Head Coach Robert Saleh, 10.6
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Opening Statement: Good morning. I’ll go over injuries real quick, just so we can get it out the way. And these are the guys that won’t be participating in practice: Adrian Colbert’s got a concussion; (Brandin) Echols is on to his next progression with regards to the concussion; Jeff Smith, concussion; Tyler Kroft has a back; Marcus Maye, ankle; (Nathan) Shepherd has a knee. And that’s it.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: So, Elijah (Moore), fully back?
Brian Costello, New York Post: And with Shepherd, he has a knee?
He’s got a knee. He should be good, it’s just a lot of plays on Sunday.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: When you said that about Echols progressing, is there any chance he could play this weekend?
Rich Cimini, ESPN: What happened to Hamsah (Nasirildeen)?
Hamsah, I don’t have the specific details, got injured, obviously. It’s a three-week deal and hopefully we get him back.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, will you, facing the Falcons, you had an interviewed there for the head coaching job. Will you have more of a familiarity with their roster? I know the coaching is different now, but just I’m sure you did a lot of homework before those coaching interviews. Do you feel like you have a grasp of the personnel, more than maybe say when you played the Patriots?
That’s actually a really good question. You know when we get, there was that, but they also ran a very similar system to us, with Dan Quinn being over there. So, there was always a lot of studying that went on, same thing with, Kyle (Shanahan) had been there, so there was a lot of teach tapes that were pulled. So, you just kind of studying them, even though you never played them, you studied them just to kind of pull some cool teach tapes. There’s familiarity there and obviously having (Jeff) Ulbrich and Marquand (Manuel), there’s a lot of familiarity there. But they are two new schemes, or one new scheme actually, and obviously Arthur (Smith) is running a similar scheme. There’s a little bit but it’s still a different mindset, a different tempo, it’s still going to be different.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: What type of challenge does Matt Ryan present?
Veteran, he’s been successful his entire career, I mean he’s one of the better quarterbacks in this league. He’s obviously got tremendous arm talent. He’s one of the bigger competitors, I was about to say something stupid, but he is a really, really, really, really good competitor, obviously. He’s a dog, man. He’s always fighting. If you have him mic’d up, I would bet he has more cuss words in a game than you guys could possibly imagine, but he’s really, really, really talented.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, what’s your reaction to the Marcus Maye arrest?
Obviously, I had a really good conversation with Marcus. Obviously, he recognizes he made a mistake and as far as details and all that, I’ll keep it in-house. But we support Marcus and hopefully he can get through this.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, did you know about Marcus’ arrest before it was reported?
I’m not going to get into any details. Just we had a really good conversation, I’ll just leave it at that guys.
(follow up) Your conversation was this week?
Yeah. This week.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Is there a trust factor there? I mean, obviously you didn’t know about it, so how do you feel about a player, several months after the fact, not telling you about something that significant?
First off, for me, it’s he without sin cast the first stone. We’ve all made mistakes and he recognizes the mistake he made, and I judge Marcus for how he’s been since I first met him and that really wasn’t until mini-camp. Marcus has been an outstanding teammate, he’s been an outstanding individual, his teammates absolutely love him, he’s been, from my understanding, hasn’t had many issues as a young man and this is something that he’ll get through.
(follow up) Did he come to you or did you ask to meet?
He came to me.
Joe Mauceri, WPIX: Coach, I know it’s not the quarter-poll of the season now, but after your first four games, what do you look at as the team’s progress, obviously, coming off your first win to get to this point?
I feel like we’re getting better, obviously. With comfort and scheme, you’ll see us, hopefully you see us getting faster. Felt like, in all three phases, we were playing at another speed on Sunday and there’s still so much to be had. We’re taking steps, we’re getting better and just getting more efficient in our techniques and understanding what’s being asked of each individual player and the more confidence each player gets in their technique and in the responsibility, the more they’ll be able to unlock all of their athleticism. Hopefully as we continue to grow, as we get continuity, as we continue to rack up reps, we’ll get faster and faster as the season goes.
(follow up) How about for you personally?
Me personally? I don’t know. Just kind of go with the flow of the game and there’s always a self-reflection and what can we do a little bit differently and visiting with the coordinators. Obviously, there’s always going to be learning experiences for me also, but it’s been good, I guess.
(follow up) As expected so far in these first four games?
Obviously you want to win all of them, but it’s been as expected. We got a great group of young men, they’re a pleasure to work with, they show up to work every single day, so they kind of make it easy.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: Everybody, when they start a new job, stuff from the beginning, that takes forever or is hard, gets easier. What is easier now after four games for you, like I’m talking about in the game, managing the game, than it was Week One?
Not being so bored or being able to have interaction because now we’re actually game planning. Rather than just preseason, it’s just call plays and so you’re just kind of sitting there twiddling your thumbs. At least now there’s a lot more game planning involved and so it’s easier to have conversations and just try to help Brick (Ulbrich) stay on course if he needs to, even though him and his staff are doing a phenomenal job. But just being a sounding board for the coordinators, but that would be about it.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Do you miss calling plays or calling the defense?
I don’t know if I miss it. I don’t know if the word “miss” is the, I mean it’s obviously calling plays and all that, there’s still an engagement obviously. I mean, calling plays and being a part of that and the whole process, that part’s always fun but like I said, Brick is, through four weeks, him and the staff and those players have been knocking that out the park.
Brian Costello: Robert, it sounds like we’re going to talk to Denzel (Mims) later today, that’s the plan at least. I’m curious, we’ve asked you a lot about him in the last two months, how has he kind of handled his situation? I imagine he’s frustrated as a player not playing, but how has he handled it behind the scenes?
I would be upset if he wasn’t frustrated, but he is a competitive young man, he’s been fantastic throughout this whole process. And he’s been deliberate in practice, he’s been working his tail off, and I think everyone kind of saw it in the game, Keelan (Cole) had explosive plays, Jamison (Crowder) had critical third-down conversions, a touchdown, and a big explosive play, (Braxton) Berrios is also involved in the kick return game, and then you have, obviously, Corey Davis. We got a really good room, and that’s credit to Joe (Douglas) and his staff and what they’ve been able to build. So, this isn’t an indictment on Denzel, it’s just that there’s guy right now who have been available, everyone knows what happened to him during OTAs and all that. He’s catching up, and he earned the right to be active and he ended up getting, I forget his play count, I’m sure you guys have it, but he’s still able to get out there. But you guys see the other five, same thing, first half doesn’t flow the way you want it to go and then the second half, our offense got into a groove and those guys were all making plays, so it’s more of a credit to the room itself than it is an indictment on Denzel.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: You mention how he, kind of earned the right to be active, but with Elijah (Moore) coming back this week, Jeff (Smith) is eventually going to get healthy and you highlighted his special teams ability, will he remain active? Or is this something where because these guys are now healthy, he’s probably going to be out again?
I’ll never make a promise I can’t keep, but if he’s putting in the work the way he is, then he should be active. But it’s not just the receiver room that he’s competing against. There are the linebackers, the safeties, the corners, trying to get people involved and making sure that we’re good at all three phases: offense, defense, and special teams. But yeah, he’s been earning that right, so hopefully it continues.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Regarding the logistics of travel to London, with the time change, have you guys implemented any specific plan or suggestions for the players to get acclimated this week?
Yeah, the performance staff has been doing a really nice job with it. I’m not going to get into our plan, but we really love what the performance staff has been able to put together and now it’s just a matter of executing it over the next few days, and making sure that we’re ready to roll on Sunday.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: You know the first half, things were rolling kind of slow, obviously you guys got your 27 points, but throughout the year , the first half has become a little of a drag. So, what are you guys going to do to jumpstart that against the Falcons?
There’s something there, obviously, there is. But the one thing that we’ve been noticing is that our offense has been putting together drives in the first half, it’s just a matter of finishing. Put together a really nice drive against Denver, and we had a chance to finish it, didn’t work out the way we wanted on the angle route to Michael Carter, that could’ve got us an explosive and some points. But on Sunday, we finished the drive, and when we finish that drive, you could just feel the entire sideline just, “All right, let’s go.” Went into the locker room at 9-7, and then from it’s just when you have a young group and they get a little bit of success early, and that success can snowball, and these guys become invincible. And I felt like it kind of showed, and it’s just a matter of just getting some early success and trying to put them in position to make plays and see where it goes form there.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Why was it important for you to add Sheldon Rankins to your d-line? And what has he done for that group?
Joe, if it was up to him, he’d have 53 offensive linemen on the team. If it was up to me, we’d have 53 d-line, no, it’s a joke we have with one another. But Sheldon, just have so much respect for his game, he was available, didn’t think he was going to be early in free agency, and it got a little bit later and there was an opportunity, and it was just a perfect match in terms of his style of play, with the way we ask him to play, is just a perfect match for the way his game is made. And he’s showing it. You could already see, last year, that he was getting back to what he was when he was drafted and then his second year when he was so productive. Then injuries obviously set him back, but when you talk to people around the league, especially in that building, he is an unbelievable leader, he’s got tremendous work ethic, the way he takes care of his body, he’s meticulous in everything he does, and I’m just really excited for him and the success he’s been having so far.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, you’ve had rotations at positions that are a little unusual to have rotations at, corner and safety, are you comfortable with that? I imagine that’s unusual in your career.
With regards to people getting hurt?
(follow up) Not with people getting hurt. The rotations when they’re healthy. Like Echols and (Javelin) Guidry were kind of splitting reps in the first few games. I know Echols got hurt, then this week you have like a cast of thousands at safety it felt like with Ashtyn (Davis) and (Sharrod) Neasman getting in the mix with (Adrian) Colbert and (Jarrod) Wilson. That’s a little unusual, it’s not like the defensive line where you’re used to rotating.
For sure. Especially with us, we kind of want guys to roll. But this week was more of a product of we wanted to get Ashtyn going, but we couldn’t get him the amount of reps that we would like to get him because he hadn’t played, so just to get him a couple of shots, otherwise he’s never going to be ready, right? And as far as Guidry and Echols, they’ve been playing such good ball, just feel like they both deserve to be on the football field. And we’ve been able to get some dime reps out there because Guidry’s been such an unbelievable asset. You think about Guidry, I’m going to pump him up for a second, because I don’t think he gets enough credit and go back to Joe finding an undrafted free agent who’s come in here, and you think about what he played, he played corner, nickel, and dime in one game last week, which is not easy. He’s been an absolute stud, and we’re very fortunate to have him. So, he makes a lot of that possible, because of his willingness to do extra and so he’s been fantastic.
Joey Chandler, NJ Advance Media: Is the entire family going to be in London?
No, my Wife is there. She’s already there. Family has got too much school.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: I know you said you don’t want to reveal your plan for the London thing, but I was wondering if you could expand a little bit on, you said you did it a bunch of different ways in Jacksonville, leaving early in the week, leaving later in the week. Why do you settle on later in the week?
I’ll just give you the background on Jacksonville, which is fine. And I think the whole league has kind of settled on using Jacksonville as the example. The very first year of Gus Bradley’s tenure, I wasn’t there yet, but they had left on the Monday following the Sunday game. They played at home, they left on Monday and did their thing. My first year, we left immediately after, we had a road game in Cincinnati, and we travelled out, which was a miserable week, for a coach anyway. And we lost. And then the very next year, we did Thursday and that, for me at least, and just talking to players, that was the best they felt on a Sunday. And then we won and then we did it again and won again. So, there’s a really cool formula there with regards to leaving on Thursday night. And then on top of it, with the regimen that’s going to be put in place, and I think our performance staff, I feel like we’ve got a really, really good plan that could be even better. So, we’ll see how it works.