HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
After watching the Saints game film, did any players stick out to you?
“There were definitely some guys that did some good things. I’d say on special teams, I thought the specialists played pretty well. (Shane) Lechler, Nick (Novak) and (Jon) Weeks snapping. I thought Corey Moore did a nice job covering kicks. I thought the two guys that played the majority of the snaps as gunners, on the outside of the punt team, Kevin Johnson and A.J. Bouye. They did a real nice job. Defensively, I would say that obviously, for the most part we had a decent night. Everybody played good team defense. I’m not sure that there’s one guy that really stood out to me on defense. I think they played a pretty solid game. Offensively, like I said the other day, I think Greg Mancz going in there and having to play against their first team unit - for having not played a lot of football in a while - I think that’s a good job by him and he’s got to keep it going. We need him to keep it going. Just overall I thought those were the guys that maybe had a nice night.”
Can you talk about RB Alfred Blue?
“He practiced today. He looked good. He’s a good guy and he’s out there. He had a shoulder deal. We just want to bring these guys back when they’re ready to play and he’s ready to play, so he’ll be back in there this week.”
Can you talk about DE Joel Heath’s progression throughout camp?
“I thought there were some things that he’s done throughout camp. Then in the game the other day, I mean number one is he made an unbelievable hustle play. When the quarterback scrambled up the middle he was beyond the quarterback. He probably had something to do with the quarterback scrambling. He was beyond the quarterback and then he chased him down about 20, 30 yards down the field. He hustles. I think overall just like every rookie D-lineman, he’s got to play with better pad level and be more consistent, but you can tell coming from Michigan State, well-coached, tough kid. He’s doing a good job for us as a rookie.”
How do you get the running backs the amount of reps they need when you have so many?
“One thing we don’t do is, we don’t really look at it as far as how many carries we need to get these guys. We look at it more specific to what they’re going to do situationally for us, which includes special teams. Special teams becomes a part of it for me and for (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manger) Rick (Smith), but not for the offensive coaches. They’re putting these guys in places, we’re putting these guys in places on offense where we think they can help us. Like (Tyler) Ervin, can he play some receiver for us? Can Jonathan Grimes be a third down back for us, which obviously the answer is yes. He has done that for us. You’ve got a guy like Akeem Hunt who had a good night the other night when he got in there. Third down, receiver type things. We try to put them in the position of where we may play them, if they were to make the team, during the season then go from there. Then the play dictates. The read of the play, the play itself, the defense dictates whether they get the ball or not, but that’s kind of how we do it.”
How are your kickers doing?
“(Shane) Lechler has had a good couple games punting. I thought Nick (Novak) kicked well the other night. Obviously the kid from UCLA, he’s got a quad deal, so he’s dealing with that. When he comes back, we’ll put him back into the mix. I think they’re doing fine.”
How do you go about coaching the veteran players?
“Basically what I want to see with every veteran player is to not be concerned with how much they’re playing or anything like that and I don’t think these guys are. I think they go out there and they just play hard until we pull them. We don’t tell them how much they’re going to play or anything like that. We just say ‘look, get ready to play.’ I just want every one of those guys to just take another step of improvement, meaning their conditioning level relative to playing in a game, their ability to just do their job, do what’s asked of them on each call, execute the call and then when we take them out, they come out. I just want every one of those guys to really improve, just keep taking another step towards the regular season.”
How has G Xavier Su’a-Filo progressed throughout his career?
“He’s definitely improved. Like all those guys, I think the guys going into their second and third year and I would include rookies here too, but it’s a little bit harder for rookies because those guys just started. But the second and third year guys, they need to think about the word ‘consistency.’ Going out there and playing at a consistently high level every single play, every single practice, every single game. If they can do that, and this includes Xavier, then that’s really a good step for them. That goes for all of those guys. Anyone that’s going into their second and third year, that’s a big time in your career. That’s an important part of your career so if they can play consistently, that’s a big deal.”
G JEFF ALLEN
Some guys along the offensive line have had to play different positions because of injuries. How are you doing out there?
“I think we’re coming out each day and trying to come together. Obviously we had a few injuries here and there, but it’s part of the job and we all know that we need to be versatile and come out there and be ready to roll.”
The offensive line has to have chemistry out there. Are you able to still build that with all the injuries?
“Yeah. It makes it a little tougher, but as long as we’re out there communicating and making sure we verbalize our calls and we’re on the same page, it makes it a little easier.”
How is C Greg Mancz doing?
“Greg’s been doing an awesome job. He’s out there communicating. Very smart kid. He’s making the calls, putting everyone on the right page.”
Can you describe how in sync you have to be as an offensive line to work together properly in an NFL game?
“I’ll try to put it in terms where people understand. It’s kind of like an engine. When all those pistons are going, the engine is running really, really well. If one of those pistons doesn’t do its job, usually the car isn’t going to run very well. That’s how I would describe the O-line.”
When you’re trying to mesh with new players and a shuffled lineup, how detailed to you have to be with your communication?
“You have to be very detailed because being next to someone new, obviously you have to communicate with them and make sure you’re on the same page, as opposed to a guy you’ve been next to, usually you don’t even have to say anything. Being able to communicate that and make sure we’re on the right page, that’s very important.”
RB ALFRED BLUE
How tough is it being out with an injury?
“It’s very tough. Just sitting back there around this time is very tough because this is the time you have to go out there and make the team.”
You have to be patient with the injury but you want to be back out there, right?
“Right. Just be patient and hope that everything takes its course. And when you get back out there just go back out there and make plays.”
Do you feel like you have to make this team based on what you’ve done the past two years?
“I feel like every year I have to make the team. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been here. You’ve got to come in every year and make the team because there’s always somebody coming, gunning for you. That’s my mentality.”
Like RB Kenny Hilliard?
Was there some aspect of your game that you improved on over the offseason?
“I think I improved a little bit in all of the areas, route-running, catching the ball, doing different stuff on third down. I’m just trying to get better and be a complete back, a three-down back.”
Did you do the yoga many times or for just a couple classes?
“Just a couple of classes.”
DL CHRISTIAN COVINGTON
You’re playing a little more defensive end this season. How has that adjustment been?
“It’s great. I came here wanting to be able to do what was asked of me, play whatever position was asked of me. The fact that they made the switch to defensive end this year, it’s more opportunity for me to be able to be more versatile, to be able to play along the entire defensive line.”
What are the biggest changes to be able to move there and play at a high level?
“Really, a lot of it came down to just the playbook. Playing our nose position is very simple, whereas as soon as you move to the defensive end spot, a lot more responsibilities, a lot more adjustments and things that need to be keyed in order to be able to do your job correctly. That was my big transition, but it’s the playbook. That just comes with the territory.”
Can you talk about stepping up and seizing the opportunity?
“That’s the nature of the sport that we play. Especially when you have a guy like J.J. (Watt) down, it’s always been brought to our attention that the next man has to stand up. For me, coming into this training camp, that’s what I wanted to do. I just want to be able to go out every practice, every preseason game, just do what’s asked of me, do my job, be consistent and give relentless effort. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that so far. I want to be able to continue doing so.”
What’s the difference from when you’re a rookie to when you’re in your second year and you’ve played a lot already?
“You’re able to play a lot more free. Coming into your rookie year, it’s still an adjustment period. You have to get used to the speed of the game, the speed of the players you’re going against, the tempo of the game itself, everything. It’s night and day compared to college. Having that rookie year underneath me, it was a really good learning year and learning experience to be able to know what’s asked of me, know what was going to be asked of me this upcoming season and this upcoming training camp. Having that rookie year under your belt, it really just makes the transition a lot easier and it makes the game go a lot more smooth.”
C GREG MANCZ
You’ve been thrown into a role here. How do you feel about your opportunity and how you’re doing?
“Control what you can control. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting better every single day.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you did really well against the Saints. What has it been like to be the leader of the offensive line?
“The first thing I’d like to say is it’s nice to have some older guys. Xavier (Su’a-Filo) has played for a couple years now. You have Chris Clark who has been around for a long time. I have Jeff Allen on the other side. I have some vets who have sort of helped me ease my way in. They do a great job of encouraging me, so we just go out there and try our best every play.”
How much time do you spend with QB Brock Osweiler to make sure you’re on the same page?
“It’s a lot. I think it started all the way back in OTAs. He pulled me aside along with the other centers and made sure we understood what he was going for. I’m very appreciative of all he’s helped us with so far, too.”
You mentioned how some of the veterans are helping you out. How much does that ease the transition for you?
“Astronomically. They’re great guys. Even guys like Duane (Brown) and Newt (Derek Newton), who have been around a long time, give their knowledge from the sideline. It’s great. I’m very thankful for it.”
WR BRAXTON MILLER
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you and Will Fuller V are grasping the offense really well. What have you thought about this offense and how tricky or simple it is to learn?
“Just coming from college and going to a big playbook like this, it took time. It took the rookie minicamp and OTAs to actually understand the concepts and the formations, the whole terminology, the words. It took a little toll on us when we first got here but it’s starting to pick up fast.”
How has the speed of the game felt in the first two preseason games?
“Honestly, the speed of the game, I don’t think it’s that much different. The only thing that’s different is pretty much the coverage schemes, the techniques they play in the league. Just different from college.”
How has being a former quarterback helped you as a receiver?
“Just knowing the coverage, how they kind of disguise it – the linebacker inside, the safety comes down – stuff like that. It helps a lot.”
You seem to have a knack for finding the open space. Is that part of it because you can see it developing out there?
“Yeah. That’s part of coaching, too. They coached me up on it throughout the whole last week and previous weeks before that. Just picking it up day in and day out helps out. Playing quarterback ties in with that, too.”
How comfortable are you at wide receiver now?
“Just being an athlete all my life, playing all positions growing up. Just playing quarterback for four years took away from being an athlete. I was just going back to my old days, feeling good being out there making plays.”
When was the last time you played receiver?
What years were those?
“It was all through high school. All four years. I was just messing around with it.”
Did you play any other positions?
“I was playing a little bit of safety, too.”
Since you’ve got to town have you had a chance to talk to Tom Herman a little bit?
“Yeah I did. That’s my guy. We talk every so often. Like, every other week or something like that.”
Does he give you advice?
“No, I don’t think he gives me advice. Just very supportive. He wants me to do great. He knows how much of a competitor I am and how much football means to me. He’s always by my side.”
Are you looking forward to this week with a really good Arizona Cardinals secondary coming to town?
“I think every week is a great team that we play and you have to prepare for the best. This is a league that you have to prepare, and that’s what you’re going to do. Just clean up some technique-wise from last game and just keep it rolling.”
How much did you like being let loose a little bit in the last game?
“It was fun. It’s always fun to run out with my teammates, getting coached by the vets. Progressing every week is the main thing and the main focus, so that’s the main thing that we focus on.”
Who has been your mentor here and who have you spent the most time with?
“The playbook. But I look at D-Hop (DeAndre Hopkins), how he comes in as a pro every day. I’m trying to learn how the vets do it, and I want to learn quickly and fast so I can contribute to the team.”
What has the relationship with QB Brock Osweiler been like?
“Just trying to make his job easy. It depends on if I could have stemmed the guy or I could have sat on that play or whatever. Whatever it might be, just trying to communicate with him so it makes the best out of both worlds, me and him.”
NT VINCE WILFORK
How much better do you feel at this point in camp since you started conditioning earlier this year?
“I feel good. I think a lot had to do with me starting to train a lot earlier this year. It’s the first time doing it in my career and it worked out well for me, so right now it’s good. I feel comfortable with where I’m at, being able to play and going on the road for the first preseason game, playing against a team, up-tempo, away game, being on the road, getting a chance to practice against San Francisco, just different elements this early. It was pretty good. And then to come back home against a Saints team that played here, practicing with for a day and then actually turning around and playing them, so everything is ‘so far so good’. I can’t complain where I’m at physically and mentally.”
How much do you like your role as a complementary player? Do you want to coach when you’re done?
“(I) never want to coach. I always said if I can coach I can play because of the hours they put in. But that’s part of my role. I’ve been like that my whole career, not just now later in my career. Early on, I was a young guy but I always had a knack for bringing people along. Even when I was younger playing basketball and on the football team, I was always a leader. I have passion for whatever I do, I want to be the best, and I want to win at everything I do. I think that’s something that comes naturally for me and I accept my role and enjoy my role.”
Who mentored you?
“Well, growing up I always looked up to my father. In football, when I got to the league, I had guys like Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour, a bunch of guys around me where I kind of fit in that role. Coming from the University of Miami and being with Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne and those guys. I was shown the ropes at a young age and it carried over to my career now. I had a lot of help on my way, just learning by example, just sitting down and talking to people at times. Sometimes, it wasn’t all about football, it was just about being a human being and being the best person that you could be. To this day I respect those guys to the fullest. But I love who I am, I love the road that I have and I think the guys around me understand who I am.”
Have you surprised yourself by how well you have played for so long?
“No, not at all.”
How are you mentoring NT D.J. Reader?
“You know what, for two years in a row being here we have a bunch of great rookies, especially in my room, the defensive line room. Last year was Christian Covington and Danny (Dan Pettinato), those guys now are D.J. (Reader) and Joel (Heath) and Ufomba (Kamalu). They work their tails off and it shows. Our goal every week is to get better. That’s our goal. We might not be perfect but our goal is to get better each week. I think we’ve done that. Over the first two preseason games we’ve done that. There’s things we wanted to take away from these first two preseason games and that’s what we did. Coming into our third preseason game, there’s going to be some more stuff that we’re going to demand from one another. The coaches are going to demand from us, we’re going to demand from ourselves and we set those short-term goals through the preseason to ultimately get the goal we want at the start of the season. I think everybody has done well, not just D.J. (Reader) All of our rookies are great guys, the work their tails off, they’re not typical rookies. They come in, they mature.”
Have you tried to impart some of your knowledge onto NT D.J. Reader since you two have similar backgrounds?
“We talk a lot. He sits in front of me in the meeting room. But it’s funny, there’s some times that you find yourself talking about things and it’s not even football-related half of the time. I think he has a different outlook on life than a young guy coming into this league. I think out of the rookie class he’s kind of the one that is kind of similar to me and the situation I’ve had to grow up and go through. But he took it in stride. He has a passion for the game, he’s very smart, very intelligent, that’s one of the things I was very surprised with by him is how intelligent he is on and off the football field. He’s a great, great person and not just a good football player. I think he’ll be able to help us if he continues to do the right things, and I don’t think we have any issues with any of our rookies being able to do the right things because they’re tight. This rookie class is very tight. At the same time, they listen. They put the team first and everything they do is all about the team and getting better. They fit into the mold and what we’re trying to build here. “
Is this one of the best front sevens you have ever been a part of?
“Only time will tell. When I’m done and when I’m retired I’ll be able to answer that question, so I won’t answer it now. It’s too early.”
Have you thought about what you might do once you’re done playing?
“There’s a lot of things I would do. I have a lot of different options. I like a lot of stuff. I’ll tell you one thing that I’m not going to do is coach. I can guarantee you that one. But I don’t see myself far away from the game just because of the passion I have and the relationships I had over my career, the coaches and the players that I’ve met. I don’t see myself too far removed from this game when I do call it quits. That’s just who I am. But coaching? Nah. I might give a little insight here and there but, nah, those days of waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning? Nah, I’ll just wake up when I want to wake up and go to sleep.”
What specifically do you want to do?
“I have no clue what I want to do.”
What about helping out a high school?
“I help out everywhere. Football is my love. This is my life. Football has been my life for over twenty years now. This is what I know. That’s one thing I do know is football. That’s why I don’t think I’ll be too far removed from it. But it’s definitely not coaching. I don’t care if it’s Pop Warner with my kids, my youngest growing up or high school or college, going to see different schools. I don’t know. Like I said, only time will tell. I’m in no rush.”