Q. Can you talk about what Ramses Barden has brought to the table.
A. Well the first thing about Ramses is that he’s been able to get out there everyday, hasn’t missed a practice. He’s been able to fight through some injuries and fatigue like everyone else, and he‘s executed, in terms of learning what to do and understanding why it’s important to do it. Like all rookies, he’s going to make some mistakes, but he’s done a good job at not repeating the same mistakes. I think the thing that’s really stood out is how well he has caught the ball. Very rarely does he have a drop, he goes up at its high point and shows his strong hands. So we’ve been very pleased with his progression and his ability to learn our system and make plays.
Q. Have you thought about creating some plays geared toward Ramses when you guys get near the end zone?
A. Well, Kevin Gilbride does a great job with our formations, moving people around. It’s something we’ve done over the past couple of years, and as long as our players can understand the big picture and the concept that we’re trying to attack defensively, then that gives us the ability to move guys around. Right now, we’re still at that level where people are understanding what their individual assignments are, after we can go ahead and expand our formations and personnel, if we can maximize our personnel that’s the ideal.
Q. Is Barden more polished than you would have thought coming from a lower level of competition?
A. I think he has done a great job, from a route running standpoint and from a fundamental standpoint, given the fact that he was at Cal Poly and they didn’t really have a wide open a passing attack, it was more option oriented. It was apparent that he had done a lot of work in his preparation for the draft and his value at the senior bowl. He’s someone that I think is very bright and will take coaching well, and has been instructed and has worked to try to hone and refine those fundamentals. Obviously, he hasn’t had a chance to showcase them in games, but from the standpoint of where he is at as a receiver, I think most people would be very pleased, based upon his background where he is at right now.
Q. Another rookie wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks, has had a little bit of trouble staying on the field. Has he fallen too far behind, or is he still okay?
A. That’s always a challenge for the rookies to, first and foremost, be out there -- not just the rookies, but all the young players especially with a young group. Anytime guys are missing reps, they’re missing time—that makes it difficult to stay on top of their game and, more importantly, to improve. Having said that, he’s done a great job in the meetings and on the sides getting the plays, trying to get those mental reps, but there is certainly no substitute for actually being out there, and being able to execute. So we’re excited that he’s able to practice was back yesterday, and now be able to get back into the form that we started to see there in the spring, and do some of the things as far as catching the ball and separation, and using his strength and trying to take advantage.
Q. Has Derek Hagan impressed you so far in camp, based on what you had heard about him, as far as not being able to handle the football?
A. Yes, he has. Derek has great stamina, he’s very smart, he’s played all three of the wide receiver positions, done an excellent job from a work ethic standpoint, trying to---not just understand what we’re trying to do offensively, but then go out and execute it with great speed and strength, made some tremendous catches. Talking with (Special Teams) Coach (Tom) Quinn, looking at the special teams tape, he’s been very solid in that area. So, we’re excited—very pleased with where he is at and he’s definitely in the mix of things from a competition standpoint, as is the entire young group.
Q. He had a reputation as one of the guys who dropped the ball a lot…
A. I don’t know what his reputation was, or how he did or anything other than what (I have seen from him when) he showed up at the end of last year, and just seeing how he’s done so far. We’re definitely pleased with his stamina, his toughness—he hasn’t missed a day, he’s a great effort player. He’s made some pretty good catches, and really showed a versatility which will bode well for him and our offense as well.
Q. Do you see a building confidence in him, from when he got here last year to now in camp?
A. I think anytime a player gets comfortable with a system and they’re out there and they know what their assignments are, and they’re not having to think am I lined up correctly, what do on this play, and that play and so forth. Now, he’s starting to take that next step to understand the big picture in how we’re trying to attack (with) a certain offense. With competence comes confidence, and I think that’s where he is at. Ideally, that’s where all the receivers need to get to, when they understand what’s expected—they go out and use their god given ability and make plays.
Q. How has camp been for you so far with(out) Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer?
A. Well, we have all ten receivers out there, making every practice, not missing any time and being able to get the reps so they can improve, and learn our system. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case, so from that standpoint of having some guys go down and miss time, whether it’s someone that’s experienced or someone who’s a rookie, it’s still a challenge. But, very pleased with the group as a whole, their focus, their determination. They want to do things the right way, they’re working very hard, they know it’s a very competitive situation, they’re competitive with each other, but they’re also pulling for each other and that makes it very enjoyable to coach them.
Q. Do you think this year it will be a struggle to get rid of some guys—to let them go and they turn out being a success elsewhere in the league?
A. That’s a question that you have to take a look at and say, as a coach, you’d love to have those problems. You’d like to have the problem where you’re sitting having to make those tough decisions, because that means that some of the guys that maybe weren’t necessarily thinking would be in the picture, are in the picture. If we can get to a point where we are really having to role up our sleeves and take a good hard look at who’s going to make it and who’s not, then we’re really heading the right direction. So I’m hoping to get to that point, and I think we’re heading in the right direction that way.