Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo
August 26, 2020
Q: Joe was saying last night that he thinks the center competition is “scratch even.” What have you seen from your perspective, and then what do you think needs to happen for one of those guys to kind of pull away with the job?
A: I think both guys have been doing a tremendous job at center. Spencer’s (Pulley) really smart, he’s tough, he’s played the position for a while. Nick’s (Gates) also smart, tough, just learning the position. They both are very physical football players and they’re battling for that starting job right now. I can’t be happier with the competition that’s going on. Love what I’ve seen from both of those guys. They both bring a lot of strong traits to the table and they come. That’s what we’re looking to do ultimately around here is just keep competing.
Q: One other thing. I noticed the last couple of practices, maybe you were doing it all along and I just noticed it, a lot of work on stunts. You’re going to have new guys playing next to each other. What’s the key to getting on the same page with those?
A: Just seeing multiple looks out there is really important. Our defense does a great job with stunts, so kind of learning how to set properly, learning how to train your eyes, learning how to get proper depth, see what you see. They’ve done a nice job with it. It’s really our job as coaches to keep giving them those looks. The harder we can make it on them right now, the easier it’s going to be come when we start these games here in a little bit. Really, our job right now is to keep showing really difficult looks. Our defense does a great job of giving it. We also give each other looks when we’re down there in individual period. Again, you’re really getting those guys out there, those young guys, and making sure these looks are perfect so we can execute with speed and fast, and really just train these guys to play next to each other, communicate, and that’s what it’s all about as an offensive line.
Q: I’ve talked to o-line coaches and they’ve always said, or a lot of them say, ‘I’m going to play my best five linemen. Doesn’t make a difference if I have three guards, a tackle and a center. The best five are going to play.’ Do you have that theory or do you want two tackles, two guards and a center?
A: That’s really a strong theory. Play your best players. You look for guys who can play multiple positions. You’re always looking for that. The center-only types don’t really exist anymore. All these guys can play multiple positions, and you’re really trying to develop that continuity so you have to be careful. There’s a fine line there between playing your best five and creating continuity. But we’ve done a nice job here. Coach Judge does a really nice job making sure we’re getting certain reps and getting guys in different positions at times. But also at times, making sure we have a couple lines in there and they’re just competing, learning how to play next to each other. The best starting five, that’s great. But right now, we’re trying to find the guys that are going to get in there, really compete, really grind. There’s that balance between continuity and getting that best five in there. We’re trying to find that balance right now. These guys are doing a really nice job competing. Now it’s about creating that continuity.
Q: What have you seen from Cam Fleming? That’s a guy you’re pretty familiar with.
A: Cam’s an incredible worker. You can watch him out there, he’s the first guy out there at practice, he’s always working on his pass sets, honing his craft. He’s extremely smart, he’s gritty, he’s tough, he’s played in a lot of big games. I like what I’ve seen from him so far. Obviously, we just need to keep pushing to get better up front. We’re always looking for little things to work on, and Cam’s that guy. He’s constantly wearing me out, ‘How can I get better?’ That’s really what you want to look for in an offensive lineman. I have a lot of confidence, we have a lot of confidence, in Cam Fleming. He’s going to give us everything he has, and that’s just the type of player he is.
Q: The other thing I wanted to ask you about is we saw a lot of the batted down passes in the scrimmage. We saw B.J. (Hill) come up with an interception that way yesterday. Is that an offensive line flaw or is that a quarterback flaw or somewhere in between?
A: It’s the whole unit. Just talking from an offensive line perspective… let’s get back a little bit. Our defense does a great job of getting their hands up in the throwing lane. They’re coached really well, they’re big, they’re physical, they can push the pocket. It’s a really great challenge for this offensive line. I feel like we have to anchor sooner and really the rule of thumb is, if they try to jump up for a ball, you have to stick your hands in their chest and you have to thump them. You put that on film a couple of times, it’ll keep them from kind of jumping up there. But again, our defense has done a nice job with that. It’s really about anchoring and being a little bit more firm in the middle. That’ll help that so they can’t help push the pocket and actually get their hands up there in that lane.
Q: Going back to draft time, I recall Dave Gettleman saying about Matt Peart that the coaches really wanted to work with this kid. Now presumably, you were one of those coaches. I’m just curious what you’ve seen from Matt, what you saw from him that you wanted to work with, and where he is right now?
A: He’s a smart kid, he’s big, he’s long. I mean tremendous length. He’s a good athlete. He has a lot of those qualities you look for in a tackle, starting with length. Matt’s done a nice job so far. We’re going to keep pushing him to really grind it out, get better at every little detail. That’s really what these young guys, it’s all about the details. Like what we’ve seen so far. Him coming out, he just did a lot of nice things in college. You can see where he’s headed there. He’s doing a nice job again right now. There’s just a lot to work with as an offensive line coach. You kind of look at him and you say to yourself, ‘That looks like a football player.’ Again, he’s done a tremendous job. We’re going to keep pushing him to get better. Get him on the right side, get him on the left, again, multiple positions with these guys. Have to be able to play both tackles. That’s a big deal, and he’s done a nice job with that so far. We just need to keep pushing him.
Q: Quick two-parter. You said you wanted your offensive line to be ‘nasty.’ Have they shown you they’re nasty enough? Then Andrew Thomas in 11 on 11, I don’t feel like I’ve seen him get beaten very often. Do you think he’s doing extremely well early on for a rookie?
A: The first part of that, we can always play more physical. The first part of that is making sure we get into these fits right in the run game, physical in the pass game with our hands. We’re still working those details out right now so we can really get out there and once we learn how to do it right, that’s when you can impose your will on the defense. We’ve done a good job at least with the physical nature of it. We need to clean up the technique part of it. In terms of Andrew, Andrew’s done a lot of nice things so far, but we have a long way to go. We have timing of our punch, some of his sets, consistency in what he does. He competes. When he gets beat, you don’t have to tell him twice. He’s one of those guys, if you give him a coaching point, he’ll take the coaching point and we can move on really to the next thing. That’s what you’re looking for in these young guys. Not making multiple mistakes, doing the same thing wrong over and over. That’s what’s been really fun to watch about Andrew. You can tell him one thing, and the next time he goes out there, he does it the way you’re looking for. That’s how you can get better really as a group, as a tackle. He’s done a nice job so far. Again, we have a long way to go with these guys. Consistency is really the key right now for these young guys coming out of college.
Q: We can see what Nick Gates can do when he snaps the ball. But what about after he snaps the ball? How are you going to know about his decision-making and his ability, where to slide, who to help, things like that? The stuff that he’s just never done before and the stuff that you will not be able to see in a preseason game.
A: It’s our job as coaches to give him those looks. Again, our defense does a really good job changing up the looks, giving him all these different things to think about and handle. Nick’s done a really good job with that. We need to keep pushing him, keep showing him everything so it’s not the first time he sees it we’re out there playing a real game. Now, in these settings, these live pads and stuff like that, it’s really where some of his really good qualities, his traits show up. Again, it’s not seeing it for the first time, that’s really the biggest deal with Nick right now. When he sees it, just like the question with Andrew, he’s able to correct himself right away. That’s a big quality to have in a center, to be able to correct yourself right away so we can move on and show him something else so we’re not stuck on the same exact coaching point over and over and over again that you see with some of these young guys. He’s a guy that we love what we’ve seen from him so far. Again, Spencer Pulley’s done a great job, too. These guys are battling it out. They both have tremendous qualities up there up front. Just excited in the future for Nick Gates. He’s done a really good job so far and we’ll keep showing him those looks, keep pressing him to get better. The more difficult it is now, the easier it will be in the games.