Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: I’d like to start out with… (18) years ago today was the 9/11 tragedy. It was one of the most horrific things. A lot of innocent people died. A lot of heroic people died, and probably are still dying from trying to be a first responder. The fire, police, port authority, anybody that helped. I think that affected those of us that were close to it. I was 94 miles away getting ready to play Tampa. I actually saw the second plane hit live. It’s had an effect on everybody, especially the people that were directly involved. I think we need to keep perspective on some things. We remember in a humble, solemn way because it was horrible.
With that being said, I’ll let the injury report speak for itself. But there are two of note. Kareem Martin, that will be an extended deal probably. Weeks more than days. Then (Sterling) Shep(ard) is in the concussion protocol. Those are the two that are probably the biggest right now. With that, we’re getting ready to play a good Buffalo team who won a close game. They came back and beat the Jets. I know the head coach (Sean McDermott) very well. We got our start together on Andy Reid’s staff. The defensive coordinator (Leslie Frazier), we were on the same staff. I know a lot of people on their staff. They’re well-coached. Tough team. It’ll be a challenge for us. I’ll take your questions.
Q: Antonio Hamilton, last year, he didn’t play a snap. (General Manager Dave) Gettleman goes out and gets you guys some players in the secondary. Obviously, Hamilton struggled on Sunday. Do you expect him to continue to be in the rotation at corner, starting possibly?
A: Good question. We’ll let that kind of reveal itself. You’ll remember that (DeAndre) Baker missed 14 days of training camp. We felt like he still needed to come on. That’s why we had them both in there playing (Week 1). But you can expect the young guys to play, just like they did the other night. We’ll see how much. The rotation on that player and maybe a couple others may change on defense.
Q: Similar to that is Dexter Lawrence. When he was drafted, we asked you guys a lot if he is a two-down player or is he a three-down player. He only played like 40% of the snaps. Was that specific to the Dallas game? Can he play more than that?
A: Yeah, I think he can. Again, it was the first time for those guys in there. We feel like we need to rotate the guys. Yeah, we can anticipate that as he goes along here, he’ll play more and more.
Q: Is that more about conditioning, first game, no one played a lot in the preseason, or is it more about they’re young guys, they’re rookies, we can’t throw them right out there and give them everything right away?
A: Well, we threw them out there. When you’re out there, we feel like, especially when you’re talking about the defensive line, you need to get a rotation. Once the guy runs out of gas, he runs out of gas. What you try to do with the d-line is try to get a rotation.
Q: You mentioned (Kevin) Zeitler to us the other day. He was getting checked out.
A: Yeah. Shoulder. He’ll probably be a little bit limited today. He was out there in the walkthrough. This isn’t medical jargon. I think he’ll be fine.
Q: All things considered, you guys did relatively okay against Ezekiel Elliott. I know he scored the touchdown but he didn’t have the big yardage. (Devin) Singletary is a kid who averaged 17 yards per carry in the opener. What do you see from him on film, and how do you keep the success against the run?
A: It’s a team thing. I do feel like if there’s a positive takeaway from the other night, I thought the run fits were better than they had been at times last year, which is positive. You build on that. Singletary is an outstanding runner, so we have to continue. There are still improvements that we need to make. Dak (Prescott) split out on one. We got a little bit loose with it, our eyes, and split a gap. Yeah, that’s something that we need to build on. Any rusher that starts in the NFL has a chance to make plays on you if you’re not sound.
Q: There were a couple of times where it looked like Alec (Ogletree) bit on a couple of play action fakes with running backs that weren’t Zeke. One of them was a big play that drew him in. How do you fix that?
A: Well, some of that, we do it, too. We threw about seven of them the other night, or tried to, some of which were the RPO (run pass option) world. What happens is, it’s a numbers game, you can only put 11 out there. They have a certain amount of blockers. You have to cover the gaps. If you overreact, and really not even overreact, if you play the run, then the ball goes to the throw. You’re going to see that from every team. That’s the reality of it. When you react to the run, you have to then quickly get back and tackle the short throw. I think where we fell victim to the RPO the other night was when they complete it, then you have to tackle him for what would be a short gain, much like a run. That’s sort of the world we’re living in. It’s the zone read with the quarterback throwing instead of running. Let’s just call it for what it is, because most of the quarterbacks in the NFL are passers.
Q: Some of the coverage breakdowns, is that more of an issue pre-snap or post-snap?
A: I think it all happens… there are some pre-snap things in terms of alignment. Then post-snap, obviously, recognizing the route combinations and getting to where you need to be. So a combination.
Q: Are you convinced that these young guys now understand what they did wrong from the first game? Sometimes you have to understand before you can fix it.
A: Sure. I think they do. The mistakes that were made were made very obvious. We made an effort to correct them. What you have to do now, you have to embrace the hard work of going out and practicing the right eye discipline, the right leverage, getting lined up quickly because we’re also in the world of quick snaps, which we all do, and then play with technique throughout the down. Then once the ball goes up in the air, then do what you do naturally. It’s all of the things that we teach and preach. For young guys, that’s going to be about as intense of a setting as you’re going to face, especially for an opener. There are many things to be learned.
Q: You guys did a lot of work on Josh Allen before the 2018 Draft. How in the mix was he for you guys, and has he developed as you thought he would?
A: I would never comment on how in the mix anybody was. I think that’s behind-the-scenes. That doesn’t do anybody any good. But I can comment on what we thought of him. We thought he was a big, strong thrower. A guy that had a chance to be a starter in the NFL, and he has been for them. I think he’s made steady improvements. He’s a very strong-armed guy. He’s helped them win some big games already. Just like any young player, you see where he’ll make mistakes and then correct them.
Q: You guys added (Tuzar) Skipper, the outside linebacker from the Steelers. What did you like about him? What can he contribute after only a couple of days (with the team)?
A: Yeah, we’re going to get him out there. He’s a pass rusher, edge pressure guy. Edge player, so to speak. We signed him with the idea that Kareem (Martin) might be out for a while. Kareem was playing, so he’ll play.
Q: Will you guys have Darius Slayton available this week?
A: We’re hoping so. We hope so. I can’t guarantee that though. I wouldn’t say he’s fine yet.
Q: Buffalo did a good job of putting pressure on (Sam) Darnold, not giving him anywhere to run and then getting their hands up when they couldn’t get to him. Is their pass rush totally different than Dallas’? They seem to bring more (pressure), too.
A: I think their scheme, they’re a four-man scheme. The way they pressure is a little bit different than Dallas in terms of how they cover the back end. But they’re very active. I’ve always been impressed with (Jerry) Hughes as an edge rusher. Then they have other guys in there that have done a great job. I think it’s a sound scheme where they can put pressure on you. If you just sit there in six-man protection, it could be a long day. But we’ve faced this type of scheme before. What they’ve done, though, is they do a really good job of playing very sound on defense. They play their techniques well. They’re coached very well. Leslie (Frazier) and certainly Sean (McDermott) do an excellent job with that unit. They make you earn things. I think that’s what makes them good on defense.
Q: Do you think Saquon (Barkley) has to have the ball in his hands more this Sunday?
A: I think Saquon needs to touch the ball. That’s something we’re going to talk about weekly. I think there’s some weekly conversations we’re going to have, so I’m glad you brought it up. It’s important that he touches the ball because he has a chance to be explosive. Again, each game plays out differently. There were games last year where he touched the ball in the run game more than he did in the passing game, but his biggest plays came in the passing game, and vice versa. We’ll just see how it plays out. But it’s going to be the focus of who people stop. So, I think it’s also important to know that, offensively, it takes a village and everybody else has to do their part.
Q: If I can go back to the Josh Allen thing for one second, you said you thought he had a chance to be a starter. That’s a fairly low expectation. Or did you mean immediately?
A: I thought he had a chance to be a starter. But I was asked what I thought of him, and that’s what we thought of him. He had a chance to be a starter.
Q: What encouraged you the most about Evan Engram?
A: I thought he did a good job. We focused on making sure he got the ball. When he was targeted, he did a lot with it. He contributed in the run game well. We were pleased with, at least game one out of the box here, what he did.
Q: What do you lose most without Sterling (Shepard)?
A: A veteran presence. He’s veteran for us, believe it or not. He’s a tough, competitive guy. I’m not saying that we’ve lost him. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what the week brings. He’s just a really good player and a really good teammate.
Q: How important is it for the mentality of this team not to be 0-2 again?
A: We’re doing the math on this one game. We’re trying to be 1-0 this week. We don’t focus on it. I don’t focus on it. It’s not something we talk about moving forward. We’re putting all of our focus on what we’re going to do this week.
QB Eli Manning
Q: The Bills did a good job of getting pressure on Sam Darnold on Sunday, is that something that is their characteristic?
A: Yea, I think they do a good job of bringing pressure, different pressures, kind of faking dropping out and get you playing zones. Your first reads, you are going to have to hold the ball a little bit and get some things down the field. They did a good job of calling things and getting the offense in some tough plays. We have to be sound on our rules and our protections and even some of the third downs they converted were tight and close, it’s third and five and they are just getting five. I think they do a great job on third down and they do a good job on first and second down, causing incompletions and causing some disruptions.
Q: You have had some slow starts in recent years, is there any urgency that you don’t want to start 0-2 again?
A: There is always urgency, you have to understand the difference between stressing and forcing, and urgency. I think it’s still a matter of having great preparation, great work, it starts on the practice field. Understanding the game plan, going out there and executing.
Q: When you went back and watched the film, what did you see on third down. Two for 12 is not ideal, how do you guys get better in those situations, and what do you think was the cause of some of those issues?
A: Every third down is going to be its own story. Some are in a 2-minute, third and short we didn’t convert on some of those. A couple were third and 17’s, every one has its own story. It’s just a matter of executing better on those plays, some the Cowboys had some good play calls. Some we have to do better on first and second down to get us in a better position and stay away from penalties and things like that, that backed us up. It’s just a combination of a lot of things, just executing better is probably the gist of it.
Q: No offense wants to be down 28-10, is this offense maybe more handcuffed by that?
A: 28-10 is never good for anybody. I think it’s just one of those days where five of the first six possessions, we moved the ball really well, we had the one three and out on that third possession. The other ones we moved it, we were close to getting into scoring range or field goal range and then got stalled out or went for or had some circumstances that prevented us from going. That’s the way football goes, you have to finish drives. After that we had some penalties, we got into some third and longs, I think no matter the circumstances we have to move the ball and obviously you want to keep the games closer where you are in it in the fourth quarter and have a chance to score and take leads and sustain leads.
Q: How difficult is it when you get behind? Obviously your main weapon, Saquon, is mitigated, you can’t just hand the ball to him.
A: It just depends on the circumstances. Obviously we have to keep him involved, he’s a playmaker. If you can run it and get 10 yards, it’s the same as throwing a pass, it doesn’t make a difference from that aspect. You have to make some plays and get the ball moving forward. Obviously, you hope to stay in games and score more points early to have a lead going into the second half. Then we can focus on getting him the ball even more.
Q: How conscious are you of his touches as the game is going on?
A: We don’t worry about touches. We worry about execution and moving the ball. Obviously, you have runs where you guarantee him getting the ball and you have passes where you can get him the ball or he might be first in the read on some and some are, hey, they covered him up and we are going to other guys and getting the ball down the field.
Q: There is chance you might not have Sterling this week, what do you lose if you don’t have him?
A: You would lose a playmaker and a good player for us. We will see what happens, but we have other guys that can step up and make plays.
Q: Does it make you feel comfortable knowing those other guys have been there and done that?
A: Cody, Bennie and Russell Shepard have been in the offense, they all played last year. They know what to do and have made plays for us.
Q: When you pick and choose plays on Thursday and Friday, do you ever sit there and say let’s get rid of the roll out plays?
A: Coaches call the plays and we discuss it and go over things off looks. We discuss things and always have a good plan. Sometimes the defense calls different looks and can call good plays also.
Q: How comforting is it having someone like Evan Engram to throw the ball to?
A: Evan’s done a good job, he’s always been a playmaker for us. He’s worked really hard on his game, on understanding the offense and being accountable for everything. I think he has done a good job this whole offseason and into training camp, he played well the other night. We need him to continue to do that.
Q: He’s kind of a unique weapon at tight end, isn’t he?
A: Yea, he can run, he catches, he did a great job in the blocking game. I think he’s so much more comfortable in the offense and it’s his second year in the offense and he is doing a great job.
TE Evan Engram
On if Sterling Shepard can’t play on Sunday:
A: No matter who is down, it’s next guy up mentality. I’ve just got to continue to work and make the most out of the opportunities that come my way.
Q: After the numbers you put up last weekend, you know the Bills are going to be doing a lot of concentrating on you, especially with Sterling maybe out of the lineup. How do you feel you’ll be able to meet that challenge against that defense?
A: That’s just trusting the game plan. The coaches will draw up a really good game plan for us to learn and attack all week. We’re going to get a lot of different looks—the Bills are a real physical, downhill defense, they send a lot of blitzes, and they were one of the best defenses in the league last year, and they had a pretty good game this past Sunday. So, it’s going to have to be an all-around effort for everybody, and guys are going to have to step up and make plays when the opportunities come.
Q: Your touchdown was a play-action with Saquon (Barkley)—how big of a weapon can that be for you guys?
A: That’s our identity that we’re working for. We have a really good running back and the offensive line is improving each and every day and being physical and creating those gaps for linebackers that they have to fill and they have to respect. That’s why we really take pride in our running game, especially in the tight end room, because we know when we get the job done there, it opens it up for us to be flashy and make plays in the pass game. That’s definitely a mindset that’s going to keep growing—to continue to be hungry and be more efficient in the run game, and everything else will be complimentary.
Q: When you run a route like that, can you see when the guy bites, and do you almost grin when you’ve got them?
A: It was important to get a really good punch on that D-end. D-ends fly up real fast and they’re real violent, definitely on the goal line. So, they had to respect the play-action and you have to do everything else to sell it as well. I was real focused on trying to get a good punch on the D-end and make sure Eli had a good, clean throw when we got to the back of the end zone.
Q: How do you see the Buffalo defense being different from the Cowboys’ defense?
A: They have a lot of different looks. They send their safeties really heavy and they rely on their safeties to come in and make plays in the run game. They play a little bit more man (coverage) than we saw last week. They’re a really disciplined team and really physical—Dallas was really physical as well—but I think they move a little bit more, and their defense and their blitzes rely on the guys in the secondary to be physical in the run game and also be well in man-to-man.
Q: When you look at the numbers from last week, do you sit there and say, “This could be a really good year for me?”
A: I don’t think about it like that. I made the most out of the opportunities that came my way. Each week, I’m just going to continue to be a big playmaker and understand that when I do my job well, whether it’s in the run game, pass game, it gives my team the best opportunity to win. So, just continue that mindset, try to build and try to find ways to improve no matter what the numbers are, and understand that as long as I do my job and do it to my best ability, it’s good for the team.
Q: This team has gotten off to slow starts in recent years. How important is it to start winning, and winning soon?
A: It’s important to win every week. Definitely our mindset is really strong, we’re strong mentally and understand what we have to fix and what we have to improve on. We know there are things that can hurt ourselves, and if we limit those it gives us a better chance to win. That’s the goal this week, to stop hurting ourselves and play the offense that we can play and play better as a team as a whole.
S Jabrill Peppers
Q: Josh Allen is a guy who seems to perform better against the blitz versus when he has a clean pocket and when he doesn’t face pressure – why do you think that is, and how much more difficult does that make it to defend the quarterback?
A: I can’t really say why that is. I just do know, when we induce some pressure, we have to mix up the looks and make sure we get home.
Q: He likes to throw it downfield, though, he has a big arm. But on the flipside of that, does that create some opportunities for you guys for some interceptions or big plays?
A: Definitely. He throws the ball in a tight window because he has such fantastic arm strength. I think that will definitely give us a couple opportunities to get our hands on the ball.
Q: Do you go into the game thinking that there are more opportunities than usual to do that?
A: You go into every game like that.
Q: What have you seen from some of your younger teammates about how they respond to busted coverages?
A: We got in here, and we corrected it. Today is going to be our first real work day, so I’ll have more of a gauge on that, see how the preparation changes, how do we prioritize things. At the end of the day, everybody had a hand in a lot of those coverages, so we all just have to be on one accord, overcommunicate, and make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Q: Did that take you by surprise? You don’t think things are going to go perfect the first game, but that there were so many big plays back there? Did that throw you for a loop?
A: I wouldn’t say it threw me for a loop, but it definitely was a shock.
Q; How important is this game for you guys even though it’s a Week 2 game?
A: Every game is important. Especially coming off a loss, you want to play the next game as fast as possible to get a chance to rinse that bad taste out of your mouth. It’s a home game, the first one of the year, so it’s definitely a big game for us.
Q: How much does the fact that you want to show that first game isn’t what you guys are factor into it? To prove to people, ‘hey, that’s not what this season is going to be like’?
A: No matter what I say, you just go out there, and what we put on tape I can tell you about it, but we have to go out there and execute.
Q: What’s your confidence level like in some of these young guys and how they will be able to rebound?
A: I am definitely extremely confident. I think we have the right group of guys— smart guys who are going to play fast. We just have to do it a little bit extra this week. Sometimes you have to see it for yourself in order to make the proper changes. I was one of those guys, so I have the utmost confidence in those guys and that they are going to rebound and come out here and play big.
CB Janoris Jenkins
Q: What do you tell them about it?
A: Don’t worry about it. We have to see them again. We play them twice a year. They won that battle. We need to win the next one.
Q: How can you guys improve your communication as a secondary as a whole?
A: It starts in practice. Just communicating in practice, everyone swarming to the ball, and everyone just playing fast and understanding the defense.
Q: When you’re on the sidelines, is that common what the Cowboys did, in the game guys are caught up in it, do you guys talk about them the same kind of way?
A: Yeah. The Cowboys are who they are. They have the same offense, the same routes. All you have to do is really study them and you’ll see that everything else around Dak (Prescott) is the same. You just plug Amari Cooper where Dez (Bryant) was, and you’ll get the same offense. Once the younger guys learn that, watch film and learn how to watch film a little better, they’re going to be okay.
Q: Is it alarming that there were so many busted coverages? Was that something that you thought you guys would not have to deal with in the first game?
A: Yeah, I thought so. You have to understand, it’s the first game. Like you all said, we have a lot of young guys out there. No excuses, but we busted a few coverages. The only thing we can do now is come back out today and just fix it.
Q: You mentioned a couple of times that the biggest key for you is to stay focused. Is it hard to stay focused when the team is, based on that game, the plan for other teams is going to be to throw at whoever is not you? They’re going to ignore you and throw at the young kids.
A: Yeah, but I can’t depend on that. I always have to stay focused and stay in the game. I never know when that one catch I give up on my side might be the catch to win the game. So, I have to stay focused and just help the guys around me stay focused.
Q: In talking to these guys, do you get a sense that they get it?
A: Yeah, they get it. I think the first game woke them up a little bit. Like I said, I think they get it. They came in today and Monday with a different mindset as far as studying film more, learning our concepts and stuff that you have to do in formation.
Q: Do you think they were angry, more humble, more embarrassed? What is your sense from those guys?
A: After the game? I think it woke them up, to be honest. I think it woke them up. I don’t think they were embarrassed. Like I always tell them, we play DB, one of the hardest positions on the field. There are going to be times when you get beat and there are going to be times when you make a play. You just have to learn how to erase and clear your memory and come back and play the next snap.
Q: (Josh) Allen has one of the strongest arms in the league, and he can also throw it on the run with the same kind of strength. How difficult is that to have to deal with?
A: We just have to defend the end breakers. Everything’s end breakers with these guys. They like to take a shot every now and then. We just have to stay within the scheme and play great defense.