Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan
November 16, 2017
Q: Is T Chad Wheeler ready to step in there if he needs to?
A: Yeah. We’ve had a lot of guys working all year at all the positions, so you guys know I can’t talk about who’s playing, who’s starting, anything like that. We’ll have a group out there that’ll be ready to compete and we’ll be ready to go.
Q: Can you comment…
A: There’s a bunch of them.
Q: Can you comment on how T Chad Wheeler has come along?
A: He’s been a guy since he’s been here – very athletic, has the feet that you like that you’ve seen all through training camp. We saw that in some of his preseason games and there’s a, believe it or not, unlike most of the typical southern Californians, too cool, surfer-type, he’s got a mean streak to him and you see that at times. He’s progressing nicely. He’s really had work at various positions to try to mix all those guys up around the offensive line both – not just on one side or the other, but even working some at guard. So, he’s been progressing nicely.
Q: What can OL John Greco bring to the offensive line and do you believe he can learn the offense?
A: Well, he’s a veteran and someone that has played a lot of football and so, from the standpoint of learning scheme and being able to learn what we do, I certainly think he can do that. Obviously, he’s had some success over the years and he just got on board, so it’s going to take him a while to get caught up, but he’s working hard and he has had some versatility in the past that’s been seen and so we’re glad he’s here with us now.
Q: How much of an issue has it been regarding all of the turnover on the offensive line and all of the different combinations?
A: Well, you know, there’s obviously instances where you prefer to have those same five. That consistency. We talked a little bit a couple weeks ago about just the chemistry and what that really means in terms of the communication, in terms of the anticipation. But, I think it’s a credit to those guys – the fact that we have had so many moving parts and yet you look at the consistency with which we’ve been running the football and doing some good things from that standpoint and whoever is called upon will be at their best and they’ll be ready to go.
Q: What have you seen from RB Orleans Darkwa?
A: Yeah, Orleans is a tough competitor. He hits the hole hard. He’s done a good job in recent weeks at breaking some of those arm tackles or some of those tackles where the defender is coming off a block or in the process of being blocked and instances in the past. You can look at games where – and not just our games, but throughout the league – where the ball carrier goes down or they stumble. He’s been able to be very strong through the hole and he presses the hole well, so excited about the things he’s been doing and hopefully he can keep it up for us.
Q: What are the chances of WR Sterling Shepard duplicating his play from last week?
A: You hit the nail on the head. Sterling had a monster game. I mean, and I say that just from the standpoint of you look at the production that he had. You look at the competitiveness that he showed, the catches he made. There’s some things he did in the run game. Really responded well and it’s just a young player, but someone that’s called upon that’s played some football quite a bit for us in the past and someone that can be a leader for us and is assuming that role. Has also done a great job with the other receivers. The other guys in the room and some of those new faces and he’s a guy that I was particularly proud of. His attitude. His competitiveness through that game. Even when it wasn’t looking great and there was disappointment as there has been throughout the year, obviously, he responded well and his attitude was attack, attack regardless of the situation and we’re real pleased with that.
Q: Do you think the offensive line’s play should have changed the narrative?
A: Well, I think the big thing that comes out obviously – people will talk about the turnover. The number of different guys who have been in there. Then early on, there was everybody getting on Ereck Flowers, yet the results are the results. There hasn’t been a sack given up, I believe, since Detroit maybe. So, he’s continued to improve and he’s worked very hard. Really all the guys have just – when they’ve been called upon or whether they’ve been moved from one position to the other. I just can’t say enough about that group. Just they’re a gritty, competitive, you know, they don’t to do anything pretty and fancy. It’s just about just going after it and competing and like most offensive lineman – they really love when a running play is called. So, they’ve been in pretty good spirits lately with us trying to do that.
Q: As offensive coordinator, what would you say to people outside this building who say that this team would be better off without WR Odell Beckham Jr.?
A: Would it be better without Odell Beckham Jr.? I want to keep a straight face to that question, but Odell Beckham Jr. is a phenomenal talent. I mean, he’s a playmaker. He’s a guy that creates and can, as we’ve all seen, take those slants and take a five-yard catch for an 80-yard touchdown run. He’s a guy that really does a lot from a defensive standpoint to dictate coverage and change the game plan. I think if we could continue to do some of the things we’re trying to do in the run game and you have some of the development of an Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard continues to be the type of player he is and we’re able to get some consistency running the football, I mean that would be just a huge addition. So, I couldn’t disagree more with any notion that we’re a better offense without him. That’s – I wouldn’t agree with it. I’ll leave it at that.
You honestly think he's lying? You're kidding, right?
Totally with you there. My thoughts on those positions:
OL - Given how much the CBA has affected the ability to develop OL, might just be the scorecard used for grading college OL needs to be rewritten. Would be great to pilfer a scout or two from a team that does things right. Willing to give Reese some leeway on this because he is spending key resources here and the problems are league-wide.
LB - so many times I've seen LBers in the draft who appear to be playmakers drop right past us. I think the franchise just doesn't value this position enough. I want that changed but last year proved that a super-strong front four and back end can make for a dominant defense, even with so-so LBers. We've seen that throughout the Reese era as well.
S - see comments on LBers. When you can win a SB with the safeties we've had in the past, it's not wonder that you consider building a defense with the S position not being your top priority.