General Manager Joe Douglas and Head Coach Robert Saleh, 4.29 (2022 NFL Draft Day Two)
[please click photo for link to the video]
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: The theme looks like playmakers. Why has that been such a prominent position for you guys to tackle in this draft?
Joe Douglas: Really, this was an opportunity, really both these guys tonight, but especially at the top of the draft tonight, being able to get what we thought was a top 20 playmaker in the draft and an exciting weapon and someone that can really fit in our backfield and our scheme with what we have going. Then to have that long wait and have Jeremy (Ruckert) still on the board and be able to get him in the room with the guys we added and the ability that he brings, it was an exciting opportunity.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Why did you have to move up Joe to get (Breece) Hall?
JD: We had a suspicion that there would be a team that could take him, he wouldn’t make it all the way to 38, so we worked the phone lines trying to make a small move to get up and make sure we got our guy.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Did you try to, last night, move up to the bottom of the one to get Hall?
JD: Yeah, we were active, we were on the phones towards the end of the round.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, I remember when you first took over as general manager, I know we talked about Sam a lot where it was you wanted to protection and playmakers for the quarterback. You obviously still have a few more rounds left here in the draft, but do you feel you’ve accomplished that now? That you’ve provided your quarterback with protection and playmakers?
JD: I feel like we added some really good pieces to the offense and added two really good pieces to the defense, too, making sure we protect him at the line of scrimmage and add quality tight ends, quality skill guys, quality backs. I feel like we’re trying to build a strong, balanced team. Not just offense, but team.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What did you like about Jeremy that made you take him?
JD: With Jeremy, first, he’s a really tough minded individual. Great teammate. He’s a guy that’s willing to sacrifice for the team. He’s a dynamic athlete, he’s a dynamic weapon in the pass game, but he wasn’t always the number one option at Ohio State, but he was a guy that was willing to do the dirty work to help his teammates as a blocker. He really committed to helping his running backs at the point of attack and he gets after guys at the line of scrimmage, but he can also get open against safeties and create separation in the pass game, he’s got excellent ball skills and he’s got some run after catch too. Probably not showcased as some of the other top tight ends, but still we thought a dynamic weapon.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, what were some of the things, skills that stood out to you with Hall?
JD: With Breece, it starts with the high-level production. He was one of the top players in the entire conference. The thing that jumps out with him is he’s a home run threat, he can score from anywhere on the field. Excellent elusiveness, excellent balance through contact. And, also, another guy that can be a weapon in the pass game. Really natural ball skills. He’s a tough tackle in open space, he’s one of the more elusive backs, we feel like we have one of the more elusive backfields right now with him, Mike (Carter), Tevin (Coleman), Ty (Johnson). Good group.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, when you look at this offense as a whole and you kind of look at the weapons that you have at receiver and now the trio of guys at tight end, the running backs, is there anything else you guys think you need to get for Zach (Wilson)? Like, is there anything this is missing or is it now just take the next step?
Robert Saleh: I don’t know about that one. You’re always going to try to add and mix and match. It’s really coming down to developing these guys. It’s a very young group, there’s a lot of new faces with the group. But at the same time, it’s a matter of developing, quarterback developing with the skill guys and finding ways to get better everyday. It’s kind of a cliché answer, but it is what it is. Joe and his staff have done an unbelievable job bringing in some new faces and our job is to develop them and continue developing the quarterback.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, with the two tight ends you signed in free agency, and now getting Ruckert, how did their skills complement each other and how do you see that room?
RS: C.J. (Uzomah), start with him first, obviously he’s a fantastic in-line tight end, can do some of the dirty work. He’s got speed to run some of the high crosses and all that stuff. (Tyler) Conklin, you see him more of a, again, he can do both. First, second and third down, but on third down, winning those one-on-one matchups and running concepts that beat man coverage and all that stuff. You add (Trevon) Wesco with his physicality and now you add Jeremy and he’s going to have a chance to grow in this offense and develop and take a little bit of everybody, because he has the ability to block, he has the athleticism to be a guy who can win on third downs. He’s going to develop nicely, too. So, it’s a really cool dynamic group, there’s a lot of cool pieces there and it’ll be fun to see how they kind of shape and what kind of roles they take as we go through OTAs and training camp.
Brian Costello, New York Post: With the trades you now have just two picks tomorrow. We’ve heard all along about the depth in this draft and how there’s a guy in the middle rounds, did you have any reservations about losing those picks tomorrow?
JD: No, no reservations in losing those picks. We wanted to be aggressive in terms of the guys that we really liked at the top of the draft. As it sits right now, it’s going to be a quick day tomorrow with those two picks early in the fourth. A couple of you might be excited. (joking) Still a great opportunity, looking forward to getting the two best players if we don’t move, the two best players we can to help this team.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, I know these final two picks kind of were, they’re probably still fresh, but have you thought at all about how much this offense has changed from the one that you inherited in 2019 to now? I actually don’t know if there’s a starter left from that first team that you were looking at to now with how much you’ve changed the overall outlook of it.
JD: I know the focus early was trying to get the o-line better. Feel like we’ve added some good pieces through free agency, through training camp acquisitions, cut-down acquisitions for a guy like Braxton (Berrios). Really when we’ve talked about the three different avenues: trades, free agency, draft, feel like we’re in a better place now than we were, but still always looking to improve.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: With Ruckert, he missed a lot of the pre-draft testing because a foot injury, I think at the Senior Bowl, right?
JD: He was with us, he practiced with us for the early part of the Senior Bowl.
(follow up) Is he still injured?
JD: We feel really good about where he’s at, not expecting him to miss any significant time, especially when the pads come on.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: With Ruckert, you have talked a lot about the Senior Bowl being a unique opportunity to get players, can you address what the Senior Bowl did for you in terms of scouting Ruckert and getting to know him?
JD: For me, and I know Robert has a different perspective, because how many Senior Bowls were you a part of?
RS: This was my fourth one. A lot rebuilds. (laughter)
JD: I’ve never had that access before, that behind the scenes or experience with the players. For me, it was outstanding because if you think about it after the college season is over, this is the last time that these players do anything football related because after the Senior Bowl it’s all training, getting ready for the Combine, underwear Olympics-type stuff, so for us to have this time with all of these college All-Stars in really their last football-setting, in meetings, on the practice field, going through Indy, watching these guys compete, how are they focused? How competitive are they? Are they locked into the messaging from Coach (Saleh) and Coach Middleton? The coaching staff did a phenomenal job and to really get a sense of what they’re made of, how important this game is, that was an invaluable experience from my end.
RS: Just to piggy-back, with the Combine, you can hide, your pro-days, you can hide, with the 30-visits, you can hide and put on a show, but there’s nothing like going into a meeting room after practice and it’s high stakes for these kids and you’re with your peers and being told you did something wrong, to see the response, to see how they come out in practice, to see how they come out and compete, it’s a lot harder to hide during the course of the week, especially when the adversity is real and they’re thinking about what they just put on tape for all 32 teams to watch. As it pertains to Ruckert, I know we didn’t get to practice with him the whole time, but the interaction that we did have with him, it was tremendous. You get so much knowledge and so much access mentally to these kids that you don’t get just by going to the Combine because what you’re seeing is authentic in those meeting rooms.
Brian Costello, New York Post: We saw in San Francisco under Kyle (Shanahan), it seems like there’s a different rusher every year, constantly adding to that position. You like what Michael Carter did last year, but adding Hall, do you share that same philosophy you had there?
RS: Absolutely. The opportunity to add Breece is a unique one. He is explosive and like Joe just mentioned, that group is pretty explosive now between Michael, him, Tevin Coleman, Ty (Johnson). We’re really excited to see what (La’Mical) Perine looks like in his third year and Austin (Walter). It’s a really cool group to work with now, adding Breece and Michael is such a hard tackle, he never gets tackled by the first guy. Breece just has a slipperiness to make people miss, Tevin runs his absolute tail off, Ty is a really good third-down back, just a really cool group of guys, but to add someone like Breece who is a home run hitter, part of the goal was to add some guys when they touch the ball, they can take it 80 (yards). One of the hardest things to do in football is live in 10-play drives and to be able to have a couple of one or two play drives, every once in a while, will be welcomed.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Along those lines Joe, I don’t know what Rucker’s 40 time is, but the other guys all have crazy 40 times, is that something coming into this draft, you felt like speed was an emphasis?
JD: Yeah, we always want to be a faster team, so that’s obviously one of the prerequisites you’re looking at. Like I said last time I met with you guys, you’re looking for unique, unusual people because you want as many freaks on the field as you can, but these guys also have the baseline, integrity, love of the game, competitor, passion, drive, so that they will reach whatever ceiling they have and with the guys we brought in, we feel like they meet all of those requirements from a physical and character perspective.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: You guys have obviously added some explosive weapons on both sides of the ball, but you added in a lot of these positions in the offseason in a lot of these positions like receivers, cornerback, tight end. How important is that depth as the season goes on in terms of getting to where you want to go and how important is that in terms of being consistent in terms of having the results you want to have?
JD: Yeah, we want to have as much depth as possible. The last few years here, our depth has been tested a lot. It’s something that we’re working on improving, but at the same time, injuries are a part of the game. It’s the cost of doing business in this sport, so you need depth all across your roster at every position and we feel better about where we are now, but we could always be better.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Would you consider trading these two picks tomorrow for something next year?
JD: If the right opportunity came up and it made sense for us. We’ll see how it works on the point charts. Yeah, we’re open to anything.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: Hey Joe, quick one on having three first round picks, and this is a problem for way down the road if it is a problem. Talented players all coming up at kind of the same time for a new contract. As a GM you’re thinking now and down the road, how do you look at that?
JD: Those would be happy problems.
RS: Champagne problems.
JD: Those would be happy problems for us. Again, things you keep an eye out for the horizon. Maybe putting a few pennies in the piggy bank for future contract here and there. But, again, having Dave Socie, Nick Sabella, we have a great football administration team and they do a great job of keeping their eyes on the horizon on that front. If all these recent first round picks, first, second, third round picks hit and we’re having to make some contract decisions or pay these guys, it’s not going to be a hard thing. We’ll be happy to do it and have homegrown guys.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you touched on Ruckert not being showcased as much as some other guys at Ohio State with all the weapons, you drafted one. How did you get comfortable kind of with the lack of production there from him, how did you kind of evaluate that?
JD: I think when you did see the flashes, they were really impressive. If you look at the playoff games they were in the last few years, he made some big time plays against big time opponents. You saw the ability to stretch defenses vertically to separate at the top of routes against some pretty good safeties. Big catch radius, one-handed catches. Really, really dynamic movements in the passing game, so even though he may not have 100 catches in a year, you saw the flashes and say, ‘Ok, this guy can do it.’ And then you also saw the flashes at the line of scrimmage with him sticking his face mask into a defensive end and grinding and working his tail off trying to help his teammates. You saw those things to say, ‘Ok, this guy is made of the right stuff.’
RS: He’s an absolute bulldog in the run game, awesome.