Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: I don’t really have much to lead with, so I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Fire away.
Q: Was that a challenge period there at the end on the goal line?
A: No. It was just part of team work. We did the same thing yesterday, I just did it in the red zone (today). I did two’s on two’s, three’s on three’s. That’s it.
Q: I didn’t see Michael Thomas out there. I was just curious…
A: He’s involved with some league business. Excused, by the way.
Q: Daniel (Jones) always looks really good in practice, but it seems like he has raised his play to a higher level in the games. When you evaluate players, do you factor in that some guys are better when the lights are on?
A: Yeah. That’s a good thing, obviously. We want to make sure they perform well in games. Period. There are some guys that, through the years I’ve been around, that are just absolutely horrible practice players, but they can turn it on for the game. You’re certainly looking for consistency. You sleep better at night when the guy practices well. That’s just part of it, I guess. At the end of the day, you want him to play well in games.
Q: We hadn’t seen (DeAndre) Baker the last couple of practices before today.
A: He’s been doing individual (drills). We’re going to move him back in there as quickly as we can. So yeah, it’s good to have him back out there.
Q: What have you seen from some of the guys that have been bumped up? I know (Corey) Ballentine took some first team reps, and Antonio Hamilton before the groin injury. How valuable was that time for them, and what did you see from them?
A: I think very valuable. Again, we get to evaluate them in game settings. They’re finding a way to make plays, getting around the ball, becoming more and more comfortable within the scheme. We can see, I don’t know if it’s obvious with the naked eye, that when we play a certain defense Week 1, we play that same defense Week 2. Even though there may not be any action his way, you can see his movements are a little bit more fluid, he’s a little closer to where he needs to be, he’s in position to make a play if it comes that way. That’s the benefit of young players playing, is we get to see them do that. There are times when there is no action, but you still need to be in the right spot. You see some of these guys that are getting more reps than they maybe would have if the guys in front of them were healthy making progress in those ways.
Q: Besides Evan (Engram) staying healthy, which is obviously a big thing for him, what on-field progress have you noticed over the past year?
A: I think he’s more comfortable. He probably goes in the Eli (Manning) category. He’s more comfortable with what we want to do. We’ve really defined how we want to use him as a coaching staff. Those are probably the two main areas.
Q: Does that take a year? Did you have to get to know him and his skillset to define that role?
A: No, I think we had a feeling last year. But he was kind of hindered by his injuries. There’s not a real process of that when you’re in the lineup, out of the lineup, in the lineup, and then out of the lineup. We’re obviously starting much further ahead than where we were a year ago.
Q: A year ago at this time, he took a lot of knocks from the outside for his blocking. When he did play last year, was he a much-improved blocker?
A: I think so. Yeah, I think he improved his game in all areas. That just comes with learning a new system and obviously getting comfortable with what we’re doing.
Q: The decision not to play him in the preseason, was that simply because he was hurt part of the time last year and you want to keep him healthy?
A: No, it’s just my call. There are things you’re looking for from your team (in the preseason), but we’re always keeping in mind what’s important for the individual as he gets himself ready to play within the team concept. So, that’s my call.
Q: You’re calling plays this week. You’ll be going against a guy who was on your staff last year in Lou (Anarumo). I know it’s not necessarily about winning the game, but for evaluation purposes, does that present an issue? He knows your playbook from last year.
A: Not really. I would say this, and this will be the case… None of us have only coached in one spot. I was talking to my wife last night. We’ve lived in nine houses in seven states. You coach on a lot of teams, so you coach with a lot of guys. You all end up in other places. Nine times out of ten, when you go somewhere and say, ‘I know this guy,’ it screws you up. I really believe that. That’s not the deal. It’s going to be the Bengals playing the Giants, and we just happen to be coaching on opposite sides. It’s obviously a preseason game, so we’re all not showing our hand yet. Lou’s doing a great job. I like what they’re doing on defense. He was a really valued member of our staff when he was here, and I look forward to seeing him before the game.
Q: The other day, you mentioned Chad Slade as a backup offensive lineman that kind of jumped out at you. What do you like about him?
A: I think he’s been very competitive and very multiple. He’s played stretches at right tackle and left tackle, back and forth. In the event he makes our team and he’s not a starter, that’s going to be an important component to his game, being able to be multiple. He competes and he’s out there. When he’s out there and he’s competing and he’s doing a lot more good things than bad things, then we start to depend on him. That’s when we start to like a guy, and that’s certainly where we’re at with him.
Q: When you look at how the roster is going to be composed, does (Eli) Penny get lumped in with all of the running backs, or is he sort of his own category?
A: If you ask him, he’ll tell you that he’s a converted halfback. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. He’s fond of that. He’s a fullback. But the one thing about him is that if we have a dire situation, he can go in there and run the football. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. I’m very fond of him because he’s one of the people in this building that, in my opinion, has never had a bad day. He’s smiling. He may have had a bad play or a bad meal, but he’s never had a bad day. He’s a little bit of an inspiration to me because he just keeps going. He loves the game and he keeps playing. He’s done some good stuff for us.
Q: We know the experience factor with Antoine (Bethea). From a football perspective, how different does he make you guys on the back end this year, as opposed to what you had there last year?
A: Well, the veteran component is huge because he’s steady, experienced, and he’s obviously seen a lot of things. If you have a guy in the back end that’s been there, done that and is confident and experienced, I think that’s good for your defense. If an offense shows us something that we haven’t seen, he’ll be able to help us adjust. He’s been with (defensive coordinator James Bettcher) Bettch in the past, so there’s some familiarity there. I really believe safeties come in pairs, and I think he and Jabrill (Peppers) are working well together. There’s probably a long list of things, but just a stream of thought. That’s what comes to mind.
Q: It seems like the last few practices have leaned a little more towards the one’s, the starters, getting the work. Will that impact playing time on Thursday night?
A: I don’t know. Generally speaking, I see us playing the game a lot like we did the first two. I still think we’ve got some guys that are in the second and third group that we have to see. We have to see them play. You’ll see the one’s a little bit, too. Maybe more than a little bit. In terms of practice, this is a good little stretch here. We had the game on Friday. We were off Saturday. Yesterday was a very physical, hot practice. We took advantage of the heat today. We did some good situational work that was very physical in the heat. These two practices are very, very important. Just in the big picture, getting ultimately 53 guys ready to play day one. That won’t have as much of a bearing on what I do Thursday night, as it’s just an important thing to do this time of camp.
Q: Have you decided about whether Saquon (Barkley) will play in any of the two remaining preseason games?
A: I’ll let it reveal itself. You’re the third person this week that’s asked me that question, so it wouldn’t be fair to the first two.
Q: How are the guys handling the heat, and what advantages do you think it brings to work in the heat like this?
A: The advantages are there is extra conditioning and the pressure that you put on your body dealing with the heat. We’re going to play some hot games early in the year. I know we’re inside against Dallas, but early in the year, we’re going to play in Tampa. God only knows what the weather is like around here. It could be 90 (degrees) one day, 40 the next. We could get rain, snow, sleet. I think it’s important, especially for the first five or six weeks, to have had some heat conditioning. That’s why this was a little blessing for us, this kind of extreme heat the last two days. The guys handled it pretty well.
Q: Tae Davis?
A: He was a little under the weather today. He’s fine.
TE Evan Engram
Q: How have you been dealing with the inactivity on gameday so far?
A: Yeah, it’s been a little different (than) the past two years. Usually I get some time, but I’m trying to do my part preparing mentally, (and) preparing physically each and every week like I am playing. I’m going through all of the motions and treating it as if I am playing. That’s probably the most important thing, is being mentally prepared. I’m trying to put myself in those situations.
Q: It seems like even going back to the spring they’ve been pretty cautious with you. Is that something they spoke to you about? Obviously, you are an important part of the team.
A: Yeah, it’s just being smart. Obviously, I have to do my part as well. Taking care of my body and making sure I’m healthy and doing everything in my part. They are kind of easing me into things and allowing me to work up to the heavy workloads.
Q: Are you frustrated about that or do you see that as a badge of honor, them saying, ‘we know what you got, and you don’t have to play in the preseason?’
A: I come into work each and every day ready to prove myself. I’m trying to make this team like everybody else. Like I said, it’s being smart and being cautious with things, but also, it’s more on my part to prepare mentally, prepare physically, and come out here and compete with the rest of the guys.
Q: You’ve been in the league a few years. Can you quantify what preseason snaps are in terms of value at all?
A: It’s football. Like I said, you have guys out here who are trying to make the team and trying to make a career of being on the field. You have guys out there fighting just as much as they are going to be fighting in Week One, Week Two, and the regular season. It’s a lot more guys, (and) a lot more guys getting opportunities. It’s definitely a really important part of getting mentally prepared, especially with week one getting closer each day. It’s important. Preseason is important. People think it’s just scrimmaging and it doesn’t matter— but there are a lot of guys that have a lot on the line that we have to work with and help put into positions to make plays and do well and give them the best shot.
Q: You always talk about working on your blocking. In what ways do you feel you have developed from a year ago to today?
A: It’s crazy. It’s crazy how much better I have gotten at the blocking game. Credit to (Tight Ends Coach) Coach Wells and my teammates. I was talking with one of my family members about how my blocking game has evolved playing with Rhett (Ellison). Watching him each and every day, and working alongside him, it’s added a lot to my plate in the blocking game. With the steps, it’s the small details. I’ve always kind of had the punch, I’ve always had the heart to get in there and fight, but it’s been a lot of details. I really feel like I’ve taken my game to another level in that aspect, just through the coaching and playing with the guys.
Q: Coach Shurmur said it feels like you have a more defined role this season than last year in the offense. Do you feel that?
A: You guys ask that question a lot. Everybody has a lot on their plate, everybody is going to get a bigger opportunity this year within the offense. Like I said, it’s my part, it’s my job to come here each and every day to get ready for when those times come and when my number is called. I think the tight ends alone have a lot on their plate within this offense. We have a lot to learn and we have a lot to know. We’re going to have a lot of opportunity to make plays and make this offense a lot better.
Q: When you were drafted, there were a lot of people who said this guy is the next (Mark) Bavaro, the next (Jeremy) Shockey, the next whatever? Do you feel like you’re getting closer to becoming that guy? The guy who can hit the seam and go deep and things like that?
A: I love those guys, and I love being compared to those guys. I’ve seen film and I’ve watched all the greats, and I have definitely learned a lot. I come up here each and every day to be the best Evan Engram I can be. As long as I take care of my body, as long as I get in the playbook, as long as I watch film and put the work in on the field, when the opportunity comes to make those plays, I’ll be getting comparisons, people will be comparing people to me. It’s a mindset to come in here and be the best that I can be, and that’s going to help my team be the best team it can be. At the end of the day, it’s football, and me putting the work in and making plays when they come.
Q: What’s it been like working with Eli so far at camp?
A: Eli’s been really great. He’s been spinning the ball around, the protection has been really well, he’s been making the reads, picking up the blitz—it’s what Eli does. I think he’s had a great offseason, a great camp, and he’s going to go into the season with a lot more momentum.
Q: Coach said there are a lot of advantages to working in the heat getting ready for the beginning of the season and playing in some hot games. How do you feel about that?
A: It’s a mindset. It’s a tough mindset. It can beat you before you even step outside, or you can embrace it and come out there and put the work in. I think it’s good we are getting outside. I think it’s good that it’s hot and humid. We’re getting out there early, putting the work in with the sun, and it’s going to build us for the season.
LB Alec Ogletree
Q: How do you feel?
A: I feel pretty good, it’s been a good training camp for us and I think we are on the right steps to where we want to be as a defense and as a team. You know I got a few more weeks left of training camp and then into the season and hopefully we can finish strong and start the season off well.
Q: Is the defense coming along as you expected?
A: We are and like I said, you can’t just talk about it, you have to go out there and do it each and every day. Like I’ve said, we continue to grow as a defense and get better at communication and everybody is coming together really well.
Q: How’s your calf coming along?
A: It’s been good; it’s been feeling better for sure.
Q: You have to get that new number out in the game now?
A: I was out there the first game with the new number. When it counts when we play Dallas, that’ll be the real test, for sure.
Q: You’ll be ready for that one?
Q: We probably won’t see you until then?
A: I don’t know. It’s up to coach.
Q: When (Jake) Carlock got that interception return in number 52--
A: Really happy, I was happy for him.
Q: Was it the number, though? You had 5 interceptions in that number last year.
A: It’s part the number, but also you have to have some skill. He was able to tip the ball up to himself and he was able to just take it to the house. He had a lot of swag there when he did it.
Q: So, no regrets?
A: No regrets, no regrets. I’m extremely happy for him, glad he represented the number really well and more power to him.
Q: What did you notice when watching the film on the 2 touchdown drives (actually touchdown and field goal) with first team defense?
A: I think the first one, we should’ve gotten the pick, then we didn’t get the pick and kind of extended the drive and we missed some open field tackles and guys kind of got out of position. It could’ve been first game jitters or whatever, but I feel like we communicated really well the next few times we went out there. The first drive, it was pass and we didn’t give up a touchdown, did we? It was a field goal, yeah. I mean we had a penalty that extended the drive, so you can’t do that, but overall I thought they played well. We handled the sudden change real well and returned the ball on offense and defense went out there and got three and out, made them back up and they missed a field goal, so we made a lot of good strides and being able to go out there and continue to play even when something doesn’t go our way.
Q: Which of the defensive rookies is furthest along and how much does that surprise you?
A: They’re all kind of right around the same area. Some guys get more reps and then others like Dexter (Lawrence II) has been running with the 1’s and stuff. So you can see how he would grow and improve.
Q: What do you think of Evan Engram so far in camp?
A: He’s done well. I felt like he’s gotten even smoother with his routes and getting open more and catching the ball and making those plays in camp and he’s got a good relationship with the quarterback in camp and tight ends, so it shows.
Q: Have you noticed anything about his blocking?
A: Yeah, I mean I haven’t really dived into it yet, but some of the runs they get, I do see him actually trying really hard to get in there and he’s doing his job and that’s what you want out of your tight end and out of anybody, for them to do their job when they’re called upon.
Q: In the preseason, much of what the defense runs is vanilla. When the regular season starts, how much more can you show?
A: When the regular season starts, the playbook is pretty much wide open. Depending on your defensive coordinator, and offensive coordinator, some I have been a part of where basically what we ran in preseason is the same thing we ran during the year. You also have where you run certain stuff in the preseason and you may or may not run it again in the regular season. Just depends on the type of guys you have there and their abilities. It’s just about winning your matchups. The preseason, like you said, both sides are pretty vanilla in what they do and don’t show a lot, but when the season opens up, that’s when you get the full force.
Q: What would you say we are seeing right now, 10 percent, 20 percent of what you guys do?
A: I couldn’t really put a number on it. We aren’t going out there and running our whole (scheme). We aren’t game planning against a team. Certain weeks you have certain stuff that you do, and that determines how much you put in this week and how much you don’t. Right now, we are pretty generic in what we do as far as playing our base coverages that we will use during the season as well.
Q: It seems like everyone is like that?
A: It’s pretty much throughout the league. You are going to see two high, you are going to see one high. That’s going to be all you are going to see pretty much.
Q: Is it important to see your entire first team defense in the preseason?
A: I think we get great reps out here at practice. We take pride in making sure we are communicating well and also communicating in the classroom as well about certain stuff that we see. It’s about making it into the season and being as healthy as you can to sustain throughout the whole year, because it’s a long season. It’s also good to get those reps and some teams do it during the preseason games, but some don’t. We are kind of in between that, we haven’t had everybody out there on the field at the same time mostly. I think during practice we get really good reps and do our best.
Q: Where have you seen Ximines take the biggest step since he has been here, what did you think of him throwing up the X after his sack?
A: The X-man has made great strides for this defense. There is a reason why we drafted him, he is able to get to the quarterback, like you said. When he got to the quarterback he threw up his X. and hopefully we will see a lot of that this year.
Q: Did you drop weight?
A: Do I look good? Thank you. I’ve been working hard, I kind of changed my diet a little bit and tried to eat a lot cleaner than what I was used to doing. Also, still make sure I get the right meals in, the right work done.
Q: How much did you drop?
A: Probably about 10 pounds
Q: Is your body fat percentage down?
Q: From what to what?
A: From halfway to down
Q: Do you feel like you needed to be lighter?
A: This game is a fast-paced game. The guys that they bring in now are not your 250s or 240s. They are 225 and 230 at the most playing linebacker. You have to be able to move and cover ground at a fast speed and make plays. For me, still doing the same thing, if you get lighter, you can be a little bit faster than what you were. That’s my thinking behind that.
Q: Do you feel faster?
A: I feel like I can definitely still run. I just have to do what the coaches ask me to do. Half of the game is being able to run and chase down tackles or cover out in space and stuff like that.
Q: How do you feel practicing in the heat?
A: It’s tough, it’s not easy. If you have the right mindset to make sure you get your work done, it can be an advantage for you because you don’t let the elements affect you and what you do. For us, practicing in the heat is definitely good. We are going to have a couple of hot games when we go to Tampa and something like that. It’s probably hotter down there than it is here. It gives us a little bit of preparation about being in the heat like that and pushing through.