COURTESY OF NEW YORK JETS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Opening Statement… Seems like it’s been a long road since we’ve actually been on the field, it’s been probably since December as a group. That’s an obvious statement there, but it’s great to get back outside, great to get the guys moving around in a football atmosphere. Seemed like great excitement by the guys. It was nice and toasty today, which was good. Everybody got a good sweat in for sure, but it was good to get to the fundamentals of football doing as much individuals as we did, just getting guys really working together as full offensive and defensive sides of the ball. We’ll be going through the progression, which the league has really laid out for us, which has been good with our phase two, we’re kind of doing phase two of the offseason today and tomorrow, and then we’ll actually kind of get into almost an OTA type practice on Friday and then continue on from there. So, today was a good first step. Our guys, they really did a good job of focusing on the fundamentals and the little details that we need to know to work on today.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Throughout this entire situation with COVID and the testing and all the protocols, what’s been the biggest challenge for you as a head coach? I think really a little bit of the unknown. Every day you’re legitimately at one day at a time. So, when we talk to the players about taking it one day at a time, that’s the whole building. Things can change very quickly, it just takes one person to – if they would have it right now and it can spread so fast. It’s about everybody doing the right thing, day in and day out, making sure that we’re being smart with everything we do, and then just trying to balance what’s going on with our schedules. Every day has kind of been a little different for us, where we’re doing this progression, the amount of time we can be on the field, now we’re kind of in this phase two part, then we actually get into offense versus defense. It’s different for the players because they’re so used to the regiment of: we do this at this time, this at this time, and it continues through training camp like that, where here right now it’s almost like every day there’s a little tweak here and there to where we got more time doing the walkthrough compared to practice, compared to meetings. So, there’s a lot of daily change, and we have to do everything and leave a little more time for smaller groups. It changes the whole atmosphere of training camp.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Even though you have new parts like everybody does, the fact that you’ve got your system in place, your coordinators are back from last year – in this unique time, can that be used as an advantage versus you know other places where you’ve got new coaches and new quarterback, etc.? It’s nice that everybody – it’s kind of one of those things where coordinators have a good feel for me, the communication is there, we’ve gone through a year, we’ve made changes from maybe the way I did something in Miami compared to last year to this year, which we’ve talked through. So, it’s just another year we’re all on the same page, and I think there is some value that the majority of our staff has come back. We had a couple of guys get opportunities other places and we’ve added a couple guys that have already been in Gregg’s (Williams) system before, played for Gregg before, so that helps us a lot because there is continuity there in the coaching staff. Then I think the majority of the players that are back, they’re helping with the new guys that have come in to where, “Hey this is kind of how we do, this how we do this,” and they’re doing a good job of communicating.
Brian Costello, New York Post: You’ve talked a few times this offseason about Le’Veon (Bell) and trying to find different ways to use him this year, looking back at what he did in Pittsburgh. What’s that process been like and what have the conversations with him been like since he came back to Florham Park? He’s been fired up to go, I know that. I know he’s worked extremely hard this offseason, he looks great – he might have come in lighter than last year – but I mean he is in great shape, you can tell he worked extremely hard down in Florida. Another year in the offense, he’s really smart, so for him it’s like he hears it once and he’s got it, and he’s not a guy that makes a lot of mistakes. I think just seeing him out on the field and with Frank (Gore) being here, and going back to communication, just watching those two guys talk through stuff, for me that’s been pretty cool to watch. Just seeing him, how he’s running right now, I’m really excited to get things going, especially when we start practice against the defense just kind of seeing each day how it evolves. We talked about it, keep trying to find things that you’re comfortable with and you want to keep expanding, not only your role but just like his route tree and the runs we do, just keep trying to find ways to get him the ball to where teams can’t say he’s always going to do this, this and this. I just want to keep the defense guessing.
Charles McDonald, New York Daily News: How specifically can you put Le’Veon’s skill set to better use this year to help him increase his production? Well one, when we talked about this as an offensive unit is make sure that we do a good job of creating more plays for ourselves. I think we’re coming out of games and we have 52 plays, 53 plays, we need to get up to that 65-70 range, and now we can use him more in empty, release him more out of the backfield, gets more touches in the run game, screen game, just trying to find these little ways – it’s just about getting the ball in his hands and letting him go do things. Letting him make defenders miss, finding ways to get him in open space, and it’s really variety. It’s just trying to move him around and not always make it to where a defense can say he’s always going to be doing this, or if he’s in this spot he’s always doing this. Something that we were working on in the walkthrough yesterday of just kind of showing him all these different spots we can put him in and what he can do with it. For me, I can see him embracing that, and he’s looking at that, and you can tell when he’s listening, he really knows: this can help me open up my game a little bit more compared to last year. So, I think he’s really done a good job of engaging what we’re talking about.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: I’m sure you looked at everything from last year, what were the things that you think were missing a little bit with (Bell’s) production, and could it possibly be a factor to some degree – obviously it was a new system from Pittsburgh – but also the fact that he sat out the year before? How much of a factor was that, and what do you see was missing when you look at it? I know you guys are going to talk to him today, and he’s never going to blame anybody else. Even when I talk to him and we’re trying to talk through things that we can do different this year and maybe where we missed the mark last year, he’s coming back at me like, “I have do this better, I have do this better, this shouldn’t be blamed on them.” I appreciate that, but at the same time, I know we got to do a good job of giving him some open lanes, we’ve got to make sure that we do a better job of scheming some things up for him to make sure that he is the primary guy on some of the passing-game stuff. We’re going to be able to do a lot more with him, and I think with him being in the system another year, I think he’s going to be able to communicate to the offensive line, tight ends, quarterback, “Hey, this is what I need here,” where maybe last year we couldn’t do that as well. We had so many moving pieces, we had so many guys from the first eight (games) to the last eight. It looked like a completely different team as far as who’s on the field, which it was. So, I think if we get some continuity and get going in practice and we can stay healthy, I think that’s going to be very helpful.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Now that you’ve had Denzel Mims in your building here for a couple of weeks now, where do you think his progression is from college receiver to now being in the NFL? Is he closer to that pro-ready style, or is he still kind of coming along a little bit? It’s always tough for rookies coming in, especially at that position. It’s a lot of moving parts, and especially not having a spring and just recently we’re getting on the field. You can look at a playbook all you want and say, “Hey, it’s this split, here’s my adjustment,” and then you walk out on the field and we’re just on air lining up in formation, and it’s kind of that pause like, “Alright, I’m going this way.” You’re thinking through everything, and you have to get it to a point where it’s more reaction thinking, where you hear the formation and you just start going before really the play call is finished, you know it. That’s where we’ve got to keep building up to get to. I think just every day is we’re getting better with that, and he’s getting better at that. I can tell he likes being on the field, he likes being able to do it physically instead of just sitting in front of a playbook going like, alright hey this is where I go and then just be automatic. It’s a little tougher than that, because when you run one route you might have two or three adjustments if the coverage changes. So, it’s just a lot on a guy’s plate. I think the more that we’ve repped, the better he’s getting.
Charles McDonald, New York Daily News: How does the cancellation or the postponement of college football this year that we’ve seen with the Big 10 and the Pac 12 – how does that affect your scouting process as you move through what’s not going to be the college football season it looks like? Well I know (Joe Douglas and his staff) have been having a lot of discussions. They’re trying to figure out the best format, how to set it up, and then how we’ve got to go about doing their scouting process. Is there something we can do different? Is there something that we can change our process to fit in with what’s going on? I know there’s a lot of discussions. I know they’ve been – they’ve had a lot of free time on their hands, so I think everybody’s kind of ahead of the game in the scouting world, because there’s only so many times you can just kind of sit around not doing anything. They start going after the film, next thing you know, they’ve got a lot of their year already accomplished because there’s no new film coming out. So, I think for us they’re going to keep going through their processes and trying to figure out what’s our next step. What are we going to do if there’s no football, what do we do? If we have so many games going on, what do we do? So, they’ve got to go through all those things.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Speaking of the offense in general, in light of the limited number of practices you’re going to have, not having the offseason, and specifically with the line, having so many new pieces on the offensive line, as a coach do you have to scale back your playbook a little bit not to overburden them? Scale back your installation, stuff that you would normally not do in training camp that you have to start doing because of the restriction? I’ll say this, when we when we went through everything in the spring as a coaching staff, we talked about doing a better job of making sure that when we start, that we have a really good teaching progression. And our plan, because we saw this kind of coming, our plan was to make sure when we get A, B and C and we’re tight on those, now we’ll go to the next one, and we’ll go to the next one. So, we did spread it out a little bit as far as how much volume we’re giving the players, because we weren’t really sure how much time we were going to have. Is there going to be more meeting time, less meeting time, because we didn’t know at the time. And I think what we ended up coming up with, we ended up being able to stick with, and to your point, it kind of reminds me of almost the lockout year where a lot of teams did scale back and did less. I think we have a little more of an advantage (from the lockout) because we were able to meet all spring, even though it was virtually, but you still didn’t do it. We were not on the field doing it, so we just made sure that we had the right amount in for us. We’re not trying to overdo it to where we’re scrambling. We talked about we’ve got to make sure we have bread-and-butter running game, we’re good at certain protections, and then we need to be more detailed with our fundamentals in our passing game. So that’s been our focus, and if that means we’re doing a little less right now, we’ll build to that. That’s kind of where we’re at right now, and today was a good example, because I think what we talked about all spring, I saw really the benefits of that in practice.
Ralph Vacchiano, SNY: When you talk about Le’Veon Bell, I see you’re fired up about him, do you still see him as a guy that can be a sort of that workhorse back who takes most of the carries, or do you prefer that he seem to have a little bit more depth, to have a little bit more of a committee approach? I guess I look at it as every game is so different. You kind of start out like, ‘Who’s available?’ Because we had some situations last year where all of a sudden we had a couple receivers go down, and now we need to use two-back more, we need to use two running backs more or maybe (Jamison) Crowder had to go outside one game and (Braxton) Berrios slid inside. You’re always trying to figure out, with the personnel you have, what’s the best way to use him. So, could it be a situation where Le’Veon and Frank are on the field at the same time? Yeah, there could be a situation where we’re doing things like that. I think physically, yes, he can he can do what he’s always done with the way he looks right now and the way he’s moving around, but at the same time – and we’ve had this discussion – he’s 28, and every year with a running back you’ve got to make sure that you’re using him the right way and making sure that we’re getting him to 16-plus games and not grinding him out. Like last year, I feel like I did a bad job, beginning of the season I was really trying to get him going, and at the same time, teams kind of knew what we were doing and they were loading up the box and he was taking some shots. I’m sure that wore on him as the season went on. I just have to do a good job of making sure he’s getting his touches, but at the same time we’re putting him in the best position possible to give us 16-plus games.
Charles McDonald, New York Daily News: What was your reaction to the Office of the Inspector General releasing that Woody Johnson sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics of race, sex or color? Coming off the field, I was just told about this. I don’t think I’m changing anything I said from what I was told from when I was asked about this before.
Dennis Waszak, Jr., The Associated Press: What do you tell guys, the undrafted free agents, the other guys who are on the bubble, on the roster, during this time where usually they’d have the preseason to put themselves out there on film – What do you tell those guys now during this stretch of camp and how to try to impress and that sort of thing? What’s your message, what do you tell them? I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this. I haven’t felt that type of anxiety or anything from anybody that’s either new here or undrafted rookie free agent. I don’t feel that. I feel like I’m around a lot of guys that are focused on getting the details right of what they’re being asked to do, and today was the first chance they had to go on the field and prove it. I get it, no preseason games, the times is tight, but the opportunities are going to be there. We’re going to schedule out our practice schedules to make sure that everyone’s able to get evaluated, guys are getting developed. I really believe that’s important, because when you do get in situations, especially like we did last year, if we would have just worked and said, ‘Hey we’re working on the ones and everybody else good luck,’ well guess what? By the end of the year last year, a lot of the guys that were either second or third string players were our starters, and they were ready to go, they were able to go in there, step in there and play, be able to understand the concepts, they played the way we needed them to play. I really believe that’s the reason that thing’s flipped around for us, because those guys were able to step in and it wasn’t too big for them, they were able to execute and they played well as a group. And I think we’re going to take the same approach and just make sure we get our guys prepared that are currently the starters, and still develop guys and still get guys ready to go.
Kim Jones, NFL Network: As you get into camp with the pads and everything, are you going to have to manufacture some competitive individual situations and really environment, given that you won’t see your team against another team at all until the opener? Yeah, we’ve talked about some things that we’re looking to do. Once again, it hasn’t been easy to get too far ahead, because we’re a little bit ahead as far as building the schedule out and some of it is, hey is there a day where we go to the stadium to make sure our equipment guys and our communications area as far as the flow of traffic, how do we get the locker room set up, what are we going to do, what are we doing different in the box, do we have to have two boxes instead of one? There’s so many little things we’ve got to do with our game day operations where we’ve got to really kind of pinpoint when that’s going to happen and at the same time we’ve been talking about hey can do we do a scrimmage where it’s the younger guys and eliminate the vets? Just all those little things. As we go along here, it’s kind of build as you go almost. You get about five days ahead and start thinking, ‘Alright, what’s the best thing for us to do next?’