight. I didn't sleep for quite a while but I put all the plays together and graded every one of them. So there's an answer and it's simple. Do your job."
On what he means by ‘the game got us': The hype, you know. I knew it. You could tell and it's not a negative thing. It's how you handle those things. And Justin Durant and I talked about it and I said, ‘Justin, I need to find out' and I was telling him what I thought and he said, ‘you're right.' He was one of the guys. He's a good player, he's a veteran. So it's not a rookie or anything, it wasn't that those players went out on the field and not tried to play. Sometimes you overplay, and that's when another team's at home in their place. You know, a lot of those factors are built into it. But I think we've got a bunch of great guys. They work. I mean, I'm so impressed. Yesterday I was worried. They ran so hard in practice, so in the walk through today I tried to adjust it. They got the idea of what I was doing, thank God, you know. I was trying to slow things down a little bit. Get their legs back under them. They practiced well today."
On his thoughts regarding ‘overrated' claims toward his defensive line: "You know, I'd like to say a lot of things right now but I'd rather keep all those thoughts to myself if you don't mind. I know one thing, we've got some good players. I've seen a lot in my lifetime. You know, I saw (Ndamukong) Suh yesterday do things that I, I just shook my head. I just cannot believe what we have here. And it's just a matter of getting all our guys out there and playing together. You know, that's the frustrating part and you can't use it as an excuse and we don't. I told them that at halftime. I said, ‘I don't want to hear anything about this guy's hurt and that guy's hurt.' We've got to go out and win. That's all you're getting paid for. You know, I am, Jim (Schwartz) is, everybody. The mindset of our guys is pretty good. I like that part of it."
On the League asking teams not to treat replacement officials like ‘substitute teachers': "I didn't read it. Didn't' hear about it. You know, you've just got to keep coaching. I think it's the same way you have to approach if you've got a guy out and injured. You know, you can't overreact to the next thing and I think they're all trying to do the best job they can and, you know, all of us are playing the same level. You know, there's no favorite crew. We have officials out there and they're running the game so we've got to react to it."
On if he's noticed a difference in play with the replacement officials: "No, not really. You guys watch the game from wherever you sit so you probably can answer that question yourself."
On the kneel-down issue going on in the NFL right now: "Those things are hard to comment for me because this is the greatest game in the world and I just wish they'd leave it alone sometimes. You know, it's just, it's really good. I've been in it longer than those guys making the rules. So I've really enjoyed my life in it and I love this game with a passion that people probably can't understand and it's been a great game. I think you've got to be careful with different issues of the game. Just let it go, you know. Players handle themselves well, coaches do and our fans love us. And we love them because it's America. You know, when you win you feel better. When you lose you feel bad. I think the whole city feels lousy. I know I do and it's a great game. Let's just leave it alone."
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