Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
Q: You got any trick plays this week? (laughter)
A: We should have a couple, for sure. They’ve been good so far to us. (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) has done a nice job.
Q: Does he still bug you to have more opportunities as a quarterback?
A: They all do. We had tryouts, and we took the best of the rest (laughter). All receivers think they can throw, and can make all the throws, and it’s never their fault if it doesn’t get completed.
Q: (WR) Russell Shepard said he kind of freelanced that route on that play. You may have to add that route to the playbook.
A: We keep secrets, secrets (laughter). It was a little adjustment, I will say that.
Q: Is it simple for players to freelance routes on the fly?
A: Is it simple? That’s great coaching (laughter).
Q: Do you look at it that way?
A: Whether or not it’s great coaching or not? No, believe it or not, it’s a game, and we like to think everything is going to work out exactly like we draw it up. The percentages of it happening like that, whether or not it’s a trick play or just your normal plays, are probably shocking on how much adjustment there is and how it doesn’t happen the way you draw it up. That’s what coaching, and meeting, and being a fast thinker on the field as players is for. You tell them how you think it’s going to be, but all the adjustments and have your players ready to react positively when it doesn’t happen maybe the way you talked about it. Our guys, we have a lot of guys on our team that are like that. I think that’s showing, and again, I think we’re still coming together, and getting better, but I think it showed. Not just because we’re winning more now, but in even some of the losses. You can see that with certain guys. Those are the guys that are usually on the field.
Q: How do you go about reinserting (TE) Evan Engram back into the offense?
A: He’s a very important part of our offense. I think the mix with Evan and (TE) Rhett (Ellison) is important. We might not have done that as well as we could have earlier in the year, but I think both of them together can do a lot, can be versatile. Sometimes when you say in the mix, I’m assuming that’s saying give him the ball more. A lot of times, he’s in there doing a lot of things that are helping other guys get the football, or help (RB) Saquon (Barkley) in the running game. I think it’s important. Everyone knows that he’s fast. He can run and catch. Yes, we’d like to get all those guys the football as much as we can, because when they have the ball, they’re pretty good.
Q: I was talking about snap wise. It seems like his snaps decreased and he had a different role.
A: Yeah, I think as we’re finding out more about guys, and I’m not quite sure of this, some guys you have to be careful of giving too many reps. I think as we’ve learned during the season, I think there’s a certain number that kind of maximizes what he’s doing and what he can do for us. It might not be playing every snap, but a good mix between he and Rhett. The good news is that both of them, they’ll do just about anything that you ask them to do, whether or not it’s blocking, or running routes, or catching.
Q: How much better is your offensive line going into Sunday than it was the last game?
A: It was a tough day against them (Redskins), but I think we’re better, for sure. It’s mainly because of the consistency. Those guys in the lineup now have been playing next to each other for a while and getting more confidence, as well as the rest of the skill players.
Q: Are you surprised Saquon is near 1,000 rushing yards despite the play of the offensive line this year?
A: No, it’s probably a little overstated when you’re talking about the line struggling. I think it’s collectively we’ve struggled, but also they’ve done a lot of good things that probably just go unnoticed, and Saquon is very talented, as we know. I think it works hand-in-hand. I think he’s helped them become better, and I think because of that, now they’ve got more confidence and they’re helping him gain more yards.
Q: How much better has (LT) Nate Solder been playing this second half of the year?
A: I think it’s a little bit of everything. I don’t think he was probably playing as bad as maybe what people thought, even though maybe one or two plays showed up like that. As we know as that position, you usually don’t hear anybody’s name until it’s negative. I think he’s like everybody else. He’s more comfortable with what we’re doing. We’ve had good balance with the ability to run the ball more. We’ve stayed out of the long yardage situations, and we’ve gotten off to faster starts, which I think helps any offensive lineman. One of the reasons we’ve gotten off to faster starts has been because of the offensive line and guys like Nate.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham: Well, I’m excited about Washington. Another opportunity to go out here Sunday and do what we do. Since the bye week, we’ve been playing at a very, very high level and I just hope that we can continue that. That’s really all that we can do at this point. Leave the rest of the season up to everybody else and just focus on what we can control, which is our games, winning our games, and see what happens. Not really much more to say than that.
Q: How much do you relish the opportunities like when the coach calls that play for you to throw a pass, Carolina and last week? Even when you hear the call come in, what goes through your mind about how much of a difference you can make on plays like that?
A: I would say a very anxious feeling just knowing that you got the opportunity to make a play. I told Bennie (Fowler) all week, I was like I don’t care what happens, I don’t care what happens, I’m throwing it to you. They really doubled him, like big time doubled him. I was going to take off running, I kind of just picked my head up and saw him down there, so anytime I get a chance to throw the ball, I love it. I think quarterback is maybe one of the most fun positions. I know it’s a lot of work and it’s very hard, but there’s no feeling like throwing a touchdown pass, I don’t feel like. Catching one is cool, but throwing one is a lot more special.
Q: What’s it say about this team that even after 1-7 and losing to Philly that you guys would hang around and beat a team in overtime like the Bears and there was no give up and no quit?
A: Kind of the last thing you said that there is no give up. There’s no quit in this team and even early on in the season, we never quit. I guess maybe they just fought harder than us. We lost those games three, four points, five points, instead of winning them. Maybe if we dug down one or two series more, the outcome would’ve been different, but that’s NFL football. This team’s got a lot of fight in them and we’ve been showing that a lot more since the bye week.
Q: So many guys were hurt in the game and they found a way to get back on the field and help out?
A: Like (Sterling) Shep?
Q: Yeah like Sterling and then (Landon) Collins –
A: Yeah Landon – I remember Landon, he messed his shoulder up on one play and he went into the locker room and I saw him come back out and he was telling me he was like, I don’t know, I don’t know. I was like, ‘bro, we need you and we just need you, the game’s almost over, we need to go and make one more stop’ and just to see that fight that he has and for Shep, what he was dealing with, I had what he’s dealt with before. It’s your ribs and it’s doing all those things, so it’s great to see guys just never give up, go out here and give it all for their team. Kind of reminds me of I feel like last year when I was hurt, like there was a part of me that I know like I shouldn’t have been playing as early as I was, I shouldn’t have been back. I’m in the locker room with these guys everyday and the season finally rolled around, you don’t want to feel like you’re letting anybody down. I think that’s probably one of the toughest positions to be in where you have to choose do I take care of myself, my family, my future or do I give it for the team and to see those guys do that, it’s a great thing.
Q: What’s your reaction to seeing Landon go down for the season? Obviously you can relate because you went through that last year.
A: Before it happened, I was already talking to him and just he felt like he was in a tough situation to risk something that could’ve been worse. You never know what that could’ve lead to. Now he’s playing out there and in the back of his mind he’s thinking something about his shoulder and then something worse happens, so that’s just the decision him and his family had to make and at the end of the day, I feel like he’s always going to make the decision that’s best for him and his future and I’m just hoping recovery goes well. He obviously can bounce back. He’s just one of those guys who’s different, so it’s unfortunate. I wish we had him for the rest of the season. He’s our captain, he’s our leader and he will be missed.
Q: How important is it for you to have his back know that –
A: This is a guy I remember when draft time came around, I felt like I spoke it into existence. I wanted him to be here. I was like, man, we got to get Collins and second pick, second round – right? First round?
Q: Top of the round. First pick, second round.
A: Something like that. We got him and this was a guy who I knew what we were getting. We played him in college, I tried to catch him a few times while he wasn’t looking, but he always seemed to find me at the last minute, so it’s tough. This is a guy who I’ve been playing seven-on-seven with since we was in high school and just to see him go down, it’s not easy for any of us, but it’s football and it’s life and it happens.
Q: Is there any sense of “what if” going into this game? If you had beaten Philly going into this game, you got Dallas at home –
A: Trust me, I think about it all the time. When I said what I said, it wasn’t like just saying this for any reason, attention of any kind to make a story. It’s just what I believed and the way that we played, what I believed was pretty much right there in front of us except for us not finishing that Philly game, which I just hope that it’s not the one that’s going to haunt us. At this point, we really can only focus on Washington. There’s no ‘what if’. We’re going out there to win and if our season’s over, I’m making sure somebody else is coming home with us, that’s the goal. The goal is to win all these games and see what happens, but if not, you’re going to have a tough game to play against us for the last four games.
Q: How much pride do you take in a block like you made in overtime on Saquon’s (Barkley) big run and then also how tough is blocking for him because he’s so unpredictable? He can be on the opposite side of the field and then all of a sudden he’s on your back.
A: He’s just that different, he’s that special. To be honest, me and my mom talk about it all the time like I haven’t had that one block where I like – I mean, I had a block, but I mean a real good one. Not just got in somebody’s way and stopped him on Philly like right before he scored and then where I went to the heater and I was trying to get myself hyped up, which is right after I got a block for him after he scored, but that one in overtime, I’m seeing – I remember (Kyle) Fuller was out there, he bounced it and I just heard Fuller say, ‘oh, shit.’ I tried to push him out of the way and when he went out of bounds, I’m like alright I’m going to try and get (Eddie) Jackson and if I could’ve maybe just laid it all out there and got that one block, he could’ve sprung down the sideline and scored. Those moments are special. Everybody’s up front blocking. To sustain a block down field is not a very easy thing to do. Especially with him back there, we’re running a play to the left, he’s bouncing all the way back right or he’s running all the way right and bouncing all the way back left. Like I did in the Philly game, sometimes it’s best to get out of his way. He’s going to make everybody right and he’s going to get to that end zone.
Q: In terms of when you do get an opportunity to pass, do you need to know that ahead of time? Do you need to like warm up or anything?
A: Coach (Mike) Shula came up to me before the game and he’s like, you know can you throw a wet ball with your gloves on and I’m like, coach, don’t worry about it, I got this. Just joking, but dead serious at the same time and the opportunity came up. He’s like, don’t go adjusting your gloves and letting them know you’re going to throw it. Don’t worry about it, I’m going to throw this ball. Either way it goes, I’m going to make a play or I wouldn’t throw it away. I don’t want to mess up my perfect QBR.
Q: Do you have to watch your body language on plays like that?
A: I think you got to watch your body language on any plays, but yeah more specifically, I don’t want to give it away like I’m about to do something tricky, so anytime you see me catch a reverse, it’s all eyes like – and they covered him up and I just remember seeing (Russell) Shep running down the field and I was like something’s just – this can’t be real. We looked at each other and it was like, this is my guy. I went to college with him. He helped become the man I am today. He was always there for me and to be able to throw it to him of all people. I called him after the game and I was like, ‘bro, I feel like I had a terrible game, there’s things I could’ve done here, but you made my day. That made my day to see you just catch a touchdown.’ It was a good feeling.
RB Saquon Barkley
Q: How much better is the offensive line playing than maybe going into that last Redskins game when you guys struggled to get the running game going?
A: Yeah, our offensive line is playing at a very high level these last couple weeks. For the last three games, we’ve been able to run over 100 yards. That’s directly towards them and a credit towards them. They’re playing very confident, the chemistry is high there, and that’s what we kind of didn’t have going into the last time we played the Redskins. Hopefully they can have an impact on this game and set the tone from the line of scrimmage.
Q: 14 weeks into the year, now you’re getting to the point where some guys hit that rookie wall. Is that something you worry about or is there something you to do help avoid that?
A: No, I’m not really worried about the rookie wall at all. I really don’t believe in it, to be honest. I don’t even know what it is, to be honest, I don’t know what to believe in. Maybe I did hit a rookie wall and I didn’t know, but if it has anything to do with how your body’s feeling or getting out of bed, I haven’t felt that yet. My mindset is just wake up every single day, try to stay on my routine, surround yourself with the right people to take care of your body, whether it’s inside the facility or outside the facility, and grind and go out on Sundays and play your tail off for your teammates.
Q: Anything about this Washington defense – they’re a little bit nicked up – that you see on film that they’re maybe a little vulnerable?
A: I wouldn’t say they’ve vulnerable, I think they’re still a really good defense. They have been letting up more runs than they were the first half of the year, but they’re still a great defense and you still got to respect those guys from the front seven to the backend, so we’ve got to come in prepared and come in on an away game and try to get our first divisional win on the road, which is going to be tough. But we’re confident enough that we can do that, and I’m confident enough in the guys on this team and the coaches on the team that we can get it done.
Q: Can you sense that increase in intensity in (road divisional) games, particularly from the fans?
A: From the fans, I would say a little bit more, especially when you go to a place like Philadelphia. It’s crazy how you walk out and see little kids cursing you out, it’s crazy. Dallas, that was Sunday Night Football, primetime, so the energy there was ridiculous, too. I guess you could say you can see the difference especially with Philly and the Cowboys, but for us, it’s just another game. Obviously you’re aware that it’s a divisional game, but the way that we approach it, your guys come in there and just execute when it comes down to X’s and O’s and play better football than them, and try to come out with the win.
Q: How little was that kid that cursed you out?
A: (They) weren’t directly cursing me out, but you just see them when you run out there. They were probably nine, I don’t know the age, but I’ve heard stories about Philly fans and growing up in the Lehigh Valley area, you know how serious the Philly fans are. My dad told me a story he was wearing a Giants hat and a Philly fan tried to take his hat off, and my dad was like, ‘what are you doing?!’ So I guess you could say you see the intensity more when you go to divisional games on the road, but that’s really it. I haven’t heard any stories about Washington, I don’t know how crazy their fans are, but I know it’s going to be a good environment, it’s going to be a fun game and we’re going to do whatever we can do to come out with a win.
Q: Is it any regret at all, you let that Philly game slip away and this game could’ve been with a lot more at stake – any part of you that thinks, ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’?
A: Part of you does, not because you’re thinking about the future but we were playing at a high level. In the last four games, we’ve been 3-1 and you can’t complain about that, but you want to be 4-0 in those last games. That game was similar to the Carolina Panthers game where we had it and we let it slip out of our hands. You’ve got to give credit to the Eagles during that game where they did a really good job, especially in the second half, of controlling the ball and just playing better, just as a whole. Yeah, that one sucks. Obviously part of you wants to look back and say we let that one slip away, but you can’t focus on that. You’ve got to move on, and we did. We moved on, we came out and played a tremendous Chicago Bears team, had a slow start on offense in the first half, defense played lights out, and even though Chicago was able to come back and fight, we found a way to win, which we didn’t do prior to that week. I think we definitely learned from that lesson.
Q: What do you learn about your team when you can not only beat a Bears team like that but overcome the late-game adversity?
A: We know that we’re a talented team and we know that we’re good. I think anybody that plays us, it’s not when you see us on the schedule like, “ah, this is a cake walk’. I’m pretty sure those coaches are telling them, they might be 4-8, but their record doesn’t speak for how they actually play. One thing I know about our team is no matter what, we’re going to compete and I think we showed that numerous times these year. Definitely love the competitive nature of our team, but we just got to continue to get better every week and continue to find a way to execute and finish our games.
Q: Eli said he’s waiting to use your hurdle move.
A: I saw that. I really believe he’s got it in him… He’s just got to get the opportunity. When he gets that chance and he breaks loose, I’ll make sure I block my butt off just so that can happen and can see that play. I believe he can do it, and it would be legendary once he pulls it off.
Q: You’re a rookie, but you seem to take a larger view and understand that there’s a bigger picture out there. You mentioned Carolina and Philly got away from you. Do you think that in a year or two, those can be learning moments?
A: I believe this whole thing is a learning moment that’s building up to be a great story one day. Even though it may not be a great story right now, it will be. I believe this little bit of adversity that we’ve fought in the beginning of the year and what our record being, and we’re going to grow and learn from that as a team. I think so far we’ve even shown that we’ve been a way better team in the second half in the year than we were in the first half of the year. We learned from those games in the first half. As it continues to get better and continues to go, like I said before, I think we’re going to laugh at those moments and laugh at those situations and look back and be like, we learned a lot from that.
Q: When will that moment happen?
A: Only the Man above knows when that’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen, I believe it’s going to happen, you’ve just got to believe in this group of guys and stay confident and stick with it, keep your foot on the pedal and just keep working.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: What did you see on the onside kick against the Bears?
A: We’re not going to beat a dead horse. There were some things that needed to be cleaned up, starting with me, alignment wise. Just all kinds of stuff, it needed to be coached up better. To be able to put ourselves in that situation at the end of the game and not come through with it, that’s on me. The details of it have got to get coached up better, the alignments, just all of the basic fundamentals of the onside hands team, and they made a good kick. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed. That’s basically what I have to say about that. It is what it is. Last time I checked, we won the game.
Q: How much more difficult is recovering an onside kick when you’re the kicking team and when you’re the receiving team than it was before the rule changes?
A: It was a little harder before.
Q: As the kicking team or receiving team?
A: It’s still hard as the kicking team, it’s a 10 percent play. As the return team, as the hands team, it’s a little bit easier (now) because guys aren’t overloaded, you can’t overload anymore, but that’s a lot more space too that you’ve got to negotiate. It’s all how you look at it. It’s still a difficult play for the kicking team to recover it, and then as the hands team, you just got to be sound on what you’re doing.
Q: On a more positive note, the play you downed the ball deep in their territory, it seems like Antonio (Hamilton) has had a really good run as a gunner. What makes a good gunner?
A: Being a great athlete, and that’s what Antonio is. Antonio is a kid that played everything in high school -- he played baseball, played basketball, played football, ran track. Antonio can do a lot of different things. He made a play the other day when we did that surprise on the side to him and he jumped about three feet off the ground, just in a dead stance deal, and then came down on one foot and spun out of it and kept running. He’s just a really good athlete. He’s just working and he’s a young kid, and the arrow’s up with this kid. He’s a worker, he comes in, he listens, he’s very diligent in what he does, and he has a chance to be a really good player.
Q: Since you added a punter to the practice squad, is everything ok with Riley (Dixon)?
A: Yeah, we just brought Brock (Miller) in as a lefty, we’re playing Tress Way this week, so we brought him in to get some live action with a ball off the foot and I think it’s going to be beneficial for us.
Q: I know that’s unique to have a left-footed punter. What kind of challenge does that present the entire coverage team? It’s a completely different look coming off the foot.
A: Just for us as a return team, you just got to catch it. The ball spins the opposite direction, so it’s one of those deals where you’ve just got to see the ball off his foot, watch the tape, know his tendencies, and kind of roll with it.
Q: Was that one you downed, was that a drill you guys had done and see it come to fruition?
A: We work on that stuff all the time. Most, if not every team in the league, works on that drill, because it’s a play that comes up all the time. To be able to execute it, to have two guys like Russell (Shepard) and Antonio (Hamilton), to be able to have two guys to execute that play was big.
Q: You work on double-tapping it like that?
A: Oh yeah. You work on just tapping it back, and working the two gunners – me and David Tyree and Domenik Hixon way back in the day were working on the drill. It’s just something that you add to your repertoire as a coach, because it’s a play that comes up all the time.