Head Coach Robert Saleh, 5.6

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Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: For guys that are trying out, do the conversations ever get any easier for you?

I think these weekends are cool. I never got to put on a helmet, so just the idea that for at least three days a lot of guys are living and fulfilling their dream with regards to being an NFL player. It doesn’t work for everyone. There is always one or two guys who end up making their way onto the 90-man roster. There’s a couple of guys from this group who will probably end up being on the 90-man roster, so it’s always a productive weekend, it’s a fun weekend just to see guys work and compete and give it their best effort. It’s never easy because you know a lot of guys are probably never going to be able to touch a field, but the fact that they are out there working their tails off and giving themselves a shot is pretty cool.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: How can a player get your attention or other coaches’ attention? 

It’s hard. There’s just something that stands out. We already have a really good idea based on the film. A lot of guys are here because of the evaluations that our scouting department puts in so much work. A lot of these guys had draftable grades, so they may have not gone drafted and they may not have gotten a chance to be a UDFA (Undrafted Free Agent), but they’re here, so you’re already aware of the guys that the organization likes and then, like last year, (Calvin) Jackson, he made a really good impression on Day One and got everyone’s eyes on him on Day Two. He already came in with interest and he made the 90-man roster and contributed greatly in the preseason, so it’s always cool to see rookie minicamp. I told a story to the guys this morning about Benson Mayowa, if you guys remember him. He’s still in the League, the d-end (defensive). I actually called him to be a UDFA. It was like $1,000 and then Coach (Pete) Carroll and John (Schneider), we had to take the money away because there was no more money left, so we basically had to pull the UDFA offer and long story short, he came on and wanted the invite to rookie minicamp, was awesome in rookie minicamp, got to the 90-man roster and if you guys remember, that was the 2013 Super Bowl team and he made that 53-man roster with that d-line and now 10 years later in the League, so you never know where they’re going to come from. It’s a cool weekend.

Brian Costello, New York Post: How different is the feeling roster-wise versus the first two years, in terms of you counting on rookies greatly the last two years and this year it feels like you maybe won’t have to do that too much, is there a different feeling where you guys are in terms of roster building?

I feel like I was just talking to Joe D (Douglas) about this. Joe D is awesome up there. Going through the Draft, your best available. That’s what you’re taking. It doesn’t matter, we don’t care about position, we don’t care about need, it’s we are taking the best player that’s available on the board and that’s how we roll. In the first two years, best available was probably the biggest need over the last two years, where this year, best available may not have been a need, but shoot, we’re not going to stop from that principle, so it’s really cool because you don’t have to rely on a rookie, you can let him develop. It’s also good for the rookies because we have a really cool mixture of veterans and rookies where there’s a lot of really good examples on this football team of what it’s supposed to look like, so foundation is there. We have to stack up wins and keep that thing going, but it’s much different.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When you drafted the guy from Pitt, Izzy (Israel Abanikanda), have you seen him here with the speed and all that stuff? Is there something that stands out about him?

Well, the Draft picks were off to the side. I don’t know if it’s like this around the League, but this is my personal philosophy is on those 30-visits, they get out of shape. Once their Pro Day is over and they’re on those 30-visits, they just don’t get a lot of work in, so the Draft picks are here and just kind of working off to the side, just trying to acclimated. We’ll see what those guys look like once they get back next week.


Brian Costello, New York Post: What stood out to you about the tight end during the pre-draft process, Zack (Kuntz)? His scores seem to be all over the place. 

Yeah, unfortunate for him because he had the injury, but his height, weight, speed and all of that stuff. Usually when you get into those rounds, the back half of the draft, you just want guys who are big. You’re looking for something freakish that you can work with and he’s got great mindset. He’s got tremendous athleticism, size and all of that stuff, so for us, it was very easy when he was there.


Brian Costello, New York Post: I’m sure you’ve had guys like that in the past that their traits are crazy, production in college doesn’t reflect the skill. Do you search for answers of why didn’t they translate in college or are you just kind of coming in and going, ‘Alright, we’re just going take this guy in?’

You search, but also, his production wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t bad, it was decent, but Malcom Smith, seventh rounder who ran like a 4.4. He had blazing speed, but is there a trait? An intangible that he has?  What’s the mental makeup? And if you’re lucky enough to combine all of them, and you don’t always hit, but there’s an old saying, ‘Always take the freak that loves ball. And if you do, usually they pan out.’ So, he’s got freakish ability and he’s got a love for football, so now we just got to work with him.


Andy Vasquez, NJ Advance Media: We haven’t talked about it a ton, but the overall depth since you’ve gotten here, how much do you think it has improved and what does that change how you do things as a coach and how much easier does it make your job?

I think it’s improved greatly. You just hit it on the question that I think Coz (Costello) just asked about the youth. Over the last two years, there’s so much youth playing. All that youth creates depth and that creates competition. The greatest form of motivating as a coach is competition. So, it all helps. To add the veterans, to add all the experience that we’ve been able to add this offseason, like I said, there’s really good balance here.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: When you talk about the rookies and just trying to get them acclimated, how much of that is just trying to find where they go and also just how things kind of work in their program?

It’s all of it. They’re coming in, they’re going to be a little out of shape. They got to get acclimated to a new building and the way we do things. They’re going to see a completely different speed, because our guys with the Varsity, if you will, it’s been three weeks now of being part of phase one and the first week of phase two. So, they’re moving at a different clip. And they’re going to miss this week because they have to leave, so it’s going to be four weeks of training for the Varsity, if you will. So, it’s going to be a different speed. You’re just trying to get them acclimated, one to the conditioning, so they’re not falling out so early and subjecting themselves to injury, but at the same time, there’s the meal plans, the nutritionist, the strength coach, the regen, all the different things that will get thrown at them, along with the playbook. It can get overwhelming.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, one of the tryout players, Jack Coan, what made you guys bring him in and what have you seen from him in the short time you’ve had him?

He had last year with I think it was Indianapolis. He has a talent, obviously. Just to bring him in, give him a shot, give him a look, give him a chance to compete. I thought he did a really nice job, really impressed everybody. I know we’re going to go back, watch his tape real quick just to see if there’s more of a discussion to be had.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, Mekhi (Becton) tweeted this morning, he’s since deleted it, but I’m assuming this is in response to yesterday and your answer. He tweeted, “I. Am. A. Left. Tackle!” How do you kind of handle this? You mentioned you were going to play your best five, I assume that means you’ll have him slide in at left or right. How do you respond to his feeling about where he plays?

Go earn the left tackle. Competition.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: As far as Travis Dye, I know you had another undrafted free agent last year, Bam (Zonovan) Knight, who you relied on. Just talk about what you’ve seen from him and the possible impact he can make possibly on the roster as well?

Again, just another opportunity to come in and compete. Like I said, the best form of motivation is competition. We’ve added three really good draft classes since I’ve gotten here. Joe has had four of them. Some really good free agents, a lot of additions, so there’s a lot of competition all the way across the board. So, to add athletes, to add good players to really good groups, to add competition, it makes everything better from special teams all the way down.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What is your expectation for Mekhi this year? Obviously, you’ve seen he’s lost a lot of weight, has he been here? Has he been participating? What’s your expectation?

Yes, he’s been here. Expectation for him is no different than everybody else. It’s redundant and I get it, I feel like I say it to you guys all the time, wake up and find a way to get better and maximize who you are every single day. That’s it, that’s the expectation. If it leads to starting, if it leads to a left tackle position, it doesn’t matter. If you go to bed satisfied with the way you approached the day and the way you attacked it, then odds are it’s probably going to work out in your favor. If it doesn’t, at least you can go to bed with no regrets. So, with everybody in this organization, that’s the expectation. It’s to go to bed better than when you woke up. If you do, things usually work out.