RB Saquon Barkley
Q: Have you ever gone a stretch where you've gone seven games without rushing for 100 yards?
A: I mean, it's only my second year in the NFL, so I don't think so.
Q: But even in college or high school?
A: Definitely not high school. In college you only play like 11 games, so I don't think I would've gotten drafted that high if I had gone seven games without going 100 yards. So yeah, I guess not.
Q: This is the week?
A: I don't care about that, I just want to win, to be honest.
Q: What is it though? What do you look at and say this is kind of the reason we haven't been able to put together that big run game?
A: I think you can look, and you can see a lot of the focal point of defenses is to stop the run. But I think we are doing a good job of taking what the defense is giving us. In these last couple of weeks, I think we've been getting those dirty runs, taking those four and those fives. But the game also has got to present you to continue to run the ball. The Eagles did a really good job, especially in the fourth quarter, in the second half, of holding the ball. I don't really know the time of possession, but it definitely was in their favor. Green Bay, they got up on us. A lot of teams, the mindset is to go throw the ball to come back to try to win the game. In Chicago, they got up on us. So, I think in the last couple of games, we've been averaging 4 or 4.5, around there. But you've got to be able to continue to run the ball into the fourth quarter. Obviously, everyone wants those big 60-yard, 80-yard runs, but sometimes those come by just wearing defenses down. We haven't really gotten the opportunity to do that. I don't think we've been in a four-minute situation yet this season, or that I've been a part of.
Q: Have you had the chance yet to talk to (Los Angeles Rams Running Back) Todd Gurley at all about how his career trajectory went from his first year to his second?
Q: Are you aware of that? His numbers certainly came down and then…
A: Yeah, he went, what? 1,000 yards, then 800 yards, then 1,000, then got banged up again. I just know that, just doing research on running backs and being a fan of running backs. But no, I didn't reach out to him for that. I know I can, I know he'll definitely give me great advice. I'm not really looking for it. I don't care for the numbers, I don't care for the stats, I don't care if I finish the season with 1,000 yards or not. This season is a disappointment just because we're not playoff contenders. That's the whole mindset, that's the whole focal point.
Q: Well, he sort of was in that boat, too. The Rams were not a very good team…
A: They turned it around, right? That's why I keep preaching believing. Keep coming into work every single day, because I've got to keep preaching to you guys, keep preaching to the team, that this thing will turn around. Obviously, it's not going the way we'd like it. But just because it's not going the way you'd like it, and you're facing adversity, doesn't mean you've got to change your ways or should succumb to, I guess, the losing culture, that it's supposed to be— we're not having that, we're not going to do that. When it does work, it's going to work and it's going to work for a very long time.
Q: Have you sought advice from anybody about how to handle the losing and how to stay optimistic?
A: No, the only people I seek advice from is my family, my parents. Obviously, I have talked to (former Giants linebacker) Jessie (Armstead), and other former players here—(former Giants wide receiver) David Tyree and those guys. Just everyone has a losing slump, has those seasons. But for my personal self, I talk to my family, talk to my parents. But I'm a grown man. You've got to deal with it yourself and you've got to come out and figure it out. Like I said, the greats figure it out and I want to be great. I want this team to be great and I'm going to help find a way, to do my job to help us turn this culture around and get back to a winning culture. That's just by coming into work every single day and try to do the little things right.
Q: How much better do you feel, physically, with the ankle?
A: I feel really good, actually. I feel really good. Probably feel the best, to be honest, than a lot of people in the league. I was banged up earlier in the year so I'm getting better and better each week. It's not so much it's the injury that, I guess you could say, is holding me back. Even though physically you feel like you're back, mentally you might be telling yourself that you're back, but you watch yourself on film and you can see the way that you're running and you're protecting yourself. You don't really think you're doing it, but naturally it's just happening. But I think I'm getting better and better each week. My body is getting healthier and healthier each week. Try to finish the season off strong.
Q: Do you even have to do anything with the ankle at this point? Wrap it heavily?
A: I do stuff all of the time. You can't just stop doing it, because that's when it gets hurt again.
Q: Is it maintenance?
A: Yeah, it's maintenance. I just do a lot of maintenance on my body, just in general. So, I don't just only focus on my ankle. It's just on my body and trying to get my body better and stay strong throughout the season. I don't want to just be a great running back for two to three years, I want to be a great running back for 10 years plus. It starts on focusing on the little things now.
Q: Is it important to you to get Daniel (Jones) back in the lineup so as you build something for the future you guys can put a win or two together with him as quarterback? Looking towards 2020, is that something that would be important for you guys?
A: No, the only thing that's important to us right now is finishing the season off strong. We've got a chance to finish the season with three games in a row. I think a positive, even in our division, that would be a great way to finish off the season. It starts with Miami.
Q: You said after the game that this team, for whatever reason, finds ways to lose. What needs to be different to turn the page to find ways to win? What has to change?
A: That's a great question, actually. That's a question we're trying to figure out. I don't mean to come off like I'm coming at you or anything, but if we knew that answer, I promise you we wouldn't be 2-11. The way I guess you could do it is just go back to your roots. A lot of people who come in this building and in this facility come from winning programs, have won a lot of games. When it comes back to it, the way you win games is by doing the little things right— on the field also. Just because you're doing the little things right in here, obviously you can see the vibes and the mentality of the team in this locker room is still up and still high. We're not going at each other, we're not going downhill. I feel like we're coming to practice, and we're still grinding every single day. Just because you're doing those little things right, you've still got to do the little things right on the field. That's what we've got to do and that's what we're not doing. I know that's a long answer, but to answer your question— just execute better on Sundays.
Q: When you look at this season and you compare it to the first year, do you see teams approaching you any differently? Like this guy is not going to beat us?
A: No, I don't think that's the case.
Q: When people struggle a lot of times you talk about trying to maintain consistency. But when things are going like this, do you revisit, either your regime or as a team, and make drastic changes to try to make drastic changes to the results?
A: No, I think when things are going like this, and you're losing, you're at the losing end of it, I think it's important to remind yourself and remember this time. You do go back and you're way more critical of yourself. That's just natural, that's what people do. Whether it's in football, whether it's in life, when things aren't going right they are way more critical of themselves. I think that we've got to learn from this moment, learn from this time. Even though it's a lot of adversity and things aren't going our way. How critical we are of ourselves, when we do turn this thing around and we figure it out, we've got to keep that same criticism on ourselves because that's going to be key to not just be able to turn it around and be decent, to turn it around and be great again.
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher
Opening Statement: Coming out of the game, that's one of those gut-wrenching losses that you have. There's so much of that game our guys played hard, they played clean, tough. I hope really what's displayed there is the theme I have been talking to you guys about the whole season, this group runs to it. They aren't running from anything, they keep working and I love that about them. It was unfortunate in the fourth quarter. In overtime we gave up the drive for the score. We have to coach better, we have to execute better, and we have to play better in those situations. They got us on a couple plays. I'm sure you will ask about the play at the end of the game. That's a concept that they really run in different ways and we hadn't really seen it out of that look. At the end of the day, again you know I will never talk about particular players, we have to coach it better and we have to execute better in that moment. If you ask me if it's concerning that there's some vets on the field in the proximity of it and we cut one loose, I would say it's concerning whenever someone gets cut loose, that's how I look at it. Whether it's a young guy or an old guy, it doesn't matter. I look at all those situations the same. That's what you do as a coach and you work to coach it better and we have to execute it better. I loved a whole lot in that game but as we all know, it's about winning. We've had two good days. To come back after a tough loss, how these guys are continuing to run to it, I love it. We're going to keep closing the gap and find a way to get one this weekend.
Q: Did you think the defense would be farther along at this point in the season? Things like Monday would be behind you?
A: I've watched a lot of football just like everyone that is standing here. Sometimes plays you don't what to happen, happen. Whether you have seasoned guys or young guys, it's not an excuse, it's part of the game. Do I think we would be further along, I don't really judge it that way. I judge each day, each rep, each period. That's how we try to stack and get better. I think there's certainly been some progress with our young guys, probably over the last seven weeks. Collectively, we've been a little bit better and a little bit better. We have not played a complete game, there's no question about that. That's what we are striving for on defense. To play a first quarter to fourth quarter complete game, not something that's in spurts. That's what we're pushing to have happen here down the stretch.
Q: Janoris played a lot in the slot. I'm just curious, why that game and how it impacted other guys?
A: It started with Corey's (Ballentine) concussion and being out of the game. We needed to move some pieces around and I think that was good fit for him to go in and do that. Hats off to him because he picked it up fast and worked his tail off all week. He was on point with what to do and really how to do it. That was a true professional performance by him.
Q: You guys had been defending the run well. In the second half, what was it about Scott and the quick dives that was giving you guys problems?
A: The one in overtime we didn't see the pulls well. They ran that back-door motion with pullers and we lost the pulls on it. We have to see pulls better there. There was a couple on the interiors between the tackles where we gave up a little bit of push and those ones earlier in the game that were like a yard turned into four yards and two turned into five. All of the sudden, it's second and five instead of second a seven. That was important because, you guys correct me if I'm wrong, I think there was 21 third downs in the game. We put them in a bunch of third downs and those first or second down runs could've put us in a little bit better situation on a few of those third downs we didn't convert on defensively. Those were some important runs. Yeah, it's a five-yard run but at the end of the day that really dictates the third down you're playing later in that set of plays.
Q: The last play with Ertz, is that something you saw on film with them before? Is that something you practiced out of that formation?
A: I think I addressed that. They have run similar concepts different ways, different motions. There's a million ways they try to get to that stuff and try to isolate him on plays. He's a guy that's a really talented player and we know that. Again, we have to coach it better and we have to execute it better.
Q: I know you are not going to mention names, but was there a miscommunication on that last play?
A: Like I said, we have to execute it better and we have to coach it better.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula
Q: Who's your quarterback?
A: Whoever Coach (Pat Shurmur) puts out there, we'll coach him up.
Q: How does Daniel (Jones) look this week working himself back?
A: He's done a good job working his way back. He's done a really good job in the meetings. As we know, he's eager to get out there. We'll see how it goes. I know Coach has addressed all of the questions regarding him and injury and all that.
Q: If he's healthy, when he's only started 10 games, how important is it to get the three more? Even though fans will look at these games and say, 'What can he gain from them?' Well, what can be gained from them? If he is healthy.
A: Well, I think for anybody, regardless of your age or experience, you just get better with experience. He's a fast learner. Unfortunately, we don't have the results that we'd like to have. We spoke about that. The quarterback is a huge part of that, of wins and losses. But you learn. We've talked to our guys and our quarterbacks. There's nothing we can do to change what our record is other than learn from it and be better because of it. He's in the process of doing that, and experience helps. But if he can't go, he's going to absorb everything he can every which way, and it'll help him be better for now and for the future.
Q: Is there a segment or a thing where you have to learn how to come back from injury as well? Does that play at all (into the decision)?
A: Yeah, I think so. I know Coach talked about that. I think everything that you do from the minute you step foot into the building, when you get to the NFL, just like when you went from high school to college, is a learning experience. How to train, how to meet, how to go through walkthroughs, how to prepare on your own, how to deal with an injury, how to manage your time while you're getting treatment and still get yourself back ready to go mentally as fast as you can. I think all of that is a learning process for anybody, especially a young guy.
Q: How does having uncertainty with your starting quarterback affect this week sort of from a logistical standpoint?
A: I think everybody kind of knows what the situation is. It's important for everybody just to kind of keep your focus on what each guy's job is. One of the things we talk about is being flexible. The quarterbacks, I talk to those guys, flexibility is the key to longevity. Be flexible in this league, have a plan, know what you want to get done, but be flexible and that's going to help you in whatever you do.
Q: When a guy like (Darius) Slayton has a first half like that, but then a second half where I think he only saw two targets, when you're on the sideline there and it's a couple of three and outs, how much are you guys doing to draw up a play to get him the ball given how he's playing that game?
A: Yeah, when a guy is hot like that, you want to try to continue to, just in general, get him the ball. But you don't want to force the ball. I think the biggest thing was we just couldn't stay on the field. We were bad on third down. We needed to be better. Unfortunately, we had a chance at the end to get him the ball, and we didn't come up with a play. They made a good play at the end. But more importantly, you don't want to force it. When you don't have a lot of plays, it's hard to do those kinds of things.
Q: Saquon (Barkley) has gone seven games without getting 100 (rushing yards). Is the running game just not there, or are the holes not there or what?
A: First of all, it's hard. Last year when we got rolling, it was you get on a roll and you stay on it. That's our goal to do that every year. More importantly, to win football games. We know that the running game is going to be a big part of that. I think that probably four or five weeks ago, we kind of struggled just with a few things, just with some moving parts. Saquon was just getting back from his injury. I think the last few weeks, though, we've been back heading in the direction where we want to go. We're not quite there, but there are a lot of positive runs, a lot of efficient runs. You see our offensive line coming off the ball, you see them re-establishing the line of scrimmage, Saquon is hitting it up in there. We've had a few that have been really close, really in the last three games, from breakouts. I felt that way the week before. Unfortunately, we had to punt it over and then got down a couple scores. We had to kind of get to throwing the football. Then last week, we were kind of the same. But there is a lot more good now than basically what we saw four or five weeks ago.
Q: Do you design things in practice to test Daniel's ankle, or does it just come up naturally during the script or whatever you're doing?
A: We're real careful as coaches to kind of just take a backseat to the trainers on what he can do, what he can't do. We communicate with them on how much we want to push him, how much we don't, and then kind of just go from there and let them kind of take over. If they say, 'Hey, you can give him a little bit more,' we'll give him a little bit more. If they say, 'Hey, you need to hold back a little bit,' we'll do that. That's their job. We have great trainers and we listen to them.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Is Riley (Dixon) going to buy dinner for the special teams this week?
A: He better (laughter). That kid, I'm happy for him. I really am. He deserved everything that he's getting. He's been working hard and he's got a bright future. He has a few dinners ahead of him, too.
Q: Have you seen him take a leap a little bit this year?
A: Definitely. He's a lot more consistent in his ball striking. It's night and day from last year. Like I told you guys a couple weeks ago, he's just growing. You can see him maturing and just doing the things that he needs to do to take his game to the next level.
Q: Like what? How did he do it? Why do you think it just clicked for him?
A: It happens. I mean, as young players, it takes time. Everybody, we live in a freaking microwave society and everybody wants everything right now. It just doesn't happen like that. Most specialists get cut seven, eight times before they figure out who they are. But, he just worked at it, at his craft, this offseason and just studying himself and just watching other guys that are very similar to him and just trying to go through that process. And it's just the mundane stuff, the drills, catching and molding the ball, the steps, and then looking at tape and just grinding over the tape, and just over, and over, and over stuff that's like watching paint dry to most of you guys. But, that's the kind of stuff that specialists, those are the things that you have to do to take that next step that he's done.
Q: Are you saying we don't like watching special teams?
A: No, you guys know you don't like it (laughter).
Q: Are the Dolphins taking more risks on special teams than anybody in the league right now?
A: I think they're being aggressive. When you get a team like that in the position that they're in, I guess they're saying, 'Why not? If we can steal a possession, let's get it. Maybe it can help us score more points and win a game.'
Q: Are you guys in that position?
A: Right now, we're in the position that we're in. We've got to be aggressive and try to win games also.
Q: What did you think when you saw the kicker passing to the punter?
A: It was a unique play. The play design was pretty unique. Swinging gate, out of the swinging gate, good gracious, you could chase ghosts all day long with that thing. You've just got to be prepared and sound and just react when they come out and they do it. Being in college, you see it all the time. I was a high school coach, you see it all the time. So, you've just got to plan and prepare for it.
Q: Do you ever think about something like that? The holder actually caught the pass, right? Has something like that ever crossed your mind really?
A: We're special teams coaches, we think of everything. So, I promise you, if I go back and take you into looks in some of my notebooks and some of the stuff I've drawn up over the years, it's crazy. And we're all built the same way, so we've all got a bunch of tricks up our sleeves.
Q: Did you almost, being a special teams coach, tip your hat to him that he had the guts to call it?
A: Hey, congratulations to Brian Flores because he makes the call. Sometimes you've got to get creative.
Q: Is there any advantage to bringing in a left-footed punter for the week?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Any time you can get the spin off the foot, it's definitely an advantage. And any time our guys can get that live look, you'd like to get it.
Q: How's Colin (Holba) doing?
A: He's doing good, he's doing well. He's in here working at it, and there are some things that he needs to work at and we're working on those things. He's doing a good job. He's fit in really well, he's a good kid, he works hard, and we look forward for him getting better every single week.
Q: Is that a bit of a new trend in the league do you think, guys coming in as dedicated long snappers, not linebackers or tight ends who can snap?
A: Yeah, it's been like that for a minute. Those guys, the time that they spend together is valuable. That process, that operation, I think a lot of times the normal person, they take it for granted, 'Oh, it's just a snap.' No, it's a lot of things that go into it. The more time those three spend together, the better they get.
Q: Your coverage units, you look at whomever is putting together the rankings, the coverage units are right up there at the top of the league. Is it the growth that you've had or the continuation that you've had from last year? Is it in part the trend in the league where we're not seeing the returns the way they used to be five years ago? How do you assess it when you take a step back?
A: I think it's a little bit of both. Normally, during the course of a year, I know kind of back in the day, especially here, you returned every—I mean, you covered every kick. That's just the way it was. The ball was kicked from the 30-yard line, it's cold, and the ball wouldn't fly out of the back of the end zone as often, so all the balls were in the field of play. But now it's not like that, you get a lot more touchbacks. But as far as punts are concerned, it's the same stuff. It's just guys playing fast, being physical, being disciplined, and just playing aggressive.
Q: Who's your punt returner for Sunday?
A: We'll have two punt returners, same two guys that were back there last week, Da'Mari (Scott) and Golden (Tate III). Those two guys will play.
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