Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: A little bit shorter today. Again, some more situational work, which we all need. We did some good stuff in the red zone. We did a “move the ball” in the red zone. At the end there, we just did some “move the ball” where Bettch called it on defense and Mike called it on offense. It was very competitive, it was good. At the end there, we had one last play for push-ups with the threes in there. The players asked for it, so it was good. I think we got a lot done this week. I feel really good about how our team is coming together. We have another week of work before we send them on their way. But I think we got a lot accomplished this week. That’s a good thing this time of year.
Q: What do you see that convinces you things are coming together?
A: I mentioned it earlier in the week, I see good competitive play. Both sides of the ball are making plays, I think that’s important. I just see their interaction as a team, the communication on defense, the communication on offense. We got a lot of offense, a lot of defense in. You don’t see a lot of busts. You see just a lot of competitive, good football. As compared to a year ago when we were putting in our systems for the first time, you see improvements that way. Tactically, there’s some things. Certainly, the camaraderie of the team, I think these guys really have a good feeling for one another. They’re tough, competitive guys and you can kind of see them coming together.
Q: How does that work with install when you want to advance with the guys that have been here, but you still have some guys learning for the first time?
B: Well, it’s a slippery slope. I think everybody that comes into a new system, they’ve been in other systems where they had to catch up. For the guys that don’t know it as well, they need to spend extra time learning it. You really can’t slow your roll for the guys that are in it for the second year. It’s a credit to our new guys, they’ve done a good job.
Q: Nate Solder was a guy that was in one system with one quarterback for several years. When you got him, did you get a sense that he had to wean some of that stuff off of him, how do you sense that transition?
A: I think the transition went well. Again, he was one in system, but (he’s) very smart. There’s a lot of homogenous concepts in football. You call it ‘cat’, we call it ‘dog’. It’s just a matter of kind of learning what we call things. I think he did a good job of that. He’s very smart, he works hard. I think it’s probably a better question for him, but I think his transition was good.
Q: What about the stability Solder brought to that position?
B: He’s a pro. I think any time you can add a really good player to your team that’s a professional that’s been through it, not only been through it but won championships. You learn things by being around it and being a part of it. I think all along he’s been kind of able to talk about those things in a positive way, and I think that rubs off on our team.
Q: Is it too early to see that you have the culture that you want around here?
A: I think every year you have to re-establish your culture because you don’t always play the next year with all the same guys from the previous year. That’s always the challenge. I think more was made of it this year probably because we made so many changes. That’s really what the process involved.
Q: What makes Daniel Jones successful at throwing the ball down the field?
A: Well, he’s got a downfield focus. Most often you’ve got downfield routes and you have outlets and check downs, most concepts involve that. He’s got a downfield focus and he’s trying to get a feel for his targets and he’s trying to give them a chance down field and I think that’s good. That’s part of what’s going to help him be successful early.
Q: Odell (Beckham Jr) made some comments about Baker Mayfield’s arm strength being something totally different than what he is used to. It seems like a criticism of Eli, what do you make of that?
A: I would probably think of it as less of a criticism of Eli. He’s getting comfortable with his team, he’s around his teammates, he’s around his new community. I’m happy for him, he’s getting comfortable with his guys. I wouldn’t say it’s a criticism of Eli, it’s more of he likes who he’s playing with.
Q: Which rookies from the draft class have impressed you the most?
A: The guy that’s made huge improvements in my eyes has been Slayton, he’s done a really good job. I think we were all here during rookie minicamp when he kind of had the yips, drops and what not. He’s really smoothed it out and he’s been making plays. He’s the first guy that comes to mind. This time of year, it’s more about throwing and catching and less about blocking and tackling. I think the young guys in the secondary have been competing, all of the new players. That’s a good thing.
Q: The guys have ball skills in the secondary, how does that help you defensively. Instead of going front to back, you can work back to front?
A: It’s important, we all know it’s coordinated. You need to get pressure and knock the quarterback off his spot and make the ball come out a way he doesn’t want it to come out. In the back end, we’ve got to be a good team at disrupting the ball and catching the ball. We’ve been able to see some of that this spring. It’s important.
Q: What have you learned about DeAndre Baker that you didn’t know during the draft process?
A: He is very competitive, he’s very tough. The corners are at a little bit of a disadvantage because there is no bump and run. Part of his charm was his ability to play up on a receiver and bump him. We think we are going to see more good stuff once training camp gets going. He’s very competitive, he picks things up, he works hard. The things you need to see.
Q: What did Corey Coleman show you last year that made you want to bring him back this year?
A: First, he added some dynamic plays to our return game. As we all know, we really didn’t have an established punt returner to start the year, one that we were total comfortable with. He was able to come in and help the return game. He was basically on kickoffs and then he worked on his punts. Then he made a couple plays in the passing game at wideout, he got more and more comfortable. He’s getting more and more comfortable now. I think him having the full process, we are going to see the best of him. He’s the first one to tell you when he came in the league, he had a lot to learn. Now he’s got an opportunity to maybe be a front-line player.
Q: For a kid that was drafted in the first round, obliviously things didn’t go well, is there something about his personality that speaks to that? People talk about chips on shoulders or things to prove?
A: I don’t know that. He hasn’t really talked about having a chip on his shoulder or trying to prove or disprove anything. He’s very inquisitive. Today in the dining hall, he was asking me how we used Thielen and Diggs, who was the Z, who was the X. He’s very interested in all that, he’s learning our system, he’s doing a great job learning it. He’s fast, he’s really a terrific talent, so hopefully we can get him on the field and make a difference for us.
Q: When do rookie quarterbacks generally get a grasp of where everything is and where they need to be?
A: Fortunately for Daniel, he is extremely intelligent. His head is swimming much less than most rookies for a couple reasons. He’s very smart, he was coached extremely well in college, he’s been around it. He’s been coached by one of the best in college. He understands the process. Again, we call it a cat, they call it a dog, it doesn’t matter. He’s been around the process enough to know. (He’s) very perceptive, he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. There’s a lot of things he’s doing out there for the first time. Every once and a while, if you are aggressive, a mistake will happen. He’ll come back in, fix it and the next time he runs that play, he will do it properly. It’s different for all players, when it starts to slow down and the game starts to make sense. Very certain that it’s going to make sense to him very quickly.
Q: Austin Droogsma is a guy with a very unique background, where is he on the football side?
A: You can say he’s got a long way to go. He went to college, he basically intended to play football and then he didn’t. He’s been involved in track in his years at Florida State. He’s coming along quickly, he’s a big guy, he’s a good athlete. He learns pretty well, he’s a guy that hasn’t done it for a long time. He’s doing a good job.
Offensive Tackle Nate Solder
Q: How do you feel physically?
A: I feel great. Really good.
Q: So training camp will be no issue?
A: Well, I don’t want to say that, but I am taking it one day at a time and that perspective is very good.
Q: What was that process like? After the season, you feel you should have something done, kind of waited thinking it would go away on its own and then it flared up. What was that process like?
A: I didn’t know anything about it. You can’t ever predict these things, they kind of come up. Thanks to Ronnie and the training staff. They took care of me.
Q: So it came up fairly recently?
A: Fairly recently. Yeah, that’s right.
Q: Is there a big difference between being here year one and year two? Your comfort level, your familiarity. Everything.
A: Getting to know the area a little bit has been nice. Getting a little more comfortable in our place we are staying here. Kids are in school and everything, so that is nice. My wife is getting to know some friends and things, so those all kind of contribute to the comfort level in a new place. And in terms of the team, I really love the guys and I love the coaching staff. Everyone has been wonderful to us.
Q: Just to circle back for a second, are you 100 percent sure you will on the field for training camp?
A: Am I 100 percent sure? Are you 100 percent sure you’ll be there? (Laughs). I mean, it’s hard to say. I take one day at a time. I am on a great path right now and am getting better every day.
Q: What do you think of Zeitler so far getting to know him as a teammate?
A: He’s excellent. He’s excellent. He’s very professional about the way he goes about his business. He’s a great teammate. He’s always looking out for others. He works incredibly hard and he is very talented and gifted in playing football.
Q: How important is it to have another proven veteran? A guy that has done it for a long period of time and had some success in this league to have that person alongside you on the offensive line.
A: It’s always nice. They brought a couple of those guys in there with some experience under their belt. Guys that know how games go and how to win games because it is difficult in this league. I am certainly glad to have everyone in that locker room and they’re all doing a great job.
Q: I think the perception was that you and Will got better together as the season went along last year. How much more can you guys grow?
A: I think they always say from your first to your second year is the biggest step in improvement. I have seen a lot of improvement throughout our whole group, so maybe you can characterize not just a person, but the whole group from one year to two years and maybe a big improvement. Certainly our expectations are sky high.
Q: How did your transition go last year after having been in one system for several years?
A: I think the opportunity was so amazing. My family did it because we believed that God was up to something and he had a purpose in us being here. We still strongly believe that. It was certainly difficult. It was not easy, but we anticipated that. We are building strategies to combat that and work at that and get better and have a better year this year than we did last year.
Q: What were your feelings watching the Super Bowl?
A: We were excited for them. A lot of my friends are on that team and they did a great job. I was very proud of them.
Q: What are your impressions of Daniel Jones?
A: Nice guy. Met him in the hallway and had a little conversation about Duke. I wish I could’ve gotten into Duke, but he’s a nice guy.
Q: Nate, did you learn anything from last year’s offensive line? Obviously, it was a bunch of new guys, yourself included, and the first seven or eight games didn’t go well. Did you learn anything from that experience that you guys are going to do something different this offseason as an offensive line.
A: (Laughs). I understand your question. Like ‘are you going to be better this year than you were last year?’ (Laughs). Well, yes, we learned a lot and are certainly working hard to be the best that we can be. Our expectations of how we are going to perform and all of those things are really high.
Q: How do you think you did last year? From start to finish.
A: One of my hardest critics is myself. I am always hard on myself. I work hard to improve those things. I know that there is a ton that I need to work at. There is a ton throughout my entire career that I haven’t been as good as I would like to be. I am going to continue to work on those things so that I can be the best that I can be.
Q: (Signing here a as free agent, did that add something? Pressure? Urgency? Do you feel looking back, maybe you pressed a little bit or tried to do too much?
A: That’s a great question. I haven’t evaluated that yet, so I don’t know exactly. I think that I have always been under a lot of pressure with high expectations. I embrace that and I know what it is and that’s okay.
Cornerback Deandre Baker
Q: How valuable has this week’s minicamp been to you?
A: “It’s been good – being around the older guys, teaching me different ways to get better. Older guys in the room like (CB Janoris Jenkins) Jackrabbit, (S Michael) Mike Thomas – those guys helping me getting plays right and everything like that. It’s been good.”
Q: What specifically are you focusing on this week?
A: “Just getting the plays down pat.”
Q: Typically, bigger guys can’t wait until they get their pads on to start hitting. As a cornerback, do you feel the same way?
A: “No, we want the pads on so we can tackle, get real physical.”
Q: Some cornerbacks are physical and some aren’t.
A: “I love the pads.”
Q: Are defensive backs at a disadvantage when you can’t quite get up?
A: “Definitely, because if the receiver gets a free release without pressing, it’s kind of hard. It makes you better with your different techniques. So, it’s good.”
Q: Do you focus on different parts of your technique in minicamp than in training camp?
A: “You can’t really get your hands on them in minicamp. So, it’s all off-coverage and mirroring the guy, and getting your feet better. That’s all you can do right now.”
Q: Do you think that we won’t see what you’re really capable of until you get the pads on?
A: “You can see what I can do with mirroring and off-coverage right now, but we can’t see any press right now because we’re not in pads.”
Q: That’s a big part of your game, right?
A: “Yes, sir.”
Q: So, that’s still to come?
A: “Yes, that’s still to come.”
Q: What’s it been like for you against the offense?
A: “It’s been good. We’ve been out there competing every day. We see who’s on the offensive side. We’ve been competing. They won some battles, I won some battles. It’s been good just to compete. It’s a good atmosphere – the DBs versus the wide receivers.”
Q: You’re out there with mostly veteran and experienced guys. How’s that working out? Do you guys help each other?
A: “Of course, we help each other. We got a couple of old guys in the room with a ton of experience that will help us. They got a lot of old guys in their room, too. It’s still football at the end of the day. Go out there and compete.”
Q: The Giants traded up into the first-round to get you. Does the first-round status play in your head? Is it important?
A: “No, it’s not important. That’s behind me. I was just drafted. Now, I’m here with the team. I’m just doing whatever it takes to win. Whatever my coach needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to focus on right now.”
Q: You were very close to being a second-round pick. Are there certain expectations to live up to being drafted in the first-round?
A: “Of course – when you’re a first-rounder, they expect a lot of production out of you. They expect the best out of everybody they draft, whether it’s first (round), third (round), seventh (round), we all got drafted.”
Q: Is this the first week you were working with the starters?
A: “I’ve been with the one’s and two’s back and forth. Wherever coach needs me at, I just go there. Whatever he needs with the team, with the defense.”
Q: Is that an interesting scenario for you? Someone who’s started since his sophomore year of college, now you’re sitting back watching that first group. Did you gain a different perspective during OTAs when you were waiting your turn?
A: “I was just taking mental reps from the old guys, seeing the things that they did wrong, seeing the things that they did good to help my game. It played a good role. It was valuable to me just to sit back and watch them and go put in my game.”
Q: Do you think that was a conscious decision by the coaches to give you a little bit of time to earn that spot?
A: “I’m not sure, I don’t know. I can’t call it.”
Q: Do you see any reason why you can’t play a lot with the starters?
A: “It’s up to the coaches. I just go out there and work every day, give it my all, and compete. That’s left in the coaches’ hands.”
Q: Do you see any reason physically, though, testing yourself against these receivers?
A: “No sir, no sir.”
Q: Do you have a better grasp of how they want to use you in this defense?
A: “I’m not sure right now. We haven’t gone over any game plans or things like that. I just know they want me to produce. Whatever spot they need me at, I’m versatile and can do it.”