[Ed. A- So my wife and I had a baby a week ago and since then I think of sleep like I used to think of vacations, like, “Oh, that would be nice to do someday.” Last night I caffeinated just in time for the baby to actually fall asleep, so I had a chance to transcribe this. Huge thanks to Orion Sang for passing along the audio.]
How’s your group look?
“Our group looks good. The guys that are out there are working their tails off and pleased with the progress.”
So you’re not going to come here and do what you did last camp?
[laughs] “We’re just gonna talk about the guys that are out there practicing, getting better, how about that? That fair enough to say?
“Yeah, but Ambry Thomas, B. Watson, David Long, then you got a young guy in Myles Sims who still should be in high school, he’s our here working his tail off getting better, so it’s been promising. Then Hunter Reynolds, a walk-on, really getting better, so it’s been good for ‘em.”
You mentioned Ambry Thomas. What’s the biggest difference in him from year one to year two?
“He is very comfortable now. We were just talking about it over there about maturity level. You know, last year we were so young and now all the sudden these guys have had some playing experience and it has helped them, and so that’s last year and now you’re walking into a new year and just much more confident. And things are slower for them, and he’s been really improved. [Inaudible] with the ones quite a bit, so he’s been showing up a bunch.”
If he’s been working with the ones does that mean maybe that Vert moves into the inside? Are you guys messing around with those combinations there?
“Well, yeah, you know, Vert hasn’t practiced, so he’s losing valuable time, unfortunately for him. But it allows Brandon Watson to continue to get better, Ambry THomas to get better, David Long to get better, and as I mentioned Hunter and Myles. So, it’s great for those guys. They’re just growing by leaps and bounds.”
Why hasn’t Hill practiced?
“He’s got an issue with his hips or his groin. Trying to figure that out.”
[After THE JUMP: who’s rising, who’s out, and where guys might end up]
Has that been all spring?
“I mean, he got two practices in, but that’s been it. Would like to have him out there for sure, but we’re not waiting for him, I’ll just say that. As I keep saying, Brandon Watson and Ambry have stepped up and are filling that spot very nicely.”
It’s a muscular thing?
“Not sure. That’s the thing. Watch him run, he looks fine. It’s just on long plays, he just has some pain at the end of the play. Just trying to figure that out.”
It’s not the kind of thing you can play through?
“I think it is.”
“But, you know, he’s got to feel right.”
But that is something you touched on last year about—I don’t want to generalize and say it was a toughness issue but is that a little bit?
“Well…if you want to go back to that, yes, in my opinion, yes it is. You’ve got an opportunity to get better or even just to find out what is wrong, because you’re not going to find out by not participating. So, it’s frustrating for us as coaches, but at the same time, those other guys, you’re getting to see them blossom, which is really good for us. We’re creating depth.”
Is St. Juste in that mix there too?
“No, Benjamin is not. He’s been sidelined as well. It’s very unfortunate for him. He’s a very gifted athlete, but he has missed all of the bowl prep, now he’s missed all of spring. He’s got to find a way to get out there if he wants to compete for his job.”
Jim said yesterday that the receivers have really taken a big step. From your vantage point—
“Yes, yes, absolutely. Donovan, Tarik, Nate, all of them have taken a step forward. Again, I think it’s just the youth factor and having that year under their belt, their freshman year out of the way. They’ve been through camps, they’re in their second spring, so they’re very comfortable. Everything’s slowed down for them as well, and you’re just reacting. you’re playing, you’re instinctive, and you can see their improvement.”
Tarik hasn’t missed a beat?
“No, nuh-uh, he hasn’t. Donovan Peoples-Jones…he’s going to be something special.”
How is he better? How’s Donovan better?
“He’s running really good routes, he’s very strong at the line of scrimmage, and he makes great catches. I mean, he’s just got super hands. Very talented guy.”
What stands out to you about the safeties at this point?
“I would say that Tyree [Kinnel] and Josh [Metellus] have taken a step forward. They’re making many more plays out of the post. They’re doing a much better job in the run game. That was some of our weaknesses last year, pass plays in the post with the post safety. Now these guys are able—they’re figuring it out. They’re making plays on the ball in the post and they’re helping, like I said, in the run game.”
Who’s third guy in?
“Third guy in? That’s still up in the air. It really is. That’s a toss up.”
What’s Jaylen’s roll, Jaylen Kelly-Powell? Has he been all over the place?
“Jaylen’s been great. [Inaudible].”
Is he a corner?
“No, he’s safety and nickel. Safety and nickel.”
Back to Ben St. Juste, he’s been out because of injury?
I know he’s not in yet, but where do you envision Casey Hughes fitting into all this when he gets here?
“Yeah, we’re trying to figure all that out as we go through this. You know, if those guys continue to stay out, then maybe Casey comes with me. But we’ve talked to Casey about him playing safety. Think he’d be a good guy in the slot, cover guy in the slot, so that’s our thought with him.”
How much tape have you seen of him and what do you like about him?
“Yeah, just an experienced player who you can see he has fun out there, takes charge. He’s a leader, and he’s a really good football player. Good tackler. Tough kid.”
How much did you enjoy the Super Bowl?
“How much did I? Yeah, it was a good game. It really was. I was really happy for Nick Foles. When he was in Philly playing QB he did a hell of a job and he left and kind of got in a slump and he knocked the rust off and he was back to his old Nick Foles. It was great to see. And that whole staff. Doug Pederson’s a great guy. I know a lot of guys on the staff and I was really happy for them. Good people.”
No spring game in that setting. What’s the difference between being in that setting and seeing the kids in that way versus what you guys are going to end up doing in practice?
“Yeah, it’ll be just another practice for us and all eyes will be on them as they are in every other practice. I think what Coach is gonna—he’s gonna make it more of a family affair now that all the families are coming in, so it’ll be very preferable for them to be right up close on the field right around the action, so it’ll be fun for them. But at the same time, we’ll still get great work in.”
Is it good not to show your cards?
“Uh…yes and no. I’m sure it is, but we’re still pretty vanilla when we do it anyway, but yeah.”
With Lavert this time last spring, again you guys were not thrilled about it but he was able to kind of recover. Are you worried now or knowing that he went through it last year—
“Yeah, there’s a concern. We certainly, certainly would like to get him healthy. As I said, if he doesn’t—I’m just confused by how do we know what injury it is if he doesn’t come out? I think practicing is a way to find out what that injury is. As I’ve always said, this game is not a comfortable game. You’ve got to learn to play with some nicks.
“Again, I am [inaudible] the guys that are out there practicing, the Ambry Thomases, the Brandon Watsons, the David Longs, the Hunter Reynolds, the Myles Sims, those kids deserve a pat on the back because they’re taking a lot of reps and they are getting better, and they’re maturing at the same time.”
The overall defense a year ago, everybody said, ‘Oh, they lost everybody.’ Now they’re saying, ‘Loaded. Everybody’s back.’
“We could be really good. I mean, that’s no secret. That’s a positive for us, and I think we’re taking those steps to continue to get better during the spring.”
Will you be going to Paris?
“I will be, yes. I will be.”
And what do you think the team really got out of last year?
“Oh, I think just the culture aspect of it and then I think that’s going to happen again this year. I enjoyed watching the kids experience what they experienced, and I expect the same this trip this time around too.”
Are you going to compare the French wine to the Italian?