Head Coach Tom Coughlin
Intro: Good afternoon. That completes our minicamp, our mandatory minicamp. I thought that we had a lot to learn this spring, obviously, with the defense changing coordinators and having new information to be learned. We had our assessment of last season and what we wanted to be able to take on and try to conquer. We had new people in different positions, some anticipated and some not, and of course a lot of that work had to get done and we started out spring knowing full well that Victor (Cruz) was not going to be able to work but thinking that Odell (Beckham) would and a couple weeks into the running part of it, we had to be able to maneuver with that. I thought the guys did a good job with that. The big thing is we worked hard. We have a long way to go. Our two practices here in this camp were good. They were intense and they worked hard. Sometimes it was a little too physical but that is kind of the way it goes. We have kind of set the tone for when we come back and we look forward to these guys having a little time off and I did caution them on all the things that are normally talked about, the "NY" never comes off and so on and so forth and be careful, etc. I think we look forward to getting back here and getting to work on this upcoming season. I know you have no questions, so I'll just slide out of here.
Q: As far as you know, is Odell Beckham on track to be back for the start of training camp?
A: That's the plan.
Q: He said in an interview that he is bothered by all the teammates teasing him about the injury. How do you react to that?
A: Just like he did last year. You worry about things you can control and not about those you can't. His teammates, there is obviously some mix in there that may have been something serious, but most of it would have been well-intended shots just over the bow. His personality hasn't let up any because of it, I can you guarantee that.
Q: What is the plan with him health-wise moving forward? Does he continue doing what he is doing here or do you want him to shut it down for a little?
A: No, he just continues to do whatever the plan is for them in the training room. He has been running, but most of it has been straight ahead but he has been doing that. He will maneuver into the cutting and so on and so forth as he goes forward. He feels better, but he needs to feel a whole lot better.
Check out the best photos from the Giants final minicamp practice
Q: Did you see enough progress from the rookies? **
A: We have a good feel for the rookies, we really do. This incident with (Mykkele) Thompson with the slight strain of the ham, he had been doing well and starting to come along and that was a key thing. Getting Owa (Odighizuwa) back out there was big. He only had a couple, three days here but he showed us why he is here, so that was important. With Ereck (Flowers), the more you can throw at him, the better. He just has to get out there and he will make errors and make plays, but he has just got to play and recognize it. (Landon) Collins has done a good job, has gotten better and has really done a good job of starting to direct back there, and I think the coaches are excited about him going forward.
Q: The receivers say that Eli's arm is stronger, do you see that?
A: Yeah, it is lively, very lively. He has worked hard on that.
Q: Is that because of the springtime or because of the offseason?
A: It is the offseason. Obviously, you see it here, but he has worked hard and has a very nice routine going. He is very comfortable and very confident of his routine.
Q: You mentioned Odell's personality; how would you describe it?
A: He enjoys the athletic atmosphere, he enjoys his teammates and he doesn't mind entertaining on occasion if you are not looking.
Q: Do you ever try to curb it?
A: Usually when I show up, I don't get to listen to some of that.
Q: How does Shane Vereen look?
A: You saw him on the two-minute drill come scooting out the other side, that part of it he has done well.
Q: Are you keeping the rookies an extra couple days?
A: Just until tomorrow and then they will head out because (the drafted rookies) have the rookie symposium.
Q: What is the deal with Bennett Jackson?
A: He just did a little twist thing and they held him out.
Q: Is it the knee he had micro fracture on?
Q: Any thoughts on the drone?
A: It is another advancement. The way it was presented to me is, "Is this angle worth looking at?" I am not really ready even to say that because I only saw it one day and saw it in a certain drill. Maybe there are drills where it would help, looking right straight down on an inside play, you have a tendency to speed through it and get to the end zone copy. There may be something to it. I'm not ready to say one way or another. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of the advancement of technology.
Q: Could you talk about the difference in the offense in the second season?
A: People have more knowledge of what they are doing, especially when we first came back with the veteran guys. I just think that now they have been kind of pounding away at it for a while. I am sure they are ready for a break, but the ability to communicate with one another is something that has been accomplished and the young guys, they have a lot to learn; there is a lot of language here.
Q: Do you think Victor Cruz will be cleared for the start of training camp?
A: It is my understanding that he will be ready to participate. How limited, I can't tell you. We will see. We aren't going to throw him right out there, I can tell you that.
Q: You don't think he will be on PUP to start training camp?
A: I'm not going to say. That is not the intent.
Q: Last August, Odell told us he wanted to show you how much he wanted to get on to the field. Now that you have a year under your belt in knowing how much he loves the game, does that allow you to be more understanding and patient?
A: Well, I want him on the field, just like he wants to be on the field. That is where the next level that he can attain is going to be accomplished, by practicing. As demonstrated last year, he can learn. He learns a lot about adjustments and what have you even though he is not out there. When he first came back, we didn't hesitate to line him up every place under the sun and motion, but he can handle it. He would see it if he were out here, plus he wants to be out there. He is one of those kids that can…you've seen him throw the ball, you've seen him do all kinds of [things].
Q: What have you learned about your team this spring?
A: I was impressed by the seriousness this spring. I thought that they came here with the idea of what they had to work on and how they needed to accomplish it, but we will see, everything has to connect. What I learned about, we don't have any pads on and we are playing against each other, so let's see what we can do when we are playing against somebody else.
Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo**
Q: What did you get accomplished during the spring?
A: In Phase One, it was good to get here and watch our own tape. Watch our own tape as an offense; go through the cut-ups that way. Phase Two, putting the installs in from install one working your whole way through and then having a chance in OTAs to actually get out there and not do it on air and do it with a defense in front of you. Get the young players incorporated into it, giving them their first taste of the offense there. Finishing up in minicamp, having a chance to go back to the beginning of things and put some earlier stuff back in and get back to the fundamentals.
Q: What are your concerns with possibly having to start a rookie at left tackle?
A: I am excited to have Ereck [Flowers]. I think he has done a nice job so far. He is a young player. He is going to grow, but my concerns are we would like to see him get in here in training camp in great condition and ready to go. Get some good defensive ends over there and get some good one-on-one battles going with some pads on. We are excited for that. We are out there running around in our underwear right now, so it is tough to really put a solid foundation or evaluation on these guys at this point up front. They seem to be working well together, Ereck included.
Q: How content are you with having Flowers as the left tackle or would you consider moving people around?
A: We like him as a future left tackle of the New York Giants. I am very comfortable with him being out there right now. Nothing is ever set in stone. We look forward to getting back here in camp and seeing him jump in there right from the beginning and give a run at it.
Q: What do you see from Justin Pugh as a guard and why did you want to move him to that spot?
A: He is a football-smart guy. He is a hard worker. He brings a nice level of physicality that we like. Some grit to the position right there. It is probably a position that doesn't get as much glamour as a tackle, but when you are on the left side, it is important position to protect the backside of the quarterback away from his vision. The left guard position is especially important because a lot goes on there on the inside. When one becomes two and two becomes three and when zero becomes one and all the movement happens, you have to make quick decisions and we feel Justin can do that.
Q: Do you view him as a veteran now or a new guy since he hasn't played at that position?
A: He has some experience under his belt. I view him as a veteran.
Q: Do you plan for training camp as if you will have Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. back?
A: We plan for who is going to be out there. Day one right now as we close up shop at this point, if they are there, we will welcome them back with open arms. If not, they need to spend their time in the training room and get healthy. We are going to spend our time focusing on who is out there and who is healthy and we will take it from there.
Q: How is Weston Richburg taking to the responsibilities of center?
A: Weston is a natural center. I am excited for him. I am excited for the offense. I think he brings some energy to the position and to the offense. He's a guy who likes to have control of things and likes to have his hand on the football. He works very hard at it. I like Weston.
Q: How has Geoff Schwartz looked?
A: Geoff is a guy who is trying to work back into football shape and get healthy. When he comes back to camp, we look forward to him being ready to go. I have to see him with some pads on. It is tough to evaluate those offensive linemen right now when you are running around with just helmets on.
Q: How much do you see a difference between how the offense is running from this time compared to this time last year?
A: You look at the speed of things and the way things get started. Weston does a nice job of getting up and on the ball and getting the party started. Eli is a lot quicker at this point in time in getting everything going and getting everything moving. The receivers, the tight ends, the backs are playing faster on the perimeter. Some young guys have had a nicer opportunity with some injuries to some veterans and they have taken full advantage of those opportunities.
Q: How much of a priority this offseason has it been to get your run game going again?
A: It is hard without the pads on. You are not supposed to technically be competing out there. They are more just fit drills when you are going against the defense. I believe the chemistry with the backs and their courses and the offensive line and the tight ends, that is coming along, but we won't know that until we get pads on and into training camp and start playing games.
Q: Does Eli Manning's arm look stronger?
A: Eli has put a lot of time and effort into his footwork and his training there and to his upper body and his strengthening and maintenance in those types of things. I like the look in his eye right now. His offseason has been encouraging.
Q: Were any of those things you asked him to do?
A: He has put a lot of time and effort into it. We had some collaboration before he left, but the credit goes to Eli.
Q: What do you like about Marshall Newhouse that makes you think he could be your right tackle right now?
A: Marshall has played a little bit of everywhere. I was with him in the past when he first got into the league. He has played just about every position. I believe he even snapped the ball at one point. He is a smart guy. He gets the game. He is very nimble-footed. We need to get some pads on and get out there and get a look at him with the defense moving and be physical. He has done it before and he has done it at a high level before and he will have an opportunity to be a major contributor this year.
Q: Did the personnel people come to you and pick your brain about Newhouse since you spent time coaching him before?
A: There are always open lines of communication upstairs.
Q: Do you sense if Eli Manning is energized by the weapons around him?
A: You would have to ask him that. That is a good question for him. A lot of those weapons haven't been out there in the offseason program and the minicamp. I don't think it really matters who is on the field. He brings some energy to the game. He does it in his own way.
Q: How would you describe the role Shane Vereen would play?
A: You can see why Shane has had some of the success he has had. He can be a quarterback's best friend in a way in the passing game. Similar to the way tight ends can be. He has great body language coming out of the backfield. He usually does not fool the quarterback and they seem to be on the same page and it happened pretty early.
Q: What do you see in Eli's eyes that you like?
A: That [he] is excited for training camp.
Q: What does that tell you about him?
A: I think he is gaining confidence in what we have asked him to do fundamentally in the system and in the communication that happens in the meeting rooms and is carried on to the field. He is on the same page with his receivers, his tight ends and his backs. He is working well with the center and the o-line. I think being in the second year of the system helps. The confidence comes from what he put into the time before he got back here. That goes a long way, too.
Q: Do you ever wonder what it is going to take to get similar statistical numbers from Beckham again?
A: I think it is a little too early for that. When Odell gets healthy and gets back out there, we just need to get him and Eli connected and get the chemistry going there. After that, the rest will take care of itself. Last year, he was featured in a lot of ways. This year, there are some more guys in the mix and those opportunities are earned. When he gets back out there and healthy, we look forward to getting the chemistry with the quarterback and being able to spread the ball around.
Q: Is there a way to make up those missed snaps or will those guys have to rely on muscle memory?
A: No. To me, every year is a new year. You have to come in and earn for what is going to take place down the road. It is not like riding a bike. It takes work to get there. As soon as we can get together and get everyone together and on the same page and get that chemistry built, the better.
Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty**
Q: What have you seen from Ereck Flowers?
A: I really have a positive attitude towards him because he is a guy, from the time we went down to visit with him, he really likes the game of football, he has trained very hard in the weight room and he is a competitor, and when you have those types of elements as a person, you have a chance to develop into a player. It is going to take some development. We all know that because of the injury to William (Beatty) that his development has been escalated, so we [have] to go. I use the term that I really feel and still feel that Ereck is going to be a very good player for the New York Giants for a long time, and I thought in a couple years he would be very good. Well that couple years now is September, so that is where that is at.
Q: Last year when Victor Cruz got hurt Sean Ryan said he told Odell, "Congratulations your rookie year is over" Did you say the same thing to Ereck?
A: I did not. Ereck, from day one before he was drafted before he even took a snap with us, when he was up here, we sat and talked. He was one of the rookies (we visited with before the draft). As I went through a couple of the other guys, one guy asked me, "What are your expectations of me if I get drafted by the Giants?" Ereck never asked me that. Through the conversation, I guess he realized what I was telling him: you were drafted in the ninth pick by the New York Giants for a reason and that reason is that from day one you are going to compete to be a player. I did tell him at that time nobody knows when that day is. It could be the first day, it could be the 25th day [or] it could be the 10th day, but my goal as a coach is to always get you ready to be ready that first day. That is kind of what we talked about. I didn't tell him his rookie season is over. You are going to be a rookie, they are going to treat you like a rookie, but I think he will grow and mature at a rapid pace.
Q: It had been a while before these last three years that a rookie lineman had started. Has the experience in recent years helped you?
A: Yeah, it probably has. The first big help that I had was when Chris [Snee] was a rookie because he was a guy that was prepared to play in the NFL physically. I don't know if when you come in if you are prepared to play mentally because it is a whole different type of organization structure and the game is much faster, but in terms of physical, he was well prepared and that helped him a lot. Through his first year it probably helped me that I was around it when Chris Samuels was a rookie with the Redskins in my first year in the NFL. I kind of observed how that went. I think that each year and each guy is different. I learned some things from Justin (Pugh) that helped Weston (Richburg) and learned some things from Weston in combination with Justin that have helped Ereck and through my teaching and everything. The biggest thing with these guys is how much time can you spend with them and just keep giving them the information so they just absorb it and digest it. One thing you find out with the younger players is they have to go out and do it, and they have to do it and do it, the more reps they get. That is what I did in the past and we did in the past. You don't want to work a guy until he is crawling off the field, but you want to work him to his brink because the more reps he is getting, the better off, and the opportunity to get to teach him on tape and he is experiencing that. Weston did the same thing last year in training camp. He was a center one day, a guard this and back and forth. You guys were probably thinking, "What is wrong with the offensive line coach? He is going nuts, he can't even find out a position." What you didn't know is that he had to be able to play either positon, and as it turned out, he started at left guard.
Q: How is it going with Weston at center at this point?
A: I think it is going. Right now the progress is good, it really is. He learned an awful lot last year but I knew that he was going to be a player for a very long time and I know I'm using that, but I believe it because he likes the game of football. He really has embraced the center position because you are the voice of everybody to start out and the quarterback may change things, but you are telling everyone what to do. I think that Weston has a little bit of boss man in him and he likes that.
Q: What have you seen from Mike Bamiro?
A: Yeah, I'll tell you he is the Kevin Garnett of the football players, that guy is huge. He is a good worker, he really is. He has some position versatility from being a tackle to a guard and we worked out with him. We have to really find out a little more about him when we get on pads, but I like his attitude.
Q: No one is at the same position this year. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
A: Yeah, it is to a certain extent. These guys have been in this room. This is the second year for the majority of them. In that offensive line room, they have heard the same things. Maybe it was from another position that they played ,so it is more of a step or technique than it is a language and language and communication are so important in the position that I coach. It is different, I don't know if it is that drastically different. We just have to, as I have mentioned to you in past years, once we get closer to training camp, we have to nail this thing down and say, "Hey, this is the best fit that we have that is going to make our offense successful in 2015."
Q: Justin Pugh seems to have embraced his change?
A: Yeah, I have heard that from other people. I think that he likes playing and I love guys who like playing. I think any position that you put him at, he would play it. He would like to be a guy that is settled in one position. Most guys are that way. I think you probably get that feeling from him more than anything. He would only get better at the tackle position for us. Is he a better guard than tackle? He is going to be a good football player.
Q: What do you like about him at guard?
A: Well, right now where he is at and who is beside him, being a rookie, that communication and being able to have a couple years under his belt is going to be very vital to him. That is one thing that is going to help an awful lot. Justin has very good feet, he is a very good athlete, has tremendous lower body strength and when you get closer to the ball at the guard position, you are going to be blocking bigger people, so I think that is going to be an advantage for us. He will be able to block those people.
Q: How is getting Geoff Shwartz back going to help the line?
A: Oh yeah, it is exciting. Geoff wants to do it and he has worked awful hard to get back from his injury and he just needs to have the good luck charm on his side for once. Once he is able to do that, here is a guy that can be in the next half dozen years and have a tremendous finish to his career.
Wide Receivers Coach Sean Ryan**
Q: How much can you do with Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz when they aren't practicing?
A: The meetings are where they have to be great. The film study, watching that, catching the coaching points in the meetings and also on the field. It is a challenge for them to stay locked in and, obviously, they are on the field doing a little bit of their own rehab, so they get pulled out of some things. We talk a lot about mental reps. You have to be disciplined to do it, but they have to see what is happening, hear the coaching points. I do think mentally you can get a lot out of it, but you have to be very disciplined to do that. I think they work at it. I think they probably did get quite a bit between the meetings, the mental reps and the field.
Q: Did Beckham prove his ability to do that last season, given how much time he spent with mental reps and meeting time?
A: I think so. He is a really bright football player. Some things come to him and make sense to him. I think that really helps him go through situations like this and get stuff out of it. Innately, he understands the game and understands how things work and that helps him.
Q: Have you sensed that his teammates' teasing him has bothered him at all?
A: No, those guys get after each other in every type of way possible. They make fun of each other about what they eat for breakfast. I think a comment gets made here or there, but it is all in fun. The atmosphere in that room is a good atmosphere. They certainly have fun with each other. They are a tight knit group of guys. I think that shows up. I think they are just having fun with it a little bit. He can handle it. He gives it out as much as he takes it, so don't feel bad.
Q: Did you like the red spot on his hair?
A: I certainly saw it. I didn't ask him what it was specifically all about. I'm sure it was some sort of fashion statement, but I didn't have a chance to ask him about it. It was definitely noticeable. I think he had it since day one when he showed up back here in April.
Q: Is it a particular coaching challenge to coach someone's abilities and personality, too?
A: Yeah, I think it is with every position group. There are some positions on both sides of the ball that are known a little bit more for having some characters in the room. I enjoy it. I like it. I think it keeps it interesting. I think if you are going to be a good coach in any sport, on any team, any position, you better figure out what makes your guys tick and you better go after it and press the buttons that work. As a coach, I find it is a challenge, but a challenge I like.
Q: What makes Odell tick?
A: A lot of different things. Certainly going against a great challenge makes him tick. Last year, we would do a thing where every Friday I would give him a listing of the rookie receivers because it was a heck of class of rookie receivers. How many catches and yards and touchdowns they had, and certainly Week 5 he was down at zero and the other guys were up there. I think he thrives on challenges. You go out to Seattle and it is him versus Richard Sherman. I think that is what makes that guy tick. He is a true competitor.
Q: Have you noticed or talked to Odell about him reigning in his emotions?
A: I will go back to his competitiveness and what he is trying to do. You always have to talk to all the players about you can never put yourself in any way above the rest of the team. You can't hurt the team. At the same time, you have to walk a fine line with these guys when you go back about what makes him tick. I don't want him to lose his edge in any way. He is not going to hurt the team. That is clearly stated to him. He understands that. In a lot of ways, that passion and that energy make him special. You have to be very careful not to really put your foot down or squash that because it is an important part of his game.
Q: Have you changed anything in how you deal with that this year?
A: I think you talk to him reasonably. Talk to him man-to-man. When the situations came up during the year, we didn't wait until the year was over. If there was a flag thrown in St. Louis and it cost us 15 yards for an excessive celebration or something like that, it gets addressed there and it gets addressed the following day on the field. You are making those corrections as it goes along. I haven't had to in the offseason all of a sudden kick it into gear. It is something that you talk about ongoing as it happens.
Q: How do you match last year's production with him because teams aren't going to be caught off guard?
A: I think we were as creative last year as I have ever been and as we have ever been with any player, and certainly a rookie. This guy lined up in the slot, as the number one strong, the number one weak, in the backfield; we would motion him into the backfield, from the backfield. [Opponents] can plan for him, but the first thing is they have to find him. We will also have some other weapons and other guys who make plays. Whether it be guys in the middle like Larry Donnell or Shane Vereen out of the backfield or certainly Rueben Randle or Victor Cruz or Preston Parker. If [opponents] want to take all their defensive plans and put it around one guy, it is going to lead to some holes for some other talented playmakers and it is going to hurt them. I think a little too much has been made of that because in the NFL, by the time we played these teams in games 12-16, teams knew who he was. He wasn't catching them by surprise then. His productivity was still outstanding. I don't worry about it. We will be creative with him and all of our players, like we always are. We will do our best to put them in the best positions in our scheme, and I think a little too much is made of that.
Q: What about the strides Rueben has made out there?
A: I thought Rube did a nice job. He is another guy that he is a really intelligent football player. The game makes sense to him, and things happen for him. He processes stuff really quickly and I think the more tape he watches and the more practice snaps he gets, the quicker that stuff happens for him and the quicker reactions he makes and I would say that is really what has shown up to me. The more football he plays, the better he gets. He sees things very quickly.
Q: Did anyone other than Randle stand out in the spring?
A: I thought Corey Washington had an excellent spring. I thought he had an excellent spring in the classroom and in the meetings. His attitude was outstanding. He worked. He got better and we will compile all the catches, but he is right up there. I am not sure if he didn't lead the pack in catches and productivity for the spring. He certainly stood out to me. I thought Preston made some great strides, in particular playing in the slot. He is seeing things a little bit better. He is seeing defenses, reacting to blitzes better, so I thought Preston did a great job. I think those two guys really stuck out to me.
Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson**
Q: So you have had a minicamp in the books, can you talk about the development of your guys? What Shane Vereen brings to the table and what you are seeing from your guys?
A: Since you brought up Shane, I will talk about him first. Nice addition to our team, I think he brings a veteran experience. He has obviously been a Super Bowl winning player [and] that helps a lot. He is very versatile; he brings great depth and competition to this spot. He is a very smart player. I kind of figured that was the way he was and the way he played before seeing him on tape. He really picked up our system well, has done a good job of understanding, and has a really good rapport going on with Eli right now, so I really like where he is at and I think he has done a good job. He ended up the spring like I had liked him to. Rashad Jennings, who obviously had a very good year for us a year ago, He again has continued to develop, he is a great leader, very versatile, can play all the downs and does a good job. I really like what I saw from him this spring and he felt good, is fit and is running around, so I think he brings a lot to the table also. Andre Williams played a lot of football for us last year, was our leading rusher, had a really good offseason and has worked diligently. A lot of people asked about, what about catching the ball. When he came to us out of Boston College, he didn't have a catch his last year of playing in college and he has worked diligently at working on his hands and continues to improve dramatically in that area. He can run very well and can block. All three of those guys, I think, have done a really good job. Orleans Darkwa, who played for us a lot last year, played a lot of teams and has done a good job. He picks up the offense, very smart, very smart player, has very good speed, is good on the edge runs and has done a good job inside. I put him in there in the two-minute situation today and we didn't miss a beat in the two-minute, so I thought he did a really good job. I have a couple of young players, Akeem Hunt and Ken Harper, are two good young backs that we are looking at that are doing a good job. [We also] have two good fullbacks: Henry Hynoski, who has played for us for quite a while and continues to thrive in his role and brings a lot to the table for us, and then we have Nikita Whitlock, a player that has played some on offense and defense for various teams. [He] is a very strong player, very low to the ground, has good hands and he has really expressed himself well. I have a full room [with] eight guys, a lot of depth, a lot of guys that have played well and I think a lot of those guys are getting a deep look on special teams, which makes me proud and makes me happy, because I think it helps our whole team.
Q: Do you have an idea of any specific roles right now?
A: It is fluid. We aren't really sure because right now what you learn in the spring is getting them acclimated to the system and make sure they can make all the adjustments that we have and see what they bring to the table. I think that as we get closer to games and time for the opener, we will find out more role defining roles for them. Right now, I try to put them in every situation so I can see what they can do. I try not to say, for instance, "Shane is only going to run the ball." I want to see if Shane can catch the ball. I know he can, but I want to see if he can under pressure situations and vice versa. I do that for all of our guys because that way you can kind of find out what they all can do. A great thing for this room is there is great competition because Rashad watches what Shane does and that makes Rashad play better, and then Andre watches it and so on. It creates great chemistry for the room. I feel good that all of them are pushing each other to really compete and be the best.
Q: Did they come back looking at last year saying, "That is not who we are. That is not what Giants football is about"?
A: Yeah, I think they kind of had that attitude when they came in. I think they know and everybody understands that the running game, like the passing game, is a team-oriented thing. We have to do a better job with our reads. Before you do anything else as a running back, know your system and do a better job with your reads. We have to get fits better with the linemen and timing with them and then obviously you want to put yourself in the best position for all the running game that you can and that is part of what the quarterbacks do such a great job for us for. All those factors matter, but at the end of the day, I tell the backs, "When it is time to run, run and if there is a hole there, that is great, but if there is not a hole there, make a hole and make it happen."
Tight Ends Coach Kevin Gilbride Jr.**
Q: What have you seen in Jerome Cunningham's transition from last year to now?
A: We never got to see much of him with our offense. It was more – he came on towards the end of training camp and then right into the season when he was on the practice squad. He never really had much work with our offense. The good thing he did was he focused very hard in the meetings. Instead of getting the actual reps in practice, he got all the mental reps. He transitioned well in the spring. He knows the offense very well and he always was a great, great effort player and that is what showed up out here. He still has some technique issues that need to improve, but he improves at it because he works hard at it.
Q: What was it about him that caught your eye?
A: What stands out is his effort. He is going to give great effort, no matter what. Whether he knew what he was doing or not, he was going to be going 100 miles per hour, whether he knew what block he was supposed to make or not. He was going to be doing it as well as he could. That gives them a chance. It gives every person who plays this game a chance to be successful, or at least to be noticed as far as staying on the squad in some capacity, which certainly he did. He has carried it over throughout the season and then now through the spring where he has made some good strides.
Q: Do you see an opportunity for guys here to be that complete tight end?
A: No matter where you are at, when you play a position that is as multiple as we ask our tight ends to do, you are going to want guys to do different things. We don't necessarily need this guy to have this receiving skill, this guy has to have run blocking skill, this pass-protection skill, this speed – they don't have to have it all, as long as they have a number of attributes that they can use and use well on the field. That is enough for us to be successful. As coaches, we will put them in position to be successful.
Q: Do you think you have a guy that can be all of those categories?
A: I think they can all fit in certain capacities. If you are talking about if we are going to have the best tight end of all time – probably not. We could have guys who excel in a number of different areas, whereas if you look at the statistics, you would say, 'They were a successful group.' If you compare the tight end stats, receiving, last year, it is the best that it has been in over 15 years. Whether it be touchdowns or completion percentage when throwing to the tight ends. Just from one year within this offense, this group that we have has been very successful if you knew what you were looking at in the statistics columns.
Q: What did you see from Larry Donnell in his blocking skills last year and how does he go about improving that?
A: It is technique and confidence. Having him miss this offseason was not good for him in that regard. He is going to have to come into training camp and pick up where these other guys have left off in the improvements we have made in that area. We focused on certain things this offseason in the run game. It really started to show towards the end of the spring, which we were happy about. Happy to see. Still have a ways to go overall, but much improved. We were happy with where it went. We just want him to be a part of it.
Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sullivan**
Q: When you have looked at tape from last season of Eli in this offense, what were some things that you saw?
A: There are so many components, particularly from the timing standpoint and from a footwork standpoint, even just from the initial stance in the shotgun, which were different from what he had done in the previous 10 years of his career. I gained an even greater respect and appreciation for him to be able to adjust and to be able to have the open mind and embrace a lot of subtleties. It's still football and it is still about a quarterback making good decisions, being accurate with the football and being a leader, but from a terminology and technique standpoint, I was very impressed with a lot of the things he has been able to adjust to and it has been exciting coming into this offseason with him being healthy and having the opportunity to get the drill work down and taking that drill work into working against the defense in OTAs and minicamp. I hated to see it to end today. We were just having fun. We need a few more of those. It was neat.
Q: Eli has been throwing the ball very well this spring. Did he do something different in how he trained or how you worked with him?
A: I can certainty empathize with a brand new system from the terminology to the footwork to what the pattern concepts are. It is hard to play fast, whether it is running a route for a receiver or a lineman blocking or a quarterback throwing the football, there is a lot that is going through mentally and then there is some injuries that he had where he couldn't really push off his feet. I think he is a lot more comfortable having that year under his belt and we went through... it's one thing when you review cut-ups and you are seeing yourself, it is another if you are learning a system and it is another team. He can actually go through and have a good dialogue about the reasons of why this or why that. [He] is a lot more comfortable, perhaps, and certainly healthy and we have had a chance to get rolling, but I agree he is definitely throwing the ball well and it is exciting.
Q: What is the biggest difference when you watch Ryan Nassib on film between last year and this year in spring?
A: He is a guy who is a very hard worker. He is a grinder and he is a gym rat and is someone who is very conscientious. He came from a similar type system in college, so he didn't really have to unlearn, if you will, as much. I am very impressed with his work ethic, his competitiveness and how intelligent he is. He has been really trying to focus on the little things that can get his release a little faster. He is very conscientious about that, "Hey, I can just keep the ball a little bit higher." He understands the reasoning and timing behind things in terms of not wanting to be too slow with his feet or having an elongated release and just a very bright and competitive player. In the meeting room, he is someone that Eli relies upon. I got the sense early on that those two guys really respect each other and you look at a guy like Ryan and I am excited to see how he is going to perform in these games in the preseason, and he is just a really competitive kid.
Q: How do you expedite getting Odell and Victor caught up on the timing of everything?
A: That is a great question. The concept of the play and what the design of the play, where we want the timing to be 'X' and the footwork has to match that and it is all orchestrated. When you have a certain player, like an Odell or a Victor, that can get from point A to point B and his body language and his positioning is different from somebody else, you want that consistency. Even if we are doing it versus air, we were able to get some work with Odell, but unfortunately not with Victor, but even if it is just without a defender out there, to get the timing down is something that we would like to make sure we can do, even if there are limitations with whatever the issues with injuries or anything like that might be. We want those two guys, the quarterback and in this scheme, it is Odell or Victor or Larry Donnell, to be second nature to just see that it is a throw that is a result of a pressure or a hot throw, if you will, and they know exactly where the ball placement is. Regardless of system, that chemistry is important, so I can't wait to get those guys back out there.