Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: How's Leonard (defensive lineman Leonard Williams)?
A: How is he?
A: He's good. Yeah, we ran them pretty good yesterday. Tough practice, it was hot, it was no pads, but we were pressing the guys pretty good so he's fine.
Q: How do you evaluate line play on a day where they're not wearing full pads?
A: It's really do they do what they're supposed to do in terms of the scheme. You don't want to be double teaming guys and knocking them to the ground, you're not looking for any of that without the pads on, so you practice it a bunch in OTA's, and you have a bunch of these now, so you try to practice the right way. But are they doing what they're supposed to do.
Q: From our perspective it looked like the defense had a pretty good day. What did you see?
A: I'd say both sides had their moments. Again, it was a big-time situation day so there was some third and 20s, some second and ones, you try to put stress on both sides of the ball the best you can. Good, competitive practice.
Q: In all of your experience as an assistant coach and a head coach, do you notice guys in the last week of training camp really changing and feeling the pressure? Especially those on the bubble. If so, what do you say to them to keep them focused?
A: That's a great question. Look, they're human, so you know that as it gets closer to a cutdown date, I'm sure some players feel that way. Again, you just try to be open and honest with everybody. The team is not cut down yet. There's plenty of opportunities for people to show what they can do, particularly in this last game. Again, empathy goes a long way, I think.
Q: When it comes to receivers, people get caught up in speed and size. How good a route runner is (wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins and how much is that a part of his game?
A: I think the most important thing for a skill player in the pass game is they can create separation. Some players create it different ways. Some use their size, some use their speed, some use their quickness, there's all different ways – their route savviness. He's been in the system for quite some time. I think it allows him to play fast, knowing what to do. I think he's usually on the same page with the quarterback in some of the things that we ask our skill players to do. He's done a good job.
Q: What happened with (defensive lineman Rakeem Nuñez-Roches) yesterday? It seems like he came out late.
A: Nothing. He was just a couple minutes – he was fine. I knew he was going to be a couple of minutes late.
Q: Who's on the injury list today?
A: It's really the same as yesterday. A couple of vet days, besides what we talked about yesterday. (Wide receiver Sterling Shepard) Shep gets a vet day and Leo will get one. That's not related to what you asked me, it's just a vet day.
Q: Is anyone returning?
A: (Guard) Tyre will return in a limited form – Phillips -- and that's it.
Q: How much does it complicate things when you've got to make decisions here in a week about guys who are on the bubble who are banged up? How do you factor that in when you make those decisions?
A: That's another great question. It's really just by past performance if we've had them or what we've seen out of them up to this point whether that's through OTA's, through training camp – if they can't go, they can't go. So certainly, a lot of discussion about those type of players that haven't been out there so you have to kind of project a little bit and some of them you have experience with, some of them are new players, so a lot of discussions.
Q: Why the later practices this week?
A: We're into kind of our normal regular season schedule, so this is what it would be in a normal in-season (week). It's really just to get them acclimated to how – so it's not the first week we're doing it so that's how we're kind of approaching it this week.
Q: (Wide receiver Cole) Beasley, do you have any concern that that leg is long term?
A: No, he's day-to-day.
Q: I thought (Assistant General Manager) Brandon Brown made an interesting point yesterday.
A: He's smart, isn't he? He's smart.
Q: Smarter than I am.
A: Yeah, me too.
Q: He made the point that you had to understand what (wide receiver) Jalin Hyatt was asked to do at Tennessee. Is that something that as a coach and a former offensive coordinator that you had to understand when evaluating players?
A: I just think you have to really do your due diligence on every player that's coming out in the draft. They're not exactly going to be in the system that you're running so you have to really do a good job of identifying strengths and things that you think they're capable of and there's a lot of time and energy and effort spent in that process. From meeting with the player, whether it's at the combine, whether you bring them on a 30, whether you go out and do a private workout, spending time at the school, it's a pretty exhaustive process. There's players that play in a completely different scheme, but you can see a skillset that you like to work with after you go through that whole process and every player is not for every team, but we do a lot of work on that.
Q: When you drafted him did you have concerns about that or had those all been taken care of?
A: No, I was very comfortable with – again, I think (Tennessee Head Football Coach) Josh (Heupel) does a fantastic job down at Tennessee. You can see a lot of things that Jalin did and then you can look at a lot of different other areas, too but yeah, glad we drafted him.
Q: With your history in this league as an assistant coach and an offensive coordinator, I would imagine you were empowered by the head coach during the evaluation process. When you became head coach, how important was that for you to empower your assistant coaches?
A: That's another good question. It's such a collaborative process that we go through and the one thing that you don't want is – you just don't want, 'yes sir, this is the way you see it this way, but I see it the same exact way.' You want people to have opinions, everybody does a lot of work on them. I think you have to give the scouting staff clear points that you're looking for on players. They're busting their tails out on the road away from their families, they do a fantastic job, but you need great collaboration, great communication between the coaches and the scouts. You want them to give, obviously, their honest evaluation and it's okay to disagree, you just can't be a disagreeable person where it's everything, 'I disagree with'. You have a good process and then you move forward day-to-day and if there is players that you disagree with, whether it's scout to scout, coach to scout, coach to coach, that's when you get in a room and if you identify certain players. You know, we might sit in there with like four or five of us, (General Manager) Joe (Schoen), Brandon, (Director of Player Personnel) Tim (McDonnell), (Assistant Director of Player Personne Dennis Hickey) Hick, myself, (Director of Pro Scouting Chris) Rossetti, and then maybe a coordinator, maybe a position coach and we might go through – I mean heck, we've went through entire seasons on players. All of us together. "Hey, this is what I saw, this is what I think his strength is, this is what I think he can do." "Well, this is kind of what I saw" and then you talk it through and at the end of the day make the best decision you can for the team.
Q: Can you talk about Rossetti and Hickey and Tim McDonnell on how valuable they've been?
A: Yeah, they do a great job of not just evaluating but also giving their input on a lot of different things. They've all had experiences at different clubs, they've had different titles at different times, and I just think they're another resource, particularly for myself, in the role that I'm in to ask questions. 'Hey, how'd you do it at this place?' Or 'what can we do better?' Or 'what could I do better in a presentation?' They're all involved, they come to the squad meetings, and they're there. They're just a valuable part to the organization. I'd say very helpful for me.
Q: Cutdown was over a few days last year, how has that changed on your perspective on cut day this year?
A: In what way?
Q: Have you change your process in the way you've approached it?
A: No, I would say, to be completely honest, cutdown day sucks. It really does because you develop relationships with players, you see how hard they work and to bring a player up to your office and let them know that we're going in a different direction or they didn't make the team, you get a lot of different reactions and I completely understand it. They've laid everything the have on the line and it's a sports business but it's a people business. If you have relationships with people, that's not easy. It's not easy for me.
Q: You talked the other day about special teams' guys. Is there a flip side to that where you can look at a guy and say, "he could really help us on special teams but if we have to use him on offense or defense, that's a problem?"
A: I'd say there's plenty of those players in the league that contribute in a positive way to your team whether that's they're a core special teams' player, maybe not as much on defense or offense, you can't have too many of them because you only get a certain amount of players to go to a game. But definitely if they're very helpful in a certain phase of the game and contribute in the right way, you maybe give them a smaller package whether it's on offense or defense or vice versa.
Q: You talked about how guys who aren't starters need to contribute on special teams and how important that is. Is that true for veterans or can you look at them in a different way sometimes if they've been around? Is it hard for a guy who hasn't been a special teams player? If they haven't done it at this level, how hard is it?
A: It's something that they need to do if that's their role. Again, it's not really like back in the day where it was 'these are the starters.' There's so many different personnel groups, there's so many different defensive packages – you might have 15, 16 starters based on how you've got to play the game. You have however many receivers on a team, you might have five starters in a game, or you might have seven defensive backs in a game. Again, each game is different. You do your best to try to come up with the best 53 for the team but in terms of – everybody's got to contribute because you only get so many players to a game. There's a lot of players that are going to play special teams that play offense and defense. There's some that maybe are just special teams players that have a limited role on defense but that's all the decisions and discussion that we have really on a day-to-day basis, Joe and I.
Q: Have you ever worked with a coach or done like Wink does with his "keep it real" evaluations in front of the whole unit?
A: I would just say for all of our coaches, I believe in transparency. I believe in having difficult discussions even though they're not easy and letting everybody kind of know where they stand, and I think our coaches –
Q: Is that something you've done?
A: Sure. Absolutely. Again, I don't think you want to have a bunch of secrets with your team. You want to be upfront and honest about what people need to do better. Then you have to make max performance clips. We make max performance clips of things that they've really stood out and they've done x, y, and z for their job as good as they can be and that's what we expect. That's the standard we expect so if it's not up to that standard, it's the coach's job to clearly communicate, 'Hey, this is what we expect and this is what we're getting. You need to raise your level of performance.' There's also improvement tapes that you have to make. Like you didn't cross your t or dot your I or maybe your sentence wasn't good enough. Like we're going to show that to you and say 'look, this wasn't good enough.' Maybe you've got to go back to English 101 or whatever. I'm just trying to put it in your terms, that's kind of what we do.