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Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden: October 7, 2020

(On how effective RB James Robinson will be in a situation where they have to run down the clock) "That's the goal. We have to get in that position. We have to put ourselves in that position. That means we have to start faster, finish some drives, and keep the game in reach where we can use him [RB James Robinson] for 60 minutes, not just 25 or 30, so we're excited to see that. He's done nothing but impress us in every way, shape, or form, so I'd love to get him some more touches and those will come in the third and fourth quarter, like you said."

(On how RB James Robinson has progressed) "I think what you can't see in preseason and in practices is contact balance and runs after contact, and his ability to have vision and break tackles in the hole, which he's done effectively so far. He had a couple really strong runs last week where we didn't get to everybody, but he made two people miss in the hole and had some positive runs down the field and in the holes for three, four-yard gains, like I said, I think between the tackles, outside the tackles. I think we can be more creative with him, get him some more balls out in space. So we're just looking forward to keep working with him and the more we give him, the more he seems to perform. He seems to exceed our expectations, so it's our job to make sure we continue to utilize him and go from there."

(On if coaches being fired early in the season is jarring or just what happens in the league) "Both. You have to accept it; you have no choice. That's the way it is. That's what you signed up for. You know that it's a production-based business and if you don't produce, odds are you're probably going to get let go. Unfortunately for [former Texans GM and Head Coach] Coach O'Brien, that happened to him. It happened to me last year, obviously. You put a lot of work, blood, sweat, and tears into your profession. You work extremely hard and when it gets taken away, you don't feel really good about it, but you understand that that's a result of performances that aren't good enough. They've had a very tough schedule. They played Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Kansas City and they're a good football team. He's done a great job at that team and that organization. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but I do empathize with him, that's for sure. Sympathize, empathize, whatever you want to say."

(On the growth of WR Laviska Shenault Jr.) "[He's grown] a lot and I think we'll see a lot more. I think Laviska is a guy we're just going to continue to work with and he's going to get better and better the more he does and the more he sees. He's coming off that double core surgery that he had in college. I can't wait to see him at full strength. I think he's at full strength, but I think he can get stronger and better and even more productive in the passing game and obviously the running game. We've taken a little bit off his plate in that regard because James [Robinson] has preformed so well. I think we can utilize him a little bit more. I think the more healthy he gets, the more confidence he has in the system, where to line up, how to play, he's going to be a factor for this football team for many years to come. We're just scratching the surface with him, but we love the way he works in practice and his production on game day has been excellent so far. It's our job to get him more touches."

(On recovering after penalties that wipe out productive plays) "That was tough. We went into halftime 13-10 and Cincinnati took the opening drive, took the lead [to] make it 17-13. We get the ball, we bust out a 50-yard run to have it called back and then we did not overcome that penalty, which cost us big time. Next time we got the ball, we're down 24-13. It's just something we haven't done a good job of is overcoming negative plays, a sack or maybe a penalty. First-and-long, second-and-long, we've not done a good job this year of overcoming those things. It's something we have to focus on, get a better get-back-on-track package. I tried to run a quick game and get half of it back and we had to throw it away and we had another dropback and had to throw it away unfortunately, then had to punt. It's just something we have to do a better job of as coaches making sure we get the right play in there. We don't have to get it all back out in one play, we have to understand that mentality. We still have two or three downs to get it. We just have to make sure we do a better job of getting that negative taste out of our mouth and continue to move the chains."

(On how to help the offense on third downs as the play caller) "We just have to give them good options, good solid options. Whether it's a good solid running play or maybe it's a drop back pass. Like I mentioned before, we have to have a man answer, have to have some zone answers, we have to win on the outside, we have to have a good pocket, and we have to deliver the ball accurately and on time. Unfortunately, the last two weeks it hasn't been that case, so it's been something different that rears its ugly head. So we just have to continue to work them and make sure we get concepts that are good that can convert obviously the down and distance. We also have to make sure we produce and get to our right spots, win against man-to-man, step up, maybe move on to your second or third progression, whatever it might be. That requires good protection, so it all works hand in hand. Offense has to be pretty much perfect: the offensive line, the routes, the quarterback, the backs in protection running routes. Unfortunately, it's been somebody different or something different every time. We just have to make sure we take that part of the game very seriously because third downs, in my opinion, and turnovers are the most important parts of the game."

(On the two-point conversion attempt) "Gardner [Minshew II] thought he [James Robinson] outflanked him and tried to kick it to James so he could get to the front pylon and score, but [in] the design we had four other options of [how] we're going to get to the end zone. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. Gardner saw something and decided to dump it to James, who was basically trying to clear out, but it's a learning experience. Unfortunately, James makes so many good plays, sometimes when you feel like he's outflanking a guy, he'll run a guy over and score, [but] it didn't happen on that play. We did have other options."

(On the challenges from the Texans defense) "Well, they still have a pretty good, solid defense. I think [CB Bradley] Roby's playing excellent at corner and I think they have some good football players. The linebacker core's very solid. They can run. They can hit. Obviously, [Whitney] Mercilus is an excellent pass rusher, so they have some weapons on defense that can make it difficult for you. They can rush four, they can rush five. They a have unique blitz package as well on third down. They can play man, they can play zone and that's something we just have to be aware of. We have to make sure we protect the quarterback, number one, and then obviously try to stay out of those third down-and-longs because they can make it miserable for you. They can run three defensive linemen or two defensive linemen. They have the odd packages, they have the double A's, they have a lot of different things they can do to you trying to confuse a young quarterback. So we have to do a great job of being on top of our protections and obviously the most important thing is staying out of third down-and-9 and 10."

(On the run game against the Bengals and why the Texans have struggled against the run) "Number one, I think we stayed with it pretty good. We tried to go out in the third quarter with the running game. We have the 50-yard run called back [and then] we're stuck in a long yardage situation, so we had to throw it. Next time, we still tried to run the ball, but obviously the scoreboard was something we had to kind of press the issue a little bit, try to get some plays down the field to try to get back in the football game. But I think we stuck with it pretty good. Obviously we'd like to have James [Robinson] getting the 20-25 carry range. That's the ultimate goal, get Chris Thompson some more touches and go from there, but it doesn't always work out that way with the score and conditions and what have you. The Texans, I think they've given up a 100-yard rusher in three games and I think Baltimore had a couple hundred yards rushing against them. They played good teams. Pittsburgh can really run the ball effectively. Obviously Minnesota's always going to run the ball. They have [Vikings RB] Dalvin Cook, he's an excellent runner. Baltimore has three guys that can run the ball, including the quarterback, that are very, very good. So it's going to be important for us to try to get some runs in there and crack some and play physical with them and keep our quarterback clean, utilize the play action and go from there. That's when we're at our best anyway."

(On QB Gardner Minshew II not playing like himself in certain drives last weekend) "I think there's a stretch in there where he probably would like to have some plays back because we all would. When you lose a game, you might point to a few plays, especially if you're the quarterback. There's some plays or key plays in the game where it maybe might have kept the drive alive, I think he could hit nine times out of ten, [but] it just didn't work out. A lot of times, they have some long defensive players. [Bengals DE] Carlos Dunlap gets in throwing lanes a lot and it might alter his vision down the field on a few occasions. I think that's what happened a couple times. They weren't really rushing the passer. We had excellent protection a couple times, but I think he had trouble seeing to his second or third progression, which made him run a couple times or get out of the pocket. But that's something he'll continue to work and continue to get better at. He's been very effective getting out of the pocket and making plays happen with his legs, just not last week. So, ideally, we'd like him to stay in there and get to his second and third progression, but as a quarterback, what you feel and how you react is something you really can't coach. That's something that he's going to have to go through and each individual play we're going to ask him to scramble for first downs, but sometimes we hope that he stays in there and gets to his second and third progression. Overall, for the first four games, I think Gardner's continued to progress and [is] doing some really good things, but obviously there's some things we need to correct, and we will correct them. That's going to be the case for every quarterback in the National Football League."

(On if he expects a jump in play in the middle of the season for QB Gardner Minshew II) "We hope so. We hope that everybody makes a jump. We're going to have to make a jump. We're 1-3 right now, so offensively we have to play better. Offensive line, running backs, receivers, tight ends, coaches, we all have to do better. 1-3's obviously not good enough and if you're talking strictly on the quarterback, at 1-3, usually the record is indicative of the quarterback play a lot of times from an outsider, so he has to get better and we expect him to get better. He's a young player, has great energy, great passion for the game. He has the tools to become better and better each week, but we also have to play better around him and not put him in third-and-long situations and try not to get down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter where we're [in] the two-minute drill all the time. So it's our job offensively to make sure we finish drives, keep the game close, and that will make our quarterback play a lot better."