Head Coach Pat Shurmur
September 26, 2018
Opening Remarks: Injuries of note I’ll start out, Evan Engram won’t be out there today. He’ll be inside rehabbing. (Olivier Vernon) is coming along and Eli Apple is coming along. Those are the three that you may have questions about. Otherwise, we just have the normal after game wear and tear that you normally have. That was a physical came, and as you get back and get going again, it’s been a good couple of days. I told the team, I said it’s not quite as painful, but it’s just as important to go through the mistakes and correct them after a win as it is after a loss and I think they handled that pretty well. So we’re getting ready for what hopefully what will become our best Wednesday of the year. So, I’ll take your questions.
Q: What does ‘coming along’ mean for those Vernon and Apple?
A: They’re getting better. We’re hopeful. They should be out there on the field. Again, we’re hopeful that they’ll be back. High ankle sprain and then the groin, there’s not always a timeline on those.
Q: Individual drills for them?
A: They’ll be doing some stuff, yes. It’s hard to say right now.
Q: Eli Manning said after the game that he thought you guys condensed the offense. Is that accurate? What did he mean by that?
A: Yeah, what I tried to do was make sure we were running things that we were familiar with, and then by the way they played coverage, I was able to repeat some calls and that’s always a good thing. By the way it played out, we had just as much offense but by the way it got called, because we were able to complete some stuff. By the way the game got called, it probably seemed that way.
Q: When you go into a game like this against an explosive offense, do you think in any way that it’s going to be a shootout? Do you have to prepare for it that way?
A: No. We’ve got to play the game like we play it, and it’s important that we get big plays, but it’s also important that we move the ball and score. I think that’s the most important piece, is to score and continue to score however you do it. Sometimes it takes you a lot, sometimes you get a big play and you do it quickly. We’ll just have to see how that plays out. On defense, when you watched the way they played, they’re schemed up, they’re a five-on-the-line defense just like we are in base, and they like to play man coverage although they have played a healthy amount of zone in stretches this year. We’ve got to be ready to attack everything, and then just change gears if they’re giving us a little more of one thing than we expected.
Q: Do you see differences in the Saints between inside and outside, indoors and outdoors?
A: Some people have said that, they’re more explosive at home in the dome and all that. I don’t know. They’re pretty explosive on offense, Alvin Kamara is a tremendous player and they target him quite a bit. Drew Brees, #13 (Michael Thomas) is a good player as well, and they do a good job up front. They do enough to keep you off balance, and you’re dealing with a guy that’s Drew Brees, who is one of the best.
Q: Brees is obviously 39, your quarterback is 37, and they’re both playing at times like they did in their early 30s. Is there a reason why some quarterbacks can thrive so late in their careers?
A: They’re both outstanding players and I think I said it either Monday or yesterday, there’s no substitute for experience, especially when you’re well-performing guys like they are. They’re good players, and so it doesn’t surprise me. I think in this game at certain positions, as long as your legs and your arms stay good, you’ve got a chance to continue to play. I think that’s what you’re seeing from both Eli and Drew.
Q: Did you notice anything different for your offensive line, attitude wise? It seemed like there was a little more nastiness in some of those blocks on Sunday.
A: I mentioned this, the new guy in there – there’s two new guys, really, or one and a half new guys because (John Greco) played part of the Dallas game – but I thought Chad (Wheeler) did a good job of finishing blocks because it was fresh, watching him play. Then I thought the other guys, the enthusiasm that we showed, I told the players the guys that were here a year ago feel 3-13, the guys that were here just for the first time this year felt 0-2. So, when the game gets to one score, we’ve all been places where you wonder when the other shoe is going to fall. Well, that wasn’t the case. We dug in, and I thought the enthusiasm that the players played with helped fuel that, because throughout the game, I never had a sense that we were going to lose it.
Q: What have you seen out of Nate Solder? It looked like he might have had one of his better run blocking games on Sunday. Three weeks in, what do you think of him so far?
A: He is a steady performer. Good, great, good – he plays well and plays pretty steady all the time, whether it’s in practice or in games, and that’s the way he lives his life, that’s his mindset. He’s out there today trying to get better than he was yesterday. Very steady guy, and he’s really adding a lot to our team.
Q: When you signed Nate, you made a point to call (Ereck Flowers) and let him know how this was going to affect him. Did you have a similar conversation with Flowers after this most recent change?
A: Yes, we talked about it, we were making the change. Yes, we communicated. When I say I, it’s we as coaches communicate with the players frequently about things we see and like, and things we see and don’t like. That’s the day to day business that nobody sees, but we’re just open and honest about it. I think the players have responded well to that, but I do think that’s the way you’ve got to live your life.
Q: How did he handle it?
A: He handled it like most guys would.
Q: What does that mean?
A: ‘Ok, Coach.’ That was it. Not enough there for a mini-series, just ‘ok’. Then there’s the part of the conversation of, ‘you need to be ready to go because you’re the third tackle, so keep your mind into it and get back out there, and play well.’
Q: On the uptick of snaps to Rhett Ellison, can you talk about what he’s brought, especially with that reconfigured offensive line, what he brings to that?
A: I’m fond of Rhett, who he is as a player and as a person. He epitomizes a player that you want on your team. He’s very good at what he does, he can line up anywhere, he finds a way to make plays. Some guys just have a knack for that. He finds a way to make plays. Very trustworthy and very tough, and he’s wired like a football player, and that is what you’re looking for. I made the analogy, and this probably isn’t fair because I don’t know Mark Bavaro that well, but I sensed the same kind of aura when I met him the other night – just a tough guy that’s going to do what he’s asked and let the chips fall. That’s what Rhett is.
Q: He doesn’t quite have the same skillset as (Evan Engram), so how do you replace Evan’s role in the offense, or do you?
A: We just go out and play. There’s a few little things that you would only do with Evan in there, then there’s other things that we’ll do with Rhett in there. We just tweak it. There’s plenty of plays, and we’ll just kind of tailor it toward what those guys can do.
Q: Why do you think you had so much success running the empty formation on Sunday?
A: I don’t know, we’ve had success in the empty in the past. I think what happens with an empty, most quarterbacks like it because it’s, just get everybody as far away from me as possible so I can see the problems, and then give me some quick throws in case I got a problem. Most quarterbacks that are dropback style guys like empty, every team employs empty now. It’s just in the handbook. Then there’s certain things that we’ll always be able to do each week.
Q: What have you seen from Snacks? You got a first-hand look at him now, he had like seven tackles in 35 (snaps) – that’s pretty ridiculous.
A: Pretty good contact with the ball for a defensive nose man, nose tackle. It was really good. He had, I think he played 35 plays, which is a pretty good load for him. He’s tough, competitive, he gets himself ready to play every Sunday, and he’s hard to block in there. I think that contributes to our ability to start the normal down, the normal situation, when you’re in (big people?) run game, Snacks can be a force.
Q: When you’re a coach, do you almost have to say when you have a guy like that on the other team, when we’re running, we just have to not go pound the ball in the middle against this team?
A: No, you’ve got to try to run your runs, but certainly when you’re putting your run game together, you say, ok, how are we going to handle Snacks?
Q: You have a running back that takes a lot of passes coming out of the backfield, and they’ve got one that’s very similar in Kamara and they’d like to use him in that regard. What’s the challenge when you’re defending against that?
A: Yeah, it’s a challenge, because he’s like a receiver. He’s quick, he’s instinctive, he catches the ball well, he runs well after the catch, so when we’re matched up one-on-one we have to cover him well and then certainly when we play zone and try to throw a net around him, we’ve got to make sure if he catches the ball that we tackle him. That’s the challenge there.
Q: I know stats don’t tell a quarter of the story, but what did you see from your safeties? From outside looking in it seems like they’re quiet in terms of big plays?
A: That’s ok, if you’re keeping them out of the end zone. That’s sort of my take on it. We’ve got to be careful not to read too much into stats here in the first month as we get playing here. By midseason, you kind of get settled in on some of that stuff. It’s team defense, and it’s about keeping them out of the end zone. Phrases I’m not fond of, ‘bend but don’t break’ or make up your own, you don’t want them to move the ball, number one, but you want to keep them out of the end zone and that is the primary focus of playing defense. Our safeties have been contributing to that effort.
Q: When you looked at your offense on Sunday, other than the quarterback you can name at least four players who had enormous plays in that game. How much closer is that to the offense you designed?
A: That’s the best way to play ball, because the ball gets spread around for the right reasons. We’ve got to get them concepts that they can work with and all that, our marquee players, so to speak, need to touch the ball. I would’ve liked to score two more touchdowns. I think that’s the most important piece. So, if only one guy touches it and you score two more touchdowns, then hooray; but in reality, if eight or nine guys touched the ball, then when you look at that from the defensive side of things, you say, ok, we’ve just got to play team defense. The last play that we scored when Shep (Sterling Shepard) caught the under route, that was designed to go to Odell (Beckham). They doubled Odell, he beat the double but I don’t know how Eli would’ve known it, so he got off it and threw the ball to Shep. Then the guy that was (happiest) that Shep caught the ball was Odell. If you think about it, this is team, and whether you play defensive team and keep them out of the end zone or you play offensive team ball, and you don’t really care who touches the ball, and you get the ball in the end zone, that’s really what we’re striving for.