Labriola On

Tomlin on Pickens, pace, significant changes

Q. If my accounting is correct, playing on a Thursday night cuts preparation time for the game almost in half. One thing that's always a part of your work week is combing through the previous game. Is that comb-through with the whole team something that has to be sacrificed?
A. No doubt. You know, it's important within the smaller groups within the unit that you address any issues that need to be corrected that could impact this next performance, things that could be used as development of a plan. And so, the meaty things, the significant things are addressed and adjustments made, but it's not combed through in the way that you will particularly comb through a second game of the season. In a short week, time is just not afforded in that area. So, you've got to make some major sacrifices and obviously, preparation things relative to the next game, go to the top of the line.

Q. In terms of the workflow on a short week like this one, is your general procedure to shorten everything as opposed to eliminating anything?
A. Yeah. And then not necessarily eliminate things in terms of menu things, but boy, you better weigh certain things more than others and make sure those things get addressed appropriately. Like situational plays – red zone, short-yardage, possession-down plays, planning in those areas. You don't get a chance to do everything, and particularly you don't get a chance to do everything in the manner that makes us all comfortable as coaches and players in terms of preparedness and having that feel of being able to go in and play fast. But you better have those boxes checked relative to the significant plays, the weighty plays, the weighty moments.

Q. During a game, when a pass play is sent to the quarterback, does the play-call itself dictate where the ball should go, or where the quarterback should first be looking to throw the ball, or is it a situation where the quarterback first has to read the coverage and then make his decisions?
A. It's all of the above. There are complexities to the discussion. Sometimes you could have an alert within a concept, saying if you see a certain look, the ball goes here. Sometimes there's a natural progression within a concept and obviously what the defense is doing often times dictates the progression, the side of the field that you're working, etc. And so, it sounds complex, but it all comes together. There's a myriad of variables, but usually it pushes you through a process that's pretty fluid.

Q. When a defense is said to be in "single-high" what does that mean?
A. It means that they've got one deep safety, and they've got another safety allocated toward the run game, or closer to the line of scrimmage. Often that's associated with run stopping structure. And when you have two safeties high with both safeties back deep, often times that's two-deep or quarters, and that's associated with pass dominant structures.

Q. What can an offense do to take advantage of single-high?
A. Everything. I mean, you're not reduced in any way in terms of what you're capable of doing offensively. Obviously, there's a structure that makes it more difficult to run the football, but there are mechanisms that the offense has in place to minimize that. You run the ball one direction, you block the guy furthest away from the ball on the other side, and things of that nature if you want to run the ball into that structure. And so, in today's game, I'm not going to pretend like that structure can dictate to offenses what they do. It just requires some coordination and planning.

Q. When an offense sees single-high, do they lick their chops and say, we can do this against this?
A. Not necessarily so because by the same token on defense, defenses know when they're in single-high that they're subject to the passing game, and so there are adjustments in those single-highs. There are just so many complexities in the game at this level. Maybe if you were watching a little league football game, you would see that level of purity in that discussion, but at this level, there are so many complexities to it.

Q. In your review of the game against the New England, you said, "I thought we had one-on-one playmaking opportunities, particularly in open space, with some of our receivers vs. defensive backs; we didn't get that done." What were you referring to there?
A. They're a man-dominant team, they're a single-high team, (Devin) McCourty is in the middle of the field. We talked about it going into the game, and so there are gonna be some one-on-one opportunities, and we didn't get enough of them; we didn't take enough of them. And so that's what I was simply referring to. It's not in any particular moment. I just know that under those circumstances, often times chunk plays, which flip field positions, which produce scoring drives and things of that nature, are often comprised of drives that have those type plays in them.

Q. How does a receiver get open deep in the NFL, because I would imagine speed is only one component of that?
A. They run by defensive backs. Now they run by them in different ways. It's not always, you know, pedigree vs. pedigree. Sometimes it's intellect. It's stemming. It's stuttering. It's how they run their route. Sometimes it's looks that the offenses provide that are dominant in one area and then the vertical route concept is a changeup. Sometimes it's circumstantial. You run the ball repeatedly on third-and-1 and people are ready for the run and you have a hardcore play-pass, and you end up behind people. And so, receivers do routinely run by defensive backs week in and week out in the National Football League, but it's not that pure pedigree foot race that you think it is. It's involving some other variables.

Q. Mitch Trubisky said that he could look to throw to George Pickens more. In the first two games of the season, have the Bengals or Patriots done anything specifically to minimize Pickens as a down-the-field weapon?
A. No. They've done what they do. If you're talking about a particular receiver getting attention, Diontae (Johnson) is the guy over the course of the first couple of games who has probably gotten additional attention based on the fact he was a 100-plus catch guy a year ago, and that's usually how things go in the National Football League. Pickens is gonna have to put some plays on tape to garner that type of attention, and not in preseason football.

Q. At one point during your weekly news conference, you said in an answer to a question related to the performance of the offense, "I don't know if significant changes are what's required." What would you have to be seeing that might convince you to consider significant changes?
A. When we're not in the right neighborhood. You know, we're in the right neighborhood; we might be knocking on the wrong doors. What I mean is, the difference between success and failure are small things. It's understanding. Its cohesion. It's playmaking. When it's things of that nature, when it's a small number of tangible things that you can point to, then you proceed, and you continue to grow and develop. When it's multiple things, when it's popcorn, then that's a different suggestion or a different story. What I'm seeing to this point are singular, tangible, minute things, and so that just tells you to keep your head down, have a certain collective resolve about your approach to business in spite of outcome, in spite of outside noise or what have you and get better.

Q. What does the use of tempo do to help an offense?
A. It does a lot of things. It quells a crowd. It catches a defense off balance, maybe lacking snap readiness. It could be something that reduces a rush if the defensive lineman isn't coiled and ready for action. It limits communication, which is a result of collective understanding. Oftentimes, one guy could recognize a formation structure if he's afforded an opportunity to say, "Hey, watch this. Watch that." And so now the defense is collectively ready. Pace reduces those things. Pace between plays, meaning keeping a unit on the field from, say, second to third down, can reduce defensive specialization. Certain personnel packages that make a defense more diverse, you can minimize that by pacing from second to third down, which is a common occurrence in the NFL these days.

Q. You have said that the use of tempo is scheduled into the game plan. What factors are in play when deciding tempo within a game?
A. Just the things we were just talking about. It's a myriad of factors in a myriad of different circumstances. And it's utilized in different ways. It's a versatile tool. In a game like tonight's, it can be used to quell the crowd. That's why often times visiting teams work in no-huddle because when you break the huddle, that signals to the crowd to pick up the noise. And that's why visiting teams work in no-huddle for instance. There are just so many components of that discussion.

Q. What did you see in DeMarvin Leal, either during training camp or the preseason, that led you to give him a chance as a rush end following the injury to T.J. Watt?
A. Much like Kenny Pickett, once we started getting into stadiums, you just saw rapid growth and development in his play and his understanding. Often times these guys just need to get an in-stadium taste of the NFL, and then they're like, "Oh, I belong here. It's like they said it was in practice." Those two guys in particular, you felt an increased maturation and increased development in their games and more consistency in their game once we started stepping into stadiums.

Q. Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland's starting quarterback tonight, is now with his fourth different team, which could indicate he's lacking some important ingredients to be a starting QB, but the fact he's in his seventh NFL season indicates teams believe he has attributes. What are Brissett's attributes?
A. You know, he has unbelievable intangibles. Anybody who's ever been around him says that about him and that he's an unbelievably hard worker. He's a smart guy. He's a natural leader. That was said about him when he came out of college. Ryan Fitzpatrick is another example of a guy who played for a lot of teams, maybe seven or eight teams over the course of his career, and similar things were said about him. This is a highly competitive business and game, and often times a guy working for multiple teams is viewed as a negative, and I just don't necessarily view it as such. This is a highly competitive league. The fact that multiple teams want to do business with him often times means that the guy has some really good qualities about him beyond what you see on tape. I think he falls into that category. I think Tyrod Taylor falls into that category. There are a lot of quarterbacks who have made a career of being a guy who is a bridge guy in some form or fashion for an organization. I think the Cleveland Browns thoughtfully went out and selected him knowing that they were looking at some potential issues as they moved forward with Deshaun Watson and so forth. And I know that Brissett has those types of intangibles.

Q. In terms of their running styles, do Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt complement each other, or are they two of the same?
A. They're No. 1 and No. 1a. They have their own styles, just some differences, but I don't know that the play selection changes. You know, Nick Chubb's got 76 plays on the season and Hunt has got 74. That probably just reflects their usage and how both are a significant component of what they do. That's the most important position on their football team. And that is probably the best running back tandem in the National Football League.

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