RB Saquon Barkley
Q: They are listing you as practicing fully today. That has to be a pretty good feeling to be able to go full in light of what you’ve been through.
A: Yeah, it definitely felt good to go out there and practice. I’m just loosening up. Anytime you’re good to go out there with your teammates, any type of opportunity, you’ve got to take full advantage of it. I think we got a good day’s work in, a great practice, and we have one more day on the field to get ready for Detroit.
Q: Pat (Shurmur) said we might see you limited a bunch moving forward to just sort of rest on certain days during the week. Is that alright with you and do you think it’s needed?
A: I mean, is that alright with me? As a competitor, you want to, not just only in the game but in practice, go out there every single day. But whatever is going to benefit the team and benefit me, I guess, to help my team on Sunday. So that’s the way that Coach believes is going to help. Like I said, continue to be open minded like I was when I had the injury. Be open minded and just take it day by day and continue to try to prepare myself to be ready.
Q: How much do you feel like your body needs it though— or do you not?
A: Everyone needs it probably, to be honest (laughter). When you’re playing in the NFL season, I don’t know what week it is, but it’s getting to that point where…
A: Week 8— where it’s a grind. It’s the grind part of the season, so everyone probably needs it. But if that’s the case where they believe I need it, then I’ll do whatever it takes.
Q: When you watched the film from the last game, did you look like yourself?
A: Yeah. The only thing I felt personally, in the beginning I think I tried to do a little too much, I went back to my college habits, my old habits a little bit. But I guess that was just more excitement. But as the game went down, I felt like I settled down in the run game, but I didn’t make enough plays to help my team win. That happens, so you go back and you watch it, you learn from it and move on. Now you get ready for Detroit on Sunday.
Q: Can you describe the challenge of competing against Snacks (Damon Harrison), who is regarded as the best run stopping defensive tackle in the league?
A: Yeah, he’s a heck of a player. He’s a great player. I know personally, he wanted to get his hands on me since I got here last year, so he’s going to actually get that chance. But not only him, Romeo (Okwara), all of those guys that we’ve got over there right now, they’re heck of players. I wish nothing but the best for them, but this week I just hope they don’t play to the level that they are capable of.
Q: Has he told you that he wants you?
A: I remember last year he said something like, in the beginning when I first got here, that he can’t wait to hit my ‘you know what.’ He always used to joke around here and on Twitter and stuff like that. But he’s Snacks, he’s a great dude. When he was here, he was someone that I was able to go to talk to for advice, just how to handle yourself throughout your career. He’s been playing at a high level for a really long time. He’s well respected, so I’m really excited to get to go play against a guy like that.
Q: Do you expect to have a little soreness on gameday?
A: No, I don’t expect that at all. Your body reacts differently on gameday. Especially when you’re actually out there and you have adrenaline, your mind is just focused on different things. It helps you fight through anything if there is any pain. I think we’re doing a really good job so far throughout the week, not only on the practice field but in the training room, with rehabbing it. I’m excited for this week to be able to go out there and get another opportunity to play with my brothers.
Q: Is that scary in any way last week when you had to limp off?
A: No, it’s football.
Q: You knew it wasn’t serious?
A: No, it was football. The probability of him actually landing like that again on me is probably not high. I was a little upset that, more upset to the fact that it happened again. That’s football, that happens when you have a high ankle sprain. There are going to be times when you feel a little bit of pain, but you also have to be a man and know where you’re able to toughen up at. I think in that spot and in those areas, I am able to.
Q: How much is that something that you’ll maybe have to deal with going forward here in the next few weeks and maybe at times it is going to bother you?
A: If it’s anything like it was when I had it in college, I don’t want to put a time on it, but it didn’t last a whole season in college. The rest of the season in college I felt it for a little bit, but the more time you give to relax it and treat it, the better it feels throughout the year. But nothing that I’m concerned about.
S Jabrill Peppers
Q: What do you see in the Lions? (Matthew) Stafford has long been one of the best deep throwers in the league. Then they have several good receivers. What do you see in them?
A: Tough matchup, but like I say every week, we’re always ready for it. We know they like to go deep. They have phenomenal concepts and they have guys that can make good plays on the ball. We know we have our work cut out for us, and we’re attacking it head on.
Q: What do you expect from their run game? They lost their running back.
A: Next man up. I know they have Ty (Johnson). 41 (J.D. McKissic) used to be a receiver, so I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of him as well. They just activated Paul (Perkins), who we know very well.
Q: Does it change the dynamic though? Everyone is a different runner, right?
A: Yeah, but I don’t think so, as far as their scheme and what they like to do. Kerryon (Johnson) is a good back, but those guys are good backs also. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
Q: When a guy scores four touchdowns like (Marvin) Jones did last week, does that get your attention when you’re the next opponent?
A: Absolutely. You look at what he did, how did he get those touchdowns, where was he at. It’s a lot of variables that go into it. But you just break down the film, see what they like to do, see what they do well and try to take those things away.
Q: How much do you think Matt Stafford has left?
A: I think he has a lot left.
Q: What do you see from him on film?
A: I played against him a couple years ago. He dices up pretty nice. I know I’m definitely coming into that game with a different mindset because I played against him. His surrounding cast has gotten a lot better. The guys have matured around him. He has some pieces now. The acquisition of the tight end (T.J. Hockenson) has helped him a lot. We know we definitely have our work cut out with Matt. They didn’t give him all of that money for no reason.
Q: How good is that tight end?
A: He’s pretty good.
Q: Obviously, he’s a rookie. But…
A: Yeah, he’s pretty good though. I’m definitely taking that matchup personally. Anybody who’s a good tight end, I like to take that matchup personally.
Q: Where is this defense at in your estimation? You’re pretty much at the midway point of the season. You obviously have a lot of young guys in there, but where is the progression?
A: We’re progressing. It might not look pretty all of the time, but I definitely think we’re trending in the right direction. Like I said, we just have to clean up some of those small details because in a game, those things get exploited. The wrong step here, now you’re out of your phase. One wrong step, now you’re reached or you’re late on a throw and instead of an interception or a PBU (pass breakup), it’s a catch and tackle. Just things like that. But there’s a lot of football left to be played. We’re going to keep attacking it and keep attacking it.
Q: How will (Deone) Bucannon’s arrival impact your role on game days? He’s kind of the hybrid moneybacker that you were playing sometimes when they brought in another safety. Will it change what you do?
A: I don’t think so. I actually think it’ll be beneficial. That’s another versatile guy who can play down in the box, can drop back into coverage and is fast. Especially in this league, you need guys who can be fast sideline-to-sideline, and also cover running backs who have receiver tendencies now, or these tight ends who have receiver tendencies now. It’s all beneficial. You can never have too many guys like that.
Q: Yeah, I was saying maybe you stay more at safety.
A: I guess we have to wait and see, baby.
Q: Not a lot of linebackers in the league who you weigh more than. I think he’s 211, you’re 215.
A: Yeah, I guess. I guess you can say that. I’m not 215, but I don’t know. I play like it.
Q: Any significance for you going back to Michigan?
A: It’s always nice going back to Michigan. I’m excited. I get to see friends out there. I know guys coming to the game. Their crowd is always a little friendlier towards me, even though I’m always on the opposing side of the ball. That’s always nice.
Q: You played offense, you played defense at different levels. Have you ever heard the term, there’s a lot of debate over this now. Have you heard ‘ghosts’ used the way Sam Darnold used it, like as extra defenders coming unprotected?
A: I’m not sure what you’re referring to.
Q: Like ‘seeing ghosts’? You haven’t heard that term?
A: I don’t even understand the question.
Q: Stafford likes to throw the ball deep and create opportunities. Do you look at it as an opportunity for you guys also to get the ball?
A: Absolutely. Every time a guy puts the ball in the air, on defense, two things can go your way. Only one can go their way. An interception or an incompletion, or they catch the ball. There’s always room to make plays on the ball if people are putting it in the air a lot. But you have to be disciplined, you have to match up the routes efficiently and you have to get pressure on him and force some errant throws.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
Q: We’ve asked you about ball security. Is there anything you specifically worked on this week to try to clean that up?
A: Well, we work each week on two hands on the ball, just like every other team does. I think more importantly than that is getting the ball out faster, before they have a chance to swat at it. There were a couple of times we could have done that. You can’t turn the ball over. When you’re the guy that holds the ball every play, then you have to make sure you’re aware of that. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s all of us. We have to have plays where the ball is getting out, getting open on time, protecting and all of those kinds of things. So yeah, we’re working hard on trying to play keep away with the ball.
Q: When you say get the ball out faster, is that pre-snap that helps that, or is it you’re working on him mechanically getting the ball out faster, or just processing information?
A: I think it’s all of the above. We’ll have plays where the ball comes out fast, our quick passing game. Then sometimes if we have plays where the receivers are more down the field where by nature, it’s not quick game, then you still want to stay on rhythm, whether or not, as we know, you kind of go through your progressions. If one’s not open, get to number two quicker and then get to your outlet quicker. Things like that.
Q: I’m obviously asking this because it’s kind of a big topic in the NFL right now. Do you with your quarterbacks, here or other stops, use the term ‘ghosts,’ and what does it mean when you say it, ‘seeing ghosts’?
A: Oh no. I’m not sure. No, we don’t use that.
Q: You’ve never used that term?
Q: How big of a jump is it from knowing what’s wrong to fixing what’s wrong? Daniel (Jones) says, ‘I can’t turn the ball over. I have to get the ball out quicker.’ It’s fine to say it, but…
A: Sure. Just kind of like we were talking about two questions ago, I think that it’s a fine line. It’s easy to say, ‘Yeah, get the ball out faster.’ But there are times, and that’s what’s really cool I think about this position, where you have to hang on to that first guy because if you do, he’s going to come open and it’s going to be a big play. Then there’s a fine line of, ‘Hey, I can’t, even though I know he’s going to come open, I have to get the ball out because otherwise I’m going to get sacked or the ball is going to get stripped.’ Those are constant throughout your career as a quarterback and as a coach. There are so many fine lines in that regard, and so we just keep trying to preach awareness. We talk a little bit greenlight. I think I’ve talked about that in the past, greenlight looks. When you get the look that we’ve talked about all week, and it’s the look that we want, sometimes you might want to hang on it. But if it’s all of a sudden not the look, don’t spend that much time with the first guy. Get it to the second guy or the third guy. I think it’s constant, and I think with young guys… But I will say this. It’s the same thing with older guys in my experience. You just kind of keep preaching it, keep talking about it and good or bad, you learn from your experience.
Q: How much of that is a product of a young quarterback wanting to make a play on every play, and not wanting to check down or give up? Do you have to kind of drill that in to Daniel’s head?
A: Yeah, I think it is, probably more so overall. But like I said, you still see it in some guys that are older, that are experienced, that have won Super Bowls and things like that. Guys trying to make a play. We were watching a quarterback on tape the other day that was outside the pocket. There was really kind of nothing open. He ended up throwing the ball away, but he took a hit and he got knocked on his can. Where as if he had just thrown it away earlier, you save a hit. But he’s trying to make a play late in the down. Again, that’s a fine line.
Q: How do you get a guy up to that? Next Gen Stats has Daniel as the most aggressive quarterback in the league, but then you have him holding the ball. There has to be a fine line somewhere, right?
A: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Again, you coach off experience from your own game experience, watching quarterbacks when you’re watching the team of the defense that you’re playing. Again, you play percentages in regard to, ‘Hey, this is the look we want, and it’s a one-on-one situation. Just give him a little more time.’ A lot of it too is feeling pressure. You want to see coverage, feel pressure. That, I think, comes… Each quarterback gets better with experience in that regard too. Those are the things that you try to simulate in practice as much as you can. But obviously, you can’t because the only way to do that is to go full speed, and because of the physical nature of our game, as we know, we can’t do that.
Q: Do you need to put more time in this week with Daniel, with the line, with everyone on offense… The indoors, it’s pretty loud in that building. It’s really the first time that you’re in an indoor situation. More time spent on that you think in practice?
A: A little bit more. We have crowd noise out there during the course (of practice). But we talk more, like you said, in meetings on hand signals from quarterbacks to receivers throughout the offense and communicating. We talk about even little things as far as after the play is over, getting back to the huddle quicker, staying close to the huddle so you’re there when the play is getting sent in. You’re right there, you can echo it. We also have things where if all of a sudden you can’t hear, as a safety valve, he has plays in his mind that he can go to. That’s usually the last resort. But yeah, all of those things come up, especially when it’s in a dome.
Q: What is it about Golden Tate? He’s become sort of the security blanket, or the favorite target, for Daniel.
A: Just in general, I think that he’s, as we’ve seen before we brought him in here and when we were evaluating, I think as everyone has seen, he has such a knack for understanding defenses, winning on one-on-one situations, being in the right spot at the right time. That’s kind of been exciting for us to see as he’s come in, now that he has a couple of games under his belt. Hopefully, and I think he will continue. He’ll help us and we’ll all continue to play better and win games.
Q: Your two tackles have allowed I think 50 pressures so far. Why do you think they’re struggling on the edges, and is there something you guys can do to give some help?
A: We, obviously, look individually at how certain players are playing. We also look at scheme and maybe… There are a lot of times, too, that kind of just show up on stats where it kind of looks like it’s a pressure by a certain guy but it’s really not. It’s caused by maybe something over here, or it’s caused by the quarterback holding onto the ball, or it’s caused by maybe not a great play. We kind of evaluate. We talk specifically. But kind of in general, yeah, you do that if you have certain guys that are struggling. You want to have the ability to help them out. That’s kind of, in general, not necessarily this week I’m saying. But just in general, you want to make sure you’re doing things scheme wise and matchup wise that give him, as well as everybody else, the best chance to go play well and play fast.
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
Opening Statement: Coming out of last week, the beginning of the game is a thing we have to improve ourselves in. You go look at the tape and you judge the tape, you don’t just sit back and say we started flat, we weren’t playing, whatever it was. It comes down to at the beginning of the game it was first and ten, it’s second and eight, it’s third down, it’s first and ten, it’s second and long, it’s third down. That cycle repeated to another fourth down again, the theme is win on third down and get off the field. I have to call it better, we have to coach it better and we have to win a matchup on one of those early third downs to get off the field. If the game were played out first and ten, first and ten and second and one and that’s what it was as they marched all the way down the field, then yes, I would wonder were we flat, were there things that I didn’t do in preparation for our guys to get them ready to go early in the game. You look at the second play in the game, it’s second and eight, we really have a chance to make it third and 11, we have a chance to hit them in the backfield and it ends up being a three-yard gain instead of a three-yard loss and it’s third and five. We find those plays and we talk about fundamentals, techniques, how we can play better in those situations. There were a few big runs there where it’s a combination (of) we have to coach it better and we have to execute better and see pulls. Two outside runs where there is stretch with pulls, a little bit different set ups on both of them, the one was an insert play where we didn’t fit well, those are the three big runs that we have to get rid of and eliminate from the game. We do that, I like where we’re headed in the red zone, in terms of red zone defense overall. We have to get the runs and we have to get those handled in the red zone. Our guys are tough, they are resilient. Again, I love coaching this group. They love to work, they come in and they are open minded about corrections, they are very self-aware. You have no chance to build anything and get better if guys aren’t self-aware and I love that about this group.
Q: Where is Sam Beal in terms of how close he is? I know he is eligible going into next week. When he does come back, do you see him as more of an outside guy or a slot guy?
A: Sam is going to be an outside corner when he comes back. It’s just going to be a day to day how he progresses, how he is fully healed, not where he’s at. Sam hasn’t practiced a ton, as we know, so every day is great for him, every meeting is invaluable for him. He’s been able to watch tape but he hasn’t been able to watch himself on tape and so that’s why the meetings are so important. It’s a great self-evaluation, sit and watch every bit, watch individual, watch his scout team reps, watch his defensive team reps, watch his special teams reps, all those things are key for him to try to build until that decision is made next week.
Q: What are you looking at when you are working with him, technique, is it physical build up?
A: It’s certainly technique. Young players need as many reps as they can to get on tape, so that you can coach the fundamentals and techniques. Obviously, beyond that is the scheme and the calls, he just needs as many reps of those as he can get.
Q: Is he getting any team reps, is it all scout team work?
A: Almost all the guys in the back end are getting pieces of reps, I won’t go into details of how many. They’re all getting opportunities.
Q: Is he fully healthy enough to play if he were to play in Week 9?
A: I think that will be determined next week when it’s time to make the decision.
Q: What does Bucannon give you?
A: My history with Buc, the things I know for certain about him, he loves football, he plays fast, he’s a guy that was always much more physical than the frame and the stature of the guy, that’s really what stick out to me. I think just getting him out here the last couple of days, getting back into our system and our scheme, we are able to have some of the conversations reflecting back to Arizona and some of the things we did. He’s working hard and he wants to try to earn some time.
Q: Coach Shurmur said yesterday the plan was to get him up to speed so he could be ready to go for Detroit. How did that look the first two days?
A: It’s progressing that way. I think the plan of how much, and what and if he’ll play, that will reveal itself on game day. He’s working his tail off, in terms of that stuff he’s working just like the guy I know.
Q: That position in general since you came here last year, it seems like when you were in Arizona you were ahead of the curve a little bit. It was Buc and then Mark Barron at the time, I think, with the evolution. Is that almost a necessity now to have guys like that in those spots?
A: I think that the game has become enough, I don’t want to use the word spread, but horizontal where people space you out, even in bigger personnel groupings. You saw Arizona try to do it one time, they had three tight ends in the game and they had empty. They had a penalty and didn’t get to run what they wanted but they went three tight ends and went empty, that’s the game. The game is big people to go smaller looks and space people out. I think there is a lot of value in guys that can tackle in space, whether that’s a safety that tackles in space, or a linebacker that tackles in space, whoever he is, I think that’s certainly a necessity because of the game. From a matchup standpoint, when things become horizontal, even if you are playing zone defenses, you have to tackle in space and you have to play and manipulate your body in space to play the zones in space. It goes hand in hand, whether you are matching up in man or playing zone defenses.
Q: Was it a conscious decision when you guys put that position on the board, is that something that was in the defense when you got there? Can you talk about the evolution of why you decided to do it?
A: I think specifically for the reasons you said. Buc was a guy that we felt could do it. I think because he has a physicalness to the way he plays the game and I think you have to have that component for that guy. He still has to go down and fit in the run game and play tough and play strong and certainly those were some of the thoughts we had in Arizona.
Q: What have you seen from B.J. Hill this year?
A: I think we’ve seen some really good snaps, just like other guys at the position interior wise, we saw some really good snaps. I think we have seen some snaps that he would really like himself to play better. We’re all in on working on getting those other snaps out of his game just like the other guys.
Q: Do you want him to have as many splash plays, sacks and tackles for losses, as he had last year, or does he have a successful season without them?
A: I think disruptive plays are, whether they’re plays that show up in a stat sheet or not, I think disruptive plays are really what define players in this league. Whether you are changing the math or knocking guys back, you are displacing offensive linemen, whether you are on the second level setting a tight edge knocking the ball back to the rest of the defense or on the second level seeing pulls, fitting fast, and disrupting the run game. I think that’s really what defines players. Sometimes it’s not always a TFL (Tackle For Loss), it’s not always a sack, it’s the other things that go along with it.
Q: Do you see enough of those from B.J.?
A: I think there’s some plays where he has done some really good things, I think there’s some plays that him and I want him to play better.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: So, you challenged Mike Thomas?
A: Yeah, a little bit. And like Mike T, he always accepted the challenge. He just kind of gave me a little dig a little bit, but he made a good play. It was just a simple little rush that we did, it was really a hold up and we rushed the two inside guys to try and draw the PP (personal protector) in the center, someone to block him, and they got stuck. Mike T made a play. That’s what Pro Bowlers do. He did a great job.
Q: Was he supposed to rush all the way?
A: He was supposed to hold up the personal protector, but he got hung up on the rush by Eli (Penny) in the other A-gap, and he just went through and blocked it. Pretty simple.
Q: Why did you think that was the juncture to challenge Mike?
A: As a group, we were kind of struggling a little bit as far as just who are we as a group, our identity. There’s been a lot of turnover, a bunch of different guys. The guys we had in the spring, there’s not a lot of the same guys, a bunch of different guys. So, not so much challenge Mike T, but just challenge the room. We’ve played at a certain level here when it comes to special teams, and I wanted the room to understand that this is the level that we play at, we play here. Regardless of who is in the game, we’re not making excuses like ‘This guy is here,’ or ‘This new guy is here,’ or ‘We’ve got three new guys here,’ ‘We’re rotating,’ ‘We’ve got to set up a new punt team.’ There’s no excuse. Nobody cares. Literally, nobody cares and there’s no help coming, so let’s go. So, that was kind of the message to the room.
Q: You can only play that card so often though, right? You have to pick your spot?
A: Yeah, absolutely. This is pro football, you’ve got a job to do. I shouldn’t have to do a whole lot of prompting to make sure that you do your job. There’s enough that comes with this job, especially where we are in the market that we’re in that you should be super, super ready to go. It shouldn’t be one of those deals where it’s like—it’s your job, it’s pro football. We’re not playing Furman this week. This is pro football.
Q: What happened on the missed field goal?
A: Aldrick (Rosas) just got a little fast, and he just pushed it. Just one of those deals. He hasn’t had a whole lot of attempts this year. He’s only got six on the year, so we’re still trying to find that good, solid rhythm, game rhythm, and when you don’t have the attempts like that, it just takes some time.
Q: Four for six is not great—is he better mentally prepared to handle that this year than maybe he would have been last year?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Having the year that he had last year gave him a lot of confidence. So, he understands now more than ever the issues that he has, and to be able to self-correct and make those adjustments on the sideline, knowing watching the ball flight, okay the ball did this, so it’s normally this. Or the ball did this, and it’s normally this. So, he knows the fixes.
Q: Does that give you more confidence in him?
A: Absolutely. I have full confidence in Aldrick and his abilities and what he can do. He’s a young kid with a ton of upside, and hopefully he can do this for the next 20 years.
Q: When you mention the standard of playing up here, is that related specifically to when you come off the New England game and you guys give up points on special teams, are you reaffirming that you’re not just trying to do your jobs, you’re trying to put points on the board?
A: Absolutely. This outfit is not a transition outfit from offense to defense. We’re trying to impact the game in a positive way, and if we can make an explosive play, that’s what we want to do as a unit. It’s just not, ‘Okay, we’re going to punt the ball.’ No, we’re going to try and punt the ball and go down and try to tackle it and knock it out and make a play. The mentality is not a transition mentality, it’s a play making mentality. We want guys in the room to understand that.
Q: Some guys said they took it personal that special teams in their eyes sort of slipped a little bit in recent weeks, and that last week that was a thing with them. What did you notice?
A: Yeah, I took it personal, too. Like we were talking about earlier, we personally challenged them. This is our job, this is what we do, and what you put on tape is who you are. So, it’s not something to take lightly. When you, quite frankly, get your ass kicked, it should be personal. So, that’s one thing that as a coach, and then the leaders in the room, the Mike Ts of the world, the Zaks (DeOssie), those guys, you’ve got to take this personal, because this is our jobs, it’s how we feed our families, this is how things get done in our homes. I tell them all the time, we all touch each other’s money. So, what I do affects them, what they do affects me. So, if we have to watch a little bit more tape, if I have to stay at the office another hour or two and watch more tape and do a little bit more studying and make sure that we know all the little nuances of what the opponent is supposed to do, we have to do that if we call ourselves pros.
Q: How did you think Darius (Slayton) looked at kick returner?
A: Like a guy who’s never done it before. He’s a young kid, but every rep he’s getting better. Like in practice, every rep he’s getting better, and he has to just get the reps in.
Q: What was your take on whether he should have taken that kick out or not?
A: Coach (Shurmur) wants to be aggressive, and that’s the whole thing. Like we just talked about, our whole mentality is an aggressive mentality. I tell our guys all the time, we err on the side of being aggressive. That’s our mantra as a group and as a unit. We’re not going to shy away from anything, we’re going to play fast, we’re going to play physical, we’re going to try to make a play.
Q: Does the situation there factor into it for you, or do you still want to be aggressive?
A: Everything is situational. But at the time, we wanted to be aggressive.