Outside Linebackers Coach Mike Dawson
*Q: As an assistant coach, when there's some uncertainty about staff changes that might take place during the offseason, what's your approach to that? Is it just part of the job? *A: Yeah, I've been coaching for a long time. There's always a chance of stuff happening. For me, it's you can control what you can control. You're going to come to work, you're going to work as hard as you can, and you're going to do that day in and day out no matter what the situation is. That's the stamp you want to leave as a professional and as a coach.
Q: Markus Golden talked to us a little bit yesterday about how much getting to double-digits means to a pass rusher, the idea of getting to that point. What have you seen from Markus this entire season that you expected and maybe didn't expect to see when you coach him for the first time?
A: The thing about Markus is as soon as you're around him, you feel his energy, his enthusiasm, his love of the game. He's a guy that plays with a lot of—he's intense all the time, whether it's the meeting room or practice or walkthrough or the games. That part has been awesome to be around. The other part that I didn't know one way or the other, but how he rubs off on the other guys. His leadership, how he kind of helps and talks to and brings the other guys along with him, and kind of pulls everybody in that positive direction, I think has been really fun to watch and be around.
Q: What kind of satisfaction do you get as a coach to see a guy kind of reach his potential like that?
A: I think as a coach, you always take pride when the guys do well, and it always cuts you pretty deep when they don't maybe do as well as you want them to. To have a guy have success, you think it's great. I also know that he wants more. I know that he could point out some more plays that he could have made or wanted to make or things like that. There's always that goal. Good is never good enough and great is never great enough, so you always want to try to get more and more out of it. You have to keep working to get that. I don't think you ever kind of stay the same. You're either taking little mini steps back or mini steps forward throughout your progress and your career. You have to focus on keeping the forward momentum and the forward progress going.
Q: You weren't here at this time last year, but there was so much optimism about Lorenzo Carter off his rookie season, everything he showed. Does that feeling still exist after this season, or did he not progress as much as everybody thought he would? He was talking about 10 sacks in the preseason.
A: Sure, I think everybody had the same kind of conversation that you had with Markus. You want guys that are hungry, that expect a lot out of themselves and want to set high goals. No one rises to low expectations kind of thing. He's a guy that puts a lot on himself. I think that he's worked as hard as he's worked over the last month or so, and he keeps working to get better and better and better. I think it showed up a little bit last weekend, and hopefully he can keep building off of that and keep it going.
Q: What is the difference? Last weekend, like you said, we thought it was one of his best games. What is it that makes it one of his best games? What's his key to success?
A: There's probably throughout the course of a game 70, 90, 60 plays. Each one of those is an individual spot, or an individual effort. To be able to stack those probably and put those together where you are having more and more positives, that's probably key. There's always good bursts and just be able to stack those good ones one play at a time throughout the course of the 70 plays. I think that's what makes a difference for a guy.
Q: What's the biggest thing Oshane (Ximines) needs to do from now until next year?
A: I think you always want to get bigger, faster, stronger. Learn more, study more. I think there's a million different things guys can do. Whether they're a rookie or even a vet. Whether it's continue to gain knowledge by watching others or self-evaluations. Also, how you train, how you work. I think the experiences that he's had are going to help leapfrog him into more and more success and give him a better idea of exactly what he has to prepare for during the offseason.
Q: Is that one thing he needs? Bigger and stronger is one of the first things you said. Coming from where he came from to this league, is that something you see as being necessary for him?
A: I think that's probably a blanket for all guys. (Nobody says) 'Hey, I need to get a little slower or a little smaller,' I think everybody wants to hit the offseason training with that thought process in mind is more of what I meant.
Q: Sometimes guys come in and it's a different level? He didn't get to spend the all whole offseason with you guys.
A: That's the point. Now that you have been through this and you have seen it, you know what it takes. I think that will encourage him. He's a hard worker in the weight room. You guys have been around him, his arms certainly don't look like mine. He's a jacked up, pretty good-looking dude. I think he will continue to have that mindset. He's a guy that's very prideful, super intense so I think that will probably drive him to get better and better at what he's doing, in all the phases—mentally, physically, the whole deal.
Q: How did Kareem (Martin) come back?
A: When you have a layoff like he had it's always hard to come back and get into that quote-unquote football shape. You can always run with the strength and conditioning and do it on your own and that stuff. To be able to get out there and do it on the field and be with the guys, I think it's always the challenge. That stopping, sudden bursts, sudden stops and then getting going again. I think that's a different type of game shape I guess is the best way to say it. The thing about him is he's mentally been in it the entire time. He's a very smart guy that knows the system. For him to be able to come out and get some reps for us has been great.
Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells
*Q: What is it about Kaden Smith that he's had so much success here? *A: He's done a nice job doing the things that we've asked him to do. He's consistently gotten better with a lot of the techniques that we're asking him to do, so I think that's a contribution to him in terms of his work ethic and what he brings to the game. So, he's done a nice job with everything we've asked of him.
*Q: He said in college it was hard for him to transition the technique from practice to games. He said he would rush it in games and he would lose his technique. He said that's something you guys have really worked on and you've kind of stressed to him the importance of keeping that…
*A: Yeah, I think with any guy, with all the guys in that room, you just try to be persistent and consistent in what you're teaching them so that then when they get to the game on Sunday they play fast and a lot of the stuff that you've worked on becomes muscle memory. That's what we emphasize— just being persistent and consistent so that when they get to the game on Sunday it's just muscle memory for them.
*Q: How much has his blocking maybe surprised you? *A: I wouldn't say it surprised me, because again, when you work at something every day and you're emphasizing it, you just stay very intentional with your work with them. It doesn't really surprise you. You kind of sort of expect it to show up on game day. So, that's kind of what we've done. We always talk about taking the drill work to the team work at practice, and then taking that to game day. It hasn't really surprised me.
*Q: What's made him effective as a receiver? It doesn't look like Evan's (Engram) speed or anything, but how has he made an impact there? *A: With him coming out of college out of Stanford, it didn't take me long to see that the guy is very instinctive. He understands how to get open. One of the biggest things that people don't give him credit for is he can stick his foot in the ground and separate. So, being instinctive and being able to stick his foot in the ground and separate has been probably the biggest contribution in terms of his success in the pass game.
*Q: Did we see that on the game winning touchdown? Is that a route where he got some quick separation there? *A: Yeah, the touchdown pass was a really good design by Coach Shurmur and Coach Shula. But you look at some of his routes throughout the game where he might not have gotten the ball thrown to him, you can see him sticking his foot in the ground and separating from defenders in man coverage.
*Q: Evan has missed pretty much half of the last two seasons with different kinds of injuries. Do you chalk that up to bad luck or do you believe in guys who maybe get banged up more than other guys based on the way they play? *A: You know, it's a man's sport and our tight ends are asked to do a lot. They are not just receiving tight ends. So, I don't think it's a string of bad luck. I just think it's kind of his road that he's on right now. I do believe in faith in terms of, hey, you have some road blocks early on, but ultimately there's a plan for you down the road, so you've just got to stay persistent. He's very encouraged to get back and I believe there is a big plan in his future for him to have some success.
*Q: As a coach, coaching your position now, you kind of ran the gamut this year at that position. Back in the spring, we talked, maybe not you talked, about how deep your position was—you had returning talent, young guys, and everything else. Now you go into a Week 17 game where Kaden, a guy who wasn't even on your team, is the last man standing. How have you handled that position? I know there's the next man up thing, but there's something about coaching next man up, too, right?
*A: Again, I've said it before, when you're coaching a group, whether or not it's deep or whether or not it's thin, you coach the back end of the room, meaning you coach the guys who are not necessarily playing. When you're in that meeting room, you're not just talking to Evan (Engram) and Rhett (Ellison), I'm talking to Garrett (Dickerson), I'm talking to Scott (Simonson), I'm talking to Kaden. I'm asking those guys the questions, keeping them involved when they're not on the field because getting the guys when they're playing, they're getting experience on the field. It's the guys that are not on the field that you've got to really do a nice job paying attention on the meetings, coaching those guys, coaching the room through those guys so that they get it so that when they step on the field, you're not coaching twice. Those guys have gotten the coaching points, they've been involved throughout the meetings, and now they're able to step on the field and know what to do, and then now you just emphasize them being relentless and executing what they're asked to do.
*Q: When you talk about Evan, you talk about the demands of the position, right? It's a tough position, you've got to block defensive ends and then run routes the next play. What's your confidence level that he can hold up and that he is built to be able to do that long-term? *A: Again, I don't have a crystal ball. My confidence is in his work ethic and his character, his determination to be an NFL tight end, a good tight end. So, my confidence lies in his work ethic and him being determined to get back. Whether he holds up, again, I'm not a psychic, but I'm confident in him in terms of the character makeup that he brings to the game.
*Q: I'm thinking more of just like, they talk about a body, just how your body is kind of built and where your weight is and stuff. That seemed to be one of the concerns coming out, and now he's kind of having the same concerns here. Do you see that, or do you view it differently? *A: Again, I don't even look at all that measurables and all that stuff. When the guys are here, you train them for war and just see where he goes. Whether or not he holds up, I don't worry about that. I just worry about getting him better at what we're asking him to do so that he can do his job to the best of his ability, which in turn allows us a chance to win.
*Q: What do you say about the notion that wide receiver might be the better home for him, because he wouldn't have to deal with some of the stuff that tight ends have to deal with? *A: If he's in the tight end room, which I enjoy having him in the tight end room, we're going to put him in the position to be successful as an NFL tight end for the New York Football Giants. If he goes to the receiver room, I know Tyke Tolbert is going to get him ready to be the best player he can be there, but I don't really worry about them saying that wide receiver is the best position for him. Hey, best position is whatever position he's playing at, and him executing.