Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: I’ll start with the injuries today. Evan Engram was out there in the walk-thru so we’ll see how much he can do, he’s got the hamstring. The rest of the guys are competing out there to some degree, something like limited or what not. Then you’ll see that Cody Latimer is back, we’re going to start his clock, get him practicing in case we need him here down the road just like we’ve been doing with Jonathan Stewart. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Even before the injury, Evan’s snaps were decreasing each of the last two weeks. What is going on between him and (Rhett) Ellison that maybe has helped Ellison surpass him in terms of snaps?
A: What we’re trying to do is use the players and the strengths of the players, and I think Evan’s had good production with fewer snaps, and trying to get him to do the things that he does well. Then Rhett, it has nothing to do with one being more valuable than the other, we’re just trying to use their strengths that they possess.
Q: With Evan, people always wonder if he could be a wide receiver. Is that something you’ve given any consideration to?
A: Yeah, I think he has skills to be a wide receiver. Whether we list him as a tight end or not, you see quite frequently he’s lined up in a detached position. We’re aware of that and try to take advantage of those skills.
Q: Where is Chad Wheeler’s development and is he ready to face the challenge he will have on Sunday?
A: He’s been challenged each week. I think he’s developed throughout the season, he’s gotten better each week. He’s with that group of guys that have played their best three games in the last three weeks against some really good opponents. Let’s not forget that the (defensive line) we just faced was another tough task, another tough challenge to block, and I thought he hung in there well, I thought he played pretty well for the most part last week. You just keep developing, you try to study the matchup that you’re going to face. He will face both defensive ends, 52 (Khalil Mack) lines up on both sides depending on what they’re trying to accomplish, but (Leonard) Floyd is also an outstanding rusher. That’s the challenge anytime you play a front like the Bears will put in front of us, is being able to block your guy. To answer your question, I think he’s developed well throughout the year and he’s really benefitted from all the reps and all the playing time he’s got.
Q: Is 52 (Khalil Mack) different, special?
A: Yeah, he’s a guy that can really disrupt the game in a way that is not good for the offense, but we’ve got to block him. That’s the case every week.
Q: You’ve been game planning for pass rushers for a long time. Does he remind you of anybody in the way he can wreck a game?
A: No, he’s obviously a very good player, he’s got a good first step, he can bull rush you and go, then work your edge or just work your edge. I think what he does a good job of is just keeping his feet moving and then as the play develops, being in a position to either sack the quarterback or find the running backs. He’s a really good player.
Q: With their quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) a little banged up, do you prepare for the same offense, but I assume it will be limited if you get the backup (Chase Daniel)?
A: No, I think the offense that they run is very similar. I’ve coached in the West Coast system where (Head Coach) Matt (Nagy) came from with Andy Reid, but he’s also got his offensive coordinator is a guy from the Oregon family that I worked in that system with Chip (Kelly), so I see elements of both. They’ve got into more of a zone read type run game, their run game will be very similar to what we faced against Philadelphia, very similar in a lot of ways because Doug (Pederson), Matt and Andy were all together recently. I recognizes the plays they’re running, certainly we’re going to have to defend them, and they’ve done a really good job. They’ve got some talented guys they get the ball to. I think the real challenge when you play against a guy like Trubisky is if it’s not there, I think he’s got the most rushing yards of any quarterback, he’ll pull it down and run with it. He’s got a good set of legs that will either keep a drive alive or they can use him in the zone read game. Whether they choose to do it because he’s coming back from the shoulder thing, I don’t know, but we’ll need to prepare for it.
Q: What is your relationship with Matt (Nagy)? I think he was an intern with the Eagles maybe at the end of your time there? What do you remember from those days?
A: Yes, we’ve always stayed in touch. We have a professional friendship, we’re really from the same family of coaches. We’ve both gone on and done different things, but very impressed with what he’s done. He inherited a team that has a really good defense, and again, I played against these guys twice a year for the last two years. Very similar, the defensive structure is the same, and they added a couple more really good players, so that’s the challenge there. What he’s done on offense is he’s come in and used the strengths of the quarterback they have, and provided a little bit of excitement and juice to the team.
Q: Your next five opponents have playoff runs in the mix or are in the top of their division. Do you relish the role of spoiler, or do you bring that in front of the players?
A: No, again, we’re just trying to beat the Bears. I don’t know what the spoiler thing means. I’m looking at the positive approach of us winning. I’m not really worried about the team we’re playing, whether we hurt their chances to do something else. What I want to do is to be better than the team we’re playing this Sunday.
Q: You said yesterday that you think as of late, Eli (Manning) is playing better. Is that from the bye week then the two wins, and then last week, is that the demarcation you have? What do you see about him that’s better?
A: Much like defensive football, offensive football is all coordinated and it starts up at the front. I think we’ve done a better job up front blocking, whether it’s a run or a pass, and I think that contributes to the success of the quarterback when we choose to throw it. He’s had to throw the ball less, but he’s been more efficient doing it, and I think that’s a really good formula. We’re kind of stumbling on the formula here – not stumbling, but we’re getting to the things that are important for a team to help win games.
Q: This defense has struggled as of late, especially late in games. Are there times during a game where you see things with the defense where you communicate with (DC James Bettcher) and say, ‘Hey, James, this is what I want done’, or is this strictly Bettcher’s show for 60 minutes?
A: No, I’m always listening to what we’re doing, I’m always well aware of what our plan is going into the game, and I’m in constant communication with (Bettcher) in terms of what we intend to do. Certainly, he’s the coordinator, he coordinates it, he runs it, he calls it, but I’m right there on the phone and I have suggestions throughout the game and have been.
Q: What are the benefits of getting Jonathan (Stewart) and Cody (Latimer) back? They’re established players, I’m sure you know what you have with them as opposed to some of the younger guys who I’m sure you’d like to see develop as well.
A: The way the system works certainly they’ve been on (injured reserve), and then I kind of like the way this works, you can practice them for three weeks, because along the way you may need a player. That’s the benefit of it. We lost Quadree (Henderson) this week with a shoulder, and so you have a player that’s practicing that may need to contribute. That’s really the benefit of it. You never know when you’re going to lose a running back, you never know when you’re going to lose a wide receiver, so to have a couple guys in the system getting them back into it, I think whoever made the rule, I think it’s a good rule.
Q: Where is Stewart in his progression at this point?
A: He’s ready to go if we need him. He’s got another week before we have to decide.
Q: Kerry Wynn (concussion) is completely cleared?
A: (Limited. Non-contact), but he’ll be out there. He’s going through the protocol and we’re very hopeful that he’ll have enough time to get through it.
Q: Yesterday on the radio when you were talking about (Aldrick) Rosas, your answer has been perceived as taking a shot at Odell (Beckham Jr.) when you mentioned hydration, that Rosas is a player who doesn’t complain about getting up in the morning, who doesn’t have hydration issues – I’m not quoting directly. Was that in reference to Odell, or was that just an answer?
A: No, not at all. Not at all. I’m fond of (Aldrick). It’s not a shot at anybody, it’s my perception of things. We’re in an age now where sports science rules, and I’m from an age where it doesn’t matter how much sleep you got, it doesn’t matter what you did, you come to work and you perform. That’s what I see in Rosas. He’s got that football player mentality. That answer had nothing to do with any other player, other than to compliment the fact that he is a tough son of a gun and I appreciate him as a player. Whoever perceived that was way off base. I like kickers that are actual football players, and that’s what he is. He’s a big, tough guy that has kicked the ball well for us.
Quarterback Eli Manning
Q: What problems can (Bears DE) Khalil Mack present to the offense?
A: Mack, he stands out. He does a good job getting sacks, causing fumbles, interceptions – he does it all. They’re sound all over. They play good football, not giving up many big plays. Teams aren’t scoring a ton on them. They’re creating turnovers. They’re playing good football, so we got to do the same. We have to be very sound; we have to be discipline, and try to eliminate them from making big plays.
Q: What makes Khalil Mack’s skillset stand out from the rest of the players at his position?
A: I think he has great technique. He has great effort. He’s an athlete and just has a nose for making plays and being around the ball.
Q: Does he remind you of any former players you’ve faced? In terms of single-handedly disrupting a game by himself.
A: That’s tough, there’s been some good ones over the years. He’s obviously kind of at the top of the list. (Former Cowboys DE) DeMarcus Ware when he was in Dallas, we played him. (Ravens LB Terrell) Suggs and what he’s done in Baltimore. He’s very disruptive and you just got to have a plan to try to keep him from taking over.
Q: Is that defensive front the reason why they have so many interceptions?
A: It’s a big factor. Their defensive backs are good, and they’re in the right spots, and they’re taking advantage of it. They have good ball skills, and they’re making the catches. Usually when you have a good defensive line and you get pressure, the ball has to come out fast, or the ball is coming out high and with hits. Their offense is doing a good job of getting big leads, and scoring early, and kind of making offenses become one-dimensional, and having to throw the ball. That kind of works right in to their advantage. You have to try to keep the game tight, and mix up the run and pass, and don’t get their defensive lineman – they know you’re throwing the ball in those situations.
Q: Is it going to be strange watching (Bears CB) Prince (Amukamara) on the other side?
A: Over the years, you go against former teammates. He’s playing well this year. He’s playing at a high level. We’ll have to take our matchups and take our shots at him when we can.
Q: There’s not a lot of people in this locker room who will remember him.
A: It’s probably not, yeah, probably not a lot of people (laughter). Maybe just a handful of us, especially on the offensive side or receivers. (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) is probably the only one. I think Odell would’ve probably gone against him.
Q: They do a good job of limiting first half points. Are they just not letting people get started?
A: Yeah, when you look at them, they’re good against the run, and they do a good job getting sacks and getting turnovers. I think they have a sound defense. It’s nothing exotic or confusing. It’s just good players and good scheme, and they play fast. You just have to stay on pace and stay in rhythm, and avoid those negative plays and don’t let them create those big plays.
Q: They got some linebackers that can really run. What does that do for a defense when you guys are trying to attack them?
A: They do a good job covering a lot of ground. They’re going to get some pass coverage. They can cover tight ends, cover running backs well. They just cover a lot of ground in the run game. They’re not the biggest guys. Try to get our lineman on them, and create some holes.
Q: Does (Bears S) Eddie Jackson gamble a lot to get those interceptions and the returns?
A: No, I don’t think he gambles a lot. I think he has good ball skills. He does a good job of breaking on some things when he sees the opportunity. He’s around the right spot. I haven’t seen every single one, and how it happened. I saw one last week where he was just in man coverage and took a good line at the tight end, and undercut the throw. They’re defense, I think they’re first in the league in interceptions. All their guys are around the ball and making plays.
Q: You’ve cut down on your interceptions this year. What do you attribute that to?
A: I think just being in good positions, trying to make good decisions. Sometimes with interceptions – every one has it’s own story. It could be a bad decision. It could be a missed throw. It could be tipped balls and guys in the wrong spot. Everyone has it’s own story and reason. Just try to eliminate the ones that I can control, and make good decisions.
Q: Is some of that just learning risk-reward over the years?
A: It just depends. Sometimes, it’s just kind of the situations you’re in. Sometimes when you’re down a few scores, sometimes that’s when they come up – when you’re trying to force things. You’re trying to make stuff happen. When there’s not much there. Each one, again, kind of has it’s own reason, it’s own story.
Q: It was a year ago today the Giants announced that you weren’t going to start against the Raiders. Do you reflect on what’s happened over the this year?
A: No, not now.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: Do you look forward to the challenge of going up against a defense which is one of the best in the league?
A: Yeah, they are definitely one of the best defenses in the league and we’re all competitive here so we’re excited to go against that challenge and try to get another win at home.
Q: When you look at the tape, what do you see when you see Khalil Mack out there?
A: He’s as good as advertised. The only thing I can say is he's good as advertised. He’s probably the best defensive player in the league. He’s an active player, he’s big, fast, strong. He’s everything you want in an outside linebacker/(defensive end). He’s definitely going to be a challenge this week, but we’ve played great players before and we've just got to come out ready to compete and ready to work.
Q: He’s obviously known as one of the best pass rushers in the league, but how disruptive is he against the run game?
A: The only thing I can really say is he’s as good as advertised. He can pass rush, he can do it all. He’s a versatile defensive player. It’s going to be exciting to go against him and see what I got against a guy like that and see what we got against a guy like that and a defense like that, but we believe in our coaches, we believe in ourselves and especially on the offensive side of the ball and that we’re going to put ourselves in the right positions to make plays.
Q: As you’re preparing, what are you looking at in particular in this Chicago defense?
A: I know that they’re a great a defense and that they have great players over there, but you treat it the same (every) week. You watch what they like to do and what they do more. For me as a running back, I watch how they tackle, if they’re aggressive. Same thing I do every single week so I’m not really changing anything, but obviously you are aware of how good they are. That’s everyone in the NFL is good. Every time you go out there, it’s a challenge so it’s a challenge that we’re willing to face.
Q: Especially with what you saw the way the Eagles made the adjustment in the second half last week. How does that benefit how you make adjustments to your run?
A: The Eagles did a little bit different stuff and every team every time you play them, the second half they always have adjustments, but you've got to watch the adjustments and you've got to learn from them, whether it’s during the game or it’s after the game or even before the game so we know what they’re going to do. I think we got a really good scouting report on these guys, but we've just got to come out and execute. Sometimes this year we executed and sometimes we didn’t, and the times we didn’t we lost and the times we did we won so we got to find a way to do that this week.
Q: What changes for you when you’re spelled for a play verses spelled for a series? You’re obliviously going to get snaps off. How does it change for you if you’re out for a whole series verses maybe switching in and out on a second down here and there?
A: It really doesn’t change for me, especially at the running back position with the hits you take. It’s not even like when you come out. Obviously, you want to be in the game, but you believe and you have confidence in the coaching staff and especially other running backs. When Wayne (Gallman) goes out there, he does a great job too, so it’s kind of like a combo we have like two-punch back there I feel like. I feel like he’s been doing a really good job and proud of having his role expand a little more too.
Q: But there’s no difference in terms of rhythm?
A: No, no it’s not. At the end of the day it’s football. Obviously, you do get a rhythm when you get the ball a little bit more and you get a feel for them, but some people aren’t in a position where they get the ball 20 times and they get the ball only five times. Like, for example, Wayne won’t get to carry the ball 20 times a game, but when he gets in there he gets the five carries, he takes advantage of it.
Q: Do you communicate with the coaches when you need to take a break or a breather?
A: It’s kind of just a feel. Obviously the feel is going to continue to get better as the season goes and as we all stay together and takes longer as my career goes, but when you break a long run, sometimes coach takes you out because why be out there if you’re not 100-percent to help your team. Obviously, you want to be out there, you want to continue working. There’s situations where you got to grind it out if you’re tired, but like I said, I’m definitely confident in the coaches and believing in the coaches and I’m definitely confident in the running backs for everyone to make plays also.
Q: Do you like the workload that you’ve been getting this year as far as the plays, the runs, the passes, it’s enough, but it’s not too much or it’s not enough running? What’s your sense of it?
A: I think it’s perfectly fine. With me, with the workload and my mindset and I think I’ve said this multiple times its whatever it takes. If it’s 20, I know you said 38. Whatever it takes. That’s just my mindset. I know you guys keep bringing up the questions because how many times I touch the ball in the second half, but if we finished the game and we win that game, I don’t think that’s going to be this topic or the story. I know what people are thinking, but like I said, I’ll continue to believe in the coaches, continue to believe in the offense and this system and continue to come in working and take it one day at a time.
Q: Watching Bears tape, how often have teams used running backs to help chip on Mack or is that not something that running backs usually can do because he’s so difficult to deal with?
A: I think everybody tries to get a chip on him when there’s a chance, but it has to come at the right time. You got to know when and where you can do it and you also need to note we believe in our offensive line and we have offensive linemen up there too. Like I said, at the end of the day it’s football. It’s going to be one-on-one sometimes and you got to win your one-on-one matchups. And yes he’s going to make plays and yes the Bears are going to make plays and every team’s going to make plays against you sometimes, but at the end of the day you got to make more plays than them.
Q: When you break some of these big runs whether it’s last week or a couple of other times throughout the season, have you found a common thread whether it’s protections or where you get the ball or play clock, do you see any of that?
A: One – all the big runs that we have won starts upfront so the offensive line does a great job and then your job as a running back is to make your guy miss. You got to win your one-on-ones. Like I said, sometimes they’re going to make their plays, but the special thing about football and the special thing about playing offense is you get a chance to go out there and play eight, 10 series and they stop you seven or six (times), whatever, you got 21 points on the board. Obviously continue to go out there and try to put up more points, but you can win a game with 21 points. The common theme that I’ve noticed is breaking tackles, obviously starting up front with the offensive line doing a great job and doing what I was brought here to do – make my guy miss and be a game changer and break a long one.
Q: You’re 11 games into this thing. How, personally, do you think you’ve grown as a football player so far in your career based on where you were when you first got drafted?
A: I think I’ve grown a lot -- not even just speaking on the field, off the field with leadership, feeling more comfortable with talking, but on the field just seeing it so differently. The game is slowing down for me. It’s slowing down a lot more, understanding situation, understanding just the game as a whole. I still have so much more to improve there and I’m always up for that challenge and ready to continue to get better every single week and continue to learn from these guys and continue to learn from these coaches.
Q: Have you gotten to the point where you can go up to the coach and say I think this is open, give it to me?
A: I try not to do that because you believe in what your coaches are going to call. Like I said, after the game, everyone wants to be the coach and everyone thinks they know what should be called in that situation or how we should do this or we should do that. They’re there for a reason so I just believe in those guys and they’ve been putting me in position to do well and everyone has been loving it or hyping me up like ‘oh rookie this, rookie that.’ It starts with the team, starts with the offensive line, but also starts with the coaches putting me in position to make plays and I think they’ve been doing that not only with myself, but with everyone on this team this year.
Q: What do you want to get out of these next five weeks?
A: Just to continue to fight, continue to get better. You never know what can happen. I know we’re not satisfied about our record right now, but still got five games to get better and continue to work. For myself, same thing, same motto there – continue to get better, learn and improve every single game. Those mistakes you make, make sure they are not mistakes that I made early in the season. Make sure they are dead and continue to get better on every area of my game, catching the ball, running the ball, pass blocking and growing into a better leader.
Left Tackle Nate Solder
Q: On Khalil Mack being in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
A: Okay so to get on that list you have to have incredible work ethic. You have to be talented, you have to be a guy that makes plays, has a nose for the ball, a guy that has great bend and flexibility and power and strength.
Q: And he’s got all of that?
A: He’s got all of that, that’s right.
Q: He’s not just a guy that makes plays, he kind of wrecks it. How do you stop him from doing that?
A: Well making big plays and that starts with protecting the quarterback, getting hat on the hat, not letting him get uncovered where he can get a free shot on a back or something like that or a receiver.
Q: You guys are facing good edge rushers. How much is he sort of the next level or just compared to some of the guys you guys have already faced?
A: I never compare anyone. You go out there and you prepare it as best you can for that particular opponent. They all have strength and weaknesses. He’s got strengths up through the roof. He’s incredible and so you do the best you can all week, understanding what they’re all about, how they like to do it and how their defensive coordinator likes to use them and then when it comes to game day you got to play your best.
Q: Star wise with Mack, what stands out about him? What do you look for the most when coming from the outside?
A: He’s got all the talent and qualities that you would ever ask for in a defensive end, but he plays with a really good team too. They’re good across the board on their D-Line, they’re good across the board on their linebackers and DBs so it’s not just him, it’s the combination of everything that makes it that much more difficult.
Q: What have you guys done better as a unit that makes you feel good going into this game?
A: The preparation starts at the beginning of this week. We push back what happened last week, we go towards doing the best we can for the Bears. What gives us confidence is that we work hard, we understand our opponents as best we can, and we play at a high level.
Q: For a younger player like Chad (Wheeler) who’s going to line up against Khalil once in a while, what is especially challenging for someone like that?
A: I think it’s especially challenging to go against a good pass rusher so I got to focus on myself and what I need to do to play the best I can and Chad does a great job. He works really hard, he studies, he does the things he needs to do and then you have to perform.
Right Tackle Chad Wheeler
Q: On the matchup against Khalil Mack on Sunday:
A: It will be a challenge against Khalil Mack, he’s a good player, so you’ve obviously got to bring your A game.
Q: Is he different or more special, more talented than other guys you see on tape? What is it about him?
A: Of course. He’s a great edge rusher, he has a good combination of speed and power. He brings a lot to the table, so we’ve got to do the same.
Q: There was a time in this league where people thought the right tackle could hide a little bit. That isn’t the case anymore as you’ve seen earlier in the year. Have these challenges helped you speed up your growth as a player this year? It’s not like you haven’t seen the best of the best so far.
A: Yeah, obviously, you always see good talent on the right side constantly, week in and week out. Yeah, it used to be a run block inside, now you have to block the best pass rusher.
Q: So much was made about your matchup with J.J. Watt when you got put in the lineup, it seems like years ago. Can you take anything from that matchup and apply it to Mack, or is two completely players?
A: It’s two different animals. They’re both really good at what they do, but they do different things so you can’t just do the same thing for one guy. Everybody’s different.
Q: What about the mindset for you to take on a player like that? Is that something you can take from?
A: Just a very professional mindset. It’s my job, so whatever I can do to get an edge, I’m going to do it.
Q: Do you feel better prepared now because of the experience you’ve had this season?
A: Yeah, obviously you gain some confidence, but it would be better if we won some games with it, too. That will ultimately be better.
Q: When you watch Mack on video, what stands out?
A: He’s just relentless. A great player, he has an internal drive that is sometimes unmatched, so you’ve got to bring it.
Q: How do you think your season has gone personally, since that first start you made?
A: Personally, it could be better. Could be a lot better. Obviously, I want some plays back in the run game, pass game, can always be better.
Q: Were you on the right side in Oakland last year?
A: Yeah, I was.
Q: So this isn’t the first time you’re facing Mack?
A: No, it’s not. It’s the second time.
Q: Do you go back to watch that matchup?
A: Yeah, I want to see what he saw and breakdowns in my pass protection and run blocking, see if I’ve fixed those or not. That’s going to help me out.
Q: Is that weird, getting ready to prepare for a guy but you’re also watching him and what he did against you last time?
A: Yeah, it’s not weird, but obviously if there’s something in my game I can fix from last year, I’m going to obviously do that.
Q: Is he different from one year to the next, because it’s a different defense?
A: He plays on the left side a lot, too, so he’s not just on the right side. He’s both.
Q: You mentioned his internal drive. How does that show up, just in the fact that he doesn’t quit on plays?
A: Just the fact how relentless, there’s a chip on his shoulder. You can tell. Some players in the league have a chip on their shoulder, they’ve got some X factor that makes him, I don’t know, different or unique. That’s what I think of when I see him.
Q: Has he taken his game to another level this year? He was one of the best defensive players last year.
A: I think he’s the same guy every year, that’s why he’s so great.
Q: You didn’t go back and watch last year’s game yet, or you did?
A: I did.
Q: Did you see a different player in yourself?
A: Yeah, I did. I saw someone who’s more comfortable (now) obviously a lot more, especially dealing with these blocks and stuff. I look a lot (calmer) in the zone.
Q: Do you have a chip on your shoulder?
A: Obviously yeah, an undrafted free agent, passed up on by every team. Yeah, there’s a drive in me.
Q: Do you think there’s a similarity there? (Mack) wasn’t a huge college prospect.
A: There is something in that with players. A lot of these great players, they don’t really come from much at first, but they make something of themselves in the long run.