OPENING REMARKS: “Really, since I talked to you all last, we had a walk-through and another pretty good workout and another then an additional one this morning that was real good work for the guys. We’ve got some meetings here coming up, then we’ll have a walk-through outside, and then be up at our stadium tonight, which we’re all excited about. We had Governor [Jay] Nixon out here yesterday. Obviously, with some of the things that we’re doing for this game this weekend, I think [they] are all terrific, terrific things for a bunch of people in an area that have just been devastated in Joplin. I’m really excited that we’re doing… I guess we’re, as coaches, going to get to wear Joplin shirts and hats and be collecting and raising money for, again, an area that I just can’t even imagine. So, I think that’s a great thing as far as that goes. We’re on schedule, trying to get better. Today is a big day for us. Tonight is a big night.”
Q: What are your thoughts on your defensive line? It seems like that is a fragile area.
HALEY: “It’s obviously a key area for us, as far as how we play defense, so it’s always going to be a high priority area. I think early on, maybe, I was feeling a little of the same, but as we’ve progressed, I’ve seen progress from a number of guys and even a couple of the late additions, I would say are in the mix. Each one of them shows a little something that I think maybe would give them a chance to be part of what we’re doing. So, the name of the game is development and that’s what’s been going on.
Q: You said that early you did think that was a troubled area. What changed your mind?
HALEY: “I’ve just seen everybody get better.
Q: By crossover guys, what do you mean?
HALEY: “Either nose guys or sub, base guys, really.”
Q: Who are you keeping your eye on in that regard?
HALEY: “Well, I think this [Amon] Gordon, who is still kind of learning the way we do things around here. He’s played both – end and nose – and he also looks like he ran around in some of the sub situations. So, that’s one. Bailey is one for sure that we’ve kind of been pushing him toward the sub stuff. We’ll try a couple things today and see how that goes. He would be a sub first, base second, unless he were to just all of a sudden be the best base guy, then obviously we’d have to…”
Q: So versatility is the main thing?
HALEY: “Versatility… and there’s a number of different ways to be versatile.
Q: What have you seen out of
HALEY: “Probably too much to mention. Matt is passionate about trying to be part of and help take this team to high places. He’s not content. He’s not a guy that appears to me that is going to be content very often, regardless of how good he does. He’s getting better every day. I’ll say one more time: When you don’t scheme offensively, it’s a tough task for those guys on offense. You’ve got to be pretty above and away better than the people you’re playing against to just go out and not scheme on offense and expect to get a lot done – overall – first, second and third down. He’s working hard, he’s showing consistent improvement, he’s got work to do, but he knows he’s got work to do. Like I said, one of his big tasks this year is having even a better understanding of matchups, starting with, ‘What do our guys do well? What do they respond to?’ Again, he’s the field general. When he’s out there, you’re counting on [that] he’s an extension of me as the head coach. The more we have the same vision and the same thoughts and the ideas, the better I think we’ll be. Because from a skill level standpoint, I think Matt can be whatever he wants to be.”
HALEY: “I don’t think it can affect him. He’s got to worry about what he can worry about and control, and that’s another area that he’s really improved in, as opposed to worrying about the wrong things. [He’s] staying just focused on what his jobs are and what he needs to do, each and every day, each and every practice, each and evey rep and each and every rep that he’s not in, what he’s doing, working on, and all those things. And that’s what he’s doing. That’s why I’m excited. The guys that are out there practicing each day and then ultimately playing, the quarterback’s job is to make it work. So, he’s shown more and more signs of that kind of being in his nature and in his character, and I think when you have that, you have a chance to be successful as a quarterback and ultimately as a team.”
Q: Where on the list of importance for last year’s success is having a tight end that can do some things?
HALEY: “I don’t know that I can rank it. Our offensive philosophy, being based on run first, the tight end becomes an important, important player on your team, because he’s – at least in my philosophy offensively – I’ve been places where when it was third down, you went to four wide receivers and a back. And that’s just not the way I like to play. I like to have a tight end out on the field because that means you can run the ball at any time, and then if that tight end can be a receiver for you, that’s really, really good. Tony [Moeaki] did a good job last year, had some bumps, but he progressed throughout the year. He made some big plays for us. He did a real good job in the run game a bunch of the time. [Leonard] Pope, obviously, was out there and a big part of a lot of the things we did, so those guys just are working hard. Tony had a little… He’s really essentially a week behind, but I think he’s coming on here now. He’s catching up physically to a lot of the guys because again, he was on the side working, but not in the same manner that everyone else was, so that can slow you down a little bit. But, I think he’s getting up to speed. I think this next week, week-and-a-half will be real critical for him and all the tight ends, that they continue to understand both areas plus special teams. And both areas being their jobs in the run game and their jobs in the pass game and then special teams, the great separator. So, that’s a long answer, sorry.”
Q: As far as Moeaki, is he a little more versatile? Do you find that he can do a few more things than you anticipated?
HALEY: “I wasn’t ever worried about the pass game side of Tony. As we evaluated him, it was clear he was a pretty good receiver, had real good feel, good hands. The things with him were just staying healthy and how he would hold up in the run game. He’s one of those guys that’s got very good feel, football feel, run and pass. So, when you possess that and then you have some skill and talent, you have a chance. Like I said, he’s playing catch-up right now. He’s got a ways to go. I don’t think that he’s where he was when the year ended last year, but he’s making progress here. And I wouldn’t expect him to be, really, for how the year has gone. He’s making progress, and he does. He’s another guy on what’s becoming a better list of versatile guys that give you versatility as an offense. You’ve seen us split him out, you’ve seen him in the slot, you’ve seen him in the backfield. Those are good things because now you’ve got a chance to create matchups, either for him or other players.”
Q: Is Moeaki a better blocker than he was in college?
HALEY: “Not that he wasn’t a good blocker in college, but again, it’s a different game here in what you see. The thing that I was most encouraged about when you see a player like him is just that football feel. He’s just got a feel for some of those combination blocks and how to use his hands and leverage, and everybody doesn’t always have that, and that’s a good thing to have, especially for a tight end.”
Q: In preparing for a game like Friday night – personnel use and everything else – is any consideration given to the fact that it’s a home game and the fans are actually paying full price for it?
HALEY: “Do you want the honest answer? No, I’m just kidding. [laughter] Hey, this is a home game for us and that’s very important for our team. Our home field advantage, our ability to win games at home, is very important to our overall success. I think that showed last year and it showed here in the past some. So, I think the earlier you establish that, even if it is in the preseason when the numbers won’t count obviously, but you can establish some of that feel and that confidence of walking out of your own tunnel, your own locker room, hearing your fans screaming for you. And we love our fans and I love our fans. It’s the best feeling in the world to walk out there on Sunday right before the game and they’re there and you hear it. There’s no better in the league, I don’t believe. I’m all about the fans, but at the same time, I think I owe it to the fans that this team is ready to play on September 11. I think that all those fans – if we’re able to get out there when the season starts and look the way that we need to look and play the way that we want to play – I think they get it. They’re smart fans and they get it. But, again, it’s kind of a double-edger there. We’ve got to get the team ready, but make no mistake, building that home field is something that we talk about a lot. You hear the ‘This is our house’ all the time, but we need to win at home because it’s hard to win on the road.”
Q: By your pause and by the game-planning aspect, it’s still just part of the process.
HALEY: “The only pause was just joking. You guys don’t always understand my humor. Clearly, by the Barbara Streisand stuff yesterday. But, like I said, I think we’ve got great fans and I do think that what’s most important to them is what’s most important to me, and that’s that we have a good team. The way you’re measured is when those regular season games start and then ultimately what you do beyond that, so that’s what my focus is 100-percent, all the time.”
Q: When you say you’re on schedule, do you look at September 11 and back up to where you need to be today or do you compare to where you were a year ago?
HALEY: “I was asked that, I don’t know if it was yesterday or the day before. I don’t think you can compare it. It’s a new year, No. 1, every year, but the circumstances with what they are, with the offseason not existent, you can’t make that up in three-and-a-half weeks. I think that you try to come up with your plan with the ability to adjust if necessary, and if things aren’t going the way you want them to, you’ve got to be able to make changes. I feel great about our plan overall. That hasn’t changed. I feel really good about our progress, and I do feel like we have – I’ve said this – I do feel like we have more, at least, talent in the building than we’ve had to date. Now, that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got to make it into a team and get guys to play roles and keep them healthy and all those different things. So, all I can go by is this year and where I feel like we started, where we are now and how much time we have left. And really, that’s going to go on for the whole year.”