Special teams coordinator Amos Jones:
On if it is more difficult to execute onside kicks with the new kickoff rules:
"I think it probably makes it a lot more difficult from the standpoint of the kickoff team of knowing exactly when to take off more so than just the distance itself. The foot was probably needing to be back about the length of the foot, which would have probably bought him the line on the outside. I did not really see it as an indicator. We use an indicator for various kicks that (K) Greg (Joseph) does to know when to take off. You have to change them based on how his approach is going to be. Luckily for us, Greg does everything from a short approach or a normal approach so we have two options there on how to do things. I think it makes it difficult from that standpoint more so than it probably when it was farther back. The percentages are still probably low on the kicks equally from the old days and now. It ended up being a good ball that we had a chance to get from the standpoint of the finish. We just did not start it the right way."
On DB Jabrill Peppers' development and season:
"If I said that he had not made progress, that would not be a very good indication, right? Being facetious there. If I said he had, it would be negative toward last year. I think just grading him from this year and from the mistakes that he personally had shown on his tape last year, I think is night and day. How he catches the ball… The guy is probably the hardest working guy that I have ever had as a return guy and that speaks to having great ones in Arizona with (Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson) to (Steelers WR) Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh. He has their work ethic in terms of what they do. He might even have more of a passion for it because he is still a young player. I think that he has improved. His punt catching ability has improved. His kickoff catching knowledge of how to line up, where we want him to go and how to catch the football going forward. We really tried to come in and break him back down to one, what we saw of him coming out of college; and two, what he showed last year on tape and try to re-emphasize the vertical aspect of his game as a power runner more so than a lateral runner, getting more downhill on people is his strong suit, evident last week on the opening play of the game. That was a strong, strong run that was a about that far from finishing of being a big, big play."
On how Peppers has bounced back since his punt return fumble in Week 7:
"We have never brought it up since that game. We do not worry about that. That was a bang, bang play. The ball security issue there. It was not so much of how he toted the ball. Remember, he jumped over the guy so that is going to leave you more vulnerable for mistakes. Shoot, we did not look back form that and have not even brought it up. We do not even talk about it in terms of his ball security now because it has never been a factor. I do not think that he has either to be honest with you. He is a hard judge on himself, more so than anybody else as we know. The biggest thing with him is just the guy is relentless. You will see him on the sideline looking like he is about ready to die, and then all of a sudden, bam, he is back out there. He is a really, really great competitor."
On reports the NFL may make adjustments to the punt play:
"It did not shock me because there has been a little bit of smoke in mirrors with it before. I think in reality, the injury situation is probably comparable to what I was told – this has been months ago – probably comparable to the kickoff. I think the punt game in this game is so unique and such a traditional thing that I would hate to see us put it into a situation like what we see in college football or anything like that. It really is a true test of a guy being able to transition from a protection to a coverage or from a holdup to a trail. To me, I love the play the way it is. Obviously, if it gets modified, we are going to have to modify and adjust. There are few things in terms of that play from a line of scrimmage standpoint of protection that can change in my opinion because you are dealing with a play that is hopefully going to be around two seconds or less if the punter's operation time and the snap is good. It is a play that will be different to see how they try to look back and change it because short of what you see in college, I do not know what you can do to the play to make it safer. People are going to rush a punt to block it and people are going to cover a punt to tackle. The stuff in between is penalties, rampant penalties, called all over. The holdup part of it has gotten chance to where people are not over the back pulling guys downward from a holdup standpoint. The punt protection people are able to defend themselves more so nowadays with the pull and shoots and stuff. The punters are getting more talented each year. It will be interesting. I am sure that if they have said something, they have probably had some statistical data to support it."
On clarifying the comparison to college:
"Well the snapper does not protect. My middle boy is long snapper at Arizona and he has a chance to play in college because he is not the biggest of kids but he is a good snapper. They do not protect. They just snap, and they cover. There is no two-second rule so you see the formation being spread out where guys can leave on snap. In the NFL, that is the uniqueness of it is we can't leave until the ball basically is punted. There is a penalty for it. You have a little bit of a grace yardage wise, but from that standpoint, that is where it is so unique is that it is a football tradition that we see. In college ball, you can leave on the snap and snappers are not in protection. In our league, you can't cover up the snapper up like it is in college, but in college, you can't hit him until his head is up – at least it was when I was still coaching college ball. There are some rules and things there that are completely different. The gunners play at the goal line, which I think in the NFL – y'all know how much I like to scout punting and downing balls inside the 10 – but those rules are different. When you get a guy out of college, you really acclimate him if he is a perimeter player to the NFL rules. Some of them have changed from a college game going more like the NFL. I do not know if we are going towards their type of punt or what the fine line is going to be in between trying to make it a safer play."
On if there are clear areas to improve player safety on punts:
"I do not have the data to support the collisions, but I do not see anything… How many games have we played now across the league and we watch every game on opponents. I have not seen any more violence on the play this year than I have seen normal in terms of at the line of scrimmage or downfield. To me, it is always still in this game teaching players to keep their eyes up and bending at the ankle and knee and not the waist, which puts their head down. We talk about that in everything we do as a staff in terms of ankle and knee bend and keeping your eyes up so you can see what is coming at you or you can see what you are getting ready to impact yourself."
On the number of block in the back penalties during punts across the NFL:
"I am sure the percentages are high. I think the biggest thing is if you see a person in trail position and he is behind him – which is low trail we call it – you have to watch that guy. The official should be focusing on that guy at the point of his impact to the other guy. There are not enough officials to watch every player, but kind of the shove in the back penalty is probably the most dangerous. Last week for an example, (DB Phillip) Gaines had the tackle, but he had gotten shoved kind of into the tackle. That was a very dangerous looking play from a standpoint of a player shoving him into the returner, which is dangerous for them, and two, dangerous for him because it is going to speed up his impact at that point to the point that he got both arms around. I do not think I have ever seen a missed tackle like that where he kind of just slid down the guy. The obvious for us was we kind of overplayed assuming he made the tackle, and bloop, all of a sudden, we have a boundary ball going up the other side. Those are ones that I would say a block in the back is really dangerous. The penalty you don't really hear described anymore is clipping because everybody always assumed it was a below the waist at the legs deal. To me a shove in the back is a clip, and it is usually more obvious. I think sometimes the officials that are responsible for the point of catch and then the guys that are trailing probably could see a little bit more of an emphasis in terms of how they critique that and how they see that. The line of scrimmage has been cleaned up a lot in my 12 years in this league. The point of catch, you are still going to have guys making quick, fast reactionary decisions, and sometimes it is going to result like what it did last week for us."
Running backs coach Ryan Lindley:
"Obviously, it was a fantastic opportunity for myself to be able to jump on staff. (Offensive coordinator) Freddie (Kitchens) is a guy that I respect immensely. I played for him and now being able to coach with him, you see every facet of what he brings to the table as a football coach and as a mentor and what he does for these guys. Honestly, it has been a pretty easy job because you can tell that he has laid a great foundation in that running back room. Obviously, he has taken over the reins. We have had some ups and some downs, but I think we are trending in the right direction. Hopefully, we keep going in that direction this weekend. Can't say enough good stuff about Freddie. Obviously, (RB) Nick Chubb (RB) and Duke (Johnson Jr.), even (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) finally got into the mix this weekend a little bit. It is a really good room that I have had the opportunity to work with."
On getting Johnson up to speed with the gameplan this week after missing practice time and his role in the room:
"He is another coach in that room. That is why I say between the foundation Freddie has laid and the experience that Duke has… He is one of the more cerebral backs that I have ever been around. He is a sharp guy. He is on his protections. That was the biggest thing that you kind of want to get him up to speed with and get him used to what they are throwing out with their blitz packages and everything. He is a guy that is going to get on it quick. I know he is a guy who studies still. Even while he is away, he is a guy who is going to be looking at film. The technology now, you are looking at an iPad and you can be pretty much up to speed, especially how Duke operates, where he is not a rep guy. He does not need reps to be able to get it done on Sunday. We are happy to have him back and he is a big part of this team."
On the Panthers run defense:
"They are stout inside, obviously, mostly physically. You have (Panthers DT Dontari) Poe in there. He is one of the biggest, most physical guys in the league. Not only size but he has a little bit of athleticism to him, too. He is a heck of a player. He plays a lot at the nose, at the shade. Then you have (Panthers DT) Kawann Short who is a heck of a player, too. Those are two really good players on the inside. I was looking back, and I had the unfortunate opportunity to play them myself in the playoffs a few years ago. On the outside, some of those guys are gone. The (former Panthers DE) Charles Johnsons and the (Raiders DE and former Panthers DE) Kony Ealys, those guys are not there anymore. (Panthers DE Mario) Addison is still a heck of a player. He brings a lot of speed and sets the edge pretty well for them. All three of those backers are aggressive. That is the biggest thing is we need to make sure that when we are hitting the whole, we know they are going to be in there to meet us so we have to be ready to put our best foot forward, literally and just do a good job of working off their aggression and try to work against them. I am just excited for the challenge. I think the guys up front are ready."
On Panthers LB Luke Kuechly:
"You talk about cerebral, you talk about Duke (Johnson Jr.) and I think that you are looking at an equal foe there on the other side. He is another guy that you know he does his homework. He studies a ton and to put that on top of the fact that he is one of the more physically gifted guys to be playing the position in the game right now. He is obviously going to be a challenge. It is going to be a chess match out there between him and (QB) Baker (Mayfield). It will be fun to see. I am excited with the plan that we have put together. Hopefully, we just go out and execute it on Sunday."
On Mayfield compared to young QBs he has worked with pre-draft:
"In that world, you kind of always work with comps. You find comparisons and work from there. A guy that Baker reminds me a lot of that I worked with is (Rams QB) Jared Goff. I would say that he is the Texas version. He has a little more fire to him, whereas Jared is kind of a Northern California/Bay Area guy and he is a little bit more laid back. Immediately when I came into the building, you feel his presence. He is such a leader at this points. Obviously, you are halfway through the year, and you gain a lot of experience. You would argue that halfway through the season you are no longer a rookie. You have some games under your belt. He exceeds that. He is a guy that is wise beyond his years. He carries himself like a guy who has been around and has played a lot more than he has. The most important thing that you look at is he leads the guys. He gets the guys fired up to go out and play and practice every week. He is just really a fun guy to be in the building with."
On if he would like to be a QBs coach during his career:
"Like I said, the opportunity to come here in any aspect was amazing. There are only a certain number of jobs in the NFL that when you are coaching ball, you want to coach it regardless of where you can get in, whether it is tight ends, running backs, wherever it can be. Obviously, the experience personally comes from quarterback and you take some of that when you coach, but it has been really fun coaching the RBs from that quarterback perspective. That is something that you can give, and obviously, Freddie gives that with the way that he has coached, too, at Arizona and the way that he has developed (Cardinals RB) David Johnson and the way that he has done it here. I have not really put a cap on myself. I think when you put a cap, you limit your options. I am always a guy who wants to exhaust all of them so I will not limit myself there."
"If you were just talking football, he is impressive. His balance and for a big back, he is more shifty than you think. If you were to call him a one-cut guy, that is selling him short quite a bit. He can do some things and make some guys miss in the open field. That is the thing, too, I think just because we have a guy like Duke who is so versatile out of the backfield and we want to get him touches in the passing game, it does not mean that we can sell Nick short either in the fact that he can catch the ball. When I got here, there was a rumor that Nick had stone hands. I came with a clean mind, and he has proved nothing but the opposite. He has done a heck of job. He is just an all-around back. That is not even getting into him. His character off of the field, he is one of the most humble kids I have ever come across in the National Football League. Just the fact that the success that he has had over this short period of time, he is not letting it get to him at all. He comes out with the same work ethic every Wednesday ready to go and brings that out onto the field and he is driven every Sunday. I am excited to see him get another opportunity this weekend."
On this year's rookie QB class:
"I have not paid a ton of attention. Just being here and in close proximity to Baker, the biggest thing that jumps out to me is that a lot of guys – I say in the last few years – the younger quarterbacks are so well prepared and they make jumps so much quicker than I think quarterbacks have in the past. People get into long, drawn out arguments about what that is and whether that is preparation in high school, college, what they see. I think that the game has opened up and gotten into that spread format to where you can see things a little clearer because the defense is not as condensed up in the box. It has just been really fun to see the way guys let it loose and let it fly amongst these young guys. I kind of speak more so not to just these rookies but to the (Texans QB) Deshaun Watsons who we had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing last weekend. It has been really cool to see from a quarterback's perspective how the game has kind of aired out."
On benefits of being a former QB when coaching RBs:
"The biggest thing, I think, is in pass protection. That is the thing for me is it easy to understand and easy to translate because when you play it, sometimes you deal with guys where you are directing traffic back there. If it is a new guy who does not necessarily understand some stuff, you have to be in his head and know what he is doing. That is the biggest thing. I think the biggest carryover is in that part and the pass game. It has been really fun to work with them. Duke is a guy who has a ton of knowledge, too. Kind of picking his brain on how you see it. At the end of the day, when you coach, you have to put guys into the best position for them to execute. I can tell them something that I think they will execute on, but it has to be give and take. It has to be feedback because if I am just out there dictating things, I do not think we are going to be as successful as if we collaborate and they are able to go out there and just be fluid in their actions and go out there and execute."
On the installation of the full house backfield:
"As the running backs coach, you are teaching three times the information in one play so you have to kind of get ready. It is great. Dontrell Hilliard is a guy who obviously does not get as many touches or as many plays, but he is a great young back. He is a kid who is really sharp. The best thing about Trell is that he gets in there and he works. I think he knows the things that he needs to work on, and he spends extra time on those. I have just been really excited to see him develop and continue to get more touches. As much as we can use that – I know Freddie set that up pretty well in here a couple of weeks back – it was exciting just to see it kind of go through. I will take all of heat for that coming to an unfortunate end with the interception. Although, if you look at my stats, I guess you would understand why I coach the running back that throws a pick on a halfback pass (laughter). It has been really kind of cool to see and how they have embraced that and even (TE) Orson (Charles) is chomping at the bit to be included in that three running back set. We will see if he can handle it."
On if the pro game is developing more concepts similar to the college game, given his comments on young QBs performing well earlier than in the past:
"I think that you have seen it. I think that a lot of guys are resistant to change. You go with that you know. Part of that, you could argue that is the younger group that is coming in. At the end of the day, as a coach, you want to put your guys on the field as fast as possible to execute. By doing that, you make some concessions and you do some things that they are used to doing in high school and college. The crazy thing, I just got out of college recruiting and you look at these high school guys, and at San Diego State we ran a pro-style offense running 22 personnel and pounding the ball and running the football. It was impossible to find a kid in high school that was running that kind of system. Everyone is spread out – four wide receivers, three wide receivers and a tight end. It is really what kids know so it would be counterintuitive to waste time and try and get them to adjust to a different system. You would kind of be banging your head against a wall. I think that we have kind of just collaborated and it has kind of shown itself with the offensive production overall in the league."
On if he worked with Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes prior to the draft:
"I did not, no."
On if he expected Mahomes would have this level of productivity early in his career:
"I watched him a little bit. The biggest thing with him was the raw tools were out of this world. (Chiefs Head) Coach Andy Reid has done a great job developing a lot of different quarterbacks. (Eagles QB) Nick Foles had that career year a number of years back. He has gotten a lot of guys to play at a really high level. You knew that once he got in there and (Redskins QB) Alex Smith is an old San Diego guy so I have always been a fan of his and knew that when he got into that room, he developed pretty quickly. It has been fun to see. The game of the year, arguably, was that 54-51 – just a shootout. That was history in the making watching that go down a couple of Monday's ago."
On if Mayfield can accomplish some similar success to Mahomes' early in his career:
"Sure, that is the thing with Baker too, and I think the No. 1 thing you need at the quarterback position at any level is confidence. Baker is not lacking there. The biggest step I think for Baker you saw last week were he goes out there obviously it is a forgettable first half for him, but he comes out and goes for 315 [passing yards] in the second half. That is something that is natural. That is not something you can coach into a guy. It is something that they have that will, that drive and that competitive spirit in them to not lose confidence, to keep throwing it and to keep spinning it. I think as long as Baker has that, then sky is the limit for him."
On if he crossed paths with former Browns QB Brian Sipe in San Diego:
"Oh yeah, Brian actually coached me for three years so Brian, I consider him a father figure. He was a special guy to be around. Obviously, he spoke very fondly of Cleveland and his times here with the Kardiac Kids. One of the first people I called after my wife was Brian when I was getting on the plane out here. He just made sure I had a winter coat. I did not know if I had one in San Diego. My wife is from New York so we made sure we got that. Brian the way he spoke about here and then the way I have been able to see the organization through this lens in the last month, it has been really special and kind of full circle. I am still trying to get him out. He said he does not come out after October so we will maybe get him out here next year."
On main takeaways from his time with Sipe:
"Brian was a guy who he turned every football lesson into a life lesson. He pulled out quotes, whether it was Presidents or global world leaders. His biggest thing was you are never going to be measured about what you do but by how you react to what you do. That was the biggest thing that kind of stuck with me, and obviously in my professional playing career, things did not always go the way I liked them to. My biggest thing was just stay the course. You can't do anything but keep working at it, and that has kind of been my goal and what I try to teach these guys, too, especially with the younger guys we have in the room. We make a bad run, we miss a protection or we do something, there is a next play. We can't let that affect the next one negatively. It is all about our reactions to things, and we just have to keep it pushing."
On challenges joining a team midseason:
"It is difficult. The only thing I think I could draw from was I hopped on with the Chargers on the practice squad my second year in the middle of the season, and it is somewhat similar. You do not have a training camp and you do not have a OTAs to get ready. Obviously, that is magnified as a coach. You need to be coaching the guys on what is going on. I do not think I left the building here for about 72 hours the first couple of days I was here just because I wanted to make sure those guys were in a good position to make plays on Sunday. It was a wild first about week and a half, I'd say. I spent a lot more time here than I did at my hotel down the street, but it has been great. A lot of that, too, is based on the guys that are on the staff, the foundation that Freddie laid and the way he worked with those guys. They are all smart guys in the room that pick up stuff quickly so we get it to them and they go out and execute."
On Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey's season:
"He is an extremely talented back. We talked about the way the league is moving with spreading it out. When you have a guy that is a threat out of the backfield to catch the ball like that, it really puts the defense on their toes. You have to account for him in a lot of different ways so it has been really impressive to watch him work. He is a guy, too, that I think has exceeded a lot of people's expectations. We kind of watch the scout team a little closer this week to see some cool stuff they are doing with him out of the backfield."