Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: We got our first 53-man roster, plus all of the practice squad players were out there. I told the players, I’m thrilled about the team that we have. I really loved the team that we had when we had 90 (players). Going through that process this weekend, I thought we did it the right way. We added some new players that we feel good about and that we think will help us after going through the process of seeing who was released and whatnot. We had our first practice before Dallas today. We’re off to the races. I’ll try to answer your questions.
Q: With what Daniel (Jones) showed you in the preseason and Eli (Manning) being the starter, I’m just curious about the decision to keep Alex (Tanney) and three quarterbacks, rather than maybe using that roster spot on another position?
A: I think it makes sense for us to keep three quarterbacks. That’s why we did it. Dave (Gettleman) was in agreement. We felt like that’s the best thing for our (quarterback) room. That’s why.
Q: If something happens to Eli early in the season, would you look at Alex as a guy who’s a veteran that can go in there if you don’t think Daniel is ready?
A: Daniel is going to be ready when it’s his time. Having Alex here, who is a veteran, I think adds to the room.
Q: What went into (B.J.) Goodson getting released?
A: We just felt like that was a move we wanted to make. We’ll see. We spoke with him this morning.
Q: What changed? He was a guy who was playing a lot. What changed?
A: We were just looking at the (waiver) wire. A lot of times, it doesn’t come down to just the player. It comes down to the full roster. He did a really nice job for us. I was very fond of B.J., but we’ve made a decision that he’s not going to be here.
Q: Special teams played heavily into that decision, I assume?
A: I don’t know that. We’re just looking at what’s best for the roster.
Q: What do you like about David Mayo?
A: He is an outstanding special teams player, but he also plays well from the line of scrimmage. In our opinion, he’s a good four-down player. That was the attraction to him.
Q: Sam Beal, last week you said he was close. Now he’s out for at least six weeks of practice, making it an 11-week injury. Did he suffer some sort of setback?
A: I just feel like for him, (we want) to give him the opportunity to get as healthy as he can be before he gets out there. Again, sometimes it’s not just the player. It’s the full roster, and maybe adding a player at another position. That’s part of it. There’s sort of the player, then there’s sort of the big picture. When you’re going through that process of picking the best 53 (players) to get ready to play Dallas, sometimes you have to consider both sides of that.
Q: Just to follow up on the quarterbacks, you said you wanted three and that was the best thing for the team. What made Alex the right QB? Because to the naked eye, it felt like Kyle (Lauletta) outplayed him.
A: There are things behind the scenes where we felt like Alex was doing well. I think Kyle made great progress. We were really pleased with what (Kyle) had done. We just felt like it was the best thing for us to move forward with Tanney.
Q: You said the other day that like the rest of the world, you were following the Cowboys situation with (Ezekiel Elliott). Now that you’re in the game week, how will you approach figuring out if you’re going to see him at all? And if you don’t, how different they might be?
A: That’s really an issue for Dallas.
Q: For your defense.
A: We’re going to play defense the way we have to play to defend the Cowboys. Certainly if Zeke is there, you have to spend special attention (on him). They have some running backs that have done well in camp that they feel good about. We have to play good team defense, regardless of who’s playing against us. There’s no telling who they’re going to line up with at this point.
Q: So you’re not planning specifically for him at all?
A: Yeah, we’re getting ready for him to be there. If he’s not, then we rally.
Q: How much does that change things for the game plan if he’s there or not?
A: If we choose to play three deep, we’re going to play three deep. If we choose to play two deep, then we’re going to play two deep. If we choose to pressure, then we’re going to pressure. That’s the way it goes.
Q: What do you think about Tony Pollard from what you’ve watched?
A: He’s had a good (preseason). He’s had an impact as a rookie. We actually liked him during the draft. We had him on our board in a prominent position. But he’s done a good job. He’s fast. He has really good instincts. He has good collision balance. He can catch the ball. He’s got what you’re looking for in a runner. It appears from what I’ve seen on tape and from what they’re saying that they’re really fond of what he’s done so far.
Q: Regardless of the Elliott situation, how much of a challenge is Amari Cooper?
A: He’s an outstanding player as well. I think that’s what makes them, on offense, hard to defend. They have an outstanding quarterback (Dak Prescott) that can use his legs, which creates problems for the defense. They have skilled position players, not only on the outside but in the inside too with their tight ends. They have a runner, if Zeke plays, that’s one of the best in the league. They have guys in that room that… We have to defeat our blocks, address our gaps, and play good run defense, regardless of who’s carrying it.
Q: Was Jackrabbit able to go full today?
A: Yea, he’s fine. He’s just Jackrabbit, he’s fine.
Q: What are your expectations this season for Evan Engram?
A: We expect that he is going to have an outstanding year for us. I think we’ve seen, when he has been healthy and out there, what he can do. The challenge for any player is to stay healthy and stay out there. I think that’s first and foremost for all players and then when he is out there, we have to use him in a way that can really accentuate and really take advantage of his skills.
Q: How big of an impact does he need to make for your offense to be explosive?
A: I can tell your narrative by your question, I think he just has to go out and be him. He has to go out and he has to block when we ask him to block. We’ll try to utilize him the best way we can, based on his skill set. He’s got to be the best Evan he can be and that will be good enough.
Q: Have you had a message for Saquon, he is obviously coming off a spectacular season and a preseason where he didn’t play?
A: I think he has to be the best he can be and try to make the most out of his opportunities. I think guys that everybody outside of the building has high expectations for, they can’t get out of themselves, so to speak. They have to do what they can do, be the best they can be and when their number is called, perform well. I think that’s the challenge.
Q: What are your expectations for this season?
A: We are going to do what we can to go out and win every game we play. I would encourage you to ask me each week. My expectation is that we go out and put an effort on the field to beat Dallas and then next week you can ask me again.
Q: Question on the talk outside the building?
A: Two things, number one we don’t really listen to the talk outside. We feel like we are a better team than we were a year ago, we just have to go out and perform. We know we are at the stage of our year where winning football games is what it’s all about and so that’s where we’re at.
Q: What makes you think you are better than you were last year?
A: I like the way we have built our team. I like some of the changes we made personnel wise. I also feel like the second year in our system we are smoother in how we operate. That’s why I think, I don’t care what everybody outside thinks.
Q: Do think there is more talent in the building than you had last year?
A: I feel like we are a better football team right now, and this is a team sport.
Q: Where can Saquon be better?
A: I think he can get better really in all areas. Again, that’s a conversation for our building. There were some runs early in the year where he bounced them where he could stick them up in there and I think he learned that that’s how you need to run. He had a couple of drops last year, there was a couple times where he was a little loose in pass protection. Just the details of playing the position, I think if you ask him, I know keeping track of what he said a year ago, he said he was focusing on the details of the position. At least to this point and I’m sure moving forward, that’s been his mindset.
Q: How much improvement have you seen this year?
A: I’ve seen improvement. Again, second year in our system, second year for him in the league. I think he is more confident in what he expects things to look like. We’ll see on Sunday.
Q: How complicated did the injuries make filling out the roster, specifically Simonson and Rod Smith?
A: That’s the tough part of what goes into the 53. This is the initial 53, those are two players that we thought very highly of that weren’t able to be healthy enough at this point to be here. We’ll just revisit it as we go.
Q: Are there challenges to accessing where the offense is without major guys playing in the preseason?
A: I think each team from week one through week sixteen, you kind of build into what you are. We are going to add three of our better players (Barkley, Shepard, Engram) to the mix moving forward. We are going to try to do what we have to do to beat Dallas and use them in the best way possible. We’re not predicting and projecting anything. Right now we are getting the plan together, all 70 or 75 plays, and do what we can to beat Dallas.
LB Alec Ogletree
Q: How do you prepare for the Cowboys with the Zeke situation so up in the air?
A: We’re just focused on us, really. We have to be prepared for whoever shows up to play. If he’s there, we’ll be prepared for him. If he’s not, we also have to be prepared for the other guys. We just have to focus on what we need to do versus worrying about their situation as much.
Q: Do you hope he doesn’t?
A: No, I hope he does show up. I hope he gets what he wants to get. In order to be the best, you have to play everybody that’s the best, and he’s one of the best in the league. Like I said earlier, it’s about us going against the top groups and showing why we are a good defense and a good team.
Q: Coach feels you guys are a better team right now than you were at this time last year. You have less big-name guys but he thinks you’re a better team. Do you agree with that?
A: Who? What less big names?
Q: No Odell (Beckham), no Landon (Collins). (Olivier) Vernon is gone. There are a number of big-name guys not here.
A: We are a better team than we were at this point last year. Last year was a new a year for everybody. It took a little time for everybody to get going the right way. This year I thought we attacked OTAs really well and the summer really well. Now we just have to continue to attack the season as well as we did in the offseason.
Q: Do you think you guys are more together?
A: Yeah. We definitely have come together a lot closer this year. Like I said, it was new for everybody last year. Things were happening all over the place. It’s one of those things— the more you stay together with a certain group, the more comfortable you get with being around each other.
Q: Coach spoke about his expectations and said they are a lot higher than what the outside feels about what this team can do:
A: Yeah, he said it best. Nobody is really giving us a chance, but we have to worry about what our standards are and what we say we want to be. We have to do the things we know we can do. Like I said, we have to play to our standards and not to what somebody else says we should be or what they think.
Q: When you say you know what you can do, what is that?
A: We can be one of the best teams in the league. We have a shot at it, just like every other team, of making it to the end of the year and to the Super Bowl. We have to start with Week One, starting with Dallas. That’s our focus right now— taking care of business this week and (then) going from week to week.
Q: Why do you think the expectations are low out there?
A: I guess we don’t have those ‘big-name players’ anymore (smile). Nobody really gives us a shot. We know the type of guys we have in the locker room, (and) we know the work we put in. We set our own standards for what we want to do.
Q: Is that a rallying cry or a chip on your shoulder?
A: It’s football. You can’t talk about it, you have to go out there and actually play the game. That’s what we intend to do—go out there and play the game and not worry about the outside noise. Just focus on us.
Q: B.J. got let go. Were you surprised by that? What do you think changed for him?
A: He just got traded.
Q: Yeah, with him getting traded. What do you think changed for him in the last year here?
A: I don’t think anything changed. He got an opportunity to go somewhere where the team wants you to be there, and they are obviously bringing him in for a reason. I have nothing but respect (for him) and I wish him well in his journey with Green Bay. I hope he goes up there and does really well, and helps the team play at a high level.
WR Sterling Shepard
Q: Are you excited to get the offense on the field in an actual game?
A: Yeah, we’ve been grinding and going against each other so long, it’s going to feel good to go against somebody else.
Q: You haven’t been under real action with the quarterback and running back. Will it take a little while to put everyone together in a game situation?
A: I think, whether you have guys playing in the preseason, it’s a little different in the regular season, so we’ll get adjusted quickly. It’s been looking good at practice, so I feel like what you do at practice translates well to the field if you’re doing things the right way.
Q: Are you ready to embrace the number one receiver spot now?
A: Yeah, and I’ve said it before, I have guys that I can go to. We’ve got a lot of guys in the room who can make plays, so that makes you a little bit more comfortable, but I’m ready for the opportunity. I’m ready to help the team out.
Q: Is this team closer than it was last year? Coach Shurmur said it felt more like a “team” this year.
A: Without a doubt. I think that’s the thing that we wanted to accomplish over the offseason, is getting guys with great character. You look around the locker room and we’ve just got a group of great guys at the end of the day.
Q: What makes you feel like the team is closer? Anything specific?
A: I can’t say anything specific, it’s just the feel. You know that if you’ve been in a locker room before, you can feel when a team is very close. Like I said, I can’t be too specific with it, but it’s just a feeling, and it feels great.
Q: Did the ping-pong tournament help bring guys together?
A: Yeah, I got knocked out pretty quick, but it has. I don’t think anybody’s finished yet--I’m looking at the board.
Q: Do you guys get together when people play?
A: Yeah, we get together. We huddle around the table, give it a little amped up feel.
Q: Who’s the favorite?
A: I think he’s gone now, but Ryan (Anderson) was, and then Golden Tate is probably the best, hands down.
Q: Who would have won between Ryan and Golden?
A: I don’t know because they go back and forth all the time, it would’ve been a shootout. We would have definitely hyped that one up.
Q: Did you practice without the splint today?
A: Yeah, I haven’t worn the splint in I think about a week and a half, two weeks.
Q: How happy were you to finally drop the splint?
A: I was pretty happy. It’s hard to grip a ball with the splint, so I just practiced on that, and then getting my strength back in my thumb, so it’s been feeling great.
Q: You’ve broken thumbs or fingers before? Do you know what fully healed feels like?
A: Yes. To be honest, this feels a lot better than the past few times that I’ve broken it. This is probably one of the best breaks that I’ve experienced (laughter).
Q: When you look at your offense—you won’t have Golden (Tate III) early this year, Odell’s (Beckham Jr.) not here anymore—how much more do you need Evan (Engram) to be that big play receiver, and help out in that regard?
A: I just need Evan to be Evan. If you look at the back five games that he played last season, he played lights out, and that’s what he’s going to bring to the table. He’s a matchup nightmare, and I’ve said that since day one since I’ve seen him. The man looks like a wide receiver, he runs like a wide receiver, with a tight end’s body. Like I said, he’s a matchup nightmare, so just go out and be himself.
Q: For people outside the organization, expectations for the team are lower. Does that give you guys a chip on your shoulder at all?
A: We’re not too big on listening to the outside noise. We know what we have as a team, and we’re going to put our best foot forward every week. We’re going to prepare the way we’re supposed to prepare, and I’m not listening to the outside noise.