Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.6
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Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, we haven’t spoken to you since Jamison (Crowder) went on the COVID list, can you update us on his status?
Right now he’s in the whole COVID protocol with regards to symptoms and trying to test back in.
(follow up) Do you anticipate him being available for the game?
It’s day-to-day. Once he clears symptoms and, because he’s vaccinated, once he clears symptoms and has two negative tests, he can be back in. So we’re just taking it a day at a time.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, is there anyone that you’re willing to rule out of the game coming up? Like anyone right now that probably doesn’t look like they’re going to go?
No. Not yet Connor, I’m sorry.
(follow up) I guess the flip side of that coin, is that just your optimism talking? Or is it you’re feeling really good about these guys playing?
Just talking with Zuff (Dave Zuffelato), our trainer, if we had someone to rule out, I’d tell you, it’s not a hiding game or anything like that. There’s hope that a couple of guys can still make it, but we’re just not ready to rule anybody out yet.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, is Mekhi (Becton) out of the concussion protocol yet?
I believe he’ll be officially cleared tomorrow. He’s at practice, he’s going through everything, and then he’ll be officially clear for gameday tomorrow. But he is at practice.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, form a head coaching perspective, this is a weird weekend because you have a lot of young players, especially your rookies, they go back to their colleges, they go back home for a three-day weekend, and with all the COVID protocols in place, can you A, do you anticipate putting anybody on the COVID list today? And B, is there a little apprehension with the weekend, knowing that’s going on?
Well everyone’s already came back, tested, so we’ve already cleared that hurdle. So we’re not anticipating that, as of now. Anytime you travel, there’s obviously risk, but I know our guys were every diligent, they went through all the different things they needed to go through. But I’m not worried about the guys, like I said, they’ve already tested back in, so we’re anticipating a clean transition.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, at this point with Jamison, that was just an isolated incident?
It was. Not going to talk about how he got it, but it was isolated to him, didn’t have any close contacts, so it’s strictly for him.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: One of the guys that we haven’t talked too much about since he kind of left practice early, was (La’Mical) Perine, do you have any update on him?
He’s day-to-day, hoping that we can have him for the opener.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, when you look at Robby Anderson, I’m not sure if you ever faced him because he wasn’t on the Jets when you played last year, but what stands out to you about Robby, evaluating him and watching the tape?
He’s got tremendous vertical speed. Obviously, you got to know where he is because of his ability to blow the top off in coverage and win one-on-ones, especially vertically. He’s a very talented young man, he’s got a lot of fight in him, too. His mindset, he’s built the right way. He’s going to be a definite challenge to deal with.
Brian Costello, New York Post: What challenges are there, in terms of Week One, Robert, in terms of game planning?
Just speaking from Carolina’s standpoint, they’ve got stuff from a year ago that they’ve put on tape. But at the same time, as coaches, they have had an offseason to work and reevaluate what they’ve done and watch schemes run the league and try to implement new ideas and new wrinkles to their system. There’s going to be a lot of new things that show up. Lot of respect for Joe Brady and his ability to create different types of schemes and different issue plays. Same thing from the defensive side of the ball, coming from their college, that college system a year ago, and what they’ve been able to evolve, and they got better as the year went on. They’re extremely fast on defense. So, it’s a challenge just because there’s going to be wrinkles that nobody knows about, those unscouted looks and we just have to play good, sound, disciplined football and do the best we can to defend it and attack it.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, with having like a week-and-a-half since training camp ended, obviously you’re focused on Carolina. Does that give you guys a little bit of an opportunity to also, not maybe game plan, but kind of look at New England for Week Two, does that give you extra time to plan, basically?
Not really. All of our focus is on Carolina. Obviously, the QCs will stay ahead of it with regards to breaking down tape and organizing cutups and doing all that stuff. They’re always going to stay a week ahead. As a coach, you can muddy the two very quickly if you start dipping your pen into ink that can wait for next week. We’ll address New England when we get there. Right now, everything is about Carolina.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, we’ve talked a lot in camp and in the Spring about your adjustment to being a head coach. I’m curious from the game-planning perspective, when you’re DC, you probably spent all day Tuesday coming up with that defensive game plan, what are you going to be doing now game-plan wise? Will you be dipping your hand into the offensive side or how are you going to handle the game-planning perspective?
We’ve already started some of it. Obviously, I’m going to lean more to the defensive side of the ball, but sitting in there, just watching plays with LaFleur. It was third down day and just throwing some ideas at me and just talking from a schematic, “Hey, what do you think they’re trying to do here?” So, just being involved as best as I can in all three phases and trying to keep everybody with messaging and making sure that we’re all focused on what do we need to do to win this game, offensively, defensively and on special teams. Obviously, I’m going to lean a little bit more on defense but being able to go in there and have those interactions with the offense and being able to spend some time with them as they formulate their plans is actually kind of fun for me, to be honest with you. Get to drop a couple of my own.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, one of the biggest matchups for your squad this week will be your corners versus their receivers. Obviously, you guys are young, so what do you have to do to help set them up for success, from a game-plan standpoint?
Well, schematically, I can’t tell you all that DJ but, obviously, there’s going to be some stuff in there. It’s just not the corners job to go win football games, it’s all 11. There’s always going to be little wrinkles in our system to either exploit matchups that we think that are favorable to us and at the same time to keep the quarterback guessing. That will all reveal itself on Sunday and we can probably talk about it on Monday if you want.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: I know the world is at the edge of its seat with this, but who is your starting right tackle?
You know what, Jared (Winley) and Eric (Gelfand) said, “Just put it to bed just tell them that everybody will see everything on Sunday”. So, my answer is, based on those two, I’m blaming them, ‘We’ll see on Sunday.’
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, how is Shaq Lawson? I know you haven’t had practice the last couple days but, how did he look and what are you expecting from him now that he’s in the fold?
Just in the little bit we’ve had, you could see this dude when he gets comfortable is going to bring so much juice and energy to this defense. He’s a ball of energy. His relentless style of play, the energy he brings, he plays with effort, he does all of it. Just to have him in there, a professional football player who’s had a lot of success in this league, to add to the depth of that d-line room is a big plus.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Robert, I know you don’t like to make things about you but, the fact is this now is your first game coming up. It is game week, we are here. Are your emotions any different?
I feel the same, I’m being honest. It’s game week, it’s preparation. As we get closer, just like being a position coach and a coordinator, my blood starts flowing a little bit faster, which is natural. Right now, it’s all about the players and giving them every opportunity and all the focus is on them to help them make plays on Sunday, that’s most important. I really don’t think about what it means for me or anything. Everything is about them because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that are putting on the uniforms, they’re the ones inside the white lines, they’re the ones that have to execute at a very high level. It’s our job to make sure they’re given every opportunity to do that. Not to underscore the question, I’m sure I’ll be amped as all heck on Sunday, but right now there’s calm and preparation that has to take place.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: I don’t expect you to tell us who your starting cornerback is either, but have you decided on that and how do you go about, between those young guys, figuring out who’s going to start on Sunday, if you haven’t, between now and then?
We’re rotating the guys during practice. I thought they did a really nice job over the last couple of days, giving them a chance to compete and, again, it’s going to be the same thing. Do I have a feeling? I do, I’m not going to lie to you all but, we’ll wait until Sunday.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Robert, we’ve all watched Elijah Moore this summer, since the moment he got here, excel on the field. Can you describe what you’ve seen out of his training camp and, kind of, how that’s pushed your expectations for him as you get ready for the first game?
I don’t know if my expectations have changed but what I am very, very impressed with, Mark, is he is so deliberate in the way he goes about his business. I think I mentioned it a couple weeks ago, he’s kind of like an old soul, he’s been here for five or six years already. We went through practice on Wednesday and Thursday and introduced some schemes and all that stuff and it’s amazing, he made some mistakes on Wednesday, and boom, they were gone on Thursday. When you have that ability, especially at such a young age, he’s impressive. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, he’s a quick learner, he’s always trying to find an edge. We’re excited to see him go through it, like I said, my expectations with regards to production hasn’t changed but, the expectations of how he approaches things, he’s set a bar for sure and we’re just excited to see him grow through the season.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, not to steal DJ’s thunder with another cornerback question here but, when you do settle on a starter outside, how much leeway will you give him if he struggles at all? I mean, because I know you’ve talked about wanting to stick with two guys and have those guys go through the ebbs and flows of a game so, if you go with (Brandin) Echols or one of these other guys, how much are you going to give him to endure some of the bumps and bruises?
That’s actually a great question, it all depends on the look in his eyes. If it looks like he’s under control and he’s made a couple mistakes and he can recapture the moment, then we’re going to roll as long as we can. I’ve also seen the flip side where they got that glass look in their eye and they’re like, “Holy cow, what the heck’s going on. It’s going too fast.” Just to be able to recognize that but, the good thing is, with all these guys who are competing for this spot, they’re built the right way. We’re anticipating a guy who’s going to go in there and fight his tail off, work through any mistakes he may or may not have and finish the game.
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY: Robert, now that the opener is just six days away, I know you’ve been impressed with Zach Wilson’s mental approach all summer, how is he handling the hype? There are former players throwing around Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers comparisons, I’m sure somewhere he hears that. Is he still staying pretty even keeled or is there any nerves or anything creeping in?
I think the league, however he’s handling it, he’s going to answer it the right way, we watch him and we try to see if he changes his process, see if he changes his day-to-day operations, which he hasn’t, he’s been the same every single day. But the league has a funny way of humbling everybody. I think, with the first Wednesday meeting, I was like, “Wow, this what a game plan’s like.” And it’s like, ‘Let’s go.’ For him, it was like, “Alright,” and it’s kicked him into another gear. The league will handle that itself just in the way it operates from a day-to-day business but, I think he’s built the right way, I think he has aspirations to be the best this league’s ever had. I think he understands the process that it takes to get to that point, and thankfully, he had the first couple of weeks where everybody was hitting the panic button on a couple of bad practices so, he’s seen the other side of it too. I think that has helped him with perspective also.