Q. You've had so many moving pieces in the secondary this year and it seems like every week you try some new combinations. What are the pluses and minuses? Obviously, you're trying to find the best combinations, but the groups really haven't had a chance to play together a whole lot. How do you kind of approach that whole situation?**
BILL DAVIS: Well, every week has a different challenge, so you have to kind of look at your matchups first. I think the two games that we played our worst, we had [S] Malcolm Jenkins out of the nickel spot. So we put him back down in the nickel spot, and kept him low and it's been good for the last two weeks. So it's a week-to week-deal where we're just trying to find out who do we match up with best, and how do we put them in positions to make plays?
Q. Looking back in retrospect at those two games, why did you move Jenkins out of the nickel?
BILL DAVIS: Well, there was a lot of talent at the outside receiver [position] and Tampa Bay comes to mind. So we were trying to get our safeties over the top of those guys and have the extra guys there. So we were trying to get Malcolm over the top of some of the better receivers. That was one of the reasons and thoughts that went into that. It didn't work out so well, so we put him back down in the nickel.
Q. The Cardinals game last year came down to the end with the big play by Cardinals WR John Brown. What can you take away from that, and how much better of a position do you think you are in to cut down on those sort of things this year?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we know Arizona's going to take 6-to-8 shots a game. That's what they do. That's part of the reason they are the No. 1 offense in the NFL in a lot of categories right now. We've got to stayed disciplined. On that one we just didn't have good eye discipline; we were in quarters coverage and really should have had two guys deep on it. They have got great speed and ran behind us and then it was a great vertical throw on us to really put them ahead to win the game. We just have to play with more discipline and responsibility and take care of our own -- like we did the other night -- and make the plays. They make a lot of plays down the field. We've got to go up and make those plays.
Q. Going back to what you were saying before about the outside receivers and the decision not to use Jenkins in the nickel. The Cardinals also have good outside receivers. Are you tempted to move Jenkins out of the nickel once again?
BILL DAVIS: I'm tempted, but right now we're still in the process of working through the matchups. We'll have our first exposure to their offense today in practice. We'll move in and out of what we think is best. The good part is we've got guys with such great football IQs like Malcolm, we can play him a couple days at safety and a couple days at nickel and he'll be ready to go.
Q. Has S Ed Reynolds shown you enough that he can be your deep safety?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, Ed is getting better and better every week. You saw the other night, it was the exact same call that he got beat on the touchdown that he got the interception on at the end of the game. Meaning he was a post safety and had to come out of the post to make the play on a vertical ball down the sideline. His technique and depth and everything about the second time was so much better than the first time. That's the growth you're looking for in young guys.
Q. As a follow-up on Reynolds, what made him a guy who was not able to make the 53-man roster out of training camp and now he's playing 50, 60, 70 snaps for you?
BILL DAVIS: Well, as you go on, you cut your team on the performance and the training camp and what you see. There are some tough decisions you have to make. Sooner or later you've got to say, 'Well, we're going to go this way and hopefully we can get him back.' Now I really thought that Ed would be picked up by somebody when we let him go. We thought we'd probably lose him. We were very fortunate to get him back on our practice squad; he had some other options he could have gone to. It's just hard decisions at the end of training camp. It really talks to the growth of the team and the roster when you have those hard [decisions] where you let someone go that you think can play in the NFL, and that's what happened with Ed.
Q. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor only threw at DB Eric Rowe five times. Rowe spent most of the day on Bills WR Sammy Watkins. What did Rowe do that was so effective to keep Watkins in check?
BILL DAVIS: I think Eric did a nice job at the line of scrimmage. I think he's really getting better and getting more confidence. You saw in the first Detroit game when he was playing off [the line of scrimmage], he wasn't playing real well, and then he went up and challenged. You've got to believe in yourself to go up there and challenge somebody, especially [someone] with speed like Sammy has. So he got up there, challenged him, put his hands on him and I think it makes a quarterback go away from that guy pretty quick if you've got a good jam going on.
Q. DE Fletcher Cox had another good game on Sunday. What do you think his greatest strength is?
BILL DAVIS: Fletcher's a very well-rounded defensive lineman. He can give you a good two-gap and hold the point on a double team. He can convert the run into a pass-rush really easy. Then when it's just the flat-out pass rush, he's got a couple of nice inside moves. He's giving people fits and hopefully he'll get the Pro Bowl recognition he deserves.
Q. How do you think you guys have defended the deep ball this year?
BILL DAVIS: We've been better than in the past, but not good enough yet. I think we're at four X-plays a game right now. We're just a hair above the league average. We'd like to get that down, but we're glad we improved over the last two years. But we still have some room to grow there.
Q. What is the biggest improvement in Cox's game this year from last year? How has he grown?
BILL DAVIS: Fletcher has been good since we've been here. Fletcher has been making plays for us. I think his pass rush has really gotten better, if I had to pick one area. He's always strong and hard to move at the line of scrimmage. But I would say -- I've said this many weeks, we're running our stunts and games better, which helps when we're attacking protections through the games and stunts. Then his one-on-one, I think he's honed down to just a couple really good moves that he works on. A lot of times guys try to do all these different moves instead of just having a couple really good ones. I think he's narrowed it down and is just going with what works.
Q. A lot of receivers have difficulty making the transition into the slot. That obviously hasn't been the case with Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. What's been the key there?
BILL DAVIS: Larry is outstanding. Larry is a perennial Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer. I got to be around him a lot in Arizona and watched his work ethic on the practice field. To watch him work on practice is really what all NFL players should do at practice. So when you ask him to go in or block more, it doesn't surprise me that Larry has succeeded in there. He's a big, strong guy. The strength of Larry is he's got the strongest hands at the point of the catch that I've been around. He goes and gets it, and that's a big bonus when you're in the slot. When you have all the lower routes that you have to catch, you're usually in traffic.
Q. How do you kind of quantify what Cox does? He could have an incredible game and the stats just aren't going to jump off the page. People around the league who have gone up against him know what he can do, but how do you get him to the Pro Bowl? That whole selection process is so stat oriented. Do you fear that he may be overlooked again?
BILL DAVIS: He's not overlooked by his peers. The players will vote him in and the coaches will vote him in. Anybody that puts a tape on or has gone against him, that's a no-brainer. They will vote him in. The problem lies in the fan vote and that's what we have to help Fletch with is getting that fan vote up. People look at stats and say, 'Hey, let me vote on a guy with stats.' If you played against [Cox], you're going to vote for him. If you coached against him, you're going to vote for him. Now we've just got to get the fans out there to vote for him.
Q. Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh is considered maybe the best DT in the league based on the contract he signed in free agency. How much better do you think Cox is than Suh?
BILL DAVIS: Right now we compare our guys and try to say, 'Okay, who has the most contacts to the ball?' With defensive lineman you say, 'How many snaps have you had and what percentage do you have a contact?' Meaning, 'Do you have an assist or a tackle?' And Fletch is way up there. He's way above Suh in those areas. So I think Fletch -- They're different players. They're different sizes. But I'm sure glad we have Fletch. I wouldn't want anyone else.
Q. From Year One, to Year Two, to Year Three, how have you seen the Cardinals scheme evolve?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, their personnel groupings change by the talent they have and where they have it. They do a great job. They've overcome a lot of injuries in those three years and they've moved people around. [Cardinals Head Coach] Bruce Arians is one of the top coordinators in the league and he just uses the personnel. He's done every kind of offense you can imagine, so he's got great versatility in his scheme. Then he just kind of says, 'Okay, who are my players and where does this ball need to go?' The quarterback is not picking one guy over another. There are three receivers that are outstanding and they've got the top three targets, so the ball is going to the receivers. So he does a great job of just saying, 'Okay, who do I have available this week and how can I spread the ball out?'
Q. Obviously, Fitzgerald gets a lot of the attention, but you mentioned that they have the three receivers. How big of a challenge is it to focus on all three as opposed to being able to cheat one way or the other?
BILL DAVIS: You can only pick one to give help to or possibly two and some zones. But like I said, they're not a selfish group. They all run their routes with discipline and let Carson [Cardinals QB Carson Palmer] just pick them. They spread it out. So as soon as you give help to one, the ball goes to someone else. As soon as you move the help over there, it goes back the other way. So that's part of the reason they're putting 400 yards up a game and 31 points because they spread it out and they take what you give them.
Q. How much does Palmer change things at the line or does he let the game clock go down --
BILL DAVIS: Yeah, I think he does a fair amount. I'm not positive. It's not as much as some of them, like [Patriots QB Tom] Brady and [Packers QB Aaron] Rodgers, but I do believe he's got a lot of options. When you have a veteran quarterback that works as hard as he does, they usually have their share of checks. He's in control of protection. They can move it on you with what you show him and move routes. So it's a challenge again. It's one of the top quarterbacks and a veteran guy that's like a coordinator under center.
Q. What have your inside linebackers shown you?
BILL DAVIS: We're playing better in there. We really are. We did a great job communicating. It was a very complicated run game against Buffalo. They kept reporting the tackle eligible and putting him in unbalanced situations. [We were] setting our front and getting our alignments right. That's really what [Buffalo tries] to do, is get you to misalign. Then they angle block and pull. So it was a big challenge. Our inside backers led the way through getting us lined up and then making their plays. So it was a big step for the inside linebackers.
Q. How much exposure have you had to Arians? What makes him such a good coach?
BILL DAVIS: Well we've had the last three years [playing Arizona]. Then the Super Bowl I coached in with Arizona when we were against the Pittsburgh Steelers and he was the [offensive] coordinator. So I've had my share of times coaching against him. He's, like I said, it's about who the players are available to him at that time and in that season. He's got a great mind and he knows how to attack what you're in.
Q. Taylor had some success against you guys on Sunday scrambling out of the pocket. On those types of plays, what do you need to do better?
BILL DAVIS: You rush as a group. Some of [the scrambles] were on our base personnel and some run downs. So the longer – The coverage was solid, so you just have to try to find a way to rush him as a group. On a couple of them, we had a spy on him and he still got away. It's a challenge when those guys are runners. You have to rush as a disciplined group and then get off your block and go. It slows the pass rush down a little bit when you have those mobile quarterbacks.
Q. You probably don't have to worry about that this week though?
BILL DAVIS: No, no. Carson moves around pretty good though.
Q. You guys have given up over 400 yards in four-straight games. Does that kind of thing bother you or is it really just about the points against?
BILL DAVIS: It's wins. If you told me that you were going to give up 45 points, but get the win, I would say, 'I'll take it.' I'll take the win. The win is what we have to have. Now, do we want to have the points way down? Absolutely. Do we have pride in how many yards we give up and points and red zone and run game and yards per attempt? Absolutely. But the win is what we have to get. We have to do whatever it takes at the end of the game to get that win. So that is first. Then after that, yeah, we take pride, but that's not going to be the focus.
Q. With the outside linebackers, the depth is kind of shaky. What does LB Marcus Smith have to do to --
BILL DAVIS: I think the outside linebackers are doing a good job. Marcus gets in there, and there is a lot of pressure from those outside guys. They did an outstanding job of setting the edge in the run game, and we knew we had to. We needed a big game from our outside backers last week. I'm very comfortable with the outside backers.
Q. But what about the depth and the backups?
BILL DAVIS: Well, we have Marcus growing like the other guys. He didn't get many plays the other night, but Marcus just has to keep coming. But I'm happy with it.
Q. What has LB Steven Means shown you in practice?
BILL DAVIS: He's a big, strong kid. He's a good edge setter. He's not getting a whole lot of reps right now within our defense, but just his physicals: he's a big boy that's strong and good at setting the edge.
Q. You said after the Washington game when Redskins QB Kirk Cousins led them on a game-winning drive that you'd like to be in that position again as a defense to end the game. Now you've done it in two straight weeks. Does the confidence continue to grow each time you seal another game?
BILL DAVIS: Absolutely. Those two-minute drives at the end of the half and games really tell you a lot about who you are, especially your pass defense and pass rush. We've had two weeks in a row where we really had to step up in the end to make the play, to get the right pass rush and to have our leverage. The guys two weeks in a row -- Hopefully that keeps building as we roll into the end of December.
Q. Do you remember where you guys were after the Detroit game having given up 45 points for a second-straight game? How were you guys able to hold it together and turn things around?
BILL DAVIS: We really do stay in a one-game season. But we have to stay there and say, 'Okay, even though we had a bad day, it doesn't mean we're bad.' We've had some growth there. We've had better games. We've got to work our tail off and do what we believe in. Dive more into the preparation and be prepared to really stop what the offensive attack is giving us, and each week that changes. So you can't get too down on yourself when you have a game like that, just like you can't get too high when you really snuff somebody out. It's a week-to-week thing, it's a day-to-day thing, and if we live in that world, you can bounce back from bad performances like that.
Q. You don't really look at the other team's defense, but you were the coordinator in Arizona, so do you ever watch their games and think, 'Boy, we didn't have those guys when I was there?'
BILL DAVIS: We had some good guys when I was there. I can't take that away. They've done a great job. [Cardinals General Manager] Steve Keim is a good friend and was there when I was there. He does a great job of picking the talent and loading them up. They are loaded on both sides of the ball over there, and that's why they're 11-2 and really who they have been in the last couple years. But we've got a huge challenge this week because they've got loads of talent on offense and defense, and we've got to go out there and make our plays.