Running Backs Coach Craig Johnson -- September 27, 2019
Q: What do you do for a home run hitter?
A: In coaching, this is what you talk about, next man up. You are always prepared for that, we prepared for that all offseason, and I have always told the guy thatís not playing, heís a not a second stringer. In this case, Wayne Gallman, who is the starter this week, you always prepare like a starter. This is his opportunity, I canít wait for that to happen.
Q: What is it about Wayne that makes you think he can be successful in that role?
A: He certainly has shown flashes when he has gotten his opportunity to do it. Heís proven it this year, heís run at a high level, heís caught the ball well, heís protected well. Thatís what you have to be able to do. As a starter, you have to be able to do that for the length of the game. Thatís what has yet to be determined, I canít wait to see that happen.
Q: Tampa made no secrets that it wanted to shut down Saquon. What did they do that really limited the run game on Sunday?
A: I think they played to their goal. Their goal was they were not going to let the run game, specifically Saquon in this case, hurt them. As Saquon has said and I believe strongly, you love to have a really good running game, but the most important thing is winning. If they are going to overplay the run, then you can hurt them in different areas. If you give up one side to be successful in the other, all we care about in the backfield, tight ends, receivers, is scoring points and winning games.
Q: What made you so comfortable with Wayne and bringing up Hilliman that you didnít need to look on the outside for the next four to eight weeks?
A: I think thatís confidence and I think thatís a great shout out to both guys that we saw what we had. I think our personnel people are always trying to improve your talent, but the bottom line is they looked around and they liked what they had. I think thatís a compliment to both guys and now those guys get their opportunity to prove that confidence in them by playing well this weekend.
Q: How much input do you have over that sort of decision?
A: Iíll just say as coaches, a lot of the times, weíre asked. When youíre asked, Iíll give my opinion but obviously thatís above my lane. The bottom line is, and Iíve always believed this as a coach, Iím coaching as hard as I can the guys I have on the team and weíve shown confidence in the guys that are there, otherwise they wouldnít be here. I canít wait to see the opportunities that are going to happen when they get a chance to go out there and do it on Sunday.
Q: When they bring players in for a workout at your position, are you there?
A: Iím always there, I get a chance to see every player that comes in. There are a lot of opinions taken. As coaches, we take who is given to us on the roster and weíll make that happen. Yes, every coach when there is a guy working out for their position, they are always at the workouts.
Q: Eli Penny has always said he can be a backup halfback if needed. Is he your backup halfback or is Hilliman?
A: That is yet to be determined, but I think Eli is always telling me he is a halfback by trade. The bottom line is he has shown that he has some ability to run the ball. Weíll be prepared for that role, if necessary. Iím excited to see what Hilliman is going to do, I think he is going to show what he showed in the preseason. He showed a lot of good stuff, so I canít wait to see how he is going to do when he gets his opportunity, as well as Eli.
Q: What has Hilliman shown you since he got here in camp until now?
A: I think that what heís really shown is that heís been very good, very decisive in the run game. But the key for all running backsócan you run the ball effectively? Two, can you protect the quarterback? Three, can you run good routes? And most importantly, can you protect the football? Heís been good in all four phases, so I need him, and thatís a challenge to him, to do that on Sunday.
Q: You have obviously built a relationship with Saquon. Iím just curious if you could share a little bit the mentalityóyouíve been around a long time in this league, you know what happens when a star goes downóhow difficult and challenging is it going to be for him if you guys kind of slow him down a little and say, ďthis is what we need you to do,Ē versus ďwhat you want to do.Ē
A: Absolutely. Like you said, Iíve been in the league, Iíve been through a couple of rodeos, so the bottom line is when you have a player thatís going to be biting to get back on the field, and thatís the way Saquon is, heís competitive in everything he does--and obviously I donít have the final say, the medical staff is going to tell us when they think heís ready, theyíll ask me my opinion, theyíll get that, and we will try to make sure whenever that time is--I donít know when that time is going to be, I have no magical timeówhen that time is right, weíre going to try and make sure that heís ready to play at the level that he can play, at a high level, and protect himself.
Q: It sounds like he has so much more value even behind the scenes than he does on the field, so how do you make sure you donít lose that when a guy feels likeósometimes you hear it from guys, ďIf Iím not on the field, then maybe my role should be more behind the scenes.Ē
A: I just donít see that in Saquon, either. I think you called that really good. But the bottom line is heís done a good job bringing energy to our team, I think heís done a lot of that, he was voted a captain. Obviously theyíve seen that in him, but sure, when heís not able to play, itís going to be a little bit of a new role for him. Thatís yet to be determined, but again, for everybody, especially the coach, Iím going to make sure that heís safe and good if heís down there on the sideline trying to help his teammates do it, and his teammates know that heís there with him.
Q: The three of them (Wayne Gallman, Eli Penny and Jon Hilliman) on pass blocking, are they all equal?
A: Again, thatís yet to be determined. I know this much, when itís happened in the preseason and they have been rushed, because all three have, all three have held up, and thatís key. A lot of people want to talk about the run game stats and running, but you have to be able to protect your quarterback. Thatís a must. Iíve had that since Iíve been here, so theyíve got to be able to do that, and theyíve got to be clean with their routes so the timing is good and so the quarterback knows exactly where theyíre going to come out, because taking check downs and converting third downs is also an important part of their role.