Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter
October 20, 2018
Q: Can you give us an update on (Nate) Solder and where he stands?
A: Any type of issue like that is coming from the head coach, I canít comment on that. I canít comment on that.
Q: When we talked to you in the spring, you were excited about the progress you thought Ereck Flowers was making. Where did it go wrong?
A: I say that Ereck came in and we put him right through with the first group because we wanted him to work with the first group to try to get that and he had a great attitude when he came in and he worked hard and pressed to it. The big thing is you donít really know until you get into the heat of the battle. Youíre out there running around in sweats during the spring and youíre working the spring and doing all those things. Then when you get in and actually start to get into preseason games and real games, thatís when the rubber meets the road. Youíre either productive or youíre not productive and I would say he put his best foot forward and gave us his best effort and it wasnít working the way we needed to work.† We felt like we owed Chad Wheeler an opportunity to get out there and show what he could do. When he got out there, he was more productive and so thatís kind of the name of the game, right. Again a lot of times you donít really know until you get through the preseason into the real season when Ė the preseason games sometimes you play first three plays, what, 12 plays and 15 plays and maybe 20 plays? Then when you get into a real game when you have to play 60-70 snaps, thatís when youíre going to find out. He gave it his best go, wish him the best and then we just had to move in a different direction.
Q: Considering Chad, I donít think took more than a handful of first team snaps all training camp, mini camp, etc. How has he done with the first team?
A: Heís done good. What happens is when heís not taking those reps basically heís running his plays off of cards getting the defense ready for their opponent. Heís not really running your offense, but he did a really good job with doing the tech Ė we coached up technically, I coached him up technically and kept him up to speed what weíre doing. He did a good job in the meetings understanding whatís going on so heís making some good progress fitting into what weíre trying to do. I think heís been fairly productive. Itís always a challenge, youíre always matched up against good rushers on the outside edge, but Iím pleased with the progress heís made. Heís got a great attitude and heís shown some good toughness, some good competitiveness.
Q: I assume you were able to make that move with Ereck though because you feel confident in (Brian) Mihalik Ė
A: Brianís done a good job on that. Those type of decisions are really decisions that other people make. When the people that make those decisions make those decisions, itís my job Ė I coach whoever shows up. Brian, heís had a great attitude, heís had a great week of practice this week, heís tough, heís got some size and length and heís practicing really good and he is demonstrated to the offensive staff that he has the ability to go in there and play.
Q: Six weeks into the season how can you make this offensive line better and are there different schemes that you Ė
A: With the offensive line itís all about Ė bottom line with anything is about being productive so the number one thing we have to do is if weíre all in this thing together like we talked about before we even took the field, players and coaches together, you look at that and you all share responsibility. Pretty much everybody in the NFL runs about the same plays. Theyíre blocking pretty much the same way and so I think the schemes are solid. What weíre trying to do is really solid. The bottom line is you have to go out and execute those schemes and thereís really three parts to it. One, you got to go out and play with great effort and great toughness thatís the bottom line because the upfront game is a brutal, violent game. Two, you have to have very good assignment competency and the third part of the equation is you still have to play good. You go out there, play with great energy and great toughness, and know what youíre doing, but you still got to be productive and thatís the assignment. I feel really good about the guys that play with great effort and great toughness. I feel good about that and weíve not had any Ė our mental errors are practically null so evidentially you know what youíre doing. So again, teach them what to do, put them in the right situation and go out there and execute and we got to continue, they and I need to continue to work together to get them to execute at a higher level. The hard part about offensive football and offensive line play is on defense, four guys can do something wrong and one guy does something right and he makes a tackle. On offensive line play, the running backs and you have tight ends and everything and you can have seven guys doing something right and one guy does something wrong and a plays not a productive play. Thatís the challenge of the play especially in the running game so what we need to do is we need to have all cylinders firing and right now and in some of the plays when all cylinders firing, you see that back come ripping and roaring out of there like dang this is what we need to have. When one of those cylinders isnít firing right, the engine sputters a little bit and thatís kind of whatís going on right now. Our job is to work together to get all those pistons of that v8 engine working, all those cylinders firing in sync.
Q: Whatís stood out to you about Will (Hernandez) and his development?
A: Willís done a very good job. You first come from college to the NFL, the gameís really fast. Itís a really fast game. I told him that next to a playoff game, the fastest game youíre ever going to have is going to be Sunday Night Football in the NFL. Thatís what resembles a playoff game. You go down to Dallas that game was really fast. He understands the speed of the game so basically, slowly but surely, I think the game is slowing down for him, which I think is really important. When the game starts to slow down, you start to see things, you see stunts better, you see blitzís better, you see line movement better. Heís playing better pad level, he understands the game, heís playing with better speed, heís starting to figure out the complication because heís seen so much stuff for the very first time and you donít get this stuff in the college game. These complicated blitz packages and these defenses plus the menus a lot bigger for him. We do a lot more things offensively, a lot more plays and schemes, and thereís a lot more defenses heís got to do it against so just the volume on both sides of the ball and the speed of the game. Heís getting the volume, his mental errors are next to none. I think heís gone the last two games, three games with no mental errors which is a really big deal. That means heís really getting a grasp of it and heís reacting much faster. You can see him on tape when things are happening, heís reacting to them a lot faster than he did. Heís diagnosing them a lot faster than he did his first couple weeks of the year so thatís progress that you make and heíll continue to make progress game after game after game through these first couple years in that aspect of it.
Q: You have a guy on your bench in Spencer Pulley who I think started 16 games for a team last year. Is he pushing to get into your starting lineup?
A: Yeah heís doing a great job. Heís really smart. The first thing I did when we got him I called Phillip Rivers to ask about him and Phillip gave me great insight into the guy and so based on that it helped me coach the guy a little bit. Heís tough and heís athletic. I think heís got a good grasp of the offense and I think he is pushing toward perhaps maybe being one of the first five. Weíll see what happens as the season goes on. (John) Grecoís done a great job filling in. He did the same thing for me in Cleveland. He was a guard that actually was forced into playing center when our center got hurt in Cleveland. Thatís kind of whatís happened here. Heís a guard thatís been forced into center play and heís been really solid at the center position these last couple of weeks.
Q: How unique is it when youíre teaching your guys when they have a running back like Saquon (Barkley) who can go where the play is not designed? Is that Ė itís probably a good challenge, but Ė
Q: Itís a good challenge because the bottom line is the running backs are Ė the guy is a special guy. I have not been around a guy like that since I was in San Diego when we had LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) in the backfield. Heís that kind of running back. He is so dynamic and so what we need to do is we need to cover up those linemen up front. We need to cover those guys up and we need to get him to the linebacker level because if we get him to the linebacker level, itís hard to tackle that guy, weíve all seen that. Itís our job to get him through the line to the linebacker level and thatís what we talk about all those guys hitting on the same piston. Heís got to get in sync with the offensive line. Itís the offensive lineís job to continue to morph and change. His reads change a little bit so when we solidify the five guys and get them playing together, continue to develop and play with more productivity and as one, heíll get a better feel behind those guys and I think heís starting to get that. Itís our job to get him to the next level and thatís what we need to do because he is a special back.
Q: Greco said seven yards a carry because he thought it might be possible for him Ė
A: I think that. If we do our job, I say yeah. If we do our job, I think Ė every time he gets through the line of scrimmage he does have the chance to go the distance, weíve all seen that. We have to get him through the line of scrimmage, thatís our job, and thatís the number one thing weíre talking about, number one thing weíre working on right now. Get him to the next level and then of course protect the quarterback.