Q: A lot was made last year of the question marks at wide receiver. A year later, the perception is that it's a strength on this team. How have things changed in a year?
A: I think it was justifiably a concern because you had two people who hadn't played a lot or hadn't played in that role. Steve Smith had been an integral part as the third receiver but not necessarily as the starting - when the two receivers were out there, that personnel grouping. It was understandable looking outside in and I couldn't honestly say, hey, they're going to perform like we had hoped they would, but we knew that we had some talent. There were some gifted young players that hopefully would go out and would show the poise necessary to take advantage of the physical skills that they had. The fact that they went out and played as well as they did is now all to the opinion the other way. Now, inside, our opinion is, we know they have the skill, but now they've got to go out and do it again and we'd like to see growth and development in terms of consistency and I think that if we can get that we still feel like we have some guys that can do some things, but now we're looking to see consistency in their performance.
Q: Is it harder when you're trying to meet the standard rather than set the standard?
A: It's certainly easier when less is expected of you - there's no question about that - but you would hope that if they're the right makeup, which I believe they are, that the expectations have grown and their sense of pride will elevate their game and that's what I expect to happen.
Q: You didn't have all five offensive linemen together during the preseason. How much of a concern is that for you now?
A: It's big. The one compensatory advantage we have is that they've played together for so long that maybe the fact that they weren't together throughout the preseason and camp will make it less of a problem than it might have been, but is it a concern? Yeah, no question. You're never quite as sharp and your cohesion is not quite as tight as it should be, so yeah, if we had our druthers we wouldn't have drawn it up that way, but, again, it's a group that has been together, they've played a lot of football and you would hope that that reality will offset the fact that they haven't been together in a game situation yet this year.
Q: Victor Cruz. How do you see him being used given that he's not done much on special teams?
A: First of all, the hard part is to get him on the field. The way it's structured here is that if you're not one of the starting two receivers, then you've got to contribute in the other areas, so that's where he's got to earn his spurs and hopefully he'll show enough someday that he'll get that chance, but when he gets on the field he's easy. It's easy to use him. I think he's proven that he is able to compete against bump and run press coverage and have a lot of success. There's no question in my mind that he's a good run after the catch guy, just like I said last year, but when no one believed me that Hakeem Nicks would be a good run after the catch, Mario Manningham would be a good run after the catch. He'll be that same kind of guy, but again, the bottom line is that he's a young guy, he's got to prove himself as a receiver enough to become one of the starting two. That hasn't happened yet. Or he's got to get himself onto the active roster on game day by doing enough on special teams.
Q: You kept two tight ends and Travis Beckum isn't really a traditional tight end. What does he need to do in order to solidify that position?
A: Stay healthy. That's all. It's not hard. He's got to stay healthy. He's another guy - he never practiced, so that would be more of a concern than the offensive line. As much as it has affected the offensive line, here's a guy that hasn't played a lot and then didn't play hardly at all in practice. Does he have skills? No question. He's a good athlete and he's not your prototypical point of attack guy, but you put him out in the space and he's a tough matchup. He's a bigger, stronger guy than most secondary players and he's faster, more agile, more athletic type of guy than most linebackers so he gives us some things, but the problem is, where is he? Health wise. Where is he mentally? Can you count on him to do all the things and that's what we're trying to sort through. Exactly how much can we ask of him to do but I think if he is playing at a point where he knows what he's doing and he's confident, he gives us a weapon.
Q: Could Shawn Andrews or Will Beatty possibly play themselves into a position on the field?
A: They can. Again, one of the big concerns that we have is that we haven't gone through many years over the last couple that we haven't gotten a lineman hurt. For a while there we had a great stretch running but that hasn't been that way last year, so I would say that in a perfect world, they don't get hurt and we keep playing, we play well, then those guys don't get on the field. The reality of it is probably something, one game - a nagging, hopefully nothing serious - you get a chance to play and when they get the chance, if they show that they earned, then they'll get themselves more playing time.
Q: How do you see your backfield rotation breaking down?
A: We haven't really solidified it. It's much more of a concern with all of you than us because there is another spot. We haven't had to worry about one guy playing all year since Tiki Barber left so they've all been taking their turns - in and out for whatever the reasons so we'll just play it as it goes, who's playing, who's got the hot hand, who's playing well, based on what we're doing, based on what the defenses are doing. We'll try to capitalize on our guys' strengths, hope and keep our fingers crossed that they stay healthy so that we can utilize them all.