Q: What does taking an athlete like David Wilson out of the running back room do to the whole mix and feel?
Q: What did you take out of the first couple series?
A: You’re always going to learn a good bit from that first preseason game: things that may come up that haven’t come up in practice, making a different call or making a better decision. So I think we got better on that approach; kind of declared some things on some of our calls and decisions. As a quarterback, just also getting used to having pocket movement and awareness in the pocket, moving around and trying to buy some time. You can try to practice those things and simulate them in practice, but it’s hard. But when you know that rush is real and they’re trying to get to you, you get more comfortable with that as well.
Q: That was the first time you’ve taken a hit since the surgery. Was it good to get it out of the way? How are you feeling? You tripped here on the field, but that was the first time you went down.
A: No issues. That’s the good thing about preseason, getting used to getting tackled a few times. You don’t want to take any huge hits, but get tackled and get used to it; it’s a good reminder that it doesn’t always hurt when you get tackled and it’s just part of it.
Q: Have you had a chance to speak with David Wilson at all?
A: I have not had an opportunity to speak with David. Obviously, I feel for him and it’s a tough situation. It could’ve been a lot worse and the fact that we’re making the right decision and don’t want to risk anything with that neck. It’s scary and I feel for him, but David is a good man and he’ll find something that he can do and he’ll do well.
Q: Is there ever a sense of relief that he is making that decision for his health?
A: I was never nervous. When he was cleared, he was cleared. We’re going to miss him. He was a good player and he would’ve been a part of this offense and made some big plays for us, so it’s tough. It’s tough for a young guy to be told that his football dream is over. So I feel for him in that aspect.
Q: Based on what you’ve seen of the film from the other night, is the offense about where you thought it would be? Were there things that made you feel better about it going into Week 2 of the preseason?
A: There are some things we can improve on, but I thought we did some good things. I thought we communicated well, and for the most part, people were on the same page. There were still some mistakes that were made that should not be made. They may not have affected the play, might’ve been on the backside of the play, or a receiver kind of different from where you’re working, running the wrong route or something like that. But when you watch the film, you notice them and you have to make sure those things don’t happen. We definitely have to clean up some things, but for the most part, we communicated well and got out of bad plays, got into better plays, and had some good drives and did some good things.
A: It’s about the same as in any offense, but when you do it, being able to do it quickly and make sure everybody is on the same page and understanding what you’re doing. I think that’s where I thought we did a good job. When we had checks or we had adjustments, everybody was on the same page and working with the right people.
Q: Your family has had issues with their necks (Peyton and Cooper), did David Wilson’s situation hit home a little bit more, just having lived through that at various times in your life?
A: No. I knew he had the problem last year, but I thought that when the doctors cleared him, I was hoping it would be successful and he’d be able to come back and play at a high level and have the [injury] not affect him. Obviously, that was not the case. When you saw the play in practice last week when he got a burner, that was a little scary and you felt for him in that aspect. You didn’t know how that was going to affect things and what the outcome of his career would be after that play. I just feel for a guy who has great talent and loves the game of football and loves playing. To be told that you can probably not play football anymore is tough. He’s young and talented and you hate for anyone to hear those words. So I feel for him in that aspect. You try to put yourself in his shoes. If I were told in my third year that, ‘hey, you should not play football anymore’ for a health reason, that’d be a tough thing to swallow.
Q: Is it something that hits closer to home for you considering the fact that you had a brother who had to end his career because of it, and your other brother had a similar surgery?
A: I think it hits home whether you have brothers or not. It hits home for every football player when early in your career you’re told you can’t play football anymore. Having a brother that was told that – Cooper, my oldest brother was told that in college and had to have major surgery to fix the problem.
Q: Did it make you think at all in that respect? Think about Cooper, think about Peyton having to go through the same things?
A: No, I just feel for David.
Q: You don’t go out there thinking about percentages. We’ve made a lot of talk about what passing percentage you should get to this year. So you go out there right now with your decision making, just trying to be productive. How do you approach the whole aspect of being efficient and being sharp?
A: Just trying to make good decisions. Trying to find completions, trying to get the ball into the open receiver’s hands and have positive plays. From that aspect, not really changing your game plan, just trying to do what’s best for the team and put your team in the position to have positive plays, which will hopefully lead to moving the ball and getting first downs and putting more points on the board.
Q: You don’t get caught up in numbers, do you? Like percentage numbers?
A: No, you don’t play the game to get a completion percentage. You play each play to try to find a completion, know your reads, know the timing of the play, and just try to make your decisions off that.
Q: David Wilson had a special skillset, which is now no longer a part of your running game. From what you saw the other night, how do you feel the running game will move forward?
A: I thought we ran the ball well the other night. I thought between Rashad [Jennings], Andre [Williams], even Michael Cox at the end, Peyton Hillis, I thought all the guys did a good job running the ball, running hard. Our backs are pretty powerful, big backs. We had some explosive gains in the run game, a lot of plays where we were getting 7 or 8 yards a pop. We had about a 15-yarder. So I think that’s good to see that we were able to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to be able to do that.
Q: With those quick throws, is there part of you that says, ‘wow that’s actually pretty nice; the ball’s out of my hand, boom.’ It’s an easier percentage, higher percentage play.
A: Yeah, I think that’s why we have to switch it up. We have to be able to throw the ball down the field some, throw it short, hit some screens, take our shots downfield. I think you have to have a great mix so the defense can’t decipher exactly what you’re going to do on each play.
Q: You hit [Jerrel] Jernigan a few times during your three possessions. Have you seen things from him that show he’s continuing where he left off at the end of last year?
A: He’s had a good camp. He played well at the end of last year. He’s making some plays, getting a little confidence coming in, just more game experience. I think he’s a little more savvy in his route running and getting open, understanding the timing of things. It’s good to get him out there making a few plays and a big third down conversion during the game.
Q: That one you threw him over the middle was a fast ball, wasn’t it?
A: Yeah, the corner was playing man and there was tight coverage, so I got to step up into it, put a little heat on it and [Jerrel] made a good catch for a third down conversion to keep the drive going.
Good afternoon. I’m sure David Merritt and Peter Giunta covered everything, so I’ll just stop in and say hello and then keep moving my feet.
Q: Will you have Odell Beckham back at practice today?
Q: Has there been any progress at all?
A: Oh, there’s progress. There’s progress with all of them that didn’t play. We left 12 players here and they all (got treatment), three times on Saturday, three times on Sunday, so we’re making progress but they’re not ready to turn them loose.
Q: Do you expect any of those guys back?
A: Name a name.
Q: Mike Patterson?
Q: Robert Ayers?
A: Ayers is going to go through individual and see where he’s at.
Q: Trindon Holliday?
A: Beatty’s not out. This was a plan. It was a plan that Beatty wouldn’t play in the opening game, just like it was a plan that McBride and a couple of others, Herman, wouldn’t play in this game. (Beatty) didn’t do anything to set himself back.
Q: He had those headaches last week.
A: Yeah but the next day he was fine. I’ve had a few, too.
A: We started our meeting off talking about David Wilson. I relayed to them what I told you yesterday about how he came into my office and his attitude and the way he was going to approach this. The fact that he didn’t want pity, didn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him. I thought that was a key and the way he left the office talking about ‘Once a Giants, always a Giant,’ really helped me. He helped me. David Wilson walked into my office and helped me understand and accept the fact that he was not going to be able to play any more. I tried to relay all of that to our team. They were very concerned. They are very aware. They knew after the injury last week, as we all did, that there was always the possibility that when you have a neck that there could be an issue here going forward. That’s what we tried to do, make the team aware and I think they are. I think they feel better about that. Knowing that David has -- I don’t know what he does behind closed doors, don’t get me wrong, but he certainly is tough enough mentally to present a guy that’s at peace.
Q: Can that selflessness be contagious to a football team when they see the way a young man handles something like that?
A: I think so. I think it’s a great example. You don’t ever want to see it happen in that regard but there are a lot of things that happen in life that are unexpected that you do have to be prepared for. How to handle it was certainly demonstrated by David.
Q: I know it was just the one game and not all the starters played but you mentioned that you would tweak some things based on what you had seen in the game. Do you find going into this game that you have to tweak a lot, a little bit?
A: No, we just keep going with our installations and so on and so forth. We’ll do, whatever the installations lead us towards is how we’ll play the game. We have a new installation today and there’s one later in the week as well. There will be some new things going forward and we’ll consider what we have from the first game and the second game. That’s the way we’ll go. We’ll look at, obviously we’ll look at the things that need to be improved and that’s what we’ll practice. From that standpoint we’ll be influenced by trying to correct some of the things that we didn’t do well last week, needless to say punt protection.
Q: With so many new faces here, do you at all go back to your memories of the Jacksonville days in dealing with so much turnover in one season?
A: No. That was a unique experience. That was when everybody was new. I really don’t, consciously anyway. Maybe I do in terms of how I am walking around during stretching, busting their chops a little bit. There may be a little of that but not consciously.
Q: You mentioned the special teams, it seemed like Cooper Taylor was responsible for the blocked punt…
A: He just didn’t block the guy. It was a one-on-one, the player just ran around him. Now that’s a good special teams player he played against, he’s a good one. But still, it was one-on-one, it was a breakdown. It’s a technical thing that can be corrected.
Q: Dave Merritt was just saying that he liked what Cooper did on defense but he’s got to be…
A: He’s got to be a contributor on teams. Yeah, he does. He has to be. He knows it.
Q: So when you look at it, do you say, ‘This is good, this is not good, this is where I want it’?
A: Well, that’s what you do. You correct everything. You look at everything that occurs to that player in the game and you, defensively and on special teams, grade every play and you say, ‘This is not good enough and it’s going to have to improve.’
Q: You’ve got to like the way, even though you did lose David, you’ve got to like the way the running backs all performed on Sunday night. Is that an encouraging thing moving forward knowing full well that whatever you lacked in the running game last year maybe you’ve got coming back this year?
A: Well it’s more than just the runners, obviously. They all competed; they all did a good job. I liked the fact that the offensive line came around and they were anxious to continue to play. They didn’t want to come out. They competed well. Everybody got to play, it wasn’t all perfect obviously, but the direction that we started out is a good thing. Obviously we are playing against another very physical football team this week. As the week comes to a conclusion, we’ll get into that more and that will be a real challenge.
Q: Are you a little surprised with how well Andre Williams handled the situation?
A: Not really.
Q: Is there nothing at this point that surprises you?
A: Well, that was what we expected. That’s why we drafted him.
Q: Is there a special emphasis for the second game or is it just a continuation…?
A: No, there will be, but the emphasis is just going to be correct the things that were wrong and advance in the installation and continue to look at people in spots, challenging them to do the things that, whether we have a question about how much they can contribute. Looking at their special teams performance, how they play offensively and defensively, continuing to try to massage the numbers a little bit with who’s going to rise in the depth and who’s not.
Q: How do you look at the right guard position at this point? Where does Brandon Mosley stand in his progression so far?
A: Well I thought he competed well along with that line. Toward the middle to the end of that first quarter they played pretty well. He played some extra snaps. He needs that. A lot of those guys need playing time. Some of our people that are here that are coming off injuries, they need playing time. I’d like to see him continue to develop and get more time. If he can come through for us, it will be big.
Q: Most of the Bills’ downfield passes were toward Prince. Do you expect that he’s going to be…?
A: That was just a target thing. He defended well and if he continues to do that… it would seem by looking at it that, they decided that’s where they wanted to go with the deep ball and it’s not a surprise in the first preseason game – throw the deep ball. He defended, one of them he may have had a chance to intercept, he knows that. He’s got some things he has to correct in terms of press and being in the right position but he saw it and it’s a good thing. Let them throw it at him. That will help him as we go forward as well.
LB Jameel McClain
Q: Did you know a lot about neck injuries when you injured your neck previously or the science behind it?
A: Yeah, I didn’t know much about it when it happened but I learned fast. Just like David [Wilson] learned fast about the different things that are involved with the neck. My situation was a little different than his, but it’s unfortunate either way. Like he said, he didn’t want anybody to feel bad for him. He’s the most upbeat person I’ve seen.
Q: Did you have any congenital issue or was yours a one-time situation?
A: It was numbness and tingling but it died off a while but it wasn’t anything that consistently happened.
Q: Nothing from birth?
A: I was born with spinal stenosis. That was probably a part of it, too.
Q: Are you worried that players might ignore the symptoms of a stinger? Sometimes players might hide it to get back on the field.
A: I think football is way different than back in the day. Back then, players would keep things to themselves. Whether it was a mixture of toughness and ignorance, or however you want to see it. People are really aware of their body and the significance of the long-term effects. People are sharing that information with trainers because they are on top of it. These are world-class people that we have taking care of us. There’s no need to hide those small details that can help you in the long-run.
Q: So you have spinal stenosis?
A: I was naturally born with spinal stenosis. Some people are born with their right foot bigger than their left foot. It’s a natural thing. They said that may have contributed to my injury.
Q: Does that scare you further as you continue to play football?
A: I don’t have anything thing to be scared of. Before this game, I was scared on how I was going to find a meal. Now I’m in it, so I don’t have many fears at all. I’m living my dream. No need to be scared of anything.
Q: Do you count your blessings when you see something like that happen yesterday and how fortunate you were to get through?
A: You do and then you don’t. You get the feeling that the situation was so real to me, that what he went through, all I was thinking about was how he was feeling and reacting. It’s something that I had to confront because when I met my first doctor and he told me I was never going to play again, it was something I had to look at. To be in his position is not easy. He’s a young man with a lot of talent. For me, it hit me more personal than maybe others.
Q: What made your situation more correctible? Even though you had stenosis and had an injury that knocked you out for a while, that here you are continuing to play with no issues.
A: It is a wild situation. Sometimes nature and God has a plan in a million ways, as he said in his statement. Mine was just something that needed time to heal. It was possible that it could heal and also that it couldn’t. So I had to live with that. It was completely different than if I had surgery, then I would know I had a certain timetable. My injury was stretched out for such a long time because we just didn’t know. All we could do is sit back and take multiple MRIs. It was like drawing blood from me, slowly but surely. But it all panned out. I believed and my family believed and focused on me coming right back. Doing the right preparation for me to come right in and play the first game.
Q: Have you had stingers or burners since that time?
A: Not at all. If we could find some wood that we could knock on, I’ll be good. I haven’t and I plan to stay away from it.
Q: Are your thoughts with David [Wilson]?
A: Absolutely. 100%. I told him in the locker room when I first came here, “I had exactly what you had and I understand.” We talked over time with that. My thoughts and prayers are with him 100%.
RB Andre Williams
Q: Were you surprised at how easily practice may have transferred over to the game?
A: I don’t think I was surprised. Coaches tell you all the time that you play how you practice. I just want to make sure during the week, in practice, I’m preparing myself for what I’m going to see in the game.
A: David was a really dynamic running back. He’s got a special ability in being able to start and stop and move at such a high speed. He’s going to be missed. In terms of his personality, he always had a smile on his face and upbeat. People feed off of that. We’re going to miss his energy.
Q: Do you think that loss has a direct reflection on how much you’re going to play?
A: I never really thought about that. I’m not sure. I think what is going to affect my ability to get on the field has more to do with how prepared I am and having coaches and players around me build confidence in my ability on the field.
Q: With the success you had in your first game, how much confidence does that give you?
A: It definitely makes you more confident. They tell you that the game is going to be fast and you have to get used to things. Just stepping on the field on Sunday was great to know that I feel that I can play at this level.
A: I think I kept up but the players are definitely faster physically. I don’t think the game was too much faster. The DBs definitely carry more weight.
Q: Do you feel like you possess a quality that you can play anywhere or with anybody at this point?
A: Absolutely. I think the Giants drafted me because they had the confidence in my ability to play at this level. I’m just going to embrace that and understand that I can play here. Just have to keep working to get better.
Q: You’ve seen lower round picks in this league succeed, even sometimes quickly. Have you been aware of that or patterned yourself after any of those players?
A: I don’t know if I pay too much attention to that.
Q: Who was your favorite running back growing up?
A: I just pattern myself after Adrian Peterson. I like how violent he is as a runner. He gets to top speed when the ball is snapped and how he uses his hands and shoulders as weapons on the field. I really try to incorporate that in my game.
Q: What do you need to do or continue to work on to get better?
A: In terms of pass protection, the cues you need to take when you’re taking on blocks. Where your eyes need to be, having your hands ready when you engage a defender, and continue to work on catching the ball.
Q: With pass protection, can coaches tell if you know it or do you need to get into game action?
A: I think the thing that they look for, first and foremost, is just making sure the running back knows who he has in protection because the technique can always be worked on. But if you’re not solid on the scheme, you’re not going to be able to learn what you need to do once you have to adjust to a different situation. Pass protection is pretty basic but the adjustments that come after really make it kind of challenging at times.
Q: Do you feel comfortable in it yet? Do they see it?
A: I do feel comfortable. I have the pass protection down to a good degree.
Q: Not many guys carried the ball as much as you did in college, so you didn’t have much experience pass protecting. Is it something you’ve had experience with or is it all new to you?
A: It’s actually not new to me. I did carry the ball a lot last year, but years before the offense was different. I didn’t carry the ball as much. I went through, I think, five different offensive coordinators. So I saw all different types of offenses and having to pass protect. I feel like this is something that I’m used to.
RB Peyton Hillis
Q: Having this training camp, how different is it from last year when tting thrust into it last year.
A: You know, it feels good. It feels good to actually get back into shape again and get involved with the guys a little bit more than I did last year instead of just this in and out thing. It feels good to get back into action, it really does.
Q: Physically you look much more ready to roll it seems like.
A: I felt myself as being a little bit rusty in the first game. It’s hard to come up off the sideline late in the second quarter and just start playing. You’re a little rusty. I figured that’s a lot of what my role is going to be, coming into the game like that, so I have to get used to it.
Q: I’m assuming the running backs room probably felt the David Wilson news harder than the others because you guys are that running back fraternity. How difficult is it to learn of one of your brothers losing his career like that and how do you move forward and move past that?
A: I can’t even fathom it. He’s going through something right now that is devastating. It hurts us as a running back room; it really does because we really love David. David’s a great person. David will always give you 100% on the field, he always gave you a smile when you looked at him. My prayers go out to him and his family. God bless him.
A: I think my whole career’s been like that anyway. I’ve always played my career from year to year because every year, it seems like I’m on the bubble, even this year. I can relate, not on the massive scale that David has right now, but I can relate. This is precious time. This is a precious game; you not going to be here for too long, so you have to take advantage of it.
Q: Let’s talk about the depth chart of the running backs. Here is one guy who was a significant part of it that isn’t here anymore. How do you see the mixture of this running back corps right now as it competes for positions the next few weeks?
A: I really wouldn’t lie to you – I don’t know. It seems like in practice and in games they just put us in there in the spur of the moment to see what we’ve got. I think we have a lot of guys who can go out there and produce. I think a lot of it is saving guys’ legs and protecting guys, so as of right now, as far as the running back chart, I really don’t know what it is.
Q: Do you think there’s enough here now that David’s out of the equation to be a really good running back group?
A: I still think it could be a great running back group, I do. I think that we have really improved on the offensive line and I think we have backs in the backfield that get it. I think that we can have a great year, yes.
Q: What did you see from the blocking downfield in the first game? It seemed like the receivers were getting to where they needed to be.
A: The receivers were doing a really great job blocking. They were. They were really getting to their blocks and maintaining. That was something that we liked last year but it seems that we really picked it up.
Q: Does the identity of the group take a hit when somebody who is a speed back like David is gone? Do you now have to shift the focus and become more of a power running team?
A: I’ve been in this league for a little while. It always seems like everything works out not the way you expect. Somebody gets hurt, nicked up here and there and somebody always has to fill in. It’s one of those things where no matter what skill set we have, we have to go in there and play. This is a tough, downhill league. We need power backs; we need those backs that get the hard yardage. But make no doubt about it, David Wilson will be missed.
CB Coach Peter Guinta
Re: Zack Bowman
A: Working on it. I knew he was veteran coming in and played like a veteran. He made plays.
Q: How do you see his role this year?
A: Right now he is competing to be a starting corner for us. He’s a backup right now that is competing to be a starting outside corner for us. He is a physical guy that can play our coverages very well.
Q: We spoke in the spring of the possibilities that teams may attack Prince Amukamara a little more with Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie on the field? How do think Prince Amukamara held up?
A: They did. He did a great job; I would like to see him intercept two of those three balls because he had a chance. He had better position than the receivers did on all of them. He did a great job of the forcing the receiver. The receiver had no….he had them pinned against the sideline. He did a great job at the line of scrimmage getting his hands on the guys and forcing them to the sideline.
Q: Do you expect he is going to have a busy season?
A: I expect him to do the same kinds of things he did in the preseason except make a couple plays on the ball in the air. I think he will get better at that as time goes on.
Q: When you guys signed Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie, Tom Coughlin said the plan was to put him on the top receiver every week. It looked they were able to get Watkins over Prince Amukamara. Were you splitting the field with those guys?
A: We just play left and right. We are not game planning people specifically in the pre-season. We want guys to go up and compete and play. As we start game planning people…but for now they are playing left and right corner.
A: Yeah. He has great physical skill, great coverage skills, and he is getting better and more comfortable with the other guys in the defensive scheme and he is working hard to perfect his press technique. Once he can add putting his hands on people on the line of scrimmage, because he has great quickness with his hands and feet. once he does that, it will be tough to battle against him.
Q: How has Walter Thurmond adapted to this system?
A: He has done a great job. He has a lot of experience playing inside at the nickel spot. He has learned the system very quickly, it was just a question of the terms. The language is different, the scheme is similar.
Q: We talked to the officials last week about the point of emphasis regarding downfield contact. Have you had to do anything different coaching-wise?
A: No. We had five calls in the game against us. We are just going to continue to compete downfield. If they are going to call it, we just have to be less aggressive with our hands down the field. You don’t want to hand fight these guys and not let them push us off, but we have to realize what the rules are and the emphasis this year.
Q: How do you get guys when they are accustomed to doing so much out of that habit?
A: You just have to correct them in practice to develop the habits in practice. Keeping the hands off the receiver after five yards and just get a feel for what the five yards is. It’s hard because the ball isn’t always on the line every time. So you have to get a feel for where five yards is and get a feel for the officiating crew, too. Some of the guys will let you go to six to seven yards and other guys are a strict five yards. They are trying to make it more of a strict five this year.
Q: On days in practice when you don’t have officiating, is that something you are telling your guys?
A: Yes. We evaluate it on tape every day and every practice they are evaluated.
WR Coach Sean Ryan
Q: That was just a sliver of the offense but no passes to Victor, no passes to Rueben. Is that just coming or was that something that was focused on in this game?
A: I think both of those guys had about 18-20 snaps apiece and I think it’s a matter of where the read takes the quarterback. There are certain packages that they happened to be in, it just worked out where none of the progressions took them that way. It wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t part of the plan. They’ll be fine and they’ll make plays. We’re not worried about that. That wasn’t the emphasis of the day.
Q: Jerrel Jernigan on the other hand was involved. What did you think of how he did? He seemed to make a bunch of tough catches with guys sort of on his back. Does that surprise you? He’s not the biggest guy.
A: No, not at all. It doesn’t. He’s has some experience and a couple of those routes coming from the outside in, about five yards of depth, he’s worked on technique and I thought he used it in the game, what he’s done in practice, putting himself between the ball and the defender, so I wasn’t surprised because I’ve seen him do it here for the first couple weeks of camp. I thought he did a good job in executing those routes and making those catches, but we expect him to do that.
Q: You said it wasn’t the emphasis of the day. Is that because you know what those guys are capable of?
A: No, I meant there wasn’t an emphasis to get the ball to anybody individually. It was going through the concept and let the quarterback go through his progressions to get the ball where the ball needed to go.
Q: How did things work out for you with the tablets?
A: Good. I thought it was really effective. It’s a good teaching tool. I thought the guys were able to see it. It’s a little bit clearer for them than the old photographs were so I thought it was really good. The guys seemed to like it. I think it’s going to be a real useful tool for us down the road.
Q: You didn’t have a chance to play around with them before the game, right? Or did you?
A: Briefly. We had our video guy come in during the week and give us like a little five-minute, 10-minute presentation on it. We messed around with it a little bit but certainly as the game went on, you got more comfortable with it. I think it’s going to be a real good tool as coaches and players get more comfortable with it.
A: Yeah, you can see multiple, not necessarily pictures at once. You can keep a variety of pictures up there if you want. You can highlight one picture, you can go through a play as it’s being snapped and the post-snap. You can save certain clips and bring it back at halftime and remind them, ‘Hey, the next time we get this look, expect this or expect that.’ It’s useful in a lot of different ways.
Q: It’s like being in the film room on the sideline.
A: Exactly, yeah.
Q: Are there any kinks or things that you sort of need to work out or maybe ways that you could utilize it better?
A: Yeah, I think just getting more comfortable with it and being able to use the writing tools. The biggest kink was probably me figuring it out. Once I did, the kinks were gone. You’ll just get more comfortable using it on the sideline. There wasn’t anything glaring, no kinks that really held us up for any amount of time.
Q: What are your thoughts on Corey Washington?
A: Corey is a big, raw, physical athlete who has great ball skills. If I had to say one thing about him right off the bat – that kid can catch the ball. He’s shown a knack in practice and the obviously the other night. When the ball is in the air or down the field, he’s going to get it. That’s a pretty impressive quality for a wide receiver. He’s impressed me that way. I think he’s gotten, from the time he got here, much more serious in his understanding of how important meetings are and being locked in there. That’s really helped him, I think, in terms of being able to execute on the field. He’s growing, he’s got some ways to go and he knows that. He’s been working good but he’s got the tools. He’s got the tools to be successful.
Q: What has impressed you about Marcus Harris? He seems to have a knack to sort of get himself open.
A: He’s got that, but what’s really impressed me is his approach to his work. He takes his job very seriously and learning the offense but his flexibility that he gives us is pretty impressive. We can move him to any position within the offense in terms of receiver, inside or outside. He’ll execute, he doesn’t make any excuses at all. Like you said, the details in his routes and his precision has been good. And his ball skills too. That guy, he doesn’t have many drops. He doesn’t drop the ball; he’s got good hands on that way.
Safeties Coach David Merritt
Q: Any new safeties jump out at you?
A: Yeah. Cooper Taylor. Cooper Taylor played well and it was good to see him out there. He had the chance to get involved. He was in about 38 plays on defense and I only had him graded down for one out of the 38. He did a great job. Nat Berhe, the rookie, called him ‘The Missile’ -- that’s going to be his new nickname because he is going to go in there like a missile. The veterans Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown still played well. Quintin Demps got some action as well, but obviously Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe.
A: I think the kid is a big height, weight, speed guy already, 6’4 – 230. So he has all of the (tangibles) there that’s needed to play the position, but I think confidence. I think that is the one thing has happened with that one man, that he has displayed more confidence this offseason than any time before. That comes with, of course, understanding and being more familiar with the system, so the fact that he is able to recall the defense as I ask him questions, that has been the biggest difference.
Q: Is that the best extended look you have seen from him?
A: Without a doubt. No question. Before we played in Canton I had nothing really to go on. So that was the most extensive play he has had, so I am excited.
Q: He just looks different…
A: Yeah. He is definitely more masculine, if I can say that. He is thicker. He is in a position where he is learning how to sink his hips and understand to strike with power, which is still a work in progress.
Q: How is he in that room?
A: Great. He takes notes likes crazy. Yes, he is probably four to five inches taller than all of my other safeties. Great notes, everything I say he writes it down.
Q: Ever thought of switching positions with him?
A: Never at all.
Q: How is Stevie Brown looking?
A: Stevie is looking well. Coming of that knee injury and the fact that he is able to transition in and out of breaks, I have not seen any lack at all. You can’t even tell what knee was hurting, so he is doing good.
Q: Has he gotten thicker up top?
A: Yeah, he is lifting a little weight. He also filled out a little bit. He worked hard in the weight room and that was one of his goals, to build up a little more bulk so he can play down in the box and be there to help us in support.
Q: You mentioned Nat Berhe as a guy who jumped out at you. Can you talk about how his process is and emerging in one area?
A: As you all know, what I like to do with the safeties is there is no free safety, there is no strong safety. You have to learn both positions because you never know when you have to learn both positions. You never know when you have to go in and play the left side or the right side, go to the tight end or not go to the tight end. For Nat and his learning curve, of course he is right where he is supposed to be, but as a rookie, there is some down and distance tendencies he didn’t understand before that he is now starting to understand. If it’s 3rd down and 2, there is no reason to back off play 12 yards if you are playing man to man. So it is little things like that that I have to constantly remind him of. Berhe, right now, we are looking forward to seeing him be a really good player for us on special teams. That is where they all have to make their mark. Cooper Taylor has to make it on special teams because as you all know, we have our two starters here but I treat them all as starters. I don’t want them to ever stop learning, but I think Berhe right now, his learning curve is right where it needs to be as a rookie. There are a couple things such as down and distance that he can help us with.
A: Good question. To be honest, I don’t think it is going to affect us as much because you sit here and look at Quintin Demps. If we ever have a situation where we put the Bison package on the field, where we put the three safeties on the field, we have that ready to go. The fact that we have Walter Thurmond here as a nickel, that is going to help up tremendously, especially when they put three wide receivers on the field. A lot of these teams, when they try to play two tight ends, we still have the safety package that is going to allow us to go in and be thicker and be ready to support the run and play the pass as well.
Q: You guys have come into every season the last five years telling Antrel Rolle that he is going to get to play where he wants to play….
A: That’s right, Antrel can play safety now. Instead of him going down and playing nickel, we have enough nickels and he will be at safety again for the entire season. Last year, in my opinion, he had the best season of his career and he played the safety position 90 percent of the time.
Q: Did that drive against Dallas here change the way guys had to attack the offseason?
A: No. What happened that drive, as Coach Fewell will be able to sound on that a little more, Antel had to be thrust into the nickel position. Of course, when you have been playing back deep the entire game and all of a sudden injures occur or whatever it may be and you have to go down to play the slot position, it is different. There is a lot of room to cover. It didn’t change us at all. We have still gone ahead…which is Walter Thurmond being here, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside, those guys have helped us tremendously as well as Quintin Demps.
Q: There are not that many teams that have that kind of corner depth?
A: Most depth I have seen since I’ve been here and I have been with Tom now going on 11 years. This is the most depth I have seen and I am happy to have all the toys.
Q: The whole depth for safety and corner?
A: Safety and corner. No question. As a combined unit, for whatever reason, we only have two safeties (on the field) and we are not able to play the Bison package, we have the corners that can go in and play that Bison position, which is Walter Thurmond that can go in and hold that position for us.
Q: Where did the name “Bison” come from?
A: It’s a package we came up with. It really started when you go back and try to analyze…when Steve Spagnuola was here, we used a three safety system, James Butler, Kenny Phillips, and Michael Johnson. It started back then and we just kept it when Perry came on board. We called it a different name when we were with Spags, so that was just a name we deemed with this group.
Q: Between the safeties and the corners, this secondary can be the best in the league. Is that fair to say?
A: Yes, I think that is fair to say. I do.
Q: Are you happy to see Will Hill to get another chance? Were you asked at all by the Ravens to give him recommendation?
A: Extremely happy. I am not going to take anything away from him. His talent and ability to put it on film, that is why they signed him. I am extremely happy to see he received another chance. Terrell Thomas, who I think signed with Seattle, I am extremely happy when our guys leave here and they can go and sign with other teams. Hopefully he will do well for them. Not too well. Unless we see them in the Super Bowl.