Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
May 6, 2016
Q: Can you comment on [Sterling] Shepard?
A: We just had a walkthrough right now and he seems very bright. In the meetings last night [he was] attentive. We are just excited about him and all those rookies. It is a great chance for them to show what they can do and show us how quickly they can learn, what we want them to do and then picking up the pace once the vets gets here.
Q: What did you think of Sterling Shepard along the way of the draft process?
A: I liked Sterling Shepard a lot. I did an evaluation of him; I thought there were some things that jumped off the tape. There was a competiveness we liked a lot, a physicality. This was a guy that in some of the run plays would take his blocking seriously and I know that isn’t the first thing you are looking for in receivers but it jumped off the tape. I thought he was surprisingly strong as far as the run after catch and then there was a suddenness and explosiveness in his movements, in being able to get open, and I think it has been said and I would agree that he certainly has the tools and can be successful on the inside but I think he can also be successful outside with the ability to separate from tight coverage and he has those physical tools but also the competitiveness and the toughness really attracted him to us.
Q: Do you start him in a certain spot or are you going to teach him all the spots?
A: We teach them all the spots. The more we can make our system schematically friendly so that guys aren’t necessarily locked and dimed with this player or that player but just think big picture so they have that versatility because ultimately, when guys start to become a factor, you move them around and Odell is a great example of that.
Q: You were here for the start of the Victor Cruz era. Do you see the comparison between a young Victor Cruz and Shepard?
A: There were certainly some flashes. That is obviously a lofty comparison and it is a great aspiration that I think any player would have coming in to be the type of player that Victor was there in the beginning of his career there, but there is a suddenness with which he executes his routes, how he separates from defenders, run after catch and that stuff and he is going to be a great asset for us.
Q: What do you like about Paul Perkins?
A: Paul Perkins has such great versatility. This is a guy who was a leader on his team, very bright, he is a three down back possibility and here is someone that can have the good hands to catch the football out of the backfield. You talk about third down and it is really the mental aspect of it, being able to have the awareness of who you have to block to protect the quarterback and he has that and he gets the tough yards. He has shown the ability off of his college tape to take the ball, hit the homerun ball so to speak, so there is just some versatility that makes us very excited to see if he can be someone that can be, not necessarily a situational guy but a guy that can be there for all three downs.
Q: Was he more of a between the tackles guy or can he bounce it outside?
A: He has done a little of both. So many of the college schemes, depending on where these guys come from, they tend to emphasize more of a zone concept or there is some more option type concepts that you see some of the colleges do, but I think all of the things that we are going to want him to do in our running game, I think it is certainly going to be a good fit and we are excited to see him get his chance.
Q: Is that versatility something that the running back position needs?
A: I think it is a matter of, whenever you have a chance to bring a guy into your program and he was there available for us and you take a look and kind of contrast him with all the other players available and this guy is someone who is able to play on 1st and 2nd down and do the things you want him to do as far as run the football and pass protect and also his versatility on 3rd downs, it is just a great asset, and again, I think that position, along with all the positions, the more competition that you have that is going to allow the level of everyone’s play to get better and that is what we are hoping for.
Q: What are your plans for Orleans Darkwa?
A: I’m not sure the specifics as far as what the health situation is. I know he is part of our position group and again, it is going to be a competition to see who eventually is going to rise to the top and who is going to be the person who is going to be in situational opportunities where we are going to need them but also who is going to have the versatility to be on the field on all three downs.
Q: You mentioned you want to see the running game improve and you added a blocking tight end. I imagine that is an ingredient that was missing on a consistent basis in the past and something that you are going to put an emphasis on?
A: Well, there is so much that goes into the run game and it is not just a particular position group. It can be a variety of factors. It is the decisions that the quarterback makes as far as which runs to keep on, which ones to check out of, where to direct the run, it is a combination of the read of the back, it is a combination of the execution of the line and I am not trying to oversimplify it, but I think it is hard just to say, “Hey, this one particular position will help to make the run game better.” There are so many factors, I guess that is what I am trying to emphasize, but I think certainly there is an inline technique that we have seen him do in his college tape, Jerell, that I think is going to help us. I think he also has some skills that we saw as far as the ability to be very strong after the catch and show a burst and explosiveness up the seam that can help the passing game as well, so that is exciting.
Q: What have you seen out of your Frenchman wide receiver, Anthony Dable?
A: Anthony is catching on rapidly. He is a big, tall body, he is a big target, he is very attentive and for someone --- I think he speaks French, German and English and he is picking it up well and, you know, still rusty but he is certainly putting forth great effort and he is fitting in nicely with the receiver group and with the rest of the offensive team.
Q: With so many candidates at the running back position, is that a blessing or a burden going into camp?
A: I’ll tell you, the more good players you have, the more blessings you can have. The blessings come down and that is a good problem to have. I know you can sit down and look at it a number of ways but in a perfect world you would like to have that type of fierce competition and have --- those are good headaches for coaches to have -- and so it is going to have to play itself out and I wish there was something fancier I could tell you, but that is really a true statement and with all of those guys in the mix, as we continue to progress into our OTAs and camp and then our preseason games, it is really --- I think it is really going to give us a good picture of who is going to be the lead back or backs that are going to help us go all the way here.
Q: You brought in a lot of undrafted receivers who jump off the page a little bit. What have you seen from them so far and how big of a room is it for them to get into the conversation?
A: It is early just because as I said we just had the jog through so I will know more. If we did this after practice today or tomorrow, I will have a little better sense but just based upon what I saw from those guys in college, you look at the fact that as we mentioned earlier, someone mentioned Victor Cruz. Our scheme is set up so that there are opportunities for guys to utilize their skillsets, whether it is winning on the inside or being better on some of the intermediate short routes or having the vertical speed, so I think there are certainly some opportunities for those guys to kind of step in to the mix and I have been pleased with Victor having some of his opportunities to work back with us and I am anxious to see how he progresses, so it is kind of like the running backs from a standpoint that the better competition that we can have, it is going to raise the level of all those players and give us some good things to have as far as seeing who will get on the field.