OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR PEP HAMILTON
Can you talk about QB Davis Mills?
"We feel like he's playing faster, and that's really just processing information as you drop back as opposed to just saying, okay, what happened pre-snap is the determining factor in where we start. That's not the case at all. You've got to be able to make post-snap reads, and we'll continually working on that, but that's something that I feel like he's improving that."
Consistency is one of the big things you've got to pay attention to at the quarterback spot. Do you feel like QB Davis Mills has been consistent during camp?
"Big part of his job, big part of our quarterback's job is to manage bad plays, and that's going to happen throughout the course of the game. We feel like if we're not turning the ball over, we just give ourselves another opportunity to score the ball."
Can you talk about the balance a young quarterback between wanting him to make plays but not wanting him to turn it over?
"Well, we want to trust the system. The plays are going to be made organically. Just make them on schedule. I think the biggest challenge in the National Football League is protecting the quarterback, but it's part of his job to just stay on schedule and get the ball out on time."
What have you seen out of this run game so far? What are some of the intangibles that you're looking for improvements?
"Well, it's good to have the pads on. It's good to have the pads on. I think a big part of ultimately becoming the running team we want to become is just really straining and playing through the echo of the whistle. The first week of pads has been great for us and we're just going to continue to work."
Can you talk a little bit more about what you've seen from RB Damion Pierce?
"Dameon Pierce has a chance to be an explosive playmaker for us. But first and foremost, good running backs in this league have to be able to play without the ball. So that transition from college football to the NFL, I think the largest curve is just understanding NFL protections, and he'll continue to work on that throughout training camp."
How are you working with QB Davis Mills on his understanding of what defenses are trying to do?
"Well, it happens every day in practice when we face our defense. We face a formidable defense and they do a good job of showing different looks, disguising different looks, and it's really a challenge for the quarterback, all quarterbacks in this league, to be able to really discern what the coverage is post-snap."
What does it mean to you that the players are excited to be running your offense?
"Well, it's our offense, and as we've said from the beginning, it's about our ability to put our playmakers in a position to make plays. It has nothing to do with anything else. It's our job to score at least one more point than the opponent, but ultimately you score points by getting the ball to the right guys, and we have the right guys."
Where do you see OL Kenyon Green's growth and what areas does he need to improve?
"I think the growth is just from being able to process large volumes of information. I think our system is advantage based, and so there will be times where the play call in the huddle is not the play call that will be executed at the line of scrimmage, and he's worked his tail off in the classroom, and now he's just reacclimating or getting acclimated to the power and speed of the play in the National Football League."
Based on what you've seen from QB Davis Mills throughout camp compared to last year, how confident are you that he can become that franchise guy?
"I think confidence is overrated. I think he's going to develop more confidence as we go on, and that comes with reps. You can't teach experience, and our biggest challenge is to just get first downs, score the ball and not turn the ball over."
Is there a big change in QB Davis Mills so far?
"Well, he's getting more reps, and so as a result of just getting more reps, there's an opportunity for him to really find a little more comfort in some of the things that we're doing, which ultimately translates to him playing faster, but you won't know until we're playing tackle football if all these things are going to truly come to fruition."
How has your system evolved over the last three/four years since you were last an offensive coordinator to now? What excites you as you see your offense playing out?
"Well, I think if you look at the makeup of our staff, we have a depth of experience, but a diverse group of coaches with regards to our backgrounds. Having the opportunity to go back and coached college football as well as the time that I spent in the XFL, it gave us a good outlook, a different outlook on different ways to really stress the opponent. So, we'll see. We'll see when it gets to game day."
With this style of offense, what's the goal?
"To score points and shorten the game and score a lot of points and shorten the game."
Can you talk about the tight ends?
"Yeah, I think when you look at that group, it's a tremendous challenge for them to have to now block the formidable defensive ends in this league and then go out and win match-ups in the passing game against really good coverage safeties and linebackers. We feel good about our group. We feel like they're working, working really hard, and we're trending in the right direction with that group."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR FRANK ROSS
What's up with LS Jon Weeks?
"He's fine, just a personal day. He'll be right back, a few days."
For guys like DB M.J. Stewart and DB Isaac Yiadom trying to find their way onto the roster, how important is special teams?
"Yep, you guys see it every year, new additions to rosters. Even if they're veterans, those guys obviously as they join the group, they're willing to do dirty work, and that's kicking game, that's fourth down. They've done a good job so far at that."
Do you like having those guys that thrive on special teams?
"To make a complete football team, you want people believing in that right there, absolutely, good question."
Have guys like DB Grayland Arnold and WR Chad Beebe going to fit into the special teams?
"Yep, love the guys that have maybe a height disadvantage. Okay, I come from that world. Got to play a little bit lower, a little twitchier. Those guys are doing a good job so far putting their head down, doing whatever is asked, returning footballs, getting extra work. We feel good about where (Chad) Beebe and Grayland (Arnold) are so far, yes."
HC Lovie Smith has said LB Blake Cashman has come out of nowhere. What have you seen from him?
"Yeah, wouldn't say it comes out of nowhere from the special teams. I've had my eye on that guy for a while. Definitely an exciting player and hoping everything I can do to get him better. In a good situation, he'd be contributing for the Texan's special teams."
What are your biggest goals for this year's special teams?
"When you're talking 16, 17 games, obviously there's going to be games that come out like call it a wash or neutral, and the special teams where yeah, you're sound, didn't get any big returns, a lot of touchbacks, things like that, core execution. We want to take that next step where on a regular basis have opportunities to impact, and when those opportunities arise, capitalize on them a few more times. When you're playing the course of a long 17-game season, those things will matter, and those small margins, that's the game within a game. Sometimes unnoticed, well, we all see what those playoffs and those later games in last year's NFL came down to, those critical core situations where those impacts ended up being the difference in the end."
What do you think about the return guys you have?
"Yeah, that's an open competition. Excited to see who grabs that by the time we get towards week 1. Ball security is the name of the game, impact afterwards. Let's see who can do it."
How is DB Derek Stingley Jr. progressing for punt returns?
"Yep, great, so obviously phenomenal athlete his whole life. Refined, yeah, we've got to get it to that point, where efficiency, catching it right, getting vertical, those types of things that you see the great ones have done, start to train those mechanics, those habits for a young man. We'll see how high his ceiling can go."
How far away is DB Derek Stingley from that?
"We'll let you know in a few weeks."
What does LB Blake Cashman's background bring to your coverage unit?
"Yep, done a great job of taking the playbook, trying to apply what I'm asking him to do, the calls we're making. But on top of that, the guy can run. So, hopefully he's using all of our fundamentals and techniques and then playing with those explosive traits that's in his body when it's time to go out there and make the plays."
How good do guys like DB Derek Stingley Jr. have to be for you to consider the risks?
"That's a great question. You have load management on those guys. We all know the faster twitch or the more movements you use, those high yards. We've got to back those down at times to make sure we prepare those guys for the full load when it comes to a four-quarter game and of course over the duration of the season. So, when you're talking about guys that are twitchy, explosive, just overall explosive athletes, you've got to make sure that they're rested to those quick short bursts whenever it may come up. That's a full combination of sports science, that department, and working the training room and things like that, and then measuring how much we can use them in practice as we progress and build towards week one."
How does veteran leadership and consistency set the tone for younger guys in the locker room?
"That's right, man, the higher we can raise the entire room, smarter football IQs for the entire room, higher urgency for the entire room, things like that, that's going to start with the veterans. At some point it would be nice, and it happens for what I believe is a good special teams unit. It happens at some point where I just turn it over. 'Hey guys, go play ball. You're the ones doing it.', and those guys, it's on their ownership. We get to a point like that, it's going to have ourselves to have a good chance."
What does it mean to you when guys want to play special teams?
"All of you guys know where I come from. Got a lot of heart. Want to come play special teams? We're going to find out. It's not my job to see the whole picture. They let me and they require me to have nice tunnel vision on the kicking game. So when you're playing for me, my goal is to have guys create an atmosphere where there's a lot of 'want to', and hopefully that environment is created. The better we're going to be when guys are wanting and fighting for those reps. Oh, no. Hey, I'm in. I'm getting this one, shaking the next guy. Okay, and jumping in line. If we can get that right there, that's culture for the special teams game."
WR JERRY HUGHES
How comfortable is everything feeling in this defense?
"You know, feeling pretty good, kind of just working to kind of get our wind right now. It's really hot out here, but I think it is great for us to kind of push through these kind of elements. We kind of really can build the character of our defense and the way we want to play this year. We want to play fast, physical. Lovie (Smith) tells us every day to pretty much show out, and I think for the most part we're doing that, but you've got to really battle through the elements. I've got a great job of going against LT (Laremy Tunsil). He's probably one of the best left tackles in our business if not the best, so it's great for myself and everybody in my room to kind of get some great quality reps against him. Tytus (Howard), both those guys (Tunsil and Howard) are having fantastic camps, and it's only going to just make us better as a team. Especially on the defensive side of the ball, it's going to make us a lot better."
How would you describe those battles with OL Laremy Tunsil and OL Tytus Howard?
"Man, intense. We haven't really been holding anything back. The guys said once the pads come on to show out, and I think everybody in our room kind of took that personal, and I think everybody in the offensive line room took it, as well. We don't want to repeat the season that we had last year, so I think with everybody understanding that, in order for us to win, up front, in the trenches, we've got to dominate. We've got to come out here for 18 weeks and prove who we are. Even on the bye week. We've got to take care of ourselves, rest up, stay in the film, and I think we've got a great group of guys who are understanding how to work and what it takes to actually win in this league."
What's the ideal play list for you?
"I think today, man. I heard a little bit of everything. We started off with some hard rock to kind of get that 907 period going, and we need that. That's just straight smashmouth football, who wants the best, and I think for us up front, that's how we want to set the tempo, start the day, start any game. It's coming off in the trenches, flying off the ball, and that's what we like. Whoever was the DJ today, he's got to keep that up because we need it. Oh, absolutely, man, this is football. We ain't playing basketball."
What kind of interaction have you had with some of the young guys?
"Just a lot of Q & A on what it takes to kind of play in this league, how to set guys up mentally, what to do off the field as far as taking care of your body. They're always in my ear, asking me what I'm doing. I'm sharing every little bit of secrets that I have. Anything that I can kind of employ on them to get them to play one step faster, to get them to recover better, because it's going to take all of us. If we want to win games, we've got to be able to be available. That's something that Lovie (Smith) talks about and certainly we've got to understand that."
You're talking about the importance of every rep. How did you learn that and what have you learned about how vital that is?
"When I came into the league, I got the luxury of learning behind Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, guys like Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning, and you really got to see how vets practice. You're talking about guys who are pretty much going to be Hall-of-Famers. They already had their gold jacket solidified. But they came out and they worked day in and day out, whether it was on the practice field, in the meetings. Even through a walk-through, it was just attention to just the minute details that really set you apart from being a winning team and a playoff team. I think here we want to be a playoff team, and a lot of guys are understanding that, that it takes every little bit of details that our coaches give to us. We've got to come out here, put it on the practice field and just keep stacking better days. It's just great to see a lot of young guys asking those questions, wanting to figure out what they can do to change their game and take it to that next level. That's what we need. We need everybody on all phases, special teams, offense and certainly on our side of the ball."
What are those things that you learned from in Buffalo to this training camp?
"Working hard. It's going to be hot, but that's going to be to our advantage. Guys got to come here, they got to play in this heat. They're going to be worried about that. Come fourth quarter, we've got to be moving about as fast as we're moving in the first quarter, so I think guys understand that. That's why you see a lot of sweat equity right now. We're putting in that work because in order for us to be great we've got to win at home."
When you're not able to take a guy to the ground in practice, how are you able to gauge whether you're actually improving and stopping the run?
"It's just how we come off the ball up front, how we're employing using our hands, using our technique, taking on those double teams, making sure guys aren't getting knocked off the ball, and at the same time, challenging our offense. Every play, whoever is out there, you've got to give it your all. That's what we're trying to do is just make each other better and sharpen up our game."
What have you seen from DL Rasheem Green?
"Man, he's a very versatile player. There's not too many positions he can't play. He's playing all four positions on our line, but that's just the kind of guy he is, and that's what we expect from him. Just to kind of raise hell wherever we put him, and he's been doing it."
Does DL Rasheem Green's size help?
"Absolutely, man, to be that tall, that big and that fast, he can rush inside, he can rush outside, he can get his hands up, bat down passes. Everything that he kind of brings to the table is all pluses for us. We've just got to figure out how often we can get him out there on the field and then just let him loose."
WR NICO COLLINS
How do you think practice and the offense was today?
"Oh, man, we're getting better every day. The team is coming out here and continues to stack the days. Working on things that we think we need to work on."
How do you feel like you've improved from your rookie year to now?
"I feel like my first year was like a learning curve, you know, building off that. It's still an opportunity to work on my game, all around. You know there's always room for improvement. Everywhere."
We see you're bullying the defensive backs a little bit more than before because of your frame. Can you talk about that?
"Yeah, I'm just using my body, using my God given abilities to go out here and play football. I've been doing this my entire life. You know, the game's kind of slowing down but I'm still working on my game."
Where have you noticed your team chemistry improving?
In the offseason, we all build the chemistry with the wideouts, and the running backs, tight ends. You know, just getting the timing down right so we come out here on Sundays and shine. That's why we're here during camp. Can you stack days? Working on things we feel we need to work on.
What are some memories that you have from the Oregon trip with WR Brandin Cooks?
"We're just getting better. Working on chemistry. Working on timing. Feel like working on things we need to work on, so we come out here and shine."
What did you guys talk about?
"I mean we just wanted to have fun. Just working on our game. Get away from the building for a little bit, so we come down to camp. When we get down here, it's go mode. So, that's what we did and now it's go time."
Did you learn anything about your teammates that you didn't know before?
"Oh, nah. I mean just continue to build bonds with each other. Continue enjoying each other's company and when it's time to step on the field, you know, it's time to work with each other. For sure."
You've mentioned stacking camp days together. Do you feel like you are stacking days and improving your game?
"I'm just continuing to stack my days. You have to count every opportunity you get because everybody doesn't get this opportunity. Every time I step on this field, I've got to thank God every day. You've got to come out here, you've got a great job, you've got to love it."
What's nice about OC Pep Hamilton's offense?
"Just get everybody opportunities to make plays on the ball. Everybody get a chance, make plays. When the ball comes your way, it's time to make a play."
What have you seen from going up like guys like DB Derek Stingley and DB Steven Nelson?
"Iron sharpens iron. They're here for a reason and we're getting each other better every day so on Sunday's it could be easy. We're out here working on each other, asking questions, 'what did you see, what do you feel?' We're just coming out here and working every day."
Have you sensed there's a maturity aspect so far from Derek [Stingley]?
"In not really on the defensive end, but you see he's getting more comfortable. It's slowing down for him. He's out here making plays. He's going to be making big plays for this team."
Do you take it personal when you drop passes?
"Yeah. You can catch that ball 100 times. It's one of those balls like you know you can get that. The play is over with, it's the next play now. That play can't get you down. It's the next play, the game is still going. It's how you're going to make it up after that."
QB Davis Mills' personality is coming out a little more. What have you noticed about that?
"He's just getting comfortable, man. We've got his back 100% of the way. He's the quarterback. We've got his back. We trust in him and he trusts us, and that's what it's all about."
How do you feel being a compliment to WR Brandin Cooks?
"I appreciate all the vets in our room, him (Brandin Cooks), Chris Conley, Phillip Dorsett, coach Ben (McDaniels), everybody. Guys have been in the league for a minute, so they know what to expect. As a young guy, that's who you want to look up to. I feel like they've helped us out 100% of the way, every step, every young guy that got here. They're always helping us get better and we're always picking their brains, so I appreciate them a lot."