Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson
June 19, 2014
Q: Can you talk about the group chat that you have with the guys? How helpful has that been?
A: Yeah, thatís been pretty good. My guys are great. The chemistry in my room is as good as Iíve had in 30 years of coaching. I talked to them, they are all over it. We talk back and forth and we talk aboutÖ youíre a little fast in this protection, you need to do a better job with this than you are with pass catching. ĎGot you coach, got you. Oh really, Coach?í So itís been great, I really like that.
Q: Do you get to know the guys on a personal level through that?
A: I think you do but I think itís important now that you have communication with your players. I really think thatís one of my strong strengths, being able to communicate but also being able to push them. I want to have communication with them, often times when I install the scheme I can talk to them and make them explain the scheme back to me. Therefore, I know that they are digesting what Iím saying, not what I think that they are hearing and thatís critical. Now, having two little daughters that love to text and all that, thatís a great way to learn that yes, exactly what Iím saying is getting put out there on the field.
Q: What do you think Andre Williams does in the backfield, particular within the scheme?
A: A big fit. Heís a big, strong physical runner. He led the nation in rushing last year in college football. He is strong, heís a very explosive runner. I hear that from the defense, they say, ĎMan, that guy has really got it going.í Iím really excited to see what heís all about and you can tell, he runs hard and you can tell. But as I have told him, thatís all great. When the pads come on then youíll get the change to separate a little bit. Am I concerned about how he is going to do? Not at all. But I still have to see it for all of the young players before I get real excited by the young guy.
Q: Andre hasnít caught the ball much in college. What can you do to kind ofÖ it looks like heís catching the ball out there with his body and stuff. What can you do to work with him and what does he need to do toÖ?
A: I thinkÖ I talked to him about blocking and I talked to him about running the ball. Itís just the process, you want to be a well-rounded guy as a back. In modern football, thatís how you get to stay on the field a lot so we do drills after practice, we do drills sometimes when he just has time with me so weíre always going to try to work. But for a young player thereís always, always room for improvement. Iím going to work with him on ball-catching but Iím also going to work on his knowledge of the defense and Iím also going to work on him on his running lanes because you donít just focus on one spot too much. Just trying to make sure heís a well-rounded player.
Q: You had a coaching career that kind of started in this area. Whatís it like to be back? How much has everything changes since the last time you were here?
A: I wasnít playing in this stadium before. It was the old stadium when I was back here before with Rutgers University way back in the mid 80ís. I know they love their football. Itís a great atmosphere. If you love football in the NFL this is a place that you love to work at. Itís been everything Iíve asked for so far and Iím looking forward to seeing whatís going happen when we can finally have some Giants fans cheering for me instead of doing the other.
Q: Itís been a while since youíve coached running backs. Is it different going from position to position?
A: I think itís a great challenge for me, probably like for a lot of the coaches when you go from one position to another but I think if youíre a good coach youíll coach. When I last coached running backs extensively was when I was here at Rutgers. However, in 2010 I coached the running backs in Tennessee. So I had a good running back there, he did a good job. I think, bottom line is, you learn the stuff that you need to know, you find the little details and the intricacies of the position. The thing Iím fortunate with after coaching another position is II always saw the whole field, I know where they fit so I can kind ofÖ I donít have to go to the quarterback and say, ĎI want themÖí I got you, they donít need to talk because I understand where heís supposed to be.
Q: Could you talk about the dynamics, a lot of new coaches here on the offensive side of the ball, and the process? What has it been like to help develop this offense and make it your own?
A: Thatís a great question. I think all of us have our little ideas about what we want to do and Ben has been great as a coordinator. He asks our opinion. He doesnít say, ĎThis is my offense,í itís ĎThis is our offense.í So he asks for a lot of our opinions as far as, ĎWhat do you think about this scheme? How do we want to run the outside more than the inside? What about this package?í Heís done a good job of that so all of us feel like we have ownership in it and I think anytime you have that in any business you always feel comfortable because theyíre asking you so since youíre giving input you better make sure the product is pretty good. I think weíre all working at that and I think for all of the coaches here with the new terminology, itís a great challenge. I donít think any of the players would say that itís the same old stuff. We have definitely had a good playbook thrown at us and we really have embraced that challenge.
Q: When youíre able to reach your guys is it like the learning never stops?
A: I would say right now the way that we are going with the offense that the learning does not stop. The more we get the more Ben is pushing. ĎI want more, I want more.í And thatís a great challenge, thatís a great challenge for me as a coach that weíre going to see if we can teach as much as we can and execute on as many different levels. What weíre trying to do is prepare for the whole season and so I think that itís been certainly a challenge for us as a coach, you donít go home at 5 oíclock and shut off, I can tell you that right now but I like that and itís kind of re-energized myself as a coach and as a person.
Q: There is a very common philosophy Ė if you donít pass protect, you donít get on the field. Thatís been certainly the philosophy here in the past. How strongly do you subscribe to that for your running backs?
A: If you were to see the first quote that Ben was talking about as he was going through talking the importance of the running backs, the first thing he said is, ĎI want to know how they can pass protect.í And thatís still true. Right now the NFL is kind of revolutionized and itís going much more towards a passing game. Thatís why, as we talked about, you want to be multi-dimensional and be able to run, pass protect, catch and block and I think itís critical so itís not only knowing how to block, itís knowing who to block. Thatís part of the deal and thatís what weíre working on right now Ė to make sure weíre on the right guy and then once we get to that right guy then we can keep him off our quarterback. Thatís a big key.
Q: You donít have Adrian Peterson here who will carry the ball 30 times a game. How friendly is this offense to have a running back by committee? Because it looks to me like you have guys with different skill sets and it is a good running back core by committee. How does that work into this offense?
A: I think those decisions are probably still going to be made later on. I do know this Ė I think my job of being a coach is bringing out the strength in every player that I have and how much this player is going to play versus that player, I donít know but I do know we have a deep group that does bring something a little bit different to the table, as you mentioned. I think thatís great but most of our guys have pretty good size, which I think is pretty good. Now you may not have the challenges in the pass protection as you might have for some other guys because at least they have enough size to hold up long enough to get the ball out of the quarterbackís hands.