The Buffalo Bills returned to town for offseason workouts that began on Monday. As part of the beginning of this phase of the offseason, team leaders met with the media. Instead of the retired Kyle Williams or veteran Lorenzo Alexander, it was second-year linebacker Tremaine Edmunds who spoke for the defense. His draft classmate, quarterback Josh Allen, spoke for the offense. Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane also spoke.
Here is the full transcript:
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Q: So Tremaine, in years past, we would normally get a guy like Kyle [Williams] out here early on, or maybe Lorenzo [Alexander]. You’re in your second year, going to be 21-years-old. What’s it mean to you to be the guy that they’ve chosen to come out here on the first day to basically represent the defense?
A: It means a lot to me. Just knowing that those guys trust me to come out here and speak to you guys means a lot. They showed a lot of leadership last year, so take those things, try to do it in my own in my own way, learn from it and go forward from there.
Q: When you look back at your rookie season, what were the things you feel that you learned from the games?
A: Just the whole NFL experience. I was young coming in and learning a new system, so I have a year under my belt now. So now, it’s about going back and fine tuning what I did last year and what we did as a team. Learning from there, sitting down with the guys, getting more into depth with it now. Talking more football, more situational work since everybody now has a foundation. We’re all kind of on the same talk now as we got through it a little bit last year. But just going from there and learning from there and getting better.
Q: As you’re around your teammates and saw what this team did in free agency bringing in a lot of guys, what was the sense of expectation when you first kind of got around your teammates in a gathering like this?
A: I don’t think it was an expectation, but we hold ourselves to a certain standard here. I think the biggest thing was getting everybody on the same language so we’re all speaking the same type of talk. We know it’s going to be tough coming in. There’s a lot of new faces, so it’s about the guys around, communicating to each other, just building that bond because that’s what it’s going to take to win games. We’re starting there from day one.
Q: In the same sense though, what was your reaction to the amount of upgrades that Brandon Beane brought in to improve this roster? It certainly seemed like Brandon was maybe sending a message that maybe this team was ready to win to some extent.
A: I’m excited. It’s a new year, and you’ve got to prove yourself every year in this league. We brought guys along, and we have to build that trust with each other. Like you said, a lot of new faces, so it’s going to take some time spending time together to really click. I mean, I’m excited and I know the whole team is excited. We’re all ready to get to work.
Q: What have you changed in your offseason compared to in college coming to a team? Have you had any dramatic changes in your approach to diet and weight gain and muscle?
A: The college offseason is a little bit different from the NFL offseason, so just the way I trained was a little bit different and my nutrition was a little bit different. Just getting on the routine, sticking with it, and moving forward from there.
Q: Any weight-wise or any change from now compared to most of your rookie season? Or is it about the same?
A: It’s about the same. A little bit more muscle mass, fine tuning towards that. Getting stronger overall. Footwork things, things like that to help take my game to the next level.
Q: What do you think of this whole new weight facility?
A: It’s amazing. I think it really speaks for itself. The owners really did pretty much what we could ask for and beyond that. We have the resources to be successful and that’s where I think it starts there. Take advantage of it, use everything they put in there, and go to work from there.
Q: The schedule should be out sometime this week. Have you talked to Terrell [Edmunds] at (all) this year? You guys are going to match up and play each other.
A: I’ve been talking since it first came out. I have two brothers there actually, Terrell and Tre. We’ve been talking about it. My parents, they’re happy. Everybody’s happy. It’s going to be a good game and it’s going to be a good season. We’re going to take it one step at a time. When that time comes, it comes, but I’m excited though.
Q: With the draft next week, when you think back to a year ago where you were at this time, what recollections or memories sort of come up?
A: Just going through this process. Getting in the building, speaking to the coaches. Just going on business trips. It’s about to be a job. Everything is business-like. I enjoyed that time, man. Just coming through, spending time in the building, looking around the facilities, speaking to the players. It’s a fun time. I think the players should definitely take advantage of it.
Q: What was that moment like when your name was called and you found out where your professional career would take you?
A: It’s a day you can’t forget. It’s what we dream of. When I heard my name called, I was excited. I was excited. One of the biggest moments of my life. I knew from day one since my name got called that it was going to be a business and I have to come in and prove a point. Like I said, it’s a day that I’ll never forget.
Q: How closely will you watch the draft?
A: I’ll try to tune in on it. I just want to see what’s going on around the league, so I’ll tune in and see what’s going on.
Q: Speaking of the draft, what do you think is the team’s biggest need on the defensive side?
A: I’ll leave that up to the coaches. I’m pretty sure they do a good job of determining that. I’ll leave it up to them.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what your offseason has been like in terms of where you have been training and what you have been doing?
A: I pretty much just have been getting stronger overall, trying to get my speed a little bit faster, stay tuning toward that. A little bit more muscle mass, things like that. I’ve been doing a lot of work with my brothers, as well. I’ve got one [brother] that plays running back and another that plays safety. Pretty much communicating with each other, talking about football, situational stuff, and picking each other’s brains.
Q: Where would you guys train?
A: It was kind of all over a little bit. We got some work out in Phoenix, got some work down in Atlanta. Pretty good work.
Q: What about your communication or interactions with Bills players over the offseason?
A: A lot of us always talk, just checking up on each other. Sometimes it’s short talk, sometimes it’s long talk. Just checking in, seeing how everyone is doing, seeing how vacations are going. Just keeping that connection with each other.
Q: Did you ever meet with any of them? Train with any of them?
A: A couple of us did. Me and Siran [Neal] trained at the same place and got a little work in. But other guys, just communicating with them.
Q: Did you happen to take a vacation?
A: Yeah, I definitely took a vacation. You’ve got to wind down a little bit.
Q: How was winding down? How did that feel coming off your rookie season?
A: To be honest with you, it felt really good just to take a step back. I think that’s very important for everybody in this league to relax for a second. You’ve got to take your mind off of it a little bit. I had a good time relaxing with my family, catching up, spending time together. That’s what it’s all about.
Q: Have Sean [McDermott] or Leslie [Frazier] talked to you a little bit about what they expect from you as far as growing and taking a bigger role on the leadership side?
A: It’s year two for me, so obviously leadership is going to pick up some. Focusing in on those points, taking that next step in my game, building the whole team. I’m ready for that challenge. I’m ready for that next step. I’m excited for it.
QB Josh Allen
Q: The running joke around the league is that you had everybody in the league’s phone number because you reached out to all of them. You called them, you texted them, ‘Welcome to Buffalo.’ What was that all like for you in getting in touch with guys? How important was it for you to do that?
A: It doesn’t take a lot to do that. Just reaching out to someone, asking for the phone number, letting them know that I’m excited for them to be with us and be a part of this wonderful franchise and start trying to set that culture of where we want to be.
Q: What does it mean to you that most of these free agent signing are on your side of the ball and conceivably giving you a whole bunch of new starters?
A: It means we’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot of different new minds trying to work with each other now, trying to build that camaraderie, especially using this time to develop that team chemistry. There’s a lot of new guys trying to come into a new system. It’s not going to be perfect right away, and we don’t expect it to be perfect, but starting that communication now so we can get on the same page with everything.
Q: Obviously, you were following along because we heard you had texted people, but were you almost shocked by the way [Brandon] Beane attacked it? It seemed like there were signings every five minutes, and they were almost all offensive guys. Were you kind of surprised by how it all played out?
A: Well, it’s my first offseason, so I don’t really know how things work. This is all new to me. Whether it was seeing Twitter updates or getting a call from [our Director of Communications] Kevin [Kearns]…it was just good to see that. Mostly Twitter updates was where I got most of my information from, but reaching out to them. It was a fun time for me.
Q: What prompted you or put it in your head to reach out to these guys to say, ‘Welcome to Buffalo?’
A: Nothing really. Like I said, it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to do it. I just wanted them to know that I was following and trying to stay up to date on everything that was going on, trying to let them know that I was happy that they are with us. Trying to reach out, get my foot in the door and start that relationship as quickly as possible.
Q: And that GIF that you sent to Brandon [Beane]?
A: Next question (laughs).
Q: Josh, the leadership role that you have at the position of quarterback is obvious. But you’re not the rookie anymore. How do you see your leadership role growing, advancing, and maturing?
A: Obviously, being in year two and being with the same staff now, understanding the offense, having Matt [Barkley] and DA [Derek Anderson] in the quarterback room, it’s very familiar now. Obviously, a new coach with Coach [Ken] Dorsey, started to develop that relationship, as well. You know, using that first year and all that experience that I had last year and bringing it into this year. Obviously, there’s going to be some stuff that I haven’t seen, but throughout this OTA process, trusting on the guys that have been here before like Lorenzo Alexander and LeSean [McCoy] and just understand what’s going on. This is still new to me. I’m still trying to figure it out, whether it’s scheduling or what to do on the weekends, what we do after 12:00 PM when we’re not supposed to be here. But I’m looking forward to it, looking forward to meeting especially the new guys and continuing the relationships with the guys that have been here off the field whether it be hanging out and having fun.
Q: Is there a comfort level to that leadership this year? I mean, you don’t want to overstep as a rookie even if you are the quarterback. Year two, is there a different comfort level? A sort of ‘been here’?
A: I want to improve. I want to win football games. The quarterback’s job is to put the ball in the end zone and lead a group of guys. But it takes all 11, so we’re going to continue to do that and continue to grow as an offense. Myself personally, I’m going to get bigger, faster, stronger. Try to gain more depth inside the playbook and try to get inside Coach Daboll’s mind and understand what he’s trying to do when he calls a certain play. I know we’re a long way out from football games, but ultimately, that’s our goal. We want to be on the field together and start winning football games and doing that.
Q: When we spoke with you at the end of last season, you had reflected upon last offseason in how your body changed due to your training and how that helped your running ability and athleticism. Did you maintain that type of training? Was it the same kind of thing because you saw, ‘Wow, look what I can do’ because you weren’t going through the Combine stuff?
A: I feel like I’m in a good place right now. Obviously, wasn’t as aggressive as last year in not having the Combine and Pro Day and having to be in tip-top physical shape. This is the point now where we start ramping it up and start getting back into playing shape. When you get into June and July, that’s when you still want to stay aggressive and try to peak at the right time.
Q: Beyond what you said about the work that needs to be done in terms of chemistry with your teammates, do you comprehend the statement that was made by accumulating all of these offensive guys and possibly two new starting receivers, possibly an entirely new starting offensive line, a new starting tight end… do you comprehend that all of these new pieces tie into what you have to be able to do to make it all work? Did that hit you at any point?
A: At the same time, I know that we’ve got a long time to go before we step foot on the field. Nothing is set in stone. So yeah, I just want to get to know these guys and start working with them and trying to understand how they think and what they want to accomplish as a team. We want to be on the same path and start having the same mindset toward things. From what I’ve seen and talked to the guys so far, it’s really good. I appreciate having all these guys here.
Q: Is it exciting?
A: Oh, absolutely it’s exciting. Again, I’m new to this. It’s my first OTAs, first free agency period. This’ll be my first time as part of a team in going through the Draft process, too. I’m excited to see what happens and how it unravels. It’s definitely a fun process to be a part of.
Q: Do you have perspective on how important a really productive slot receiver can be to an offense? I’m not sure if you had one at Wyoming, but you see it in the NFL - these guys can really be difference makers. It looks like you guys have got one. Can you give some perspective on that?
A: Cole Beasley’s been doing it for a long time now. He’s been one of the most productive slot guys dating back to the last five or six years. It’s going to be fun working with him, understanding what he thinks, starting to communicate and getting on the field whenever we can. I still don’t even know when we can start doing that. But it’s very helpful for an offense when you know that he’s not a safety valve, but he’s going to be there and you can trust on him to win. It’s going to take practice, a lot of repetition so that I’m on the same page as him and vice versa. Know that whenever he gets to a certain depth, he’s going to break it off or if there’s certain leverage that he likes…Like I said, that’s going to take repetition and I’m looking forward to starting to do that with him.
Q: How have you developed a relationship with Mitch Morse, knowing he is signed for the next four years and you’ll be working with him during that time?
A: Mitch is a great dude. I’ve spent some time being back here a little early. He was here a little early. I took him to Bar-Bill [Tavern]. He’s not a big hot wing guy. He struggles with the hot sauce. Honey butter barbecue Cajun, he can do that all day, but hot is not his thing. I’ve been developing a relationship with him already. He’s a great guy.
Q: I went to a banquet with [Patrick] Mahomes and he said he is not happy that you got Mitch Morse and he doesn’t.
A: Well, I am very happy.
Q: Hey Josh, is the elbow injury totally in the past? Did you have to take any precautions once you first got into the offseason? Is it a consideration of any sort right now?
A: No, no consideration. Obviously in the offseason, I met with PT and go over everything because it compounds throughout the season. Every player has those types of feels that after the season, you want to let your body rest and recover and do some physical therapy. I did some therapy on it for the first couple weeks, and after that I started throwing. No problems at all.
Head Coach Sean McDermott
Q: Sean, what does it say about the direction of this team that the two players who you have come out to speak on day one are two guys that weren’t even in this building at this time last year?
A: These were the only two guys that were available. Everybody else left. (Laughs) No, that says a lot in terms of where we were last year and where we are now. Still a lot of work to do, but to have these two young men come out and the way they carry themselves, they represent the Buffalo Bills and that means a lot to not only myself, but to our football team, to our organization, and hopefully to the community.
Q: We heard that Josh Allen reached out to your free agents. Did you prompt him to do that, or did he take it upon himself to do that?
A: Yeah, he took it upon himself. To be honest with you, I’m not even sure who he reached out to. These guys had different ways of communicating, as you know. Different ways through all different avenues.
Q: What does that say about him in wanting to bring everyone together?
A: As a young leader on our football team, to me, it shows ownership. It shows ownership and a lot of pride in what we are doing and his role on our football team. It’s a step in the right direction.
Q: I know you can’t get on the field with these guys yet, but how excited are you for when you can to see Josh working with some of these new pieces? Some offensive linemen are new, but really the receivers specifically to see how that will shake out.
A: Let’s just take it one step at a time. Josh has his own work to do. He has a lot of work to do in that regard to develop the rapport with the receiving corps, whether it’s tight ends, wide outs, backs. That’ll be important. The more reps we get, hopefully the better we’ll get. The great part about today is that there is a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm about what we’re doing, and the new players we have in the building have added to the players that were already here. It’s a nice mix, and it’s fun to watch guys find their routine this time of year and get to know one another. That’s really what phase one is for us all about: for guys who may have played on opposite teams to now be side-by-side in the locker room and share stories, get to know one another, begin to build that love for one another that embodies all good football teams.
Q: You mentioned that Josh has his own work to do to develop in his second year. What kind of statement does it make that as an organization, you surrounded him with so much? Potentially a new slew of starters that you expect him to elevate to that level to where he can make all of this investment pay off? How does that factor into your thinking with him?
A: Well, I’m sure a number of the guys that were starters last year will start this year. There is some carryover at those positions. Whether you’re new or been here a year or two years, those positions are earned in terms of who will start and who doesn’t start. With respect to Josh’s development, that is important. His development both on the field and off the field is important. This phase one allows us the opportunity to go back and review and start from scratch. We talk about boulders and rocks and pebbles type of analogy in how we teach progression in our classroom. Right now is the time to master the boulders, the foundation of what we do offensively. It’s neat to see the room in there that everyone is very eager to learn and go back and build that strong foundation.
Q: Sean, we heard Josh up here. He said this is his first offseason on an NFL team and this is his first free agency. Did you consult or talk to Josh about all of these changes and how this offseason should progress with him?
A: Well, Brian [Daboll] and I spent a lot of time going back this offseason, again, starting from scratch, taking inventory in what we did well and what we didn’t do well. The same went for Brian and the offseason staff. We really start from there today and we move forward one step at a time. Putting Josh in a position to develop, putting Josh in positon to succeed. There’s a lot that goes into that, and today is the first step in that process.
Q: Sean, when you have so many new faces, drawing on your experience, what’s the key to bringing in the guys and determining that you have the right people to be on the same page come July and August?
A: It’s a big challenge. We have 16, 17, 18 free agents that were not here last season. At this point, right around just less than half of the team is new to us, to the Buffalo Bills organization. That presents a challenge. There’s a lot of teams over the years that have put talent in the locker room, but haven’t been able to develop that talent or bring them together. We’re going to have to find, number one, the challenge is on our players to get together and for us to get to know them, and then also for us to do different things to try and build that team, that bond, that chemistry that so embodies good teams.
Q: Sean, looking ahead to the Draft next week, with as active as you’ve been in free agency, is it as wide open as it seems in terms of which direction you guys might go in the first round?
A: That’s probably a better question for Brandon [Beane]. Where we sit at [pick] nine… I’ve been at nine before and there’s a lot of good football players at nine. I’m excited to get to next weekend, I really am. I know Brandon and his staff have put in a lot of work. This is, as you know, a culmination of it. A culmination of a lot of work all in one weekend, all in three days for the most part. It’ll be the next step for us as a team and I’m excited for it.
Q: Sean, how has your approach changed? Last year, the big focus was on the quarterback position and that was a big uncertainty heading into the Draft. I don’t want to say you’re more comfortable, but how much more comfortable might you be with this roster given that your quarterback situation is set and numerous other positions have been filled in?
A: I don’t think you get comfortable in this league. If you get comfortable in this league, you get your butt kicked. I’m not into getting comfortable.
Q: Maybe comfortable isn’t the right word. How do you view this roster going into this Draft, where it’s at? Having the quarterback, having some positions filled as compared to where you were a year ago?
A: Right now, they’re just names on the paper. What we have to do is find a way to bring these names that are on the paper and bringing them to life. Getting them to love one another, getting them to understand one another and understand what we’re trying to get done. Certainly, to your point, I know that Josh coming in at number one this year is a lot easier than it was last year in terms of the fluidity of that and how easy that is at the outset. There’s a lot of work to get done. I can’t say that enough. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Q: What’s your involvement and hands-on approach during this final week before the Draft?
A: It’s interesting. I’m sure every team is different. Brandon [Beane] will detail a little bit more, I’m sure, but there are a lot of conversations that take place between the scouts and Joe [Schoen] and Brandon and the scouts. In terms of my involvement, it’s really just conversations that take place between Brandon and myself, as well as Joe. We play the ‘what-if’ game in terms of ‘what if this happens’ or ‘what if that happens’ or with this player, ‘Are we comfortable with him here?’ You just go through different options that could come up so you are prepared. It’s no different to me in a lot of ways when you prepare for a game. It just so happens that there is one game, and that ‘game’ is in a week-and-a-half here. It’s a great opportunity for us to improve our football team.
General Manager Brandon Beane
Q: Brandon, if I remember correctly, you did a mock draft with your staff last year. Are you guys doing that again this year?
A: Yeah, absolutely. That will be next Monday and Tuesday.
Q: How did you feel like that helped you guys last year? What do you think you gained?
A: I think you try and let the board fall. We make every scout the GM of a team – the Giants, the Raiders, whoever – and our pro guys go through what each team’s needs are, what we see their team needs are. Obviously, you’re not necessarily supposed to draft for need, but teams still do it. At that point, you start looking to see where need and skill level fit. It’s nice when you still fill a need. Sometimes guys will pick it the way a lot of the mocks have it, and sometimes guys will do it how they have it in their mind. If they’re picking a wide receiver or whatever for X team. Naturally, if you do it enough times, it naturally will present enough scenarios and sometimes there are scenarios that you maybe didn’t think about. At nine, there will probably be less scenarios than what we were dealing with last year at #12 and #22, but there will still be a lot of variations and the goal is to hopefully practice a scenario that actually presents itself which makes it really easy. We’ll have some discussion on it, and I’ll make the GM of that team explain the pick if it’s something way out of the ordinary. I’ll also put someone in charge of the Bills, not me. When they get to that pick, they’ll have to explain that pick, especially if it’s something that wasn’t obvious on the board.
Q: Brandon, the so-called ‘experts’ and mock drafters got you guys at a wide variety of potential picks at [pick] nine. Is that good for you that there is so much variance and nobody quite knows what you’re going to do?
A: Yeah. I like that. I don’t want to be sitting here with a major hole. If you have a major hole at a spot that’s just glaring, that ‘Joe Fan’ or ‘Joe Media Writer’ knows you need that if you don’t get it in the first round, especially at a position that would be considered thin, I think it would be harder to play poker, so to speak, to what your plans are. I like it. I know there’s a lot of stuff out there. Everybody has a mock. People can be just making stuff up or it can differ depending on their intel.
Q: Brandon, in that sense, how much further ahead might you be from the perspective of having a quarterback addressed a year ago and with all the additions you made in free agency?
A: It helps. Last year, a lot of the spring for myself and Sean [McDermott] and Brian [Daboll] and Joe Schoen and even Terry and Kim [Pegula] because quarterback is such a valuable position and commodity, a lot of our time and energy was trying to make sure we had that list right because that was going to have the biggest impact on what we’re doing. To be able to spread out, so to speak, and not send everyone to the same place, I feel like our coverage is better. I feel like we’re able to get more time, more looks on more guys. Not that we missed guys, but it’s just a deeper dive on certain players. There’s only so many hours in a day.
Q: Howie Roseman said this back at the Senior Bowl that this might be a historic year for defensive linemen. There could be 9-10 good prospects. Do you see it the same way that that particular position group is off-the-charts great?
A: I think it’s solid. I don’t know if I want to label it as off-the-charts great. I’d have to really go back and look. At the end of the day, there’s projections and how players are going to be used. Sometimes there’s D-linemen that some teams run in a 3-4 have rated much higher than we have rated running a 4-3 and vice versa. There’s guys out there that we don’t feel as highly about because we run a 4-3 that I could see that if Sean was running a 3-4, we probably would feel that they would be a better fit.
Q: In 2017, you guys traded down in round one. Last year, you guys traded up in round one. In general terms, can you just comment on what a GM has to consider from trading up as opposed to moving down? I’ve got to imagine that there are different things in play that you are weighing.
A: Yeah. Let’s first talk about going down. If you’re sitting at a position where you’ve got one guy sitting on the board when you’re getting close to the clock that you really like that you value and feel he fits whatever round, if you trade down, you almost better trade down to another round, because if you trade four or five back, the odds of one guy sticking out there is not very good. If you have five to seven guys and someone wants you to move back six to ten [spots], it’s close. There’s a chance that all of those guys could be gone. You probably have a good shot to get one of those guys if you have similar grades. It really goes back to following your board. That’s why it’s so important. Draft day, if you get your board right, should be a lot simpler. It’s just like Sean out there on game day. If they practice everything and run it and it works well in practice, it probably has a good chance to work on game day. Same thing with trading up: if you’re down at this level of the draft, let’s just say you were at number 25 and you have a guy in the top tier of your draft board. You think he is in the first round and he’s by himself up there and you think he is a rare player at his position, that might be the time to do it. But you also have to consider: what is the cost? Is there a team willing to do it? What is the cost? Is the cost too much to where it will jeopardize the rest of your draft or potentially future drafts?
Q: So is the real challenge then weighing what’s left on the board with what’s being offered and which is more important? Each case, I’m guessing, is different.
A: Yeah, let’s just take an example. Let’s say it’s the third round. What pick do we have? I think we’re pick number 74. If we’re in the third round and we’re getting close to our pick and let’s say we’re five or six away, and we’ve got a guy rated high in the second round and he’s sticking out like a sore thumb and we’ve done our due diligence, our board is telling us, ‘Let’s try and go get this guy.’ We think he’s significantly better than the player if he’s gone than the one we’d be choosing from if the rest of our guys are in the third round. Does that make sense? Tremaine [Edmunds] was a guy who we had up there and was a position of need, too. Again, I know I say ‘draft the best player available,’ and I truly mean that. But if there’s a guy that’s best player available and he fits a need, that is also telling you what you should do with the board. It’s not that we’re trying to ignore needs, but that we’re trying to fill needs. But you can’t reach for needs, and that’s why I gave the example last time. If we had not picked the quarterback at number 12 last year if we had stayed put and said, ‘Well, what the heck. We’re just going to pick a quarterback at number 22, no matter who it is’ without having a first-round grade on them, then it doesn’t make sense.
Q: You also have ten picks, Brandon. Do you get to a point where you say, ‘Look, the roster is good enough that I don’t know if ten guys can make the roster,’ or is a commodity a commodity and ten picks are ten picks?
A: Look, you do have to ask those questions, and that’s what we do later in the round. I have found that that is a little harder this year later in the rounds. You have to ask the questions, and that’s part of the vision that even when the coaches get their chance to present who they like, ‘How does this guy fit?’ You’ve got a sixth-round grade on him, and he’s the last position on his roster. Who does he beat out? If you’re telling me he’s definitely going to beat out somebody, you feel, barring health, that he’s going to beat out a guy, then I feel better about taking that guy than one where you say, ‘Ah, he’s going to battle with a guy that was on our practice squad last year who really didn’t make the team. I don’t know which one’s better.’ Then maybe you trade up to get a guy that you know, ‘This guy is making my roster and at a minimum, he’s helping us on special teams.’
Q: Brandon, with the moves that you made in free agency, do you feel like you have truly gotten to that point where the idea of ‘best player available’ isn’t something that you can just say, but something that you can go about implementing?
A: I do think I can sit here and say that I don’t feel we have a glaring hole. Like I said, I’m never going to say that we have positions that are stronger than others. I don’t have to go through those. You guys are pretty sharp people. We still do have ‘needs,’ but not going into the Draft with a glaring hole was the focus and will be the focused area in free agency. At the minimum, we’ve at least accomplished that.
Q: Brandon, where is your board movement-wise with the Draft a week-and-a-half away? How much tinkering will happen between now and Thursday?
A: Right now, I’ve got the scouts in there and we’re watching three players at a position that are day three players. Fourth round and beyond. We’re moving around in different positions. The thing is: what’s the order we like these guys? We’re also talking about what’s their role on special teams? If you’ve got three guys that are all backup players, the one who can play special teams might have to be put on top for the sense of the 46 [-man roster] in the sense of who gets a jersey, even though maybe he isn’t the best line-of-scrimmage player. Those are some of the conversations we’re having now in terms of guys in clumps. We’re just kind of moving around the board where maybe we’re not all in-synced about the order of these players. Maybe we’ve been arguing a little bit back and forth and maybe the coaches came in and we heard what they said and we still haven’t come to a consensus.
Q: At what point does the conversation focus in on what to do Thursday?
A: What we’ll do is the scouts are going to go home at the end of the day Wednesday in two days. They’ll go home and the board will, for the most part, be set. I’ll still watch some guys. There’s a few guys where I’ll want to watch to see that I’m comfortable with where they’re at. It’s our board, but I reserve the right to move a guy here or there if I feel we’ve beat him up too much or if I don’t feel that we’ve given him enough love. I’ll meet with our doctors this week and they’ll have some opinions on players medically, how they see this guy may have a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes that affects that portion of it. I would say that by the weekend, it’ll be in good shape and we’ll do the mocks next Monday and Tuesday and we’ll shut it down after that.
Q: I know it’s April 15th and the regular season schedule hasn’t even been set, but what do you make that this team has been given expectations of a nine-win team even before this whole thing even kicks off?
A: Honestly, I don’t even know what the prognosticators say.
Q: I’ll be one. You’re a nine-win team.
A: We’re nine wins? Does that get us in the playoffs?
Q: I don’t know, does it?
A: It did two years ago. If it gets us in the playoffs, we’ll take it. Listen, I think you guys know Sean McDermott and the coaches and the types of players that we’re trying to put out here. I think everybody is going to give a hard-nosed effort. We’re improving and headed in the right direction. We’ve said it many times. We still have to build this team. There’s a lot of new players and still a lot of gelling that has to go. We’ve got to get through training camp and health. It’s April the 15th. Everybody got their taxes done? It’s April 15th. We’ve still got five months almost until we play. A lot will change in this league between now and five months considering the Draft is next week.
Q: Tight end is arguably less of an early impact position than some others. What do you view are some of the challenges of projecting guys, whether a guy can put it all together at the tight end position?
A: Well, tight end is kind of a three-part player. What does he do as a run blocker, as a pass blocker, and in the passing game? And so as we’re going through these tight ends, those are the three areas that we focus on. Let’s watch his receiving skills simply as a receiver, let’s grade him there, and then what does he do as an in-line blocker? What does he do when he’s not attached? And then do they keep him in in the passing game at all or does he always go out for a route? There is projection because the game is changed and there are so few who are flexed out. You’re seeing that into our game. You do see certain players being used more. We did privates with certain guys and went to pro days for certain guys at a lot of positions. You try to get around him, get one of your coaches out there to work with him and get him on the grass. It’s not pads, but just seeing where the fundamentals are and if they don’t have them, can they be coached? Sometimes, they teach them some things and see how quickly they can pick it up.
Q: Given the age you have in your running back group, do you need a running back somewhere in this Draft?
A: I understand the question, but I don’t want to sit here and say we need it. I get it, we’ve got two guys who are over 30. We’ve paid attention to it. But I still think there’s guys who are out there and even some in free agency still who can help who will get on teams and help them. It’s kind of a different market for that position altogether in a lot of ways. I think there are some guys in the Draft who do have a good skillset and we’ll see how it falls.
Q: How much of an effort do you put into intangibles like someone who is a college graduate versus someone leaving college early?
A: I don’t necessarily weigh against it. I know we talked a little bit about this at the Senior Bowl. You’re definitely getting a more mature player when they’re been there all four years because most of the time, unless they’ve been injured, they’re playing four years because they weren’t a coveted player or seen as this five-star, four-star elite athlete. They haven’t necessarily had their tails kissed all their lives. You see people who have worked for this opportunity and are thankful for it. Not that underclassmen are not, but I do think the maturity level of a true senior, four year, or even a redshirt guy is naturally going to be higher than a three-year player. There are some of these underclassmen that we’ve met that are some really fine young men, mature beyond their years. Look at Tremaine [Edmunds] last year. You guys saw a guy that, despite being 19 when we draft him, he’s very mature. I don’t think as a whole they are, but I do think there are some that definitely are.
Q: Brandon, we haven’t spoken to you since you signed Eli Harold. I notice that he’s listed as a defensive end as the team put it out there but he’s kind of a ‘tweener.’ Is that where you see him starting off?
A: Yeah, we see him as a 4-3 end for us. He did some of that in college and he was a guy coming out where, depending on what kind of defense you were running, whether you were going to stand him up or put his hand in the dirt, but we’re going to try him as a 4-3 end. I’ve seen him do it before, so I know he can do it.
Q: Given the number of offensive linemen you’ve signed this offseason, is it less likely that you take one in the first round this year?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s less likely, no. I think there’s some good ones. Guys, I’m serious. We’re taking the best player. We’ve got the board stacked and we can draft right now and there’s some good players. I feel confident that we’ll get a good player at nine, and I’ll be curious in how these mocks go, but I can see a lot of scenarios where we go either side of the ball.
Q: Brandon, going back to your mocks from last year, how many picks did you get right?
A: We got Josh [Allen], but there was no scenario where we got Josh and Tremaine. I told you, I screwed that up last year. Sometimes I do dictate the mock and I do say, ‘You can’t take this player’ or ‘these three players have to be gone before we pick.’ Just to mix it up so we don’t end up with the same thing going. Last year, I screwed that up and we did all sorts of trade-ups and trade-backs with the first one, but I never did it with pick number 22. We always made a pick at number 22 or, in scenarios, used that pick to move up so we didn’t have it.
Q: When you look at it when the Pro Days are done and examine all the cornerbacks and receivers who ran sub-4.5’s. is it harder to evaluate playing speed these days because everybody tests so well or is the game just faster?
A: The game is faster, for sure, but the film doesn’t lie. You can tell play speed. It’s funny, it’s a checks-and-balances thing. If you see a guy, let’s say a cornerback, if he’s running high 4.5’s, 4.6, you’re questioning. But if you watch the film and see him running with guys who tested at a 4.4, 4.45 and they’re not blowing by him, he’s got the play speed. He’s got and the instincts. He’s aware and knows maybe where he’s deficient. There are guys in this Draft, like every year, where one guy ran .2 higher than the other one and I would swear the guy who ran the higher .2 is faster than the other one. Some guys really test well and it’s easy to get enamored with testing numbers, but that’s why we try to put a precedent in having our board in really good shape before we go to Indianapolis before these numbers start flashing out there. It is natural when you see that card and says 4.32 and you say, ‘I really want that speed’ but on the field and maybe mentally it doesn’t translate.
Q: How many players would you say end up on your final board?
A: Probably as low as 115, probably as high as 140. Somewhere in there. It depends on how nice the doctors are to us. Medically, or guys that have been in trouble. I’ve got a good feel for any of the guys who we would have trouble concerns with. The medical rechecks were just last week and I just saw the doc in the cafeteria a little while ago. I told him not to bring his red pen. Be easy on us.
Q: How many players do you scout?
A: When we start with the board in December, that board is high-300’s to pushing 400. But there’s also some guys on there that we are hearing smoke about as underclassmen. It’s not like you can wait until they declare and you can go watch them live. I would rather err on getting one live look on an underclassman in case they do declare and there were some guys who we felt shouldn’t have declared and did like every year, for whatever reason. You have that, and then you pair it down in February once the guys have declared, and we start to eliminate guys pre-Indianapolis for various reasons.
Q: Brandon, the linebacker position is an area that you’ll have to address at some point. Maybe inside, outside linebackers in the fourth round or so… is there any quality depth in that range?
A: I know you don’t believe me. I’m going to prove you guys wrong. I do think there’s guys. And I mentioned special teams. If it’s not a guy that’s going to come in and win a starting job, I am going to want to know what he’s done on teams. If he hasn’t done on teams, it’s because he’s been good at that school for so many years and they didn’t want to put him out there, or if he’s willing to do it, if he plays like he’s got his hair on fire running downfield. You guys know special teams guys. They’re physical, they’re running fast. Those are one of the things where you will pay a little more attention to the 40 [-yard dash] time. What’s he rolling down that field at 40, 50 yards? A lot of these guys getting timed, how many times do they really run 40 yards? But I think those measurements do show up more in special teams. I know it’s a long-winded answer, but we’d be looking for a line-of-scrimmage player but also one who can impact us on teams.