Transcript: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Media Availability (5/17/18)

Below is a selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quotes from today’s earlier media availability:
Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken
Quarterbacks Coach Mike Bajakian
Wide Receivers Coach Skyler Fulton
Running Backs Coach Tim Spencer
Tight Ends Coach Ben Steele
Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator George Warhop
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(On his first impressions of rookie running back Ronald Jones)
“It’s a little early to tell until you put the pads on but I like the way he’s working, I like his athleticism. He’s got work to do like any rookie but I like his approach.”
(On his first impressions of rookie wide receiver Justin Watson)
“I really like him. He’s big, fast, physical, smart. That’s what you’re looking for, a guy that can develop. Moving forward, those kind of guys rarely underachieve when you have that sort of measureable skill set. So, he’s looked really good at the start and what we looked for. I think that’s the biggest thing when you get those guys in here. You’re hopeful that they are what you thought they were so you can work with them and try to develop them. That’s what you’re always trying to do with young, talented players. We’re paid to develop our players and get the best out of them so that’s the exciting part.”
(On his transition into the offensive coordinator role)
“It’s been fine. The nice thing about it is that I don’t have to prepare for a position meeting. I can sit in a meeting where needed. I’m able to do all of the scripting that’s needed. I’m able to move a little bit on the field and touch a lot of different positions. Basically, the change in job description is dependent on the head coach. I do whatever the head coach asks me to do.”
(On what he’s seen from quarterback Jameis Winston during the offseason)
“The thing is, what I’ve in seen, irrespective of the physical stuff on the field, is, ‘Let’s not try so hard.’ He has natural-it’s who he is as a man-natural leadership qualities and a toughness about him. Guys want to follow him. [My message to him is], ‘It’s okay to fail, it’s okay, you’re human, it’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to have that side of you so let’s just go, you don’t have to try so hard. The guys will follow you, just be yourself.’”
(On what went right and wrong in the red zone in 2017)
“I got a chance to meet with the team and I don’t sugarcoat things very much and we absolutely chose to suck. We made that decision as an offense to play poorly, we did. We did a lot of things down the stretch which is crazy – I’m just talking the back half, once we got Jameis back. We did a lot of things to compete, I like the way our guys compete. We stopped feeling sorry for ourselves. But we did enough things that you can’t do- you do if you’re a bad team. Bad football loses before good football wins. We’re talking about quarterback/center exchanges, costly penalties, missed opportunities to put games away. But I do like the way our team finished at the end with that last five-game stretch. We played all teams that were getting ready for the playoffs, all of them had to win. We really didn’t have anything to play for and guys continued to play. With that being said, it’s a production league. We have to find a way to win, but I am fired up the way we finished out the year, the way our guys continue to compete. Even in that game, we weren’t perfect. We had turnovers, we had mistakes, but then to come through at the end was really exciting. But you hit it on the head. We have to be better in those critical areas. How do we stop turning the ball over? How do we stay being explosive? How do we score touchdowns in the red zone? We finished 24th in the league [in red zone scoring]. What’s interesting about that is it just would have taken five more touchdowns and then you jump from 24th to eighth because the sample size is so small. You have like 53 opportunities which is [eighth] in the league. We got down there [the eighth most times] in the league, but we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities. So what is that? That’s just being a hair on point at Carolina or here, just a few other decisions. We made some good plays, we just weren’t consistent enough. If you want to get to where you want to get, you have to be good. Those areas are critical. We all know that.”
(On his first impressions of center Ryan Jensen)
“What I’ve seen so far is he’s really smart, he’s tough, he’s played. He brings a confidence to that position even though really he had one year as a starter there in [Baltimore] but he’s been around, been in the league for a number of years. So, I feel really good about the way he’s been approaching it. When we’ve been on the field it’s been seamless. You haven’t seen a lot of issues in terms of terminology and snaps and those kind of things. I think we got a really good one.”
(On extra pressure put on coaches and quarterbacks)
“In our league, there’s so much pressure put on our coaches and that one position [quarterback]. Nobody gets the credit either way of winning or losing except the quarterbacks and the coaches. That’s fine, that’s the way it is. No one, as I’ve talked about before, no one is going to blame Mike Evans for why we haven’t made the playoffs. [It’s] the quarterback. That’s part of it, we get that. That doesn’t mean that we all don’t own it. So, I think the biggest thing is, ‘It’s okay, Jameis, to be yourself. You don’t have to try so hard. The guys know naturally you’re a leader.’ He’s done a great job of that. He is that for our team, but at times, it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re hurt and you’re not winning the way you want and so you’re trying so hard to get the guys because he wants to win so bad, we all do. I try too hard sometimes because I want it so bad.”
(On offseason changes to the offensive line)
“I think you’re always looking to upgrade and where you don’t always control free agency, where the market goes, there’s no guarantee that the market price fits what you’re looking for at a number of positions. For as many guys as we got, there were other guys that you liked and that’s every team in this league and where they fit. So, we certainly felt that we had a need there. We felt like we wanted, with J. R. [Sweezy] there getting banged up, we’re hopeful he’s back. Obviously we brought Evan [Smith] back to give us depth at center and guard. We moved Caleb [Benenoch] in there. Caleb’s kind of a swing guy that we’re working through. One thing that helped us at the end last year was, when we started losing guys, all of a sudden Joe Hawley was in there and Evan Smith was in there. Caleb had been here a year so you’re like, ‘Wow that’s pretty good, Caleb’s doing pretty good,’ so we could still function. You have to make sure you develop that. George [Warhop] does a great job developing those guys so that when they have to go in, we can still function and give ourselves a chance to win. In other words, if you’re not good up there then you absolutely cannot function.”
(On undrafted rookies that made a strong impression) “A couple of tight ends. [Jason] Reese and [Tanner] Hudson have looked good. It’s hard to say because I’ve done this for so many years, I’m the king of over reaction, good or bad. We’re in shorts and once you put the pads on – every year I’ve done it and you show up and you’re in winter conditioning and guys are just a little bit slow and then you put the pads on and they’ve got it figured out. They’re tough and the moment doesn’t get too big for them. So, it’s a work in progress and I think we’ve done a really nice job. I do think we have a really nice balanced roster with some talented guys and some young guys. Now we have to figure out a way to do it, that’s what we’re paid to do.”
(On the pressure put on quarterbacks)
“There is so much pressure on the quarterback position. Same thing with the head coach. I think more than anything, it’s just reaffirming to Jameis [Winston], ‘Hey, be yourself.’ He’s always done a great job of being himself and if you know Jameis, you grow to love him. That relationship with him and his teammates and his coaching staff exists. So it’s, ‘You don’t have to do any more, do what you do and be yourself. Keep working the way you work and keep interacting with your teammates the way you interact with them and the wins will come.’”
(On if Winston’s health impacted his performance last season)
“It affected him for sure, how could it not? The bottom line is that it comes down to wins and losses and that hasn’t been there for us. But, if you look at a number of areas, he set career marks in completion percentage and yards per attempt and QB rating. He’s improved in a lot of ways so again, the wins will come if we just keep working and keep improving. Then you take the games where he was healthy and you look at those numbers – I haven’t because frankly it doesn’t matter to me – but I’m sure they’re a lot better. He’s getting better, no doubt about it. We just have to translate that to victories. I’ve never questioned-going way back to the evaluation process when he was at Florida State, you can see that he was a tough son of a gun. The way he’ll stand in the pocket in the face of free heat and deliver the ball, there’s never been a question in your mind about his toughness, mental and physical. That was illustrated this past season by how he played through injury and how he performed.”
(On the importance of playing better in the red zone)
“We spent a lot of time studying the red zone, studying other teams in the red zone. It’s funny, you look at total red zone opportunities and the margin of difference between success and being average and being poor- as Coach ‘Monk’ [Todd Monken] has pointed out to our offensive unit, for however many times we were down in the red zone, if we had scored five more touchdowns over 16 games, five more touchdowns, we would be in the top eight in red zone percentage. Five more. I can show you seven plays off of the top of my head where if we just played pitch and catch, we would have scored a touchdown. Instead, maybe we don’t convert on third down or we take a sack and now it’s second-and-long and we end up kicking a field goal on both of those instead of scoring a touchdown. So, it doesn’t take a whole lot to improve. It’s just a matter of execution. As we’ve pointed out to our players, we study those teams that are the top in the NFL and what you realize is that they’re not reinventing the wheel. I’m thinking I’m going to watch the Philadelphia Eagles and I’m going to get all these great ideas about what they’re doing in the red zone. You know what? Their plays are the same plays we’re running, except they’re playing pitch and catch. Or, maybe the quarterback is scrambling and making a play for a touchdown. There’s one. The running game plays a part. It all plays a part of how we do in the red zone. But, it won’t take much other than making the plays that are presented to us. I think that Coach Monk has said, he uses a phrase with us, bad football loses before good football wins. That can sum up how we play in the red zone. We just weren’t executing and we weren’t making the plays that were there.”
(On his added responsibility as wide receivers coach)
“[It’s] more responsibility. The room is mine now. They’re my guys. I’m choosing the drills and talking about the reps at practice and the routes and one on ones. It’s more reasonability but like I said, I’ve been with the receivers for two years before this. I’ve been extremely lucky because I got to spend two years with ‘Monk’ [Todd Monken], who isn’t just the best receivers coach in the building but probably the best receivers coach in the NFL. So, to be able to learn from Monk and still have Monk in the building to converse with and bounce things off of has been awesome.”
(On the value of having a veteran wide receiver corp)
“It’s awesome. We had the rookie minicamp last weekend and we got the rookies in and I was just telling Zach Grossi, who is working with me with the receivers as well, how much we take for granted the vets. How much they know and they do everything right and give the right examples. With the vets, you have ‘A, B, C, D.’ I can start on ‘E’ and we’re rocking and rolling. Then I go with the rookies and I start on ‘E’ and I get all of these blank stares and we have to start at ‘A.’ It’s been awesome to have the vets in terms of our room. The type of people they are, obviously you know I have a ton of good players in my room, but working with the guys day to day, interacting, we spend a ton of time together. So the type of guys they are, it’s awesome.”
(On what Mike Evans brings to the offense)
“I think the thing with Mike is as he gets more experience and plays more, the nuances of the game, Mike’s going to continue to make plays. The tough thing for Mike is that everybody knows who Mike is. People who don’t even watch football know that you have to double cover Mike. So, I look at last year. A lot of people talk about Mike having a ‘down’ year last year. Statistically maybe because he hardly got 1,000 yards, but how many guys do you know that have four 1,000 yard seasons [in their first four seasons]? I think there’s three in the entire history of the NFL. So when you’re going into your fourth year, everyone knows that you’ve had three 1,000 yard seasons and you’re still getting double teamed and you get 1,000 yards? That’s not a down season to me, especially when you take into account the things that people don’t watch. Mike plays without the ball. The things that Mike does for us when he’s not even getting the ball that people don’t understand are extremely important. Mike’s selflessness about playing hard without the ball and being consistent and being on the field, we’re lucky to have that.”
(On his impression of rookie running back Ronald Jones)
"Obviously I like his speed and quickness. Size-wise, he has good size but he'll probably put on a few more pounds. But mainly we like his agility, we like his ability to maybe that hit that long one every now and then. We'll see how it goes. But he's a fast learner. I like the way he's learning right now so I think he'll fit right in. He fits right in with the group right now."
(On how well Jones can pass-protect)
"Obviously we can't do it live now because we are in shorts and t-shirts. But watching the film, he has done a good job, he's not afraid. That's the thing – he's not afraid and you can see has the want-to in him. So all I need to do is just teach him technique in terms of hand-placement, feet, where his aiming point is and things like that. But he has it in his heart, so that's good. That's half of it right there."
(On running back Peyton Barber's ceiling)
"I think he has a high ceiling. One of the things, this is his third year so he has a good feeling of what we're trying to do offensively. Peyton can catch the ball and he can run routes even though he is a good-sized back. Height-wise he's probably 5-10 but he's like a 230. That's a pretty good combination. I like the way he runs, I like his attitude, I like the way he's learning and being able to pick up things. Obviously he's in the mix, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out."
(On production of tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard last season)
“The fact that we have a great group of tight ends and being able to spread the ball both to O.J. and Cam. It’s hard to find time where – they’re obviously going to be both competing for plays and for reps, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to get the best matchup we can and two great options right there with Cam and O.J. So, I mean, they obviously were productive. I think they tied for leading group of duo tight ends in the NFL, which is great. I think they had six touchdowns each, so we’re obviously trying to build off of that.”
(On areas for Howard to improve)
“Obviously, coming from college whether it being Alabama or Canada, there’s obviously a transition and learning curve that comes into play. Everybody knows that. Where he’s got to make the transition is from his rookie year to his second year. That is what I tell him all the time. He is his own biggest critic. He is a guy that is super humble and he knows the stuff that he needs to get done. Now it’s those details. He’s a guy that he’s athletic enough to get away with using bad technique, but at the end of the day, that stuff is going to catch up to him. He’s got to fine tune his details and he’s got to get more efficient with his footwork and his hands, crisper routes and that is the stuff that we are working on now and I am excited to see where he’s going to go with that.”
(On Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard’s relationship)
“Like you said, they work so well together and Cam has obviously developed such a good chemistry with Jameis [Winston] in the red zone and other situations, but those two guys feed off each other, so they coach each other up. Cam – I am obviously excited for him. He got rewarded with a big contract this year, well deserved, but those two guys make each other better. Cam has a little bit more experience and he’s [going to say], ‘Hey O.J., here’s how we kind of need to seam this route in a little bit.’ So, O.J. is taking the coaching. We talk about with those guys, like with O.J. I’m like, ‘Hey, the great ones show up every day.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re right Coach.’ So, not just making a play here, it’s got to be consistent. Every single day that you’re in there, it’s got to be consistent. A great quarterback has to have a feeling where we’re at. So, when those guys are working reps after practice, Jameis knows where they’re going to be. Cam obviously has benefitted from those extra reps and then O.J.’s been out there too with him, so it’s been good.”
(On addition of center Ryan Jensen and transition of Ali Marpet back to guard)
“I think when you looked at free agency and we wanted to add a guy, we felt like Ryan was one of the better guys we could add. We weren’t looking to move Ali from center, but because of the fit and with Ali’s flexibility, it allowed us to do that. So, I think we’ve improved ourselves, we’ve added another good football player and we’ve had a good football player that plays center and right guard who’s flexible enough for us to play him at left guard. So, I think it helps us add a good player and gives us flexibility with the guys up front.”
(On whether it will be difficult for Ali Marpet to play left guard having only played center and left guard)
“No, because when you play center, you’ve got to play both right and left guard. If I’m a center and I have to shift on my right, I’m a right guard. If I have to shift on my left, I’m a left guard. So, really the transition for him to go from center to left guard is really easy versus flipping from right guard to left guard and Ali is smart. It’s really important for him and he takes it personally to do well. Of all the guys no matter where I’m moving them from, he would be the one I’d have the least concerns about.”
(On if tackle Donovan Smith could take the next step this season)
“I have no doubt in that. I think you look at Donovan number one – first of all, you evaluate him compared to his draft class, I don’t think I would take anybody in his draft class over him, nobody, in terms of a tackle. Then you start evaluating him with other left tackles in the league. I have to really think about it, but I can count on one hand how many guys I would like to have to replace him. The next thing, he is a young player who has never missed a start. I think he’s missed 25 or 28 snaps when he was out the second half of the New Orleans game. The next game, they didn’t think he was going to play. After Tuesday he said, ‘There is no way I am missing that game.’ How are you going to trade out that kind of mentality? Now, can he play better? Yeah. Does he have elite ability? Yeah. Has he played to that on a consistent basis? No, so that’s my job to get him to that level consistently. I’m not trading him out. You guys got something here that’s special and in terms of his mentality and what he wants to be and how he goes about his business, I would be in no hurry to try to find somebody else to replace him.”
(On guard Alex Cappa)
“He’s a rookie. Alex is fortunate in one regard - he’s been working out with [two-time Pro Bowl center] LeCharles Bentley, so his foundation is a little bit better than most, but other than that, he’s a rookie. He’s a young guy that played at a Division II school. He’s got a long way to go. He was a tackle in college, we are moving him to guard, teaching him how to play center. So, we will see how he rolls. Like I’ve said before, we added him, he checks most of the boxes, he’s got to learn how to play and learn how to compete with the rest of the guys and we will see how it goes from there.”