Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, 9.8
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Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Where would you assess where this offense is heading into Week One against Buffalo?
I think the guys have done a really good job. It’s got a lot of nuances to it, having the quarterback that we have there is a lot of things that can happen at any time. I think the guys have done a great job working with him. I really have appreciated the meeting room, the meeting room has been an open dialogue and I think all those guys have talked and communicated and asked questions. I think that is so important because coaches, we talk a lot, but in the end, they play the game. So, to hear them communicate and talk is so important. There is always going to be a couple of hiccups the first game. I remember my first game with Aaron Rodgers, a long time ago when we were playing the Chicago Bears, but it is one of those things that we will have to work through and get better.
Brian Costello, New York Post: What about the run game? You guys didn’t have a lot of time-on-task all together with that, with Breece (Hall) being out for a while, Dalvin (Cook) coming in late, offensive linemen pieces coming in. How do you feel like the chemistry is there in the running game?
I think it is good. I feel like we have a good plan going into this game. Every plan is a little bit different. Some teams, especially during the preseason, took away a lot of the run game by doing certain things and allowed us to throw the ball a little bit. I think the guys are excited and confident to run the ball.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What has Dalvin (Cook) brought overall?
I’ll tell you, what a great guy. I never knew him before he got here and I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him a little bit before the decision was made. I was just so impressed with how he communicated, his presence, and then to now get him out on the field and watch his work ethic has been something great to see, it is great for all of the guys, just even his warmups. That is why veterans are so good to have around because they kind of show you the way and why they have played so long. So, I think just from that standpoint, he has been incredible. Just his knowledge of the game, understanding, love of the game, I think all those things have been showing up.
Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: You kind of touched on it with having veterans, how does having veterans with a mix of young guys help you as a coach?
Oh, it is huge. It is so huge. As a coach, like I said before, you teach, you try to get a plan, but just like a regular teacher in high school or anywhere, you don’t get to take the test for them. So, to be able to have those guys out there and talk and communicate when you have veterans who have done it before, that understand what is expected. What you are trying to preach and continually give to these guys every day, when they stand by that and they talk about that, it just gives you more credibility. So, it is so great to have all those guys in there and all their knowledge.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert said that you are going to be on the sideline rather than upstairs, why was that the decision?
I have been on the sideline for the first four preseason games. That is something we, Aaron and myself, talked about and that is what we thought was best. I am very excited to have Todd (Downing) up there, he has done a great job and Aaron has been listening to every single thing that has gone on, with his headsets on. We have gotten lots of critical feedback.
Brian Costello, New York Post: How will it work now in the regular season game day, in terms of the play calling and Todd’s (Downing) role and your role? Do you guys divide things up? Does someone take the redzone? Does someone take the third downs? How do you go about dividing that up?
That is a great question. With our staff, everything is very collective. We all work together. Keith (Carter), he primarily drives the run game, then we have Todd, he works in the pass game, then I kind of mesh it all together. Then (Zach) Azzanni does the two-minute, gold zone done by Rob (Calabrese), we got short yardage and goal zone with Taylor (Embree) and Ron (Middleton), so everybody kind of works together. I want to be sure we are gaining the knowledge from all the coaches that we have and then we kind of piece it together, put it together, and come up with the best plan. The vision is that whoever is calling the game, is calling the same game, because as a staff as you prepare and get ready for what you are going to do, corresponding and continuously talking with the quarterback, everybody should know what is coming next.
Nate, how has having Randall (Cobb) here helped the receivers, on what he teaches them and what Aaron wants?
I mean just his presence. This is a guy who has been doing it for a real long time and he has done it at a very, very high level. Just watching his work ethic, his knowledge of the game, how he communicates to those guys has been amazing for them in that room. I think they are only going to get better, just with him being in there and the fact that we get to have him out there playing for us is great.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Just going back to the play calling real quick, so will Todd call it from above and then you will have veto power? Or who will actually be the one calling in the play?
Just like we have been doing it in the preseason, I’ll be the one calling the plays from the sideline, Todd is in my ear, along with some of the other coaches, either suggesting or helping in any situation.
Brian Costello, New York Post: And then you are in Aaron’s ear?
Yes, I am whispering sweet nothings to him throughout the game.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: We all keep asking what Aaron is like and how he is different? What is he like on game day, like a real game day?
He is very competitive. I think that is the nice way to put it. One thing that makes him great is that every game is his first game, every game is his last game, every game is in between, everything matters to him. On how people line up, how the play is called, it is a very high standard, and I think that makes us all better. I think it makes them play better, makes me call things better, and I appreciate that about him, and you have to be ready that if things don’t go right, he is going to let you know. I appreciate that about him and we will be sure to get it in right.
Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: The maturation between Garrett Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, their chemistry, just talk about how that has continuously developed?
It is going to be something that I am hoping continues to develop throughout the season. Garrett (Wilson) is a very unique receiver. He is learning the system and learning how Aaron sees things as much as he sees things, and Aaron gets to know how he sees things. So it is going to be something that is going to be continuous. There has been some great opportunities, both in practice and we saw a couple in the game that were pretty spectacular. I think that is just the beginning of it. There is going to be some hiccups early because it is new, it is different, and everybody changes when there is 80,000 people in the stands. So, I think we are going to have to work through those things, but I am excited to see where these two go.
Brian Costello, New York Post: What jumps out about the Bills defense to you?
They are very good. They are very well coached, it is a very sound system, and they have guys that have been in that system for years and you can see that. The safeties, the back end, they are as good as they come. Number seven, (Taron Johnson), is phenomenal. You have got (Matt) Milano, he has been there, he is a ball hawk, he is all over the place and the line is crafty. You can tell that they understand the game and they understand the offensive line calls, they understand how people want to attack them. So you have to be perfect when you are going against a team like this. So it is going to be a great challenge for us.
Connor Hughes, SNY: You and Aaron obviously have a great personal relationship, butwhen you go onto the field, how do you challenge each other, specifically you to him? How are you challenging him as opposed to just you have that friendship, but it is a different type of relationship as well?
I think a great friendship is about being able to challenge the person because you love and trust them so much that you can always do that. Like with family and everything, having children, having a wife, moms, dads, all of that. I think whenever you can challenge you know that that challenge comes from a beautiful place. It is not attacking, it is not negative, but it is truly trying to make people better, so with Aaron and I, I hold him accountable, he holds me accountable, and I think that is the way that it should be. If you can have that within your relationship, I think that is what makes things stronger, I think that is why we have gained such trust and such a great relationship over time. When we were together, I would say things and he would say things, and we knew it came from a great place and we learn from it.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Did you think you would ever have the opportunity to work together in this manner, again, like a couple years ago?
I mean you always thought about it, but you never knew. This League is so unique. Sometimes you are good, sometimes you are bad. Sometimes people like you, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’re on this team, then you are another team. That’s the nature of this business, it has been like this my entire life. You always have those things with people, I didn’t know that I would ever work with Todd Downing again. He is one of my dearest friends, we were together all the way back in 2014. Just to be able to be with him again, with Ron Middleton, a guy that I was with for so long. You never know in this League, that’s why you always want to create those relationships, and keep them. I am very lucky to be with Aaron again and all these guys on this football team.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: He has talked about being happy and kind of just pinching himself, he is here and he knows that he is in the right place. Have you had those moments with him in particular that, ‘Hey man, look at us. We are here’?
“We are really doing this, holy cow. We are really doing it,” that is what Allen (Lazard) said when he came in on the first day. I think I pinch myself every day to be coaching in this League. It’s an honor to be part of it. It’s the best League in the world, in my opinion. You watch that game last night and how amazing it was just to get football going. Everybody felt it, everybody felt the tingles when that first kick off went. Then to do it with people that you know you trust, you’re excited to be with every single day, that is just such an added benefit. It is that cherry on top. So, to be with, not just Aaron, but so many other people. To be able to work with Robert Saleh again, that’s crazy. We were together for those years at Jacksonville. So you just have to cherish every moment because it is a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the season and enjoy every second you can.
Brian Costello, New York Post: You have had a conversation about your offensive line, how do you feel about where that group is at?
I feel really good. Some people have asked me about this a little bit earlier I think during training camp, it is so fluid with those five guys because so many different things can happen. I feel one of the better I have ever felt because we have had a lot of movement within there and everybody has played different positions because in any jam anybody can play any position. The one we kind of solidify down or make specific is a little bit the center. From the guards and the tackles, the more flexibility you have, the better you feel as a coach. But those guys have worked really well together, I think Keith (Carter) has done a great job, Ben (Wilkerson), Billy (Vandemerkt), all those guys in that room have done a really fine job getting them ready. We will see how it goes on game day.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You have a pretty good tight end room with the veterans and everything, what do you seen from Jeremy Ruckert? He didn’t play as much last year because of his foot and everything like that but what have you seen from him?
Ruckert’s done a great job. You saw it in the one play versus the Giants, not only did he run a really good route, but then he ran with intention. I think that is what you are always looking for from a tight end. You look at a lot of tight ends across the League, the guys that want the ball in their hands they are not going down, and I think that is something that is really great to see. He continues to do that even in practice. He can also block in the run game and in the pass protection. That is the great thing about all three of those guys in that room, is that they are very versatile in the fact that they can do all three of those things, which allows us to do a lot of different things and Ruckert’s one of those guys we are excited to see out there.