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Quotes (10/4): Shurmur, Beckham, Bettcher, Shula, McGaughey, Vernon, Shepard, Harrison 

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

Q: I know they were limited, but were (Olivier Vernon) and (Eli Apple) able to do any team stuff yesterday? 

A: Yeah, they did team work yesterday. I guess we listed them as limited, but they were out there competing in team activities.

Q: (Cody) Latimer also?

A: Yeah. 

Q: Are they significantly closer than last week at this point?

A: That’s fair to say, yeah.   

Q: Are you counting on Sterling Shepard playing Sunday?  

A: Oh yeah, absolutely.   

Q: If you get (Olivier Vernon) back, how much of a help is he against a guy like Cam (Newton), who can make plays running the ball, from the pocket? How big of a boost would that be?     

A: It’s good. If we can get OV back, it helps our defense. We add another player that can play from the edge, not only to set the run but also to pass rush.

Q: Is (Josh) Mauro going to be ready?    

A: Yeah, he’s training, so there’s a chance we could bring him up. I think we need to make that transaction by Monday though, so we’ll just have to see. Right now, the game day roster is just a little bit up in the air with some of the guys coming back and then certainly you add Mauro to the mix.  

Q: How do you view where your team is mentally?

A: Mentally, I think we’re a team that knows we’ve got to compete and work, and we’re fighting to get better and win a football game. That’s where we’re at. I know you guys are all constantly asking me that question, but we’ve coached long enough to know that, and there’s a lot of teams right now that haven’t won all their games, so we’re all doing the same things, trying to get ourselves rolling in the right direction. That’s the real part of this, and that’s where we’re at. We’ve got a really good locker room of guys that are competing and working and trying to do what we can to win a game.

Q: Is that a balance you have to consciously strike between panic and urgency?  

A: You never panic, but there is always urgency, and right is right, and right is playing well and winning. There’s never panic. There’s always urgency. That’s a good question, it’s an easy one to answer. 

Q: Are you sitting there second guessing yourself at all with the offense struggling, are you sitting there going ‘it’s going to come’?       

A: No, I don’t second guess. As you move forward, just as much as the players are going through the things that they wish they might’ve done better, we do the same thing as coaches, and then you just keep moving. That’s really what you do. We don’t second guess, we just keep moving. We correct, and we’re always self-scouting ourselves, but you’ve got to be willing, too, to say in this scenario, we probably wouldn’t do this again, and then you move forward and learn from it. That’s the journey we’re all on.

Q: How’s Evan Engram doing? What kind of progress has he made? 

A: Good. He’s made good progress. We’ll just have to see. He wasn’t involved in the team activities yesterday, though, but getting better.

Q: Is it hard to tell the difference between (panic and urgency) when you’re judging the team, or is it easy to spot, to know that guys aren’t panicking?  

A: No, I just subscribe to the theory that you don’t panic. You stay calm but you’re always urgent.

Q: Do you see that when you’re looking at your players whether they feel the same?

A: Yeah, but the mindset of the coaches and the mindset of the veteran leadership is you just keep going and you don’t. That’s sort of where it all gets reinforced. 

Q: With a veteran quarterback like Eli (Manning), when the offense isn’t going well, do you take a hands-on approach to let’s critically analyze what’s happening here, or do you trust?

A: No, there’s always conversation with the quarterback, and when you paint the general picture that it’s not going well – we haven’t scored enough points. There’s things in there that we build on to help us now then score more points, but I will never point to that when we don’t win a game. I will never talk about that. There are things we’re doing well, but there’s things we need to do better more often, and that’s the challenge and that’s the journey as you’re getting ready to go. And you always involve the quarterback – what did you see here, why did you do this? Give them a situation again, what did you do this? Here’s what we’d like to see you do. So there’s always feedback there. You never just bring a quarterback to the sideline and holler at him because he didn’t do it. What you do is you say, ok, what did you see? Why did you do it? Then you take it from there

DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison Sr.

Q: What are your thoughts about Carolina’s run game from watching the film?

A: Overall, I think it’s the most complete running game in the NFL.

Q: What makes you say that?

A: The offensive line, they do a pretty good job of getting movement at the point of attack. If anything breaks down, (Panthers QB) Cam (Newton) is taking off running. It’s a two-headed monster.

Q: Can you talk about reading the read-option on the edge. Even though you’re more of an inside presence, do you have to do a little bit of reading in those situations?

A: No, because it can be two guys on me at that point. They’re trying to move me off the line of scrimmage so that Cam can find that crease in the middle, if the defensive end does crash down. Or, if he stays home, he hands the ball to the back. I just got to do a good job of not getting moved off the ball.

Q: What does potentially getting (LB Olivier Vernon) “OV” back this week do for the defense?

A: It’s everything man. That’s the terminator. OV can do it all. Can provide some much needed pass rush, as well as be strong on the edges. I think that’s not a discredit to the other guys. OV is just a different animal.

Q: Is this system something where OV can really excel in and play to his strengths?

A: Yeah, everything you saw in the preseason, that’s gospel, man. That’s what we expect when we get him back. Again, we’re all excited. I haven’t stopped talking about it yet. I missed him.

Q: It’s been a while since he’s been back on the field. Do people sort of forget what he brings and what he can do?

A: I think so, because it’s been about three or four weeks now. It’ll be a nice surprise for the Panthers, if we can get him back. I’m not sure, is he playing?

Q: Having already played against some mobile quarterbacks this year, does that help with the preparation with Cam Newton?

A: It makes it difficult to really rush the passer, because somebody has to always keep their eye on them. I’m usually tasked with the job. It’s a thankless job, but I don’t mind. Anything to help us win, but it’s tough. Not only do you have to respect the running back, but you have to respect the quarterback, especially, like you said, I think everybody we played this year have been mobile. (Saints QB Drew) Brees can move a little, too. That’s just the way the league is going.

Q: Do you know the identity of the 2018 Giants yet?

A: I’m not sure, because again, I’m still trying to figure out what we are on defense. I think we somewhat have established our identity as a team. A tough unit, a physical unit, but we just don’t complete ballgames in it’s entirety. I think that’s just something we have to work on.

Q: How do you work on that?

A: Just be more consistent. Focus, knowing exactly where you’re supposed to be and trust in the guys to your left and right.

Q: Would you say you guys have to develop that killer instinct?

A: Yeah, that too, but again, you can’t stress to make plays, which I think is another part of our problem. You see guys trying so hard to make a play instead of just being where you’re supposed to be. That’s just human nature.

Q: How have the guys handled the first four weeks of the season? Is it different from last year in terms of how the guys are handling it?

A: I really can’t speak to the past, because again, that’s something I don’t even want to think about. Nobody has their head down. Everyone is still working. Coach is doing a good job of keeping everyone motivated.

WR Sterling Shepard

Q: Carolina’s defense is good at limiting yards after the catch. Does that become a bigger problem when you’re trying to break a short one for big yards?

A: No. When we have the athletes that we have and the guys that we have – after the catch, I don’t think we’re like anybody in the league when it comes to after the catch. We won’t worry about that until it happens.

Q: You’ve always been known for a slot receiver, but even you say you’re so much more than that. Would you want to see the ball thrown to you deep a couple of times? 

A: I’m just taking whatever is there. I go on deep routes. If we hit them, we hit them. If we don’t, we don’t. 

Q: Do you feel perfectly fine after the procedure?   

A: I wouldn’t say perfectly fine, but I’m getting back to myself though.

Q: When shots are taken down the field, does that loosen things up for you on some of those shorter underneath routes? Does that create more space for you?

A: I think it can, but you don’t want to just waste a down just throwing the ball up by trying to get people off of you. You want to put together a nice little scheme. That’s what you do sometimes, but guys are playing us deep, and that’s how they’ve been playing us since the beginning of the season. So, you just take what the defense gives you, and get it to your playmakers, and they’ll make plays.

Q: How do you put together consistent drives? Last week you guys had success on that first drive. How do you string together drives like that?

A: Just staying discipline. I think everybody has to do their job. If one person messes something up, then it can mess up the whole drive. Just staying discipline and protecting the ball. That’s the main thing.

Q: Is the procedure you had, is that a unique feeling and injury to manage for you? It seems a little different from a sprained ankle or a knee.

A: Yeah, it is different, but I don’t really know much about it. You kind of have to ask the medical staff about that.

Q: Did that just come out of nowhere?

A: I guess I been having it for a while. It started bothering me, and then I told them about it, and went from there.

Q: Do you feel ok for Sunday though?

A: Yeah, looking good. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

LB Olivier Vernon

Q: You had a very good game and you can kind of see what the possibilities were with this defense. How excited are you to be able to put that to use?

A: I’m just excited for when I finally can get on the field and be able to contribute. That’s what I look forward to and everything else we just got to take it day-by-day.

Q: Do you get a different perspective when you’re watching from the sides, seeing the possibilities and potential is really out there?

A: Anybody can watch the game and say you could’ve made that play, but it’s not really what it is. You just see a lot of guys that are trying to make plays and a lot of young guys just out there getting the experience and they’re trying to make plays as well. All you could do is mentally prepare yourself to comeback and be able to contribute.

Q: This defense has seen enough of the zone read so far this year where it’s not something unfamiliar, but how different is it – I know this is potentially your first time on the field, but how different is it with Cam (Newton) running it?

A: He’s a big, physical quarterback. He can do a lot of things. He’s able to make plays with his feet. He’s been known for that so all we can do is do our assignment, play Giant football.

Q: How much did they do that more than most or all other teams, using him as like that runner even in the design stuff?

A: Yeah they’ve been using him like that since he’s been in the league. He’s capable of doing all types of stuff. His biggest thing that he can do is he’s going to make plays with his feet, make things happen out of nothing so that’s just our responsibility is just to contain him and make sure we’re doing what we have to do to stop the run and play the pass.

Q: How much does that change what you want to do as a pass rusher in terms of aggressiveness, in terms of not letting him maybe get outside of the pocket and run like he wants to?

A: You still got to be aggressive. You just got to be disciplined as far as knowing where everybody else is around you. That’s basically what it is when it comes down to it and you can’t really be hesitant when you get out there. You still got to get out there and rush because if you don’t then you still get hurt.

Q: I don’t see film on him as much as you do, but does it happen where a rusher comes in and all of a sudden you’re seeing him run by because he suckered you in?

A: A big part of his game he could do that a lot. He’s been doing that for years, but you just got to be disciplined when you go out there, knowing where your teammates are at to help each other out. That’s when it comes down to rushing as a unit.

Q: Coach said that Cam sometimes likes to challenge the defender even if the defender is in the right place like a read option. Is that something that you’ve seen and does that happen a lot when –

A: He’s capable of doing that because he knows he can make plays with his feet and he’s going to try to put you in that type of position. He’s just a special quarterback that has the capability to do a lot of things. All we can do is focus on playing our assignments and trying to get the job done right.

Q: You see other option-type quarterbacks do that once they see you in position say I’m just going keep the ball?

A: In today’s age, we got a lot of mobile quarterbacks. I don’t think there’s any mobile quarterbacks with Cam’s size and speed to do what he does, so he’s great at what he does.

Q: Did anybody ask you about your optimism to play this week?

A: Yeah just taking it day-by-day. That’s all I can do and look forward to Sunday, but only focused on today, Thursday.

Q: What do you need to show them? Is it cutting? Sprinting? What do you have to prove to them that you’re healthy and prove to yourself really?

A: Prove to myself is the number one priority, but then also showing them that I’m capable of making certain plays that you don’t want to be a liability out there. It’s just basically showing the coaches you’re capable of making the cuts when you have to or inside stunts and stuff like that.

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Q: This is the week, right? This is the week you get into the end zone?

A: I don’t know. You seem more concerned about the end zone than me.      

Q: You’re not concerned?

A: No, I’m not concerned. I missed four games my rookie year and still came back and did what I did. The end zone, it’ll come.    

Q: What’s the frustration level that you can’t seem to get the passing (game) throughout a full game?

A: Frustration, I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to click. Like I said, we missed the first quarter of the season, we can’t have it back, but there’s still another three quarters. It’s about making the most of those. At any point in time, you could win seven games in a row, then you’re sitting at what? 8-3. I always say this, you could’ve won the first eight and lost the first eight. It’s just about when you catch fire. But there does need to be a sense of urgency to play better, do better, execute, win games, but there’s definitely not a panic in my mind, in my body, soul, my heart. I’m not panicking.  

Q: Do you feel that sense of urgency? 

A: It needs to be. If it isn’t felt, it needs to be felt. We need to come out like I said when we were in Houston, we just need to have that energy. The word that I’m going to keep repeating is energy. It’s about energy, it’s about the way you come in here every day to work, the way that we all vibe and bond together. Being a team isn’t about one person scoring touchdowns, it’s about the little stuff. It’s about the locker room, the vibe, everything – just bringing that energy a little more than what we have already.  

Q: Ron Rivera was talking yesterday and he said he watches the film of the Giants and he says, Odell is getting a lot of attention. Are you sitting there saying, it’s getting frustrating because I can’t make plays because I’m getting all the attention?    

A: I always hear the word frustrated. I’m sorry, it’s funny. Yeah, there is a lot of attention that goes on me, there’s times I’ve been in that red zone and I watch the nickel who’s over me covering me, the linebacker drop out to my side, the safety be over the top. There’s a lot of attention that goes there, so I joked with everybody in here, I was like, you know that I’m coming back off the ankle surgery, I’m thinking maybe I’ll get a chance, you have to prove yourself, and it’s like they just jumped right back into what they were doing last year, doubling up and doing those things. We just have to find ways to get around that. 

Q: Is it up to the other guys or to Eli (Manning) to go to the other guys?    

A: It’s just up to us to make plays wherever that ball is. We need to be making plays. We need to block up front, we need to throw it, we need to run it, we need to be making plays every which way, especially now. 

Q: How much do you see when you go back and watch the film, opportunities down the field to make plays? Are they there? Is it something that’s not there because of what they’re doing?

A: They’re there, they’re not there, it’s just a matter of doing it. There’s only so much – they’re there, they’re not there. I don’t know how to answer that. There’s opportunities, there’s not opportunities. It’s just about taking advantage of the opportunities that are there.

Q: A couple years ago you took over the game against Baltimore when the team really needed a win. Do you think of yourself needing to have that kind of game when the team is up against the wall in a game like this? 

A: The problem is, I think I can do that every game. That’s just the way I’m built, that’s my own mentality, is I always feel like I can do the most, like I can go for a thousand yards every game. Not literally, but that’s just how I feel. I don’t feel like I’ve been stopped, no disrespect to anybody, but I don’t feel like I can be covered. I am just very confident in me, I’ve worked an entire offseason to be able to bring the best me to this team and I just want to be able to do that.     

Q: That’s a lot of yards, a thousand.      

A: That’s a lot of yards in a game. You might have to sit out the next week if you do something like that. Not literally, but I feel very confident in my ability and in what I bring to the table, and I just want to be able to do that. The feeling in my soul to be able to do that, that’s if anything, frustrating. That’s the only thing. I just feel like I’ve worked so hard, I want to be able to bring my best to the table each and every Sunday. 

Q: A lot of talk about that first drive last week, you guys go down and score the touchdown, and of course the Texans game. You guys go through stretches of games where the offense just seems to disappear, how do you get that Houston game replicated to play a complete game week in and week out?

A: I think it goes without saying, the energy like I said. We come out the first drive, I’m like oh yeah, it’s about to be 52-49 again against the Saints. Then after that, one little mistake, we get behind the chains, ok bad drive, ok let’s recover it. No, another mistake, and then it’s like, bad drive. We’ve got to shake that and be able to overcome adversity. That’s really what it is, it’s just about overcoming adversity. Even the Houston game, there was an opportunity for them to come back and it’s like, when we had our foot on their neck, it’s not time to let up. It’s time to step down even harder. It’s time to press. So, energy. Energy, energy, energy.   

Q: Is your confidence in Saquon (Barkley) and what he can do, does that help as opposed to maybe what you faced the last couple years where teams dared you to run and you guys couldn’t do it? 

A: Yeah. What he can do is unreal. So whenever he gets the ball in his hands, I’m supposed to turn into a blocker but I turn into a spectator. I sit there and I’m watching him because it’s like a mirror image, I’m watching him break tackles and this and that, and I’m like oh I’ve got to pick somebody up on a block. We trust fully what he can do and just putting the ball in his hands and letting him make plays. I know it’s early to say it, but in my opinion, he’s going to be one of the best in the league.

Q: But is that the kind of player that could make things easier for you in theory when teams kind of try to throw that soft zone?

A: Yeah, it’s going to make it tough. It’s just about finding that balance and how we can count on each other. Not just us two, but everybody. It’s really about finding the balance. I think that might be the answer. We just haven’t found that balance. We haven’t found a way to get up and down the field, move it here, move it there, throw it, run it, reverse it, whatever it is. We just haven’t found that balance.

Q: Do you give you input with Eli (Manning), do you brainstorm together with Eli when you review film together?

A: Yeah, but coaches usually have that game plan down. Eli and them, they all have it pretty much down, so when we come in, if we see something we might go in there with something, but as far as the full game plan-

Q: That’s what I mean, if you see something.

A: Yeah, if you see something you’ll be like, I was seeing this on film – not to even bring it up, but I remember whenever we played the Panthers last (time) I was telling him I can beat him on the post, I’m going to beat him on the post, I’m telling you it’s going to happen, and they called it early and I was all excited and dropped it, wide open touchdown. But I had seen it on film, this is open, this is going to be open. So, if we see something, we’ll bring it up and coaches will look at it and put it in the game plan where they see fit.

Q: Have you done it this week?

A: No, we haven’t done anything this week. We got a good game plan. They’ve got some guys over there, my LSU guy over there (?), he’s looking pretty good. He’s always been pretty good. We got some stuff in there, it’s just about executing, it’s about balance, it’s about that energy.

Q: Eli (Manning) is under fire, there’s a lot of people criticizing him. What do you make of that when you hear that?

A: I feel like he’s fully capable of handling whatever comes his way. He’s been doing this for a long time, so I don’t think there’s anything guys could say that is going to bother him. We’re going to continue to come in here week in and week out and try and get wins, and not to be like executing and all that, but we’re going to try and come in here and do the same thing every week and win and be able to make the plays wherever we have them.

Q: Do you sense a heightened sense of urgency in here and if so, how does that manifest itself?

A: We still come in here and turn music on and have a good time, and not to say we’re supposed to come in here and mope and all that, but there’s definitely still good energy here. It’s not like the energy’s bad or we’re all nervous or walking on egg shells, I don’t feel that way at least. You might have to ask somebody else, I don’t feel that way. If there’s anything I can do to make sure nobody else is that way, I’m trying to do that. We’re not paying attention to 1-3, you can win the next two games, then it’s 3-3 and we’re all sitting here with different looks on our faces, different questions.

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher

Opening Remarks: Coming off of last week, I think there’s some parts in that game where our guys played their tails off. They played with a bunch of passion, a bunch of energy, they executed, we just have to keep stacking weeks, stacking preparation, stacking snaps, playing together as a defense to clean up the plays that we can all point out when we watch the tape where it’s either, heck I’ve got to have a better call, or we have a breakdown, or we don’t execute well. Those are the things we’ve just got to keep playing and we’ve got to play through those downs. We can’t let one of those downs affect the next snap for us, but proud of the effort of the guys. Make no mistake, we lost the game and we gave up over 30 points. I think our guys came in yesterday, they did the same thing they’ve done the last two weeks. We got in after the game, we made some corrections, guys were locked in, we’ve had two days of work up to this point, and I expect us to come and play a little bit better this week, and we’ve got to keep doing that through the course of this year. This offense, they create a lot of run-pass conflict, use the quarterback a ton in the run game, he is a heck of a load to bring down whether it’s quarterback design runs, whether it’s option plays, or whether it’s just him underneath center handing the ball off to a really explosive running back. We’ve got some guys on the perimeter who can catch the ball, who are sure-handed, couple guys that can take the top off of it, and a couple guys are getting back off of injury. It’ll be another great challenge, I think our guys are used to each and every week, we’ve been playing some teams that are pretty good offenses. Look forward to the challenge, look forward to going down there and scrapping, finding a way to get a win.

Q: It seems like they’ve gotten (Christian) McCaffrey more involved in the running game early than maybe they did all of last year. What makes him, both as a receiver and runner, so difficult of a matchup?

A: One thing about him, when I turn the tape on, I see an explosive guy who’s not afraid. He’s shifty, he can do all those things in space, but he’s not afraid to put his foot down, lower his pads, and he’s going to try and run someone over. Those are the kinds of backs that as a defensive coach you have a lot of respect for, that when it’s time to put your pads down and get those tough two yards, this is a guy who’s going to put his pads down and get the tough two yards.     

Q: Does it cause a problem for you in coverage, having a guy who can run it from the backfield like that then wind up splitting outside?

A: Sure. The same kind of things that we had to deal with last week with the back we played against, a guy that, they’ll split out empty, they’ll motion him, they’ll use him as a slot receiver and bring another back to put in the backfield, all those kinds of things that we dealt with last week, we’re going to have to be good with this week in terms of where he’s at.   

Q: Does it help having multiple weeks against similar types of guys where you can install that stuff?

A: Yeah, I think it does to a degree, but I think each and every week, teams have their own things that they do with those guys, whether it’s him in the backfield with a zone read, with option stuff, with Cam (Newton) and the run game, or splitting out on the perimeter. Each week is a little bit different in terms of what they’re doing with the guys, but where the O line, sure, that is similar. 

Q: Are turnovers and sacks things that come in bunches, because it seems like that’s the thing you’re lacking?

A: Yeah, I absolutely think they do, and how do you improve those things? You keep playing hard. If you don’t play hard, you don’t get to the ball, you don’t get out of the stacks, I think back to Kerry Wynn’s turnover in Houston where he gets out of the stack, gets a hit on the back downfield, we force a fumble – those are the kinds of plays we’re just going to continue to grind our way out and, shoot, there’s no strips without strip attempts, too. We’ve got to be a little bit better in that department. Balls, they get tipped and they come to you, and they do come in bunches, and you just have to keep playing hard. 

Q: What do you think of Ray-Ray Armstrong in pass coverage, and why is B.J. Goodson playing so little?   

A: One of the things with Ray-Ray is, I love the ability and flexibility that guys have as whether they can come cover back, whether they can blitz off the edge, whether they can cover in space. I think the way the game has changed is we’ve all seen a change over the last few years, is the game has become so horizontal, so spread out, that you have to be able to do those things in space and I think Ray-Ray is getting an opportunity to play right now. For B.J., he’s just got to keep playing, keep working. I love his mindset, I love his work ethic, (he’s a) physical guy. We’re not down on B.J., I think Ray-Ray has played a little bit better to this point, and he’s going to continue to get his chances. It’s just like anyone else, whether it’s 10 snaps, four snaps, 25 snaps, make the most of each and every snap, one snap at a time.

Q: You thought (Armstrong) played well Sunday?   

A: I think there were some times in the game he played well, and I think there were some times in the game where just like other guys on the field, didn’t play as well as he would’ve hoped and I would hope. I’m not down on him, we didn’t lose the game because of anything he did particularly. I think all of us need to play better and I need to coach better.

Q: How much more time do you have to spend in a week like this on preparing for the quarterback’s running? He does it more than anybody.   

A: Sure. Each week, one of the first things we game plan for is the run game. We haven’t played as well as I would’ve liked to at this point in the run game, I think that’s evident, but I take a lot of pride and our staff takes a lot of pride that that’s the first thing we do. To your question, yeah, you’re going to spend a little bit more when there’s motions, shifts, there’s receivers lining the backfield, there’s some of those things that either work against your eyes, or just work against being sound and responsive in terms of what your job is on every down.  

Q: The quarterback run game kinds of just blends into the regular run game? Is that what you’re saying?

A: It does a little bit.    

Q: With your time preparation?     

A: Yeah, with your time preparation, absolutely. Quarterback run game, that’s part of the run game, so when you’re game planning for the run game overall, whether it’s a quarterback run series, zone option, whether it’s a team that’s going to get underneath center and try to run the ball downhill at you or gap scheme you, you’re spending time. That’s the first thing you’re looking at each and every week.

Q: You faced a couple quarterbacks who do that to various levels of success as I’m sure you know. What makes (Cam Newton) different? Is there an X’s and O’s component to it that they do it differently, or is just his athleticism? 

A: One thing, he is a very physical, big guy who at times in the zone option scheme, will take the matchup. You will be in the right spot, you’ll have the guy that’s supposed to be on the quarterback on the quarterback, and he will take the matchup at times whether that’s just pulling the ball, or maybe that’s giving the ball and taking the matchup. He’s really smart with those kinds of things and they do a nice job putting him in some of those kinds of situations.  

Q: Where has B.J. Hill made the most progress from Week 1 as a rookie to Week 5 now?   

A: I say for him, when he first came in the thing I think I talked to everyone about was his maturity level. When he walked in, the way he studied the game, the way he prepared, the way he took care of his body and the way he worked on a daily basis in practice, just getting snaps – and they may sound really simply – just getting live game snaps, where the zone scheme is going fast, or where we’re in pads and we’re tackling people and really playing off of blocks, I think just getting more snaps has been one of the biggest parts to him getting a little better each week.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula

Q: How similar is what they’re doing on offense (Carolina) to what you did while you were there last year?

A: I’ve been watching their defense.

Q: When you look at their defense, they’re struggling a little against the run. What can you exploit there? 

A: They’re defense is all based on gap control, speed, not giving up big plays. When they have given up (big plays), it’s probably because one or two guys maybe has been out of their gap, which is stuff that all teams work on, but they’re pretty good.

Q: (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) hasn’t gotten into the end zone in four weeks to start this season. What do you attribute that to, and how do you change that?   

A: I think that just comes in a natural play of the game. I don’t think if we try to start forcing the ball to get anybody touchdowns, I think you run into some risky business, so to speak. I think that he’s very talented. He’s going to get the ball. He’s going to get us in the end zone. He’s going to get in the end zone. More importantly, we need to score more, however we do it. Whether or not it’s Odell, or (RB) Saquon (Barkley), whoever it is. We just need to get down there number one, and finish drives. It’s all about scoring points. On the drives that we’ve been successful, for example, the first drive last week, we really didn’t do anything fancy. Everyone just did their job, and stayed out of the negative plays. I think that’s probably our focal point. In this day and age, we all get it. Everybody wants touchdowns, everybody wants great stats, but our guys do a good job of just realizing what the most important stat is in winning the game. We just got to do a better job of putting ourselves in positions to do that.  

Q: (QB) Eli (Manning) is completing over 70 percent of his passes, but is only averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. Why isn’t that consistency translating to bigger plays or more efficient plays? 

A: That’s a good question. I think that we’re close. It hasn’t been good enough yet. I know coach has mentioned this, too, I know Eli has mentioned it, we’ve had some plays that have set us back penalty wise, or a negative play that has maybe been one of the reasons why we’ve stalled the drives. The completion percentage is big. Obviously, you want the ball caught every time and thrown to the right guy. A quarterback’s job is to do three things: throw it to the right guy, get the ball there on time, and get the ball there accurately. Whether or not that guy is 20 yards down the field or five yards down the field, just keep the chains moving forward, and then we feel like if we do that and stay on the field, with our athletes, we’re going to get the ball in the end zone. Those are all things that we look at, and not necessarily say oh, we have to get the ball down the field, just are we making good decisions, and are we moving the football.

Q: Are you comfortable with his risk-reward ratio with taking more chances down the field?

A: I think just in general, we’re all going to be more comfortable when we get points on the board. We got to finish drives. We got to get the ball in the end zone, however we get it in the end zone.

Q: In a tough time for an offense, do you coach an experienced quarterback like Eli a little differently that you would two-year guy, or someone with little experience? Do you leave it more in his hands? Do you coach him as if he were any other quarterback?

A: I think regardless of age, I think you coach everybody differently, so to speak, based on their personality, and based on not whether or not that’s on experience, or make-up. Our job as coaches, as we tell the players, when it’s good enough, make sure our players know it’s good enough, and when it’s not, make sure they know it’s not, and why, and how we can get better. Eli is great, as you guys know. He’s always the same guy, day in and day out, and that’s kind of what you want in your quarterback. He takes a lot of responsibility and a lot of pride in what he’s doing. He leads this team in his own way, as you guys have known him a lot longer than I have, by showing up every day being the same guy and knowing that you can count on him. He’s hungry, we’re all hungry for a win. Just keep doing the things that we’re doing well, continue to do those, and the things we’re not doing well enough, fix them and get them fixed quickly, and get the ball in the end zone.

Q: How much does this game mean to you?

A: We need to win, that’s what this game means. We need to win.

Special Teams Coach Thomas McGaughey

Q: You watched (Quadree) Henderson going back to March. What do you like about him as a return man?

A: Production – he’s a sure-handed guy. He obviously had a lot of production in college and we like what we saw on tape and his pro day, like we saw there, so he has a lot of potential like any young guy that had a lot of production in college. We’d like to see what he does at the next level.

Q: You guys faced a player last week in Taysom Hill who had a fake punt against you. Have you ever dealt with a player like this? This sort of back-up quarterback that can also be out there on the punt?

A: Yeah, I coached him four years named Joe Webb. Same guy. Joe Webb is the same guy. Joe Webb did the exact same thing as Taysom Hill. He blocked punts, covered punts, personal protector, returned kicks. I mean, the same guy. Joe’s just a little bigger, but same guy.

Q: Did you (inaudible)?

A: Yep, absolutely.

Q: After a fake punt, you watch the film. What’s the message to the guys? Fool me once, shame on you or how do you address that?

A: That fake, that particular one is very hard to prepare for because you could do it at any time and if you watch the tape, you saw our guys, they knew something was coming, but you just don’t know. Mike Westhoff has been coaching for 30 years in this league and he’s had Tim Tebow – we saw every fake that Tim Tebow ran and none of those were like that. It’s just one of those deals, it’s just you try to play it the best you can. Inside, we were alert and you run the stop route with a run-pass option off of it, it’s pretty tough especially when you get held at the point. That doesn’t help either, so it is what it is. Next time, we’ll be ready for it.

Q: Do you watch Carolina and see a lot of things that you did?

A: Yeah, they’re a mirror image of us. You got to realize that Chase (Blackburn) played here, I coached him here, he worked with me for two years and we think very similar, but Chase is a heck of a football coach and he’s going to have some things that he’s going to do different, but for the most part when you look at them, it’s like I told my guys, they’re a mirror image of us.

Q: Does it make it harder to prepare because you’re anticipating what you might not know is coming?

A: You can’t chase ghosts. All you can do is prepare for what you see on tape and just have your base set of rules that prepares you for everything. Once you go through those processes, it’s just go out and play football. It’s not one of those deals you go out there, what if he does this, what if he does that. You ain’t got to worry about that, you still got to go play.

Q: You have a lot of guys in this organization that spent time down there in Carolina. You walk around the building this week kind of silently nod to each other?

A: I don’t get caught up in the going back and revenge game. I don’t – it’s football. We got a job to do every week regardless of the opponent, they’re all nameless, gray faces and when we go out there we got a job to do and just go out there and play and get a win. That’s the most important thing.

Q: What did you think of Jawill (Davis)?

A: Jawill – good, young player. He’s a guy that has a ton of upside, but again, he’s a young player that needs reps and the (inaudible) process has started for him and we look forward to him making great strides moving forward and once he gets a couple of weeks under his belt, he’s going to be alright.

Q: So you plan on giving him at least more opportunities, is that fair to say?

A: He’s a young player. He’s a good, young player. He has to. You’re not going to learn by sitting on the bench. You got to play and that’s the only way you’re going to ascend in this league. You got to have game reps. It’s one thing to do it out here on the practice fields. It’s a whole other different thing to do it on game day during the regular season. Preseason, yeah that’s great, but the speed of the game during the regular season, that’s something you got to have for a young guy if you want to see him get better.

Q: What’s the key in your mind to improving both areas of return, specifically the starting field position.?

A: Just executing the fundamentals and the techniques of the scheme. Just doing the little things the right way. Making good decisions, bringing the ball out, and just details. Just the details of the return game and we got a lot of young guys out there that are playing that are – it’s a new group. It’s a brand new group and these guys are trying to learn how to play fast and with each other. Learning how each other plays, what’s their strengths and weaknesses, and once we get to the point where you figure that out and we’re starting to make good decisions and we’re physical with our blocks, finishing, taking the right steps, you’ll see the production.

Q: Do you see openings for your returns that they’re not seeing at the time or was it…?

A: It’s been some clogged lanes, definitely, and that’s what I’m saying when I’m talking about the execution of the blocking scheme and guys being in the right spots, making sure their hats are – the details of it. Just little big things that the average person can’t see, that the coach knows that’s wrong, that the player knows that’s wrong. Just leverage and angles, that’s what this game is all about.

Q: How much does that have to do with this year with the new kickoff rules? Are players adjusting –

A: That’s football. That’s never going to change. Leverage and angles and football’s always been a game of leverage and angles, so that’s not going to change. It’s the people that are taking the angles and that are getting the leverage. They got to make sure they get every time and it’s something we’ll continue to coach up until they get it. Once we start to get it then obviously moving forward, you’ll see the difference between it.

Q: So it’s not something like well this guy didn’t have a standing start, but you’re in a different position and you’re just adjusting?

A: I don’t think that’s it at all. I think it’s just execution. We’re not executing. It starts with me and how we’re coaching it and now we have to get better at it. That’s point blank period, we got to get better.

Q: You talked a little bit about Taysom Hill and Joe Webb and even mentioned Tebow. How come we don’t see more guys like that, guys who are like this all-purpose downs, special teams, who can throw and do these things?

A: I think you will. Moving forward, especially with college football with the way that it is now with the guys that are coming out. You have so many talented guys trying to find their way on teams. I think the style of quarterbacks that are coming out, I think you’ll have more of those types of guys, more athletic quarterbacks coming out. Guys that can run, that can cover kicks, that can return kicks potentially because they get here on this level and you got to teach them a lot of that stuff, especially the guys that played the quarterback position. You got to – they never covered kicks. Most of them never did in Pop Warner, much less getting up here and trying to learn how to cover a kick. I think moving forward you’ll see a lot more of that.

Q: What did (Michael) Thomas and (Nate) Stupar see that tipped off because it looked like –

A: I can’t tell you that. There’s certain things…you never know who you are going to play in the playoffs – there’s certain things that we look for. There’s certain things that we look for and saw it and they put us in the right spot. It’s just watching the tape and learning the opponent and tendencies and all that good stuff.

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