Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: We had our first morning session, which is good. You play at 1, you play at 4, you play at 7, so you've got to get used to practicing at all different times. Partly the reason we practice in the afternoon for the first couple of weeks is so we can do the installations, the walkthroughs, and then the practice. Now that most of the installations are in, we'll go back and flip the script and practice in the morning. I thought it was good. I thought they ground through it pretty well today. They fought through it. They'll get used to practicing this way now until the end of camp. With that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Corey Ballentine seems to have made his mark early in camp. What is it about him that has impressed you guys? He's gotten a lot of opportunities.
A: He is getting a lot of opportunities, and I think he's made steady improvement since the spring. It took him a little while to get going because of the accident he was involved with. But he's made steady improvement. He's a very competitive guy, he gets his hands on balls, he has good instincts, he's working as a returner, and we feel like he's getting a little bit better every day.
Q: We've talked a lot about guys coming from a small program. What is it about his position that allows that jump to be made from Division II to the NFL?
A: You make a good point. A small college quarterback, there's so much on the plate for the quarterback. Not that there's not a lot on your plate when you play corner, but some of the natural things about playing the position can show up quicker. I think he's made some really good strides because of that.
Q: One of the reasons he's getting so many opportunities is because Sam Beal is out. With Beal missing all of last year, how valuable is the time that he's missing right now? Does he need to be on the field this preseason in the games?
A: Certainly, it's always better to practice than not. His challenge right now is to get himself healthy so that he can get back out there. It's unfortunate that he's missing time, but when he gets back out there, he'll just have to catch up quickly.
Q: How does (Jon) Halapio look to you this summer? Has there been any drop-off or catch up with him?
A: No. I think he sort of caught up in the spring. He looks good. He's playing hard and playing well. We like what he's doing at center, as well as Spencer (Pulley). They're both doing a good job.
Q: Has Halapio solidified that starting job?
A: I think he's done a good job to get maybe the first look. But I feel just as comfortable playing Spencer as I do Pio. I think they're two very good players. Spencer played at the end of the year and did a really nice job. I think in our scenario, we're fortunate that we have two guys that can snap the ball.
Q: Do you find yourself looking at the centers and maybe gravitating to them a little more given your background?
A: I do. I sort of gravitate towards the guys that direct things. So I sort of watch that, whether it be the centers or the quarterbacks. You have to have strength and mental strength through the middle. I think those guys do a good job with it. There are times when I think I see something and they see it differently, and sometimes they're right. I think it's good. That's part of this training camp setting, too, is getting as many pressure looks as you can, as many different fronts. You try things out on defense. We had some B-level plays that we tried to run today to see if they can become A-level plays for us. That's part of it. Along the way, everyone learns to react. I think our centers have done a good job of directing us to this point.
Q: To go back to Halapio for a second, given how well he's played so far this summer, in your mind, is it almost hard to remember how serious his injury was?
A: I try to forget the seriousness of guys' injuries. Unfortunately, he got rolled up, which happens a lot to guys. Unfortunately, he missed (the season) but we're moving on.
Q: How much does him being a more powerful guy, a bigger, stronger guy, work towards his advantage and fit with what you guys are trying to do? It seems like that's sort of the offensive line that you're trying to build.
A: This is a big man's game. Bigger is always better. But you have to be smart and do all of the other things that are necessary to play the position. Yeah, if he can carry the weight and play at a high level, that's a good thing.
Q: How do you see DeAndre Baker's confidence sort of manifest itself on the field? People talk about players being confident, but from an actual playing standpoint, how do you see that with him?
A: I think he's getting more and more confident within the system. The next phase is when we start playing the games Thursday, out there against another opponent. Then we'll see if he can take the next step. He's a confident guy in general, which is part of his charm. But he's starting to get more and more comfortable playing the position, so it shows up a little more.
Q: It seems like C.J. Conrad has gotten a lot of reps. Is that because you know what to expect from (Rhett) Ellison, (Scott) Simonson and Evan (Engram)?
A: Yeah, I mean they need their work and they're getting their work. But he's a guy that we need to develop, and younger guys can take those reps. They're so valuable for young players. We talk about Beal being out and Ballentine getting his reps. The young players getting reps, it helps push them along in terms of their development. He's done a good job with them. I mentioned… We talked about him a couple days ago. He's tough, he's competitive, he catches the ball when you throw it to him. He's got good traits, now he just needs to develop.
Q: What did you see from (Joey) Alfieri maybe in his college film before you guys claimed him over the weekend, and what do you think he can bring to your linebacker corps?
A: We liked him as a college player, and certainly when he was available. He's an edge linebacker for us, a guy that we were looking for. He went to Philly, and they're more of a four-man front. Maybe not quite a fit for them, but a guy that might be a little bit better fit for us. We liked him in college. He was available, and with some of the time that some of our guys are missing during training camp, it would be a good way for him to get in, get some reps and get evaluated.
Q: You're a few days out from your first preseason game. How anxious are you to see what the team looks like against someone else?
A: I want to see us compete against another team. I understand it's the first preseason game. Yeah, I'm anxious to see our group. I feel like we're improved, and it would be good to see them play well on Thursday.
Q: Any update on (Brian) Mihalik?
A: Yeah, I think he got a burner. I don't know much more until I go in there. It seemed to be settling down as he got away from it.
Q: Do you see (Cody) Latimer as a focused guy with almost an obsession to get back after what transpired last year? What have you seen from him thus far?
A: He's a pro, and he's working hard. We can play him at all of the positions. He's kind of a veteran, steady presence, and he is working really hard. He wants to be a part of this team very badly and he's trying to improve each day.
Q: What's the point in having Sterling Shepard wear a yellow jersey if he's going to be thrown the ball in traffic and be hit from behind by a cornerback?
A: Well, there are times where people don't do it exactly the way we want it. So, then you correct them. The fact that he's wearing a yellow jersey, you should be alerted to the fact that you don't touch him. To this point, there have been a couple of times that he got touched. He's fine.
Q: Is there an upside to throwing to him if you know that he can't catch?
A: Yeah, the one-handed catches. There is an upside. He's out there running routes. I think because of what it takes to play receiver, he's able to do those things. Anytime we're practicing, we have to be smart. That's the fine line between trying to get your work and being smart so that we can all make it to game day. I can understand the questions there. We just try to continue to be smart with everything we do.
Q: I think that's the first time we've seen (Aldrick) Rosas on the main field during practice, in live action during practice. Is that a long time to wait for him, and is that because he's much more of a sure thing this year than last year?
A: No. We do our live kicking before you guys arrive. So no, that's definitely not the first time he's been out there. Unfortunately, it's the first time that you guys have seen it. No, it's not too late to wait, because we've been kicking live all through (camp).
Q: Since we don't see it-
A: He's been kicking great. He's been kicking great. I'm not trying to be funny here. No, that's not the first time that he's been out there live. Yes, he's been kicking very well.
Q: How would you assess (Paul) Perkins' camp?
A: He's doing a good job. Again, the next phase of this is to see him now in game action. I think that's where all of those guys are that we're trying to get evaluated, to see how 2, 3, 4, 5 stack up. That can be said about a lot of groups. Now they're pretty much in shape and ready to compete for a portion of a game. Now they need to go out and we need to see how they respond.
Q: Will you have Golden (Tate) with you tomorrow? I think tomorrow is his appeal. Will he be in the city?
A: Yeah, he's going to go to the city tomorrow at some point during the day.
Q: After practice?
A: Yeah, it'll be after practice. He may have to leave practice a little early, but it's kind of an important thing that he needs to go do.
LG Will Hernandez
Q: Question about the shooting in El Paso?
A: I started to see pictures of all these articles and the news coming out. The first thing I did was I contacted all my close friends back in El Paso; everybody was fine thankfully. It's still something horrible and I can't imagine what some of the families living there or some of the affected, or people that knew the affected are going through right now. Even though I'm here in New York, I quickly sent out prayers, my love out to the city. That city is really important to me. I basically grew up there, I got there when I was 17 years old, left, and I was there for five or six years. It's really, really important to me, I love all the people in El Paso. It gave me so much, it put me on the path that led me to the NFL. El Paso is very dear to my heart and I felt that even being here.
Q: Is it one of those things where you think you will keep checking in with the community, to see what is going on?
A: Yeah, I will be in constant communication with everybody there making sure everybody is alright, seeing how I can help if there is any way I can help. Right now, all I can do is give my condolences, talk to the people. I know the people of El Paso, I know the character they have, they are strong people. They are not the type to let something like that completely tear them down, they are strong people. I know they will rally, and they will get through this, they will get stronger from this.
Q: Talk about the meaning of the ties between the college (UTEP) and the community?
A: The cool thing about El Paso, the unique thing about it, it's technically a big city, but it feels so close together. It feels like a small town almost because UTEP is the only football there. Everybody from 45 minutes away to the stadium, to people living right around the stadium, everybody comes to the game. A lot of people come to the games, a lot of people support the UTEP Miners. It gives it that small town feeling in a big city.
Q: Is that one of those things where you hear about it and you think how can that happen in my community?
A: Yeah, just anywhere, it could have happened anywhere, and I would have been like, 'why did this happen? Why does this have to happen?' It's a horrible thing that nobody even thinks about. Nobody anticipates that or anything like that.
Q: Did you immediately check in with people back there when you saw the news?
A: Yeah, as soon as I saw and heard about it, I quickly messaged and called a lot of people that I know there from different areas of the city to make sure everybody is alright. I asked for other people and I made sure everyone was alright. I needed to make sure everyone was alright.
Q: You have spoken a lot about your heritage, to know that that was seemingly the root of all this, how does that make you feel?
A: This is just something, it doesn't matter how or why they are doing this, it happened. The intentions, honestly, I couldn't care less. The thing I do care about is all those families that were affected, all the people that were affected by this. That's what I really care about, how much people are hurting.
DL Dalvin Tomlinson
Q: Are you anxious to actually hit someone in a game for the first time in a while on Thursday?
A: Most definitely, because you know in training camp you get tired of going against your teammates and you just want to see a different face across from you.
Q: What has it been like going against this new offensive line with some more veterans like (Kevin) Zeitler out there? What have you seen from that group, going against them in practice?
A: It's good, They're coming together pretty well, the unity they show on the offensive line is tremendous right now, and I feel like they're getting better and better every day.
Q: How unique is watching Dexter Lawrence II go about what he does with his size?
A: It's super unique, just to be that big and that athletic is amazing to see when you're playing right beside him.
Q: Did he surprise you how well he could move?
A: Oh, most definitely.
Q: Have you seen anybody that kind of size move that well?
A: I've never seen anybody near as big move that well.
Q: What's different about this defense for you this year?
A: Just the brotherhood and comradery of the defense we have right now is just crazy. The unity and the energy we bring to the field and coming out of the locker room each and every day.
Q: Was it not at that level last year?
A: It was, but I just feel like just coming into this year we have a lot of guys who are super hungry right now and we just want to prove how good of a defense we could be.
Q: Are you looking forward to seeing the Jets?
A: Yeah, I'm always looking forward to the preseason game against the Jets and just to get to see somebody else. I like going against a different offense, a different scheme.
Q: Why do you think that this defense can kind of creep up by surprise? Obviously the outside expectations aren't very high.
A: Just because the way I've seen everybody work day in and day out during training camp and just the things we've put on tape so far and the film we watch each and every day just shows tremendous play from us.
Q: Do you think that this defense can generate a pretty consistent pass rush?
A: Most definitely, just the aggressiveness the front seven are showing right now and just the players we have coming off the edge, they're great pass rushers.
Q: Do you see anything different from Jon (Halapio) this year at center as opposed to last year coming at him at practice?
A: Yeah, he's super strong, as you already know, and a great offensive lineman, great footwork and he's just been practicing pretty well right now.
Q: Any different from before he had that major injury?
A: I feel like he got a little bit better from last year and I don't feel like the injury from last year affected him at all.
Q: How's B.J. Hill after that year of experience?
A: Oh, you can just tell B.J. is more comfortable this year just running different games and just playing beside him in the run game. He's more patient with things, like playing run blocks and things like that. B.J. is playing pretty well this year, too.
OLB Lorenzo Carter
Q: So, Pat Shurmur talked the other day about how you're doing a better job developing and sticking to a pass rush plan. Can you talk about how you've gone about that mentally, trying to have a consistent plan every time you go out there?
A: Yes, I think Coach (Mike) Dawson does a great job just talking to us, talking a lot of football, and what it came down to is basically if you don't have a plan, you won't really be effective as a pass rusher. So, we just watch a lot of film, watch a lot of different guys and just see that they all pretty much have the same plan, have a set mindset when they come to the game that they're going to do this, or do that. So, I figure why not emulate what works.
Q: How much of that is doing something early and then countering it later, and almost the mental side of it to make sure the offensive line doesn't know it's coming?
A: Like you said, it's all about the first--the beginning of the rush. I was talking to my teammates today, and I was just telling them those first two steps are the most important. If you have a bad first two steps, then you can't really rebound, but if your first two steps are great, then you put the offensive lineman at a disadvantage. So, that's what we want to do every time.
Q: (inaudible) early in practice you would do one move, knowing the next time you face that same lineman you're going to do something else to counter it?
A: Yes, somewhat like that. It's like you said, you don't want to put yourself in a box. So, I'll do one move and know that if they give me something else, then I'll counter it, but if they give me the same thing, I'll keep doing the same move all day if it works.
Q: Do you approach this preseason different than you did last year when you hadn't played at all in the NFL?
A: Definitely. Coming into year two, you know what they expect. Preseason for me last year was more of a let me get out here and try to get my feet wet, get ready for the season, get ready to play a different kind of football, but this year it's just keep working the things I've been working, and try to get ready for Week One against Dallas.
Re: improvements in pass rush
A: I'd say I've refined my moves. Just being able to know when to throw the moves, when to just go straight speed, or when to counter. I think that was one of the key emphases for me this offseason.
Q: You obviously want to see what this defense can do on Thursday night. Are you anxious a little bit? Are your teammates anxious to show people the kind of pass rush you expect to have, whatever it is that you actually show them?
A: I'm excited. I'm excited for the guys in the locker room, for everybody really to go out there and show what we're working with. I think we have a lot of guys, high-character guys that can help us win games, and that also have the skillset to help us win games. So, I'm excited to get out there and see what everybody can do when we go against somebody else.
Q: Are you guys aware that people don't expect too much of a pass rush from you guys? Is it fair to say?
A: I guess it's fair to say, but we expect it from ourselves. I don't worry about what everybody else thinks. I hold myself to a standard, we hold ourselves to a high standard.
Q: And why do you think that you guys will develop a good pass rush?
A: Because I know the guys we have, the locker room we have, Coach Dawson, the coaches we have, they train us, we do the stuff every day. I mean, the guys that are doubting us don't see the work that we put in, but we know.
Q: How many guys on the Jets do you know?
A: Probably too many (laughter).
Q: The question is then, is it hard to play against guys you know?
A: Oh, no way. For me and the guys I know, we love to compete. So, it's not hard to compete against guys, especially when you know your customer, you know the guy you're going against is going to compete. So, we try to one-up each other.
Q: What guys do you know really well?
A: (Jets TE) Chris Herndon, specifically. That's my dog from high school, college, and now, so we finally get to line up against each other and play.
Q: Will you trade texts this week or talk to him at all before the game?
A: No, I'm not talking to him at all until after the game.