Where do things stand at right guard?
“Right guard, I mean, we still won’t know for sure until game day. [OL Erik] Magnuson is out. Guys I can tell you are out, Magnuson and [G Joshua] Garnett are both out. [WR Marquise] Goodwin is going to be out. But, [OL Mike] Person is questionable, so we’ll work him out before the game and see where he’s at.”
With Marquise being out, does that mean WR Dante Pettis starts in his place?
And WR Richie James Jr., a chance he’s up then too?
“Yep. Richie will be up.”
What about S Adrian Colbert?
“Colbert will be questionable. He was limited today.”
And LB Malcolm Smith?
“Questionable. Same thing.”
If Person can’t go, will it be OL Najee Toran at right guard?
Why not call Jonathan Cooper? Was he just not ever healthy enough to rely on?
“Yeah. That’s how we felt. That’s why we did what we did. Jon was great. We would’ve loved him, but other guys beat him out so it’s the direction we went.”
With Toran, is it an experience thing just the fact that he’s spent most of the offseason program here and OL Matt Tobin did not?
“It’s both. Those guys both got the reps all week, and Toran won those reps. Yeah, he did a better job, and I think it’s a huge advantage for him that he’s had a lot more experience and knows what’s going on. Any time you have more experience in a system and have gotten more reps, there’s a huge advantage for you and I think that’s what helped him win that spot this week.”
Did you give Tobin some center snaps this week in case he has to come in at that spot?
“We’ve given Tobin it. We’ve given it to Toran, also. Obviously, Person can do it if he’s able to go on game day. You only have so many options, but someone is going to have to do it so you’ve got to be ready for everything.”
What drew you to Toran in the first place? What do you like about him?
“We got him from UCLA. Our scouts liked him a lot, brought him to our attention. Our O-Line coaches liked him a lot when we looked at him through the draft. I liked him a lot. He was available there as an undrafted free agent. We were able to recruit him and get him here. I just liked him because nothing was too big for him. A lot of the time you get undrafted guys and they don’t just jump off the screen right away to you. Kind of the strongest and the most mentally tough are the ones who survive throughout the end. He’s been thrown into a lot of situations through the preseason, got to play a lot through the preseason. The game doesn’t seem too big for him. He was the same in those preseason games as he was in practice and that’s why I believe he’s a guy who can handle starting if need be.”
You guys won three of your last four at home last season. Did you get a sense of any kind of homefield advantage and that’s what you want to roll into this season?
“Yeah, I definitely did last year. It wasn’t much in the beginning of the year, and I didn’t think it deserved to be. We didn’t give the fans much to cheer about. But, as we got started winning and getting more to cheer about at the end, I think I talked about it yesterday on the radio show, but that Christmas Eve game was as loud as any game I’ve been in. Always when you play on Christmas Eve, you’re kind of wondering how many people are going to come anyways because of the day. We were out of the playoffs, also. To walk into that stadium at the beginning of the game and to see how loud it was at the start and how it ended, that’s what I remember growing up. It was a hell of a deal.”
Is TE George Kittle, there was a play, I think he was overthrown because QB Jimmy Garoppolo was dealing with some pressure, but up the left seam it looked like he beat Minnesota Vikings S Harrison Smith and it could’ve been a touchdown. That seemed like an example of him moving better than any point last year because he was dealing with injuries. Do you see that and is that what led to his day on Sunday?
“He came in playing very well for us last year starting in OTAs and at the beginning of training camp. He got hurt in training camp, came back. We had to put a lot of pressure on him early in the season because he was one of our better players right away. He got banged up right away. Credit to him that I think a lot of guys wouldn’t have made it through the year and played in all those games. He played through a lot of injuries last year, in the run game and the pass game. I think he got healthier as the end of the year came. I think that’s why you guys saw a little more success in the pass game with him. He came back 100-percent. I know he battled an injury in preseason, but he’s recovered from it and he’s a good player and he’ll get only better if he can stay healthy.”
You mentioned not having RB Jerick McKinnon obviously changed things about your initial game plan. Goodwin obviously seems to be a guy that is even more dynamic. Obviously Pettis looks like he can play a little bit, but how much does that change just not having his presence and his speed?
“It always changes. That always changes. It happens to everyone every week, to all 32 teams. So, it’s something that you don’t get too down on even though you could if you sat and thought about it for a while. Yes, it is a big deal. But, that’s part of the NFL. That’s part of this season. That’s part of who is the most talented team, who has the best luck throughout the year, not getting hurt and who deals with injuries the best with next man coming up, some guys playing through them. There’s so many things that go into that factor that will decide the outcome for everyone this year and who ends up in the Super Bowl. It’s a big deal, but that’s part of this league. When you have a 53-man roster and only 46 on game day, that stuff is huge. That’s why you can never have too much depth. I felt real good about our receivers going into this. We only kept six. Had to get rid of a number of guys who could have helped us, but you can’t keep that may. Then, you lose a couple here and very quickly you’re down to the last few and happened the same at guard, happed at linebacker. It happens a lot. You just hope you get better luck. But, you go into every season, especially the more experience you get, not being surprised when it does happen.”
Do you think all 53 should be active on game day?
“Yeah, definitely. I think no one would disagree with that.”
Is that coaches or personnel-wise?
“I think that’s coaches and players and anybody who thinks about it who just wants it to be easier. I wish we had more than 53.”
Did you guys ever pick team captains for the year or are you just doing it game-by-game?
“I plan on picking three. I want to do it at the mid-point this year. I like picking three new ones each week. I plan on doing that every week throughout the whole year. We’ll see if, last year I planned on picking three at the middle-point, but it came and I didn’t think there were three obvious ones to go at that time and so we kept picking three different each week. We’re starting that way out this year and we’ll see how it goes at the mid-point.”
With a rookie like Pettis, how much does a guy benefit from the experience of that first game, looking ahead to that second game? Whether it’s getting rid of jitters or getting the first-team reps he’s probably getting in practice this week?
“It’s hit or miss, depends on the guy. I think Pettis will benefit a lot from it. I think he’s a guy who the game isn’t too big for. I think he’s very relaxed. He’s very confident in being himself all of the time. That’s why he’s okay with his cat celebration. That stuff doesn’t bother him. He is who he is and he goes out to that first game and I don’t think it was too big for him. But, I think he did see how quickly things can change. I think [T Mike] McGlinchey did, I think a lot of college guys do. They’re used to 100 guys there on the sidelines and he’s going in expecting to get the ball. He was part of the game plan, he knew he was going to get some punt returns and then very quickly was like, ‘Oh man, I’m running all of these routes I saw ‘Quise running all week.’ Yeah, that’s part of it. Don’t be surprised. I think it gives him more confidence going into this game knowing he managed and got his way through that. Now, no matter what you tell him, now he knows what can happen and I think he’ll be more prepared because of it.”
He said he’s still picking up the offense which he called super complex. Do you make it easier for him or do you expect him to rise to the challenge?
“No, we try to make it as easy as we can for everyone. But, we’re going to always challenge them too. It’s never going to be totally easy. He’s got to keep working at it. He’s one of the smartest receivers I’ve been around so I know he’ll be able to get it, but it’s not just about how smart you are. It takes time. I think most of our guys can always do it on paper, in a meeting room or whatever. But, it’s quickly, when it’s loud, when we’re late on the play clock and you’ve got eight seconds to hear it, get out, line up and just go and not think. That takes people time. Not just rookies, but anybody who’s new in a system.”
Who will back him up on Sunday?
“Pettis? When you have five guys up, that’s the problem with receivers. That’s why you can’t always, that’s why you want to keep all 10 guys or the 11 or 12 you bring to camp. But, you usually only get five up on game day. So, you have your perfect, ideal guys at X, you have your ideal guys at F which is what we call the slot receiver, and then you’ve got your ideal guys at Z. Trent’s our slot receiver. Every time Pettis was out of the game last week, Trent played X which he hasn’t played in a game before. So, all of them have to know everything. That’s what’s so tough about this league. Richie James is going to be up this week. I’d love to play him at F, but he’s our backup X also. He’s one injury away from being our backup Z. He’s going into the game being our backup F. So, you have to know everything.”
What are the challenges of facing one of Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia’s defenses?
“They’re coached very well. They have all of the fronts and coverages and they have all of the tools they need in the scheme to adjust as the game goes. If you beat them on something, they have a front or a coverage they can call that takes it away. They’re able to look at your protection schemes and change and adjust throughout the game. They’re able to double people and take them away if they’re hurting you. It’s something that, there’s going to be a weakness somewhere, but it’s not the same time, every play. You’ve got to see that stuff throughout the game as a coach and adjust and you have to see that as a quarterback to be able to progress and things like that. They’ll stress our O-Linemen out, not just with blocking the man in front of them, but in the different combinations of what they can do with their fronts and their rule changes that they make you go through.”
With McKinnon being out, how much does that change what you have to do in preparation in terms of when you get blitzed and your quick options off the back?
“McKinnon being out changes stuff all of the time. It’s a matchup league and everything is about matchups. So, you always look at how your receivers can be corners and how your tight ends and backs can beat safeties and linebackers. Those are your options. When you have a tight end or a running back who can beat almost any linebacker or any safety, it takes a lot of pressure off of people. That’s how McKinnon is. The other guys, they can do it. Not as consistently as Jerick did so you have to adjust for that stuff. Who do you put the pressure on? Where do you go? It changes some of your options and it’s just like what I said about defense, if we’re hurting them on something, they have the tools to adjust and attack somewhere else. The more matchup advantages you have on offense, the more we’re struggling, the more options we have to go other places. So, it limits those things.”
With RB Matt Breida getting just two targets, was that a product of you having to make those adjustments to go elsewhere or were the Vikings knowing that you target your running backs a lot?
“No, but who we target the most has a lot to do with how we feel the best matchups are. That’s how it will if everything’s even. If everything is even, whoever we target the most is probably who the best matchup was. If they’re taking people away and we target someone else, it might be because they knew who the best matchup was. So, I’m not going to get in here and say who I like the most and who I don’t, but there’s reasons for all of that. Anyone who think we can beat the man in front of them very consistently, I promise you they’re going to get a lot of opportunities in that game.”