Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Opening Statement: It has been great to be here. I can't remember the last time we spoke. It might have been during Phase 2 or OTA's, but it is great to get out on the field with the guys. That is when you get a true feel for what you have, where you are at and where you are going. We are in the middle of that and I look forward to continuing it. The way Coach has it structured the next three days I think will be exciting for us and hopefully when it is all said and done, we feel real good.
Q: Do you have a better handle on what your roster is and the talent on it?
A: I think better than when we began. I think I have mentioned this before; it won't be until we get to the third day of training camp that we play real football. We can tell a certain number of things to a certain point in these practices. Certainly from the chin to the hairline if people are getting it. We say we are evaluating everybody on their ability to learn, which we can get a feel for that. Footwork you can get a feel for and hand placement and things like that defensively. I was talking about this with the d-line this morning – footwork is different when you don't have any protection and pads on than when you are pressing up against people and doing the things you need to do when you have pads on. It is an ebb and flow. It is a 50/50, but do I have a better feel than I did two months ago, yeah. The answer to that would be yes.
Q: Have you had much contact with Jason [Pierre-Paul]?
A: Yeah. Not as much contact as I would like, but he is doing well. What is really hard when you come in new and you have a player in that situation is you want to start a rapport and a relationship, coach-player, and friendship. It makes it a little bit difficult, but we have all been through this. It is part of the league. We will just keep grinding away.
Q: How much will JPP's absence put him behind?
A: He is going to be behind because there is a lot we are doing right now, but he had been around for a period of time. He did a little bit of the mental work, which I greatly appreciated. I thought that spoke volumes to who he is and what he is about and how important it is to him. Because it is new – terminology is big in this league on both sides of the ball. Hopefully he is up to that challenge and we can get up to speed real quick.
Q: Do you consider JPP an elite pass rusher?
A: He looks pretty elite to me. The simple answer to that would be yes. Anybody can put a highlight film together and make a play look great. If you just watch tape with JPP out there, it is evident to me that he is an elite defensive end and fits a 4-3 system, which is exciting.
Q: Would you like this to be a more aggressive Giants defense than what you have seen in previous years?
A: I am not going back or passing judgment on any years. I think we all can agree in here that if you are going to be good on defense, it needs to be aggressive. If you look around the league – I was very fortunate to be a part of one the past two years down south on I-95 [Baltimore Ravens] that is aggressive and physical. I think all good defenses in this league function that way. We would like to get to that point as well. How and when and where we will get with all that, we will see as we go. It is pretty tough to stress physical when you can't really do physical out on the field. I think the mindset is there, but we will just see where we are at when we get to training camp.
Q: What did the experience in Baltimore do for you?
A: That could take a long time, and I say that in a positive way. Early on it was a rough period for me, but it was great that first year to just sit back and communicate with [Ravens Head Coach] John [Harbaugh] on head coaching things, work with the defense, see things from just sitting back and not being involved in a lot other then recommendations. The second year being back as a position coach, sometimes I think that is good for head coaches and coordinators to do periodically. You grow to appreciate the job a position coach has to do. Being around that system, which really is pretty different than what I had been used to with [former Eagles Defensive Coordinator] Jim Johnson, here in New York, what we took to St. Louis and New Orleans, etcetera, it was nice to get a new perspective on scheme. I am talking more about base defense than sub-defense. [Baltimore] is in what they say is a 3-4, but it is more of an under scheme. We will pick apart what we think are the meat and the good things from that and try to add them in. If you try to do too much, it won't be any good. I thought it was very valuable. I am indebted and thankful to the people there. [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti, [Ravens General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and certainly John, who is a close friend of mine.
Q: Do you take anything from the 2007 Giants defense when guys didn't have the light go off in regards to your system until the third game and can you apply that to this team?
A: Definitely. It is a little bit of force-feeding right now. I do think it is important to be multiple in this league because offenses are multiple and you have to have an answer for certain things. There will come a point as we get closer to that first game when we are going to have to make a decision and say, 'This is it.' If we do too much, we become less as a unit. You are always weighing that out on either side of the ball in anything you do in this league, is the too much, 'don't let their mind clutter up their feet' is one of the sayings. I will always go back on that. I did even the other places I went to. We will be careful of that. I think our guys are handling it right now. There is a ways to go. We are going to make those kinds of decisions as we go along the way here. That is why we are fortunate that we still have four preseason games. Thank God. I wish we had another one to figure all that out. That will be an important piece of it, especially early.
Q: Was that a lesson you learned in 2007 about installing a new defense?
A: No, we had used that a lot before. Going back to that, I will tell you this, I am not sure we had as much in then as we might have now or we did in after that. Obviously at that particular time – the one little element, I know you all remember this, my friend Michael [Strahan] wasn't here for most of that. He was an integral part of the whole thing. [Strahan] and I have talked about that. It took a little while for him to get going, and yet when all the pieces fell together, I think we did pretty good.
Q: How much do you feel like you have grown since the last time you were a defensive coordinator?
A: The hope is, and I think I have said this before, we grow more in anything. It doesn't matter whether it is coaching or life, we always grow more in adversity than we do in the good times. I believe that. Especially if you go through the right way and look back and use it the right way. I think sometimes I probably had too much experience. I had too much defense. You can have too much of that, too, so I am always careful of that. My hope is that I am better at this position than I was the first time. I guess we will find out.
Q: A lot of people in your position use the word 'humbled' … Do you think that is appropriate for you or is there another word?
A: I am probably not the right one to ask. This is how I feel about everything I have been through, especially being in this league. To me, this profession I am in and the ability to have been in is a blessing to me. I have never taken it for granted. I never thought I was anything better than just a normal person trying to work hard at a job, so I hope the ups and downs that I had been through weren't what I needed to be humbled. That would be my hope. Whether it is true or not, I don't know, but I do know it opens your eyes. It reveals who you are and what you are made of and the people you are around and what they mean to you and what they are able to give you through the tough times. I don't know if humbling is the right word or not. It is an education if you use it the right way. I have spoken to people before about the past and I know this much, when you are in the middle of it, you have two choices: you can either be bitter or you can get better. I made a conscious decision in my mind to get better. I hope I have done that.
Q: How do you feel about the safeties on the roster and the progress the younger guys have made?
A: Young. There is youth and inexperience there. It doesn't matter what system you are in, in my opinion, defensively, those two particular guys [at the safety spots] are really important. Everyone else relies on them. The quicker we can get to the other nine trusting them, the better off we will be. I am not sure we are there yet. I think it is going to be a work in progress, but we will get there. Guys can do it. That is why I wish we had another 10 OTAs. The players don't want to hear me say that, but it would be helpful.
Q: Do you feel any better about the safety position now as compared to how you did heading into the offseason program?
A: Right now it is a challenge. Challenge is probably the best word. It is a challenge for our patience and our trust in them. Everyday it gets better, I can tell you that. I do think everyday there is a trust gained there from linebackers to corners and back to the safeties. Those are the guys that really need them. I think our other guys who, the non-safeties that rely on them, are doing a good job being patient and letting them try to work through it, rather than trying to overstate them or jump the gun and make the call, so to speak. I have asked them to do that and I think that is important. We have a long ways to go in my opinion.
Q: What can we expect from the Giants defense this year?
A: I will let you know in a couple of months. I know where you are going with it, but I am not a predication guy. I don't make those kind of bold statements. I will say this, I believe we are getting everything out of them right now. I have no qualms with the effort and the attendance has been great. I know we are working through one issue. That part of it has been great and that is all you can ask for right now. I think I mentioned this to you before that the main focus, one of the first things I said in the meetings, was to make sure the number one goal is that we are better today than we were yesterday. I think if we live by that and able to accomplish part of that, then we will be okay.
Q: Are you starting to see the identity of the defense take place after showing them the past great Giants defenses and defenders?
A: A little bit. It is hard to see it until you are competing against somebody else. The idea there was that if they could embrace the tradition, the great tradition of New York Giants defense, then they could be proud of it. If you are proud of something, then you tend to protect it. It has been fun working through that. We showed, since we last talked, I can't remember the timing of it all, but one day we did the 1986 NFC Championship Game. Then we have some other games. We were talking about this two days ago. I have saved some for training camp. We have some players we still need to put up there. To me, it is fun; look, we are all rallying around together as a unit learning things. I test them every once in a while to see if they remember. They don't always remember. They are getting the point. They like it, too.
Q: Who are your best students?
A: Mark Herzlich was outstanding. I think he had typed up, ready to go the next day. I had to make sure he didn't tell anybody else because he made it easy. He had his cheat notes and he was ready to roll. Mark was great.
Q: How much of the emphasis is on stopping the run before pressure defense?
A: It always comes before, in my opinion. Now we do have run-pressures, which I hope help. When you are talking about stopping the run, it does come back to the guys up front. It doesn't matter what you draw up on the board, in my opinion. Guys up front have to do it first, then the second level behind them have to do it next, then when all else fails, you have to have guys in a position that those plays don't become big plays. I totally understand what you are saying. It is not all about pressure and blitzing. That is not necessarily the answer. It is about fundamentals and playing good, strong, solid, physical football up front to stop the run. That will be a focus. Tough to do now when all you have protection-wise is a helmet.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin**
Q: Any difference for you for what you do in OTAs versus mini-camp?
A: Not really. What you do is you have a 10-day series of objectives and you get to the camp and you revitalize your objectives. Present it as we did this morning to the players and talk about how important these three days are and what they lead up to. Set a theme whereby you jump on that again on Thursday afternoon.
Q: It looked like the defense was playing a lot better today… Are they progressing according to schedule or is there even a schedule?
A: Sure, there is a schedule. They have had a whole lot thrown at them and they have done decently with it. They worked didn't work as good as at the end of last week and that is probably why you saw better here today.
Q: Is Odell [Beckham Jr.] just not going to do anything this week?
A: I don't think so, but he was running around on the field out there. He seemed to be doing okay.
Q: Is it hard to get a bead on what you have here with three of your best players not participating with Odell, Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul?
A: Is that one of those rhetorical questions? Yes. I mean, I can see what we can do. At least I got to see Odell for a while, but there is no doubt. You have a lot of timing involved. You have a two-minute drill you are trying to time things up. You are trying to create some – ball gets out the quarterback hands quickly. I don't know exactly what the issue was here today, but the offense wasn't very good in the two minutes.
Q: Do you play it safer with Odell for the purpose of this being a June mini-camp?
A: No, whatever the medical people tell me is what we do. If he could go, he would be out there.
Q: [Defensive Line Coach Robert] Nunn was saying he has had contact with JPP and senses he is up to speed as much as he can be without being here… Do you have a sense of security…?
A: All I know is that he is not here. That is all I know. He has been here for a couple of days. He spent a couple days in the classroom. He seemed to do well with the information that was given up to that point, but since he has left, he obviously has received nothing. All I know is that he is not here.
Q: Can you comment on the Stony Brook guys?
A: They are no doubt happy to be here. They are working hard. There is an awful lot of stuff. Michael [Bamiro] has been around a little bit, so he has grasped what we are doing a little quicker. We are getting some things done with the other guy. Will [Tye] is doing okay.
Q: You had Bamiro at guard a little bit today?
A: He has been playing some guard. Either way.
Q: You have been moving the linemen around whether it is between guard or tackle?
A: Normal for this time of year. Probably for training camp, too.
Q: Is it just to see what the best fit for guys is?
A: [It is to] make sure they well versed in playing whatever position we put them at. We are looking for versatility. We are looking for combinations.
Q: What is Devon Kennard's status?
A: He warmed up and did some things. It is a hamstring.
Q: Having gone through the hamstring with Odell, does it change at all? Are you doing anything differently?
A: We approach it the same way, but we don't have our head in the sand. We know the guy has an issue. I think the training room is well aware of that.
Q: Why not keep him inside? What is the thinking behind that?
A: He works with the trainers. He does some work on the side. He jumps over there and gets on the JUGS machine. Plus, why have him inside when the football is out here. He can absorb information based on the fact that he knows the play. Sees the coverage, knows what the reaction should be and benefits from the corrections. That is why he is out here.
Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn**
Q: Have you seen enough from Dwayne Harris to get an idea of how he is going to fit for you?
A: I had really a good idea before he came in, having faced him for so many years. He has done a nice job assimilating himself and getting the returns down, so we have seen enough, we are pleased.
Q: Do you envision returning kicks and punts being his primary duty?
A: He is going to be a 'big four' player, so he will be on all four of the teams and he will make a very good contribution. His coverage skills are equal to his return skills, so that is the nice thing about getting this kind of player.
Q: Do you feel that you have a little deeper of a candidate pool for the return jobs?
A: Well, we always want a deep pool because you know at any time one of those guys can get hurt and we need to put someone else in, so we are always trying to develop depth.
Q: Any of the young guys in particular jumping out at you?
A: As far as coverage guys or return guys?
Q: Return guys
A: Odell has caught punts before but hasn't done much the last couple of weeks. Edwards, an undrafted player, is starting to make some strides, but we will see once the pads come on and when we go in preseason games.
Q: What do you see from Corey Washington?
A: We just need him to get better so he can contribute on all four. Right now he is a two-team player but we would like to see him on all four so you maximize that roster space and that if he is dressed on game day.
Q: Are the two you are talking about the return games?
A: Yeah, he has primarily been on punt return and kick off return. We would like to develop some of his coverage skills on punt and kickoff.
Q: Still the middle of June, but how do you feel about your overall group?
A: I feel good about them right now. We got some new acquisitions at the linebacker spot and we got some safeties in, which are nice, and getting Bennett Jackson back has been pleasing. The young kid from Texas, Thompson, has done some good things; he is long and has real good speed, so I think he can be pretty versatile for us. Obviously Landon (Collins) has done a nice job in what he have asked him to do, so [I] am pleased with the overall group.
Q: With the change in the extra point kick, will that change the way the kickers are going to be working in training camp?
A: We have always done it. We had two games with it in the preseason last year, so we are well versed in it. We start them at the 15 and then move back from there. It is something that we are used to and it will not be a problem at all.
Q: This isn't something the linemen seem to excited about. Do you sense that at all?
A: The field goal protection, there are some violent hits that occur. The ante will be raised with the rule and the way that it is written. Points are points, so the guys will be eager to get out there and to get points.
Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn**
Q: What have you seen or heard from JPP?
A: Well, obviously he is not here but I have been in touch with him and he came up here and we met with him for a few days. He has got a start of what is going to be expected when he gets here in the beginning of it and we have been in touch with him throughout and that is really all I have to say about it. Obviously we'd like to have him here, but I don't get involved in that, but he has got some of the stuff that we dished to him when he gets back.
Q: So he has a playbook and can go over it?
A: Not all of it, but I have fed him some of the stuff as we've gone and progressed through and he was here and I met with him probably four or five times, maybe even six or seven times. We kind of implemented some of the stuff and how it is going to be introduced when we get to training camp. I thought he had a very good grasp of it when he left and when he gets here we'll start and that is where we'll begin.
Q: Was that all at the beginning of the offseason program when you met with him? Or was it something recent with him coming into town?
A: Yeah, it was right near the beginning.
Q: Do you expect him to pick up sort of where he left off? At the end of the year he was playing at that JPP level.
A: Yeah, you would hope so. His numbers increased there at the end. I thought he did some good things throughout but just didn't have the numbers to show for it, and I have said that over and over, sacks are a little overrated, but his quarterback hits and his pressures, he was doing some good things. They were counting for him in a lot of different ways and he took advantage of some opportunities there at the end and got his numbers up. His tackles had to be up there in the top of the league. I don't know where he was, but he had to be top two or three as far as the production and as far as in the run game and his pass production there at the end. I think it is just coming in healthy and in the right frame of mind and getting ready to start, he is going to be behind but that is where we will start.
Q: Do you get the sense that he is going to come in with the right frame of mind?
A: All of my contact with JPP has been positive. It is what it is; I don't get involved with the business side of it. He seems to be in a very good place mentally and working out and keeping in very good shape. His weight was in a good place and so we'll see when we begin.
Q: How hard is this defense to pick up? Is that really the part that he is missing now?
A: Yeah, there are wrinkles that you have got to be here to pick up and he has got to take it from the classroom to the field, but those things, we will begin in training camp and we will make it work.
Q: Is there still ample time with training camp in your mind?
A: Yes, if he comes in with the right frame of mind and in good shape, he will be ready to go.
Q: When you are evaluating the defensive front, if it were a lesser player, it would be easy to kind of put that player out of your mind. But I would imagine when you are evaluating right now, it is the opposite; it is imagining what it will be like when he is there. Is that fair?
A: Yeah, there is some of that. When we have a player that is as talented as him, he is not out there right now but the guys that are here are doing a hell of a job. They are doing exactly what we have asked them to do. Coaches told them and I have told them that we can't get caught up in that; we don't have anything to do with that. Who is here is going to work and they have done a good job with that.
Q: When Steve Spagnuolo was here the first time, he had a heavy rotation of defensive ends that could sack the quarterback; he had Strahan, Tuck and Osi. Beyond JPP, what do you have and what do you like about what you have?
A: The one issue is that some of the guys are limited right now because of injury so they haven't been out there. We haven't been able to evaluate that yet because some of them are not out there. The ones that are out there are doing what we ask them to do and some of that stuff that you are talking about will all take care of itself once we get into training camp, once we start out there with live bullets flying and then that will settle and take care of itself as far as the rotation and how we rotate people.
Q: Where do you see Cullen Jenkins fitting in? Is he a tackle, an end or is he both?
A: I think he can help us in a lot of different [ways], it all depends. We are letting him work more at end for one reason, because of numbers, but I can see him doing some more work for us out there. At his age and stage in his career, we have to take care of him and move him around a little bit. I have been very impressed with him at this point. He got the calf last year and was off to a good start but he never was the same after the calf injury. He has come in here healthy, good frame of mind and we have moved him around a little bit and will continue the next three days to move him around a little bit. We will try to take care of him during training camp and get ready to go.
Q: What have you seen from some of the new guys?
A: Selvie is solid, he is a solid pro. He played well last year in Dallas and he has been steady. Some of the other guys, Jay Bromley has got to continue to improve with technique, Kenrick Ellis has got to continue to improve and I think they have made the effort to do that and we have to continue that.
Q: What does Markus Kuhn need to prove to you guys?
A: He has got to continue to do what he is doing. He has given us some quality reps last year and I have been very impressed with him during the OTAs. The thing he has got to do is produce when we get in pads and that is the same way with Jay, Kenrick and that group right there. When we get in pads and, like I said earlier, when the live bullets start being fired, production is going to tell us a lot about who is going to be playing and how the rotation is going to work.
Q: Has that been the thing with him? You have seen it maybe on the practice field but it hasn't always translated to the live bullets?
A: He needs to increase his production but we all need to do that. He is a steady hand and a very good leader in the classroom, very good leader in our room. He is a quality guy and he has got it in front of him this year, this will be a big year for him.
Q: How high is the ceiling for Johnathan Hankins?
A: He really surprised a lot of people with his pass rush. Everybody thought that he was a run stopper coming out but those sacks were legit. He had some legit numbers and a lot of quarterback hits and pressures, came up big in some key situations and I really like where Hank is. He has got to continue to improve with technique. That is where his big improvement has got to be going into training camp but I think that it is a very good situation. He has got a chance to be a solid player for a very long time in this league.
Q: Is that pass rushing ability of his something that just happens when he sees an opportunity or more when you free him up?
A: I think that people underestimate him as a pass rusher. He wasn't a great pass rusher coming out but he has really worked on a few things that have really made him effective. When they left him one on one the guy took advantage of it. When those guards have to block him one on one, he is powerful and deceivingly quick. He has got better speed and quickness than what people thing he does.
Linebackers Coach Jim Herrmann**
Q: What have you seen so far from J.T. Thomas?
A: He is very athletic. That is what I like about him. He will be a great addition to our teams. Special teams and athletically as a linebacker he can cover. He is tough. He is going to fill that role, both in base and in sub. We can do a lot of different things with him.
Q: Do you see him getting any time at the middle linebacker spot or mostly weak side?
A: In our base, he is an outside linebacker and in sub, we play him some in the middle. It is a very fluid deal in sub defense, so he can play in or out.
Q: What kind of improvement has Devon Kennard shown from his rookie year up until now?
A: I think number one, he is more confident in himself as a player. He knows now he can play in the league. That takes you a long way. Just refining his technique and his footwork and trying to get the best of both worlds.
Q: Where do you see Jameel McClain fitting in?
A: I think Jameel is versatile enough. He has played all three positions, so he can play in and out. He is a tough guy, which is good, so you want him in there in the run game. He is athletic enough to play in subs. It gives us a big luxury because we have a lot of guys that have played NFL snaps and to me as a coach, that is luxury to have because a lot of times you don't have that as a linebacker coach. It is nice to have them where you can do anything.
Q: Is it possible that your three best guys might be Jon Beason, Jameel McClain and Devon Kennard, but they might not be the three best guys to have on the field at the same time?
A: I think to me, when you go out, you are going to put the three best people on the field. Why would you have the best guys standing next to you? Whatever the position is… Who are the best guys? Those are the guys that are going to play. That is what the players are striving to be. They are striving to be the best three linebackers, the best four linebackers. To me, that has always been true, ever since I started coaching. The best guys are going to play, especially at the linebacker position, since they are all very similar.
Q: Do you feel like the talent you have top to bottom in your group is the best you have had since you have been here?
A: That is a true statement. Nothing against those other guys. I don't want them to feel bad. Talent-wise, yes.
Q: Because you can do so many things?
A: Yeah, they are versatile guys and what is really nice is they are veteran guys. They have played NFL snaps. You have a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps in football, in real games. That is good to have.
Q: Without Antrel Rolle, many people are expecting Beason to be the leader of the entire defense… Do you think he is capable of doing that?
A: Yeah, he is a born leader. He has always been that way since the day he got into the league. Since he was at Miami, he was a leader. I think he likes that role and he wants that role. You want a guy like that.
Q: Are J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas similar to you?
A: They are both very athletic guys. They are different kinds of players, but they are both very athletic and can move well. You like that. It is hard right now for me because you don't have pads on. You will find out a lot more once the pads go on. With their body of work in the NFL, they are both tough guys who can play.
Secondary Coach/Safeties Dave Merritt**
Q: How is Landon Collins coming along?
A: Good. The rookie pitfalls that they all fall into, which is thinking you can come in here and that you know it all. Then you find out you don't know much of anything and he has a situation now that he feels the pressure. He has to make the calls and get everyone lined up and he talked a good game as far as what he had to do at Alabama and I believe that. Now when you are trying to line up grown men who have wives and children at home and they need that call from you, it is a little different than lining up a freshman. The call has to be right. Right now, he is slow to go, which was expected, but he has to pick it up quickly for us to be successful.
Q: How hard is it at that position to come in as a rookie and start right away?
A: I think it is extremely hard. You are the 'the extension of the defensive coordinator.' Whatever call comes in, you need to be able to hear the call, accept the call and then spit it back out to your fellow teammates. For a rookie to come in and have that pressure, to be the extension of the defensive coordinator, I know we have the right one doing it, but it is extremely difficult.
Q: From what you have seen early on, do you think he is capable of doing that?
A: I do, I really do. He is starting to realize that these missed alignments and the minus plays, I have to cut those out of my game in order for the guys around me to trust me. That is what he wants to be. He wants to be a leader. Okay, we are putting him out there. I think he is going to be ready to go, definitely, for Dallas.
Q: How has Cooper Taylor come along after missing the year?
A: Cooper is coming along well. Mentally, I never doubted Cooper would be able to pick up the defense. It is just now getting Cooper's body to move in the proper direction once he receives the call and allows himself to line up and just see what is happening in front of him. The mental part, Cooper is fine, but it is now the physical part. We have to make sure the durability factor – he has to be durable for us because he has missed the past two seasons. Mentally, I am not concerned about him. Physically hoping that he will be able to step up and be durable for us.
Q: How much has it hurt Nat Berhe not being able to get on the field?
A: That hurts tremendously because all the reps that Cooper and Landon and Mykkele [Thompson] and some of the other guys have taken, Nat would have been right in there with all the other guys. By him standing on the sideline and taking mental reps – I understand you are taking mental reps, but it is different. It is not the same as putting your body through the motions and making your body react to different movements that the receivers are stemming at you. It is going to definitely hurt him and set him back a little bit, but hopefully he can come back at training camp and be ready to fight for a starting job.
Q: How is Mykkele Thompson coming along?
A: Mykkele, I knew was a smart kid. He came here and he is a cerebral kid, that is for sure. He is going to take what I say literally and take my word for it and go out and try to execute it. Now I am starting to see that the kid actually has some football awareness, where I didn't think he had much of it when we first started off. The [missed alignments] that started at the beginning of rookie mini-camp and OTAs have drastically gone down. Mentally, he has excelled past my expectations.
Q: Are you eager to see how he holds up physically?
A: Absolutely. Long arms. We did a drill the other day where he was having to punch a bag and escape from the blocker and to see his arms and the extension of his arms, that was good to see. I am definitely interested to see him in the pads.
Q: How has Bennett Jackson handled the moved from corner to safety?
A: It has been good. You are going from the outside where you are playing on an island and then all of sudden, you go to a back end position where you have to see the formation and play, the moving parts, and put people in the right position. Jackson, in his situation right now, there has been a learning curve for him, which has been hard for him. It has been a struggle at first, but out of all the guys, that is one kid that when he puts his foot in the ground, he can go. He can go. I am looking forward to seeing Bennett at camp with pads on because I truly believe he will hit as well.
Q: Has anyone else caught your eye here in the spring?
A: To be honest, the guys that you just named are the ones that I am focusing on. Justin Currie has done a great job, as well, our free agent. Big kid, as well. I am interested to see what he can do once the pads are on his shoulders and hopefully he will be able to be a thumper for us. Those are our crew. Those are our guys.
Secondary/Cornerbacks Coach Tim Walton**
Q: How physical do the corners have to be in this defense?
A: Well, it all depends on the coverage situation but what we try to preach is we want guys to be able to tackle [and] we need guys to be able to tackle. This league is about finding matchups and they will try and go after the weak links and guys that don't do it, so we try to preach that we are going to have all our guys solid at tackling and being physical and getting off blocks and doing all the fundamental things that come with football, we have to get that down.
Q: We know from years ago when Steve Spagnuolo was here that he has a very aggressive defense up front. Are they aggressive in the secondary, too, in a way that the corners try to attack the receivers?
A: Yeah, that is the thing. The guys like it and it is fun for them to get a chance. You know how it goes, you either apply pressure or you feel it. Steve has done a great job with a history of doing things and the guys here have embraced it, they love the system and they love what he is doing. As a coach, I try to make sure that I rely on the message and rely on the techniques and be his voice of making sure we get done on the backend what he needs to get done for the defense to be successful.
Q: It does seem that the more you attack and apply pressure, the more defensive players are happy?
A: Yeah, and now we've just got to be good at executing things. Whatever he calls, that is the job on the backend. You are usually dealing with four, a lot of times five or six DBs, on the field at one time, so that is a big number of guys, so we have to be on the same page and the cohesiveness and the chemistry and all that stuff is critical to our development and our success.
Q: One of the guys the last couple years has been Jayron Hosley that just seems like they are constantly trying to bring his talent out. What have you seen from Jayron?
A: He has it, he has the talent. The thing we talk about is confidence. We have to make sure the confidence is there and the consistency is there and all of those things, so that the talent is showing on a daily basis. We don't want to be up and down with it, so that is the thing we talk about and we work on, is trying to be consistent with it and getting confidence so you can play at a level that you would like to play at on a daily basis.
Q: Was he a guy that you felt like you had to break down a little bit once you got here to kind of get him back to where he felt like he was on a level playing field?
A: Well, everybody for me started in the same boat because they are all new to me. Even the guys that had been here and had been playing a lot, it was a new situation, there were going to be some changes and some differences on how things were. That relationship was starting from the communication and what we expect and the approach we are going to take was kind of done with everybody but with him, I know he has that talent and it was more of confidence and being able to be consistent so that we know what we are getting everyday from his body of work.
Q: Do you see him as a guy who can play inside in the nickel or is he mostly an outside guy?
A: He would probably be outside right now. Who knows what he may end up doing, but right now, to get confidence, you also want to start at one spot and kind of go from there and grow with it. You don't want to throw a ton on his plate, start with one thing, let's do that well and we'll progress from there.
Q: What about Prince can he still improve?
A: Oh yeah, he definitely can improve just in techniques in general. When we play press technique, that is always a constant thing because with his talent, he is going to see different guys, he is going to see smaller receivers and bigger receivers, and you have to be able to change that up based on the guys you see and be effective with it. Also just on his ability to play fast and trying to show him to be able to see formations, see tendencies, see splits and being able to let that put you in the right position and be able to play up to his maximum potential all the time. That has a lot to do with the understanding of the situations, of formation or splits and things like that, because he has played a lot of football so he understands and those are the things that can help him grow so he can play fast all the time because he has some real talent.
Q: A year ago DRC came here and the idea was he was an elite corner who would be following the best receiver. In year two, what do you sense from DRC where he is and what you guys want out of him?
A: Yeah, well, he definitely has to be that guy. The thing about it that we feel good about is hopefully we have two guys that can be that and that is the confidence and level of expectation that we have is that he definitely will be that guy and a guy that has that ability, and we need to build on a consistent basis. We also feel that Prince has the ability to do that, also, and that is where we become better as a football team where we can have that with both guys because that gives you the ability that you can handle the matchups.
Q: A local guy from Stony Brook Will Tye, the tight end. What have you seen from Will Tye so far?
A: I think Will, he catches the ball very well, that is always a good thing for a tight end. He seems to be running good routes. He is still getting a feel for the offense and all the ins and outs and going through what a lot of rookies go through in learning a new offense and a lot thrown at them. You see him working everyday and in there and competing and making some plays, so that is good.
Q: It seems you are throwing the ball this offseason better than I have ever seen you throw it. Do you agree with that and if so, why?
A: I feel like I'm throwing it well. I feel like I got good juice on it and have a better feel for the offense coming in this spring than last year, so just keep getting better and keep trying to learn more concepts and get more familiar with some of the newer concepts we are doing and kind of expand within the offense.
Q: Does that confidence and familiarity with the offense allow you to throw crisper passes?
A: I think when you know where you are going with the ball, it always helps. Have a plan, have a progression where you are going to start, put your feet in the right direction, make sure you can be able to step into your throws and I think that when you have a little more comfort and have a better confidence in your reads and where you are going with the ball and getting to your second and third receivers in the progression, the ball should come out a little better.
Q: Are you concerned about Odell not being out there right now and not being able to get those reps?
A: Well, you always like to have all your guys out there to keep working on things and for them to be getting reps and to get on the same page and for changing plays and getting the new concepts to get familiar, but we are going to work with whoever is out there and get better at whatever we've got to do. Hopefully we'll get him back for training camp where he doesn't miss any training camp time and doesn't miss any preseason or regular season games.
Q: Do you feel that despite the fact that you are missing a couple guys that the offense is starting to hit its stride this offseason?
A: I feel like we are doing some good things offensively. I feel like we are making some plays and everybody is getting a feel for the offense coming into that second year, and it's not just me, it's the offensive line, receivers and tight ends, there is a comfort level. We really went back and looked hard at the film last year, corrected things and made sure that even some of the basic plays, that we were doing them perfect. I feel like we are doing things a little bit crisper [and] a little bit faster. [We] have a little bit of a better feel for the timing of the offense, and I feel that we're making some big plays.
Q: Did you do anything different in lifting in the offseason program?
A: No, it was a freak accident. It wasn't, I mean I was lifting heavy, but it wasn't my max. It was just something like, 'What happened?' I just don't really know what happened. I know that I got to go into the recovery looking towards the future rather than the past.
Q: It kind of has that built-in timetable for you in the season. If they keep you on PUP, you kind of know you have until week eight to get back, right?
A: I mean they haven't said anything to how they are going to do that. It is more of I have the opportunity to come back and they are letting me know that early, so it's like 'don't sit around and don't mope around, you have got to get back on your horse and we have got to get back not only as fast as possible but also healthy enough and strong so you can be a factor in the game.' Not just 'oh, I have recovered.' So the fact that they still want me is a good thing and it is much easier to live with the positive things than the negatives.
Q: I'm sure you came into the season motivated anyway because they drafted Ereck Flowers. Obviously the last couple seasons haven't gone as planned record-wise. How hard is it to sort of pull back from that?
A: We drafted a great guy and knowing that the best five are going to play. [Seeing] what he can do in college, now I am going to see what he can do here. That aggressiveness, that streak, and you don't want to get injured to see that but you want to see him shine. My mental thing is more about me, not about anyone else, so it didn't matter if we did draft someone or not. I was talking to the doctor, he was like 'we could have surgery, it is something that can be 100 percent when you recover' so that is my goal and that is my mentality, to get back out there and to still prove to myself that I can still do this. Still prove to the team and thanking them for still giving me the opportunity and expecting to be back, saying, 'We want you to be back.' You never know how it is going to go and just being in this each year, you have to be thankful for every year you get to play in this league and this organization. That is more of my mindset [and] that is more of my goal, not losing my spot or what is going on for when I get back. Let me be able to contribute to this and let me get healthy so they can use me and I can show them I am building on last season.
Q: Have you given Flowers any advice on what his job is going to be or what he is going to be facing at left tackle?
A: No not too much, not now. I am letting the O line coach handle it and he has a lot on his plate right now just learning plays and coming in. I'm just watching how he is doing. It is still very early on and once we get to camp, that is when the full pads [come on] and let's see how you go and then that is when you play. You know if the player is having…and just what he is showing on film before he is ready to go, he is going to pick up where he left off last season and it is just putting on a different jersey and playing against a few different players. I am not worried about that and that aspect, but I am more 'how can I be here and not get lost in the crowd or get put on the backburner?'
Q: Are you confident that can happen? That you cannot get lost in the shuffle here?
A: I mean, I have been in the league going on seven. You've been reporting for I don't know how long. Ever since I have been here, I have seen you so you know how things can change and things go in and out. If I focus on that, the uncertainties of the game, you are just rolling dice. The things I know are that the doctors said I can come back 100 percent, so that means I can come back and how I finished last year, I can build on that because of this diagnosis so I can use that as a positive to get back and work hard to make sure that I am still in that position and when my time is called, to get out there on the field I can perform and still do that. I'm used to competing and that is why I am here and why I am a part of this team and why I love being here.