Head Coach Robert Saleh, 8.30
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Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I’m not sure how much you can talk about Shaq Lawson yet, can you talk about him?
No, not much. He’s going through all his testing and all that stuff. Excited to have him here and get to work with him.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Can you go over the guys that didn’t practice today?
That’s a big list right there, Connor. Nothing has changed since gameday. Obviously, Michael Carter did not practice today, the running back. Vyncint (Smith) was out with a heel, Michael will be fine, he should be back Wednesday hopefully. Obviously, Mekhi (Becton), that hasn’t changed. On defense, all the same ones that haven’t so, there’s nothing new there.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (George) Fant?
Personal, he had a personal.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Michael Carter, what does he have?
He’s just working with some lower-extremity stuff, but he’ll be fine.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Was (Greg) Van Roten at practice?
They all do that, but he practiced.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: (Ashtyn) Davis looked like he started doing some stretching and stuff just where is he at in terms on his progression?
(follow up) Ashtyn Davis, sorry.
There’s like five of them. (laughter) Ashtyn, obviously, has been activated off PUP so, we’re excited to get him back in the progressions and all that stuff.
(follow up) Robert, how much of a ramp up does he need, could he be ready for Week One or how does that work?
We’re going to go day by day with that one, but give him that proper ramp up that he needs.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, we talked a lot about how young your team is. You also have a young coaching staff though, a lot of guys in new roles. What has that been like for you in training camp and what’s your process in terms of coaching the coaches?
I try to put myself, because I was in their shoes four years ago as a first-time coordinator and then, I was in their shoes as a first-time linebackers coach, so there’s empathy in that regard. I just try to go through my experiences and just try to do the best I can and speaking with regards to, ‘Hey, you know what, this happened in 2013 and this is the way we reacted to it and this is what we did. This happened in ’17, ’18,’ whatever it might be. To not overflow them and try to make them me, but to help them stay ahead of the chains with regards to their process and how they do things. That’s really the dialogue that we’re having.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: With the absence of that fourth preseason game, cut day, I think, is a little different in the way that you guys are structuring it all so, what is it going to look like for you? Are you getting some cuts done today, a chunk tomorrow, what’s your structure going to be like?
Obviously, work with Joe (Douglas) here over the next couple of days and whatever Joe decides is what we’ll roll with.
Brian Costello, New York Post: On the coaches, Robert, do you expect there to be some growing pains because you have so many people in new roles early in the season?
There’s going to be great learning experiences, even for me as a first-time head coach, there’s going to be learning experiences and there’s going to be things that like, ‘Oh man.’ You try to stay ahead, you try to stay a step ahead in terms of all the different things that come up with regards to, for me, situations, for the play callers, all the different things that pop up. But, until you get to go through those experiences, there’s going to be some new things that happen and, I mean shoot, I would imagine that even for the most experiences coaches, something new happens every week that’s like, ‘Shoot, jot it down.’ Try to create as many simulated game-like experiences as we can and try to learn the best we can and when those opportunities come, you hit it. Just critiquelly speaking myself, there was a great opportunity in the Philadelphia game where, from a game-management standpoint, had an opportunity looking back it I was like, you know what, it was in a gray area spot but, we could have done something. I’m not going to talk about the situation that could’ve saved us a little more time. It was something that we jot down. There’s so many different things that can happen and will happen and our ability to learn is what defines the staff.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How much time do you spend thinking about those game situations and how you want to call it, like fourth downs?
All the time. Every walkthrough we have a situational, we dedicate five to ten minutes to situations, not only for the offense to go through and the defense but myself. (Matt) Burke is always bringing me situations that happened throughout the week, “Hey, look at all these situations that popped up. I thought this was a cool one, this is a cool one.” So, we’re trying to create as many simulated situations as we can so when those do pop up in the game, we have some type of recall.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Obviously with your first-group defense, obviously they haven’t been whole at any one point, but when those guys have been in, there’s been some struggles. You talked about the third down issues a little bit in the Green Bay game, where is that defense right now as you kind of go this last week of preparation and what not, are there concerns that you lead toward?
I’m excited to see where we’re at. In some of those games, we’re getting Quinnen (Williams) in, we’re getting (Sheldon) Rankins in. We feel comfortable with the fact that we’ll be healthy going into these games but, there’s a lot of detail that we still got to get better at and, the anticipation, at least with our scheme, in years past, we’ve always gotten better as the year’s gone on. They’re going to learn all the different ways offenses attack them. I’ve mentioned it before, there’s that 101 phase where you’re learning the scheme, there’s that 301 phase where you’re learning your fundamentals and technique and then, there’s that 501 phase where you start to understand what offenses, from a defensive standpoint, are trying to do to you. They’re still working through that 101, 301 phase and trying to absorb as much of that offense as they can but, there’s going to get to a point where they’re not thinking about scheme, they’re not thinking about technique, they’re just thinking about what offenses are doing and they’ll speed up because of it.
(follow up) When do you hope they’re at the 501 phase? In your experience, especially with a young team, when does a young team get to that 501?
That’s a great question because I think every team is different. I’ll just recall from San Francisco, we had so many injuries a year ago but, there was so much continuity over four years of working with guys that all those backups were able to step in and they were already at that 501 phase, they were able to absorb as much of the offense as they could and still execute at a high level. It’s the same thing, not that it’s going to take four years but, my point is that it does take time but, hopefully it doesn’t take too much time.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, you brought in Matt Cavanaugh, what’s his role, what do you want to see him do for you guys?
I’ve talked about it before where, Mike (LaFleur) is running the scheme part and (Rob) Calabrese does a great job on the field with regards to drills and building cutups and teach tapes. To have that old soul who’s been through so many different, who’s had so many different experiences. One, for Mike as a play caller, to help him through all the different questions he might have, game planning, such a valuable resource. Obviously, for the quarterback and talking about the different experiences that he’s had, and developing quarterbacks along the way. It’s very similar, God rest his soul, with Knapper (Greg Knapp) and what we were expecting out of him. To have him, he’s going to provide a lot.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, this is your first time as a head coach going through the cutdown day. How difficult is this? You’ve worked with these guys now, a lot of them since the spring, that you’re going to have to tell them that you’re going to move on, that they’re not going to be here tomorrow?
It doesn’t change. Even as a coordinator, you still got a chance to talk to all those guys as they left. Obviously, it was smaller because it was one side of the ball but, it doesn’t change. This is by far the worst part of football. For some of them, the dream of playing professional football is over. For some they’re still going to be able to continue on. You never want to be the one to deliver bad news and you just hurt for them because you know how much the effort and how much work they put into it. It’s not easy, it’ll never be easy, and it doesn’t matter what role you are whenever you have to tell somebody that their dream of playing professional football is possibly over, it’s not a good thing.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: On Zach (Wilson), where do you feel like he is right now, as opposed to what you thought you’d like him to be entering this last week?
We’re excited about where he’s at just because of the fact that he’s shown to grow, and not make the same mistakes twice, he shows great poise and all that stuff. Again, no different. He’s going to get whole set of looks coming up, the speed of the game is going to change, the way teams attack from a defensive perspective is going to change. So, his ability to learn and process and slow the game down as quickly as he can is going to be what matters most. We like where he’s at, like I said, his process and how he prepares has us very confident in the fact that he’s going to be able to absorb all that information and execute it at a high level.
(follow up): One of the most important things of this next week that you (inaudible). What’s he going to get out of this next week? Before that first game?
Yeah, so, obviously, we’re going right to Carolina. Everything he does from here on out is about Carolina and studying their tape and trying to find ways to improve his game so he can slow the game down the best he can so he can play the best he can.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Obviously, I asked Zach about pre-snap/post-snap, defenses are now going to try to confuse him, things of that nature. Obviously, that’s things that you like to do, so how can, from your experience, your expertise, help teach him, going into Carolina week, what are some things that they’re going to try to do to confuse him with the pre-snap/post-snap stuff?
Well, he’s going to get that Mike will do a great job in terms of getting it. We’ve given it to him here in camp the best we could, just the way we run our defenses. He’s kind of getting used to all the stuff around his feet. You guys saw it, the day with all the 11-on-11 work we did, flipping coverages on him, just trying to make it hard on him, and it’s going to be no different. He’s going to get the same action, you know, I was talking to Mike on the field, we make it so chaotic in practice, we can’t just help but feel the game is going to be slower for him. So, we’re excited about what he’s been able to get exposed to, now it’s just a matter of doing our best to give him all the indicators possible so he can make a pre-snap decision so he can get the ball where it needs to go.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I have one more about coaching the coaches, Robert. What does that look like? Is that private conversations on the field, is that staff meeting stuff, that’s not something I feel like I’ve ever seen?
No that’s good, its private conversations, it’s sitting in on meetings, it’s recognizing something and trying to like, ‘Hey, I see this coming I’m just going to try to help you out with it.’ It’s doing everything you can to just help them stay ahead. I might go in there and say something and Mike says, “I’m way ahead of you on that one.” But, we’re going, ‘Great, that’s perfect.’ It’s more just conversation and communicating and seeing something to try to help them stay a step ahead. These guys, and I’m not just speaking for our staff, I think every staff in America, count college too, they take so much pride in our work, they’re always trying to stay ahead, they’re always trying to take the next step to help these young men execute at a high level. For sure, you’re right, young staff, there’s some things they haven’t been exposed to. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that they’re crippled. They’re going to be able to find ways to get better. They’re going to be able to find ways to expose themselves, and they’re going to learn because that’s what they do, they get paid a lot of money to do it. My faith in our staff is unwavering in the sense that there’s going to be learning moments but, I know we’re only going to get better as time goes.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Last year was kind of weird with the waiver wire because you guys didn’t necessarily have film to go off of for preseason games and other teams, and stuff like that. With the benefit of seeing players in that regard, not just in your own research, your own intel, do you anticipate, I know this is Joe (Douglas) as well, do you guys anticipate being a little bit more active on the waiver wire now that you have the resources available to get some intel on other players?
Last year, just going through San Francisco, it was easier to hide guys and it was harder to claim guys. That goes back to what it was in 2019 so, there’s obviously more film, the easier it becomes. Doesn’t mean we’ll be more active, just mean we’ll be able to study these guys a little bit more.