Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Wednesday. Training camp. So I will try to take your questions. I had to be reminded (what day it is). You start to lose track a little bit. I'll try to answer your questions.
Q: What's the benefit of having Sterling (Shepard) out there running through team drills?
A: All of the physical things that go with playing football. I think it's a good thing that he's out there. He can catch the ball with one hand. The yellow jersey means don't throw it to him. It also means on defense, don't hit him. I think that part is good. You've got to practice football. It's something that him being out there is a good thing. It also shows it's a thumb. We'll worry about that as we go.
Q: But there's obviously a risk thing, too, though.
A: Yeah. Any player practicing, there's a little bit of a risk. For anything. That's why we try to be smart. That's why we try to watch the players and see individually where they're at, and then go from there. Because if not, we'd just throw everybody in bubble wrap and we'll see you opening day. We all understand that that's not how we do it. Now the challenge is to be smart. Guys that are dealing with injuries, bring them back at the pace that they can come back. But also, then be able to practice.
Q: It's also him setting an example. He could easily stay inside and use that as an excuse. I would imagine that plays into it as well.
A: Yeah, he wants to be out here. He's a team player. He knows he needs to work. We all do. Ideally, every player practices every day. You can just look at every team throughout the league. There's guys on every team that, for whatever reason, aren't practicing and they'll be back tomorrow, aren't practicing and they'll be back in two days. Then there are guys that are practicing. That's just the nature of training camp because of some of the physicality that goes with it.
Q: With load management, is that something you looked at in the offseason and decided to do more? It seems like you're doing it a little bit more this camp than a year ago.
A: No, it's exactly the same, quite frankly. Our process and what we go through to make sure we're practicing the guys the right amount is the same as last year.
Q: How much of that is based on the previous day's GPS or data?
A: That data is part of the equation.
Q: Looking at Oshane (Ximines) and what he can do to disrupt the quarterback, in terms of the length of a guy to be able to get his hands up and whether he deflects the pass or not or getting into passing lanes, how valuable do you view that?
A: It's important. We've said it before, you want the biggest, most powerful, longest players you can get. He's got some of those attributes. We'll just wait and see how it plays out, but to this point, he's done a good job. The length is important. You saw yesterday he batted down an RPO (run-pass option). He's a good athlete. He was coming around on a stunt earlier in camp and he batted down a down-the-field throw. But with regard to sacks, what you want is pressure on the quarterback and you want to disrupt the quarterback. The sack is the ultimate number we can all measure. But throughout, a good pass rush, if you can disrupt the quarterback and knock him off his spot, make him throw the ball in a way that he doesn't want to, that can be as damaging for an offense as actually sacking the guy.
Q: Cody (Latimer), Bennie (Fowler), and Russell Shepard all kind of come from special teams backgrounds playing wide receiver. Given the turmoil you guys have faced there, how do those guys separate themselves over the next couple of weeks, when the opportunity might present itself at the top of the depth chart?
A: All of those guys are pros. I'm used to seeing wide receivers, you remember the Hank Basketts and the Jason Avants in the early years in Philly. Those guys were going to be on the roster, and they were excellent special teams players. Then they made plays in the passing game as well. It's important that our receivers have an impact on special teams, and those guys certainly do that. That's a good thing.
Q: Considering what you've seen in camp so far, what role do you imagine for (Bennie) Fowler?
A: He's a guy that can play all of the positions. Typically he plays outside, but there are times where he'll be in the slot. He's smart, he has good instincts, he picks things up quickly. You saw we've had some receiver injuries within practice, and he's been able to go from being X to Z and Z to X. That flexibility is important.
Q: Is that what's holding Alonzo Russell back, is special teams? Because it seems like he gets the ball quite a bit when the second team offense is out there.
A: No, I don't think so. He's a young player that's developing and trying to make our team. I don't think there's anything at this point that's holding him back.
Q: With Corey Ballentine, do you see him as an option as a kick returner?
A: Possibly. He's worked at it. We're getting to know him a little bit more as we go through this, as he does more and more, both on defense and on special teams. I think he's got a really bright future, and kick returns could be part of that.
Q: It looks like the last couple of days he's really been kind of finding his way. He's in the right spot a lot of the times. Do you see that?
A: Yeah. I think he's getting better. Yesterday, he made a really nice play on the seam ball. That's what you expect. You get your hands on the ball and finish it like he did. That was excellent. That was a terrific play. And then he had another pass breakup later. So, when you start to see those guys get their hands on balls, and when we watch the tape, they're in the right position. But then early in practice, he gave up a slant. As we go through it, we watch it all and we grade it all. He's definitely, definitely making progress and doing more good things than bad.
Q: What progress have you seen from linebacker Ryan Connelly so far in camp?
A: Quietly improving. Again, the next step for, especially those inside linebackers now, is when we get into the preseason games. But again, he's in the right spot. He has very good instincts. There is not a lot of false movement to his game. There are some really fine, dynamic linebackers that will take two steps in the wrong direction and then still have the skill and ability to get to the play. The thing with Ryan is you don't see a lot of false steps. He maximizes his skill and ability. Again, we're pleased with him as well. We'll just see, as he takes the next step, putting his good work into use in a preseason game, how it plays out.
Q: Could you see him playing next to (Alec) Ogletree, or in place of Ogletree? How does that work?
A: Possibly. He's probably more like Ogletree. But we'll play the best guys, and then you try to throw a net around it the best way you can.
Q: Evan Engram made a terrific catch in yesterday's practice. Is that what you're hoping to see from him this year, in terms of him making plays?
A: Yeah. He has wide receiver traits. He's got playmaking abilities. Certainly, we'd like to see him make as many of those as possible. I think that's an important thing. It was a good play yesterday, yeah.
Q: What did you like about Daniel's (Jones) reaction to the interception yesterday?
A: Well, he was pissed. So yeah, I'm good with that.
Q: Will that put more on watching what he does and how he reacts (to plays like that)?
A: Well no. When we look at that play in total, it was an aggressive throw downfield. That's the thing, when you're grading the quarterback, when non-coaches are grading the quarterback, they look at it one way. I look at it as that was an aggressive throw and you want that. You just maybe want him to put it in a better spot or whatever. Put it just where the defender can't quite get it as well as Corey did. But Corey made a nice play on it. It's aggressive. He took a shot at the end zone. It was a touchdown, a check down mentality. It was an interception. You learn from it and move on.
QB Daniel Jones
Q: You threw an interception yesterday, how did you react to it?
A: I certainly wasn't happy about it. It's going to happen. That's part of playing the game. Corey made a heck of a play there, definitely something to learn for me from that. I can be sooner making that decision, probably put the ball a little higher in the back of the end zone. Definitely not happy about it, but something to learn.
Q: Had you been aware that you hadn't thrown one?
A: I don't know if it was like how you were keeping track. I realized I hadn't thrown one yet, I realize that was my first one. Like I said, there's something to learn from it, but you move on.
Q: You don't know track your completion percentage during practice?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Coach Shurmur said you were pissed. You seem like a pretty easy-going guy. Is that something people don't realize about you, the fire you actually have?
A: I get can fired up on the field. I think usually I have pretty good control of that, I think I do on the field also. I think when something like that happens it's going to get you going a little bit. As long as it doesn't take away from how you are playing and your decision making, I think that's natural.
Q: Dexter Lawrence said yesterday he was trying to bring some trash talk out of you?
A: Dexter's funny, I don't know if we will get into it. He's had a really good camp so far, it's fun watching him play. You can kind of see it when we talk every night, you can tell he's getting more comfortable and figuring out the defense and what they want him to do. It's not fun to play against, but it's fun to watch him and how well he's playing.
Q: Are you much of a trash talker, has it ever been a part of your game?
A: No, not really.
Q: You have had other bad plays during this camp, dropped passes and things like that. That one seemed to stick with you, why?
A: Well, I think just the situation. A turnover in the red zone is a costly mistake and we talk about that a lot, scoring points in the red zone, touchdowns. Making sure we are getting points. Anytime we turn it over in the red zone, that's a costly mistake. I think that had something to do with it. I think in a lot of those situations there is a lot to learn from. That situation right there is the reason for the reaction.
Q: What part of the game has slowed down the most?
A: It's slowed down to some extent. I still think I'm learning a lot, I wouldn't say that in terms of my development or my progress, it's still pretty early in the development. It has slowed down to some extent, maybe that's just the reads and seeing the defense. You know the defense is going to put something in new the next day. I think it's a constant process and learning and adapting and learning on the fly for me right now. Still slowing down.
Q: What do you use as your criteria to judge if you had a good day at practice?
A: I think the biggest thing to me is how we execute as a unit. Getting in and out of checks and understanding what my assignment is and properly executing that. I think execution in a general sense and that's putting the ball accurately when we are throwing, getting the right protection and understanding what Coach Shula, Coach Shurmur, and Coach Roeder want me to do on a play and being able to do that throughout practice.
Q: Shurmur said on your day off you were in the quarterback's room, what did you do?
A: I came in and we prepared with the script for practice yesterday. Kind of a light workout and watched more film and studied more practice. I just felt like I needed to get in the building doing something.
Q: Did Eli say we should all come in, or did you just show up individually?
A: I think we all just kind of showed up at different times.
Q: You've been here for like a week now, what's been the most challenging thing about training camp so far for you as a quarterback, or a rookie quarterback in particular?
A: To me, it's as we've gotten a little bit further into camp, the defense has put in more different looks and a lot of stuff I haven't seen before. You're playing against an NFL defense that can do a lot of different things, so I think it's that. It's seeing and understanding the defense quickly, and kind of letting that lead you into your decision and into your progression. So, I think that to me has been a challenge.
Q: How much does that naturally lead to ups and downs—like certain days might be better than others, and the day you see all this new stuff, the next day you kind of know how to adjust to it?
A: Yeah, they're constantly putting in new stuff and constantly evolving with their installs and everything, but hopefully you can learn from it one day and then see some progress or see some improvement the next day once you've seen it. I think that's kind of—that's a good exercise for me right now in my development.
Q: What has been the biggest revelation for a week playing in the NFL? The whole thing, not just practice, but just the whole experience. What has been the biggest revelation for you?
A: I think I got a sense of it, as far as just the preparation that goes into every practice, I got a sense of that with OTAs and mini-camp. I'd say all of that is just elevated even more with training camp and the time you're spending in the building, and the time you're spending in the meeting room. I'm not sure that's a surprise necessarily, but it is different from in college.
Q: When Eli was a rookie, it was pretty well documented how some veterans, especially on the offensive line, they basically tortured him with pranks. Have you had any experience with that yet? Has anybody sort of been in charge of torturing you?
A: No, I haven't been tortured yet. I had to sing, I had to make sure we had sunflower seeds in the quarterback room, and all that kind of stuff, but I haven't been tortured yet.
Q: Are you going to stay on your toes for that?
A: I'm going to stay on my toes, I'll definitely stay on my toes, but not yet.
Q: How's your singing?
A: Singing's not great. I tried, I put my best foot forward.
Q: What did you sing?
A: So, first time I sang "Wagon Wheel," but that didn't go over great, so I tried "Buy You a Drink" by T-Pain and got a little better response.
Q: You haven't fallen victim yet to Eli's famous pranks?
A: Not quite. We'll see, we've got some time left in training camp, but I'm going to stay on my toes.
Q: From being tortured to having a mentor, and somebody who you have leaned on for a lot of the stuff thus far for just learning some of the nuances of the pro game?
A: Yes, I think Eli's been extremely helpful for me and just being able to watch him prepare, but any questions I've had or any question I've asked, he's been more than helpful with me in answering that. I think whenever anything comes up, it's easy to ask him and get a full explanation. For me, it's been a great way to learn so far.
Q: Do you process or do anything different after a practice when you're unsatisfied, maybe like yesterday versus another day where you feel like you came out and did everything you wanted to?
A: Maybe a little bit, but I think your process needs to stay consistent. I'm still—even on better days, there's still a whole lot to learn for me right now, and I realize that. So, I don't think the process changes too much.
Q: But if you do make a mistake, that's not going to stop you from being aggressive? Do you maintain your aggressiveness if you throw a pick?
A: Yes, I think so. I think you have to, particularly right now, because that's how I'm going to learn and I understand that, but I don't think it can change your decision-making process.
Q: Do you feel like it's getting easier in that regard, just comprehending the whole system and grasping what you're supposed to do?
A: I think maybe in some ways, maybe with the stuff we've had in longer, but I think part of the challenge for me is seeing the defense and understanding the defense. As we're putting in stuff, they're putting in stuff, too, so it's kind of a lot of stuff that I haven't seen before, and for me it takes me a little bit longer to recognize. So, those are things that require more preparation, seeing it more, and learning from them. So, it slows down in some ways, and not as much in other ways, but just trying to learn as much as I can from each look so I can make the progress.
Defensive Backs Coach Everett Withers
Q: How's the group coming together now that they've got some more time under their belt?
A: Good, I think since the springtime the guys have gotten acclimated to each other. Some guys spent some time together this summer working out and doing some things. I think the group is gelling well so far during camp.
Q: It looks like early on there have been some flags, so it's obviously an opportunity to teach. Are they picking up the lessons? Are you seeing fewer flags from them and fewer mistakes in their technique from before?
A: Again, I think just working everyday on techniques and fundamentals, hopefully that goes down as we get further into camp as they get more comfortable with the technique. In the offseason you don't get to play a lot of press, so when you get into training camp and you can, you have to continue to work on your fundamentals and technique. I think the guys are getting better at it and hopefully that will diminish some of the flags.
Q: How has Julian Love handled bouncing around between safety, corner, and nickel? What have you seen in his growth?
A: He's done really well. He's a sharp kid, he has a lot of spatial awareness, he understands football, (and he has) a really good football IQ. We kind of told him again in the rookie portion of training camp that we were going to give him some reps at safety more, and he embraced it and he's done well. I think he's done well at both spots.
Q: Where does Sean Chandler stand? It seems like before yesterday he was a little bit further down on the depth chart:
A: He's doing well. He's in the mix, (and) he's working hard. Obviously not having much of an offseason with the injury, he's just trying to work his way back in. We just really started to up his reps this week, so as he continues to improve physically, I expect to see him get more reps.
Q: What about Corey Ballentine? Coming from a small school, he probably had a larger learning curve, then the unfortunate incident setting him back. Have you been pleased with what you've seen from him?
A: Yeah, I have. I have been very pleased. Corey is a very eager young man to learn technique and fundamentals. He's worked his tail off this offseason. He texted me probably four or five times a week during the summer about questions on coverages, so that's what you like about him. He's got some physical tools that God gave him, so now it's just a matter of putting that all together. He's done well the past few days of practice.
Q: How do you make up for the lack of game reps the cornerbacks have? (Janoris) Jenkins is really the only one who has ever played in an NFL football game, so how do you make up for that? Can you?
A: I think more of what you do is get as much live action as you can out here, put as much pressure on them out here as possible as far as making plays in more situations, understanding down and distance, and putting them in as many of those situations as you can right now.
Q: What's your confidence like in (DeAndre) Baker? It looks like he's going to be out there starting Week One.
A: He's done well so far during camp, and hopefully he continues to improve. As he improves, his confidence level will continue to get stronger. Hopefully by the time we get to preseason game one, he feels really comfortable in what he's doing – and we will, too. We do now, because we've got him out there right now.
Q: As a defensive backs coach, but also as a former head coach, what do you think of challenging pass interference calls now?
Q: Is it good for football?
A: I don't know, I'm anxious to see it. I don't know, to be honest with you. I'm anxious to see what it looks like during the preseason and maybe I'll have an opinion after that.
Q: Does replay slow it down?
A: I think anytime you have stoppage of play, you know (it does).
Q: I mean the play. I feel like sometimes they zoom it in…
A: I don't know, I'm just anxious to see it when it happens.
Q: Head Coach (Shurmur) once told me that his ideal secondary would include four cornerbacks, as they are better athletes. Do you agree with that?
A: That's a good philosophy. In college football the game is like this, but in the NFL it's not so much like that. You still have to be able to stop the runs, so you better have safeties who can insert, tackle, and do those things. Your safety position, probably, is more athletic than it's been in years past. You don't have big 6-4, 240-pound safeties anymore, you have to be able to cover. You have to be able to cover, and you have to be able to fit the run.
Q: How has Janoris embraced the leadership responsibilities you guys are putting on him?
A: I think he's done really well. I think he's done well since we got back from the offseason, and really taking the young guys and trying to help with mentoring them— not just in practice or in meetings, but off the field. I think he has embraced it, and it's been something that's been good for him, not only him but for our players, too, and the young kids, too.
Q: Is it more difficult to put a group together like this when you have so many guys that haven't taken any NFL snaps?
A: I don't know if it's difficult. There are some challenges because you have so much youth, but I also believe it's a clean slate, too, so what they learn, they learn together as a new group. They're not bringing a whole bunch of things in from other places, so they learn together as a new group and I think that has some benefit to it.