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Friday Media Transcript: Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson

Eric from BBI : Admin : 9/28/2018 2:47 pm
Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson
September 28, 2018

Q: How do you evaluate Saquon (Barkley) through three games?
A: For a young player, heís really had a good starting experience. He has done a good job in all three phases Ė heís done a good job running the ball, heís done a good job in the pass protection, heís done a good job obviously in catching the ball. Like all young players, heís got some room to grow, but a very good start for him. He and I are never satisfied, so we will keep working to get better.†††

Q: (Saquon) was always saying in the offseason leading up to training camp that he was going to be very critical of himself. Through three games, have you seen him (be) and do you kind of have to pull him back a little bit and say, maybe youíre being a little too critical of yourself here? Or do you like that?
A: I like that in a player. I donít want it to get to a point where it takes away or he gets disappointed or discouraged in this play. Sometimes a young player if they have a problem, theyíll hang on to it too long, so from that standpoint I want him to always (look) to keep getting better; but regardless, good play, bad play, the last play is always over. Move on to the next play. Thatís what young players need to do.†

Q: Do you feel like you were onto something last week when you moved (Saquon) outside, put him in at wide receiver and got that match-up against a linebacker? Is that something you want to build on?††
A: We really didnít do anything at all in the preseason since heís been here and are experimenting to see what he can do, and then last week was an opportunity to put him outside a little bit more. He got some more space, and he made some plays, which is a good thing.†

Q: (Saquon) has talked a bunch about trying to find the right mix between trying to break a big one and sometimes just sticking it up in there and getting three or four yards. How do you think heís done at that and what do you preach to him in that regard?†
A: I tell him obviously that it is important early when youíre an explosive player that youíre not always looking for the home run, because itís hard to get the home run when youíre looking for it. Just let it naturally happen. For him, heís got to learn, as you said, to be able to take the hard three-four yard runs, those will set up your real big runs eventually that heís going to have or any player, but just donít look for it, just go play. Trust it, trust your rules, trust your reads, and let everything else take care of itself.††

Q: On his touchdown run, can you describe the skills and talents that he uses there, the patience and how he ends up helping to create that whole and hitting it?
A: Weíre a work in progress in working with our offensive line, heís got to get used to their rhythm and theyíve got to get used to his rhythm, and so as heís going through, heís got very good vision like a lot of young players do, and heís got to make sure that heís in rhythm so that heís at the right point to be able to cut when the time is right, and he did a good job of helping his blockers. All the players try to make sure they get in phase with a block because they can help their blocks, and then what you want to try to do is get yourself in a situation where youíre one on one, you versus the safety or a corner or whatever it may be, and then you use some of your skills and he was able to do that. He had a really good stiff arm on the play to ward off the player, and then obviously he was able to explode and score.††

Q: Was it the other safety coming down, heís not being blocked but on the other side of the lineman Ė is that his job to shake him outside?
A: I always tell him, as with a lot of backs, thereís always going to be one guy unblocked, so weíre going to try to cover everybody else up, you get to that one on one, you want to try to win the one on one. The defensive player is going to try to win, obviously going to try to stop you. Your job as a runner is to try to win the one on ones, and so theyíve won some and heís won some. Obviously as he continues to go, we want him to win more than he loses.

Q: So he technically won two on that play?
A: Well yeah, when that happens, Iíll take that any time as anybody else would.†

Q: When he needs a breather when heís on the sideline, what goes into determining whether itís (Jonathan Stewart) or (Wayne Gallman) that goes in?
A: It really is the feel of the game. Wayne has really showed some spark when heís come in so far, so weíve kind of put him in certain situations. Jonathan Stewart is a veteran guy, he knows what to do, so we feel good about him. It really depends on the situation, thereís no predetermined Ďthis is going to be the second or third guy in the gameí, but for the most part, Gallman has been a little more productive so heís usually going to get the first call.†

Q: How has Stewart handled that because heís the guy whoís used to being his teamís main running back, now heís maybe the third Ė howís he handling that?
A: All I can say about Jonathan Stewart is he is a real pro. I think anybody that understands the game of football, when you say that about a football player, I think that itís hard to have a higher compliment.†

Q: Did Wayne show you enough in the summer to the point where he wasnít just a guy who came in when Saquon needed a breather, that he was a guy who you had to put into the game plan to know that he can do some things on his own as well?†
A: Yes, I think so. A year ago, of course with a different offense, but a year ago he had good production. He was able to as a young player be good in all three phases, but like a lot of players, youíve got to take the next step. What he had done in the past, while a good blueprint, did not really apply to this year. I had to see him improve in those areas, and for the most part, he has done that and he, like a lot of guys, is always harder Ė kind of like what (Stewart) goes through Ė because if youíre not the starter, youíve got to be ready to play right now. But thatís just the role that they have right now, so Iíve continued to encourage and push them to be ready and be a difference maker as soon as you get on the field for the good. Donít press, donít reach, just go play and everything else will take care of itself.††

Q: What kind of mismatch would it create if you get Gallman and Barkley on the field together, with Saquon in the slot or Gallman in the backfield? As a running back coach, how much fun would that be?
A: As a running back coach, you want as many running backs on the field as you can at a time, but that really goes outside the realm of us. The bottom line is, as far as match ups, I would say this Ė for the guy thatís on the field, handle your business, do your job and help us, and personnel, whoís going to be on the field, I donít care who/what/how. At the end of the day, the backfield position has got to do the right things to help us win the game. How much they play, how many snaps and all that, the bottom line is, this is going to help us to be good in all three phases so we can win the game.†

Q: Whatís the biggest thing youíve learned about Saquon in your time with him?
A: Obviously a lot of people want to see the stats and production and heís done a really good job, especially in a lot of his mismatches, but I think itís always good as a coach getting to meet a new player, the person, because you kind of want to see some of his thoughts and stuff away from the game so you can get to build a good relationship. As far as on the game, I just think he has shown a lot of ability in a lot of the phases that weíve talked about and so far throughout the preseason and throughout the regular season, heís shown a lot. But as he looks at it, ĎIíve got to protect a little bit betterí, Ďmy route can be a little sharperí, that goes back to the good self-critique because he wants to play at the highest level he possibly can.†

Q: How about handling the hype, the noise around him? Obviously heís a number two overall pick so a lot has been said, a lot of people are chirping in his ear, what do you see of how he handles that?
A: So far what Iíve seen is he has handled it like a real pro. Obviously he does have a lot of attention, thereís a lot of focus on him and the only time you see sometimes when I want to speak to him is because he wants to do so well for our team that sometimes, Ďman, I didnít do that exactly rightí, which goes back to the point Ė self-critique is good as long as you donít over-critique so you canít let that last play go and go on to the next play. Again, a lot of young players do that and so early we kind of had some talks about that, that you donít have to be perfect, youíll never play a perfect game. Donít worry about that, good, bad or indifferent, go on to the next play. Thatís what the young players have got to learn, and so as far as his own expectations, I think heís got high expectations which I would hope that all players would and right now I think heís playing at a good level.†

Q: Youíve coached running backs in this league for a good amount of time. The position has changed, there are guys around the league who are doing things as receivers, I can rally off the names but for you, do you look around the league and see what teams are doing? Case in point, what New Orleans is doing with (Alvin Kamara) or the Rams with (Todd Gurley), and now you have a special talent in Saquon that you say, Ďyou know what? Maybe we can incorporate some of that into our offenseí?††
A: Thereís no doubt about that, but again I think the guys that have the most input on the play calling, they see that too. So, if you have a player that, Iíve said this, is good in all three phases, obviously youíre going to try to get him some space and get him some touches, and try to do what you can to let him do his part to help us win the game; but also, part of that is, when itís time to block, you have to block, and when itís time to catch, you have to catch, and you have to be in the right spot because sometimes while you wonít get the ball, what youíre doing being in the right spot in the passing game is going to get another player open. Thatís how your offense continues to grow. When you get a chance to get your touches, fine, but when you donít, youíre helping get somebody else open. I think thatís important.

Q: What do you think Saquon gained from last weekís game when he got banged up early, did miss a little portion of the game but then comes back and plays a defining role in winning the game?
A: For all young players, when they get hit especially early and, Ďman, am I ok?í They have to have the confidence, ĎIím good, Iím ready to goí. So, what he did, which I thought was good is, Ďman, am I good? Is it my leg? Iíve got to make sure I take care of themí Ė basically what he had to do was refocus and redo his computer to get everything right, so go back and say, Ďok everything is good, man that was a tough hití, but guess what? Thatís going to happen some more, and now, just like what Iíve been trying to say, the past is the past Ė am I good? I feel good, my body is good, good. Iím ready to go help our team. He was ready to go. Thatís the process, just like when thereís going to be some time in the future, I hope it never happens Ė I wish it never happens, but it will Ė that something bad is going to happen. Can you erase that and move on? Thatís what heís got to do, and thatís again, a learning process Ė I got injured a little bit, but now Iím ready to recover, I feel good, Iím ready to go.

Q: What can (Eli Penny) bring to this team?
A: So far, heís shown some good versatility as a player and heís done a good job at the point of attack. For a fullback, the modern fullback, you have to be able to block people, you have to be able to show versatility in catching the ball which he has shown, and youíve got to be able to see if you can do as much one-back stuff as you can to get a guy through a game in case of injuries to a game. Heís a work in progress.†

Q: You think he can do that?††
A: He has shown it, but he hasnít done it yet in a game so weíre going to see. Heís got to be trained for thatís just because of the numbers that youíre going to have dressed on game day. I think that heís shown a lot of good progress, but weíve got to see whatís going to happen when he gets out there and gets some more snaps.††

Q: Pat Shurmur has mentioned that we donít see everything, but on the sidelines Saquonís passion is really unique. Is that interesting to see from a rookie? I think we saw a clip after his touchdown, heís saying, Ďall gameí. Is that unique for a rookie to take that role on the sideline?
A: I think heís got a lot of leadership skills, so I think heís doing what he naturally does and he really feels Ė the Saquon I know Ė he really feels like Iím going to bring energy to this team, I am a rookie but Iím going to bring some energy just like some other guys that are going to bring energy. For the unique ones, no. I think thatís very normal.†
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