Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Martindale: Here we are again: recharged, ready to go, excited about the second half of the season. I'll open it up for questions.
Q: How much does (safety) Xavier's (McKinney) absence on the backend and wearing the (green) dot affect your defense and what you guys have to prepare for now?
A: I think there will be an effect. It could be a good effect or a bad effect. We're going to find that out. I always talk to the defensive guys about (how) we control the narrative of every situation. There's the situations, series of events, if you will, during a game that you've got to handle. (And there the) series of events during the season. I think we've done a good job of that so far, for the most part. It's just another injury that we're going to have to deal with and get ready to go play the Texans.
Q: Does it take more than one person to replace him? How do you see that playing out?
A: No, I think you just look at each game differently on what you need for that game. And different guys will step up and step in. (Safety) Dane (Belton) will get more playing time than he has. He's come along very well as a rookie – all of them. Our organizational alignment has been fantastic as far as building the roster and continuing to build the roster for what we need schematically. It's going to be a different look. I feel bad for the guy (Xavier McKinney) himself. I know he didn't do it on purpose. I feel bad for his teammates, but you got a group of men in there that are just selfless and want to play for each other. And they understand series of events, and they're going to be ready to step up and go play.
Q: What have you liked about how Dane has performed, and also where are the areas where you'd like to see him grow a little bit?
A: I think that he's a student of the game. He takes it very serious as a profession. That's what jumps out at me. He's a really mature kid for being a rookie. I don't know if you all have had a chance to visit with him yet or not, but he's very quiet. You got to get him talking louder and things like that, but I just like how he approaches the game. The plays will come for him because he keeps doing the right thing. He's not an error repeater; he doesn't make the same mistake twice. I think as a rookie, he's ahead of the game.
Q: He had played a role as a third safety quite a bit in your defense. Who plays that role now?
A: We'll change it around and just see who we have available on game day as far as different people playing different roles with that. So, I know that JP, (safety Jason) Pinnock, will come in and get some more playing time than what he has. And there will be others.
Q: What are your impressions of (Houston Texans running back) Dameon Pierce?
A: I don't know who said something to him or did something to him to make him so angry, but that might be the angriest runner in the league. He is, I'll give you my comparisons again: Old, old school, (former running back) Earl Campbell, Jamal Lewis. He's (Dameon Pierce) one of those big power (running) backs that has great balance. Runs mad every time he touches it. Has quick feet. It's going to be (a) tough assignment.
Q: Is he the guy you need to shut down?
A: Well, there's others, too. They've got great speed with (Brandin) Cooks out there – the receiver. Their receiving corps is good, and their tight ends are really talented as well. I would definitely say that it all starts with him; that's why he's up for Rookie of the Year.
Q: Do you anticipate Cooks playing? He obviously didn't play last week. How do you handle that at this point?
A: We anticipate it just like we did 14 (Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf) in Seattle was going to play. Everybody's telling us he's going to miss, and we just go until they give the final 'who's up and who's down' on Sunday. But I anticipate him playing, yes.
Q: When you looked at your defense over the bye, did you find anything that you said to yourself, 'We want to definitely hone in on this.' Maybe you can do it a little differently?
A: I think that, overall, there's some things that stood out to us that we're ahead of schedule on. I think situational football, we've handled that really well this year. And we've been successful in situational football and all those situations you want to look at: third down, red zone, two minute. There's some other things that we need to shore up, but it's one of those things when you go back and not just look at the last eight games, but you look at it by game, there's different ways you play a game each week. So, you might have to give something to take something else away. And the bottom line when you look at it is, at the bye, you're 6-2. That's the biggest thing you want to look at is you've got six wins. There's things that we continue to work on.
Q: With (defensive) Nick's (Williams) injury, kind of the thinness of the D-line, how are you approaching that?
A: It's going to be the next guy up. Hank (defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux) will come up probably for him or (defensive lineman) Ryder (Anderson) – one of those two. (General manager) Joe (Schoen) and Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) handle that. It's just the next guy up. We have a very solid outside (line)backer room as well. When you're in sub (package), you call them defensive ends. When you're in base (defense), you call them outside (line)backers. Some of those guys like Haddy (outside linebacker Jihad Ward) and some of those other guys can go inside, especially in pass rush situations. So, we'll just keep hammering away.
Q: (What is) your comfort level with (safety) Julian (Love) now? He takes on a different role.
A: I don't even hesitate. I'm very comfortable with Julian – have been since day one with both those safeties (Julian Love and Xavier McKinney). And they're both bright, young players that are going to have great careers. So, I'm excited for Julian to have this opportunity. He does a great job communicating on the back end, and I'm glad we have him.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: When you did your self-evaluation this past week, the offense has been kind of sluggish coming out of the gate. Did you uncover any kind of common denominator that you can address moving forward?
A: Yeah, there was some good stuff that we looked at as a staff. Really took some good time and evaluated first, second down, third down, red zone. Just really went piece by piece on personnel groupings, the players, putting those guys in the spots – that they were in the right spots. I think we came out with some good information and stuff that we can apply moving forward.
Q: How much of that is getting a feel for not only what your guys are doing but what the other side is doing?
A: It's a good combination of both. We've had some new players come in so we're constantly evaluating how those guys play and what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and then also tying that into what we see from a defensive standpoint. That's been the key, that's what we spend a ton of time on every single day.
Q: What have you seen from (wide receiver) Kenny (Golladay) after the bye here and what can you reasonably expect from him after such a quiet first part of the season?
A: Kenny came out yesterday, had a good day of practice. Really, the standard for him and for every player is come out, practice hard, work on your techniques and assignments and then when your role is defined in the game, go out and execute.
Q: Do you have any sense that he can give you something in the second half here? When you look back, other than the injuries, what do you see why it just didn't work for him in the first half?
A: I don't want to get too far ahead. I think today is a big practice for everybody. We got the bulk of our game plan in, our base first and second down stuff. Putting in some more third down and red zone today. This will be a good test to work through all the stuff and make sure we're on the same page.
Q: If you don't want to get too far ahead, how about just looking back and seeing what were the speed bumps that you noticed for him in the first half of the season?
A: I think Kenny has done a good job. Kenny came in and he's been a great teammate. He's come in and worked hard when he's been practicing. I know he's gotten a little dinged up, so he worked his tail off to get ready for this week. We're happy that he's available.
Q: The reality with him is that his role was minimized before he was injured. With where you are now, how much would you like for him to do more moving forward?
A: Every week, each day, we'll go together as a staff and get together with (Head Coach Brian Daboll) Dabs and talk about everyone's role, everyone's job per that game plan. It's still being defined. Every single day, we evaluate that and make sure we get the guys in the right spot and by the time we get to Sunday, we have a good plan and everyone understands what they're doing.
Q: How much can (wide receiver) Wan'Dale (Robinson) grow now that he's been healthy, he's been back in the mix?
A: Wan'Dale is continuing to grow in the offense as a young player. He's doing all the right things in the classroom and getting on the same page with the quarterback. That's really important for a young guy and then learning how to be a pro. I think he's done a good job of that to date, and I think he'll continue to do that throughout this week.
Q: You guys didn't make a lot of big moves or additions at the trade deadline. You did bring in (wide receiver) Isaiah (Hodgins). What have you seen from him? Brian and (general manager) Joe (Schoen) brought him in and are familiar with him.
A: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of familiarity with Isaiah in the offense and having some experience with that. He's been great to come in and plug into the offense. There's a lot of familiarity for him offensively. There's some new things that we might have changed and just different verbiage, but he's handling that great. Again, today is another one of those big days as far as workload from a game plan standpoint.
Q: Why has there been so few shots down field in the passing game? Is that something that needs to increase?
A: Absolutely. I think you got to find ways to create explosive (plays) – it definitely helps offense. It's hard to put together a 13, 14-play drive and finish and go on to score. You got to find a way to generate explosives in the run game, the pass game. Yeah, we definitely evaluated that.
Q: When you look back at the first half of the season, did you think you used (running back) Saquon (Barkley) enough? You should have used him less? How did you look at it?
A: That's a good one. I think when you look where you're at in the game – there's a lot of different situations that come up. Sure, would you want to get a premier player the ball? Yes, absolutely but sometimes you got to react to what the defense is showing you and other people have to step up and make those plays too. I think Saquon is a good part of our offense, he does a lot of things for us in the pass game, protection, in the run game, but there's a lot of other players too. It's an 11-man operation on offense. It can't just be one guy, everyone is a part of it, including the coaches putting everyone in a good spot to be successful.
Q: He's had some slow starts, getting back to the original question, is part of that to be expected because a team is going to come out and try to shut him down?
A: I don't know if that's real. I think we got to go out and execute our offense and make adjustments. I think we have to do a better job of that offensively. From a coaching standpoint, getting our guys in the right spot and put them there that way they can go out and go play fast. At the end of the day, that's all it comes down to is our execution and our discipline with all three levels.
Q: What are you expecting from (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) here in the second half and how can he get you guys offensively to the next level?
A: The standard for us hasn't changed. Today where we're at, just go and having a great practice. That's the first step and then as the week goes on, just keep on getting better and understanding the game plan, understanding our opponent and then we go out and execute on Sunday.
Q: How much would you say he's won you over? From when you first came in and you have to learn about him to now?
A: There's definitely a lot of trust between me and Daniel. We meet very often, especially in the offseason. During training camp, we were meeting every single morning for an hour talking through the installs, talking ranking stuff. We talk multiple times a week about the install. At the end of the week, we go through every single play on the call sheet, rank it, talk about it, see how we're going to use it within a game. If a game goes one way, we'll go this direction. If a game goes the other way, we'll go this direction. We definitely talk a lot about that. He does a great job with it, he's a pro and he's been around here for a few years now and has seen a few things. It's been good to lean on him and get his comfortability with the offense.
Q: Can you get more from him or is he where he's at?
A: Daniel is doing a great job. He's doing everything we're asking him to do, and I think as the offense continues to progress and we keep on finding ways to get our best players the football, he'll continue to do what we ask of him.
Q: What did you think the execution issues were in Seattle?
A: When we go back and look at it, every group had a piece of it. Again, it goes all three levels. O-line, running backs, receivers, quarterbacks. Everyone is a part of it. I think we went back and looked at all the little fundamental things – the techniques. Those things showed up. We look at it and evaluate it as a play caller. Did I put my guys in the right spot in that situation? There's things that showed up that way as well. I tell the guys all the time; we're all this thing together, we got to make sure that we're all doing our part and if there's little things we got to fix - we talk, we communicate, we adjust and then we go back and fix it. That's what was great about the bye, you had that opportunity to do that because, you know, sometimes you get rolling and the weeks keep on going and you're not able to step back and reevaluate the big picture of things. That was a great time for us as a staff, as players to get rejuvenated and go back to more of the basic stuff, fundamental things and reteach those things.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Thomas McGaughey: What's up guys? How y'all doing today? Good to see you.
Q: How was the vacation?
A: It was good. Got a chance to move around a little bit, went to the city. Watched the (Michael Jackson) MJ musical.
Q: Was it good?
A: Unbelievable. Got to see it if you haven't seen it yet. Then went to the Knicks game Saturday night. So moved around a little bit, had a little fun.
Q: How do you juggle between burying a player and picking him up with what (wide receiver Richie James) went through?
A: My whole thing is when I deal with players, it's always to build them up, it's never to tear them down. I tell them all the time there's two types of knowledge in life, it's borrowed and it's bought. Sometimes you buy it, sometimes you borrow it, and Richie bought it. So, he's just got to keep his head up. This game is about adversity and it's not about what happens to you, it's about how you react to what happens to you. It will be a test for him, and we'll see what happens. We've got a lot of guys competing for the spot and we'll see what happens.
Q: He lost the ball, what technically did he do not to grab it?
A: Probably the first thing he did wrong was wear sleeves, cotton sleeves. It was kind of cool out, probably wasn't the best decision and that's probably on me more than anything else to tell him to take them off. The second is he just took a shot. Like, you've got to hang onto the ball. That's just football. Good fundamentals, good technique, keep the ball, double in trouble. When you get in traffic, you've got to cover the ball up.
Q: You don't want guys to wear cotton sleeves ever? Why is that?
A: The ball will slip. Anytime you have a regular leather ball up against a smooth surface and it's not skin, that's something that you don't want. You don't ever want that.
Q: The running back can't wear sleeves either right?
A: Yeah, that's why you rarely see running backs have sleeves on.
Q: Did you say something?
A: No, it was my fault. I should've told him to take it off. I'm normally all over that. It was my fault. I slipped on that one.
Q: Is there some other type of material he could use?
A: No, skin. (laughs) When you carry the ball, you want that ball firmly up against your body and don't want anything to make it slide or move while you're carrying it.
Q: Are you at the point where if he's healthy you want to give him another shot or are you at the point where you're up in the air about it?
A: We're going to let the week play out and see what happens. We've got a bunch of guys back there catching them. Obviously, you can't put the ball on the ground. We all know that. That's a no brainer. You know you can't turn the ball over and put it on the ground. So, we'll see what happens once we get towards the back end of the week.
Q: How did (corner back Darnay Holmes) end up at the top of that list?
A: Who said he was at the top?
Q: Well, he went back there at Seattle, and he was the first guy out here.
A: That doesn't mean he's at the top of the list.
Q: With a rookie like (wide receiver Kalil) Pimpleton, he's on the practice squad so as you've said before, you're not sure when moves are made by the people upstairs, if he's active, that kind of thing, but when you're dealing with somebody who has that success in college as a returner, how much can you work him in in practice to get him ready for if that opportunity arises?
A: Pimp's been working all season. Since he's been here, he's been back there catching punts. So, he gets his work every day, he catches after practice. I mean all those guys are catching. Darnay's catching after practice, during practice, but no, all those guys are back there catching. They're all working at it and all trying to get better at it and that's our whole thing. Just trying to get better every single week and contribute in a positive fashion.
Q: Why was Darnay the guy in Seattle?
A: Because he was the only other punt returner that was there ready to go.
Q: Is there a strong difference between the college return game and the professional return game?
A: Yes, it is a big difference. Most of the time in college because you have the influx of all the Australian punters, there's so many of them in Division I football now. Most of the time when they catch the ball, it's off a bounce. You rarely see the ball turn over and you get a 50-yard 4.5, 4.8 punt. You don't see that a lot in college. Most of the time it's some type of rugby end over end ball and it's different. If you look at the rookie returners in this league over the first five weeks of the season, they had a lot of muffs because you just don't see it. You don't see the ball turn over; you don't see the big balls being hit in college. It's more of a line drive, 46 yards on the ground, it might roll for 20 or you might get one that's going back across the field end over end. It's just a different kind of spin.
Q: How do you approach teaching your rookies that?
A: Reps. Just reps. I mean, you can't speed up the process. The process is what it is. So you can't push a button and all of the sudden they can catch that ball coming out of jugs at 50 yards, 5.0 hang or with a lefty spin. That's a whole other different subject. It's a process. You can't talk about going through the process without going through it. Being a process driven organization like we are, that's just part of the process. Young guys coming in and learning how to catch a ball off the foot is just different.
Q: Can punt returners, no sleeves, put anything on their arms?
A: No. (laughs)
Q: Stick 'em.
A: Yeah, you said that, I didn't. (laughs)
Q: You've had (wide receiver Darius) Slayton and (corner back) Adoree' (Jackson) in that role.
A: You're right, you're right. Slayton's done it some but not as much as Adoree'.
Q: Are you even sure that Richie will be available Sunday because of the concussion?
A: I'm not going to talk about injuries, but like I said, those guys are out there working, and we'll see what happens.
Tight End Daniel Bellinger
Q: Will a visor have to go on the facemask?
A: Yeah, eventually I'm going to get a visor and probably wear one for the rest of my career.
Q: You look tough, right?
Q: Did you have any vision issues or do you now?
A: I still have a little double vision. The doctor said it was normal to have that so it's just kind of waiting for that to heal up and wait for that to go away.
Q: What did they have to do?
A: They had to go in under the eye and put a plate in, just get the bone fixed up, and then they had to fix my septum as well.
Q: What's the process of being cleared to play? Is it just vision or does it have to heal more?
A: Let it heal a little more. They said that the plate in here is supposed to fuse to the bone. So, let that heal up and just kind of go with how I feel and how my vision feels. It's getting better day by day.
Q: How scary was it when it happened?
A: Incredibly scary. When it first happened, it kept getting really puffy and it was kind of numb around the eye, so I was afraid that it was the actual eye. I was afraid at first but once I got to the hospital and the doctor looked at the eye and said the actual eye was okay. I calmed down a little bit.
Q: So, you went to the hospital in Jacksonville and then you went back and left with the team, right?
Q: I guess seeing blood is a frighting thing also.
A: I didn't know it was actually bleeding as much as it was at first. It was all numb right here, so I thought it was just sweat coming down. I didn't realize it was blood until a little bit later.
Q: Is your vision full now or is there blurriness?
A: I can see. The vision is good now, still a little double vision but like I said it's normal. The doctor said it's normal day by day.
Q: They give you any idea of a timeline? Hard to predict maybe?
A: No specific timeline but they said just go how I feel and once the plate is more healed up with the bone.
Q: Knowing how you feel and what they say, are you confident you can play again this season?
A: Absolutely. Definitely confident I can play again this season. Just getting out there running the last couple of days felt good. Really just kind of just getting this swelling to go down completely and once the eye is level with this eye, the vision will be even better.
Q: Is that the only thing you can do now is run? Can you lift? What can you do right now?
A: Just kind of taking it with what the trainers have me do. I've been running for the last couple of days. I think I'm going to try to get a lift in here the next couple of days and see how that feels.
Q: Caught any passes?
A: No passes yet. Once I do, I'll get a helmet with a visor on and go through that.
Q: How much of a bummer is it that you were having such a good rookie season and this happens?
A: It's unfortunate. It's a one-in-a-million injury, that's how I see it. Just got to come back and be stronger because of it.
Q: At the time, it just seemed like such a freak thing. Looking back on it, was there anything that you could have done differently to prevent it?
A: I don't think so. I just think that wearing a visor will help. He was going for the ball and I had the ball close to my facemask and he got in there. Just a freak accident. I think just wearing a visor will protect that in the future.
Q: Will you plan on wearing a visor for the rest of your career?
A: Yeah. For now, definitely yeah. I'll wear one for a while.
Q: Did (Jacksonville linebacker Devin Lloyd) call you up?
A: He messaged me on Instagram. Sent a nice message apologizing. He didn't mean anything by it. I played him in college, too, and I never saw him as a dirty player. I think he's a good player and he apologized for it so it's cool.
Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay
Q: How excited are you to be back and practicing in the flow here?
A: Really excited. Definitely a smile on my face when I'm out there with the guys.
Q: How do you feel?
A: I feel pretty good, I feel good. Stacked two good days on top of each other, a little break tomorrow, get a little treatment done then come back Friday and put another one on top of another one.
Q: Do you think you can play on Sunday?
A: That's what I'm pushing towards right now.
Q: At what point did you start feeling like yourself again with the injury? When did you kind of feel like it was in the rearview mirror?
A: A little bit before the Bye Week and definitely during the Bye Week.
Q: Guys who have played more this year have more aches and pains, other than your knee you probably don't. Do you feel you can really hit the ground running in the second half here?
A: Definitely. That's really my main goal, is to hit the ground running. I don't want to come in the game and act like I lost step as far as playbook wise, like I'm not mentally prepared. So, even when I wasn't playing, I was making sure I was mentally prepared the entire time as if I was playing. That's really my main goal, when I do get in there it's not like a fall off.
Q: How hard was it to see all the guys go down and not being able to help?
A: It's tough. Definitely feel for those guys, even while I wasn't playing, because I know the feeling. So that's definitely tough.
Q: What do you expect your usage to be? Do you think it's going to be something where you kind of have to be eased back in?
A: I'm ready for whatever. It really doesn't matter.
Q: How much do you feel like you have to prove to them that, 'Hey guys, I deserve to play.'
Q: Coaches. Like, 'Hey I deserve a big role. I can produce for you.'
A: I'm really not trying to prove anything to the coaches. Really, I'm out here playing for my guys and these people in the locker room. Of course, I've got to show on the practice field to the coaches, but at the exact same time, I'm playing for the guys in this locker room, period.
Q: You mentioned a couple of weeks ago that you have not been in this position very often, for a winning team in the second half of the season. How does that change your attitude as far as you're coming back to a team that's 6-2 and instead of a team that's 2-6. You're playing for something here.
A: I mean, it doesn't change my attitude. At the end of the day, I'm a competitor, I'm a winner. Even if I haven't been a part of a team that's 6-2 my mindset is still a dog mentality.
Q: How about the excitement of coming back to a team that's in a playoff push.
A: That's why I said when I got on the field earlier, I've got a smile on my face. It's just a lot of energy going around this facility, period, and you can't beat that.
Q: Do you feel you also could be playing for your next contract? I know you just want to win.
A: We're not going to get into all that right now. What I'm focused on is just getting back on the field.
Q: Do you feel you can open up the offense? Do you feel like you can bring it to another level?
A: I haven't played in what, four weeks? Like I said I'm just trying to stack these days on one another. You never know when my number is really called, a deep shot down the field or a slant that can go somewhere. Whenever the ball comes to me, I've just got to make it.
Q: What do you like about this offense or how do you see yourself fitting into it?
A: I've liked the offense since the coaches first got here. I just like how they can move guys around, put them in the right positions.
Q: In your down time did you at all go back and look at film saying, 'Am I tipping something off'?
Q: How do you feel health wise compared to like early in the season?
A: I feel pretty good.
Q: Any difference?
A: I feel pretty good.
Q: When you've watched and you've seen this passing attack, what have you seen and what do you think maybe you can add to it?
A: Just another weapon.
Q: You guys have won games, but I think they want to upgrade that in the second half, what have you seen from it?
A: Just another weapon I feel like I can be for (Quarterback Daniel) Danny (Jones) (and) be for this team.