Head Coach Pat Shurmur -- July 31, 2019
Opening Statement: Wednesday. Training camp. So I will try to take your questions. I had to be reminded (what day it is). You start to lose track a little bit. Iíll try to answer your questions.
Q: Whatís the benefit of having Sterling (Shepard) out there running through team drills?
A: All of the physical things that go with playing football. I think itís a good thing that heís out there. He can catch the ball with one hand. The yellow jersey means donít throw it to him. It also means on defense, donít hit him. I think that part is good. Youíve got to practice football. Itís something that him being out there is a good thing. It also shows itís a thumb. Weíll worry about that as we go.
Q: But thereís obviously a risk thing, too, though.
A: Yeah. Any player practicing, thereís a little bit of a risk. For anything. Thatís why we try to be smart. Thatís why we try to watch the players and see individually where theyíre at, and then go from there. Because if not, weíd just throw everybody in bubble wrap and weíll see you opening day. We all understand that thatís not how we do it. Now the challenge is to be smart. Guys that are dealing with injuries, bring them back at the pace that they can come back. But also, then be able to practice.
Q: Itís also him setting an example. He could easily stay inside and use that as an excuse. I would imagine that plays into it as well.
A: Yeah, he wants to be out here. Heís a team player. He knows he needs to work. We all do. Ideally, every player practices every day. You can just look at every team throughout the league. Thereís guys on every team that, for whatever reason, arenít practicing and theyíll be back tomorrow, arenít practicing and theyíll be back in two days. Then there are guys that are practicing. Thatís just the nature of training camp because of some of the physicality that goes with it.
Q: With load management, is that something you looked at in the offseason and decided to do more? It seems like youíre doing it a little bit more this camp than a year ago.
A: No, itís exactly the same, quite frankly. Our process and what we go through to make sure weíre practicing the guys the right amount is the same as last year.
Q: How much of that is based on the previous dayís GPS or data?
A: That data is part of the equation.
Q: Looking at Oshane (Ximines) and what he can do to disrupt the quarterback, in terms of the length of a guy to be able to get his hands up and whether he deflects the pass or not or getting into passing lanes, how valuable do you view that?
A: Itís important. Weíve said it before, you want the biggest, most powerful, longest players you can get. Heís got some of those attributes. Weíll just wait and see how it plays out, but to this point, heís done a good job. The length is important. You saw yesterday he batted down an RPO (run-pass option). Heís a good athlete. He was coming around on a stunt earlier in camp and he batted down a down-the-field throw. But with regard to sacks, what you want is pressure on the quarterback and you want to disrupt the quarterback. The sack is the ultimate number we can all measure. But throughout, a good pass rush, if you can disrupt the quarterback and knock him off his spot, make him throw the ball in a way that he doesnít want to, that can be as damaging for an offense as actually sacking the guy.
Q: Cody (Latimer), Bennie (Fowler), and Russell Shepard all kind of come from special teams backgrounds playing wide receiver. Given the turmoil you guys have faced there, how do those guys separate themselves over the next couple of weeks, when the opportunity might present itself at the top of the depth chart?
A: All of those guys are pros. Iím used to seeing wide receivers, you remember the Hank Basketts and the Jason Avants in the early years in Philly. Those guys were going to be on the roster, and they were excellent special teams players. Then they made plays in the passing game as well. Itís important that our receivers have an impact on special teams, and those guys certainly do that. Thatís a good thing.
Q: Considering what youíve seen in camp so far, what role do you imagine for (Bennie) Fowler?
A: Heís a guy that can play all of the positions. Typically he plays outside, but there are times where heíll be in the slot. Heís smart, he has good instincts, he picks things up quickly. You saw weíve had some receiver injuries within practice, and heís been able to go from being X to Z and Z to X. That flexibility is important.
Q: Is that whatís holding Alonzo Russell back, is special teams? Because it seems like he gets the ball quite a bit when the second team offense is out there.
A: No, I donít think so. Heís a young player thatís developing and trying to make our team. I donít think thereís anything at this point thatís holding him back.
Q: With Corey Ballentine, do you see him as an option as a kick returner?
A: Possibly. Heís worked at it. Weíre getting to know him a little bit more as we go through this, as he does more and more, both on defense and on special teams. I think heís got a really bright future, and kick returns could be part of that.
Q: It looks like the last couple of days heís really been kind of finding his way. Heís in the right spot a lot of the times. Do you see that?
A: Yeah. I think heís getting better. Yesterday, he made a really nice play on the seam ball. Thatís what you expect. You get your hands on the ball and finish it like he did. That was excellent. That was a terrific play. And then he had another pass breakup later. So, when you start to see those guys get their hands on balls, and when we watch the tape, theyíre in the right position. But then early in practice, he gave up a slant. As we go through it, we watch it all and we grade it all. Heís definitely, definitely making progress and doing more good things than bad.
Q: What progress have you seen from linebacker Ryan Connelly so far in camp?
A: Quietly improving. Again, the next step for, especially those inside linebackers now, is when we get into the preseason games. But again, heís in the right spot. He has very good instincts. There is not a lot of false movement to his game. There are some really fine, dynamic linebackers that will take two steps in the wrong direction and then still have the skill and ability to get to the play. The thing with Ryan is you donít see a lot of false steps. He maximizes his skill and ability. Again, weíre pleased with him as well. Weíll just see, as he takes the next step, putting his good work into use in a preseason game, how it plays out.
Q: Could you see him playing next to (Alec) Ogletree, or in place of Ogletree? How does that work?
A: Possibly. Heís probably more like Ogletree. But weíll play the best guys, and then you try to throw a net around it the best way you can.
Q: Evan Engram made a terrific catch in yesterdayís practice. Is that what youíre hoping to see from him this year, in terms of him making plays?
A: Yeah. He has wide receiver traits. Heís got playmaking abilities. Certainly, weíd like to see him make as many of those as possible. I think thatís an important thing. It was a good play yesterday, yeah.
Q: What did you like about Danielís (Jones) reaction to the interception yesterday?
A: Well, he was pissed. So yeah, Iím good with that.
Q: Will that put more on watching what he does and how he reacts (to plays like that)?
A: Well no. When we look at that play in total, it was an aggressive throw downfield. Thatís the thing, when youíre grading the quarterback, when non-coaches are grading the quarterback, they look at it one way. I look at it as that was an aggressive throw and you want that. You just maybe want him to put it in a better spot or whatever. Put it just where the defender canít quite get it as well as Corey did. But Corey made a nice play on it. Itís aggressive. He took a shot at the end zone. It was a touchdown, a check down mentality. It was an interception. You learn from it and move on.