Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Today we'll start our prep on the Panthers. Obviously, this is a good team, they've got a lot of talent on their team, but they play really as a cohesive unit on all three sides of the ball. (Panthers Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) does a good job organizing all three sides in terms of the theme of how they want to play. I'd say offensively, (Panthers Quarterback Sam) Darnold is doing a really good job being productive in the pass game as well as using his legs to extend plays. They've got very talented receivers who are always a shot threat. They're very good in situations. Think (Panthers Offensive Coordinator) Joe Brady does a really good job of mixing up what they're going to do and using the information he can gather pre-snap from you to go ahead and take advantage of what you give them.
On the defensive side, (Panthers Defensive Coordinator Phil) Snow does a great job. He really gets after you. They play very fast up the field on the defensive front. They're one of the best in the league. There's a lot of speed on the second level with the linebackers and defensive backs. Very opportunistic, they make plays – you can get disrupted.
In the kicking game, (Special Teams Coordinator) Chase (Blackburn) does a great job of really having his players play the way he played as a player – size, speed and very aggressive. They're making plays by just playing through blocks, blocking punts, being very disruptive on the field goal protection. They're going to give us a lot of things to prepare for this week, so with that said I'll open it up to any questions you have.
Q: What did you see from your guys coming back this morning, whether it's focus or – what was the mood for these guys?
A: They're focused and ready to go, ready to practice. Got in here with a couple days of rest. We'll go out here today, put the pads on and start going at it, but good focus in the meetings this morning. Kind of moved quickly through some meetings this morning in terms of changing the page on a couple of things. We'll get in the Panthers as well and then we'll come back this afternoon and do a little bit more.
Q: How much of a blow is losing (Tackle) Andrew (Thomas) for at least three games? He had played well and more shuffling on the line that's been shuffled so much.
A: First off, it's our job to have all the players prepared. It's their job to be prepared and go out there and be productive. You don't want to lose any player. I think Andrew has done a really good job obviously going through some stuff in the offseason, coming back, played very well. He's been improving as a player throughout his career for us. He's a guy on the offensive line that we have a lot of confidence in as a player. He prepares extremely well and does a good job coming in ready to go every day, but we're confident in (Tackle) Matt (Peart), (Tackle) Nate (Solder) and (Offensive Lineman Korey) Cunningham getting out there and playing for us, as well.
Q: Would you agree that when he was playing well earlier this year that you were able to slide things to the other side because you were confident that Andrew could take care of his side by himself?
A: We've done that both ways. We've had schemes where we've helped our tackles, we've had schemes where we've put them on an island. We're pleased with the way these guys have improved throughout, pleased with the way Andrew played when he was healthy.
Q: What's the plan for a bunch of these injured weapons – (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay), (Wide Receiver) Darius (Slayton), (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney)?
A: Darius will be out here with us today. KT, we'll see where he's going to be. He's going to start with the trainers and we'll see where that goes today and see where it goes leading into tomorrow. Much the same with Saquon and Golladay, we'll see where they are. We're not going to plan on those guys doing a whole lot with us today, kind of more see how they get out today with the trainers and what tomorrow looks like for them. No hard timelines and no one really being eliminated at this point.
Q: Do you know who's going to play the left and right tackle?
A: You'll see all three tackles play this week. I would expect all of our guys to play both right and left. That's what we're going to practice and prepare this week. You'll see Nate, Matt and Cunningham out there.
Q: Obviously, Andrew was in and out, but how does that impact some of the game planning offensively?
A: We're going to game plan the same way we always do. You've got to take into account who you're playing against and whether Andrew is playing or not playing, you've got to look at this front. There's a lot of speed off the edge. You've got to account for how they play. They're very disruptive, they get up the field, they do such a good job on early downs because that speed really coming up the field and the speed on the second level with the backers scraping over the top, they really disrupt your run lanes. They get after you on the pass and they really do a great job of getting you into second-and-long, which leads to third-and-long. That's how they play very well. In terms of Andrew being in or out, we have to game plan the same way to account for that speed coming off the edge with our tackles.
Q: When you look at these two teams, Saquon, (Panthers Running Back) Christian McCaffrey, obviously super talented players. How hard is it – because that position is so tough, there are a lot of injuries – how hard is it to build a team and an offense around a running back these days because of that limitation?
A: That's a pretty big article question there. Look, obviously, those two are very, very talented players. On the field, they bring a whole lot to a team. Offensively, when you have players like that, it helps your defense as well because you're normally moving the ball and even when you have to punt it, you're going to be punting from better field position, which helps your defense play on a longer field. With both those guys, the threat (of) the run and the pass game is very, very real. I'm not going to speak for Matt's team, I'm not going to speak for the Panthers, but guys just have to step up. Guys have to make plays. We have a lot of talent on our roster. I think (Running Back Devontae) Booker did a lot of good things for us. Him and Saquon are different players – that's not positive or negative. We talk to our players all the time, you have to know who you are as a player to understand how you have to play and we have to understand our players as coaches and understand how to use them. We're going to use whoever we have available to us to make plays. I'm pleased with the progress Devontae, (Fullback) Eli (Penny), (Running Back) Gary (Brightwell) have all made. We're waiting on Saquon to get healthy. I know he's working hard with the trainers right now. We'll see where he is going through the rest of this week. Obviously, we want to have him back as soon as possible. He's a guy that made an impact for us, helped the team make an impact for us as a leader and a player on the field.
Q: Obviously, it's not a knock on Devontae, but how much do you really have to change stuff when you have a healthy Saquon and when you don't?
A: When it comes to the run game, you're going to try to call runs that are more favorable to that back. When you look at Devontae, he's had success in some zone schemes, but there's also a lot of things he does in some of the gap schemes, the pin and pulls, where he can stick his foot in the ground and get vertical down the field that he does very well. Kind of more run to his size and one-cut type ability. Saquon can do all those same runs. Saquon also has, I think, a natural instinct with some of the zone runs with the folds and the cutbacks. Both guys have very good hands in space. You see Book every game make some kind of a tough catch, even on a checkdown or whatever it is, so we have confidence in both guys as receivers. Now, are you going to do the same types of routes with both guys? You can. Doesn't mean you're always going to game plan based on who you're playing and what you think the favorable matchup is there. We have confidence in all those guys going out wide, but are there different wrinkles you're going to do with different players? Absolutely.
Q: Do your edge rushers have another gear that they can reach effort-wise, energy-wise to get to the quarterback?
A: I don't see any issue with their effort right now. Are we going to do things to try to help our edge rushers in different schemes? Absolutely. Are there things that have to come together with all 11 on the field so everyone's productive? To me, the pass rush always starts with the coverage. The coverage is aided by the pass rush. They've got to work off each other. If one's lacking, the other one has no chance of getting there. To me, in terms of how the edge rushers are playing, I'm pleased with their effort. They've got to keep making progress. There are a lot of things we've got to do better as a team. In terms of those guys being productive, we've got to help them a little bit as coaches and we've got to make sure they make the plays when they come their way.
Q: Was there any thought and is there still any thought of putting Toney on IR or do you feel like he'll be back in a few games?
A: We haven't had any conversations that would lead to anything with IR. I'm telling you right now, no.
Q: What can (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson bring to the secondary whenever he does come back, whether it's this week or in the coming weeks?
A: We're about to see. He'll be out there today at practice with us and we'll see how he moves around. We haven't really had an opportunity to see this guy going full tilt since he's been here. We're looking forward to getting him and (Linebacker) Elerson (Smith) out there and giving them a chance to get working with the team.
Q: Is there a timetable for them that you say, 'Okay, now you're starting. This is where their clocks starts' or do you think because they've been in your program this whole time that it might not take as long as someone from outside the building to hit the practice field?
A: I'd say for two young guys especially, I think there's a difference. You talk about an older guy – and I'm just going to use a name for being an older guy in the league, (Tight End) Kyle Rudolph, who missed a large part of training camp. His experience, his knowledge, his ability to kind of get more mental reps, get ready, his ability to step in that early and be able to play within the system and become productive as he played is different to me than a rookie, who the reality is they haven't played preseason games, they haven't scrimmaged against another team, they haven't really had full contact practices at this point. They've been in the meetings, they've done a good job mentally staying caught up and within the game plan. They've done a really good job within our program with anything you ask them to do. But the reality is, they've got to get out here and start playing football. I don't have an immediate timetable. Look, if you stay within the structure of the rules, could it be this week? It could. To be completely transparent with you, for both guys who haven't gone through really training camp, preseason games and all that stuff, I find it hard to believe for any rookie to come back that fast and just go ahead and jump right back in. Even last year when (Safety Xavier McKinney) Zay came back off the injury, he missed a chunk of the season, he at least had some of preseason and some of the training camp part of it. As he played into it, we had to phase him in throughout the year. Remember when he first came back those first few games, we said he was going to be kind of small parts, kind of build him up. You're not going to take him and just throw him out there for a full tilt game right away.
Q: What have you seen from Sam Darnold and the way he's running Joe Brady's offense?
A: I think he's been very productive. I think he's a big, strong quarterback. He's got a big arm and he's very aggressive with a lot of throws. You can't forget about this guy's legs. It's the one thing you see a lot of teams right now, they're dropping you in the zone or letting the man kind of a carry them out of it. He does a good job keeping his eyes downfield. When he sees an opportunity, he pulls it and runs. He's smart with running the ball, he's productive, he gets down. He's good in the low red area as far as getting that thing in the end zone as a runner with his legs. He's a talented quarterback and they've got a lot of weapons. He's going to find a way to get the ball around.
Q: How do you look at injuries? Is it something that no one can control or do you think there are some ways that you can help to minimize injuries?
A: I think there are certain injuries that you can help to minimize through the physical conditioning and preparation and then there are other things that we've really seen within the games that are just sometimes unavoidable. Sometimes they're pretty traumatic injuries. There's nothing really (Center) Nick Gates could have done differently to avoid his injury. There's nothing you could have done to really prepare him to avoid that injury. That's just the reality of it – (Wide Receiver) C.J. Board the other day with the forearm. There's certain things you can't really avoid. You don't want to see any of your players get hurt, you don't want to see any player get hurt. In terms of the injuries, unfortunately, that's part of the game, but it's part of the game that we all sign up (for). It's our job to prepare every player, it's every player's job to be ready to produce. We have that next man up mentality. Obviously, we're not trying to push anybody out of the way, but when something happens, we've got to keep moving forward. That game is going to be played either way.
Q: How do you make sure that the confidence of your players does not sag?
A: Prepare them. Confidence comes from practice execution. We get our guys ready to go on the practice field, we correct the mistakes, we show them what they're doing well and we keep moving forward.
Q: How is their confidence level from what you can tell?
A: They came in today with a good attitude, they're focused, ready to go. We'll see them on the field today. I see a team that works hard.
Q: How is (Offensive Lineman) Isaiah (Wilson) looking? You have a first-round tackle on your practice squad and you're a little light on tackles. Is he coming along?
A: He's making progress for us. He's doing a good job working right now. He's spent a lot of time with strength and conditioning, the trainers. He's getting caught up in our schemes and systems. I'd say he's a hard worker, he's a smart guy. He's got a little ways to go, but he's doing a good job working. He actually won't be out at practice today. He's got a non-football-related deal today. Just a (stomach) bug to keep him out of the building. Nothing football-related, nothing serious.
Q: You said he has a bug?
A: He's got like a bug. He's sick. We're keeping him out of the building.