Q: Did the second quarter against the Cowboys last season show you what Ramses Barden is capable of doing?A: I think it scratches the surface of what he is capable of doing. One of his greatest tools is he is a smart player. What that gives you is the availability to move him around. He can play all four spots. Move him around. He's done a good job of staying attentive in meetings and doing all of that even when he hasn't played. I expect him to be mentally, right off the bat, be in a good place.
Q: Will he pick up where he left off?A: I think that's definitely possible. He hasn't played since last November so there's going to be some rust there. But in terms of where he is mentally, I would expect him to pick up where he left off.
Q: He seemed at that point to have good chemistry with Eli. Will that start from scratch when he returns?A: No, I don't think so. I think it goes back to what I was just talking about. Chemistry with a quarterback is the quarterback can trust you to be at the right place at the right time. I think when you're a smart player the quarterback knows that. I think that's where that comes from. I would expect more of the same.
Q: Are you enjoying the Victor Cruz show so far?A: I enjoy any show where it ends in touchdowns, so yeah, I'm enjoying it.
Q: It seems like the ball goes up a lot and you kind of see a little guy, especially in double coverage sometimes, you think there's no way he's going to come down with it. Somehow he does, whether it's a tip or whether it's a nice play.A: Yeah. I do think there's a knack. Certain guys have a knack for being able to go and get the ball and they find themselves around the ball a lot and he's got some of that. There's no question. I think you could see a little of that day one when he walked in this place, that this guy might have a knack for making some plays and getting to the ball. He's built on it. He's got a ways to go. He's got a lot to clean up. There are still those mistakes that you have to get rid of and we're striving to do it. He is too. He's by far not a finished product, but he's working to get there.
Q: How do you explain why so many people missed on him?A: I think you explain it by these are human beings doing it. There are a lot of factors that go into it. I didn't see him coming out of high school, so I don't know why so many Division I schools missed on him, but maybe he exploded when he was in college. Maybe he put on 15 pounds and became more explosive and physical. I'm not sure about that. You see potential, but we were fortunate to have him in a spot where he was able to take reps in rookie minicamp. We got to see him live and in-person take these [snaps] and that's where it really showed up.
Q: How has he evolved in the slot?A: I think we've tried to put him in there as much as we can and get him as many reps. We still do that in terms of practice time and rep after rep, he has developed. He's got a better feel for it. I'll give Eli a good amount of credit on that too in terms of training him. What I mean by training him is constantly talking to [Cruz] about what he sees and what he would want here, how he's seeing it and what reaction he expects. [Eli] can train guys by stopping them with the ball, where you want them. 'This is where I'm throwing the ball, this is what's happening in this picture.' Eli's constantly doing that, constantly talking to [the receivers]. He does a great with that. He should take a lot of credit for that.
Q: Have you seen a lot of progress with Manningham since he was benched?A: Yeah, I think so. Mario was never benched. I think at one point Coach Gilbride made him come out of the Arizona game. When you looked at the tape and you compared it to the stats, there wasn't a lot of production to show there. But you looked at the tape and you knew the guy ran a lot of good routes. It was just the reads and the progressions of the quarterback didn't necessarily take the ball [to Mario]. But he came out and he was never taken out of the game, never benched. We had gone in with a plan that Victor would do some things and we stuck to it. Mario knew that going in. I think he's progressed and every catch the guy does make and every play he does will continue to boost his confidence just like it did a year ago.
Q: I assume that's a good problem to have – juggling the three receivers (Nicks, Manningham and Cruz)?A: Yeah, absolutely. It's a challenge on game day, but where it gets real interesting and makes your job more exciting is when you're helping to develop a game plan. You're trying to find different formations, put guys where their strengths are going to show up. When you have different guys with different strengths it becomes pretty exciting to think about the possibilities and what you can do with them.