General Manager Joe Douglas & Assistant General Manager Rex Hogan, 8.31
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JD: It’s good to be with you guys. Thanks for sticking around. Before we get going, I want to acknowledge the hard work of all of our players, our coaching staff, our entire football ops staff, personnel, everybody for all of their hard work in training camp and preseason. Especially the players, the effort, the strain, the production, the hard work, everything that they have done in this preseason led to a lot of difficult choices, difficult conversations, difficult decisions as we put this 53 together. So, I just want to thank them. That’s all I have. We’ll just take questions from here.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, can you walk us through the thought process on Denzel (Mims) from last week when the trade request was made public through now?
JD: Ron (Slavin) and I have a good relationship, Denzel’s agent, so kind of got a heads up that that was coming. Fielded some calls. Ultimately, nothing materialized, especially anything that we would consider the right value for a player of Denzel’s talent and ability. I think all of you guys saw that on Sunday against the Giants. Ultimately, nothing materialized on that front with any trades.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How do you balance — obviously, the player wants to be somewhere else — and he’s not playing and he’s an unhappy player, so how do you as an administrator and executive balance that with an unhappy player?
JD: Yeah, Rich, I wouldn’t say he wants to be somewhere else. He wants to play. He wants to start. Denzel is very confident. I think he’s voiced that he feels he should be a starter. Ultimately, we want a team full of guys that feel like they should be the number one guy. Denzel loves the Jets. Denzel is a great person, high level competitor. I think it wasn’t him wanting to be somewhere else, just him wanting to play more.
Connor Hughes, SNY: But if he wants to play more and you guys have some of the guys ahead of him that are going to play in front of him, are you basically keeping him as insurance in case someone goes down? Why he doesn’t want to be here is one thing, but the fact is that he doesn’t because he wants to play.
JD: He does want to play, but at the same time, we have to do what’s best for the New York Jets. So, Denzel, obviously again, we referenced the Giants (game), we saw what he can do when he’s out on the field. We have to do what’s right by the player and what’s right for the team. So, keeping Denzel, we have a great room. I know Coach has talked about it a lot. We have a very cool room of wide receivers, and Denzel is a big part of that.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Do you have any type of update on Zach (Wilson)?
JD: No, no new news to report. He’s doing well. I see him walk around the building. He’s doing great with his rehab.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: When he gets back, what kind of leap do you expect him to make? We often see that year one to year two jump. With him, how much do you expect to see?
JD: I think we’ve talked about him coming back at the end of last year and the jump he made. He was having that same level of progression throughout OTAs, throughout training camp. I know you guys were here. I’m sure he would like to have that first series back in the Philly game, but he was getting back into rhythm and showing all of those traits and the progression that he had made in that second series before the injury. We have seen tremendous progress from Zach.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Where do you feel like you are in terms of the team building process? When you were here last year, you were pretty honest about how young you were and needing to see that growth. Where do you feel like you are a year later in that process?
JD: I think we have a pretty intriguing group of youth and veteran presence. Adding guys like C.J. (Uzomah) and (Tyler) “Conk” (Conklin) and (Jordan) Whitehead and bringing in a guy like Duane Brown in here to go along with all of these first, second, third-year players, it’s a pretty cool group of youth and experience. To watch them compete and gel and build the chemistry and camaraderie, it’s really cool to see everyday. So, just in terms of the team building, we’ve tried to use every avenue that we could to improve this team — draft, claims, trades, free agency. It’s led to much tougher cutdown decisions and conversations than in years past.
Connor Hughes, SNY: At what point do you guys have to win? What point is it that it’s not necessarily about building not, ‘We like the progress we’ve seen. We like the players, but we have to win football games now.’
JD: I would go back to what I talked to you guys about in Florida. The goal is to be playing meaningful games here down the stretch. I feel like the energy that we’ve had since coming together in OTAs, how that’s progressed through OTAs, training camp, you see the progress, but, you’re right. We have to go out and prove it on Sundays.
Steve Serby, New York Post: Joe and Rex what are the tell-tale signs of a winning culture?
JD: Well, I’d say it starts at the top and I think when you have a head coach that brings the energy, the juice, the genuine love of the game that Coach Saleh brings, his communication abilities and then with his staff of teachers, high energy teachers and then it just goes from there and you’re bringing in the right types of people. I feel like our personnel staff has done a great job pinpointing the right types of competitors, right type of football character to bring in here and mix with our coaching staff based on the criteria that we have in terms of what we are looking for. After that, you try to get as many good people in the building as you can and good things are going to start to happen and I feel like we are progressing there.
Steve Serby, New York Post: Have you seen an evolution in the culture from a year ago, Rex?
RH: Yeah, I think it starts with the alignment of the vision and the culture that both Joe (Douglas) and Robert (Saleh) have and the type of profiles that they want on Robert’s coaching staff and what Joe wants in our player personnel staff, the type of people we want, the great teammates that we want to have within those two groups and then it spills over into the locker room and identifying the profiles of what we want for guys with the makeup, with the culture, how they’re going to add to the culture with their character and their on field talent as well.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: So, with the roster and everything we’re talking about here, do you expect to be playing meaningful games down the stretch this season?
JD: Absolutely I do, I feel like you just look at our training camp, our preseason games, I feel like we’re in a good place in terms of the chemistry of the team. The locker room’s in a great place and now we just have to build confidence and put it all together on Sundays, and I think we’ve got the right group to do that.
Brian Costello, New York Post: We talk about meaningful games down the stretch, but this team has not won a game in September since you’ve been here, before you, 2018. How critical is it for this team to experience success early?
JD: Yeah, I think that’s probably a large component of playing those meaningful games in December is starting fast and not digging yourself too much of a hole, so look, we know the challenge ahead in terms of this division, this conference, and I think we have a group that’s ready to battle.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: What has been your impression of Robert, now that he has had a year under his belt and his first year as a head coach. Have you noticed anything different about him?
JD: No, I love Robert’s consistency, his consistent energy, every day. How well he communicates, how well we are able to bounce ideas off of each other. The different perspective, the different thought process we have, we come together and I feel like both of us are able to really set our egos aside to do what’s best for the team at the end of the day, so just watching him, his consistency, his energy, his communication. He’s been a joy to work with.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Just one last quick one on Denzel (Mims), with you guys not trading him, is he now going to be with this team throughout the course of the year or is the trade request still open where if a team, however you quote it, you’re always going to answer the phone, but are you guys actively still fielding calls or is he now with you guys as you see for the rest of the season?
JD: Well, he was always going to be part of our 53, always and so look, I can’t predict who’s going to be here tomorrow, next week, five months down the road, but we’ll see, like I’ve said in the past, if the phone rings I’m going to pick it up, but Denzel was always going to be a part of this 53.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Joe, can you give us an update on Mekhi (Becton) just in terms of his surgery and what the time frame looks like?
JD: Yeah, so Mekhi, he had a very successful procedure with Dr. (Neal) ElAttrache out in L.A. Obviously he’s going to miss the season. We’re going to miss him, but the docs feel good about the procedure, feel good about his long-term ability to play football, which was great news, so right now he’s currently still out in L.A. training with the doctor’s rehab staff. He’ll come back here eventually to be with the team. We’re going to be excited to get him back.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: When did he have it done?
JD: It was, I want to say, a week ago, a week and a half ago.
Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: How do you measure success this year with a young group and obviously, the AFC is so much stronger than it has been?
JD: You’re right, the AFC is strong, the division is strong, I think we saw progression throughout training camp, we saw progression throughout preseason games. I think we’re going to know, we’re going to see progression and this team develop throughout the season.
Brian Costello, New York Post: When last season ended in Buffalo, one of the things Robert Saleh said to us right away and I believe he said to the team too is the division, we’ve got to close the gap in the division, do you feel like you’ve closed that gap this off season?
JD: Yeah, I feel like we’re certainly a more talented team than we’ve ever been. Again, we’ve had these OTAs, these preseason games, this training camp to really come together, build chemistry as a group, but you’re right, we have to close the gap in the division. Again, that’s a part of playing meaningful games down the stretch is winning games in the division, so that’s goal number one of any team is to win their division.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Having the seven players claimed, I guess I think Robert Saleh said 12 from the 90, right? If you count Eddy Pineiro and the other guys that were claimed, what does that tell you about your process right now?
JD: Well, I think it’s a cool thing that Robert (Saleh) always says when he’s talking to the team and again, I’ve referenced his team meetings and how great they are, but when he’s showing clips and he’s talking about mentality and mindset and what it’s supposed to look like and the strain, the effort and look, your teammates see it, your coaches see it, but also, when you put it on tape, 31 other teams are seeing it too and if you do things the right way, you take care of your body and you listen to the coaching staff, you listen to our performance staff, our training staff, it’s going to show and other teams are going to take notice and obviously other teams did take notices, so it’s a real credit to our coaching staff. It’s a credit to these players.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: What are those conversations like with you guys and Robert and the coaching staff when you’re trying to figure out who to keep and not expose to waivers and that kind of thing like what’s that whole process like for you guys? Is it like the draft?
JD: Look, there’s a lot of candor, a lot of great discussions. I feel like we have our personnel meeting with the coaching staff and obviously, they have their opinions, their rankings, we get together as a group, we talk through and it is a little bit like draft meetings sometimes and you’re right, there is a little bit of you’re playing the claim game, ‘Ok, who might sneak through? Who might not?’ So, there’s a little strategy involved at the end of the day, but I think the constant is the candor and the communication amongst the personnel staff and the coaching staff.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Rex, when we were talking to Ron (Middleton) a little bit ago, he had said that the Lawrence Cager wide receiver to tight end conversion was your brain child, so for you to kind of bring that to light and play out the way that he has a 53 roster spot, what was that like for you and kind of revisit why you thought that was a good decision?
RH: Yeah, I think that was more of a collaboration throughout our whole player personnel department just based off Cager body type and his frame and how during his time here, he had gotten bigger, we also had gotten him a little bit smaller. In terms of player performance, where he’s going to fit, where his body was at it’s best and we saw him continue to grow and with his frame, we knew the receiving value was going to be there and the speed would stay consistent with his body type and he was willing to make the change and accepted the challenge and really proud of what he’s done and not only how Ron Middleton and the rest of the offensive staff have developed him and taken time and been patient with him in terms of the blocking. He’s really ascended and hope he continues to grow.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Can either of you guys recall a transition like taking a receiver and turning him into a tight end? Maybe you’ve crossed paths with a situation like that in the past that really worked out.
RH: When I was in Chicago, we had a guy Fontel Mines who was a big receiver out of Virginia and we converted him to F Tight End. Very similar body types, in-speed and receiving value. Fontel had a decent career, probably three or four years. Bounced around a little bit on practice squad and was active for us. He would be the only guy that comes to mind that I’ve experienced.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Joe, you’ve had some success at this time with claiming players, Braxton (Berrios), JFM (John Franklin-Myers), Quincy (Williams), what was it that you guys didn’t pick anyone up today?
JD: We had some discussions, there were a few candidates, but ultimately, we chose to stay with the group we have. We feel good about everyone that we have on the 53 right now.
Brian Costello, New York Post: If I can ask about one position, safety, I think that was an interesting decision beyond the top two. Just take us through that staying with Tony (Adams) and Ashtyn (Davis)?
JD: Great point. The safety position, as you guys see our roster, we’re heavy at a lot of spots. We have a lot of really good defensive ends, a lot of really good wide receivers, a lot of really good corners. Honestly, felt like we had six 53-man worthy safeties. So, that was probably one of the more excruciating cutdowns to go from the numbers we had to four. Ultimately, a lot that went into that decision was, outside the two starters, special teams was going to be a large component of that, in terms of the two backups. Obviously, we wanted to get them all back here in some capacity, whether it was on the 53 or on the practice squad, really excited to have Will Parks back on the practice squad. Obviously, would’ve been great to get Jason (Pinnock) back here as well on the practice squad, but happy for him that he’s going to have a great opportunity across town.
Connor Hughes, SNY: When you have the number of players that you guys had claimed by other teams, did you have any discussions about potentially making those guys that you knew you were going to cut, like trade them? Did you make any calls about maybe getting a conditional pick or a late round pick instead of having them walk or be claimed off the waiver wire?
JD: There’s a lot of discussions and Rex (Hogan) can touch on it, too. There’s a lot of discussions that happened prior to that cutdown. So, there’s a lot of ideas and thoughts going around. There was interest on some of the guys that ultimately were claimed, but ultimately, there wasn’t any agreement on a trade.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert said Vinny Curry was a candidate for IR. Is there anyone else who would be a candidate at this point?
JD: None other to report, at this time.
Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: With Mike White, obviously you guys were very high on him last year. I’m just curious, what did you make of his offseason and training camp and where do you think he kind of fits moving forward?
JD: Mike has done a great job. It was great to see his game last week against the Giants. We saw a lot of positive things. I know it was important for him to finish the preseason with the type of game that he had. Mike brings poise, obviously one of the most intelligent guys you can ask for at the quarterback position. He’s a smooth operator, rarely rattled, he’s a very good decision maker and he’s an accurate passer. We’re lucky to have him, we’re lucky to have all these guys in the quarterback room. I feel like the last couple years, we’ve had a really, really good QB room.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: This is like a softball here, facing Baltimore in the first game. Obviously, a long history with them. What’s that going to be like for you?
JD: I think my first year here, we played Baltimore on a Thursday night. Going back there, obviously you spend 15 years in one place, you feel a certain way. Obviously, it’s an organization that I love with people that I love that are still there, but at the end of the day, we’re competing, we’re competing for one trophy.