Q: How do you feel about receivers?
A: Good. It is hard to get a gauge this early for a couple of reasons. One, they are just learning what it is you expect of them; your system, your technique, fundamentals that we ask them to employ. And two, you are not really sure of the quality of opposition they going against. We will get a much better feel in another two weeks when they start going against the varsity - I think we have pretty good corners. We will get a pretty good assessment of how far along they are.
Q: When you look at the whole group of receivers – Jerry Reese talked before the draft about the level of panic outside your organization --- people kept saying you have to go get this guy or that guy. What is your assessment of what you have been left with Plaxico and Amani gone?
A: Losing Plax was huge. He is a special talent. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what our record was after he left. So the difference in the club was discernible to anyone who watched us. I don’t know if you replace a guy like that. But hopefully, collectively, we have enough quality young players. We believe we do. We are looking forward to seeing some guys step into some roles that maybe they haven’t had to play before and see how they perform. I think we feel good about the guys we have. I think we are optimistic about the guys we have added, but you never know until you have to go out and do it.
Q: Do you think that you have a number one type of receiver there? Do you have a need?
A: I think everybody is always looking for what. And in a perfect world you have more than a number one, you have two or three guys that you think are special, that anytime somebody matches up one on one that he is going to win that battle. If you only have one, usually that is not enough because they can roll to that and put another guy over there and take guy out. So that is what made Plaxico. You guys used to constantly ask that question, …..number this or number that? I said, that is fine, his contributions are still very, very significant because we were able to run the ball much more easily. And that enables the other guys to have some success. So you have to have a couple of guys that win. If only one guy can win against one on one coverage, that is not enough, because they will take that guy away from you. But I think there are some things we can look at. I think Domenik when he was healthy early on showed some flashes. He has to do it on a consistent basis. But he certainly showed some – a couple of games where he played terrific. And we never really gave Steve Smith a chance to play outside. We used him as an inside guy where he is terrific. But I think he has earned the right to compete as an outside guy, too. And then we are anxious to see what Sinorice and Mario are going to do. And you have your fingers crossed that one of those guys will step up. I think they are working hard and doing all of the things that they can. This OTA, mini-camp, will be very, very important to them and therefore, to us – how they come along. And then of course training camp will be the next stage in the preparation and then you are waiting to see what these young guys can do.
Q: There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘hopes.’
A Yeah, no question. But that is the way it is every year. Because you never know if an established guy gets hurt, what are you going to do? You never know what is going to happen.
Q: You need guys who you ‘hope’ can, but usually you are ‘hoping’ with the third and fourth and fifth guys, right – not one or two?
A: Again, I think Plax is a big loss. And that one is hard to replace. I don’t think that you can. There are not many 6-6 guys that can run and adjust to the ball the way he does. The other stuff we can handle.
Q: Q: So right now would you say that Hixon is your X and Smith is your Z?
A: Well, we are going to give them all a shot. But to start with, the first day of OTAs, that is the way it will start, yeah.
Q: In nickel, would you want to keep Steve outside…..?
A: Both inside.
Re: third receiver
A: Yes. The third wide will be very, very important.
Q: Have you started giving any though to where Beckum fits in or how you use him?
A: Yeah, he is kind of easy. He is like a slot. We will put him in there. I don’t know that he is big enough to be an every-down point of attack tight end. In fact I know he is not big enough to be an every down point of attack. …….He has exceptional quicks and athleticism when you look at what he showed on film. So he is more of a glorified slot. I don’t know if that is the term that you want to use. When you look at some people and you are playing your best 11, sometimes your best 11 is a fullback and tailback and a tight end, two wides. Some people – Indianapolis, for example – on first and second down have made a living for years having that second guy instead of being in a fullback position, be a detached kind of Dallas Clark. I’m not comparing him to Dallas Clark, but you hope that he will grow into that kind of role for us and then you are fighting to make some decisions which are always good to make. Do you go with a fullback? Do you go with what we call a B-tight end, the second tight, a detached tight end, or is three-wides your best personnel grouping? So all of that starts to play itself out as we go through training camp and in the preseason. As you guys know we will do certain things this next month. Then in training camp you will see some other things and then the preseason you hope you see some other things. And you hope they are always the positive. ……. You see him develop, you see him grow and feeling good about it and then once the season starts, then you have to take the most important step of all. But I think he can do it. It looks like he can. But you don’t know until he shows it.
Q: You talked about your best 11. We are talking about how much you lost by losing Plaxico. But do you feel like while you have lost that, you may have gained some flexibility in this offense with guys that can play in a bunch of different places? Is that fair to say?
A: I don’t. It is almost apples and oranges. You would like to always add as many parts to the puzzle as you can, but you still like to have a stud – one guy that you feel, “Hey, anytime he goes one on one…” And the other teams obviously knew it – and they were afraid to give us that opportunity very often. But I do think we have added some parts; I do think that. How quickly it is going to play out is going to be interesting to see but it is also going to be very important that progress be fairly rapid. It is completely different but it is the same. You look at all of us in our playoff run on the Super Bowl year; I kept saying people don’t realize Steve Smith coming back was a significant role that was for us that he had to play. And all of a sudden he did. Now he didn’t play the whole year – from the Green Bay first series on – but he was a major part of the things. We still had other guys do their thing, but the thing that we needed from his position, he did. So I’m hoping these young guys -- when I say ‘young guys’ I’m not just referring to the two draft choices, I’m definitely referring to see what Mario can do and Sinorice – this will be kind of his big chance. He will start off in the three wides. He will be the starter. So now you just hope – I know he will hope, for sure – that he flourishes and does well. I know we are hoping that somebody does and I have no reason to think it won’t be him.
Q: Do you have a preference as to how it is broken down because you don’t have Derrick Ward’s 1000 in that one body any more, whether it is Danny Ware or Bradshaw or the new kid, Brown. How do you mathematically break that down right now?
A: I don’t because all I really care about is that somehow, someway, in one form or another, we move the ball. We have shown some ability to do that on a consistent basis. The more balance you have, the better off you are. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. And by balance I don’t necessarily mean the way most people portray it or most people interpret it is that you are 50% run, 50% pass. I just mean we are good enough that if you are overplaying the pass we can run with consistency, or vice versa. The opposite of that is when you are loaded up against the run and we have one on one chances that we are good enough to win outside. Do you have that kind of ability, and to me that kind of balance. I think we do but certainly at the end last year we weren’t as consistent as we would like in that Dallas game, that Philly game and then we were very good in the Carolina game. And really in the Minnesota game we were fine. But we didn’t do it again in the playoff game. So it always leaves you a little bit unnerved because you didn’t finish the way you would like to. But as I look at the guys – Domenik will be healthy again, we are going to give Steve a chance to play an expanded role with the additional new bodies from the receivers to Beckum and the other guys. I can’t help but think that we have enough parts that some way, somehow, we will find a way to move the ball the way we need to again like we did last year.
Q: With the running game, because your O-line has been so successful and is still intact, it kind of makes it easier for these new backs, whether it is Ware or Brown, to work in, correct?
A: Yeah, the fact that you have five guys that have been playing together is certainly a positive. But as you saw last year, if you don’t have those other parts to it, then no one guy can do it. In other words, you have the greatest quarterback in the world, if he can’t stand up and throw, or he doesn’t have receivers to throw to, he can’t perform. So the same thing – I think our running backs help our line just as I think our line helps our running backs. I also know the ability to force defenses to defend the pass also contributed very, very importantly to the success we have had running. So it kind of all plays in. It sounds like it is more --- it is not complicated but it is important to have the ability that they can’t just gang up on one thing and you are left defenseless. I don’t think we are going to be that way. I think we will have enough weapons. I’m anxious to see who is going to do what in a way that you feel confident about. But I think there are enough parts, which is what you guys were asking about. I think there are.
Q: What makes you think Sinorice Moss will flourish?
A: Because I think last year he had his best year and again, I said to him a couple of times at the end, “We are sitting you down but it is not because you are not contributing.” Because I think he was playing pretty good football. And every time we threw him the ball – I may be off by one – but I think every throw we made to him, he made; he made the catch. And there is a place for his speed and his quicks that I thought he did a much better job last year. And he always, for a little guy, gets after people blocking, which helps in the running game; he does those things. So I think his confidence is a little bit improved. I think our confidence in him is a little bit expanded. So I think it is reasonable to think that he can maybe take one more step forward as he did last year and become a guy that gets a chance to play. Last year it really just came down to the kicking game. We wound up just sitting him down because he wasn’t contributing as much as some other guys were on special teams.
Q: Smith has often said that he can play wide and get deep.
A: Oh yeah, I have no question that he said that.
Q: Did he show that in college and does his size mitigate against what you want from that position?
A: In a perfect world you would always like to have a 6-3, 6-4, 4.4 guy. How many guys are there like that? Not many. At Houston I had a bunch of little guys that were extremely quick and extraordinarily fast. And they proved that you didn’t need to have a lot of size to be successful. Larry Fitzgerald has proven that he can do it his way. Steve is a little bit unique. Now he has very good body control, he has got great quicks. He has good speed. I wouldn’t say it is as good as he thinks he has, but he has good speed. But he just has a knack, he just has a way of making plays. And so I’m not going to say he can’t do it because quite honestly everything we have asked him to do, he has done. So he is going to get a shot; he is going to get a chance to be that guy.
Q: Do he and Manning have a feel for each other?
A: Yeah, he gets open so Eli feels very good about throwing him the ball. It is not real sophisticated. He is hard to cover, he is difficult to cover. He gets open. He does the right thing. He is courageous. He will make the tough catches inside. He is a quarterback friendly guy as a receiver. He is a guy you know is going to do the right thing. And the odds are pretty good that he is going to get himself some separation and give you a chance to complete the pass if you throw it accurately to him. In that sense, yeah, I guess they do have a good rapport.
Q: Eli had talked last year quite a bit in the offseason about getting the longer passes as part of the offense. It worked in spots but not in others. Is that still a point of emphasis?
A: It always is every year. The long pass or the short pass/long run has not been something -- we are actually better at the long pass than we are at the short pass/long run. That is an area that we would like get a lot better in. We are hoping some of those young guys will do that. Certainly Mario, when he was in college, looked like that kind of guy. Hakeem looks like he is that kind of guy. So hopefully we have added a few more to that type of receiver that does that. It is – as you guys all know – I’m not telling something you don’t know, throwing the long pass is not just the receiver. You have to protect long enough to throw the long pass and sometimes it is other factors that are involved. When you get to late November or December here it is a little tougher to throw the ball condition wise. So there are a lot of things that play into it. But is that a goal? No question. Is it something that we feel like we need to get better at? Absolutely, absolutely.