Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson
September 22, 2017
Q: How do you feel your run game is doing?
A: Well, obviously, we have left some room for improvement right there. Itís not where we need it to be. To have a good offense, the kind of offense that we want to have, we have to have a well-rounded one and all phases have to work. Running game is certainly a part of that. Weíre going to continue to work to make sure we do what we can do to make sure we have a balanced offense.
Q: What does RB Orleans Darkwa have to do to get more carries?
A: I think Orleans needs to continue to do as heís played. Heís touched the ball, running the ball, heís done a good job for the most part, but like most every back that has touched it, heíll tell you, ĎI have that play or two I have to do a little bit better job. I wish I would have.í Thatís kind of what every guy goes through, so heís done some good things. He needs to continue to keep doing good things.
Q: What does RB Paul Perkins need to do better?
A: His average is not where Iím sure he likes or certainly where we like, and Iíd say Paul is reflective of everybody thatís touching the ball in the backfield. At the end of the day, we are not playing at the level that we need to. We need to all pick it up. He needs to pick it up and so my challenge to our guys is donít worry about all the outside noise Ė whatís happening with everywhere else or anything else. Handle the business that we can control and what we need to do when we touch it, is get consistency so we can make more first downs, so we have more chances to have more plays and then weíll have a chance to run along with that.
Q: Does RB Paul Perkins look less decisive?
A: As I look at it, Iíd say heís reflective of pretty much everybody in the backfield. For me to single out and say a guy is doing a good job with the production that we give him would be hard for me to say. So, Iím just going to say everybody that touches that room needs to pick up their game and raise it to a championship level. Right now, we havenít done that. So, the run unit as a whole, specifically the backs, have to do a better job.
Q: Do you expect the running backs to break more tackles and what do you expect out of them where there isnít anywhere to run?
A: I expect them to maximize every opportunity and, well, if you had more carries, well if we do the little things, we might make some more third down conversions, which can help in that or maybe have shorter situations so we can convert third downs. If youíre able to do that, you can get more touches. Thatís kind of how the game goes. So, Iím going to tell them donít be denied. Continue to do everything you can to break tackles, get extra yardage. But, donít press and donít look for the big play. Thatís the biggest thing that will get them in trouble. Just do what you do and do it better than youíve been doing it and everything else will fall into place.
Q: Do you see indecision when there have been holes?
A: I always think they like to have another play over and again, Iím going to go back to donít worry about too much noise, if this, then that. Bottom line, trust yourself. Trust your mechanics. Trust your technique. Trust your fundamentals and when the hole is there, take it. Donít worry if this, then that. Thatís what gets guys to hesitate. So, Iím trying to keep them from it.
Q: Is that good advice overall for the offense since youíre 0-2?
A: It might be, but I very much try to tell the backs letís worry and take care of what we can do. Donít worry about our offense as a unit. Everybody has their units, has their hand. Right now, all we have to do is worry about getting our unit better. Trust your training. Trust your technique. Trust your teammates. Go do what you need to do and donít try to go look for the big plays, the spectacular play because those ordinary plays will become big plays when weíre fundamentally better and break tackles and make stuff when stuff isnít there.
Q: How much has trying to do too much been a problem in the last two games?
A: I donít really think itís been a problem so far, but I think a lot of times if people get overly concerned about, ĎWell, this is whatís being said, this is what we have to do, I need to go make some big plays,í I think for the backs, just do your job, pick it up and do it better. My history as a football coach has told me at positions that when you do that, just take care of your job and doing it better, everything else will come into flow. That will get us in a rhythm. Weíll be on the field more. Everybody will be happy that theyíll be able to touch the ball.
Q: How has TE Shane Smith played?
A: I think that for a rookie, and Iím always hard on the rookies, but I think for a rookie, he has done a good job when heís gotten opportunities. He, like everybody thatís in that room, has left room for improvement. Heís versatile. He brings some versatility to our offense. I like that, but Iím going to continue to ask of him as I ask of everybody. Raise your level of play to help our offense get into a rhythm. When that happens, everybody will be happy.
Q: How does your job change when you have a fullback in the mix?
A: I think the biggest thing is a fullback usually has got to bring a physical attitude to the team. So, I have to do a couple extra drills with a fullback tact that I might not do with a halfback type because of the lead blocking that he has to do. So, heíll have to use some of the tight end type skillset for that. Outside of that, I kind of have leaned on some of the backs or having a fullback in the room to tell him, ĎThis guy is going to be a physical player. Heís going to take care of his business. So, heís going to be physical. Backs, you have to be physical like him.í Thatís the kind of things that you kind of bring to the mentality when you have a fullback.
Q: Does TE Shane Smithís physicality trickle down?
A: Well, that is absolutely the goal for that position.
Q: What does using the running backs to chip block take away and what does it add?
A: Thatís a great question. I think so much has been said Ė we as backs, a) are obviously out there to run the ball. Second, we are a part of pass protection with where weíre supposed to fit in the pass protection and who weíre supposed to help. And then, c) weíre supposed to be able to catch the ball and make plays when that happens. As far as a pass protection unit, every game plan is different. I donít get too much into strategy, but the bottom line is, we are a part of the pass protection unit when called for. We have to do a good job on the edge and I tell them, a lot of people can just go out there and catch the ball. If youíre able to go out there and help out the line and then go catch the ball Ė difficult situations, but thatís why youíre in this room and thatís what we expect out of you.
Q: Is RB Wayne Gallman a victim of the numbers in terms of getting carries and how do you deal with his progression while focusing on the backs that are getting carries?
A: I think you always want to continue to develop your younger players. Wayne got a lot of reps in the preseason. In fact, if Iím not mistaken, I think he was our leading ball carrier, as far as attempts. I think heís got a really good future. Weíve got some guys ahead of him that have a little bit more experience and weíre going with them right now. But, he understands this and all the young players have to understand this. When youíre a young player and youíre trying to find your way, Iíve always believed that your team and your coaches see when youíre ready. I think that theyíre starting to see that heís doing some flashy things at practice, which is good. But, you have to be ready and you donít get the reps, so you just have to show up when you get put in there because heís an ankle injury or whatever it may be from playing. So, I tell him you have to prepare like youíre starting every game. Thatís hard for a young player, but in the NFL, thatís the way the rules are. So, heís doing a really good job. Heís shown some good looks and I think that weíll be excited when that time comes that he gets on the field.
Q: Howís RB Wayne Gallman handled himself mentally since he probably hasnít been in this position before?
A: Correct. A lot of young players have been getting a lot of shine as I call it when they have been playing and all the sudden theyíre on the look team and itís a little different. I think thatís part of, like when you asked about Shane Smith, kind of the mental toughness. I have to be ready mentally and emotionally even if physically Iím not in the game, but I have to play the game in my head so that when the time comes Iím not slowing down looking, Iím able to do what Iíve shown in practice, which means play with a clear mind, play hard and show the people what I can do and continue to show it over and over.
Q: How have you seen RB Wayne Gallman do in that regard?
A: I think heís doing a really good job at practice. Canít wait until the time that we get him on the field, when that time comes.
Q: How do you think RB Paul Perkins is handling the expectations as far as his approach?
A: If you watch him in practice, Iíll answer it this way that when I watch Paul Perkins, I know that heís one of the first players on the field. Heís one of the last to leave. I donít think any of that stuff phases him. He has a strong mind, strong spirit and I think heís going to continue to show people what heís all about. Again, sometimes you get too much with, ĎWell, I have to show people.í Just be yourself and go out, play fast with a clear mind and donít overthink things. When that happens for a back, I think good things will happen. But, you have to play with confidence. You have to continue to understand where we fit into the equation, which, if we do our job better, then it helps the quarterback, it helps the line, it helps the tight ends and everybody does their job better. Then, our offense will be like we want. Weíll get more swings at the bat, so to speak, because weíll get more plays and then everything goes away. Iíve learned that from being in football for a year or two.