General Manager Joe Douglas and Head Coach Robert Saleh, 4.30 (2022 NFL Draft Day Three)

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Opening Statement: 

Joe Douglas: So, obviously an early end to the draft, but still a lot of the process left with undrafted free agency. The scouts and the coaches are going to be grinding, having conversations here once the draft is over trying to recruit some talent to our team. But very thankful, very thankful for all the work that was put in with our coaching staff, with our scouting staff. These guys, I said it earlier, these guys have put a ton of miles, ton of effort, ton of reports, a lot of conversations and all led up to this weekend. I felt it was a really productive weekend. Also, very thankful for Woody (Johnson) and Christopher’s (Johnson) support through this whole process. A lot of good conversations leading up to this point throughout this offseason and feel good about where we’re at.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you said, I think it was at the league meetings, that you had a chance to do something special here with the draft capital that you had. Do you feel like you’ve accomplished that these past few days?
JD: I feel like we’re a better team now than we were going into the weekend. I feel like we’re a better team now than we were to start the entire offseason. Again, a lot of that credit goes to Coach and his staff and Rex (Hogan) and all of our personnel staff working together, just a real team effort to give us this chance to go into a season and improve in some different spots, adding quality depth to the team, adding some guys that we feel can be explosive, dynamic playmakers for us.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: Can you give us your reports on the two guys you picked today?
JD: 
Two guys we picked today, I would say one adjective to describe both of them is tough. Very, very tough. Max from (Louisiana) Lafayette, Max Mitchell, I feel like he can be a versatile piece on the offensive line, a guy that was at the Senior Bowl, highly competitive, very smart, versatile guy. He’s been practicing tackle, guard, snapping the ball as a center, so I feel like he can be another versatile piece to add to the offensive line to give us some flexibility moving forward. With big Mike (Micheal Clemons), I feel like he’s one of the nastiest players in this entire draft. The physicality, the edge that he plays with, the toughness that he brings. I don’t think you can have enough of that. We don’t think we can have enough of that on this team. Adding two guys with this kind of toughness is going to add to the fabric of the team.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: With Mike, there were some off the field concerns. There were multiple arrests, also a little bit older, some injury history, what makes you guys confident that, specifically the off the field issues are in the past?

JD: We were aware of some of those issues going into this process. Part of our process is getting together with the player, getting together, having a security meeting regarding every player in the draft and felt comfortable about adding him to the organization. Feel good about him not making those similar mistakes moving forward.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: What about the medical (with Clemons), Joe?

JD: Again, so part of our process leading up to this draft is sitting down with our security team, sitting down with our medical team making sure that everyone is on the same page, everyone’s eyes are wide open into what any issues could be going into the draft. I feel comfortable that he’s going to help us long-term.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: When you have some players like that who have off the field concerns sometimes you can get a player who is talented enough to potentially go in the first or second round but slips because of that. Is that how you view him? Do you view him, from a talent perspective, a first-round talent who happened to slip because of the off the field issues?
JD:
 We feel the talent level, obviously high. What he brings, again, what he brings from a length, toughness, has speed off the edge, certainly you can say he’s a first, second-day talent level. But then you get to a point in the draft and risk is mitigated somewhat. Felt good about adding him where we added him.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What do you think is the biggest thing you accomplished this weekend?

JD: I think the biggest thing and I’m sure Coach has his own perspective, but I feel like the biggest thing that we did was add quality depth, add quality players to this team. Obviously, nothing is going to be handed to these guys, these guys are going to have to work for everything, but these guys have the right mindset and mentality to compete. Coach always talks about the love the game, consistent competitiveness, will to be great, I feel like all these guys bring that.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, right after the Buffalo game, you talked to us I think it was the same message you gave to the team, you talked about the gap in the division, catching the teams in your division. How much is that in your mind when you guys are talking about roster building? Not just in draft, free agency when you’re doing that, just specifically like, ‘Hey, Buffalo has X, Y and Z, Miami has X, Y and Z. We need to do this. How much of that is on your mind?

Robert Saleh: It’s not necessarily comparing us to what they have, it’s just building a roster that we have a vision for that can execute our schemes, that can execute the character that we want, that can execute the things that we need to get done. So, really the idea of closing the gap isn’t necessarily trying to combat what they have, it’s trying to get better with what we have. Adding pieces, adding players, developing those players. Feel like Joe and his staff, just to be able to give us a stage and talk, I think there’s a clear vision for every single player that we bought in from free agency to the draft and now it’s just going out on the field and implementing that vision and getting those guys to play to the best of their ability.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: You guys are getting universally praised for your draft. What’s that feel like?

RS: That’s for you guys, I’ve also been in places where we’ve been universally mocked. I think we took Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson in the first three rounds and got a D grade if I remember right. It doesn’t matter. We got to develop these young men, they got to come in, they’ve got to perform. We’ve got to help them. We have to put them in the best position possible. We’ll know in about three years.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: So, you read our report cards?

RS: When I was younger. (laughter)

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: I have a couple position specific questions. Offense and defensive line, is it possible that JFM (John Franklin-Myers) could be, in the base defense, move inside? Could that be his regular?

RS: I think we all would agree on this one that (Franklin-Myers’) ability to win one-on-ones in pass rush, his best spot is inside. So ideally we can get him inside on third down and even get him in more passing situations on first and second down to get him some run on the inside. So, having that flexibility by drafting Jermaine (Johnson), getting Micheal here today, it gives us that flexibility to allow him to not have to grind outside so much and keep himself fresh because he wins at a very high rate when he’s inside. It does give us a little bit more flexibility with JFM to put him where he can win, but he still has a dominate figure outside in the run game. He’s a cool tool.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: And my other question is, you’ve said on a number of occasions that Mekhi (Becton) and George (Fant) will battle, competing against each other at left tackle. So, who is the right tackle?

RS: It’s a matter of just finding what’s best for the organization in terms of if George is comfortable out at left and Mekhi can get back here healthy and he’s showing that he’s got the versatility, and then obviously bringing in Max Mitchell and Chuma (Edoga) looks good and there’s guys here, too. So, there’s a lot of different guys that would like to get on the football field. It’s just trying to make sure that we find the right combination.

 

Andy Vasquez, The Record: You guys obviously made a significant investment at tight end this offseason. I’m just wondering, for both of you, why is this position important to your offense and obviously to the development of your young quarterback?
RS:
 The tight end position, obviously first, second down run game, easy target, their big, especially over the middle. I feel like there’s such a good versatility between the whole group. Just speaking on the one’s we added this year, C.J. (Uzomah), obviously more in line, talked about it yesterday, (Tyler) Conklin more of a third down, move tight end and adding (Jeremy) Ruckert last night, he’s kind of in between the two. He’s a really good run blocker, he’s very tough, he’s got some ability in the pass game, we’ve just got to find a way to unlock it and see if we can maximize it. It’s always nice to have a big target that just runs. They’re easy outlets, get vertical, lay the hammer down when people are trying to tackle.

 

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: To jump off of what Rich asked about right tackle, left tackle, George has stated that he feels he’s best suited at left tackle and he played well last year. Is there a chance that, coming in, Mekhi (Becton) is healthy that he just starts off working at right tackle and move forward from there instead of competition at left?
RS:
 We’ll see as soon as we can get him back here and he’s healthy and he’s ready to roll and he’s out on the football field and we’re getting all the individual work. We’ll know pretty quick.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Are you disappointed that he’s not here?

RS: You want all your guys to be here. It’s voluntary, but I know he’s working his tail off in Dallas and we have tabs on him, we know exactly what he’s doing, and we know where he is within his rehab. ‘Would love you back here buddy, come on. We’ll take care of you.’ I know he’s working.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you said at the end of the season press conference you talked about solving the injury issue was kind of a priority of this offseason and you mentioned it a bunch of times, you said, “We got to keep these guys healthy.” Have you guys come up with anything in that department? Was there any changes you’re going to try to make to the offseason program, to the in-season program? Anything you’re doing to address that?

JD: Yeah, I think with our sports performance team, I think Brad DeWeese, Mike Nicolini, Zuff (Dave Zuffelato), they do such a great job of communicating. So, one of the things we’ll do is get together as a group, kind of go over some solutions, possible solutions. The great thing that’s already in place is how well I feel like our coaching staff and our sports performance team work together, communicate together. Look, it’s only going to improve we feel year two with our performance staff in place. Everything is geared to help these players. Like Coach said when he first got here, our goal is to, every player reach their ultimate goal and get paid. You’re going to get paid if you stay on the field and produce. That’s what we’re trying to gear individual plans for players to help them reach their goal.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, I think when you look across this roster, it looks on paper like you guys have gotten significantly better. Like what you said yesterday, from where you guys were in 2019 at receiver, tight end, offensive line, secondary, everywhere. I mean there’s a legitimate influx of talent, but all of the talent that’s now here, part of building it through the draft is their super young in their very early 20’s. As a coach, how much pressure do you and your staff feel to take this talent and turn them into ballplayers and also how much do you relish the opportunity to do that?

RS: Being in any coach’s chair, any player’s chair, (Douglas’) chair, it’s pressure every day. It doesn’t matter what it is, so there’s always pressure. It’s the league. Talking to (Jeff) Ulbrich, we’ll take them all. Just give me the pressure of being able to coach them and finding ways to get them better. It is a very young group, there is going to be a growth period that we’re going to want to see, obviously, but we are excited to be able to go to work with anyone that’s in our building. It is a challenge, it is so rewarding to watch and work with these young men and put in all the hours that we put in. And then when you see these young men reach their full potential, it’s rewarding, it’s a really cool thing to see these young men have success in this league. Really excited to work with these guys. Tomorrow we finally get on the field with them with OTAs tomorrow, or on Monday, I’m sorry. It’s exciting.

JD: I want to add something, not to embarrass Robert here, but what we asked our coaching staff to do last year, we were at least one or two most rookie snaps in the league. That’s a hard thing for a coaching staff to do with so many young players, I think we all realize that. No one dipped their toe in the water, they cannon balled in, they attacked it, the entire staff developed these young players and the whole plan for that is to benefit the future. So, now we have a group of young players that have played a lot of snaps, a lot of quality NFL snaps. When they’re called on to help us again, they’re going to be ready. We’ve added even more players. What Coach and his staff did, I can’t say enough positive things about that.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, I think it was John Schneider a few years ago said a GM after a draft is kind of like a surgeon after surgery. Did you ever walk out of the room and say, ‘Oh man, I really screwed that up, or I feel good about what I did in there?’ Is there things that you accomplished over these last three days that makes this feel different than other drafts, that makes you feel more confident that you guys got it right?

JD: Ultimately, it’s hard to judge a draft. Coach brought up the Seattle draft where everyone panned them and they ended up getting three franchise changing players, so you really don’t know until three years. Coach and I always talk about three years for these young guys. Give them three years before we judge or put anything on these guys, because everyone develops at a different rate. The last two years, I feel like because of the communication that our staffs have had throughout this entire process, I felt like a few things have bounced our way too, in terms of draft. We also made the most of our opportunity in adding quality players. Ultimately, we’ll see how it all plays out over the next couple years. Nothing ever goes perfectly in terms of the draft process. I feel like the last two years, some things have gone our way, we’ve made the most of our opportunities and that’s going to help us moving forward.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Last year, Joe, you guys were able to be a little bit active after the draft in terms of veteran free agency, you signed Morgan Moses, although the exact timing of that signing probably could’ve been a day early or a day after. Is there anyone that you see that you can potentially dive back in to that market?

JD: Yes, Greg Nejmeh, Chad Alexander, our pro scouting staff along with Dave Socie, Nick Sabella and the football admin side, we comb through depth charts, see if there’s any scenarios like Morgan’s last year where a player may have a certain amount of guaranteed money that a team may not be comfortable staying with after they drafted a younger player. We’re going through the depth charts now seeing if there’s any opportunities that can unfold similar to the situation last year with Morgan.

 

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