Head Coach Robert Saleh, 8.3
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Zach Rosenblatt, The Athletic: We saw you huddle all the guys up before the end of practice, what was that about?
If you all have noticed that right around halfway through practice we have a six minute break and coaches are talking to their players, any adjustments that they see. We’re basically trying to simulate half time and come out of the locker room with the same intensity that we started practice with. It just wasn’t as clean of a start on special teams. The first five minutes was kind of a lag, so credit to the guys that picked it up themselves, but just a reminder of why we are doing what we are doing and the expectation when we come out of the locker room. A lot of games are lost just by coming out of the locker room with that slight lull. I thought the guys did a great job responding. The entire practice was really good, except for that little one-minute lapse.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Robert, can you update us on Ty Johnson and (Greg) Zuerlein?
Ty Johnson, he’s dealing with a hammy. He’s day-to-day, probably won’t be ready for the green and white. And (Greg) Zuerlein has a little toe. I think he’ll be good to kick for the green and white.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Michael Carter?
Michael is fine, yeah.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You mentioned last week that Jeremy (Ruckert) had a mini break through, is there anything new with him?
I don’t want to jinx it, but we are hoping that he clears everything today to start football activity. No promises, but that’s kind of the direction he is headed in.
Connor Hughes, SNY: How do you guys want to handle that green and white? Is it going to be a scrimmage where you’re driving an elongated drive?
Very similar to last year. We’ll have some normal practices, it will just be all move the ball so ones vs. ones punts, so the exact format as a year ago. We’re not making teams or anything, it’s just offense vs. defense and just a lot more move the ball. So, we’ll have a team run, team pass, a seven on seven, and then I think the ones, twos, and threes will each get two series, a half, and then a two minute. So, four series and a two minute.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: This looks to be Zach’s (Wilson) most efficient day, I’m wondering if you agree with that? And what are some of the highlights from him that you took out of it?
You know, Zach’s been fine. I think where a lot of things sometimes gets skewed is down in the red zone which is always the hardest part for a quarterback because things happen faster, especially a young man. So, the highlight today would be in the red zone where I thought he operated fast, everything is faster down there. A lot of times he’s having a really nice day and then we get into the red zone and then he hits a lull which you guys all yesterday moved the ball, get to the red zone. It’s the red zone period’s that have been the sticking point for him and today he was fast. He was deliberate, got rid of the ball, got to his second read on the one with Elijah Moore, so thought he did a really nice job.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: I know Vinny Curry is not practicing at the moment, can you just speak to your relationship with him, what last year was like, how scary that was for him, and his decision to come back?
Vinny, he is a spark plug, I mean full of energy. He’s been in this system for a very long time, obviously not with me, but with the same style of system so he knows it like the back of his hand. He’s got a great relationship with Aaron (Whitecotton) along with Joe (Douglas) and myself. He’s a pleasure to be around. Last year was so unfortunate. Thank God it was caught, thank God he was able to get it fixed, and thank God he’s out here. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back in the fold quickly, but he is not afraid of being a mentor. He’s that veteran leader, he’s coaching guys up constantly, he’s always engaged. Even today, he didn’t like his rehab schedule, he wanted to have a different rehab schedule so he could be out at practice. Just the way he is and how much of a team guy he is, he’s awesome.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: You have a lot of guys in that room with some young guys that you just brought in, how difficult of a road is that for him to be hurt at the moment?
I think what’s great about that group, I think we have, I made the comment the other day that I’ll be shocked if every single one of those guys aren’t on the 53-man roster. It’s a really cool group of guys. Does it make it hard? I think it’s hard for all of them. I think it’s hard for a lot of guys on this team because Joe and his staff have done a really good job of creating a lot of competition. As long as you stay focused, even him, he knows to just stay focused on what he’s got control over and things will take care of itself.
Brian Costello, New York Post: The upgrades to passing defense are kind of obvious to see, but run defense, where do you think you guys can improve from last season?
I don’t want to start throwing stats out. A lot of the things that skewed our numbers is at the second level of the defense in terms of eliminating explosives. When you’re a single high team like we are, you’re going to get creased, you’re going to get to the second level, and can you get it down before it breaks for 80 and before it breaks for 60 and some of those big, long runs that we gave up. So, from an efficiency standpoint, just studying it through analytics and all the different stats that are out there, from an efficiency standpoint we were at the top half of the league in run game. Unfortunately, we gave up, we are one of the worst from an explosive standpoint which is twelve yards or more. We gave up a lot of explosive plays and massively explosive plays that really skewed the numbers out of whack. The focus really is to try to make sure that we are doing a great job eliminating those explosives, be better teachers with regards to our safety play, corner play, eliminating some of those gaps and all the space that gets created so we can keep those things within 12 yards. I do think we are improved. I know there is a lot of concern for the interior because of size, but I think we are going to be fine. We have guys who strain and play hard, but at the same time until we do it, it’s always going to be a question.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (Follow Up) Where does the burden of that lie – explosives down for the front, for the secondary?
It’s everybody. You get creased. The run game crease is now under the secondary, so the last line of defense saves it, keep it inside 12 yards, and if it gets past them that’s where you get – for example, the Indianapolis game, we were gapped out. We missed the gap and hits in the b-gap, gets to the second level and save it. I think that’s probably one of the more underrated things we ask out of our secondary. The great ones can keep it inside 12, and if you can keep it inside 12, you’re run game is always going to be good.
Connor Hughes, SNY: You mentioned the size, there is a lack of size in the interior, but there is Jonathan Marshall. We’ve seen him flash a little bit, have you seen him at least in the early portions of practice including when he put on the pads, the ability to be that run stuffer?
He could be. One thing with our system, we don’t really designate any of those guys ‘run stuffers.’ We want a bunch of three-techniques that just fire off the ball creating knockback. For Jon Marshall, his area of emphasis, focus, is to just continue to strain and grind through the double-team blocks and the backside double teams and all the different ops that he has to strain and create push and not get moved. It is something that he has improved on greatly over the last couple of days, but now he’s got to prove it. He’s getting used to our scheme, so he’s going to get a chance to go against Philadelphia, then Atlanta, then the Giants – all of whom will present different blocking combinations and schemes for him, and it’s just a matter of him continuing to improve and improve.
Connor Hughes, SNY: When you guys first signed Kwon (Alexander), when you first talked about it, there seemed like there was going to be a slow ramp up period for him. It seems like that has accelerated quite a bit here. Has he been what you expected him to be? Maybe in some cases more?
I wasn’t expecting him to be in the shape he is. He’s in fantastic shape, and he’s ready to roll like I’ve said. He’s adding to the room. He’s definitely making it hard to keep him off the field.
Mike Cannizaro, New York Post: Can you speak to what you see in (Joe) Flacco? After all these years, how important is he?
He’s been great – Joe Cool. (Mike) LaFleur and I were messing with him in walkthrough yesterday. We were just looking at Joe and were like, “man, how many walkthrough reps do you think you’ve taken in your career?” And he just started laughing and was like, “I don’t even want to think about that number.” His presence, his demeanor, the way he goes about his business, he’s fantastic. He is an open book, you just have to ask him. He is kind of an introvert in that way where it could come off as standoff-ish, but if you sit and have a conversation with him, he’s unbelievable.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: (Follow Up) With regards to that, the open book, but he is kind of low key, what’s Zach’s comfort level with that?
I think they’re all very comfortable to have conversation with him. Sometimes, I don’t know if I want to tell him this, but sometimes in the quarterback room, I’ve got cameras set up that I can watch QB meetings, I can watch all the meetings, and sometimes it breaks and they hang and have conversation. Which, I don’t like listening to the conversation, but once in a while I see LaFleur coming out and I’m like, “Are you all still meeting?” But, they’re talking to Joe and having a good time and asking questions and they’re being engaged. He is phenomenal. He really is, and just a pleasure to have around.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Are you surprised that you’re able to get Flacco in a role where he’s pretty much a backup instead of with a team competing for a starting spot?
He should be, in my opinion. He could start in this league. I believe that. Sometimes this league has a tendency to pigeonhole people or put labels on people and then their opportunities get limited, but Joe Flacco is a starting quarterback in this league. He is really, really talented.
Eric Allen, nyjets.com: How does Solomon Thomas change the dynamic of this team and what can you say about his work ethic?
He is the epitome of ‘All Gas.’ He had an interception running out of the stack today and on a deflection. He’s awesome. His work ethic, an example – OTAs, we have a bowling outing as a team, we come back and he goes right to the gym. He is constantly trying to better himself, trying to better those around him. He is constantly just 100 miles an hour, everything he’s got, doesn’t leave anything left in the tank. He is an undersized guy, but when you watch him play, he plays with so much explosiveness and power that he doesn’t get moved very often. Just really excited that he’s here.
Al Ianazzonne, Newsday: What kind of progress have you seen from Jermaine Johnson?
Same. Obviously, a rookie. He’s learning. It doesn’t really change. There’s the power element to his game that he’s got to bring. He’s got all the fluidity. He’s got to learn the advanced techniques with regards to pass rush. I think he’s doing a really nice job. He’s straining. He knows the playbook. Everything there is good. It’s just a matter of proving it and learning how to master his craft to where he’s just impossible to deal with.
Eric Allen, nyjetscom: Is it nice to see those five guys working together upfront now on the offensive line?
Absolutely, getting George (Fant) and getting those five. We need those five to communicate and have continuity constantly. The faster we can get those guys and the more reps we can get those guys, the better they’ll be.