Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells -- December 27, 2019
Q: What is it about Kaden Smith that heís had so much success here?
A: Heís done a nice job doing the things that weíve asked him to do. Heís consistently gotten better with a lot of the techniques that weíre asking him to do, so I think thatís a contribution to him in terms of his work ethic and what he brings to the game. So, heís done a nice job with everything weíve asked of him.
Q: He said in college it was hard for him to transition the technique from practice to games. He said he would rush it in games and he would lose his technique. He said thatís something you guys have really worked on and youíve kind of stressed to him the importance of keeping thatÖ
A: Yeah, I think with any guy, with all the guys in that room, you just try to be persistent and consistent in what youíre teaching them so that then when they get to the game on Sunday they play fast and a lot of the stuff that youíve worked on becomes muscle memory. Thatís what we emphasizeó just being persistent and consistent so that when they get to the game on Sunday itís just muscle memory for them.
Q: How much has his blocking maybe surprised you?
A: I wouldnít say it surprised me, because again, when you work at something every day and youíre emphasizing it, you just stay very intentional with your work with them. It doesnít really surprise you. You kind of sort of expect it to show up on game day. So, thatís kind of what weíve done. We always talk about taking the drill work to the team work at practice, and then taking that to game day. It hasnít really surprised me.
Q: Whatís made him effective as a receiver? It doesnít look like Evanís (Engram) speed or anything, but how has he made an impact there?
A: With him coming out of college out of Stanford, it didnít take me long to see that the guy is very instinctive. He understands how to get open. One of the biggest things that people donít give him credit for is he can stick his foot in the ground and separate. So, being instinctive and being able to stick his foot in the ground and separate has been probably the biggest contribution in terms of his success in the pass game.
Q: Did we see that on the game winning touchdown? Is that a route where he got some quick separation there?
A: Yeah, the touchdown pass was a really good design by Coach Shurmur and Coach Shula. But you look at some of his routes throughout the game where he might not have gotten the ball thrown to him, you can see him sticking his foot in the ground and separating from defenders in man coverage.
Q: Evan has missed pretty much half of the last two seasons with different kinds of injuries. Do you chalk that up to bad luck or do you believe in guys who maybe get banged up more than other guys based on the way they play?
A: You know, itís a manís sport and our tight ends are asked to do a lot. They are not just receiving tight ends. So, I donít think itís a string of bad luck. I just think itís kind of his road that heís on right now. I do believe in faith in terms of, hey, you have some road blocks early on, but ultimately thereís a plan for you down the road, so youíve just got to stay persistent. Heís very encouraged to get back and I believe there is a big plan in his future for him to have some success.
Q: As a coach, coaching your position now, you kind of ran the gamut this year at that position. Back in the spring, we talked, maybe not you talked, about how deep your position wasóyou had returning talent, young guys, and everything else. Now you go into a Week 17 game where Kaden, a guy who wasnít even on your team, is the last man standing. How have you handled that position? I know thereís the next man up thing, but thereís something about coaching next man up, too, right?
A: Again, Iíve said it before, when youíre coaching a group, whether or not itís deep or whether or not itís thin, you coach the back end of the room, meaning you coach the guys who are not necessarily playing. When youíre in that meeting room, youíre not just talking to Evan (Engram) and Rhett (Ellison), Iím talking to Garrett (Dickerson), Iím talking to Scott (Simonson), Iím talking to Kaden. Iím asking those guys the questions, keeping them involved when theyíre not on the field because getting the guys when theyíre playing, theyíre getting experience on the field. Itís the guys that are not on the field that youíve got to really do a nice job paying attention on the meetings, coaching those guys, coaching the room through those guys so that they get it so that when they step on the field, youíre not coaching twice. Those guys have gotten the coaching points, theyíve been involved throughout the meetings, and now theyíre able to step on the field and know what to do, and then now you just emphasize them being relentless and executing what theyíre asked to do.
Q: When you talk about Evan, you talk about the demands of the position, right? Itís a tough position, youíve got to block defensive ends and then run routes the next play. Whatís your confidence level that he can hold up and that he is built to be able to do that long-term?
A: Again, I donít have a crystal ball. My confidence is in his work ethic and his character, his determination to be an NFL tight end, a good tight end. So, my confidence lies in his work ethic and him being determined to get back. Whether he holds up, again, Iím not a psychic, but Iím confident in him in terms of the character makeup that he brings to the game.
Q: Iím thinking more of just like, they talk about a body, just how your body is kind of built and where your weight is and stuff. That seemed to be one of the concerns coming out, and now heís kind of having the same concerns here. Do you see that, or do you view it differently?
A: Again, I donít even look at all that measurables and all that stuff. When the guys are here, you train them for war and just see where he goes. Whether or not he holds up, I donít worry about that. I just worry about getting him better at what weíre asking him to do so that he can do his job to the best of his ability, which in turn allows us a chance to win.
Q: What do you say about the notion that wide receiver might be the better home for him, because he wouldnít have to deal with some of the stuff that tight ends have to deal with?
A: If heís in the tight end room, which I enjoy having him in the tight end room, weíre going to put him in the position to be successful as an NFL tight end for the New York Football Giants. If he goes to the receiver room, I know Tyke Tolbert is going to get him ready to be the best player he can be there, but I donít really worry about them saying that wide receiver is the best position for him. Hey, best position is whatever position heís playing at, and him executing.