Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.17

[please click photo for link to the video]

Opening Statement…

Good Morning. Representing Dwight Morrow High School this week. They lost their entire field turf to Hurricane Ida. So, we wanted to represent them and do some good things for that high school.


Joey Chandler, NJ Media Advance: Is there any other help you guys are extending to the high school?

We’re inviting out their varsity team to the game, and we’re doing some things for them equipment wise. Organization will be able to answer those in more detail for you.


Reporter: Robert, Jamison (Crowder) and Keelan (Cole) ready to go for Sunday?

As of now. I don’t want to jinx it, they still got to work their hurdle today, but they’ve been getting better and progressing. But they’re still going to be decided on game day.


(follow up) Jamison, it’s the groin, right? That he’s still…

Yeah, he’s working through that part of it but, again, he feels good, but at the same time it’s just continuing to work and clear all the different medical hurdles.


Kim Jones, NFL Network: Robert, how did you think Zach (Wilson) handled the idea he was going to be under a lot of pressure in his first game and can he do anything to help that situation?

I think he handled it like a quarterback. It’s not abnormal to be under pressure and to get hit in this league. I’ve got the number in front of me, obviously it’s still too many, but quarterbacks get hit, they get pressured at a very high rate in this league, especially when you’re forced to drop back pass, which is the hardest thing to do in football because of the pass rush and its ability to win one-on-ones and get home. I thought he did a great job. What was great about him is that it seemed like the more pressure, the better he got. And as the game went on, the more Carolina pressured, the more the pocket was collapsing, it just seemed like he rose to the challenge and got better, which was awesome to see. He’s fearless, he’s tough, and like I said earlier in the week, we don’t want to measure his toughness, but at the same time, he demonstrated it on Sunday.


DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Obviously, you guys want to be a run-first offense, so what are some things that you can take form last week and work on to improve going into Sunday’s matchup with the Patriots?

There’s a lot of things that we need to improve on, form communication, to execution, the footwork, the hand placement. When you’re talking about the run game, creating space, and trying to find running lanes, the backs have to be better with their tracks and all that. So, it was all encompassing, but I feel like we’ve had a really good week of practice and trying to reestablish a style of play that we’re trying to develop but it’s going to be great to get out on the field on Sunday and see how much progress we’ve made.


Andy Vasquez, The Record: That’s kind of cliche, talking about getting off to a good start in front of your home crowd, but does that make a difference? First time with fans in the stands for you guys in a while, and first time for you ever, if you get off to a good start, can that be something that helps you?

You always want to start fast. We talk about starting fast, finish faster. You got to go with the punches of the game. There’s going to be ebbs and flows, there’s going to be adversity, there’s going to be high points, low points. It’s just when they come, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just about playing the game to the best of your ability and taking every play with what it is. Obviously, we are a young team, so a little bit of confidence early doesn’t hurt anybody. It wouldn’t hurt a veteran team, either. To answer your question, starting fast would be awesome, but at the same time, starting fast can’t be your sole purpose.


Zach Braziller: Robert, teams take a big step from Week One to Week Two. Considering your such a young team, can you see that, you guys taking it a pretty big step, now that your young guys have their feet wet?

Hopefully, that is the old saying. You make your biggest jump from Week One to Week Two. There were a lot of guys that had their first, I mean AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, had their first game action, didn’t get any preseason action, so really excited for them to get another shot at it. Really looking forward to seeing how we respond and how we come out the gates and how we attack this thing. That’s usually the saying, and that’s what we expect.


Zach Braziller, New York Post: With, obviously with Keelan (Cole) and Jamison (Crowder) potentially playing, is there a chance Denzel (Mims) could be inactive?

Again, going through that process, we are very fortunate we got a really deep group of receivers and I think Joe (Douglas) and his staff have done an unbelievable job with assembling a really cool receiver group and today’s a big part of practice and making sure we get the best five, six guys out there.


Andy Vasquez, The Record: With Mekhi (Becton), is he one to have surgery and what is the time table for his return? There was a report out there he’s going to have surgery.

He’s still at a minimum four to eight weeks and there’s still a lot of things that need to be found. There’s still decisions to be made so we’re hopeful, but at the same time, we’re just waiting for him to go through his process.


(follow up) So, you’re not saying he’s going to have surgery?

The reports are true.


DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Jeff Ulbrich talked a little bit about how you want to limit explosive plays and sometimes that will lead to leaky yards and things of that nature where teams will dink and down, move up the field but, you want to hold everything in the red zone. So, what’s the balance between trying to limit explosive plays but also trying to prevent those little dinks and dunk that can keep a drive progressing?

That is the balance. Explosive plays, it would be a cool little study, we do it every week. When offenses can generate an explosive play in a drive, their percentages of scoring are astronomical. It’s almost guaranteed that they’re going to get three points. Two explosives in a drive, you might as well just put seven on the board and kick the ball off. So, the objective is to make them go earn it. This game is too precise, it’s too good, someone’s going to make a play on defense, someone’s going to make a mistake on defense, something’s going to happen. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so conscientious of taking away their deep ball that they do just dink and dunk for five, 10 yards a pop. We do have this thing called the kill zone, and it’s inside five yards and that’s where we’re trying to keep the ball. So, the challenge is, can you eliminate explosives while keeping the ball inside four yards or less. There is tremendous balance, there is a way you got to call the game, there’s a way you’ve got to play your scheme, there’s a way you’ve got to recognize offensive indicators to make sure that you’re eliminating their explosive shots pre-snap so you can play more aggressively. And that comes with so many reps and time, especially when you play a zone defensive like we do. Man coverage, you’re body on a body, it’s easy stuff. But when you play a zone that we do, your job as a player is to eliminate your explosive, so you can be aggressive on things in front. Again, that takes lots of reps.


Kim Jones, NFL Network: Robert, how do you define explosive, both run and pass in that?

For us, any pass over 16 (yards), any run over 12 (yards).


Kim Jones, NFL Network: This is one of the times when you have a rookie quarterback on the other side. Does that open up some possibilities for a defense and a defensive coordinator?

Not necessarily. These young quarterbacks are so advanced nowadays. Mac (Jones) looked very, very impressive in his game against Miami who throws a bunch of different looks, who has a really good pass rush. I think they hit him nine times. You have to play your game. I’ve been on the other side of the coin where you have a rookie quarterback, or you have a backup quarterback in or whoever it might be in, so you try to trick him and all you do is trick yourself. We’ve got a style to our game, we have a system. Does that mean we’re not going to have wrinkles? We have wrinkles within our scheme, but at the same time, it’s about us, it’s about how we prepare, it’s about how we attack our job and it’s about how we play to the best of our ability.


Kim Jones, NFL Network: When I’ve been here, it strikes me that you and Zach (Wilson) have a really good relationship and that has been building, I presume. Did you learn anything about him after seeing him in a real game with real results?

Yeah, what’s interesting, because you saw it in college, his off-schedule stuff. Going through preseason and training camp, and the preseason games, we never got to see him move, because he was trying to stay disciplined in the pocket, read his routes, go through his progressions and all that. You get in the game and leading up to it, I remember asking (Mike) LaFleur, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen when he gets hit the first time? Do you think he’s going to fumble?’ Shoot, his first shot was Brian Burns on a no look. I was like, ‘Oh god!’ But he held onto it and he popped back up. He had a free runner and he made him miss and I was like, ‘Damn, this kids got a really cool feel in the pocket that we weren’t able to see because he was trying to be disciplined during practice.’ He’s a tremendous young man and, like I said, it seemed like he got better as the pressure mounted, which we don’t want to see, we want him to be able to throw from the pocket, but he proved that he relished the moment and he got better as he went. It’s going to be exciting to see him grow.


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: To go back to DJ’s question about the explosive plays, Jeff (Ulbrich) said when he got here, you had put, he said, a poster that said, “No explosive plays,” or that kind of what did you do? Was it an actual sign or?

That’s a funny story on the sign. In 2014, when I got my first linebackers job at Jacksonville with Gus (Bradley) and we were talking about certain concepts and we made a decision like, ‘All right, let’s make the decision that’s going to eliminate the explosive.’ It was just one of those deals as a coach, you’re frustrated like, ‘Why are we here until one in the morning.’ We can eliminate so much discussion if we just focus on eliminating the explosive. So, I made this little cheesy old sign that I’ve had with me since 2014 and passed it onto (Ulbrich).


(follow up): It’s handmade?

Hand drawn, handmade sign. It’s got little bombs on it and everything. It’s a cool little sign, it’s in his office.


Andy Vasquez, The Record: With the run game, what do you need to do to have a little bit more success this weekend and how much can that help take pressure off of Zach? 

For us, it’s trust the preparation at which we do things. I said it last week that I thought we’d had a great week running the ball, in terms of practice. I thought our backs were on it, I thought our lineman were on it. Then, when we got to the game, we were off, our angles were off, our tracks are off, our footwork was a little off. It wasn’t a one-on-one thing, it was a trust thing, to me it was. The only way you’ll know whether or not you’re capable of winning those one on ones is if you execute what you’ve been executing all week. Give yourself a chance and then figure it out from there. So yeah, just going out there trusting everything, trust your week of preparation, trust what you’ve seen on tape, trust what you’ve been able to execute throughout the week of practice and then make the adjustments from there. Again, we’re excited for another opportunity and again, we’ve had a really nice week of work with practice, thought we had a really good run period yesterday and now we just got to trust it and go execute.