Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Q: Odell (Beckham Jr.)?
A: Not out here. He's out. He won't play this week.
Q: Rhett (Ellison)?
A: Yeah, he was out here practicing. He's ready to go.
Q: He will play?
A: Yes. I'd like to avoid, we're starting to go down that path to talking about injuries a bunch, just let the report show what it does. He'll be ready to go.
*Q: What do you think of the job of some of your veteran receivers? How important is it to have those veteran receivers when Odell is out, and the job they'd done? Bennie (Fowler), Russell Shepard, Corey (Coleman)'s not really a veteran, but Bennie and Russell in particular. *
A: (Corey) is somewhat veteran. Yeah, it's important. Any position when you have an injury or a player's missing, the guys need to step up and I think they've done that. It could be said for anybody that's missing. We've had linebackers in and out of the lineup, same thing. A couple defensive linemen have moved in and out. Early on, it was the o-line. It's important that when guys get their opportunities, they make the best of them, and I think that group has done it.
Q: It just seems like when you have a defensive back or linebacker out, you call on Sean Chandler or Grant Haley or Tae Davis, rookie kind of guys, whereas receiver, you actually have some veterans who can step in.
A: Yeah, I think that's true. It's just the nature of the roster. Veteran or rookie, when you're called on, you've got to do a good job. They understand, and we talked about it earlier in the week, if you believe that experience matters, and I think we all do, you guys are probably better writers now than when you first started, right? If you believe in experience, then the veteran presence matters.
Q: What have you fallen back on as far as experience going from 1-7 and then winning four of the last five games, what did you use to sort of maintain things?
A: I just stay in the moment. We've spoken, or I've answered that question a numerous amount of times. I don't google my name. Although you guys do a great job doing what you do, I don't listen to it, good or bad. You've heard me say it before, Mike Schmidt, you remember what I said? 'The thrill of victory, the agony of reading about it.' You just stay away from that and you just stay the course, and I think that's the message to the players as well. Just keep going, try to make this Friday the best it can be, and then get your energy high, play with some enthusiasm, and let it show on Sunday.
*Q: What was it with Odell this week? Did he not make any progress? *
A: He just can't go. No setbacks, just can't go.
Q: How much does that affect your offense? Obviously, he's a big piece.
A: Yeah, he's a very valued member of this team, but the challenge is for the guys playing in his place to do a good job, and it's a one-game basis, but the guys that did it last week did a good job. So there's something to be learned from the experience that comes with that.
*Q: How much does Sterling (Shepard)'s role actually change? Does he have to play a different spot a lot more? *
A: Sterling plays both spots, and there's plays when we'll swap it where X plays Z, Z plays X, so they're all kind of trained in all the spots. He'll just play where he plays.
Q: How much does the natural progression (change) without Odell. Do you look to target him more?
A: No, we're just looking to play offense. We'll call a progression and Eli's instructed to throw it to the open guy. That's it. It's that simple.
Q: You said on Wednesday that Kyle (Lauletta) was going to be your number-two quarterback for now, but that could change. Friday, do you still expect that?
A: Yeah, we still have a couple days, so we'll see.
Q: Have any determinations regarding (Odell's) status been made beyond Sunday, or are you just going to come back here Monday?
A: I think it's a day-to-day thing. It's been, I guess, reported a lot, he's got a quad thing going on, so it's day-to-day.
WR Sterling Shepard
Q: Does (WR) Odell's (Beckham Jr.) affect the offense at all?
A: It definitely does. I'll be more outside than inside. Moving around a little bit as well. It's a little bit more on my plate, but I'm up for the challenge.
Q: Do you expect to get more targets? Is that a part of what comes with your given situation this week?
A: Yeah, naturally, I think that happens. Odell gets a bulk of them when he's in there. It's definitely room for everybody to spread the ball around. I look forward to that.
Q: How about the thought of the coach calling more plays for you as well? Is that something you noticed last week?
A: It was kind of short notice. Yeah, in a way, it kind of gives you more plays, but like I said, it's for everybody. He gives everybody a little bit more in the pass game, and try to spread the ball around.
Q: Does it change how they cover you individually, or how they cover the pass game and receivers as a whole?
A: I just think from a coverage standpoint, it changes it, because you have to pay attention to Odell every time he's on the field, or wherever he's at. You have to pay attention to him. When he's not out there, they can kind of get into some of the base looks and some of the things that they do against other teams. We have film on all of that.
Q: Do you think you've seen more man-to-man coverage than before?
A: Usually we'll see a Cover 2 Shell, and then the safeties cheating over to Odell's side. A lot of 6 (Cover 6), but teams that like to go man, they're going to go man without Odell out there.
Q: How much of a treat is it to have receivers like Bennie (Fowler III), Russell (Shepard), Corey Coleman to fill in for Odell? Guys that have lots of experience in this league.
A: Last season, that's kind of how it was. It was a little tough, but guys caught on last season. It just took them a little bit. It's great to have guys with experience, like you said. It kind of helps you out because everybody knows what they're doing and knows what to expect.
Q: Any more blocking this weekend?
A: More blocking? It's always blocking. When you got a back like (RB) Saquon (Barkley), you got to block. That's just something we know as receivers.
Q: What was the immediate thought in your mind when that kid called you trash?
A: When he called me trash, I was like, "Oh, he don't watch football," because I know I ain't trash, man (laughter). It's a little kid, they have a mind of their own. It was pretty funny, though. Just a funny little deal.
LB Olivier Vernon
Q: Why do you think – the defense has been a big part of the wins. Why do you think the defense has been playing better the last couple of weeks?
A: Everybody's just doing what they got to do, doing their job and things are just stacking and making plays when we got to make plays.
Q: You're talking about getting wins, I assume, and I'm not just talking about you, but the team had 14 sacks in the first 11 games, 10 in the last two. Why have sacks as a team gone up?
A: Everybody's just sticking to the script and doing what they got to do, basically.
Q: Has the script changed, are you guys being more aggressive or are you guys –
A: Script ain't changed, everybody just trusting the process. That's it.
Q: Where is the confidence level of the team now that you guys have won four of the last five?
A: Our confidence has always been high, so all we got to do is keep stacking wins.
Q: Do you look at what's going on around the league?
A: With what?
Q: With the playoffs, that if you guys keep stacking wins, what the other teams are doing, what –
A: No, not really. Just care about what we're doing, that's it. That's the whole mentality of what we got in here.
Q: What changed during the bye week? Anything? Is it just coincidence that you guys have won four of five after a week off?
A: Nothing changed. Everybody still coming into work, still practicing hard, still studying our opponents the same way. Things are just going our way. Trusting the process.
Q: (Marcus) Mariota – your thoughts of him as mobile quarterback after –
A: He's always been very effective with his legs and his capability of making plays. He can still make very good throws. They got great, great running backs back there. Those guys can move that ball and the biggest thing right there is just getting pressure on Mariota and stopping the run.
Q: As alive as this locker room is right now, is that the result of winning? Is that the result of – or is winning the result of how alive this is right now?
A: I think you might be right on that second one. I mean, I feel like everybody's been the same. Nobody's really changed the way they've been. Everybody's been staying the same, coming in the building, just going, executing, doing their job and putting in hard work.
DB Coach Lou Anarumo
Q: Grant Haley, a lot of guys say he's a hard worker behind the scenes, but how does that manifest itself? What's he doing to get ready and then earn the opportunities he's gotten in the last couple of weeks?
A: I think he's a little bit beyond his years that way. All the guys work hard, study film and he just logs a little bit extra time knowing that he has a bigger role now. Great kid, so to all that I think anytime you're studying more about what the offense can do to you as opposed to what your job is, it helps him in the games and that's kind of where he's at at this point in his young career.
Q: You look at him and you see the size, obviously it's kind of a hurdle. How is he able to overcome that and play physical?
A: When you say size, you mean –
Q: He's not a very big guy.
A: Those guys that are playing the slot aren't taller guys. They're in the 5-9 to 5-10 range, 5-11 tops. Those guys, I'm never worried about that at that position, to be quite honest.
Q: How much has he maybe been more physical, though, than you thought – is that something that you noticed right away?
A: In college, he showed that. He was a guy around the ball. Big-10 guy, they're going to face some downhill run teams in that league, so he definitely displayed that in college, so we kind of knew that he had it in him.
Q: Could you see him on the outside one day? I mean he's a rookie, he's got his whole career ahead of him.
A: Yeah, he's still young. I think he's learning – there's a lot going on inside with the different calls and different things that he has to do and he's done a good job taking control. I think there are some things where he's been outside already, so yeah, I don't know. We'll see. Like you said, he's still young.
Q: He's talked about how much he enjoys blitzing off the edge and you guys seem to have done that a couple of times last couple of weeks and he got the sack against the Bears. Can you just talk about that part of his skillset?
A: I've yet to meet a defensive player that doesn't like to blitz, so he's right on board with that, but he's been productive when we have sent him. Part of (James) Bettcher's scheme is bringing multiple guys and he's taken advantage of the ones that he's had. I think he missed one in Atlanta maybe, or in the Redskins – one of those games, I don't recall, and he's kind of made up for it ever since, so anytime you can ask those guys to cover and be aggressive when they're blitzing, that's an advantage for us.
Q: What do you attribute to, at least from our perspective, Janoris (Jenkins) seems to have really stepped up his game lately and played a lot better as the season went on. What do you attribute to that?
A: I think even he said maybe a week or so back, I think he's finally feeling really good. Jack's 30, coming off a major ankle surgery, I think he's in a new system. All those things together. He's comfortable now with the guys he's playing around. Anytime you're looking back there and it's a different safety each week and there's a comfort level with everyone back there. I always equate it to – it's like a double-play in baseball, if the shortstop and second baseman are different, that little flip that you take advantage of, it's the same thing in the backend. Those guys are looking to each other and if they're not real sure what's going on, it creates hesitation. I think everybody's kind of feeling a little more comfortable these days and I think Jack's no different.
Q: How important has (B.W.) Webb been, especially stepping into that number two role?
A: Huge. He's a guy that I think has come in here with a chip on his shoulder from the day we got him and has done everything we've asked. He's a try-hard guy and he's like a lot of us, he's got something to prove and that goes a long way in this league, so I'm very happy with him.
Q: Two-part question. Landon Collins, obviously, we know how much he loves to be on the field. How did he take the injury when he found out he was out for the season and then the guys, with him out, what do you expect from that rotation these last three games?
A: It was hard to keep him out of the Bear game when he injured it and went back in, I think, knowing that he had something going on, to his credit, and playing for his teammates. Obviously it's a void to fill. The guy is the second leading tackler at safety in the NFL and is in the top 10, I think, overall for defensive players in tackles. You're missing a lot of production there, so the good news is for us, Mike Thomas has done it before and stepped up nicely for us last week and the combination for those guys hopefully will continue to pick up the void where Landon's left.
Q: Webb's play and his resume don't add up. He's bounced around to all these different teams, but since you guys have trusted him with the starting role, why is he performing so well? Why doesn't that add up?
A: I think it's – he's a great guy, to start with, so he wants to learn, he wants to do things right. I think sometimes right place, right spot, good fit, all those things kind of falling in line and you got a veteran guy that doesn't come in with 'well, I got it' type of attitude. He just wants to, 'hey coach' how do you want me to do this' and he's done that to the letter of the law and takes hard coaching. I think it has just been a good fit for both sides and he's taken advantage of it, which that's what this league is about. Especially these days and this late in the year where guys get injured and he's done it from the jump, but we're finding out – it always plays out this way in this league. Later in the year, guys get opportunities. He's just happening to take advantage of his.
Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells
*Q: Do you think Evan (Engram) made strides last week, not just coming back from injury but kind of his all-around game? *
A: Yeah, he did a nice job. He did a nice job doing the things that we needed him to do in the game. He saw some improvement, so he's doing good.
*Q: How much has your group transformed from the way you came into the season and the way you're using your personnel now? *
A: Again, like I've said before, it all depends on what the teams show that they give us, then on personnel, you go into each game with certain roles and certain things that you're trying to do and then sometimes in the game, you get into different roles as the game plays on. It all varies and the guys have done a nice job embracing the roles that they have and doing a nice job with it.
Q: How much does the team's broader commitment to running the ball more since the bye elevate Rhett Ellison's role and how has that impacted him as a player?
A: He does a great job of what he's asked to do. Like I said before, a lot of the things that he does goes kind of in silence, it's not necessarily showing up on the stats sheet. He's done a really good job of what we've asked him to do as a blocker, and all those guys have done a nice job with what we've asked them to do as a blocker as we run the ball.
*Q: (Scott) Simonson – even with Evan back, he's still getting 20-plus snaps. What have you seen from him? What does he contribute? *
A: Like I said before, his toughness, his knowledge, he's very smart and he throws pure-ass attitude out there. He does a nice job with the role that we give him. Sometimes it's blocking, sometimes it's out catching the ball, he's caught a couple balls in critical spots in previous weeks, so he's done a really nice job in the role we give him.
Q: Do you guys take some credit? Credit might not be the right word, but the way you've run the ball, everybody says 'oh, look how the offensive line is playing', but your group has had a lot to do with the blocking there, too.
A: It's one of the positions where we don't necessarily look for the pat on the back, we understand that our role is important.
Q: But when I want to give you a pat on the back, you'll take it?
A: Yeah. (Laughter) You'll take it. But again, we enjoy the fact that we're able to do our job to help the team win. Those guys just enjoy winning.
*Q: What was it like when you sat down with the guys and were looking at that touchdown run of Saquon's? Your two guys both were big parts of that. *
A: It's pretty good. Those guys did a nice job executing, which gave Saquon some air there. You give Saquon some air, and anything can happen. It was enjoyable. We had some coaching points that we made on that particular play to help make it better for us, but they did a nice job in the game. They really did.
Q: How has Evan handled things? It's been an up and down season for him with injuries and things like that.
A: Injuries, like I said before, those get after him a little bit. When he gets hurt, he's discouraged a little bit, but he keeps working hard and keeps putting himself in a position to return, and it's been up and down, but it's been positive for him because he's had opportunity to make some plays as of late, which gives him that confidence that he needs.
*Q: Do you think (Engram) could potentially be a guy you use in heavy packages, or is he more of just a receiving tight end and you have to be selective in the run game? *
A: I really hate using that term, 'receiving tight end', because all the guys embrace the role of a tight end, which means blocking and catching. Will he ever be in the big packages? If the role fits, yes. Again, we try to play to our guys' redeeming qualities and he can be in the big packages if we needed him.
Q: Just seems like since the bye, he has been used more exclusively as a receiver versus in blocking packages with you guys trusting Rhett more. I was just wondering if one day, he's the lead tight end, if he can be what Rhett's been for you guys this year basically.
A: Yeah, all those guys in my mind are lead tight ends. It's all predicated on the scheme that we've got going here and how we're trying to attack the defense, and again, utilizing those guys' redeeming qualities. Again, he's done a hell of a job.