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Quotes (9/27): Bettcher, Shula, McGaughey, Beckham, Engram, Vernon, Ellison

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher

Opening: Great challenge this week. One of top offenses in the National Football League and really an offense that collectively has been one of the top five offenses for a while. They’ve been together for over a decade and they called a lot of plays and run a lot of plays together and you can see that. Before the snap some of the things Drew (Brees) is able to get up and do and change protections, change routes, change formations at the line of scrimmage so it’s going to be a great challenge. The running back is a really special player. A guy that they use in the backfield to carry the ball, heavily in the screen game or they split him out and use him as a slot-type receiver. They’re going to find ways to target him and get him touches and (Michael) Thomas is another really, really talented receiver on the perimeter. Has really strong hands at the point when balls are up and some of those 50/50 balls he’s a really good player in those scenarios. I think it’s been really the same as the last three weeks we’ve had really good Wednesday practices, we had good meetings and we just have to stay with that process. Really looking forward to getting back home and playing here on defense this weekend and having our crowd in the game and part of it. We just got to go in, have a good meeting in here and come out and have a great practice this afternoon.

Q: Does it help that you have a running back kind of similar to (Alvin) Kamara? You saw (Saquon) Barkley all summer, does that help prepare?

A: I think to a degree, I’d say yes. I think each and every week whether it’s the same type of player, the system’s a little bit different and some of the things are a little bit different that he does and that he does well. Yeah, I’d say if you’re defending our offense, you got to be really aware of the matchups you create with our running back and I’d say the same with the Saints.

Q: How much of a challenge is it when they take Thomas and put him in the slot to see guys that size play there?

A: They’re going to move him, put him all over the field and there’s special plays that are designed to get him touches just like Kamara and it might be in the slot, it might be the X in the back side of the three-by-one, a few times it’s the Z outside to the three receiver side. I think anywhere they put him you got to be aware he’s a focal point and there’s some things designed for him that are going to come in the game.

Q: Does defending the middle of the field a real challenge against this team because of the multitude of drop-offs, screens, all the looks to the middle?

A: We were talking about this last night as a staff watching tape and you see receivers that are coming through the middle of the field whether it’s a screen game in the underneath passing game or even in man coverage where if you’re covered on your guy, you got to still expect the ball to come there and he’s going to try to put it on your back shoulders the defender, he’s going to put it over the top of you as a defender and that’s why he’s a special player that he is and his accuracy speaks for itself.

Q: They targeted Kamara 20 times this past week in the passing game. Like you said, they move him around a little bit. How difficult is it for you then to get the matchup that you want against him without moving him either from the backfield or the slot?

A: I think the first thing, and we talked to the defense about this yesterday when we started to install first and second down is at the end of the day we have to play fundamentally sound football. There’s no perfect world where you have one guy in terms of running backs, you can do it on the perimeter with a receiver and you match guys up, but in terms of running backs because the multitude of places he can align and motion to and shift to, there’s no perfect call to get one guy on him every snap of the game. Whoever’s on him got to play fundamentally sound, got to understand the routes you’re going to get from the places he’s aligned and get your eyes in the right place and play fast.

Q: How do you make sense of Brees and Thomas connecting on 95-percent of their targets so far this year?

A: I think that’s a unbelievable number and I think the other number is the 80-percent completion percentage in the National Football League, that’s a pretty rare and special thing.

Q Why are they so good together? What do you see in them?

A: Timing. I think the quarterback gets the ball out fast and it’s not about throwing the ball vertically down the field, which they will do at times, but it’s about precision and timing. Guy that’s a great route runner, guy that has really strong hands at the point of catch and a quarterback that puts it in there so he can catch it.

Q: You had the Texans offense pretty confused in the first half, it looked like. When they started moving the ball, how encouraging was it that your defense forces those two turnovers as Houston is gaining those chunk yards?

A: One thing I love about this group is that we’re kind of starting to work ourselves intoa one-play mentality as a defense. Whether you give up a play or you make a great play that cannot determine the success or failure of the next play. Every play is independent of itself and if we do that for 60 minutes, at the end of the day we’ll have a chance to play good defense at the end of the game and I think we’re starting to build that confidence and that identity in the room. I think putting a defense together is a process and when there’s new guys in the system with a new system with some guys that haven’t played a lot of snaps, those guys are all growing out on the field and it’s like both the two-minute scenarios in the game. We have to play better in those scenarios, but to play better, sometimes we need to be in those scenarios where we got to go out and get a stop and got to be stressed out and have to communicate when it’s going fast and have to get aligned. I have to know when we can play more off or when we need to challenge receivers more. You can meet on that, you can talk about it in the meeting room and you can coach it and go out walk it through and all that stuff, but when things are really happening on Sunday’s that’s when you kind of start to build your resume as a defense and I really like the direction our guys are going with that.

Q: How much help do you need from your offense in the sense of all control, scoring points because they’re averaging 34 a game?

A: I’ll tell you what, the only thing we worry about is on the defensive side of the ball is getting stops. We got to get some three and outs, we got to create some turnovers. Doesn’t matter where the ball’s put down on the field, doesn’t matter what the score is in the game whether you’re up three or down three, in my mind it doesn’t matter, we play. It’s kind of that identity I was talking about that we’ve been working the build as a defense and it’s one play at a time and nothing else matters, we don’t judge.

Q: How did OV (Olivier Vernon) look yesterday and what does he give you if he comes back this week?

A: I think OV’s trending and we’ll see if at the end of the week where he’s at. Coach Shurmur always answers questions about injuries, but I think you’re talking about a very special player playing on the edge and we would love to have him and when we do end up getting him back, whether that’s this week or the future, we’ll be excited to have him back.

Tight End Rhett Ellison

Re: preparation for opposing pass rushes

A: We do a lot with coaches, but we also have a protection meeting, and as a unit, we meet with quarterbacks, running backs, because protection is everybody’s responsibility, including the guys running the routes. So yeah, we do get together a lot.

Q: When you replace a guy like (TE) Evan Engram, do you sit there and say, I have to do everything he does?

A: No, because like I said, there’s stuff that I can’t do that Evan does. For me, it’s just trying to execute the plays and find my role in the play that’s called, and try to make a play.

Q: So the rules of the tight end stay the same, but everybody just does their own thing?

A: Yeah, and that’s just the tight end position. It’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades anyway, so you have to know the plays. Evan is going to run them a little differently than I do, obviously, but you got to know your role in that play.

Q: How are you approaching this situation mentally knowing a lot more people will be focused on you?

A: I’m just treating it like any other game. Just prepare the same way, and just mentally and physically get as healthy as possible for Sunday. You don’t really treat it any different than any other game. You always are preparing for that just in case. It’s a physical sport, so that’s always on the table.

Q: Have you learned anything from Evan?

A: Almost anytime we talk about coverage, especially now, I’m like, ‘hey, what would you do against this guy?’ Or, ‘how would you run that route’ because he sees that, as opposed to my career, I’ve mostly been focused on the blocks. So, he can show me or teach me certain things when you’re outside of the blocks and what to look for. He’s been very helpful with that stuff.

Q: Do you feel as if that has impacted or improved your game at all?

A: Yeah, definitely. I think everyone in the room kind of – that’s the nature of football. You kind of learn from each other and make each other better.

Q: You heard Coach Shurmur compare you to (Former Giants TE) Mark Bavaro?

A: Yeah, I think it was mostly a mentality thing (laughter).

Q: Coach Shurmur is going to break out the film of Bavaro against the 49ers when he carries 10 guys down the field.

A: One of which was my dad. So, I’m sure my dad is not happy about this comparison (laughter).

Q: On the touchdown you scored, was that an Evan Engram play? Or was that a Rhett Ellison play?

A: That’s just a play. That’s kind of a musical chairs plays. So, whoever is in, run it. It worked out that it was single-high. (QB) Eli (Manning) threw a perfect ball, so can’t really complain about that.

Q: New Orleans’ defense mostly consists of a single-high safety, doesn’t it?

A: Sometimes, in third-down they can kind of mix it up and give you some two-highs, a little bit of everything.

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey

Q: When you have a kicker (Aldrick Rosas) in a groove like this, do you almost just leave him alone?

A: Yes (laughter). He’s doing a great job. You always need a little fine tuning, and he’s finding his way. That’s what happens with these young guys at each position, they’re all trying to find their way and he’s in a groove. We’re just trying to keep him in the same spot and not do a whole lot of thinking, and just go out and swing at the ball.

Q: You’ve had some bumpy rides with the punt return/kick return. Is it what the kickers are doing or is it something that you guys are not doing?

A: It’s a little bit of both. The punters last couple of games have been a little erratic a little bit, so to speak, but you’ve got to execute too. You’ve got to block better, you’ve got to put yourself in positions, you’ve got to execute the fundamentals and techniques of the scheme. There are a lot of things that we’re doing wrong that we need to get corrected, and we will get those things corrected, but when you have a young group, some younger guys that are in there that are trying to figure out leverage and angles and all, and then the game speed and all that, like I tell the guys, it’s a maturation process that they’re going through right now. We’ve just got to make sure that the process that we are learning, and not to be a repeat offender, so it’s kind of one of those types of deals that we’re doing right now. We’re getting there. We’ll get there.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about (Stacy Coley), it was his debut. He had a bobble on the first one and then he had a kickoff return that went for six yards. What did you see from him in his first game?  

A: They’re young players. When you get a young guy in there, the first punt return of his career, you’ve just got to relax, let the plays come to you, and just do what you know how to do. It’s just again, young players. They’re going to make mistakes, they’ve got to learn, and eventually we’ll get them to where we want to be. 

Q: What went into the decision to put him back for that kickoff? I know you’ve been using (Cody Latimer), is there something that made that change there midway?

A: Yeah, Cody was banged up a little bit, and just wanted to make that change just to make sure and protect Cody more than anything, and see what Stacy can do. He’s here, let’s see what he can do.  

Q: Back to (Aldrick Rosas) – He had a rough stretch last season, it would’ve been easy for you to say we’re just going to get a veteran. What made you stick with a young guy? What did you see from him? 

A: When I first got here last year, I just saw a raw, young kicker with a tremendous leg talent. He’s young, it amazes me how at the kicker position, a guy has one bad game and he’s out the door but you can have a quarterback that can throw four picks in two games and he still has a job. You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Those guys – they’re young players, young players make mistakes. That’s just part of it. He’s getting better. When I saw him, I saw his kickoffs and things that he could do, you don’t find leg talent like that everywhere so you’ve just got to make sure you work with it and it’s paying off right now.   

Q: How much of coaching him in particular is neck up, given that he did have some struggles last year? 

A: Most of it with him is neck up. When I say that, it’s not an insult to him, but it’s more just kind of learning what to do, learning how to handle those situations when they come – ‘Ok, why did I miss that kick? Why did I push it right? Why did I push it left? Am I too fast into the ball? Am I leaving on time?’ -- just those little things, the lean of the ball, the little nuances of the job. Again, the kid is from Southern Oregon, it’s not like he played in the SEC and had three kicking coaches and two special teams coaches. He’s young, he’s learning, and he’s in a good spot right now.  

Q: Does confidence factor in as well?

A: Absolutely. If you go out and you make some kicks and you feel good about yourself, you make kicks in practice, you feel good about yourself, you make long kicks in practice, you make short kicks in practice – any time you can see the ball go through the uprights, that’s a good thing, and just to try and re-create that every single time, I think that’s something that he’s enjoying the process of and he’s reaping the benefits of.

Q: When you look at him and you talk about leg strength, how far can he kick it if he needed? 

A: We’ll see. Eventually, I’m sure we will see. Against Dallas in the pregame, I think he had two that were 63 or 64 yards that he hit without even swinging at it real hard, and that’s what we’re trying to get him to do, just to kind of swing within himself and not to really over-kick, but the sky is the limit with this kid. 

Q: Were you strategic in camp with him in terms of that confidence?

A: Absolutely, no question. Any time we put him in front of the team, we want him to make the kick, so obviously we’re not kicking 58, 57 and 55 yarders, especially out here, you know how it can be out here. It’s super windy, and we want to keep him in the range, the 34 to 46-7 where he’s going to make most of his money and stay in there. Last year he struggled in that range, so we wanted to make sure we stay in that range as much as possible. 

Q: The first kickoff of the game was short, and the last whole bunch were into the end zone. Did you change strategies or was the first one just a bad kick?

A: He just miss-hit it. Again, young player, I had a kid, Graham Gano, I could just tell Graham to kick in the back of the end zone and boom, it’s in the back of the end zone, but he’s in his ninth year. It’s not the same with a young kicker. A young kicker, I might tell him that, and the ball might be on the five. That’s just part of it, you’re just kind of getting those reps and getting that thing dialed in, but he can hit it.

Q: How much does the non-running start change your philosophies at all? 

A: I don’t think it changes a whole, whole lot. You’re seeing less and less kickoffs. In the northeast, it’s different, because you’re not going to be able – it’s not the AFC South, the NFC South, where it’s warm-weather domes, you’re not going to get a whole lot of that. Up here, you’re going to have to cover kicks because it’s going to be 30-40 degrees, 15-20 mile an hour winds, so for each part of the league it’s probably a little different. For us, we’re going to have to cover kicks, so we obviously practice them every day, but it does no good to practice it six weeks in a row and then you kick every ball out of the back of the end zone and then all the sudden in October-November, you’ve got to start covering kicks and you haven’t covered one live in a game in four weeks. 

Q: But you haven’t looked at it differently indoors the last few years? You just kind of approach it the same way you did before? 

A: Absolutely. 

Q: The punts last week – Was (Riley Dixon) outkicking his coverage? 

A: No, there was a miscommunication on the sidelines on one of the punts, the punt that he hit to the right and everybody went left. That was on me, we had a miscommunication, but it was a great punt. If we covered in the right direction, we wouldn’t be talking about it, but he had some really good punts and Riley’s been doing a really good job for us all year. That was completely on me. 

Q: And the one that got tipped? It looked like they kind of did a little game.

A: We just weren’t physical enough, and we’ve got to get the ball off, and we weren’t physical enough at the point. Mike Westhoff and the crew is rolling in, he’s going to have his guys hunting. There’s blood in the water. That’s just part of the deal.

Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula

Q: What did you like about the new offensive linemen?

A: Overall offensively, including the offensive line, I think we played more consistently last week. Still made some mistakes, have to continue to improve on our communication. That’s probably one of the biggest areas of improvement we need to continue with, but there was some good. Good enough to win, but there were some other things that we have to get better at.

Q: What do you look at the first half and say, we did this really well and that’s why we were more successful? 

A: It’s hard. If you could put your finger on it exactly then we’d all be winning a lot more games. One of the things was the effort, the ability to stay, kind of move on from one play to the next. We had a couple bad plays in that early drive, and yet we just made a play to get a first down and kind of kept it going. We did that pretty well in the first half, and the drives this year that we’ve moved the ball – some of them we haven’t scored touchdowns on – we’ve done that. We’ve been pretty good on second and long, we’re trying to get better efficiency wise on the early downs, first and ten, second one to six, we definitely are working on that as well. In the meantime, whether or not it’s Eli (Manning) making good decisions or us just trying to play on their side of the line of scrimmage in the running game, eliminating penetration, we’ve been able to do some things to get first downs and keep us on the field.

Q: What did you see from Rhett Ellison? He got an increase in snaps the other day when Evan (Engram) went down.   

A: We saw about what we expected. This is my first year with him, but he’s been very steady, he’s a true veteran, he understands the game, he’s smart, he’s a fast thinker, he’s versatile, so then when Evan went down obviously his reps picked up and we really didn’t miss a beat. Eli as you saw, has got complete confidence in him, so we need to continue the way we finished last week with him and some of the other guys that came in and played well.  

Q: Evan is kind of unique in the sense that he gives you that deep option. Do you lose that with him out, or do you have something you can do? 

A: Not really, maybe on certain things that you might kind of go out of your way to feature Evan on, but other than that, no. Rhett is really very valuable because of all the things I mentioned earlier.   

Q: With Evan out, he’s a dangerous receiving threat. Can you get that production from Rhett, or do you need some of that from your wide receivers too, from the Sterling Shepard’s? How do you view distribution there?

A: Yes to both questions. I think you can get that production out of Rhett, it might not be in the exact same way you do it with Evan, but you can get that production where he’s going to be able to have the ability to give you a chunk play. It might just be in a different way. But yes also to the other guys, any time there’s somebody that goes down, other guys have to step up and we did that as well last week, and we’re going to have to definitely do it this week.    

Q: Is it safe to say even if you lose that deep ball threat with Evan, as long as Rhett and the other guys are chipping away and moving the chains, you’ll take that as opposed to the big home run play?

A: Sure, we’ll take it any way we can just to make first downs and stay on the field. The big thing is, if we do stay on the field, those big plays are going to come. We had some explosive plays last week where they were just short passes that turned into explosive plays. As we know, there’s a variety of ways you can get those plays, but I think the biggest thing is just the guys that are in there when their number is called, step up and make the play.

Q: When you look at Eli’s decision making and his completion percentage was obviously really high Sunday, Pat Shurmur said that on the ball that went to Rhett for the touchdown, Odell was the first option. Eli recognized the coverage and goes to the tight end. Have you seen Eli’s decision making in this offense improve week to week, or has that been something that you’ve been pleased with?

A: Yeah, it’s been very consistent. He is a very good decision maker, and then not only that, but when he makes the decision just kind of like I’ve always seen before I got here, he gets the ball there quickly and accurately. I think that’s one of the big things for a quarterback, if number one is not open, then you get to number two or number three quickly and you get the ball there accurately, and I think he’s really good at that.

Q: On the offensive line: 

A: I just think we got a little bit better. Like I said earlier, we need to continue to get better. I think everybody just got a little bit better, played a little more consistently. I mentioned communication needs to improve, I do think we did communicate better, but it wasn’t just those guys. They helped our receivers by allowing our receivers to get open, and then our receivers kind of helped them. When you’re moving the ball and scoring points, it’s usually not just one group, it’s a bunch of guys helping each other out.

Q: How do you balance high percentage pass completions with trying to make more productive plays down the field?

A: You just trust your quarterback and you give him enough options to be able to do both and make good decisions. It’s about the end result, getting the ball in the end zone however we need to get there. We feel fortunate that we have guys that can, whether or not it’s a five yard pass that can turn into an explosive or catch a ball 40 yards down the field, or throw a ball 40 down the field, and make an explosive play that way.

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Q: Where do you think this offense is at right now and are you encouraged?

A: Yes, very encouraged. I don’t know where we’re at as far as the ranks or anything like that but we’re moving in the right direction. 

Q: Coach Shula said today the end result is getting into the end zone. Is that something that you’re thinking about right now, or you feel it’ll just come?  

A: I’m always thinking about getting into the end zone – at home, wherever you’re at. Any time I catch the ball I want to score, but just being efficient on third downs right now. I’ve been watching, I had a lot of third downs, keep the drives open and keep us going, attracting doubles and bracket coverage with a safety over the top, and letting our other weapons do what we do. As long as we can keep that going, spread the ball around, we’re going to be dangerous.

Q: Pat Shurmur made the comment the other day that when Sterling Shepard scored that touchdown the other day, you were the first one there to greet him.    

A: I was trying to.   

Q: What is that feeling like among you guys? 

A: I don’t know how to describe it, but this is a guy who you get up with every morning, you were here for training camp, through all the hard work, and just to see him score and get in there, hit his little South Dallas swag, I just smile. I love seeing it. When he scored, I couldn’t be nothing but happy for him. It was at the end of the game too, kind of like, not a walk-off but close to it to put us up. I love that, hopefully we have 10-20 of them from him this year. That’s the goal, to score as many as we can.

Q: You use the word efficient – in yourself. That’s not the word that would normally be associated with you, maybe explosive. Are you waiting for that kind of game? 

A: I’m always waiting to break out. I always feel like I’m one play away, always feel like at any moment in time it could be a shallow, it could be a deep pass, it could be a slant, it could go 80, it could 60, it could go wherever. Honestly I’ve been watching, and I’ve been feeling and talking to myself and there’s still been times where you’re coming back and I’m used to everything but you’re scared to just hit it like you used to. I saw one opportunity that I missed and I was upset about it, it was a slant and it cleared out for me and it was perfect, and I kind of slowed down and hesitated for a second, and that could’ve been the difference. Those are the ones that go 60 or 70, so I was a little upset by that, but I think I’m just – I don’t want to say just starting to get the feel back, but I feel like I said this word, ‘efficient’. I feel very efficient and I’m just in a completely different place.

Q: Was that against the Texans?

A: Yeah, against the Texans. I caught an inside slant and the way that they were playing coverage, they usually had a safety who was kind of over the top, he was kind of robbing it or doing whatever it is, and I went to hit it and I just had a feeling that he was going to be closing in on me and as I kind of hesitated, the DB caught up and that’s a play that I can’t get back, but I will be thinking about for a long time, every time I watch the film. 

Q: Why did you hesitate?

A: I just think that’s part of getting back into it. Third game, it’s going to come. When it rains, it pours. 

Q: Do you know what quarter that was? 

A: I think it might have been the second quarter.

Q: How much do you miss being in the end zone? It’s been awhile.

A: I love being in the end zone. It has been awhile. It’s been awhile even just being on the field, so getting in the end zone, of course I want to get in there but when it comes, it’s going to come.

Q: Are you frustrated because you haven’t gotten there?

A: Do I look frustrated?

Q: Do you feel frustrated that you haven’t gotten there?

A: No. I’m alright.

Q: How close do you think you are to that being second nature to just seeing that moment?

A: It’s right there. The fact that I can know and acknowledge it is a big step. Like I said, I think it was in the second quarter and I just felt it. I just was like, if you just would’ve ran all the way, you would’ve had that extra step, you could’ve hit that gear. It reminded me of the exact play, it was the Jets, I think it was in 2016 or something like that, I caught it, took the slant 70 or whatever, and that was the exact play. I just could remember and feel it, and now that I know, I think that was a big step for me.

Q: When you’re playing a team like the Saints, are you sitting there going, ‘we better put up points’, or do you sit there and let the defense worry about that?

A: I let the defense worry about that, but at the same time this is Drew Brees and the Saints we’re talking about. I grew up in New Orleans, he gave life to a city when we were – I don’t want to say hopeless, but we were all down. This is a team who is scoring 40 points a game, what they’re doing over there is ridiculous. They’ve been doing that. So, yes. At the same time, you worry about it, you have to let the defense worry about it, but what we worry about more is scoring more points than they score and that’s all we can really do which is a challenge.

Q: You jumped into the pregame huddle. What prompted that and what was the message?

A: It was just on my heart, just to have some energy, to have some life, and remember that this is football. This is what you sacrifice weekend after weekend, friends, family, all kinds of things that you gave up to be able to do this every Sunday. I don’t want to have to wait another week for this moment to come by, so take advantage of the one that we have right in front of us, and that was just my message. (Alec Ogletree) followed it up with exactly that, and we just came out, we had energy even in the locker room before the game I was yelling the whole time. It’s been too quiet, and we go down 0-2, granted we’re in New York, the place that we’re in is kind of a little panicky, and it just doesn’t need to be that. It’s a long season. We could’ve went 0-2 and then win 14 in a row, or whatever it is. My message was to have fun, it wasn’t about winning, it wasn’t about anything, it was about ‘have fun’ and play for the man next to you and we did that.

Q: On [Saints CB] Marshon Lattimore – What is the challenge of going against him?

A: I think he was the defensive rookie of the year last year, I presented him the award, so I know that he’s very, very good. Even watching film, he’s just different. I don’t know the word – not sturdy, but he’s just very balanced, and he’s very good. We’ve got a challenge ahead of us, I don’t know exactly if it’s going to be a match up, if he’s following you here, there, this that and the other, but we have a challenge ahead of us, but I know we’re all up for it.

Q: How did he do against Julio [Jones] I’m sure you watched that.

A: We watched the film a little bit, but I don’t know if they were matched up. I’ve seen certain plays that he wasn’t on Julio, or he was on Julio, so I think if I start doing something where if he is on me the whole time, he’s going to stay on me. I don’t know how much they really switch sides and all that. I’m still in there watching them a little bit.

Q: Getting one win is nice, but how important here is it to build the momentum and put together a few wins in a row?

A: That’s the goal, obviously. We want to win. Like I said, I want to win every game, so a few in a row, 10 in a row, I want to win them all. Like I said, that’s the goal. We’ve got an opportunity on Sunday, we’ve got to come out and take advantage of it.

Q: [Coach Tyke Tolbert] was pretty excited about one of your blocks on Saquon’s run, is it different at all blocking for a guy like him?

A: It’s impossible. He’s a guy who can go, we’ve got a run called left, he can run left, come all the way back right, and then go all the way back left and score. Basically what you want to do for him is you want to get your hat on a man, and know that he’s going to make somebody miss, he’s going to break a tackle, just don’t let your man make the tackle pretty much.

Q: You’re one of several guys in this locker room who talked either Sunday after the game or yesterday about energy. Why does that matter so much?

A: It’s contagious. Energy is contagious. I know on days where I’m dealing with something personally and I don’t come in here with the same energy, it’s noticed. It’s noticed a lot around the locker room and that’s been my biggest challenge, to bring that energy every day. It’s not easy, but to bring that energy and to give it off to other people. Everybody in this locker room, I talk to everybody, and just try and encourage us to be a team because at the end of the day, us is all we have. Once you step on that field, there’s not anybody who can help us win the game. We’re all we got, and we’ve just got to be together, be one.

Q: Contagious. That’s [Jarvis Landry’s] line.

A: Contagious. That’s what we talked about. You’re right… That’s what Jarvis and I, that’s what I grew up on is that contagious energy, that contagious even love, just showing love. It really is contagious, so the bad energy can be contagious, the negative energy can be contagious, the good, all of it is contagious. It’s just about making sure we bring the right stuff.

Q: With no Evan Engram in the lineup, that’s one big play guy you don’t have. Does that put more stress on your big play guys to make more since he’s not there?

A: I think it puts more stress on all of us. We’ve got to pick up for him, unfortunately. I wish that he was playing, I love him. I tell him all the time I think he’s got a chance to be one of the greatest, and it’s just unfortunate what happened, but that’s part of the game. He’ll take some time to recover and get right, and be able to come back strong, but for now, we do have to step up and we do have to make more plays all across the board – (Sterling Shepard), (Saquon Barkley), myself, (Rhett Ellison). Rhett, we call him Mr. Consistent. I do, at least. He always seems like he’s in the right place at the right time, always making the plays, so everybody’s got to step up.

Q: You say you hesitated on that play. Are you happy with the way you are playing? Obviously your numbers are pretty good so far.

A: I’m never content. It’s not a word I’d like to use. I don’t know, it’s just something that I’m coming back and I’m trying to feel it out. I regret that moment for life, I’ll watch that film and I will really remember I could’ve taken this 80, but it didn’t happen. I’m happy with what we’re doing, definitely not content, I feel like I could always do more. That’s always going to be my mentality. I could go for 500 yards and I’ll still look back at that one pass that you didn’t get and it’s like, wow, I could’ve gone for 560. You know what I mean? That’s just how my mind is, that’s just how I’m built, that’s how I’m wired.

Q: You don’t question that that extra gear is there though?

A: Oh, it’s there. It’s there, I just don’t know why I didn’t hit it. It’s there, though.  

Q: On not noticing the good (plays):

A: The thing is with the good, the good is expected. When it rains, everybody’s like, ‘it’s raining today’, but when it’s sunny, it’s not like, ‘oh, it’s a nice day’.

LB Olivier Vernon

Q: Missed question.

A: Feels great, making progress and that’s the goal, make progress.

Q: How much closer do you feel to being back out there than maybe you did a week ago?

A: I don’t know just got to see. Going day by day.

Q: In general, are you encouraged where you’re at in terms of the injury?

A: Most definitely. Just going day by day, trying to get better.

Q: How frustrating has it been to have to be on the sidelines?

A: You never want to be on the sidelines so that speaks for itself right there, but all I can do is get myself right.

Q: Have you been out as – like when the injury first happened, is this timeline about what you expected or have you had to kind of be more patient than you initially anticipated?

A: Just being patient, seeing how my body just reacts to all of the rehab and treatments so it’s really been day by day to see how I feel.

Q: We’ve seen you play on like one leg before so we know you can play on a lot. Did someone have to tell you that you weren’t playing or do you know that this is the best thing for you?

A: Honestly you have to ask coach Shurmur for that one, but all I could do is be out there and when I’m out there healthy and just go from there.

Q: Can you put a percentage at all on your chances of playing on Sunday?

A: You have to ask coach Shurmur on that one.

Q: How about if you had it your way?

A: You still have to ask coach Shurmur on that one.

Q: The fact that you practiced at least partially yesterday, is that a sign that maybe you’re getting closer?

A: It’s progress so that’s a good sign.

Q: How much do you, you’re obviously facing a really good offense, how much do you want to be out there on Sunday?

A: I want to be out there every week no matter who we playing so we just got to see.

Q: How do you think your defense is doing right now as a group?

A: I think those guys are coming together. The first couple of a weeks of a season with every team, we have a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces so it’s all about trying to gel together with everybody that you have and just each week that we keep getting deeper into the season it can only get better.

Q: Have you been watching the calls on roughing the passer that have been happening early in the season and are you concerned technique wise that there’s a problem there?

A: Yeah I just hope I don’t get called for that. Not trying to get called for any of those, but that’s the rules.

Q: Are there things that you can and have done to change how you go about…?

A: I haven’t really played in a game yet.

Q: I mean even over time because you’ve been (inaudible) quarterbacks for a number of years.

A: I don’t even know. I really don’t have a straight answer for that one.

Q: There was nothing in training camp you did differently to compensate for it?

A: Not really. I don’t got no straight answer for that one.

Q: Is your card game improving?

A: Working on it. I mean you got to ask Shurmur for that one.

Q: Whether you’re out there or not, how important is it that the pass rush gets to Drew (Brees)?

A: It’s vital. You got to put pressure on the quarterback of his criteria. Get him off his game.

Tight End Evan Engram

Q: Are you going to transfer any of your speed to (TE) Rhett (Ellison) so he can run those deep seams?

A: (laughter) A lot of people sleep on Rhett. He’s definitely a teach-tape in the blocking game. The dude is a really good athlete and makes plays in the pass game too. So, no need to give him any speed. He was moving on some plays on Sunday, and I expect him to have a big game this weekend, and through the pass game. I know he’s going to take care of his blocks in the run game.

Q: (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) was calling him Mr. Consistent. Is that an accurate name for him?

A: One-hundred percent. Every single play – I call him the “teach-tape.” Anytime you want to learn how to do something or you want to see a play that we’re installing, you pull up a clip and you’ll see #85 in there one-hundred percent. He’s definitely a good guy to have as a teammate, and a good guy to have in my position room.

Q: Rhett had said that you were a teach-tape to him in terms of teaching him new routes and things like that.

A: Yeah, that was kind of cool. Playing with him last year, just kind of seeing him. He’s obviously been in the league for a couple of years and to kind of see him be really into improving his game and his route game. Obviously, we both are kind of the same body type. He’s definitely better in the blocking game, and I’m kind of more of a receiver. He definitely has been picking my brain a lot this year. So have I with him in blocking and stuff. I have all the confidence in him. Like I said, I feel like I’m a vet sometimes when that happens. He’s like the young kid asking me for help and stuff.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve made each other better? Do you see it on film?

A: One-hundred percent. Definitely for me, watching his routine and watching him on film, and even in the game, and lining up next to him, his communication. It’s definitely a big confidence boost for me when I’m in there with him, because I know he’s got my back and I know if we have assignments or anything that we’re kind of doing together, I know we can get it done, especially with him by my side. It definitely makes our whole room better. I can definitely say we make each other better as well.

Q: Seems like your injury isn’t as serious as most people expected it to be. It could’ve been a lot worse.

A: Yeah, it definitely could’ve been a lot worse. It still sucks. It’s a part of the game. Injuries happen. Just kind of focus on staying positive. I’m staying in it, and supporting my teammates. It sucks not being able to be out there, but I know we work our butts off all year. I have the most confidence in the whole team, especially in my tight end room. Definitely just staying in it and supporting those guys and remaining positive, and just attacking treatment and trying to get back as soon as I feel 100%.

Q: If you watch the tape, their tackling style is kind of to go low. Do you kind of resent that at all?

A: Honestly, I’ve always been the type of guy I’d rather defenders go high rather than low, but it’s a part of the game. It’s hard to kind of control your body. If you can kind of see it coming, you can lower your shoulder or adjust. It’s the times when you don’t see them coming, or they’re coming from the side, or coming off of a block or something. So, it’s definitely tough, but there’s things that it’s hard for us to do on the offensive side of the ball and there’s things that are hard for them on their side of the ball. It’s a part of the game, especially with the new rules and stuff. A lot of defenders are changing things up. I don’t have any ill feeling towards that style. I’d rather guys go high, definitely, but I know it’s a part of the game.

Q: So obviously, you didn’t see him coming?

A: No, everything happened pretty fast. I kind of had some guy in front of me, and just came out of nowhere. I was kind of late bracing myself. He got me pretty good.

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