What kind of mismatches do you hope to create when you have RB David Johnson and RB Duke Johnson on the field at the same time? What do you expect from David Johnson overall?
"We've worked hard in the offseason to come up with different packages relative to some of the things we've done in the past. Some of those packages obviously involve David and Duke. Both guys are, I believe, three-down backs. They can play on all three downs. They can run it. They can catch the ball out of the backfield, really smart guys. Really good communicators. I would say David's come in here and been very impressive. In fantastic shape, smart, really picking up the offense well. We saw that in the spring. To see him in here in the walkthroughs and things we're doing, I think he has high expectations for himself. That's the type of guy he is. We have high expectations for him."
What kind of feedback did you get on WR Brandin Cooks when you talked to Saint Head Coach Sean Payton, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick about him? What have you seen from him now that he's in your building?
"No. 1 thing that everybody talks about – Jack (Easterby) was around him in New England also – is just what type of person he is. Really good teammate, cares about the team. Does whatever the team asks, puts the team first. His skillset, great speed, a guy that has come up with tough catches in his career, good ball skills, a guy that practices every day and really does a good job of trying to get on the same page with his quarterback, which he's doing here with Deshaun (Watson), although we're just walking through right now. A lot of great reviews of Brandin."
Have you had any more players decide that they will opt ahead of the deadline this afternoon and do you feel like everybody is pretty much in and going to play?
"We had one opt out, Eddie Vanderdoes. Have not heard from any other players. We respect those types of decisions and the process that goes into those decisions. We haven't heard that from any other player. I think football, especially in the NFL, you're never surprised. You see what happens. I don't anticipate that today, but we'll see how it goes up to the deadline. We've only had one to this point."
Has everyone reported that's supposed to be here beyond the one player who opted out?
"Everyone is here. Everyone's reported. Some guys are in different phases of – not many, but different phases of corona[virus] testing and physicals and things like that, but everybody's here."
How much work can you get through during the walkthroughs? What are some things you're trying to accomplish?
"You can definitely, you can get a lot done. It's a lot. It's mental, but you can do some drill work. You can't really go against each other. You don't have helmets on. Our guys have been great. They've been out there, very attentive. We've been able to get a lot accomplished. We'll do it for about three more days and then we'll start to move into the next phase which is like a Phase 2 relative to the offseason program where now they can put helmets on and protective jerseys. We'll do that on the 9th. We have about three more days of walkthroughs."
What value would preseason games have provided you and some of the other starters and coaches just given the procedures that will be in place this season versus a normal season?
"I think what you're asking is something that we've thought a lot about. It's an unprecedented year. There's a lot of things that would take place in a normal year that you're going to have to figure out. I think my college background gives me a little bit of experience in that. There's no preseason games in college, so relative to getting ready for gameday from a communication standpoint with the coaching staff, with the players and things like that, I think we have a good plan for that. I think the one thing that would be something that would be missed would be the opportunities that the younger players get in the preseason games. They're not going to get as many opportunities, so they really have to take advantage of the opportunities that they do get, especially now, but especially once we put the pads on and when we get to scrimmages and things like that. It's definitely different, definitely different."
Do you expect the shorter training camp to affect the amount of tackling drills you'll be doing?
"I think early in the season, I think the team that does the best job with tackling, with penalties, with ball security is going to be the team that has the advantage. We have a plan in place, really starting with Phase 2 even without pads, to really start honing in on angle tackling and proper tackling and things like that – as much as we can do. We can't actually do it, obviously. Leading up to when we have pads on, continuing to work the same drills although they won't be live, so to speak. We don't do a lot of live tackling. I think the other thing that we've been working hard on right from the start is line-of-scrimmage penalties – penalties that we feel like we can control. So, we've worked a lot on operation in all three phases and we've got to do a better job than we did last year on that in that phase. Once we get to Phase 2, we'll begin to work more ball security drills, takeaway drills and things like that. That's going to be a big part of the early part of the season."
How are you approaching health and injury prevention considering you haven't been able to do the same amount of physical stuff you're normally able to do? Is there an adjustment that you guys make to prevent injuries in any way?
"Absolutely. That's a great question. We're definitely into the ramp-up period here where, like we said, we walk through but then our strength and conditioning staff plays a big role, our training staff, in getting these guys to the point where they can get out there and play football. All these guys, the veterans, they've worked hard. You can tell they've worked hard. Some of them weren't able to do the football drills that we do or some of them didn't have the resources that we have here. We're definitely being patient and we've put a lot of work and resources into different ways to monitor where they're at. We've worked hard with our sports performance staff to come up with plans relative to how many minutes of high intense practice, medium intense practice and low intense practice. We've worked hard on that and we have a good plan for it and hopefully that will help us in the health department."
Without the benefit of any preseason games, how do you go about elevating players that are on the fringe of making the roster??
"I think that's another great question. I think that's hard. I really do. I think you've got to try to evaluate them right from the start, see how they learn, see how they improve from day to day of what you're asking them to do. When they get their opportunities in practice, like a real practice where we're going 11-on-11 or seven-on-seven, how do they perform when the play is presented to them? Can they go out on the field and take it from the meeting to the walkthrough to the field and perform at a high level? I think that's the best way for us to evaluate them. But they won't have as many opportunities, and that's just the way it is. That's this year and hopefully those guys will do the best job they can with their opportunities, and we will try to make as good as decisions as we can."
Did you consider doing anything like the New Orleans Saints where you would offer the opportunity to voluntarily live in a hotel for all of training camp?
"We considered everything. We really did. We took everything into account, but I think what we did was we followed the protocols that were sent to us to a T. In those protocols, they talked about hotels and how you cannot require anybody to stay in a hotel. I know what those teams are doing. They're not requiring anybody, they're just making it available. That may be something that we do down the road. We've made our hotel, where we're staying, we've made it available if a veteran wants to stay in there, if a rookie wants to stay in there. But nobody can be required to stay in the hotel, so I think that's the key. Again, I think the big key is continuing to make good decisions every day. Then the big key for all of us is when we leave the building doing a good job of paying attention to wearing a mask, washing our hands and making sure we do as good of a job as we can to keep the virus out of the building."
What are the advantages of the new practice squad rules?
"There are some advantages. Obviously, you have more than you've had in the past and you can keep veterans on there. You can declare by – I believe it's Tuesday of game week – you can declare some guys that you want to protect, so that you have them ready for gameday in case you need them. I think they've done a good job with the flexibility of the roster rules. Hopefully we can do a good job of that every week with Jack (Easterby)and Matt Bazirgan and Rob Kisiel, making sure we do as good as job as we can of taking advantage of the flexibility of those rules."
With T Tytus Howard recovered from his knee injury, what do you expect from him in Year 2?
"We have high expectations for Tytus. He's obviously a large human being. He's a physical guy. He's smart. He's tough. He's a guy that dealt with some injuries last year, especially the knee injury, but he's come back from that. He's out here in the walkthroughs. He's got a better grasp of what we're doing. A lot of times, like I've said in the past, these guys, they do take a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and hopefully we see that with Tytus."
Are there any coaching methods that you will take from this unique offseason and use in the future more?
"We think about that a lot. I think that I don't know what's going to happen in the future. Look, let's be honest, we're in the middle of a pandemic, a terrible pandemic. I don't know that any of us can sit here and look at each other and say we see the end of it coming any time soon. I think relative to your question and the virtual part of what we do, we're a virtual team. We're a virtual team. We will have a couple more face-to-face type meetings when we're on a Phase 2 schedule, but we'll still be Zooming for probably at least 50% of the day. Look, I think a lot of that probably will carry on into the future. I don't know that, but it seems like that's the way that it's going right now. I don't love Zoom, I'll be honest with you. I think that the personal part of it when you're in front of the team and in the squad room and all of that, that's a big part of football. But this is what we have to do to make sure that we keep the virus out of our building and out of our team. This is what we're doing and we'll see how it goes into the future."
What do you think of new Special Teams Coordinator Tracy Smith's attitude and personality?
"He's a very smart guy. He's a very calm, very thoughtful guy. He's got a good sense of humor. I guess that's what you guys saw yesterday a little bit. He's had a lot of experience, too. This isn't his first rodeo. Yes, this is his first time coordinating the whole thing, but he was a big part of what we've done the past couple of years with Brad (Seely). We see that as a pretty smooth transition. Of course, it's different. It's always different when you're up in front of the room for the first time and there will be things that'll come up where he will have to adjust and things like that. Bright guy and a really good attitude."
How are your rookies doing and what can be a realistic expectation for them this season?
"I've been impressed with the rookies so far. It's a good group. They have a level of maturity that I think is really good. They're smart, they pay attention, they take notes. They try to do the things that we're asking them to do. You can tell it's really important to them. How many of those guys can help us this year? How many rookies over the years for any team have actually helped? It's tough as a rookie and it's even tougher this year. If they keep attacking each day the way they are so far, I can see where some of these guys could definitely help us this year."