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Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden: September 30, 2020

(On how QB Gardner Minshew II has been playing, especially with pressure) "I think he's done good, for the most part. We're three games in. Obviously we're not where we want to be record-wise, but from a quarterback progressions standpoint, I think he's getting to see a lot. Last week we fell behind and tried to play catch-up and force [the ball] into some known passing situations, which is never good, partly because we weren't very good on third down, but it's a process. We have to do a better job across the board to help him, [in terms of] play calling and then there are times when I think he can maybe stand in there a little bit longer and hopefully see the field a little bit better. But I've been impressed with Gardner so far for a young football player learning a new offense. He'll get better."

(On what he thinks his reception will be returning to Cincinnati) "Probably not a good one. I think they're glad I left, probably. Who knows? I like Cincinnati. I have a lot of respect for the Brown family. [Bengals President] Mr. Brown was very fair to his coaches and players. [I have] a ton of respect for them, nothing but good things. Coach Lewis was a great coach to work for. We had some great young players: Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert. We had a lot of fun in those three years, had a lot of success. Unfortunately we didn't win a playoff game, which still leaves a bad taste in our mouth, but, like I said, [I have] nothing but respect for that area and that organization."

(On if it's been weird to play a former team and if coaches get used to it in the business) "I think you just get used to it. It was a little bit weird, but the way football is now, I think there's only two or three guys left that I know on that staff and as players. I think the only guys left are Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green. I don't know who else is left out there, Carlos Dunlap and Geno [Atkins] [are still there]. So times change, players change, coaches change, but like I said, the organization's solid. Mr. Brown runs a class organization and it'll be good to go against him. We have to win though." 

(On how to make sure the offense gets off to a fast start on the first drive) "That's important. Unfortunately we've given up some touchdowns on our first drive and we've been behind early and then we weren't able to answer against Tennessee or Miami or Indianapolis, so we got down and [were] playing catch up and that's not easy with a young quarterback and a young offense. We have to stay on track. I have to a better job of staying on track as a play caller and not getting too panicky, so to speak. I have to make sure we stay on track and make sure we keep the run mixed in there with the pass. Last week against Miami, [we] probably got a little too pass-happy, which is unfortunate. [It] puts our team in a tough position, our tackles, puts our quarterback in a tough position. So we have to do a good job of keeping balance and it's our job to get to starting faster. We tried to make that a focal point last week. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Hopefully it will happen this week against Cincinnati, but we have to be prepared for both scenarios. We have to be able to play with a lead. We have to be able to play without a lead. So it's a good learning experience for our guys, but we do have to do a better job starting fast."

(On if the trouble starting the game well has to do with them being a young team) "A little bit, maybe. I think we can help them out too. We have to try to hit some of these big plays that are available to us and we have to make plays. Last week we didn't make plays on third down, which got us off the field and made us have shorter drives which got us off script. We had a lot of good plays available to us in the play action and the keeper game that we didn't get to because we got down and a lot of that is because we weren't effective on third down. I think we were 3 for 10, so [there were] terrible play calls on third down by me and we didn't execute quite good enough unfortunately. But this week, if we're going to be an effective football team offensively, we have to convert the third down-and-4-to-5's in order for us to keep drives alive, which opens up the playbook for everything else so we don't get down and become one-dimensional."

(On how RB James Robinson is developing as a receiver and a blocker) "I think you see it on tape. I think if you watched him on tape against Miami, he's probably, arguably, the best player on the team out there on offense. He was excellent in the passing game. He was great in protection. Obviously running the football, he had two touchdowns and some nice hits. So he's been everything we hoped he would be, but playing in the National Football League, it's about consistency and doing it week in and week out. But obviously, for us to be good, he has to have big production, both in the running game, in protection, and in the pass game. He's everything we thought he might be, but he has to continue to keep it up because we are going to rely on him in a big way moving forward."

(On if the criticism of QB Gardner Minshew II in Week 3 was fair) "I think anytime you're the quarterback, you're going to get criticism when you lose and you're probably going to get too much credit when you win. That's just the nature of the position, that's what you sign up for. But from my standpoint, I take a lot of the criticism. I didn't call a good enough game for Gardner to have success, so that's on me. I have to give him a better opportunity to make some plays, get the ball out of his hands, timing more quicker-type drops, get the ball out of his hands where he's not holding the ball waiting for deeper-type routes to develop against known passing situations. [It was] not a great game plan by us. Miami kind of fooled us a little bit, played a little bit more zone than they had played the last couple of weeks. But Gardner, I think, is on track of being a very good quarterback. He's young, he's going to make some mistakes here and there, but for the most part, I love the way he competes. You see him competing on every single play, whether he's outside the pocket trying to make something happen. Obviously ball security, we cant have the fumbles, but I've been impressed with Gardner and I know he's going to get better and we're going to get better around him and I hopefully I get better for him."

(On if he's spoken to Head Coach Doug Marrone about decisions to defer) "It doesn't matter. It's up to him, whatever he feels like on that particular game [and] team. If we do get the ball, it's our job to make sure we make it count. If we don't get the ball, we're down 7-0, 3-0, or 0-0, we have to make each drive count. We have to come out to a faster start, whether it's the first drive of the game or after a long drive by the opposing team. We've done a poor job of that offensively so there's really nothing [to say]. I think defensively, we've given up touchdowns on the opening drives and offensively, on our first drive, we haven't done anything, so I think both offense and defense have our hand in it. We both have to execute a lot better early in the games to give our guys some momentum and some juice. Sometimes, as a pro athlete, you get down early, it's hard to get out of that funk. We have to do a better job if that does happen. We have to keep grinding and keep pushing and somebody has to take us over the top to get us some momentum back and unfortunately against Miami, that didn't happen."

(On his assessment of Cincinnati's defense) "They're solid. They played Philadelphia really well last week. Carson Wentz had some problems. He didn't run the ball extremely well, so they have a good defensive line. I think with Geno Atkins, if he plays, he's one of the better interior defensive linemen. Obviously they have the outside edge pressure with [Carlos] Dunlap and [Sam] Hubbard. They're both very good players. They bring in #58 from Auburn [Carl Lawson], he's a great pass rusher. Linebackers are getting better. Obviously they have an excellent safety [Vonn Bell]. He covers a lot of ground, very active. Their corners are aggressive. So it's going to be a tough matchup and they do a great job. Their defensive coordinator [Lou Anarumo] does a great job of mixing up man and zone, like most coordinators do, some good blitz packages, so it'll be a good challenge. They played well against Philadelphia. Cleveland kind of got them in some personnel groupings and ran the ball effectively with Nick Chubb. Hopefully, we can do the same thing, try to keep them off balance a little bit which will open up plays down the field."

(On what he attributes the problems on converting third downs to) "Me, really, not good enough. We tried a crack toss on third down, on third-and-5. I knew we were going for it on fourth down, so I tried to get the first down on the run. They [Miami] played a defense that was not very good for that look, [we] should've got out of the play. Then on fourth down, we ran a scat protection, they covered zero-ed us and we blew the protection a little bit so [we] didn't give our offense a chance to really make some plays on third down. [I] called max protection against max drop zone, called empty protection against max blitzes, so [it] was just a poor play calling third down experience by myself. I have to do a better job giving him [QB Gardner Minshew II] better outs, better alternatives to cover zeroes, to cover ones, to drop eights, zones, and it was a poor job by me."

(On how he combats QB Gardner Minshew II not playing as well against zone defense) "I think most plays that we have, we have man-beaters on a certain play, we have zone-beaters on each given play. That's why we have progressions. That's why we have reads: single high, two high, man to man, we want to go here to this matchup, zones, we want to work this high-low on this defender, or what have you. So that's something we just have to continue to see and progress to. Sometimes it looks like cover-two man and they go to cover one and we lose sight of the safety. We don't know it's cover one, so we have to make sure we see the field a little bit better as well from a quarterback's perspective. For the most part, we just have to do a good job. [When] we do get man, we have to win the one-one-ones and [when] we get zone, we have to do a good job of seeing the field, finding our check-downs if they're there, our high-lows and reading the right defender, or getting through our progression, which will come. I think we were number one in third downs, so we're doing a great job of that. Against Tennessee I think we were 10 for 14 and then obviously Week 1 against Indianapolis, we were very successful. We just hit a snag against Miami. We just didn't preform well. It might have been protection related. It might have been route related. It might have been play call related, but we have to get on the same page obviously. I think we're number two in the league [on third down conversions]. We're still doing pretty good, but we have to do better."

(On TE Tyler Davis's NFL debut) "It was good. Unfortunately we had a short week obviously, so we didn't get any practice time, so we hadn't really had full speed rep since training camp before he got injured, so it was good for him to get out on the field. We liked what we see. We like his size, we like his strength, and we like his speed. I think the more reps he gets, the better he'll be. [He's] just a guy that has to get in there and get to work, take his lumps from time to time, but for the most part, we like his skill set and it's something I think we can develop as coaches, play callers, both in the running game and in the passing game. I think he can do some things."

(On how WR DJ Chark Jr.'s absence last week affected the play calling) "It was a lot actually. Not to make excuses, but talk about one-on-one matchups, he is usually the guy we want to look to in the one-on-one matchups. He's our best one-on-one matchup player and not having him available kind of hurt us. We had a lot of formations and plays designed for him and we didn't really know until Wednesday afternoon, late afternoon, that he wasn't going to be available to us, which it's really hard to change your game plan totally from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday night, unfortunately. So that had a good impact but we're not going to use that excuse. Other guys have to step up and unfortunately, we didn't do a good job of that. But DJ's definitely a guy that anytime he's not in the game, you're going to miss him for sure."

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