Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter -- November 8, 2019
Q: Nick Gatesówhat do you like about him as a player and how capable is he?
A: What I like about Nick Gates as a player is, first of all, heís a tough guy, he plays with athleticism and balance. Heís a conceptual player, he kind of does everything you ask him to do. I like everything about him. I think heís got the mental makeup and heís got some physical tools. What he needs the most, as any young player, he needs to play more. He needs to play. What he did in the preseason, and all of the different positions he playedĖ he played all five positions in the preseason. He shows a lot of promise, and Iím glad we have him.
Q: You guys have had so much consistency this year on the line. How do you think the various injuries and the substitutions will affect you this weekend?
A: Weíll see what happens come gameday and whoís up and whoís not up. The bottom line is every single week, everybodyís got injuries. At every position, including the offensive line, youíve got to put five guys out there you need to win with. So basically, youíre always coaching two offensive linesó the one youíre getting ready to play on Sunday and the one you may have to play next Sunday. Iíve been coaching Nick Gates and Iíve been coaching Evan Brown and Iíve been coaching Spencer Pulley and Iíve been coaching Slade and Eric Smith. I didnít just start coaching him this week, Iíve been coaching that guy for months so that when the time comes, he has to step in. You have to do tható every position has to do that. You have to always be proactive because as we know, the game of football, especially in the NFL, is a game of injury. Your next man has to always be up, but itís my job to make sure that when the next guy comes up, that Iíve got him prepared and I didnít wait until this past Wednesday to start getting the guy ready.
Q: Weíve talked all along about Pio (Jon Halapio) and Pulley and how you guys thought you had six starters instead of five. From a player standpoint, how different is Spencer Pulley than Pio? What do you expect, if you do expect anything, different?
A: I donít expect anything different. Pulley played really good for us last year. I went back, and I watched a couple of the games from last year just to look at him and see how he played last year. Heís a smart player, heís a tough player. Heís probably bigger and stronger than heís ever been. Iíve kind of monitored these guys and how theyíve progressed. Heís actually about 9 to 10 pounds heavier, heís a lot stronger. So, I expect more physical play out of him. Heís a cerebral player, heís a functional player, he plays with athleticism. Honestly, we should not, I donít expect to miss a beat. To say they are going to miss a beat, I think, is making an excuse. I expect that he will play, and demand that he will play, every bit as good as Pio did. Thatís what I expect. Thatís what he has to do for us when there is no excuse, Ďwell heís notÖí No, you go out and play.
Q: Can you assess your run blocking and pass blocking? What have you liked about it and what do you think you can get better at?
A: The one thing I think thatís really important is within the concept, letís say in terms of the run game, there is usually 10 guys involved in the run game. First and foremost is the offensive line, we bear the most burden and then with that is the tight ends, the fullbacks, the receivers, the running back and all those things come together. The thing that disappoints me the most right now, normally on each play we are one block away, we have seven or eight guys doing something right and one guy is doing something wrong, and that one guy makes the play. You look on the other side of the coin on defense, you could have seven guys getting blocked and one guy skirts through and makes the tackle for a one-yard gain, and youíre like what a great defensive play, thatís the problem right now. I think to run the football, which Iíve said is the hardest thing to do in the game of football against overloaded boxes, there is no room for error. Itís a lot of one on one or two on two matchups and through your assignment and fundamentals, you have to execute. To say Iím pleased with the run blocking right now, Iíd be lying. Iím not pleased with the run blocking until we are rushing the ball for 120 yards a game. Whatís the issue right now? Itís not preparation, itís not want to, itís not effort. When the rubber hits the road and youíre in that one on one fist fight with that guy upfront, do you technically outmatch him and beat him or does he beat you? Thatís what offensive line play is, itís 75 one on one fist fights every single game. Same thing in pass pro, offensive linemen average 70 snaps a game. A guy like Nate Solder, weíll go back to this past week because he has been a guy that has struggled at times. Out of 75 snaps, he probably graded positive on 65 snaps. He had one bad play, but that bad play canít happen. Whereas a defensive lineman can get blocked for 65 plays and he gets a tackle for a loss, a pressure, and a sack and he had a great game. Thatís the difference between offensive and defensive line play. Offensive line play is all about consistency, we donít have to make a great play, we arenít throwing a touchdown pass or making a long run. We have to be consistent play after play and block our guy. You are going to get beat, youíre not going to win every single play, but if you do get beat, it canít be a disaster play, it canít be play where you cut a guy loose and he comes in and smashes the quarterback, or he tackles the back, it canít be a no-hitter. That canít happen, thatís the consistency of offensive line play and it has to be there every single play. As we continue to move and go in the right direction, we have to continue to play with more consistency fundamentally. Thereís not been a lot of breakdowns schematically, that starts with me. I take the burden of it, I take the forefront. Coaches coach and players play, itís the job of the coach and the player to work to together to get the right outcome. Like teachers teach and students learn, but they work together so they can succeed. Thatís on me, thatís what we have and thatís how we look at it.