RB Saquon Barkley
Q: What do you think about having a rookie quarterback?
A: Yeah, Daniel being named the starter, I’m happy for him. You train your whole life and work your whole life to be playing in the NFL, and it’s actually going to happen for him this week. I know he’s been working his butt off, extra work with film, doing a great job at practice, and listening to Eli, so I’m excited for him.
Q: Has this changed anything for you?
A: Definitely as a running back, there is a change. But for me, no, I still have to be on my p’s and q’s and understand the offense and be in the scheme, blitz pickups, and just try to be of as much help from what I’ve learned in my first year and from what I’ve learned being back with Eli, to help Daniel too. He’s been doing a great job at practice commanding the huddle and doing a great job of seeing the field. I’m just excited for him to go out there and actually get the chance to play in the NFL for once.
Q: Do you think you’ll be even more effective now, because with Jones’ legs, the RPOs, the zone reads, now they are going to account for him. Will that open up a little bit more for you?
A: Yeah, I mean I think that’s a possibility with Jones because he can move pretty well. But at the end of the day, I think the defense is really going to play us, kind of, the same way. I think the head coach [Bruce Arians] over there made it kind of known what the game plan is for them, and that’s to stop the run. That’s going to be the mindset of a lot of teams this year, so I’m just going to continue to try to take it one play at a time and do what I can to help my team win.
Q: What’s your mindset, and the Bills said the same thing after the game, Bruce Arians said they are going to key in on you. Do you take that as a challenge, do you look at it as, ‘hey I’m the best running back in the league, I’m going beat you straight up’?
A: Do I take it as a challenge? No. I just understand it, it’s life. It’s been like that for me through high school, college, and now in the NFL. I recognize that God blessed me with a lot of talent, put me on a great team, with a great coach, great teammates, and a great offensive line, to put me in a position to be successful. I have had a lot of success at a young age, so I know that comes with the territory. So, is it a challenge? No. I just know that’s the mindset every single week, because my mindset every single week is to do what it takes to help my team win, and I have been doing that. When it’s not with the numbers, it’s just continuing to be a leader. When my opportunities come, try to find a way to get in the end zone a little bit more, if I have to make that block, or if I have to make that catch to help my team, I’ll do whatever it takes.
Q: They like to blitz a lot more than most teams with Todd Bowles, they are very aggressive. When you face a blitzing team versus a team that likes to beat you straight up, how much more pressure does that put on you from the pass protection stand point and all that? Does that change at all for you?
A: No, not really changes. You just have to understand it a lot more. They are definitely a different team than they were last year when we played them. But yeah, they blitz a lot, so you have to be on your toes, understand the scheme, understand the system, what they’re doing and what they’re trying to do. Whether you’re in hots, or whether you have a route, or the same thing with hots. In the running game, knowing when they are blitzing, knowing where it should hit. Teams that blitz a lot, they are going to make those plays, but if you get it right and you are blocking the right way, whether that’s in the pass pro or in the running game, it leaves you opportunities to make big plays. They are going to have some shots made, they are going to make some plays, but we just have to make more plays than them.
Q: You look around the league at your contemporaries, and they are paired up with other young quarterbacks. You have (Ezekiel Elliott) Zeke and Dak (Prescott), and Gurley and Goff, how excited are you for this Barkley and Jones moment to take off?
A: I’m excited, but just more excited for him. I know everyone is making a big deal that he’s the starting quarterback of New York, but I don’t think you guys really understand how much effort and hard work you put in since you’re a little kid to get to this moment and get to this position. Yes, it hits you when you get drafted. Yes, it hits you when you hit preseason. But, when you actually step on that field and you’re a starting quarterback, you just kind of reflect on all of the hard work that you’ve put in, and all of the adversity you’ve faced. I’m really just more excited for him to go out there and get his first start. I’m going to do whatever it takes, and I know we’re all going to do whatever it takes, to try to have his first start go the way we all want it to go. Our mindset this week is winning.
Q: What advice do you give him when he goes out there and hits the field with all of that?
A: Be you. You don’t have to be anybody else beside yourself. You’re here for a reason, you’re the guy for a reason. You don’t have to impress anybody else. The only people you have to impress are the people in this locker room and the people in this facility, and he’s already done that. One, because they are the team that drafted him, and two, he already has all of the respect from us on this team, just from the way he carries himself as a person, with his work ethic, and you can see, even though he wasn’t the starting quarterback the last two weeks, just the way how he operates. Like I said, I’m really excited for him. I just hope he goes out there, be himself, and let the plays come. There are going to be plays to be had, there is going to be adversity, but just go out there and have fun.
Q: Do you think this is the start of the future of this team? The last two top draft picks are going to be on the field together starting for the first time.
A: Yeah, I guess you could say the future. But as I said, just more excited for him getting out there and playing in the NFL. But we also understand that there is no need to panic, but we understand we’re 0-2 and we have to do things to get things going, get things rolling, and why not start it this week and go down there against Tampa against a great team, a great defense, and great defensive coaches and try to come out there with a win.
Q: Do you get the sense that the reality of this is setting in for him yet? Or has his demeanor changed at all this week?
A: I don’t think it will until he actually gets out on the field. Like I said, he’s been doing a great job out here in practice. But when I mean actually hits him like, ‘wow I am in the NFL,’ when he gets that first play and they say hut— boom, it all goes away, just like every play. Just like how it was in college, just like how it was in high school, when you have that first time, and you’re out there after that first play it all goes away and you just get locked in.
Q: Is there any way to prepare for that?
A: No, there is no way. Like I said, I don’t know if any of you guys have played in an NFL game, or played through a level to get from high school to college to the NFL, to have that dream and passion since you were a kid, it’s a lot of hard work and there are a lot of things that go into it. For him to be able to experience that feeling, it’s something you can’t prepare for. But like I said, after the first play you’re right back into it and you’re in that mindset of let’s go out here and let’s go get a win.
Q: He’s obviously a different player than Eli, what do you think it’s going to do to the offense? How different is it going to look?
A: I don’t think it’s going to look very different at all. I think we’re keeping the main thing the main thing. I don’t think, even when Eli was out there, it wasn’t like the quarterback position was the reason why we’re not winning games. It was all around, it was all three phases of the ball— offense, defense and special teams. Especially on the offense, we weren’t finishing drives. We were doing a great job of moving the ball down the field and getting to where we needed, but when we get to that third down situation, or when we get to the red zone situation, we haven’t been great. You look at the great teams and the teams that are consistently good every single season, (and) they are great in situational football. I don’t think the offense is really going to change that much, we’ll just keep the main thing the main thing.
Q: There will be times where you’re scrambling, or moving around, you’ll run more RPOs or stuff like that? Is that a possibility?
A: Yeah, RPOs (run-pass option) — I mean we ran it with Eli. To be completely honest, RPO, it doesn’t necessarily mean for the quarterback to pull it and run. You’re reading the defender, so he can give it to you or he can still throw the ball. Multiple teams do RPO throughout the season, and throughout the NFL, that’s kind of what the NFL is going to. I don’t think it’s really going to be too much of a change, but yes, everybody knows he’s a mobile quarterback and he’s going to be able to extend plays, and he’s going to be able to run if need be. Hopefully we don’t have to put ourselves in that position, but if we have to do that, then hopefully he’ll go out there and make some plays– which I believe he will.
Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: Injuries from yesterday. Bennie Fowler tweaked his hamstring a little bit. We’re hopeful that he’ll be ready to go. It’s sort of like (Cody) Latimer last week with his calf. We’re hopeful we’ll have him. (Sterling) Shep had a good day, and (Kevin) Zeitler will do more today.
Q: Is Shep cleared yet?
A: He’ll get the final clearance going forward here today, I think. But he had a good day and he’ll practice again today.
Q: With Shep, is that just the independent clearance?
A: Yeah, there’s all of the clearing and the protocol that he has to go through. But he feels good and had a good day yesterday. I’ll take your questions.
Q: During the preseason, there’s a lot made of defenses only showing vanilla schemes. I’m curious, is that, in your mind, like the halftime adjustments thing or is there some truth to that?
A: I don’t think so. In order to learn how to play your schemes, you have to play them during training camp. Obviously, there is some exotic stuff that everybody saves for the opponent that they’re going to play. But I do think you can get an idea of how a team is going to play.
Q: It’s safe to assume that Daniel (Jones) will probably see some stuff on Sunday that he didn’t see in the preseason?
A: Sure. Every quarterback does, and that’s why you have rules and things that you kind of live by.
Q: Do you think watching (Tampa Bay) defend Christian McCaffrey helps you prepare for how they might defend Saquon (Barkley)?
A: Well obviously, he’s the focus of stopping Carolina’s offense, along with Cam Newton. They’re a very balanced attack as far as running and throwing. I would imagine that we’ll see some of those same concepts.
Q: Do you get the sense that expectations for rookie quarterbacks are much different now than they were when you were working with Donovan McNabb, or even maybe 10 years ago? Were they much different, what people expect?
A: Expectations? Oh, I don’t know.
Q: Maybe not the head coach, but what’s universally expected?
A: That’s probably a better question for your colleagues, I would imagine. I don’t know. I think we expect the players that we put in the game to perform well. We try not to make excuses for the fact that players are young. If they’re in there, we expect them to play. I think that goes for quarterbacks as well.
Q: How much do you feel now that your wagon is sort of hitched to Daniel, and that your long-term success here and your future as a head coach is directly tied to that?
A: I’m a little bit like the quarterbacks themselves. I sort of stay in the moment. My focus is obviously finishing up our practices. Today, we’re doing Thursday things. Then finishing up our practices and flying to Tampa and playing the game. I stay in the moment on that.
Q: I know you don’t think much about the career record thing, you personally, but do you feel more pressure now to win?
A: No, I don’t. I’m here to try to inspire our guys to win. There are reasons why teams win and lose. As we move forward here and develop a winning team, it’s going to change.
Q: Just because of the nature of the quarterback position, do you have to have more patience with rookie mistakes and learning on the job than you might with someone at another position?
A: No. We demand that they perform well. We understand when things happen and why they happen, and we try to correct the mistakes. But no, we’re going to put him out there and expect him to do what he needs to do.
Q: He has to kind of stay in, though, right? To endure the challenges he may face?
A: What’s the premise of that question?
Q: With a linebacker, you might say ‘He’s not handling it well, we’ll pull him out.’ But with rookie quarterbacks, sometimes I think you have to just leave him in.
A: We’re putting him in there to play, and we expect that he’ll be in there playing for a very long time.
Q: Do you personally or maybe the team feel energized by this move?
A: I think it’s exciting when there’s change. I think that’s a better question for the locker room. But as far as I’m concerned, we always put our best foot forward. We always give the players our best effort and put a plan together and call a game that will help them based on what their skillsets are. The game gets called a little bit differently for Eli than it does for Daniel. You’re just trying to maximize the production out of whoever’s playing. That’s really where it’s at.
Q: There’s a report that you cancelled your weekly spot with (Mike) Francesa on 660 (WFAN Sports Radio). What was the reason for that?
A: That was an organizational decision not to do that. Most people aren’t aware of this, but I wasn’t contractually obligated to do that spot. We did it as a courtesy and out of respect for our relationship with the radio station. We just felt like for a while here, we’ll just put that to bed for a while and just not do it and move forward.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
Q: What sort of challenges does Tampa Bay’s blitzing pose?
A: They do such a good job, it poses a lot of problems for a lot of offenses. As we go into the game, you can imagine starting a rookie quarterback is probably going to increase it a little bit. They’re really good at what they do, and they’re really fast at doing it, and they give you a lot of disguises, so I think all of those things present problems. So, we’ve really got to be on point with our recognition and our communication.
Q: You’ve played some really good fronts the last two weeks. How has your line come through those two matchups, and how does it help them?
A: I think good at times. I think it could be better at times like a lot of other spots on offense, but I think the main thing is those guys are going to give you a hard day’s work every single day. The other thing, if something bad happens, they don’t let it bother them and they go on and play the next play. So, I think collectively, those guys are probably at the hot spots—the tackles are at the hot spots—but as a group, just taking all 11 guys to say let’s get open on time, let’s get the ball out on time, let’s pick up blitzers if you’re a running back, and know you have to get the ball out quick.
Q: What goes into the process of getting a rookie quarterback going into his first start ready for that?
A: First of all, it actually starts ahead of time. With all the quarterbacks that I’ve been around that have gotten a lot of reps in training camp, as we all see, and then all of the sudden they’re not the starter, you just keep talking to them about how you’ve got to keep the mindset that you have to be ready to go in after the first play of the game for whatever reason and go play. Then, the preparation during the week, even though they don’t get the physical reps, you still kind of work with them as much as you can on little throws here, little throws there, mentally as much time as you can, so then all of the sudden a week like this happens for Daniel (Jones) as we’re talking about, he’s in the mindset of, “I’m going to rely on the things I’ve done in training camp, and all the rules.” I think the biggest thing is probably for young guys starting, or guys that haven’t started in a while, is don’t try to do too much and make sure you communicate clearly. So, those are the things we’re emphasizing this week. I think he’s got a good grasp on our offense—I know he’s got a good grasp on our offense—and so now it’s just kind of the consistency during the week, and then let that take over on Sunday.
Q: How has he handled his new responsibilities this week?
A: He’s a unique guy. We’ve got some unique guys in that quarterback room. His demeanor, and you guys have been around him a little bit now, his demeanor doesn’t change much. He’s been really good, he’s on top of the things that—you can kind of see with young guys sometimes where there’s a little bit of hesitation with their answer or maybe sometimes out on the field—but so far, he’s been really good throughout and very consistent throughout all of our practices.
Q: What are your expectations for him this week?
A: Well, anybody that’s in that position, we expect to help us win football games. But like I said, I think more so than—don’t try to do too much, don’t think you have to make plays down the field here or there—our expectations for him are just to make the right decisions. As we’ve talked in the past, I think that position comes down to three things when you’re throwing the football: go to the right guy with the football, get the ball there on time, and get the ball there accurately. So, you’ve got to kind of stay in that world and try to block out all the other things. Now, there’s a lot of things that we train hard in the meantime to help accomplish that, but that’s what it’s going to come down to.
Q: If you’re able to get Sterling Shepard back, how much of boost is that if he can go?
A: Yeah, hopefully things will work out where he can. He’s really explosive with the ball, he’s got—I think I said this during the offseason or during training camp—he’s got so much of a better feel for what we’re doing. You can see him play with confidence, and he’s very sudden, so we’ve just got to give him a chance to do what he does best, and he does a lot of things good, and get him the ball.
Q: From your perspective, what’s the excitement level? For you, you were really at the ground floor when you guys evaluated Daniel.
A: I think he’s been very consistent, more so than maybe any other young guy I’ve been around, with everything that we’ve asked him to do. Maybe if it’s just doing it a little bit differently here or there, he works on it, gets it done, and he’s been so well coached in college, it’s made a lot of things for us easier here, and I think it’s helped him get himself in position to have a good training camp, play well as we all saw, and hopefully that will carry over on Sunday.
Q: What was your reaction when Pat Shurmur told you he was going to be the starting quarterback?
A: Like everybody else, the head coach of any football team has a lot of difficult decisions to make. We’re all in with whatever decision he makes, and we’re all about winning this football game.
Q: What was your evaluation of Eli in the first two games?
A: We all have not done a good enough job. I’m answering that as “we,” not as “Eli.” He’s done some really good things. I can’t say enough about the kind of guy he is, the kind of quarterback he is, and in just a short time the relationship that I have with him, and I know he’ll be ready when needed now--he’s such a tremendous leader and player. Unfortunately, we started 0-2, Coach has made this decision, and now we move forward with Daniel and everybody else, starting with myself and the other coaches, we’ve got to find a way to win a football game.
Q: What do you want Eli Manning’s role to be during the game? How will his role be different than maybe a typical backup quarterback, if at all?
A: Only because—and I’ll get back to the (quarterbacks) room, I was talking about how unique our room is—it’s the same thing on the sideline. It’s a collective effort. All three of those guys are probably the smartest guys I’ve ever—and I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of smart quarterbacks—and I’m not so sure I’ve been around three guys that are as smart as these guys. So, it’s decisions during the course of the week on things that we’re doing on the practice field, in the meeting room, and on game day. Those guys are great and they have really good ideas moving forward, so the communication will be constant as well this week.
Q: Daniel had the two fumbles against Chicago in the preseason, and then one against Dallas. Will ball security become a point of emphasis for him, and do you feel okay about that?
A: Ball security, that’s number one, it always is, especially for the guy who handles the ball the most. So yeah, we have to protect the football--the old cliché as far as the turnovers and the ratio and it’s tough to win games when you don’t win the turnover battle—but we want to play keep away, we want to be selfish and keep the ball and stay on the field and finish drives with touchdowns. The only way to do that is making smart decisions, not forcing the ball when you’re throwing it, and protecting the ball when you have it in your hands, whether or not you’re running it or you’re in the pocket.
Q: How do you guys get better on third downs to prolong those possessions?
A: We look at that, and we’ve looked at it hard already. Obviously, staying out of third down and long, you’re percentages are lower, and we’re really low when you go beyond seven yards, and we can be better on the third and one to two areas as well. So, it’s a collective effort. We look at everything involved—scheme-wise, what teams are trying to do to us may be different than what we thought, do we need to have more flexibility with some of the things that we’re doing—all those things. But you don’t want to just say “better execution,” it’s everything—it’s better coaching, better detailing what guys are being asked to do, and then the guys on the field.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Opening Statement: Formidable group this week, well coached group. Keith Armstrong has been in this league for a long time, the special teams coordinator there. He always does a great job, he always has his guys ready to play. They have a good group of specialists, they’re young but they have a good group. Led by Bradley Pinion, who is their punter, kickoff specialist and Matt Gay is a young kicker from Utah who is up and coming in this league. Obviously, they feel like he’s a good young prospect, he’s done a good job for them. They have a young long snapper, snapper has been solid this year. Like any other young snapper, he’s just trying to find his way in the league. Their returners, Bobo Wilson and TJ Logan, are very formidable, good speed, good size with TJ Logan. We have to go out there and execute at a high level, that’s the plan.
Q: What did you see on the missed field goal from last week, was there a problem with the snap?
A: Just timing, he went 10 games without missing one, it was bound to happen. Just timing.
Q: Timing on his part?
A: Timing on the whole operation.
Q: What made you guys use TJ as the punt returner after having Jabrill back there Week 1?
A: Jabrill has a lot on his plate. I think just putting TJ back there relieved some pressure from Jabrill, just to have to worry about being a returner. TJ obviously has some ability and he showed that on Sunday. We just wanted to give Jabrill a break and put TJ back there with fresh legs and let him go back there and make a play and he did.
Q: How close was he to taking that one all the way?
A: Very close, I think he was about one block away. We had the gunner blocked and we had him blocked so well we let him go and the gunner made the play. If we would have finished on the gunner, we would have finished in the end zone.
Q: That seemed like an example of outkicking the coverage. Why does that situation often spring a big play?
A: It’s like I told you guys earlier, the hang has to match the distance. When you get to a point where the hang doesn’t match the distance, you outkick the coverage. If you get both gunners blocked and the ball is being caught 60 yards away and the closest guy is 25 yards away or 20 yards away, that’s tough on a coverage group. That’s why we always talk about the hang matching the distance and it has to be that way because if not, everything is out of phase and you get what happened the other day.
Q: What is it you like specifically about TJ as a returner?
A: Good quickness, obviously he fields the ball well. He has a really quick first step and he has natural feel for the return game. He understands how to negotiate space, stick his foot in the ground and get vertical, how to set up blocks. Those are the things he does really well, and he has a lot of talent. You see the ability there to make big plays.
Q: I would imagine TJ would stay in that spot?
A: Yeah, he made a big play. It’s kind of hard to put a guy on the bench that almost scored a touchdown. We’ve been looking for that, I think that’s the longest return we’ve had since 2015. Last year it was something we were really missing, and it’s just kind of been a struggle for us to find what we want there and TJ has pushed us in the right direction.
Q: Does it frustrate you at all as a special teams coach when there are so many touchbacks?
A: It’s different, it’s hard, especially when you were raised in an age when you returned everything. Ahmad Bradshaw was out here yesterday, and we were talking about how he used to cover so many kicks and how many tackles he had because you had to cover every kick. You kicked off from the 30 and it was 50 degrees, 40 degrees, with 15 to 20 mile an hour winds and you were going to cover every kick in the northeast. It’s just not like that anymore, it’s a totally different game. There are some teams that had eight kickoff returns last year. It’s not your dad’s NFL, it’s just different.
CB DeAndre Baker
Q: You were playing off man in the first half, was that your decision, or the way they coach schematically to line up like that?
A: Everything is schematically.
Q: In the second half you were much closer to the line of scrimmage, is that where you are more comfortable?
A: It’s adjustments, that’s what we did, just adjust to the speed of the game.
Q: It seemed like your play improved, is it because you are more comfortable playing closer to the line of scrimmage?
A: Yea, that’s what it was.
Q: After the first two weeks, how eager are you to get back out there?
A: Yea, I’m ready to get out there and compete and go out with the team and try to get a W.
Q: Do you feel like your confidence is lacking?
A: Not at all
Q: Watching you before the season, I would have never thought that would be a question for you?
A: It’s still not a question.
Q: Why are you confident that things that have gone wrong, will go right?
A: I know what I am capable of.
Q: What have you seen on tape from the Bucs receivers?
A: They have good receivers that make great catches. We just have to compete and make plays on the ball.
Q: How eager are you to show people what you think of yourself, so they can start thinking that too?
A: I just want to go out there and do whatever it takes to get a W. Whatever it takes, that’s all.
Q: Do you feel like you have been able to show what you can do so far?
Q: Coach Bettcher said that collectively behind the scenes, you guys have talked about being on the same page with things you need to do, how has that helped both veterans, rookies and everybody in between focus and move forward?
A: When the whole defense is on the same page, everybody plays faster and makes more plays. It all comes together for the better.
Q: Did that start at halftime last week?
A: I would say yes, we played better the second half definitely.
Q: Can you see a silver lining in the defense having a difficult time to start the season, so you can repair what does need to be repaired?
A: Things haven’t been going our way, there are a lot of areas we can improve on, so every day we are working on them. We have our best football ahead of us. Once we get into it and get everything going we can play some good football.
Q: How much do you feel like you have a grasp on what you are being asked to do?
A: I feel like it’s not a complex defense at all. Everybody knows what their assignments are, we just have to execute and be on the same page. The other teams have schemes too, to beat our defense. We just have to make sure we are on the same page and make plays. It’s not complex.
Q: Are you surprised you got off to a slow start?
A: We just have to get in tune to the game and be perfect ASAP. I just have to work my way into it.