Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
September 8, 2016
Q: What are your expectations for the offense this year?
A: Well, certainly we have to do a better job in two specific areas, in the preseason where we came up short. The ball security issue has to obviously get solved and establishing a consistent run game. That is going to open up so many doors for us, allow us to maintain possession, continue on drives, but then also set up some of the play action passes. We had way too many zero or negative runs. When you talk about expectations, those are a couple areas that certainly need to improve and then just very excited to see how it all comes together in terms of having the starters out there for the entire game and from a game planning standpoint, not having a focus that is evaluation based, but is more scheme based, more of ‘how can we get our players in the best possible position.’ So I am really excited. But, to address your question, we have to improve those two areas to give yourself a chance.
Q: How much of the problems with the offensive line was a result of not game planning and not having all the tight ends and how much of that will be fixed once you start into the game planning?
A: Well, I think it is a combination of a lot of factors. I think that certainly from a technique standpoint, regardless of what the play is called, there are specific footwork steps, there are aiming points, there is hand placement and pad level and that has to improve no matter what the play call is and there is a chemistry that occurs the more guys get to work next to one other, the verbal communication that takes place at the line of scrimmage, we are anticipating that to improve, but I think the key thing moving forward is that we pare down and zero in on the specific plays. Ones that we feel put us in the best position and ones that feature the skillset of our players we will have high expectations and hopefully get better in that area.
Q: Does the preseason give you a sense of how a rookie can contribute right away and if that is the case, where is Sterling Shepard in the process?
A: It definitely gives you a sense. I think it all starts with how they produce out in practice, that gives you the first sense of how they are going to do and then you see how they do practicing against veterans, when the veterans come in, guys who play a lot. Then the next step of course is seeing how they do in preseason games and you look at some of the preseason games, particularly the third game, where they are seeing more snaps and having a chance to play against the starting opponent, but as you all know, the intensity level, the speed, everything about the regular season is up a notch from the preseason, so this is the next step, the next hurdle. I am certainly very excited about all the hard work that Sterling has put in, the things that he has done up to this point, and I am excited to see what he does on Sunday.
Q: I think the last time we talked to you was right when Victor Cruz came back. How has he looked since then?
A: He continues to progress, he continues to improve, he continues to have an awareness of not just the slot position, but the outside positions as well within the offense. We are going to need to have him be a player that has that versatility. All of our receivers are going to have to know all the spots. It is no surprise and no secret that we are going to have to move 13 (Odell Beckham) around and we will. [Cruz] continues to improve in all those areas, getting a good sense of the timing of Eli, that continues to get better. I think the more he is out at practice and executes at full speed and makes those breaks and changes in direction, the more confidence he will have when he needs to do it on Sunday at (4:25).
Q: Is he the same Cruz?
A: I certainly hope so. There have certainly been some flashes. There have been flashes of that. It will be exciting to see what happens in a full speed game. In a four-quarter game, we will see how the offense runs.
Q: Yesterday Coach McAdoo said that this would be a big day for Will Beatty. What did you see from him today?
A: Well, I think he hasn’t played football for a while, so he is trying to get his legs underneath him. Primarily a lot of his work was in a show team capacity where a lot of his work was going up against the first-team defense, which is a great way to get adjusted and to get your legs underneath you. He showed some flashes and he needs to continue to improve and get back into the rhythm as far as our offense, our calls and instinct, if you will, with the other guys who are on the line.
Q: Tavarres King and Roger Lewis played themselves onto the roster. How do you think they have responded so far?
A: I think both guys have continued to work very hard. They are both very hungry. They have both taken the approach as though they need to make the 53-man roster every week and that is what you love as a coach, for guys to have that type of hungry attitude, great stamina, both guys have improved and have had a great, solid week of practice working in a capacity where they were in the show team helping to get the defense ready and then also working with our offense. They have to wear a bunch of different hats, so I am real pleased with where they are at in terms of their performance and their attitude.
Q: How much would you prefer riding Rashad Jennings with the heavier workload like at the end of last year?
A: It is hard to say. We have to wait and see how it goes. He has certainly done things at the end of last year and you see things in training camp, but I think all of our backs, all of the guys that made our roster, bring something to the table. It just comes down to, ‘Are we doing what we need to do up front?’ I think that is a big component because it doesn’t matter who the back is, we have to make sure we have the consistency in terms of establishing a run game and having the runs that suit who we are. We mentioned earlier as far as with preseason and what the objectives are. Preseason is a time when we have taken a look at some runs and some concepts that we are thinking, ‘Boy, this would be nice to add.’ Upon further review some of those might have to marinate a little bit longer and we can get back to some of the things that we do well and other things that we feel really good about and the other thing, Dallas is going to be the same way, there are things that we have been holding. There are things that you want to just keep close to the vest, that you are saving for a chance to go against a great division opponent like Dallas, so it is really going to depend on a lot of factors.
Q: Are you a believer in a guy getting better as he gets more carries in a game?
A: It depends. Not a great answer to what you are looking for, but some guys, that happens. You can’t make it a uniform. There are some that I have been around, some --- going back to a thousand years ago in Tampa, Doug Martin was a guy that got better with a lot of carries and there are some guys that are able to just come in whenever their number is called and they are situational. It really varies player to player. I’m sure most backs would say that they never want to leave the game and they want to run the ball 50 times.
Q: Do you think [Rashad] is one of those players?
A: You would have to ask him. I don’t want to speak for Rashad. He is a great guy. I sit next to him in the team meeting. He is really excited about the opportunity, as all of our guys are. We had a really good day today, it was very hot, good conditions, full pads, it really stretched our guys out.
Q: Ben McAdoo said that you addressed the team earlier in camp about the National Anthem. Can you just share a little about what that message was?
A: Well, based upon my military background, as you would expect, I have very, very strong feelings about the National Anthem. What is means, the liberty, the freedom and, most importantly, all those who have served and those who are serving and those who will serve who provide us with that freedom. That freedom comes at a price and I think the important thing that is often lost and maybe recently is lost is that the military is not just the military; they are fathers, they are mothers, they are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, so there is a face to them and they need to be respected and they need to be appreciated. When I was fortunate enough to address the team early on, it was just a focus of, ‘As the New York Giants and as a flagship organization in the NFL, we are going to do things with class and that is what our organization personifies.’ But the major point, if you will, based upon my experiences, is how much it means to the men and women in uniform to know that their heroes, the professional football players, are going to take those couple minutes, because it is not about politics, it is just about showing appreciation and respect for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and for those who are allowing individuals to express their opinions. Certainly that individual is free to have his views and he is bringing awareness to some important issues, but what I strongly disagree with is the method at that time when there are so many who have sacrificed so much that ought to be respected and honored during that time.
Q: Mike, you spent about eight minutes talking about the offense and haven’t mentioned Eli once. I am just wondering if you are concerned about him seeing as he didn’t put up a point in the preseason and he only played two games?
A: No, not at all. The reason I would say this and I can remember from when I was here before as the quarterback coach, there were some horrific preseasons. In fact, I am also thinking, ‘Well gosh, his last really bad (pre)season was 2011.’ Not that I am superstitious, but all joking aside, he has been around a long time and I can’t emphasize enough, to you or anybody, what a great pro he is, how hard he prepares, how much he is not just a student of the game, but takes an approach that unlike someone who has been in it as long as he has been in it and who has two Super Bowl rings, that he still has that beginner’s mind, if you will, that he is trying to take it all in. He knows how to take care of his body, prepares himself physically, mentally. He is going to be at the top of his game. Eli Manning is the least of our worries at this point.
Q: Why do you think he struggles in the preseason?
A: Maybe because he likes busting my chops and knows I need to answer these questions when it happens. I don’t know. In the preseason there are a bunch of factors. You are in evaluation mode, you don’t necessarily get into a rhythm, there are a lot of factors that go into that. Again, he is going to be ready to go (inaudible).
Q: Is it fair to say that given McAdoo’s background, even if you are calling the plays on Sunday, that you guys are working as a tandem?
A: Well, as far as the play calling, I just want to reiterate, that is Coach McAdoo’s decision and any announcement of such decision would be made by the head coach. In terms of how things would operate on game day, it is a collaborative process, there is a lot that goes on throughout the week, how we build the plan, build the plan as a staff, build the plan with the quarterbacks. We are all working together, so there is constant communication. We have an excellent relationship and no matter how it shakes out, there will certainly be a lot of communication between us and the quarterbacks.