Offensive Tackle Evan Neal
Q: When I talked to you in the spring, I thought 'hey' you really wanted that number, what's behind it?
A: It's just the number that I've always worn. I've worn it since my freshman year of high school, and I had it all through college, so it's just grown on me.
Q: Did you ask (Offensive Tackle) Matt (Gono) for it at all when you first got here?
A: Yeah, I asked him, and he kind of really did not want to give it up, which I understood. That was his number since rookie year for sure, so If I had to wear 70, I would've just worn 70 but I'm glad 73 came up for sure.
Q: What did it cost you?
Q: Did you choose it in high school or was that the number that was given to you and you just stuck with it?
A: It was the number that was given to me, my coach gave me this number. I liked it; it grew on me.
Q: Does that affect anything; do you feel more comfortable in it?
A: Oh yeah, kind of like you know when Michael Jordan wore number 45 but had to switch back to 23. It doesn't really affect the way that you play by any means, a number can't play for you. Just feeling more comfortable with your number, so definitely.
Q: From the spring to now, where have you improved the most?
A: I feel like from the mental side of the game for sure and my technique. I'm still working to improve it every day but, the techniques that the coaches are trying to coach me, I'm definitely receiving them well and developing those and getting better.
Q: When you talked about new techniques, I think that (Offensive Line Coach) Bobby (Johnson) admittedly is more on the aggressive side of pass protection, what has that been like for you? Has it felt new? Is it that much different from what you've done in the past?
A: Well in the past, in college I got great coaching from Alabama as well. But a lot of times they just kind of let the talented players just play, just play their game. At the NFL level, a lot of guys are more technical at what they do, so I have to become more of a technician as well. So that's definitely something that the coaches have been trying to emphasize and mold me to being a technician for sure.
Q: Obviously when you're learning something new, sadly you're going to have some bad reps. How do you process that when you have a bad rep, how do you deal with that?
A: Hey, turn the page it's football. I'm at the highest level so obviously, you're going to win some, and you're going to lose some, but the most important thing is to keep on fighting and win the next play.
Q: One thing Bobby did say is that pass protection is not passive and Jordan mentioned the aggression. How much of a change is that and what is that adjustment?
A: I never believed that pass protection was passive by any means. You can look at my college tape, anytime I got the opportunity I would clean the pocket, stop guys at the line of scrimmage, get on guys quick, and shut them down. So, I definitely agree with that philosophy because nothing is passive about pass protection at all.
Q: You obviously played at right tackle but that was a couple of years ago. Has that been an adjustment to get back to switching sides again?
A: Yeah somewhat, but I have the muscle memory there since I did play it. It was just the fact that this is the fourth year consecutively that I've had to play a different spot for sure, but I feel like I'm doing well, and I feel like I'm only going to get better and better.
Q: Because of your athleticism and size, does being an aggressive pass protector play better to your skill set than maybe what you were doing at Alabama?
A: Yeah, I'm a big guy, I'm strong, I'm long, and a lot of times when I get my hands on somebody, I can shut it down right now. My job is to keep guys off of the quarterback, so whatever way possible, whatever way works best in that moment that's what I'm going to use. Rather I've got to aggressively set a guy, or I've got to be more patient and take an angle set. Whatever way I need to get the job done that's how I'm going to get the job done.
Q: How do you feel so far in your first training camp? Any sort of "welcome to the NFL" moments?
A: Yeah, the tempo of practice is really fast and upbeat. I've been going against some really good talent, for sure.
Q: What other sports do you excel in because the coach is always talking about how athletic you are?
A: Well, I played basketball when I was younger. Basketball was actually my first love growing up, but they say your sport chooses you, you don't choose your sport. So, football definitely chose me, but I was a basketball player.
Q: Did you dunk?
A: Yeah, I still can.
Q: What's your scouting report on (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux)?
A: Well, what you see is what you get with him. He's a pass rusher and I feel like he is refining his moves, he's refining his technique. As opposed to only having one move, he works a counter move, going from speed to power and he's ripping up under. Coming from a bull-rush and then ripping through. So, seeing him just work double moves and counter moves and also, he has a really fast first step. So, I kind of got to get out of my pass set really fast and get to my spot before he does. It's really fun going up against that guy. He is getting me better and I believe I'm getting him better so I'm just excited to continue to butt heads.
Q: How high is his ceiling?
A: It's as high as he wants it to be. As high as he can take it.
Q: Does anything intimidate you, does anything scare you?
A: Well, I like to say I fear God. Nothing really intimidates me about this sport. It can be an intimidating sport going up against world-class athletes but I'm here for a reason as well. You're just going to go out there and compete.
Q: (Offensive Guard Jon) Feliciano was saying he has never seen a rookie kind of act like a vet like you do as far as taking care of your body. Is that something you picked up at Alabama? Or have you always been that way? How did you learn to conduct yourself like that?
A: I want to feel my best going out there to practice and put my best foot forward every day to get better. I can't do that when my legs are constantly feeling heavy or I'm just not doing the necessary things to continue to maintenance my body. Whether it be my joints, my ankles, or my flexibility and things like that. So, I want to take the time to be proactive so that way when I do go on the field, I can play fast.
Q: What have you learned from camp so far and how have you performed? Has that given you more confidence that obviously, you belong here and can play at this level?
A: I definitely know I belong, and I can play at this level. Camp has been getting me better. I feel like I have been getting other guys better as well. I'm just excited, the time's going to tell. It's exciting to go out there and continue to compete, get better with my teammates, and hopefully win some ball games.
Q. I know it's only the preseason but, what do you expect from your first NFL game on Thursday?
A: I expect it to be fast, aggressive, up-tempo, and violent, just like any other football game would be. I'm excited for that.
Cornerback Darnay Holmes
Q: What do you think of (Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale) Wink's nickname for you, 'Dirty 30'?
A: I think it was something that was earned. I feel like I'm a relentless player, so I feel like it's very fitting.
Q: Do you agree that you're kind of a pretty grimy guy like that?
A: Yeah, I grew up in an impoverished area. Pretty much growing up in those type of terms you've got to always have your guard up and put your best foot forward. When things get rough, you just keep your head down and keep on working. So, as I said before, a very fitting name.
Q: Is it meaningful at all to you to be playing against your former head coach Thursday?
A: It's just another game. I'm excited to see him. He's the reason why I'm in this building. Salute to that guy. Salute to (Former Giants General Manager Dave) Gettleman, salute to those who came before me. At the end of the day, it's another opponent, another match, and we're just excited to see where we're at as a team and as coaches.
Q: How do you carry what you've been doing in the summer into the preseason and eventually the regular season?
A: I feel like just staying the course. Actually allowing things you've been doing to be seen on the field. Allowing it to be translated, and not being so caught up in the mental thing, the mental side of the game. Just being free flowing and understanding that if you put the work in, you're prepared for anything you face once you hit that field.
Q: Are you excited by the way you have started camp?
A: I just want to give a salute to those who put the work in for me in a matter of giving me insight and giving me wisdom. The OTAs played a major role for our early success – understanding the system, understanding the scheme. Just the people who worked on my body beforehand once I got up here. My coaches, my lady, my family, they all played a mental role in my mental state now and just where I am being later on in life.
Q: What do you think about the possibility of blitzing so much?
A: I feel like that's a lot of opportunity. You know, early on in my rookie year I was labeled as a guy who was blitzing. You know, a lot of people may have forgot that, but I didn't forget that. I definitely have a tool in the tool bag. So, as you all know, Wink is going to unleash it.
Q: How did your mental state change? How are you different than how you were last year?
A: I'll say I'm a guy who is very open minded, so, I'm constantly evolving. You know, I'm more in tune with things. I'm in tune with understanding that you're never going to be able to eliminate doubt. You're never going to be able to eliminate fear. You're never going to be able to eliminate the inevitable of losing reps. Having the understanding that when I hit that field, it might not go my way and be able to respond. I feel like I'm more grounded and more free flowing.
Q: How difficult was it to end last season with the injury and not being on the field?
A: It was a difficult thing to come to terms with. Laying up in the hospital bed, and I was, say I was ruled out for six weeks. I feel like I was at a point where the tide was turning into my favor, but at the end of the day, it was something that came and I just had to deal with it. Pretty much when the injury came, I was able to reflect a lot and just be a student of the game. You know, learn from the other guys, and just be locked in and understand more of the system that was being taught then. More of the game of football, Football 101 type of things.
Q: Being a student of the game type of thing, you were one of the early leaders in the clubhouse with interceptions in training camp. Is the way you're seeing it different at all?
A: I'd say I had a heart-to-heart with (Former Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham last year, and one thing he told me was being from the West Coast, you have that Cali cool, and I wasn't getting on the line right when I got out of the huddle. Pretty much once you get in line, once the offense breaks the huddle, once you get in line, you're able to be more observant. You're able to read what they put right in front of you. So that little tip right there has took my game to the next level for sure. That was a much-needed thing that he instilled in me for sure.
Q: What do you mean get in line?
A: Get set up. So, when you break the huddle, yeah. Get in line. Exactly. Once they break huddle, go over to where the pass drift is. Whatever the case may be, whatever the call is, get in line so you can see the formation, and see what can happen. He taught me the way you can play fast is by anticipating. Anticipating comes from film study. As I said before, seeing what can come.
Q: You're a chess guy, right?
Q: Play (Outside Linebacker) Kayvon Thibodeaux yet?
A: No. I haven't lined it up with Kayvon just yet.