Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
October 13, 2016
Q: Why have Eli and the receivers had a difficult time connecting in the past few games?
A: It has been disappointing, you're absolutely right and there's a wide variety of reasons for that. I think you can point to a good job that the defenses have done. There's some talented teams with a good scheme. I think secondly, what it comes down to from our standpoint, it always seems to be one little thing that's missing. There may be instances where we have really good protection and the right execution, that's where we want it to be, and maybe we don't quite make the throw or maybe we have excellent and in the protection there's a little bit of a break down. Or, maybe we have the protection, it's a great throw but we're not where we need to be on the route. And then you throw on top of that some of the penalties and some of the tackles for loss that comes in here or there or certainly the turnovers. Those things have all combined to keep us from being where we want to be to have that type consistency.
Q: Do you think Eli not playing in two of the preseason games got him off to a slow start?
A: I don’t think so, and that's a good point. I can see how that's something that you might take a look at. I think he is a veteran and he did have a really good start to the season. You look at where he was at the first couple of games. He, like the rest of our offense, has hit some rough patches here, particularly the last couple of weeks. I don't think that was necessarily a factor. I think it's just a combination of what we were talking about earlier, just who we're playing and one of two things that aren't just quite in sync that's kept us from having that consistency.
Q: When he gets in these slumps, do you let him work through it? Or how hands on are you?
A: I think we're always taking a hard look at the video, the tape. What went wrong, why did it go wrong, what are things that he, as the quarterback, has control over and what are things which he has no control. You process it and there's great dialogue. Obviously we have a long history, he speaks freely and I speak freely and of course coach Cignetti and coach McAdoo. We're all in there trying to solve the puzzle. We come to conclusions, we look at how we can move forward, how we can make it better, if you will, and then we put it behind us. It's really a situation of, after that Tuesday, really getting out of the mode of the previous opponent, other than just the lessons learned, to move forward to another great challenge, which is Baltimore.
Q: I noticed you're not moving the receivers and Odell Beckham Jr. around as much. Do you feel that defenses have locked in on what you're doing and can stop you?
A: There has been some movement, maybe not as much movement in terms of the number of times they'll go in the slot, per se. You can probably, I wouldn't be able to give you the exact numbers but if you were to come up with a figure, more so last year than this year. I do think we have, particularly the past few weeks, worked on some things to try get him not just as an outside receiver but even some of the 3 by 1's, having him be the 3 receiver. It is important for a couple of reasons, obviously as teams try and have a plan to take him away to try commit to two defenders or skew their underneath coverage to him. He's a great play maker and we want to put the ball his hands so we do have to move him around. We have been working on some of that. I don't want to give away too much of the game plan or anything but obviously it's a good point and it's something that we need to be aware of. It really is predicated on trying to get him the football but also a reaction to how he's being covered.
Q: Did the short week last week hurt some of the installation you would have wanted to do last week?
A: That would be making an excuse. Everyone has a short week and obviously no one likes them, any coaches I should say, that like the short week. Everyone has to face it. They had the short week to prepare for us as well. It all starts with coaching. We have to do a better job from a preparation standpoint. Making sure that we address the areas. How can we solve problems, where are we weak, how can we get the ball in the play makers hands and minimize our weaknesses, so to speak. Also, how can we have a consistency in our execution. Take last Sunday night, we're down there in the red zone four times and only came away with one touchdown. It's a tackle for loss, it's a sack. So, it's just trying to get that consistency. I think we feel confident enough with the plan that we have, certainly there's always a few calls, a few things you would love to have back. Putting it all together, it's just a combination of having the consistency in our execution and I wouldn't want to make that [short week] as an excuse. We had enough time, we just have to do a better job.
Q: Why has Victor Cruz played so little in the slot?
A: I don't know if there's a deliberate reason other than, I think when you look at Sterling Shepard, he is very good in there. All three guys can’t play in there, and Sterling definitely has a knack, as Victor has a knack. He didn't have a whole lot of opportunities as you recall in the preseason and trying to get him more involved. I think that's definitely a good point. Given especially how teams, if there's more of a commitment to some variations of two high safety coverages, the more latitude, the versatility I should say, to be able to move them around and have all three guys play in all three spots. Even if it's in four wide receiver sets, sprinkle it in a little bit, having that type of versatility. It's going to help us.
Q: Last week you had some strong words for cornerbacks that try to get into Odell's head. Yesterday Jimmy Smith had some things to say and he was pretty direct.
A: I hadn't heard that. I know that Odell is in a really good place. Our focus is just on the scheme, in terms of what they do to us from a pressure standpoint, from a coverage standpoint. I know Jimmy Smith is a heck of a football player, big physical guy. The whole defense, this is a group, I told our offense, this is a team we're not as familiar with because they're in the AFC. But, it's a tough, tough team from tough a division, tough mentality, tough culture. We're excited about the challenge. Something we're looking forward to and it's good to be back home.
Q: How much of the in game struggles are as a result of what other teams are doing, versus what you guys are not doing?
A: It's probably more so some of the things we're not doing and the reason I would say that is, if a team has more of a two high configuration, you're going to see more six man boxes which from a number of standpoints ought to give us a little bit of an advantage. You look at our most recent game, some of the runs, or limitations of runs I should say, they did a great job, Green Bay that is and had a couple of tackles for loss. Then you get into the flow of a game where it's hard to keep that type of a balance, I thought we had some good runs come out of there against Minnesota. But, it really boils down to, when there's not that extra defender and we have a numbers advantage, we just have to have a consistency as far as finishing our blocks and very specific with our aiming points and the backs hitting it hard and obviously more important than anything is making sure we don't turn it over.
Q: Rashad Jennings said he did some work with the first yesterday, is he...?
A: He's coming along. We're keeping our fingers crossed. I know he's been chomping at the bit. He was really close last week and we were really hoping he could have been there for. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and he wasn't able to play. But, excited that he did more today and it's a wait and see and we'll keep our fingers crossed and we'd love to have him back.
Q: Are the running game struggles more about the holes not being there, or more about guys playing who are backups?
A: It's a combination as I eluded to earlier. I think it really boils down to, at times there's always going to be one factor. Sometimes we set ourselves back because of penalty or because of the turnovers that then get us behind so we have to press and we're not able to be patient and sticking with it. Other times it's not necessarily the best aiming point or hat placement or foot work from the line standpoint. Sometimes it's the back, sometimes it's the receiver, sometimes they have a little bit of a better call than we do. So, it really is a variety of factors. You can't really pinpoint one specific area as to the why.
Q: There's been some talk about Eli's age and maybe has topped out. What's your take on that?
A: I don't think he's in decline at all. I think he's a consummate professional. A player that is a great leader and his track record speaks for itself. While there's some disappointment, I'm sure that he has and a lot of people have as far as the last game or the last couple pf games. There's no doubt there are some throws or decisions that he might want to have back but in the same way there's situations from a coaching standpoint, things we'd like to have back. The quarterback is obviously under the microscope. There's a lot of a reasons. It's not just a matter of the reason why he wasn't successful. I wouldn’t put it all on him. I think he's looked great this week. He's focused, he's locked in, he's always going to prepare as you guys know, you've been covering him a while. He's going to be at his best when his best is needed and we really are excited about where we're headed. Looking forward to getting back on the field and have great confidence in what he's going to do for us this Sunday afternoon.