Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening: We’re gonna go in pads today and deal with the heat, which is important. There’s a lot of teams practicing in weather hotter than this, so this is apart of training camp. We’ll start working our way toward Cleveland. I know you probably have a lot of questions in regards to how I’m going to play the players. I’m gonna hold that for right now, we’re still in discussions with certain guys and just want to be smart about where guys are physically and if they play and how much they play, so I won’t really have an answer to give you with regard to that question at this point, so if that was somebody’s question, you might have to move on to something else.
Q: What was the reasoning for Saquon Barkley to not have any reps on Saturday?
A: Just, again, we’re managing workloads, we take a good look at what they’re doing and he’s fine if you’re asking. Physically, he’s fine.
Q: That was the second time in three days that he didn’t do as much as he usually does. Is there…
A: We do a lot of things behind the scenes also that you’re not aware of. Again, I understand – everybody wants to know how many reps and if they were good ones and I get that. I know that’s part of your job and you all have a very keen eye for that stuff, but we’re trying to give the guys the workload that they need.
Q: What have you thought about his progress through training camp and what has impressed you the most about Saquon?
A: Well, I think he plays extremely well so it doesn’t look like, at least in the training sessions, he doesn’t look like a rookie to me, so that’s good.
Q: You called everybody into a huddle the other day after Eli [Apple] and [Evan] Engram had that little scuffle. What was said there? What was the point of it?
A: That’s between the coach and the players.
Q: How’s Eli [Apple] doing, physically?
A: Excellent. He’ll be out here today. He’s already out there, he’s fine. I know there was a lot of conversation, along the way there was a play-by-play in regards to Eli. Eli’s fine.
Q: There’s a lot of talk when you switch offense and defense and you go into a 30 front it’s the big rave. From an offensive line perspective, what unique challenges does playing against a 30 present to an offensive line?
A: Well, there’s certain runs – when you put five men on the line against 21 and 12 personnel, basically, there’s certain runs that work well. There’s certain ways you need to protect. You don’t really want your back getting caught blocking those outside rushers who are basically defensive ends. Those are pressure players and really when you look at those outside linebackers, they have three jobs to do: one is set the edge on the runs, two is pass rush and then the rare occasion we ask you to drop. So you’re looking at edge setters and rushers and so that’s part of the dilemma, so your protection schemes change some, how you run the ball changes some. So for us to be able to get that in practice is huge when we play teams that play five on the line. That being said, most of the time when you go to nickel, teams will show up in a four-man front so we get that part of it as well and it’s very rare you don’t see a team go four down linemen. If you do the math right, you got an extra defensive back, so you take out a lineman.
Q: I’m sure guys have been flashing during camp. How much do the preseason games weigh in your evaluations?
A: The games are weighed – it’s a huge piece for us. You’ve heard talk about 11-on-11 drills because they’re uncontrolled and then the 11-on-11 drills where they’re not on the scripts and they’re called like we did Saturday and then obviously the next phase of that is doing it in a game.
Q: When you put together your plans for the preseason games, is that really an extension of practice? I know there’s no game planning per se, but how do you kind of approach what you want to see and how you go about getting players work you want to see?
A: Yeah, that’s a good point. I like to see the whole roster. We want to have enough information on the guys that are playing for us to decide are you one of our 53. So we need to see them in games and there’s certain guys we need to see and so it’s very important. We also need to remember that we’re still in training camp and so guys are only going to play a portion of the game. They’re not getting quite as much rest leading up to the game as they would as if this was during the season where you’re really managing that the best you can. It’s kind of we’re in training camp yet we’re playing a game and they’re playing partial amount of snaps as compared to a regular game, so you just deal with it.
Q: When you said Saquon [Barkley] doesn’t look like a rookie, is it just looking at mistakes that he does or doesn’t make or is it the total picture?
A: Some of it is not making the mistakes. He still makes mistakes, but all players do. You don’t see him repeating mistakes and that’s good. Sometimes you see rookies get in the feel for things and they just don’t quite get it yet. That’s why it’s important that you practice because when mistakes happen you can correct them so you can move on. If you don’t practice and all of a sudden you’re making them in games, you’re saying, ‘well, we didn’t get a chance to teach him that.’ Players tell you what they need to learn by some of the mistakes they make and then you get them corrected so they don’t happen in the games.
Q: Is any of that decreased workload with him, is that management? Is that all set up because…
A: I don’t see it as, I don’t mean to cut you off, but I don’t see it as a decreased workload. There’s nothing wrong with Saquon [Barkley]. We’re just managing his reps like we would any running back.
Q: But is some of that, you’re comfortable with the reps he’s getting because he’s not repeating the mistakes so you don’t need to see it over and over and over again.
A: That’s good, that’s right. That’s very fair.
Q: One of the toughest assignments for a rookie running back is picking up blitzes. How has he progressed in that area?
A: He’s done a very good job and because of our style of defense and pressure is in our DNA on defense and they’re practicing it, he’s getting a good opportunity to see lots of blitzes and lots of different types of blitzes. He’s done a good job with that.
Q: So you’re comfortable with him?
A: Oh yeah, for sure.
Q: With [James] Bettcher, there’s a lot out there on how frequently he has blitzed in the past. Is that something you wanted in your defensive coordinator? That aggressive – did you want a 3-4 or did you want a person?
A: I was looking for the best teacher. Again, you’ve heard me say this, it’s the players not the plays. That includes the schemes. I think there are advantages to the way we’re gonna line up and play. I basically told him keep them out of the end zone.
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
Opening Remarks: How’s everybody doing today? Make sure you hydrate. We’ve got some Arizona summer humidity. No one gets the fallout. I don’t put IVs in myself, so I thought that’s what you were going to ask. Who wants to start?
Q: You get into training camp, this is obviously the first time we’re seeing you out there – your philosophy in training camp just doesn’t seem like you’re taking the foot off the gas at all with your blitzes and stuff like that, trying to get your guys ready. Is there a fine line when you’re going against your own team, or is it just kind of spill it all out there and let’s see if you can block it?
A: Well, number one, practicing smart is one of the things that we talk about on a daily basis. Coach Shurmur talks about it, we talk about it on defense – to be able to practice at full speed and to do some of the stuff we do, we have to practice the right way and work the right way. We’re working against our teammates, and our guys are aware of that. That’s just building good practice habits so we can do the things that we do on defense on a daily basis. But in terms of keeping our foot on the gas, absolutely. We are full speed ahead in terms of the process, both installation, how will we do what we do more importantly than what the scheme is, how we work on a daily basis, how our meetings are, what the expectation is, jogging on and off the field, getting in and out of the huddle, breaking the huddle – all these little things, because the little things are the big things. That’s one thing that I really love about this group, is that they’re building an identity and it’s not like it’s an identity of next year’s team or last year’s team or any other team, they’re building their identity as of right now, and that is taking care of the details, being assignment-sound, having their eyes in the right place, communicating well pre-snap and post-snap, and I really like that about this group and the direction in regards to that stuff that we’re doing.
Q: Is that your identity, too? You seem like a guy that is living and dying [by] every rep out there.
A: You have to be. I can’t ask my guys to bring energy if I’m not, and it’s the same thing with our position coaches that are doing such a great job. We’ve got such a great group of coaches that Coach Shurmur has assembled here on the defense, each of the positions. I can’t ask them to bring energy if I’m not going to bring it, and I learned a long time ago what you emphasize is what you get, and that seems so elementary but it’s the truth. And we’re just going to emphasize the details, emphasize the energy and physicality it takes to play this game, and if it’s not good enough, we’re going to be honest about it in the room, talking to ourselves, and if it is great, we’re going to recognize that as well.
Q: When we were here in the spring, you had one guy that had over 3.5 sacks in a season. I was just curious what you thought now that you’ve seen all your pass rushers here, what’s been your impression of what’s there at your disposal?
A: I think it’s a group of guys that are really working their craft. I think to be a really good pass rusher in this league, see I’ve been so lucky – I’ve been around some of the best in the last decade, from Dwight [Freeney], to John Abraham, to Chandler [Jones], to Marcus [Golden], Robert Mathis, and now OV [Olivier Vernon] – I’ve been lucky. I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me. And just one of the things I’ve learned is each guy is different and each guy’s toolbox of a rusher is different, and it doesn’t need to be a huge repertoire of moves and all those things. We’ve just really tried to talk to each guy individually and focus on, hey, what’s the two things you’re trying to work, and keep them on track on working on those things. So, to answer your question, I love the direction it’s heading. We still have work to do, we still have another two to three weeks of really good work to find out who our best guys are going to be, whether it’s four guys rushing or guys rushing from different angles in those one-on-ones. We’ve got to identify that. I don’t want to be too quick to identify who those four guys are, because I want them to grow. I want them to every day just go out there [inaudible].
Q: Have any young guys stood out to you so far?
A: Yeah. I’ll tell you a guy that’s had a couple good practices is [Lorenzo Carter]. Lorenzo’s really had a couple of good practices and as in any rookie, the challenge is to stack them – it’s not to have one day in flash, it’s to have two days and, OK, let’s go correct what we’ve got to correct, then as a young guy, do we see when you go to the field, do we see those corrections happen and do we see it continue to get better? So, we’re looking for a third day in a row from him. He’s had some on and off days, he’s had two pretty good days in a row, and we’re looking for a third good day today.
Q: How do you feel about your cornerback depth right now? A couple guys have been banged up and obviously you brought in Leonard [Johnson]. How do you feel about where you guys are right now, behind Apple and Jenkins?
A: I love the competition that’s going on. There’s two positions where – I think there’s great competition going on a lot of places – but two positions being the safety spot and outside at corner being the third corner, maybe even the starting nickel, and that could be a safety nickel, that could be a corner nickel, so however that works out. I think there’s just great competition at it. Not worried, not excited, just staying level with that – the same thing as we talk about the rushers. We’re in a process mode right now. We’re in each and every day, we’re trying to get better. We’re not judging, we’re just looking at, hey, how much individual improvement are you making versus the next guy? And at the end of the day, we’ll sort those things out.
*Q: Even though he’s a rookie, does having a running back with the versatility of Saquon [Barkley] help prepare your defense?
*A: There’s no question. I dealt with a guy that’s of that nature and we’ve talked about it here at this stand before is [David Johnson], an Arizona guy that can split out and try to create mismatches, a guy that can run the ball extremely well between the tackles, and coordinators are going to have a fun time figuring out how they’re going to get their matchups right.
Q: Are you going to have a fun time with Landon Collins and all the things that Landon can do that he’s not necessarily just like a deep safety?
A: There’s no question. There’s no question of that. You know, but I think the thing that Landon really does well, is Landon has embraced anything we’ve thrown at him. You’ve probably seen by now he’s been in the box a little bit, he’s been up high a little bit, he’s been down low and outside a little bit, he’s been on the line of scrimmage, coming from the line of scrimmage at times, so he’s really embraced those things and he’s detailed each of those places and what the job is that he needs to do to be successful, and as much as anything, if you’re going to be able to do those things, that’s the approach you have to take and he’s taken it.
Q: What are you seeing from B.J. Hill down on the line there?
A: Number one is point physicality. He’s been really physical at the point. I think one thing he really does well for a young guy is plays well with his hands at the line of scrimmage, and I think some of the guys you get coming in, their hands aren’t well enough but they’re not fast enough or they’re not strong enough to be able to handle the blockers that they have to play against in this league, and he’s done well with that. We’ve moved him around in the line too, you’ve seen him lining up as a nose, as a three technique, as a five technique, a guy that’ll have some position flexibility and some things for us.
Q: You’ve rotated your safeties alongside Landon every day. What do you see out of that competition and is anybody starting to separate themselves?
A: I’d say there’s four guys that are in that role right now. There’s none that’s separated themselves, we’re just going to keep letting the process work and there’s always something you’ll appreciate about competition. Those guys are all in, and they’re helping each other and they’re helping grow, and that’s kind of leads to the collective of this defense as these guys are trying to take care of each other, encourage each other, push each other, and those individual competitions within position groups, if we have that mindset, it leads to the group and these next three weeks, there’s going to be a lot to be determined at that position as well as some other places.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
Q: What do you think of Davis Webb’s camp?
A: Davis has done a nice job, we’ve talked about him in our staff meetings. He’s like a lot of guys, striving for consistency. When you watch practice, you see big plays by him or on the other side you see interceptions and it’s like one extreme or the other, but there’s a lot of things that he’s done since day one of the OTAs where he’s working and has gotten the negative plays minimized. He’s still got some work to do there but he’s more consistent in making sound decisions.
Q: There’s a lot of practice tape on Davis (Webb) but not a lot of game tape on him, are you really anxious to see him on Thursday?
A: Yeah, for sure. He works so hard at it and you can tell it means a lot to him, and it does with a lot of guys, you’re always rooting for those guys. I think the biggest thing that Davis, as well as any other young guy going into their second year, is don’t try and do too much, just make sound decisions, decisions that help keep our offense on the field. Sometimes those decisions are throwaways so we can go play the next down, but yes I’m excited because he prepares hard and he’s talented and he’s shown some really good things out there.
Q: How has Kyle Lauletta progressed through this camp?
A: He’s done a really good job as well. He’s kind of got a calmness about him, especially for a rookie, that you don’t see a lot in young guys. I’m anxious to see him, as well, just to see the whole transition, I think, for the same reason you guys are. Coming from Richmond, when I first saw him and heard about him, every time I’ve seen him he’s continued to get better. In the Senior Bowl he looked well, in the (NFL) combine he looked well, he’s been here, started out doing well and has gotten better. So we’re just going to try to get him in with a lot of the other young guys and give them the things that they’ve had the most reps on and let them go play.
Q: The big question with him (Lauletta) coming in was arm strength. Is that something that you can develop at this point?
A: Yeah, I think so, especially young guys. Now he might not have a cannon but he’s accurate and gets the ball there on time. There’s a little bit of a difference with a guy being able to throw it 75 yards or a guy having good arm strength on all of the intermediate levels. Even some of the deeper throws, he’s probably completed as many deep balls as anyone has at this camp so far. If someone would have asked you that, you may have said, ‘No, he’d be the last guy I’d think of for that.’
Q: I know in the past, Coach Shurmur has said that arm strength is probably down on this list of things you should look for in a quarterback. Why is that and what is more important?
A: It’s throwing to the right guy, getting the ball there on time and getting the ball there accurately. So arm strength doesn’t mean you’re going to get the ball there on time. If you look at the guys throughout the league, there’s a lot of guys who don’t have extremely strong arms but those guys that are playing in the NFL that don’t have that have great anticipation, great timing and great accuracy, and I think he is in that mold. Now, he’s a young guy and he’s only played in college but I think he fits that mold, he’s got really good anticipation, good accuracy and good touch. There’s been a lot of very, very successful quarterbacks in this league, Hall of Famers, that haven’t had cannons but have had those other qualities.
Q: You’ve been managing some snaps with some guys at practice, Saquon (Barkley) and some offensive linemen. One of the guys you’re not doing that with is your 37-year old quarterback, what has he shown you and how are you preparing him physically?
A: That’s a good question, we do have to continue to monitor that and we do that verbally as well saying, ‘hey, you’ve got to be honest with us, make sure we’re not giving you too much’, but Eli does such a good job of taking care of himself physically, he starts in the offseason and just knows how to get his arm ready for the grind now, he’s done a great job. Like you said, we’ve pushed the envelope a bit with his reps just because of the newness of what we’re doing, we want him feeling really good, not just about what he’s doing but just getting him together with the guys that are going to be there on Sundays, the timing and all of the little adjustments that they’re going to have to make.
Q: Do you think Eli (Manning) is mobile enough to extend plays and extend them, especially, when the protection is not perfect to make the throws that he needs to in this offense?
A: Was Dan Marino mobile enough to extend plays? I think he was. The first thing that comes to my mind when you ask that is, you’ll see those guys – Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip (Rivers), they just navigate that pocket just enough to extend the play where it’s going to allow a receiver to get open. Maybe he didn’t get open on time because it was press coverage, now, if it’s out there out of the pocket and he’s running around… our point for him (Manning) as well as all of our quarterbacks is making good decisions late in the downs. Whether it’s in the pocket late in the down or once you get outside, I think he knows what he can do and what he can’t do once he is outside of the pocket.
Q: There seems to be a lot of movement from the QB position in this offense.
A: We’ll have that as well. Now we probably won’t feature that, but we’re definitely going to have that enough to compliment what we do. I think guys like Eli (Manning) and some other guys that maybe aren’t known for their running ability, it becomes more deceptive for you as an offense because teams aren’t looking for it as much.
Q: When you have as strong an arm as Davis (Webb) has, sometimes there’s that temptation, ‘I can fit it into any window’, is that a good thing, do you like that swagger or can that get you in trouble?
A: Yes to all of that. In all seriousness, obviously you like a guy with a strong arm but, again, the most important thing is that you’re getting the ball to the right guy, getting the ball there accurately and getting the ball there on time. If it’s through anticipation or maybe you can’t anticipate it because of something but you can still get the ball there because of arm strength, that’s good. In my experience with guys that have strong arms, the biggest thing is don’t let that be the reason for you to think you can fit every ball in there, where it’s a dangerous throw or a tight throw, where something exciting is going to happen, a big catch, an interception or someone getting hit hard. We don’t want to live in that world. We want to pick and choose when we have those really good looks. Other than that, make a good decision somewhere else.
Q: You obviously came into camp with an idea of what Saquon (Barkley) could bring to this offense. Is there anything over the first couple weeks, a play or something, where you’ve kind of gone back and said, ‘I didn’t think he could do that’?
A: Not really. The thing that sticks out the most with him is his ability to be a total back. With everything we’ve asked him to do, he just looks really, really good. And that’s hard to find in a lot of backs. As we know, in college, he wasn’t just good at all those things, he was really good at all those things. That is kind of what were looking for - for him to pick up where he left off.
Q: Is there any example of a mistake you’ve seen him (Barkley) make, and correct, and that he has not really made again?
A: Yeah, there’s a lot, probably, with blitz protections, and it might not have been his mistake, it might have been someone else’s where he made sure he wasn’t going to make it again. It wasn’t really a mental mistake but there was one (play) in OTAs where we were in the red zone and he was coming out to catch the ball and had a chance to catch it and it dropped it and it was an interception. The very next play he came back, it was a similar route, and he caught it and scored a touchdown. So he didn’t let that play affect the rest of practice.
Quarterback Eli Manning
Q: How’s the process of getting on the same page as Jon Halapio going?
A: I think it’s going well. I think its always important to get on the same page as the offensive line, especially the center. There is a lot of communication, just making sure we are picking up blitzes. I think its been great going against our style of defense, a lot of different looks, a lot of different blitzes. There are some things you have to learn, just making sure we are seeing things the same way so I tell him and he can relay it to the rest of the offensive line. I think it’s going really smooth, and I think after every game we will watch film together and get on the same page.
Q: Now that you have been in pads, how would you evaluate the offensive line?
A: I think they are doing a good job, like you said they are getting on the same page. The most important thing for that group is communication, and understanding what the defense is doing, for them to be able to pass things off. Playing fast and playing as one in a sense but they are all working hard and they are all dialed in.
Q: You have been through the new offense new coach thing in the preseason, do you want to play more so you are more comfortable or about the same as always?
A: Whatever coach thinks we need. I think you want to be out there and playing just to get a feel for him calling the plays and the game plan. I think once you’re playing against a new opponent, looks come up and different defenses that you’ve been seeing in training camp versus your defense where you want to get some reps at those things to make sure everybody is on the same page. I’m excited about getting out there and playing.
Q: How do you balance the potential for injury, compared to how beneficial it could be for guys to be out there?
A: That’s for the coaches to balance that. Our job is to go play, we have a job to do, we have to get better and be on the same page at game time. If coach wants us to play we go play and do our job.
Q: You have a lot of new receivers you are trying to build a rapport with, how is that going?
A: I think it’s going well, it’s still a work in progress trying to figure out who is going to be that third and fourth receiver. We need those guys to step up, get open and be dependable. A lot of guys are fighting for that spot and doing some good things, we just need to figure which guys will be the most dependable in that situation.
Q: What is your relationship with Saquon [Barkley] like and what impresses you most about him?
A: The relationship is going well. He’s asking questions, I’m asking him questions, challenging him and getting him to understand seeing coverages, seeing defenses, and safety rotations and things like that so he understands his protections and what’s going on. I’ve been impressed, he’s a smart kid and he’s learned the offense well and I’ve been impressed with him on the field. The way he sees things, the way he reacts after catching the ball making moves. I’m excited to see him in a full speed situation.
Q: Does he ask a lot of questions, compared to other rookies that have come along?
A: I don’t know if it’s more or less. He’s dialed in and he’s seeing things. He’ll have questions for me based on different concepts. He’s looking at the playbook and maybe has questions to make sure everything is correct and why he has this on this one or that one. He is just trying to understand so he can play fast, and understand exactly what he is doing.
Q: Are you anxious to see these rookies in an actual game?
A: I think there is excitement to see the team out there. I don’t think it’s about a specific person, it’s about this group going out there. Especially this year, with a new offense and new players across the board at different spots. You just want to see how we’re going to work together and how guys are going to do in game situation. To see if their level of play stays the same, elevates, or goes down. You have to be able to do it in practice, but you have to be able to do it on game day as well.
Q: How are you feeling physically at this point in camp?
A: The arm feels good and the body feels good. I’ve felt great all year and hopefully it stays that way for a while.
Q: From a health standpoint how has Odell looked?
A: Yeah, I haven’t seen limitations on him. He’s looked good, running fast and making all his cuts and normal plays.
Q: What do you get out of those little sessions with Odell after practice?
A: We missed a lot of time in the spring, just trying to get work on some routes where you might get to run it one time in routes versus air or run it one time during the course of practice. We are imagining different coverages, different techniques, maybe I didn’t work it to him on that side because of the coverage and you say, “hey lets work now, I didn’t get to throw it to you.” Just trying to get a few extra reps on things that we haven’t gotten the opportunity to throw those routes in the course of that practice.
Q: In this offense the receivers are moving around a lot, does that change your approach when you don’t know whose there?
A: Well, you know who is there. You just have to work the routes with everybody. You’re not just working with Sterling, we have to put him outside, you have to put everybody outside, everybody in the slot. It takes time to get on the same page with everybody running different routes.
Q; Eli, what’s Mike Shula like as a coordinator and a quarterback coach?
A: Obviously coach Shula has been doing this a long time, he’s been a coordinator. He has a great mind for concepts, defenses, and picking things up and blitzes and everything. He’s been great to watch film with, watching our film, and watching plays and understanding concepts and how we want to read things, how to get through progressions quickly. He has good personality so we have fun in there, but we also get a lot of good work.
Q: What have you learned about your football team during training camp up to this point?
A: I think we have some big play potential in our group and that’s good. We have to find opportunities to make those big plays and be consistent also. We can’t be willing to give up those big plays to the defense in that sense. We have to be patient and wait for those opportunities. We have some special athletes that can make some outstanding plays.
Q: Saquon made a lot of wow stuff in college, have you talked to him about maybe trying to temper some of the big moves he attempted back then?
A: We talked a little bit about you can’t try to score a touchdown every play. Sometimes you have to take the three-yard gain and take what the defense is giving you. Understand the expectations are extremely high, don’t worry about that, that’s what you have a team for. You have a job to do and take what they give you, if the opportunity comes and there’s a hole and you get to the safety that’s your opportunity to make a guy miss and make something special happen.
Q: Do you give him a hard time because they seem to be managing his reps and he is about 15 years younger than you?
A: No, I don’t know about how they are managing him. We are just trying to get everybody healthy. The runners are a little different, they have to make sure they are taking care of their legs and coming in healthy.
Q: How much have you enjoyed this camp?
A: I enjoy every camp, I get excited about coming through it every year. I enjoy the work part of it, learning a new offense and going up against a new defense and seeing what they are doing. I enjoy the competition but also hanging out with the quarterbacks in the QB room or being in the locker room with the guys, all of it is a special time that I look forward to every year.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: Will Hernandez complimented you on going out of your way to have a great personal relationship with each member of the offensive line. Can you elaborate on that a bit more?
A: Yeah, definitely been going out of my way to develop friendships and relationships with each and every guy on the team. Obviously, there’s so many right now – especially with the offensive line. The offensive line are the guys who pave the way for you. Definitely getting a relationship with them, and when the season starts, I’ve been talking to Nate (Solder) about doing dinners with them. Just getting everyone in the room and talking, going out with each other. That’s something that I have been doing, and I’m glad that they’ve noticed it.
Q: How’s your relationship been with Eli (Manning)?
A: Still asking him a lot of questions. Every time a question gets brought up that I’m not sure about and he’s there on the field, I ask him. I try to prepare myself as much as I can, whether it’s in the ‘pass-pro’ (pass protection), or it’s in the run game, or in the pass game, so I can be as prepared as possible to help the team as much as I can.
Q: Did you ever get this much down time in training camp at Penn State?
A: No, not really. I would say the big difference is the time. The time that you have, you can take care of your body, you can get in the cold tubs, you can get treatment. In college, your first week – at least at Penn State – we’re worrying about finals. We still have two finals to worry about. Last year, I was in an attentive Spanish course, and just finishing up Spanish 3 for the first week of camp. So, definitely a big difference.
Q: Are you looking forward to the first hit in the game?
A: Yeah, definitely looking forward to the first hit. The first hit in the game is the thing that knocks everything out – whether you’re nervous, you’re overthinking stuff. So, it definitely helps. Like I was saying out there, I haven’t really got the time to really sit down and think about playing in my first NFL game. But, I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity.
Q: What are you looking to accomplish in the preseason?
A: What I’m looking to accomplish in the preseason – take every rep that I get and try to maximize it to the best that I can. I’m not looking for this amount of yards or this amount of touchdowns. Just try to be at the right spot where I need to be. Definitely I think as a rookie, probably a lot of rookies make some mistakes in their first game. But, I’m going to try to stay away from that. Just continue to get better throughout the game.
Q: Is it hard when you’re not practicing because the coaches are managing your reps?
A: It’s not really hard for me. Obviously, you know, I want to be out there every single rep and every single play. The times I’m not out there, that’s the time you have to take mental reps. Be locked in and focused, and watch the rep, and ask that question to the Jonathan Stewart’s or the Wayne Gallman’s of the world and see what you see in that player – why you did this on that play. When you get in, you maximize your reps to your best effort.
Q: Is your body feeling tired where the coaching staff feels as if they need to manage your reps?
A: No, physically I feel fine. Coaches, they have a game plan. They have an idea of what they want to do, and I’m just here just trying to follow that idea, and whatever reps they want me to take, I get in. Whatever reps they want me to take. You got to understand, we’re in a room with five or six running backs. You definitely want to see everyone and get to rotate everyone, and everyone get a chance. I’m just following and doing my job, seeing whatever coach wants me to do. While my reps are there, just try to maximize it.
Q: Are you hoping to play on Thursday night?
A: I plan to play, I think. I don’t know. I know I haven’t experienced an NFL preseason game yet, but hopefully I’m good to go for that game. I’m more than capable of playing right now. I’m just happy and excited that I’ll be able to play in my first NFL game, and hopefully I can maximize every rep.
Q: Can you talk about Coach Bettcher and how his defense is preparing you for this season?
A: Definitely, I think they’re very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. I think that’s definitely helped me as a rookie. But not only myself, the offense. Preparing for teams like that. They disguise their schemes and their blitzes so well. Obviously, you got a talented, talented defensive core over there. Being able to watch them and practice against him and learn from them every day is not only helping them, but it’s shaping me into a better player.
Q: Defensive players have seemed to gravitate towards you and are willing to learn from you. How has that helped your progression so far?
A: I think that’s what’s needed on a team. When you have the chemistry, the willingness to go up to your teammates and say hey, what do you see on this play? For instance, if Landon (Collins) beats me on a blitz, and say he knocks my hand down, he would tell me, “Come here, you would lean and you were doing this or doing that.” Or say if I beat (Alec) Ogletree on a route, I would tell him what you were doing wrong there. It’s about helping each other, because at the end of the day, we’re competing against each other right now, but the main goal as a team is to win every game that we can possibly win. Feedback from each other is only going to help us get better as a team. That’s something I feel that’s important. I think the fact that we have that right now as a team definitely is going to help us in the future.
Q: From leaving Penn State, to different workouts, to the Combine, to the Draft, to signing your contract – do you feel happy to be in sort of a scheduled routine now?
A: Yeah, definitely happy to be in a routine. But still trying to find that right routine. In camp, I kind of got a routine down right now. But then after the switch from camp, we’re going to a preseason mindset. Then, we go into a regular season mindset. Then playoffs, and etc, etc. Now, I’m just trying to continue to find the right routine – whether if its little things like take a nap here for 15 minutes. Get in the cold tub here for 15 minutes, hot tub here for 15 minutes. Just trying to figure out all what to do. On an off day, how much time I want to come in and do that. Then, spend time with your family. It’s hard, as an NFL player you got to balance. Especially me being a young father. Definitely want to spend as much time as you can with your family. But, you also have to spend as much time as you can inside the facility so you can be the best player you can be.
Q: What have you learned from the beginning of camp to right now?
A: The biggest thing I’ve learned – if you’re asking the biggest thing I’ve learned since college – just the answers you have for blitzes. In college, you may or may not have one or two. But in the NFL, you can have six or seven and blocking them six or seven different ways. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. Also, disguising blitzes. Our defense does a really good job of disguising blitzes. In college, they may not have done that in college. But in the NFL, they do that at an extreme level. Just seeing the field and seeing the whole thing. Once you can get an understanding of the scheme, every single day gets better, and better – whether it’s in the run game or the pass game. Also, developing a relationship with the offensive line. Continue to get reps with those five guys or whoever is rotating in or out. Continue to get reps because, for me, I came from a shotgun offense. The only time I was ever in “I” (formation) was freshmen year. And now having a fullback in front of me, obviously is a little bit different. But the reps, I continue to take, just continue to help me and get better.
Q: Do you ever blink in a situation when you are lined up outside against a pressing corner?
A: No, I really don’t blink about it. Offseason, that’s what I trained on. I kind of started working on that in college. When we had our team stuff, we’ll do one-on-ones and I would go against the DBs. I feel very comfortable with running routes against anybody. I think that’s where I can also help this offense by being able to be an all-around, every single-down back. That’s obviously something that I have to improve on too. I hope throughout camp and throughout the years here, just continue to get better at that.