Head Coach Robert Saleh, 6.1
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Brian Costello, New York Post: In the secondary, it looks like you’ll probably have three new starters there, projected. Was that a priority immediately after the season, you and Joe (Douglas) sat down to try to revamp that? Obviously, you went young there last year, a lot of injuries at safety. Was that something you talked about immediately doing?
I don’t know if it was a priority as much as it just was the opportunities that came to us. In this league, you’re always trying to add the best players you can. Had opportunities to add guys in the places that we were, so timing and all that stuff helped a ton with it. There was a lot of priorities that we were trying to get accomplished, a lot of different things. It just fell in a way where we were able to achieve a lot this offseason.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: How have Bryce (Hall) and Brandin (Echols) handled it? Because you draft a guy like Sauce (Gardner), obviously he’s going to play, he was the fourth-overall pick and that obviously would mean one of those guys has to come off the field.
They’ve been professionals. Bryce is awesome. I do want to be clear, and I know, like you just said, fourth overall and I’m not trying to stir up headlines, it probably will, he still has to go earn it. Bryce has started, he’s taking the one reps and it’s not for show. You have to earn your right to play football. Just because you were drafted in a certain spot it doesn’t mean anything. Bryce is attacking every moment and he’s doing everything he can to keep himself exactly where he’s been. Brandin, obviously he’s been dealing with his shoulder, he looks fantastic, he’s bigger than he was last season. Excited to get him back for training camp, so he can come in and compete. But at the same time, both of them have been awesome.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: You have a guy like Gardner who excels in man coverage, do you anticipate maybe tweaking your scheme with what you normally would do to suit his strengths like play more man this year than you normally would?
I think we play a lot more man than people realize, so he’s still going to get those opportunities. But he can play zone too, I mean the kid can do it all. He’s very talented, he’s very smart. He’s hungry for knowledge, he’s a great competitor. One thing I will say is we won’t put him in a position where we know he won’t succeed. That’s a promise, but there’s not much of that in his game.
Mike Kaye, Pro Football Network: Robert, going back to when you scouted Zach Wilson, what were the traits that you really identified that made him the guy? And, how have those traits progressed over the year that you’ve had him here?
Zach, his arm talent, his off-schedule platform throws that he’s well known for, his pure arm talent, everyone recognizes that. He’s a great young man, he’s very smart. We’re seeing it all, it’s just a matter of the game slowing down for him. When you get to this level, the amount of information that gets thrown at these quarterbacks is quite significant. He’s grinding through it, he’s doing a really nice job. He looks a lot better, the timing has been better and it’s just a matter of continuing to stack up great days and when we get into competition in training camp with other teams it will elevate a little bit more and then the regular season happens and it will be a whole new speed.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I know you guys didn’t necessarily view it this way, but one of the outside criticisms last year was the number of people that were in that quarterback room. That’s obviously been significantly downsized this year where it’s just Rob (Calabrese) and Mike (LaFleur). How beneficial will that be for Zach now to just kind of have a traditional room where it’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach?
It’s always good. I feel like we did a really nice job in terms of what the roles were for everybody in terms of the amount of communication that was made to the quarterback, especially in the second half of the year when Zach came back from injury it was always Calabrese, he was the lead voice. Obviously, we had John (Beck) in the building who did a fantastic job eliminating noise for Zach from an external standpoint and (Matt) Cavanaugh who did a wonderful job, was really there to assist with Mike as a first-time coordinator. He did awesome. As the room sits now, it’s less congested, it’s probably a lot less hot with all the body heat. (joking) I really like the way the communication has been because it’s been more direct. Where I think it is helpful is outside the quarterback room where the ideas that are being shoved into a meeting are not necessarily minimized but they’re more direct, more refined, more concrete so when we do get in the quarterback room, there’s a lot more conviction in what’s being coached.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Calabrese isn’t a guy that’s too well known yet. What do you see in him and what do you think his potential is?
He’s definitely got coordinator potential. Keyword in your question was “yet.” I don’t want to put his business on blast, but he was courted this offseason in terms of job opportunities and coordinator opportunities and he elected to stay. Very talented young man, very knowledgeable, played the position. He’s young, he’s a sponge and he’s getting better every single day as a football coach.
Steve Serby, New York Post: Robert, what did you learn about Mike LaFleur that you didn’t know maybe and how would you describe his relationship with Zach?
The biggest thing is his ability to handle pressure and stress. Coming up, Mike, obviously, he’s the younger brother of Matt (LaFleur) who is fantastic as a head coach and was always working with Kyle (Shanahan), so to be out on your own and your first taste of stress is the New York media, especially early in the season when things weren’t going great for him. For him to walk in, head up, conviction and strength that he projected was pretty awesome and I think it fed through, because the offense did nothing but get better as the year went on. He is another one that’s only getting better. Second time around as coordinator, second year, it’s only going to get better. Excited to see him grow.
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY: When things were going wrong last year, obviously Zach was still learning, he had some injuries and things, did you sense that he was holding back at all? I would imagine a lot of coordinators would say let’s scale things back, but his offense, he never seemed to hold back on trick plays and being aggressive.
He executed his vision and the staff’s vision for that matter. I felt like every single week, the offense continued to grow and expand, but not in a way where the players couldn’t handle it. It was creative and the expectation, obviously, is that it continues which it has through phase three. They’re growing, it’s a fun group to watch work.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: You mentioned the game is slowing down for Zach, so how much does that fall on the staff to help him also slow the game down along with the work that he’s putting in?
It’s one in the same. Every coach can teach every single concept in the history of football, it’s whether or not a player can execute it within five seconds, which is basically what you’re being asked to do. So, there’s balance of how much can you give the young man, not just him, but the o-linemen, the receivers, the tight ends. Same thing on the defensive side of the ball, so they can execute as fast as humanly possible. When you feel like they’re being bogged down, you got to scale it back and when you feel like it’s too easy, you got to add more. So, you’re always playing that balancing act.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Have you noticed Mike skipping around the building anymore with adding Breece (Hall), adding (Garrett) Wilson, adding the tight ends?
Peacock chest? He’s also been in the weight room, too, if you guys want to complement him. It’s been a whole quarterback room thing. He looks good. He’s been weightlifting, on his diet and trying to keep up with the good looks of his brother. (joking)
Brian Costello, New York Post: With D.J. Reed, you had him early on in his career with San Francisco, what did you see when you studied the film of him last year in Seattle? What kind of growth did you see and is it still an easy transition from that defense to your defense?
Corner play is universal in terms of what they’re being asked to do. You see the same things. D.J. is one of the hardest playing, we got this thing in the building, “King of Strain.” Are you straining every day, are you straining in the way you work on the football field. The guy, you can almost hear him grunting on tape and the volume is on mute with how hard he plays and how hard he’s getting in-and-out of his breaks and how important every single rep is to him. You see him in meetings, just the laser focus, there’s no dozing off, there’s no slouching. He is completely locked in. You see all of that, and at the same time, he’s not a robot, he is an unbelievable person and willing to talk to guys and bring guys along. So, he has been awesome. Really excited that we have him.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: How is Denzel (Mims) doing in terms of grasping the offense?
Denzel is doing better. He’s second time around, he’s in fantastic shape, looks really good. He’s working on the things that we’ve asked him to work on with regards to the catch point and all that stuff, contested balls. And, obviously, grasping the offense. Obviously, we all, the whole organization, has work to do in terms of reaching the point where we’re not thinking about what we’re being asked to do, but he’s a lot further along than he was a year ago.
(follow up) When you says he’s in excellent shape, was that ever an issue with him?
He never got a chance with all the sicknesses that he had. When I say shape, because of the things that happened to him last offseason he was never able to maintain the lower-half power that is so underrated for a receiver to be able to get in-and-out of breaks and be explosive. So, you see all the explosiveness now because he’s in fantastic shape and ready to roll.
Al Iannazone, Newsday: You had three offensive lineman who had surgery, do you expect them back for camp? Connor (McGovern), George (Fant), and Mekhi (Becton), they’ll all be there for camp?
Yes, should be.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: The decision at the tackles with Mekhi and George Fant, what’s going to go into who plays on what side and when do you expect to make that decision?
As soon as we can get Mekhi here, I think hopefully for minicamp, I know he’s dealing with the birth of his baby. Again, far more important. Once we get them all in here and we’re able to work through it all, we’ll be able to work through that part of it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: So, you don’t expect (Becton) here until minicamp?
We’re in communication with him, it’s no hurry. It’s not like we’re doing 11-on-11 stuff anyways.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: Is he working on some right-side footwork and hand placement, things like that, down in Texas?
They’re working on everything. I know he’s just working on overall strength and getting the knee back and all that stuff. From everything I’ve been gathering, he looks really good.
Mike Kaye, Pro Football Network: With the lack of contact, what are you trying to see out of Jermaine (Johnson) these next couple of weeks? And, how has he been with kind of picking the brains of Vinny Curry and Solomon Thomas and some of the older guys?
He’s been good. The biggest thing for all these guys, the structure, unfortunately, for o-line, d-line is at a disadvantage because you don’t get as much one-on-one work, so you’re really working on your fundamentals, your footwork, your hand placement, grasping defense, you’re watching offensive line play and you’re just trying to add thought to your game. So, when you get pads during training camp, you can give it all a try. For him, really just getting his feet wet, understanding the meeting rooms, the practice, the area and getting himself mentally prepared to play football in August.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: You mentioned with the 11-on-11 stuff, obviously there was none of that at OTAs last week, will you start to implement that over the next two? And then, aside from that, is one of the reasons you guys aren’t doing that is partially because a number of your lineman are banged up right now?
It’s a little bit of both. Again, we’re trying to take care of the big boys in terms of their bodies and all the residual contact that happens because I don’t care how slow you try to make it, when you put them in front of each other, they just can’t help but compete. We’ll have an 11-on-11 pass period, we’re not doing any run game because that’s where it gets really violent. We’re doing some 11-on-11 stuff that’s situational in terms of third down, two minute, just so that we can get that procedural all checked in. For the most part, we’re walking through all the run game stuff and playing seven-on-seven.