December 19, 2011
Redskins Park


Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan

On if the team’s performance against the Giants is the blueprint for what he wants the team to look like in 2012:
“Well, like we talked about from the beginning, you like to have that balanced offense. It starts with the running game and, once that running game gets going, it sets up the play-action pass and you control the tempo of the game — all of the different factors that we talked about that lead to a successful football team. And then you’ve got to play great defense. I thought we played extremely well as a unit yesterday against a very talented offense team that’s coming off three good weeks of moving the ball pretty good.”

On building momentum for next season:
“I think you always want to play well. You always want your best players to step up and play at a certain level if it’s young players or older players. You’re talking about either you get better or you get worse. You’re always hoping your football team is improving even though you might not have anything to play for except for pride. We’ll get a chance to evaluate those guys on a day-to-day basis and obviously with a couple of games left, see who gives us the best chance to win next year. So, yeah, it’s still important to evaluate those guys and hopefully they play at a high level. I think some of that does carry over to the following year.”

On if cornerback Josh Wilson suffered a head injury against the Giants:
“He was a little woozy on the sideline and we’ll give him a test tomorrow [and] see how he is… It was on the sideline. Somebody hit him in the head. I don’t know if it was a foot or a knee, but I saw him take a shot right there and he looked dizzy. But we’ll give him all the proper tests tomorrow and see how he’s doing.”

On veteran quarterbacks like quarterback Rex Grossman being able to bounce back after the early interceptions:
“You never know for sure if a guy is going to be able to bounce back. I was really pleased with Rex. On that first flea-flicker, I wanted Santana [Moss] to hold it a little bit longer and kind of hang in there and kind of fake a little bit longer. He took off a little bit too easy even though he was open. He was going to have to throw that ball 65 yards against the wind, so the timing wasn’t quite there. He did bite. There’s a progression you go through, you either throw it away or… That’s part of the learning experience. On the other one, we had a guy open and Rex doesn’t have quite the time to kind of go through his reads. But those are things that you’re going to try as an offense to eliminate those mistakes. We’re always going to be aggressive, keep people off-balance. After those two plays, we got a little bit more conservative with our play calls and start hitting the intermediate routes and I’m pleased with the way he executed.”

On having more toss plays for running back Roy Helu:
“It kind of had to do with some of his skills [and] just looking at him and how he handles the toss. He was hurt in that game too. I didn’t realize it until I looked at the film that he played hurt. [He] didn’t play quite as good as he normally plays after looking at that film. Normally, he plays at a higher level. I should have saw it earlier. He’s a tough guy and doesn’t want to admit when he’s hurt. Hopefully, he gets a little bit better as the week goes on. But yeah, you’re looking at all different types of scenarios with young players trying to play - with handoffs, with pitches and see which ones they handle best.”


On how it helps Helu to receive toss plays:
“Well, when a guy gets a toss, you have a little more separation between the offensive line. You have the option with his speed to go outside or, if they over-pursue, he’s a little bit more downhill. He can cutback without pressing the line of scrimmage. Sometimes, when you get that handoff, it’s quicker sometimes [and] you have the option to go outside or inside to get that yard or two. To have the combination to do both like he does keeps those defensive ends [and] outside linebackers a little bit off-balance because you’re not sure if you’re going to pitch it or you’re not sure if you’re going to hand it off. If you hand it off and you start playing the pitch, it’s by you. And [there are] different ways to attack a defense.”

On what injuries bothered Helu:
“A little bit of a toe. Had a knee. Just a little bit beat up.”

On if he’s surprised by the success of the offense without tight end Fred Davis and tackle Trent Williams:
“Yeah, very surprised. [It] just says a lot about the guys playing, playing hard. They’re working [and] doing the little things during the week to give yourself a chance to work.”

On if there has been anything the team has done differently to compensate for the loss of Davis and Williams:
“Obviously, the play calling’s going to be a little bit different. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you’re putting all the pressure on new players, but they still have to go out there and execute regardless of what it is. So yeah, you don’t want to put them in a tough situation - the toughest situations that you can go against, especially like a defensive front like the Giants.”

On if he wonders about if the season would be different without early-season injuries:
“You always do as a football coach – go back through how many years there are in the NFL. That’s a part of the business. Some years you’re very lucky. Other years you’re not. Sometimes, it’s one side of the football in comparison to another.”

On the performance of safety Oshiomogho Atogwe against the Giants:
“I thought he did a good job. I talked to him. He was able to go full speed, which is a good sign. Hopefully, there’s no setback with him. But he played 44 plays, looked in pretty good shape. I didn’t talk to him after the game, but I think he was pleased with his play. I was happy with his play.”

On if Grossman’s recent play has earned him a spot on the team next season:
“Like I’ve told you, we talked about this last week and the week before that – we’ll talk about our football team and who will be part of it, I’m not going to go through each situation, but we’ll talk about that after the year’s over.”

On utilizing different formations and packages without Davis and Williams:
“You always try to put a game plan together and you try to utilize the guys that you have on your football team that give you the best chance to win. If you’re going to take a look at a guy like Fred if he’s available and say, ‘Hey, if we get certain matchups with certain linebackers and safeties, you’ve got a possible mismatch.’ With him not being there, you may go with a wide receiver or somebody taking his spot. Maybe it’s a running back. It all depends on the strengths and weaknesses of defenses from a scheme standpoint and also a personnel standpoint. We’ll change week-by-week based on that.”

On if it helps to see other players play in the absence of Davis and Williams:
“Yeah, the more you have guys play in game situations the better off you’re going to be. And what you want is playmakers. You want guys who are going to make plays. That’s what separates the teams – guys who can go out there and make a play and go against somebody else and making sure that they can come up with that big play. The great teams do it consistently. If you don’t have enough of those, then there’s not a chance to win the Super Bowl.”

On if wide receiver Jabar Gaffney has lived up to his expectations:
“Yeah, I thought we needed some experience at the wide receiver position. We signed Santana [Moss]. I know he [Gaffney] was very experienced. I liked the way he played. I liked his production at every place he had been. I heard some great things about him when he was the University of Florida. We had some depth at our defensive line position with Jeremy Jarmon – more of a 4-3 defensive linemen. We thought the trade would be good. Jabar would get a chance to compete with our guys and you could see that he’s a guy that is very comfortable in his own skin and he’s been in big games before. He’s a pro running routes. You still have to learn a new system. You still have to see if you’re hungry, but he’s been very consistent catching the ball and adjusting to our system and making some plays. I’m very pleased with him.”

On how much three-receiver sets open up the offense:
“You can do that every game. The one thing that is great about offenses compared to defenses is you can dictate if you lose people who you’re going to play with. We don’t have a tight end — you can put up four or five wide receivers. If you lose your five wide receivers and you’ve got some depth at the tight end position, then you can go in with three tight ends and a running back. You can do whatever you want to do. You can adjust. The hard part is when you lose a lot of defensive players. Maybe you lose some defensive backs and they come out with a five wide receiver set. All of a sudden, you don’t have the people to match up. Each phase has their strengths and weaknesses they have to deal with. They have kind of the growing pains when you do lose people. With us, at least we can isolate how many people we have healthy.”

On if the team can have Davis and Williams at the facility in the final few weeks:
“Yeah, we are able to. I haven’t talked to them yet. I’ll get into more detail about that on Wednesday after I talk to them… We’ll talk to them first and, after I talk to them, I’ll share that with you guys.”

On tackle Willie Smith’s performance against the Giants:
“I think he did a good job. What a place to start out your first game… I thought he played well. There’s always going to be growing pains against a guy like [Giants defensive end Jason] Pierre-Paul. He’s a very talented guy, but I thought Willie really hung in there and played exceptionally well for his first game.”

On how the defense played against Giants quarterback Eli Manning:
“Well, first what I liked to do is take away the running game and try to make them have to throw… I thought everybody played well. You have to be gap sound. You have to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We played two deep, we played man-free – all of the different coverages that you do play [or] zone blitz. You can’t make mistakes on guys like that and you’ve got to be in your area or your responsibility. I think that’s what we did. Our guys made some plays. Defensive backs made some interceptions. Some great plays there. London Fletcher – they tried to take advantage of him – great job of keeping his concentration tipping the ball back up into the air, the one that O.J. [Atogwe] got. And that’s what you have to have – guys who are really on top of their game and not making mistakes and not giving up the big play.”

On how important it was for linebacker Brian Orakpo to get his first full sack against an NFC East opponent:
“I think it’s always good because he has to hear about it, he has to read about it, and you have a guy who is playing extremely hard and then all of the sudden not getting it done against NFC East opponents. He wants to prove to everybody that he can make a play and make a play when it counts, and he did. Like you mentioned, great effort on the holding penalty. We had a three- man rush and Eli [Manning] was smart. He just stayed in the pocket, and kept on hitching up, hitching up and knew eventually somebody would come open. [He] had a great throw and they made a great catch, but with Orakpo giving that type of pursuit, they had to hold him. That’s the difference of a guy just playing hard, and obviously the sack was such a big play as well, so he had an excellent game.”


On Willie Smith switching with Sean Locklear in Week 14 and starting in Week 15:
“When you switch a guy off in his first game you are trying to take a little pressure off of him where he is not thinking that he’s got the whole game and if he does make a mistake that he is out of there so you can switch a guy after a series or two and get him into the flow of the game. And if he is doing well, you keep him in there, basically what we did. I think Sean had 14 plays and this game could have been the same way. If he wasn’t playing well or making a lot of mistakes Sean could have gone in and we could have adjusted. I think he [Willie] is going to be tested this week. You have a team that is third in the NFL in sacks and the following week you have a team that is first in the NFL in sacks and it starts with their upfront people. If it’s [Jared] Allen or [Jason] Pierre-Paul, or whoever it may be, he knows he is going to have to bring his A-game.”

On being able to judge the work ethic of players out of the playoff hunt:
“It’s kind of hard to hide. If it’s practice or a game, it’s pretty simple to see guys playing hard, guys not playing hard, people knowing their responsibility. If one guy gives in, you have a pretty average day, or a couple guys give in all of the sudden you are losing by 14 or 21 points and it’s easy to happen just like that. Sometimes it’s not effort at all. Guys will make a mistake here or there, it will be an honest mistake working extremely hard, you just got beat by a better football team. That’s what you try to do as a coach saying, ‘Hey, do we have everybody preparing as hard as they can [and] people playing as hard as they can?’ It doesn’t always relate to winning or losing, but you make sure you put that in the back of your mind when you are deciding what direction to go with personnel in the following year.”

On if it is encouraging to see players like Barry Cofield taking leadership roles in saying how good the team can be:
“I think players are pretty realistic. They say, ‘Hey, you got a third-down-and-20-something yards against Dallas, and a third-and-17.’ You can take the Jets, you are talking about this game could go either way, and all of the sudden you are in the same situation that the Giants are in or that the Cowboys are in. That’s the nature of the National Football League, and I think what Barry [Cofield] was saying is when we do play well we play together, especially with a lot of young players, a lot of new players, this is what we are capable of doing. Barry has done a great job since he has been here. He’s playing at a very high level, trying to get everyone else to play at the same level.”

On practice schedule for the short week as compared to the short week in Week 3:
“It won’t change at all. The only thing different is today we put our full game plan together so for coaches it’s a lot of different. But for the players, the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practice, it will be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday but it will be a normal Wednesday, Thursday, Friday routine. So for the players, exactly the same as we normally do. We will try to get the same repetitions in, the same preparation they just have a day less recovery time.”

On the offense having its best third-down conversion rate of the season on Sunday:
“I think the key was the receivers really stepping up and making some plays. [Donté] Stallworth had the one catch on a little shallow cross at five yards and he turned it into a big gain, which put us into a fourth-and-two. Santana made a big catch on that third-down-and-10. Rex had a great throw in the corner of the end zone. Gaffney on the third-down-and-14, the little slant route, pivoted back to the outside and made a big time play. That’s what you have to do when you talk about playmakers, people have to step up and make those big plays, a lot of times in crucial situations and the more big plays you have like that obviously the better chance you are going to have to win a football game like we did on the road.”

On holding walkthroughs and full practices back-to-back:
“What we do is we are trying to get the same amount of reps in our preparation. What I try to do is get them out of here. I like to change things up sometimes but not take away from the preparation, so what we will do is we will go out, we will go through our walkthrough and then we will go right to practice. It keeps us from coming back in here, going through the eating, so what I do is just change the schedule up a little bit. They get out here about an hour earlier. A lot of times, we will do it the last four games, sometimes we will do it the second half of the season. It all depends on the football team – if it’s veteran, more veterans, more rookies, depending on how much time we have to spend. It’s a combination of those things that determines which way we are going to go.”

On if the new practice schedule is a reward:
“Yeah, it’s a reward. It’s a reward in a way. Anytime you trust the guys that they can get out here a little earlier, you are trying to help them out a little bit and give them a chance to rest up. At the same time, you take a look at a team that’s into the 10th game and you have been going through all those walkthroughs, you say some of the basic stuff we are doing we should have now and so we go through it a little bit quicker.”