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Quotes: Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich


Q. When you were with the Colts and Chargers, the starting quarterbacks you worked with: Peyton Manning, at the time, he was already on his way to what was going to be a Hall of Fame career; Philip Rivers, borderline kind of guy, well established. How does experience working with those kinds of guys at that stage of their careers impact what you do with QB Carson Wentz?

FRANK REICH: I think it gives you a vision for where you want to be. When you've worked with elite quarterbacks and then now you get a young guy who you believe is going to get there one day, and you understand what it took for these guys, the Peyton Mannings and the Philip Riverses of the world, to get to that point, the work that it took, the process that it went through, the ups and downs that they had, it kind of gives you a vision for that and it enables you to stay focused on that vision.

Q. How do you explain time of possession, 37 minutes? I don't think the team has been particularly good on third-down conversions, which kind of seems at odds with the time of possession. How do you explain that?

FRANK REICH: I think some of the explanation of the time of possession we had is a credit to the defense. They just keep giving it back to us. Some of it has been the fourth-down conversions that have kept drives alive so that if the third down numbers aren't good … But you factor in those fourth-down numbers and it starts to get up there a little bit. But it's a team thing. A lot of it is defense. Holding them to three-play drives and then us making a few plays here and there.

Q. What else do you need to do better to convert on third down?

FRANK REICH: Stay in phase. I just made a cutup the other day of all of our third downs. As I started to look back, I just know there's a lot of third-and-really longs. I don't know the exact numbers. I didn't get to that point. But you have got to stay in phase. You've got to get third-and-manageable, that is going to be key. Penalties put you in third-and-long. If you got a second-and-long, you've got to be good on second-and-long to get it back in phase.

Q. What has made Carson so successful against the blitz? I think he has the highest completion percentage against the blitz in the league. What goes into that?

FRANK REICH: I think it starts with he and [C Jason] Kelce being on the same page in protections. I can't even begin to tell you how much of a benefit it is to Carson to have a guy like Jason Kelce as a center. I mean, the guy is brilliant. He's absolutely brilliant in pass protection, calls and scheme and he just has this air of confidence about him that I think sets the tone for what we do in the protection world. And then Carson has that himself, he's just a little bit younger than Kelce. I think those two are on the same page. I think Carson is extremely confident that Kelce is going to get the right things communicated up front. And then I think Carson has a fearlessness in the pocket. The guy is not afraid. He'll stand in the pocket and make the throw versus pressure. He doesn't have an ounce of fear in him in the pocket. That's one of the things I really love about him. And that's one of the reasons why he's good against the blitz.

Q. Can RB Ryan Mathews truly be effective if he is only carrying the ball nine times in a game? Can he get into a rhythm that way?

FRANK REICH: No. I think with backs, you want to get [them] 15-20 carries. We ran the ball fairly well in the second half on Monday night, but I really believe that our running game is just going to continue to get better. We've run it okay at times. I think we have a really good offensive line; I think our backs are good. I just think it is early in the process. We need to just keep handing him the football.

Q. In your previous experience as a wide receivers coach, how did you deal with drops and how did you coach drops?

FRANK REICH: I mean, our guys are our guys. You drill, you teach and you encourage. You rebuke. But I don't think you overemphasize it. I just think you keep playing football. No one wants to drop the ball. No one wants to throw a bad pass or miss a block or miss an assignment. But it's going to happen. There's been a lot of evidence of positive things, so I don't get too worked up. I don't like it when it happens, but you have just got to move on to the next play.

Q. How do you evaluate TE Trey Burton's play on Monday night? Do you think he's played his way into a significant role even when TE Zach Ertz comes back from his injury?

FRANK REICH: Trey did exactly what I think we thought he was going to do: make some plays. It's what we thought the whole offseason. What he showed us during the whole offseason kind of put him in a position, where when Zach went down, he wasn't just filling in. This is a guy who is not just going to fill in, we're going to go to him. I mean, Carson has a ton of confidence in him. So we'll balance it out. We feel like we've got a good stable of guys that can make plays. Trey adds to that mix. The way this is in the NFL, it spreads around. Two weeks in a row, one guy gets the ball a lot; then, two weeks later, all of a sudden [WR Josh] Huff is making all the plays or DGB [WR Dorial Green-Beckham] is making them. You just kind of get a feel for it. That's the way it ends up working out usually.

Q. What has held the running game back so far?

FRANK REICH: We ran for 133 yards in the first game and 100 in the last game. So, that's okay. I mean, that's acceptable. It needs to be better and we expect it to be better, but that's certainly an acceptable range. We would like to have a few more explosive runs and keep it in phase, but I think we are on our way to that.

Q. Would giving Carson the option to run a little more open things up for the run game? Or has there been a reluctance to do that because you are afraid of him taking extra hits?

FRANK REICH: You know, I think there has been a little bit of thought into not putting him in that position too much, too early. I would envision, as the season goes on, that that is brought more and more into it. But you are just starting out and you want to make sure he gets the message. He needs to prove that he's gotten the message, so that we can give him that responsibility and he can protect himself. He was coming off an injury and we knew he was fine, but as a coach, there's still that little bit in the back of your mind of, 'Hey, let's just play it safe for a week or two until we know for sure.'

Q. In the running game, you guys have used pretty much all the backs in both games. Is that difficult to manage? Can that work? Is it something that everyone can --

FRANK REICH: I think it can work. You have got to have unselfish players and we do. [Eagles running backs coach] Duce [Staley] does a great job with those guys. Some of the different use of the backs is very specific where Coach Pederson puts it in the gameplan where he wants [RB Darren] Sproles in on this play and [RB] Ryan [Mathews] in on this play and [RB] Kenjon [Barner] in on this play and [RB Wendell] Smallwood in on this play. Some of it is just the rotation. That really comes from the position coach. That's kind of Duce. Duce will talk to Coach primarily and say, 'Hey, here is what I'm thinking about how I'm going to rotate these guys this week.' He gives his plan to Coach Pederson, tells him how he's going to rotate them, Coach kind of signs off on that plan. And then Duce kind of -- he has the freedom to rotate his guys as he sees fit. Like I said, though, other plays are very specific. So that is just the way it normally roles.

Q. You mentioned Manning and Rivers as kind of the end goal for Carson. How specific and granular do you get with him about, hey, when Peyton saw this, defenses tried to do that, he had this little thing that nobody could pick up on that he did. Or same thing with Philip. Does it get to that level of detail?

FRANK REICH: Yes, but very selectively. I think it's really important that we focus on our guys. As coaches, we've all had experiences with great players. All of our position coaches, we've all coached great players in our career, a lot of great players in this game. Certainly, it would be ridiculous to not use those experiences. But you just try to -- sometimes I'll make general statements that I have an experience with Peyton or Philip in mind, but I don't have to say it was with Peyton. They know. Guys know. We're bringing our experiences to the table, just like they are bringing theirs to the table. But every now and then, you pull something out. Just very selectively, you pull something out. A Peyton story or a Philip story or take whatever the position is for their guy. You pull one out that you think can be effective in trying to get a point across.

Q. What are the strengths of the Steelers defense?

FRANK REICH: Stopping the run. I don't know for sure, but you can look over the last 20 years, this defense is continually in the top five versus the run. They have great schemes to stop the run. They have great personnel to stop the run. They put you into a pass only mode, and then can run some of their exotic stuff. But I think that's their strength.

Q. Does that carry over from former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau?

FRANK REICH: Yes, yes.

Q. Is Carson taking too many hits, in your opinion?

FRANK REICH: I mean, there's a couple hits he shouldn't have taken. The ones on the sideline that he shouldn't have taken last week were not good plays. I mean, you just can't do that. He knows that. We've all talked to him about that. You just can't do that. But some of the hits in the pocket, that's just -- we're protecting well. There's been one or two mis-protection calls that he's had that are on him. Other than that, I think it's normal course of business.

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