Head Coach Robert Saleh, 6.8
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Rich Cimini, ESPN: With mini-camp coming up next week, how will it be different then what you’re doing now?
It’s not going to be, they’ve got their physicals Monday. We’re going to hold the same structure at practice. With the walkthroughs, it’s really going to be the same.
Brian Costello, New York Post: You expect everyone to be here for mini-camp?
Brian Costello, New York Post: With Elijah Moore, what’s the next step in his progression?
It’s obviously the second year for him. He looks really good, his next step really is continue operating the way that he does. He is by far one of our hardest workers. He is so in tune to his body. He is in tune to schemes. He is trying to get better and there’s been some great battles between him and D.J. Reed, Bryce (Hall), and all the other DBs. He looks really good. It was the same thing last year though, he looks fantastic during OTAs and training camp. It’s continuing to absorb (inaudible) so when he does hit the ground running in Week One, he’s where he was mid-season. But with him, it’s really just continuing to grow and get better.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How much has it been a help to them , going against a guy like D.J. who is so competitive? You said last week the way he takes every play seriously.
I think its beneficial for all of them. When you have a guy like D.J. who plays as hard as he does, those guys can embarrass the heck out of you in a hurry if you don’t match their intensity. That competition level for the receivers and DBs, it’s good for everybody.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: With (Jamison) Crowder gone, who’s your slot receiver?
Working through it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: With Crowder not being here and Garrett Wilson coming in, does that change Elijah’s role at all, how you use him? It seemed like last year you used him outside a lot because it has Jamison inside and Braxton (Berrios) inside, and now I think Garrett can kind of play either of those sides.
The cool thing about the receiver room is there is a lot of versatility in that. It’s not trying to pigeonhole, and that’s kid of the philosophy of the system, not to pigeonhole guys into certain spots but having the flexibility to say alright we can get a mismatch with Corey (Davis), let’s put him in the slot, let’s put Garrett in the slot, let’s put Elijah in the slot. It’s really moving parts, we might put C.J. (Uzomah) or (Tyler) Conklin. It’s just where do we put our guys to take care of some of the mismatches? And that’s where I think it’s really cool and that’s where the creativity comes from, (Mike) LaFleur.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: When you have someone like Corey who’s been in the league for a while, it’s probably easy for him to go here or there. But we’ve had two young guys like Elijah, only playing a year and obviously Garrett is a rookie, do you worry some with that, “Ok, you’re inside this play, outside that play,” maybe overwhelming them where you want them to just focus on their position because of their age?
Yea, that’s even for veterans. The story I talk about is with, there’s a balance, there’s a breaking point with every player in football. In San Francisco with Fred Warner, who is as smart as anybody in terms of just being able to absorb scheme, get it out of his mouth, get people lined up, there was a game against Arizona where we put a lot of checks on him, a lot of checks. And it was, to this day, probably the worst game he had played. Then it was that moment where I was like, shoot, we as a coaching staff screw them when we put way too much on them. Then we find that balance and then off he goes. It’s the same thing with every receiver whether you’re a first year or a 10th year. What’s the balance, what’s the breaking point, and how do you get these guys to play as fast as possible? So that to play inside/out if they can, let them rip and if they can’t, you just got to pull some back.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Ideally, there are some plays where Elijah is inside, some he is outside, but would you want that to have two outside receivers and a slot receiver and that kind of your three set?
No, I think the versatility is what makes it great. If you know where guys are lining up all the time, I think it’s easier to defend. But when you have a guy, and I think that’s why in the system it was always to get Julio (Jones) the ball. I mean of course we’re going to double Julio, but where the heck is Julio? Just having that versality, same thing with Andre Johnson back in Houston, if you don’t know where he is then how do you double him? You make people communicate all the different motions, all the different alignments, all the different things that happen. You want that versality and that’s what makes things exciting.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Other than his body, what’s different about Zach (Wilson) this year?
I think he’s a lot more comfortable on the offense, I do. He is committed to the process of taking the snap and going through a progression, understanding exactly where his eyes need to go on every snap, and now it’s just a matter of trusting what he sees and letting it rip. He’s been doing a really nice job with it. You can feel the comfort. And we still have a long way to go, don’t get me wrong, but you can see exactly what we were hoping for in terms of him coming back having better command of the offense and better confidence in his progression.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: We talked to Jeff (Ulbrich) last week and he spoke about the defensive line rotation and letting those guys get 30-35 snaps. Can you just expand on that a bit and really explain the specific benefit of really getting those and kind of keeping your defensive line fresh?
We expect D-line to do a lot from an attack standpoint. It’s physically hard, unless you’re an absolute freakazoid, a guy like Aaron Donald, who can go forever. Most of the time, you’re trying to, and it’s really not a 30-35 snap count, it’s more of a percentage. If you look at things in the past, in a perfect world, you’re trying to hit a 70 percent mark. The example I give is, there are 60-65 snaps on average for a defensive team, in that range. If you’re hitting 70 percent, you’re around 40-45 snaps. If we use a guy like Quinnen (Williams) for example, in a perfect scenario, and we’re winning football games, those 40-45 snaps, 30-35 of them are against pass. We’re trying to time it to, so to try to give you an overall picture or view of it, let’s just say we start the game, and I’ll use Quinnen as an example, well he rolls out first down, rolls out second down, third down, they convert. Well get Quinnen off the field, he’s not on the field for first down, he’s not on the field for second down, third down comes and he’s back on the field. Then we get off. So, in that scenario, he played four out of six snaps. That’s about 67 percent. You’re just trying to pace it for the guys so that they’re fresh as possible when crunch time hits. Those third downs, those two minutes when we need a play. So, the 30-35 rule that Ulbrich hit, he’s got great expectations. He’s probably expecting 50 snaps a game. But it’s more if you went on average, you’re probably in that 70 percent range where guys like DeForest Buckner, I think that’s what we were hitting in San Fran with (Nick) Bosa and (Arik) Armstead. It’s not a perfect science, guys, if you’re playing 90 snaps in a game, well shoot, you’re going to be in the 60 play range. It’s going to keep elevating. But you’re just trying to make sure that they are absolutely at the freshest they can be when it’s third down and two minutes.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Do you have someone tracking that in game, Robert? Do you know, like in the third quarter, if this guy has played this many snaps or not?
No, it’s an art for the D-line coach. It’s making sure that he’s pacing it where your four horsemen, if you will, or five or six pass rushers, the guys that we’re leaning on, because you look at that two-minute situation and teams are driving, if you’re really exerting all of your energy, and you should be, in the pass rush situation where you’re trying to get a sack. To go four snaps in a row is taxing. And not being able to have guys fresh for those moments, you’re playing with fire.
Steve Serby, New York Post: Robert, what enabled Braxton and Zach (Wilson) to have such good chemistry last year and what is Braxton’s role now? How do you see his role?
I see Braxton no different. He is so smart, so versatile. He can play Z, he can play the X, he can play the F, he can do all the gadgets, he’s a returner. So, I’m really happy he’s here, but obviously, his role is a little bit more of a leadership role and I think guys will look up to him, and the way he works and the way that he does things. I don’t see anything different about Braxton’s use.
(follow up) And what enabled him to have such good chemistry with Zach last year?
I think it’s all encompassing. I think there’s a chemistry with the coordinator and it took a little bit of learning in that first year. But I think there is a comfort level with Braxton, knowing that he is going to be exactly where he needs to be every single play. I think that’s comforting, not only for the coaches, but it’s comforting for the quarterback to know that Braxton is on the field and I know of all the guys, he is going to be where he needs to be. It’s easy to get people the football when you’re confident in them. And it’s a credit to Braxton with the way he works.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, we got one with Rob Calabrese, what difference do you see from last year to this year and what gave you the confidence that we can give him more of a role with Zach?
Like I said, in the second half of the year last year, when we had all the different coaches in there, it was really Rob who was the lead voice and you see this year a lot more confidence, a lot more conviction. Him and Mike having more conversation, obviously it’s more one-on-one, I don’t know if streamline is the word, but it’s more focused, I guess you could say. Because of it, I think when you have one voice, and obviously Mike in there too, but when you’re limited in that regard, you’re confident because exactly what was said and how you can either expand on it or fix what was said. There’s a lot more control in that for him, in terms of being able to communicate with Zach (Wilson) in the way that Zach needs, and Mike (White) and Joe (Flacco) for that matter, from a communication standpoint. But he’s been doing a great job.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How much do you tweak in the off-season form year to year and does that get affected by free agency signings, like the draft? Do you then re-evaluate everything, do you add any pieces? What’s that process like?
This time of year, you have your base fundamentals and the things that you do, your basic install. But you are going to try some stuff and throw some stuff out there. Offense is going to try some new things to see what it looks like, we’re trying some new things on defense to see what it looks like, and you try to take advantage of some of the pieces that you may or may not have. And you also look at the division that you’re in and the teams that you’re playing during the season. You’re trying to make sure that things fit so that when that game comes up, you’ll be prepared for it. So, this time of year is all about trying some new stuff but not necessarily departing from what your core philosophies are.