Head Coach Joe Judge
July 31, 2021
Q: A couple things about the inside linebacker position. First, I was wondering if you have any update on Blake Martinez, where he’s at, and if you know when he’s going to be able to come back? Then Carter Coughlin, I know you guys moved him inside and he’s been getting a lot of reps. What have you seen out of him so far?
A: I’ll start with Blake first. Blake is back with us in the building today, he’s his normal self, smiling ear to ear, happy to be with the team. He’s always a lot of fun to have around, he’s always got a good comment, but definitely a guy who communicates a lot in the meetings, so that’s been beneficial having him back already. In terms of where he’ll be on the field with us, the plan right away is to get him with the trainers and continue his kind of ramp up and build him back physically. When we know he’s ready to go, we’ll get him back on the field. In terms of Carter, Carter is a young player who we’re looking to go ahead and find as much versatility as we can from him. Last year, he gave us some contributions on the edge, worked on special teams for us, did a good job there. We talked in the offseason about working him some in the stack as an inside linebacker. That’s something we’ve challenged him with. He still has some outside responsibilities as well based on the package and call we’re in, but Carter has actually flashed pretty positively these first few days. I think a lot of the guys have done some positive things and that builds on how we can use different guys and their skill sets. Being a new position for Carter, we understand that there’s going to be a learning curve at times, but one thing he does is he plays aggressive and he plays instinctual and he puts himself in position to be competitive on every practice. So, we’re just looking for constant improvement from him day by day, but so far everything that (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer) has asked him to do as an inside or outside linebacker, he’s embracing.
Q: With regards to (Offensive Tackle) Andrew Thomas, when these kids come in and they’re drafted so high, there’s so much pressure on them and eyeballs on them. What was your impression of him on how he performed last year and if you’re already seeing in this offseason a guy who’s a little bit more into this system as you move into this camp?
A: Yeah, I think one thing about Andrew is he’s always the same person. That’s one thing, he’s very, very steady. Obviously, last year as a rookie, like all rookies, there’s definitely a learning curve and that learning curve includes having to manage the external expectations and noise, but I’ll say for Andrew one thing he’s done a really good job of is really buying into just focusing one day at a time and having a narrow focus, and understanding what the goal on hand is for that day. He’s a very conscientious person, he’s a really good teammate, he’s a very hard worker. You definitely see some of the growth that he showed last year showing up, but then again, like all other players, it’s early in training camp and there’s a lot of fundamentals that we have to constantly work on with all of our players to building in that muscle memory that we’ve lost over this time away. He’s no different from any other player in that regard, although he works extremely hard at it and every day he flashes several things and you say, ‘Okay, that’s why this guy was such a gifted athlete growing up.’
Q: You’ve got a young cornerback, the draft pick Rodarius Williams. He made a nice play yesterday and seems to be a young man that oozes with confidence. Can you talk about him? And then can you give a little update on (Linebacker) Lorenzo Carter, too?
A: So, I’ll start with Zo. Zo right now is working with trainers, we’ll see where he is in terms of practice coming up. Today is a walkthrough, so I’ll meet with the trainers later this afternoon. We have a list of players who may or may not be involved tonight, but Zo has been with the trainers the last couple of days working extremely hard with them. He’s obviously a guy coming off an injury last year that as we get him going through football this training camp, we’ve also got to manage him a little bit, make sure we just keep tabs on his body to make sure as we get into the season that he can stay on the field consistently for us. His health is the number one priority. In terms of Ro, Ro is a guy that’s come in, he’s got a lot of instincts, he’s got good size and length, shows good speed. He’s got good instincts for the ball and shows good hands, so he’s a guy that’s shown up positively in a lot of practices as far as getting his hands on the ball. I think, like all rookies, again, there’s a learning curve for this guy. The big thing is understanding the scheme and the concepts right now, but he’s dong a really good job with (DBs coach) Jerome (Henderson) of working on his fundamentals and going forward. This guy is making gains every day. One thing he does do that’s positive is he learns not only from his own mistakes, he learns from the other guys’ mistakes, too. When you’re sitting in the meetings, it’s important not to go ahead and repeat a mistake that someone else got corrected on.
Q: Is Lorenzo’s injury due to his Achilles or is it something else?
A: I’m not going to go into any specific medical diagnosis. It’s not a reaggravation of anything he’s done before, though, to be honest with you. We’re just going to be careful with a few things right there. With anyone coming off an injury like he was, we’re just making sure that we have a plan entering training camp and how to handle him throughout it. With him and several other guys coming off injury, there are going to be periods in this training camp that you’re going to see a little bit less of them at times and then you’re going to see a lot of them. Right now, he’s in one of those periods accompanied with something else that happened in practice.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about (Linebacker) Todd Davis who you just brought in?
A: Yeah, look, we’re really looking forward to getting him on the field. He just signed with us, so we’re excited about that and he’ll come in and compete with the other linebackers at his position and work through his defensive responsibilities, as well as his role in the kicking game. Got to meet with him today, sit down face to face and have a good conversation, liked his energy. I’ve known him as a player in the league for some time but made a good first impression personality-wise and I’m excited to get him on the field.
Q: Curious what you think of the assessment that maybe the defense has gotten the better of the offense so far early in camp and how much do you maybe expect that to be the case? I know some people always say the defense is ahead early in camp.
A: I think we all have plenty to work on right now, so in terms of the who’s ahead of someone one way or another, I’m watching tape every day and just looking at what corrections we have to make, what we have to improve on, what fundamentals need to be honed in and how our conditioning is as a team. In terms of who’s ahead, offense or defense, that’s going to go back forth at different times day-to-day. To me, it’s not some kind of assessment or status of the team of who’s winning, offense or defense. To me, it’s about getting everybody on the same page and movement. I’d just say, look, at this point right here, the defense made some positive plays yesterday. We’ve got to make sure that we have a positive day today in what we’re doing, and we build towards next week.
Q: Were you happy with what you saw from the offense the last couple of days? It looked like after practice yesterday they kind of huddled up as a group, before they broke down kind of into individual positions.
A: That’s not uncommon on any side of the ball to go ahead and group together as a unit. We meet as a team at the end of practice, go through really, it’s more logistics than anything else. It’s not a state of the union. We make sure the players are on the same page schedule-wise and a couple of tips and reminders of what to do before the next meeting comes up. So there’s nothing uncommon on whether it’s (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) or (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) or T-Mac (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) grabbing a unit and addressing them directly right away after something may have happened, good or bad, or just a reminder leading into what they have to work on later that afternoon. I wouldn’t read too far into that. That’s something that’s very commonplace. The coordinators are always going to address their units collectively.
Q: You said many, many times that you don’t care about a guy’s pedigree, first round pick, third round pick free agent. When they come into your facility, you look at them all the same pretty much. When you look at a guy like (Wide Receiver) John Ross (III), I mean everyone knows his background and how high he was drafted. Do you see some of that in him and say, “Oh, I see why this guy was a former first round draft pick?” Do those kinds of guys get more chances because of that?
A: I’m not going to comment on any other organization in terms of what they’re going to get opportunities for based on some sort of status, but I can reconfirm what you said. Look, I don’t care how you got here, I really don’t. I don’t care if you’re first round, free agent, vet, rookie, traded, whatever it is, doesn’t matter to us. Once you get in here, it’s the land of opportunity, the best players will play. You’ve got to show consistent dependability and production throughout training camp to show that we can count on you. We’re going to keep the 53 players, I don’t care what your history is. Now, in terms specific to John, I’ve seen a lot of things in terms of how he’s working and producing on the field and there’s been a lot of encouraging things to build on. Obviously, he has elite speed and obviously he’s a very good athlete. But there’s a lot of fast guys, I mean, over in Tokyo there’s a lot of guys that are handing batons off to each other, you know, that can’t help you on the field. I think John’s definitely got a skill set that he does a good job of combining that speed and athleticism with football instincts. In terms what have happened anywhere else with any player, I’m not concerned about that. I know John’s on our team now, I’m happy to have him here and he’s on a fresh start with us. I look forward to working with him throughout the remainder of training camp and into the season.
Q: Wanted to ask you about (Offensive Lineman) Brett Heggie. He’s one of only three undrafted guys that you signed. What do you like about the kid and he’s getting a lot of opportunities with (Offensive Lineman) Jonotthan Harrison out? What has he shown you so far?
A: I like the way he works. That’s in a meeting and on the field. You can tell a lot about the demeanor of young players with how they handle correction. Obviously as a rookie, there’s going to be a lot of corrections. That’s not on the fault of Brett or any other rookie right away, that’s just the nature, they don’t know it all yet and they’ve got to keep learning and experiencing it. One thing I like is he responds to correction the right way. He’s looking to do it exactly the way the coaches want him to do it within our concept of schemes and that’s something that’s a challenge sometimes with different players from different places because they come and they have a way that they’ve been successful doing something and they have to understand that the technique may be a little different how it fits in the big picture. I like the way he works, he’s a tough dude, he’s got a lot of mental intensity about him, he’s smart, he communicates well. That kind of helps with the center position, obviously. One thing that stands out by him so far is just his commitment to improve and his work ethic. He’s that quiet guy then when he’s away from the coaches, you kind of catch coming around the corner and he’s holding court a little bit, but you know, he’s good student in the classroom and he’s a hard worker on the field.