Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula -- December 13, 2018
Q: How much different is it this year being offensive coordinator who doesnít call the plays? How much has your role changed?
A: I really kind of feel like itís the same. I think that in this position and Iíve always felt this way because people have asked me all the way through whether or not youíre kind of coaching quarterbacks or the offensive coordinator calling plays. Kind of feels the same because youíre right in the middle of where all the decisions are made, whether or not youíre the one calling it or not, I really donít think of it that way. Coach (Shurmur) has been great, heís been great to work for, very open to any ideas that we have as a staff, and I think weíve grown kind of getting a good feel of what he wants and our number one goal is to be basically an extension of coach. Itís been fun obviously when you win.
Q: Do you have like a specific focus, like you put in the red zone stuff, you put in the third down stuff? How does that work?
A: We have guys that are kind of across the board that take the lead in certain areas and then obviously Iím kind of with our staff, kind of overseeing all of that. I try to do as much as I can in all those areas and then obviously with coach Shurmur as an offensive coach, then you get another set of eyes doing that, ideas. We obviously collectively bring our thoughts together, but we also make sure itís not a thing where we did it this way, we did it that way and itís there forever. Weíre going to put our guys in position to do what they do best and then let them go do it.
Q: Iím going to ask the quarterbacks coach part of you, what did you think of (Kyle) Lauletta?
A: Just about a lot of the other young guys that weíve been around that come in the first time. Itís unfortunate that we didnít have more success with him in there, but heíll learn from it.
Q: What kind of challenge is it for a guy who doesnít get first team reps to go ahead in that situation without being prepared as the starter?
A: Anybody thatís expected to come in as a backup, thatís part of your job description, so yeah, we would like to get everybody all the reps, but Alex (Tanney) doesnít get any, Kyle doesnít get any, but they know that. Especially at that position, itís hard to get guys reps. Other positions you can get them reps just because physically youíre going to wear the starters out otherwise. Quarterbacks, itís a little bit harder.
Q: Did you see anything that left you encouraged with the way Ė I mean obviously we see the box score, he had no completions, but with your trained eye, anything that encouraged you?
A: Yeah, he got experience.
Q: How did you see Evan (Engram) kind of bounce back last week and take on a bigger role maybe with Odell (Beckham Jr.) out?
A: Evanís been Ė it was really good to see him. Heís exciting when he gets the ball and just the consistency that weíre asking all of our players is the same thing that we ask Evan just when youíre on the field finishing on every play. His game is becoming, I think, more complete just because heís more experienced as a blocker as well. You donít want to be predictable when heís in the game. I donít think we are, but yeah, we want to get him involved as much as we can and I think heís getting better each week.
Q: Obviously youíre familiar with Russell Shepard from last year. What is it about his game that allows him to kind of go really with no offensive snaps for weeks at a time and then come in the last two weeks and have that kind of impact heís had?
A: I think itís a couple things. Opposite of unfortunately what we were talking about with Kyle, experience has been a big part of his Ė one of the reason why heís been productive. Heís so passionate and the game means a lot to him and he takes a lot of pride in doing things right and the things that maybe he doesnít quite get to start with, heís going to make sure that he stays after, that heís going to ask questions or heís going to talk to us as coaches to make it right, especially when the gameís on and itís his time to go make a play.
Q: What was it like for you last week to have the game plan and expecting Odell to play and even Friday he was going to play? Did you have to scramble a lot on Saturday?
A: Maybe a couple things, but weíve been around that before where thereís been guys that all of a sudden show up and canít play. We had it with Evan a couple weeks prior, so I think thereís a few things. The main thing is probably the slight personnel groupings that you have unique to that game plan maybe that you havenít had in other games or you just got to make sure you cover the bases.
Q: So many times during the course of the week a guy will miss practice for whatever reason and then will play on game day. Some guys are affected by that, some guys arenít. Is Odell one of those guys who can potentially play a game at a very high level even without practicing?
A: I would think so. I havenít been around enough, but I would think so, yeah. You try not to do that with your players and I think that trend has gone away where if a guy doesnít practice on Wednesday or Thursday, that pretty much has gone away. Youíre going to give guys every opportunity, but you want to make sure you put them on the field knowing that heís healthy and ready to play. You donít want to put him out there if heís not and then you do have to rely on his experience and the mental part of it and him spending a little more time and even though he doesnít get the reps physically, that heís going to know what to do and do it well.
Q: Is it beneficial to have a couple of days o complete the game plan now.
A: I think so, but I think yeah I would say so, but I would also say each and every week, weíre always kind of ready for that at every positon just to make sure, and thatís part of the challenge of a coach is making sure not just the starters are ready, but the backups and not just ready at their position, but ready to take on new roles maybe at another position. One receiver going to another side or tight end taking on a different role. Sometimes a lineman having to play the tight end position, things like that that is unique about this job, as well as coaching your guys and helping them win.
I saw him struggle to get open on any kind of horizontal routes. LBers seem able to get on him and ride him and he isn't creating space. Seems his speed is negated with those kinds of routes.
When he runs verticals, or deep crossing routes, his straight-line speed really gives him a chance to really get open. I wonder if that's something they might start to try and take advantage of more, and will be watching closely.
Also, he commented on how Engram is getting more experience blocking. I don't know how that can be true. His snaps are way down compared to earlier in the year. For good reason, imo. Simonson was single-handedly taking out Kerrigan for much of the game, even in straight-up pass rush situations where our OT's have struggled with RK in the past.
Engram did seem to improve his run blocks a bit from earlier in the year though. His biggest weakness surprises me a little though - it's those reach blocks or blocks in space off the line. He seems to do better with the pulling blocks. Probably goes to his short-area quickness which I don't think is elite at all.