Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter -- November 30, 2018
Q: What’s it been like to get Jamon Brown in the mix?
A: I remember him when he was coming out of Louisville, I was at Indy. I really liked him coming out, he played both tackles there, kind of played the open side tackle. He wasn’t quite as big as he is now but he’s a good athlete and he was tough, and that’s two things I liked about him. When he showed up here, he’s a little bit bigger, but he’s a good athlete and he’s tough. He brings a real toughness to the group and I like his athleticism for a 348-pound guy. He’s a smart guy, you tell him once and he gets it right. He was here for a couple days and played for us and hasn’t had one MA (missed assignment) in 60-something snaps, so it shows you he’s a smart guy. He fit into the group really fast. I like his attitude, we like his attitude, all that stuff. This ain’t his first rodeo, he’s got a lot of snaps under his belt from LA, too, so it’s progress.
On Evan Engram’s need to develop as a blocker: Is that something you and the o-line staff work with him on or just the tight end group?
A: No, that’s tight ends. I don’t want to talk about somebody else’s player. I like everything about him, he’s a quality guy, he really busts his ass on the field, but I’ll let somebody else talk about that.
Q: Has Nate (Solder) played better these last couple weeks?
A: He’s played really good. The one bad game that he didn’t play good, he had one bad game everybody was beating him up on, that was after he had that unbelievable burner. He had a neck issue and he didn’t practice all week, he walked-through and then he went out there and was a little tentative in the first half. I had a burner when I played in college and if somebody hits you in the head, your whole left arm goes numb and it feels like somebody’s sticking a knife in your back. Then after he got out there and tested the waters the way the game progressed, he actually played better and better as the game went. Then after that, he’s been playing really good. I give him a little mulligan on that one because I’ve been that soldier before. He’s everything I thought he would be as a player, but even more than that. Everything about Nate Solder, I mean he’s a good player. The one thing you do in the NFL as you’re preparing, I see a dozen tackles every single week because I’m looking at other teams play and there’s probably 30, maybe 31 other teams that he would start for, maybe 32 teams. He’s a really quality player. Nobody’s going to play a perfect game, everybody’s going to have a couple bad plays. In 36 years, I’ve never had a player play a perfect game. What he brings to the room, what he brings to the offense, everything about him on and off the field in the meeting room, out of the meeting room – he’s playing really good, playing at a high level, tough, aggressive, he’s exactly what I expected him to be. It’s what I saw on tape all those years at New England.
Q: He had been in one system with one quarterback for so long, do you think it was a little bit of an adjustment period?
A: Yes and no. It’s just like anything, sometimes when you get in the heat of battle, sometimes you revert back to some other things, sometimes that happens. The one thing that’s always really interesting for the offensive line is the game’s played looking through a face mask. Coaches, we sit back and we watch it on end zone film, people watch it from the stands. When that stuff happens up front, it happens so fast and there’s a guy right there in your face and sometimes you have to make a split second decision, so to say he wouldn’t ever have some muscle memory and revert back to seven or eight years of what he’s done – but I think he’s embraced what we’re trying to do because we’ve got a different system. He’s done it at a pretty high level. The one thing we don’t do to him, we work through all these things to scheme our protections against really quality players, we hang him out. We don’t do anything to help him -- you’re on your own, big boy. We’ll help these other guys but not you.
Q: From center all the way to right tackle, this is a much different group than you came into training camp with. What do you like about the group you have now with Spencer (Pulley) and (Jamon) Brown and (Chad) Wheeler?
A: I really miss (Jon) Halapio, he was playing really at a high level when he got hurt, but what I like about (Spencer Pulley) is that he’s smart and he’s tough, and he plays with great effort. He’s a little bit on the light side, he’s not quite as big as some of these other guys but he makes up for it with his tenacity. He’s a really tough guy, a smart guy. He figures out all that substance stuff and gets it straight. We talked about Jamon, what he brings to the table. Chad is slowly but surely, play by play, getting better and better and better. The one thing about the NFL, you say give me a great left tackle, but everybody in this league has got two great rushers and what they’ll do is they’re looking for matchups, they’ll flip guys back and forth all over the place. He gets matched up with a quality player every single week, and he hasn’t given up a sack in the last two or three weeks matched up against really good guys. He fights and he’s tough and he’s smart, he’s improving week by week. Him and this whole group, we’re far from a finished product. We’re making some improvement and working in the right direction, but we are not even close to being a finished product in terms of where we need to go.
Q: Continuity at the offensive line might be the most important aspect of an offense. With so many changes throughout the year, what’s that been like for you?
A: That’s what the NFL is. Every week, we and me, we’re charged with putting five guys on the field that we can win with. There’s injuries that happen, there’s things that change, and your job is to get guys ready to play, whether you’ve had them for six months or you’ve had them for six days. So again, there is some continuity. The thing about the offensive line is it’s not five individuals. You know that saying about the sum is more important than the individual parts, well that’s what it is. The offensive line’s got to play together. When you’re in sync, right now Nate and Will Hernandez are starting to get in sync, they’re starting to play together a little bit. When (Nate) was in New England, he played with Logan Mankins for about six or seven years, so they knew each other inside and out, so that’s what they’re starting to develop right now. How fast can those guys work together and get in sync, and then the center’s the glue that holds everything (together). There’s always a meeting within a meeting. If you’re in our meeting room, you’ve got Nate and Will sitting next to each other with Spencer right in the middle, then you’ve got over there Jamon and Chad sitting right next to each other. They’re always talking and communicating, talking about stuff as I’m talking trying to communicate to make sure they’re on the same page. Morning, noon and night, we’re in that meeting room.
Q: Chad’s gone against some pretty good guys. This week, you’ve got some pretty good guys.
A: Yeah, unbelievable. This may be our biggest challenge (yet). We’ve gone against some really good players, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better player than (Khalil) Mack coming off the edge. I mean, that guy can play. He’s got it all – he’s got strength, power, quickness, redirect, he’s a really quality player. I see why you’d give up the boat (to get a guy like that). He’s a good player. And the other guy off the other edge (Leonard Floyd), he’s got athleticism and length and redirect, and it is a real challenge. But it’s that week every week in the NFL, it was that week last week. Philadelphia was talented two-deep. They kept rolling guys in and out and playing them all over the place. In the NFL, one thing we talk about, you’re always going to play against better athletes every single week or he’d be in (defensive line coach) Gary (Emanuel)’s room instead of mine. So how do you combat that? You better know what the guy’s going to do before he does it. You better study him, you better know what he’s going to do, you better understand the defensive scheme and what they’re going to bring at you, you better attempt to play with more toughness, more energy, more fight and more grit, all that old school stuff. Sometimes that stuff can overcome talent. Now when you have talent and you have that stuff, that’s when you’ve got an all-pro player. How are we going to block those guys? We’re going to try to outwork them, out-tough them, out-technique them, try to understand what they’re going to do before they do it, and hope that might be able to overcome the discrepancy and a little bit of athleticism and talent.
Q: How much do you have an idea or estimation whether they will use them on the right or left? One side you have Nate, you’re going to leave him on an island. The other side you have Chad, who might be a better matchup, but you’re probably going to use help, right?
A: Last week they started (Michael) Bennett off against Nate Solder. He couldn’t get home, so what did they do? They flipped him over and played him over the right guard. They’ve never played him over the right guard. They’re going to find the right matchups, and you’ve got to know what they’re trying to do with the matchups. When they put two guys together, they’re doing something, how are they going to match it up? Everybody’s got to watch those guys, just like I’ve told the tackles. They’ve got to be prepared to go against both, they’ve got to study both. Going back to the Houston game, they’re going to move J.J. Watt and (Jadeveon) Clowney all over the place to try to get the right matchups. You have to be ready for that. But some of these guys prefer from a certain side, that’s kind of what their nature is and they sometimes are a little reluctant to move to a different side. You’ve just got to be prepared for it. Again, you’ve got to trust your fundamentals, you’ve got to trust the system, and you’ve got to try to outwork and outplay them.