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Ron Rivera Presser: The guys believe there’s a chance with Sam Howell

Ron Rivera speaks to the media on Victory Monday

Sam Howell’s ability to keep his eyes downfield after all the sacks he has taken this year:

No, I think the biggest thing more than anything else is you can see now the trust and comfort level that he’s starting to develop and grow, not just with his teammates and the offensive line, but the confidence in the receivers being where they need to be. The backs stepping up to block, the tight ends involved in the protections and then the offensive linemen themselves, but also you can see the comfort level in which he’s executing the play call, how he’s involved in the protections, how he’s involved in checking with the receivers and changing routes and stuff like that. It’s taken a little bit to get there and we kind of figured it would take some time. I didn’t expect him to take as many hits as he did early on, but I think what’s happening is the confidence is starting to really grow and that’s important.

Concern about all the hits Howell took early on:

Yes. Definitely concerned and a couple times we did think about pulling him at the end of some games. But at the same time, in talking with EB, it was about the growth and development, and the only way he was going to learn was to stay in there and it’s kind of working itself out. That’s the best part of it, is that it is working itself out and you can see him just play with much more and more confidence. You see the confidence in which his teammates are playing alongside him. That’s been a huge plus for us as well.

Was Emmanuel Forbes’s improvement due to mental or physical changes?:

I think it was more about just learning and understanding and getting what it takes to play the position. I think a big part of it too was working some of the technique things that we’re asking of him. He still has a ways to go. He did some good things, but there’s still some things that we’re missing that he’s got to get better at. He’s got to understand how important those things are and we’ll continue to harp on it. We’ll continue to challenge him and we’ll see how he goes.

Changes to the OL with Tyler Larsen at center:

I think the biggest change with him and Chris Paul is, first of all, there’s probably about 60 pounds. They’re both 330. There’s a lot of girth between our two guards and our center. I think that’s been a big part. They’re very stout. Then secondly, I think the big part of it too has really been how veteran Tyler is. His experience, his understanding, and feel for what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

Examples of Larsen bringing his veteran presence to the team:

There’s a couple things that you can point to. Some of it is helping to ID the direction that the protection’s going to go and the type of protection we’re going to use. Then you see them trying to pass a snap off guys, as far as trying to pass them from one blocker to the other.

There was an instance, I can’t remember exactly the play specifically, but they had a three-man stunt and one of our guards wasn’t coming off. So, Tyler came back and left Sam where he was, and he picked up a crosser. That was a very veteran move. I was watching it today with the offensive coaches and that was one of the things that stood out was just how savvy Tyler was when he saw that. He turned to his right, Sam was stuck on a guy, so he just came behind Sam and then picked the guy up in the next gap and really shut it down.

Then you see it also when he’s directing the run game, IDing the MIKE and knowing where we’re going to as far as those things. Those are veteran things that you learn over time, you’re very comfortable with, and Tyler has done that very well for us.

Players’ belief in Sam Howell:

I think it’s important, first of all, just from the aspect that when your teammates have that kind of confidence in you, that that’s a good thing. We went through it with Taylor Heinicke. The guys believed with Taylor they had a chance. I think this is what’s kind of becoming of this is the guys believe there’s a chance with Sam. We haven’t arrived by any means yet. We’re still growing, we’re still developing, we’re still learning. There’s still some facets of what we want to do offensively that we’ve got to get better at and develop and grow. But by all means this is a good step when the players start talking about him in that role, in that capacity.

Again, we still have to come a ways with things to learn. We’re not there. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re working that way. It’s one of those things where you see the confidence that he has, that his teammates are having and developing and growing, and they’re coaching it well. It’s one thing for EB to game plan and put things on the game plan menu. It’s a difficult thing to go out and call it and do the things that EB wants to do and you see that in his play calling. You see the rhythm and it’s really kind of coming together. But there’s still more room for us to grow. We’re excited about this.

Mr. November:

I think it’s where we’ve kind of gotten to as far as some of the things that we’ve had to learn and grow with. One thing we really haven’t had has been the quarterback positions settled. A couple years ago, we had it settled after the game and Taylor became our guy for a while. But my first year and my third year, we were going back and forth, back and forth. This year we’ve been going with Sam from day one, and I think as guys are getting used to it, he’s getting used to it. He’s developing his confidence. Plus, now that EB is I think even more and more comfortable with our guys and with what he wants to do, I think we can hopefully continue to be successful in November and carry this into December.

Longer than expected for the offense to click?:

I think it is one of those things that it did take some time. It did take some growth and development, and patience is probably the only thing that you have to have for it and allow it to get there. Again, one of the things that we were very staunch about trying to make sure we got as many reps for Sam as possible. I do think getting to where we are right now does bode well for us going forward, and again, the focus obviously is just really going to be the one game at a time mentality as we continue to prepare. But we’ve got to stay focused on going out and playing well against Seattle and giving ourselves the best chance to win.

Evaluating the rookie class:

Well, it’s hard to evaluate them unless they play every down. But the biggest thing we’ll say about them is you certainly see the growth and development. Forbes had a good day yesterday. He played with a little bit more confidence, he’s doing a lot of things that we asked for. Like I said though, he’s got a ways to go. There’s some detailed things that he has to pay attention to, he must pay attention to if he’s going to be a really good player in this league.

Quan got some opportunities yesterday and flew around and put himself in position. First of all, as a special teams guy, he’s been solid all year for us and he had a solid game as well. Then getting his opportunities, playing safety, and then we moved him around and put him down near the box as a Buffalo type player. Again, he had a couple chances to make some plays. He had obviously the interception, dropping down into coverage. He almost had a big hit on the quarterback. He was half a step away, but his blitzing, he’s a really good blitzer. So, we see some growth and development opportunities for him there and that’s something we may need to take a look at as to whether to use him a little bit more as a blitzer.

You’re looking at K.J. getting his first real chance, and it is funny because somebody said, ‘Well, he wasn’t blocked.’ Well, if you look at it, it’s a very subtle move what he did, and I believe he was working with Daron. He faked an ET move and then bounced back outside and put himself in position to make the sack. I mean, that was something you see from a savvy veteran, not from a rookie. So that was really good to see. He’s a very smart, very bright player. He did another thing too in one of our defenses that called for the defensive end to drop into coverage. He did a really nice job, put himself in the throwing lane, so he showed some really good growth. He really did. Those young guys are coming along pretty well. Again, if these young guys play and grow and develop, things bode well as we go further down the line.

Coaching KJ Henry through the roughing the passer call:

Well, the biggest thing is I’m going to ask the league for the explanation and then asking also if they could give us the definition of that again, just so we can make sure we’re sure about it. I think the biggest thing is not going to tell K.J. to change anything for the most part. Maybe the biggest thing is just be aware of when you go to the ground with a guy, try to brace yourself the best you can. Again, it’s one of those things that it’s a difficult job for these guys to try and interpret the rules. Again, quarterback safety is one of the concerns. We’ll do the best we can.

Jamin Davis:

Well, when you watch him play, he’s a guy that’s really grown into the role. He’s in a tough spot right now because he’s splitting his time between a WILL/Dime backer and being the MIKE backer in situations. It’s tough, we’re asking him to do a lot and he’s handled it. He’s been a very dynamic guy for us. He is going to make a lot of good plays and every now and then he’ll have a mental error, something that’ll slow him down.

But he’s competitive, he’s a high impact player. In a lot of respects, he reminds me of Thomas Davis that I had in Carolina, that we had here for a year. He’s that kind of an impact player who’s still growing. I know he’s in his third year and everybody’s got high expectations and so do we, but he’s still learning and growing for us.

Jamison Crowder:

Jamison’s been tremendous, he really has. One thing he’s done is he’s brought a little excitement and a little energy and a little bit more to the special teams. One of the things that we harp on is that we think we have two very dynamic returners and you have to do your job to give them a chance to do their job.

Yesterday we opened up with a kickoff and AG pops one for 37 yards, I believe it was. Then we turned around and Jamison had two 14-yarders and a 10 is solid. It’s one of the things that we harp about is that for every 10 yards we get beyond the 25 on kickoffs, that’s one less first down our offense has to get. For every 10 yards our punt return man gets, that’s one less first down our offense has to get. So, we try to stress that.

When you have both types of returners, those guys buy into a little bit more to Coach Nate’s plans. So, that’s one of the really dynamic things that he has done for us. As an offensive player, slot player, he’s been tremendous. He’s gotten more and more opportunities and it really has helped us. One thing that you see is his professionalism, his willingness to go out there and play.

One thing that he’s done too that’s been a great example for all of our young receivers, is dude will go downfield and block. There were a couple instances yesterday where he helped spring a couple guys for seven, eight more yards and that’s another valuable thing. So, I think really his leadership by example.

Daron Payne having one sack this season:

Well, I think one of the things is it is like you just said, it’s not necessarily an indicator for his impact. So again, it is just one of those things that you just continue to work through it and work through it and those numbers will come, but it’s really not about the numbers as much as it’s about the impact.

Where he wants Howell to improve:

Well, I don’t think it necessarily is just about him as much as it’s about the offense and then the whole team as a unit, as a group. I think that’s probably the most important thing is that now we, as an offense, we have to play consistent. We as a team, we have to play complementary, consistent football. I think now that is an opportunity and especially with guys starting to buy in. I really do appreciate what Jon Allen said.

I mean, again, if you see this, if you start to see this amongst the players, you’re going to start to see I think the feeling in the sense that we have a chance, we have an opportunity and hopefully we are where we all think we can be. That will only come over time. Like I said, we’re not where we want to be, we haven’t arrived by any means, but our focus has to be playing one game at a time and playing that one game consistently and playing with the opportunity and chance to play complementary football and close the game out at the end.

Were Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson were running the same route by design on Dotson’s touchdown play?:

Well, if you look at it, it was basically off of the releases and then the way they were getting squeezed down by the coverage. Again, it’s one of those things that if you go and you release outside and you get squeezed down inside or you’re getting pushed outside a little bit by the coverage.

But the biggest thing and the most important thing about that play more than anything else was really where the ball was thrown. It was thrown to really the point where the only guy that could make the play was Jahan. I mean, I thought that was about as excellent an opportunity as you can have. And it’s one of those things too where, to the point earlier in the questions that was asked earlier in the year, ‘What’s going on with Jahan?’ Well, I think a big part of it is just the development and growth of the offense itself.

I think the biggest thing more than anything else has been, it’s taken some time. I think what Eric has done with those guys, with the offensive coaches are doing with the offensive side of the football has been really solid and it is just been a matter of time with that growth and development. Now, we’re starting to see it. I think if you look at how the ball was distributed to all the guys that are playmakers for us, I mean to me it was pretty impressive. I thought we ran the ball with some balance to throwing the football and that’s kind of what we hope to see and continue to see.