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Coach's Corner

Coach's Corner: Rookies making an impact


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach's Corner,'s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:

Q: You've said a number of times how much you like this team, your players and their work ethic. You are in the same situation that you were in last year – you're 1-2 after winning your first game on the road and coming home. Do you think this team is better equipped to capitalize on that?

Shurmur: "I don't know about that scenario. I feel like we won a tough game. I think we understand the things that we need to improve on, and I think that's our focus going forward. We have to start faster, and we have to have a bigger impact on the game early in the game in terms of playing better defense, scoring more points, and then certainly we need to keep going with our special teams, which are having a really good impact on the game."

Q: Most of the players in the locker room, when they were asked about losing Saquon Barkley for an extended period, said, "We're going to miss him, he's a great player, but we have confidence in Wayne Gallman. We're going to move on." Did they get that from you, or do you think that's just a general feeling in the locker room?

Shurmur: "Well, it's certainly what I believe. All along, I've expressed that injuries are no excuse for not going out and performing. As painful as it is for the person that's injured and for the team to lose a good player, a really good player, it's an opportunity for other guys to go out and do what they're on this team to do. That's sort of been the internal message all along. We don't make excuses, and we don't let other people make excuses for us. For them to repeat that and believe it, I think, is a good thing."

Q: In your first 18½ games here, Saquon was your top offensive performer, the player that defenses focused on. As a play-caller, how much of an adjustment is that for you to suddenly not have him out there?

Shurmur: "It's important that we do the things we need to do against Washington. It's very important that we do all of the things necessary to play good offense. We need to be able to run the football. We need to protect the passer. Then we have to throw and catch the ball efficiently. That's what we're looking to do."

Q: When you reported for camp, you could have said your four top weapons were Barkley, (Golden) Tate, (Sterling) Shepard and (Evan) Engram. This will be the second game you'll be without two of them. You haven't had all four of them. Is that tough as a coach when you can't get all of your guys together at once, or you've been in the game long enough where you can adjust to it?

Shurmur: "Well, you have to adjust. Early in the week each week, you assess which players you're going to have available and try to do what's best with the guys that you have."

Q: Wayne Gallman is one of the few players you inherited here that could play a big role. He had almost 700 carries at Clemson. Do you think he has the strength and the skills to be a 15-carry a game guy if need be for a while?

Shurmur: "We hope so. We're certainly looking forward to seeing him play in a lead role. I think it's important that the other guys behind him help carry the load. I look forward to that running back room contributing in a positive way."

Q: Engram is off to a very good start with a couple of 100-yard games. Why do you think he's made this jump? He was good in the final four games last year, but he seems to have made an even bigger jump this year.

Shurmur: "He's a great example of why guys who work hard and are very talented have a chance to make huge improvements, which I think he's done. It's important to remember that he's still a young player. Each time he goes out on the field, as long as he's working hard, which he does, he has a chance to improve. You're starting to see some of the effects of that on Sunday."

Q: I would assume you had a good view of his back-handed, one-handed catch the other day. What did you think of that when you saw it?

Shurmur: "It was terrific. He obviously does a great job when he's running out in space, but a guy that can make a contested catch like that was, a circus catch of sorts, that's what makes him kind of stand out."

Q: We all watched Daniel Jones make plays with his arm and his legs. Could you share a moment that you will remember from his first start that might not be obvious to a lot of people?

Shurmur: "There was only one semi-structured run, and it was the first touchdown. The rest of his movement were called passes where he just extended the play. You see that around the league. There are quarterbacks that do that every Sunday, and he has that ability. We had one where we were in a big grouping. It was a big play action to take a shot, he got flushed from the right and he pushed off to the left, and then he threw the post to (Darius) Slayton that got us down into the red zone. That was one which was a really good play. He keeps his eyes down the field, which is what you're looking for. He does a good job."

Q: When Daniel showed up Monday morning, do you think he had already put the game behind him and was on to the next challenge?

Shurmur: "Yes. I don't think you need to worry about a guy like him getting a big head. The first thing that comes to mind, he had already watched the game on the plane the night before. We are constantly talking about things that happened during the game and fixing errors as they go along. (Offensive coordinator) Mike (Shula) and (offensive assistant) Ryan (Roeder) do a good job between series of rehashing what happened in the previous series and getting them ready for the next series. That's a constant process, so by the time we landed in New Jersey, he had really gone through all of the mistakes and how to correct them. Then he was in here on Monday getting ready for Washington."

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Q: All three of this year's first-round picks started. (Ryan) Connelly started. Slayton had a big contribution. It seems to be rare that so many rookie draft choices to contribute so soon.

Shurmur: "It's just the nature of our team. We have a young team, certainly, of first-year and second-year players. I think what's important is that they get over the fact that they're first-year guys, and they go out and perform. We picked them for a reason. We felt like they had a chance to be outstanding players. The guys that we drafted this year are having an impact."

Q: You're probably going to belittle me for asking about halftime adjustments, but the last two games, you've given up 49 points in the first half and just 10 points in the second half. It seems clear that something is happening at halftime, at least with the defense. Would you agree?

Shurmur: "I don't know what the adjustments are. The calls have been the same in the second half. There was just a commitment to play more disruptive and challenge more. I think that's something that we need to get from the first series on. That's certainly what we're looking for. In our last two ballgames, how the defense played in the second half is what we need to build on, because obviously what we've done in the first half hadn't been good enough."

Q: Is it fair to say that you need stronger play at cornerback on each side?

Shurmur: "The defense as a whole needs to play like it did in the second half of the last two games."

Q: It seems like whoever wins the coin toss, defers. Why do you think that has become such a thing now? Even five years ago, if you won the toss, you usually took the ball.

Shurmur: "I don't know if there's any real reason to it. What you like to be able to do is set the tone with your defense. If you don't win the toss, certainly you get the ball. It's something I believe in. If you can set it up where your defense can go out and get a stop, and that's why we need to start faster, then I think it gives you a little bit of a boost. If you're fortunate enough to get the last possession before the half and get points, and then come out in the second half with the ball and the ability to get points, that's partly why."

Q: Washington's quarterback situation was a little uncertain, because Case (Keenum) didn't practice (Wednesday; he did yesterday). No matter who plays, you're familiar with them. You've coached two of them (Keenum and Colt McCoy) and you just studied the third one (Dwayne Haskins) in the draft…

Shurmur: "Being familiar with them is one thing. Seeing how they perform is another. I talked a lot about Case and our year we crossed paths in Minnesota (2017). It was an outstanding year for both of us. I was with Colt when he was a young player (in Cleveland in 2011-12). I feel the same way about Colt. I think he's a tough guy, he's a winner, and he really has a lot of experience for a guy…he's been in the league quite a while now. I remember he went in for Washington and helped Washington beat Dallas at Dallas, which was a big win. He's certainly capable of playing at a very high level, and I've seen him do it."

Q: The Redskins are usually a run-oriented team. Now they have a good group of receivers, including (Terry) McLaurin. They seem to be relying more on the pass. Do you see that from them?

Shurmur: "I do, but they still commit to trying to run the football. That's where it starts for them."

Q: You talked about (Ryan) Kerrigan this week in your news conference. The first game he ever played, he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown against the Giants. He's started every game in his career. As a coach, do you admire a player like that?

Shurmur: "Yeah, he's certainly a Redskins Hall of Famer. I can't imagine that he can do any more than he's done for that organization, year in and year out. It's a credit to him as a player and a person that he's been able to play at a high level for a very, very long time."

Q: The front five that he's a part of with (Jonathan) Allen, (Daron) Payne. They've devoted a lot of draft capital to that group. What do you see from them?

Shurmur: "When they're all in there together, they're very disruptive. They've got some young players in there that are playing better each week, so as the year goes along, you're going to see that they're going to have an impact. Then you have a guy leading that group like Kerrigan. I think that group, their future is very bright."

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Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) after a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

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