On Cam Newton's recovery from shoulder surgery: “Probably the biggest thing I can tell you is what (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion updated us with, which is that everything is progressing very well. He’s going through his rehab sessions. Everything has been positive.”
On the depth at quarterback in the draft: “I think there is some quality depth. I think this is a good draft in terms of quality depth at a lot of positions. Quarterback is not as deep as it’s been in the past, but the guys that they do have are quality guys. I look forward to watching those guys work out, as I do all the positions. I think there are a lot of quality depth players, especially at the positions we’re interested in.”
On quarterback depth with Taylor Heinicke (a restricted free agent) and Kyle Allen on the roster: “I know the last few years we have looked at taking a quarterback, and a couple of times the guy that we liked got taken before we got the chance to. The only reason you do that obviously is to increase your depth, and we like what we have as far as depth at the position right now. We think both of those guys came in and played well and showed us they’re more-than-capable backups. And again I’m really pleased with Cam’s progress this offseason based on the reports I’m getting."
On if it is a good idea to develop a young quarterback: “With Derek (Anderson) not coming back (in 2018), we did work on developing quarterbacks, and we saw the play of both of those guys last year and felt very good about what they showed us."
On if the team will bring Heinicke back: "I don’t want to get into players’ contracts, but I was pleased with what Taylor did for us, as with Kyle. I feel really good about our depth; I know (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) does as well. To me that’s pretty important when your offensive coordinator feels good about those guys.”
On the running backs in the draft: “I think the running back class in the draft is a solid one. There are a lot of quality young guys that you can get at the right pick. You’ve got to be aware of them and understand where they would fit for you and exactly where you would want to utilize them. I’m pretty excited about getting deeper into the draft prospects. I’ve gotten a list that I’ve been given by (general manager) Marty (Hurney) and his staff of guys, so I’m pretty excited as I’m diving into these.”
On the importance of controlling Christian McCaffrey's workload: “Very much so, and that’s the intent of finding a guy. Understanding what Christian did last year and how many reps he played, that’s something that we have to be concerned with. Now him touching the ball was no concern; it’s just the extra plays, so we’ve really got to look at that and find a way to take some of that load from him.”
On finding a running back with the right skill set to complement McCaffrey: “I think Christian showed you he can carry the load no matter where he is, no matter where we run him – whether we run him inside or outside or out of the backfield as a receiver. Really it would be a guy I’d almost say that has a similar type of skill set – that’s really what we’re looking for probably.”
On what Bruce Arians can bring as the Buccaneers’ new head coach: “Well you saw what he did in Arizona, and that’s a very dynamic offensive attack. I know they’ve shored up their defensive staff as well, and they’ve got some quality players. I think they’re going to become a very competitive team in an already competitive division. I think he’s going to bring a lot to the table.”
On replacing retired center Ryan Kalil: “You are looking for a center to come in and take over. We’ve got something there in (Tyler) Larsen already who has played for us and has done that very, very well. But we’re also looking for a guy who will step up and be the leader in the room – and not just the position room but the team as a whole. You are looking for a guy with leadership qualities. I thought Larsen did a really nice job when he had his opportunities. I felt very comfortable about that. We’ll continue to look at how we can improve our offensive line because as we’ve said before, ‘We want to make sure to protect our quarterback and to put playmakers around him.’"
On players with leadership qualities: “The leadership qualities are a guy who is willing to step up and take responsibility, be accountable and hold others accountable in the right way. Ryan Kalil was a very special player; I’ve been fortunate to have a number of those guys, and that’s one of the things that has happened to us in terms of losing some of the veteran guys. The people we’re going to have to replace not just on the field but in the locker room, in the meeting rooms, in the team room and on the field is going to be very, very important.”
On developing leaders: “At the end of the day you have to look at who they are and see if that fits their personality. I’m not going to ask a guy to do something that he’s not capable of doing, but at the same time if I see somebody that can or has potential, I will most certainly talk with him. We as a football team have to find our leaders. We have a number of them already in place that have been leaders for us, but with the loss of a couple of key guys, we have to have other guys step up.”
On having dynamic players in skill positions on offense: “With guys that can get into the backfield and run the ball but also split out, it does change the way that you have to approach an offense. It does put a lot of burden on you because teams try to create matchups, and if you can’t match up with them, that’s where they’ll try to exploit you. You’ve got to be ready for that, and that’s what a guy with versatility does – like a Curtis Samuel, a Christian McCaffery, a Greg Olsen, an Ian Thomas. Those types of guys, you want to be able to move them around within your formations.”
On the next step for Ian Thomas: “I think just going to next level in terms of being a more consistent player. He made a couple of big plays, then disappeared a little bit, then make a couple. We want him to be able to step to the forefront and be a great complement with Greg Olsen. But of those guys can be very dynamic my first two seasons here. We had a pretty good combination of tight ends, and I think we’re getting back to that right now.”
On the team exploring quarterbacks in free agency: “I think right now we’re very pleased with where we are in terms of our quarterback position. Very satisfied in what we got at the end of the year from both Taylor and Kyle; I think both of those guys showed that ability. If we did do anything, it’s probably going to be in the draft. We think developing a guy – as was asked earlier – is very important going forward. But we really do feel strong about the two guys that we have. I know Norv has been pretty satisfied with what got from those guys. As I said earlier, from what I’ve gotten from the reports, Cam’s progress has been very good. He’s been getting all of his workouts in, his rehab. Just knowing that, it gives you a little bit of confidence going forward.”
On DJ Moore's success as a rookie: “We’ve always played rookies, high draft picks and getting them on the field. One of the things that has helped is first of all his work ethic. He’s a guy who works tremendously hard. He did a very good job when he got here in getting himself acclimated to the way we do things. I think that’s important. It’s about finding out what a young man does and using his skill set. We were able to do that very quickly with him.”
On if the emphasis on pass rushers has devalued the importance of middle linebackers: “One of the premiums has become pass rushers, but you still have to stop the run. If you’re not effective stopping the run, you’re going to struggle. We had our issues last year early trying to get that taken care of, so it is important. The middle of your defense is so important because if you’ve got stout run-stoppers that can get off the ball and get vertical, they can also impact the pass rush.”
On the qualities he looks for in pass rushers: “The biggest thing you want is guy that can get vertical, that can get up the field and play the run and get to the quarterback. That’s probably the biggest thing that you look for – guys that can get across the line, can recognize run or pass and can get vertical. You have to find those guys that can be disruptive and make an impact. Just because guys are quick and fast off the ball, if there’s no inside push, they can’t be effective. So we want a combination – not just from the outside rushers but from the inside push as well."
On what changes will be made to the interior defensive line: “I think it’s just a matter of getting those guys back on track. I know last year was different. We had (Dontari) Poe, who was a new player getting used to the way we do things and KK (Short) learning to work with Poe. Remember, he had five seasons of he and Star (Lotulelei) working together very well. You’ve got to develop that tandem; that tandem has got to have a good rapport. As far as guys who I think could step up into that position, we’ve got a group of young guys that we’ve got to take a really good look at. I think Marquis (Haynes) is a young man that’s got that kind of a skill set as far as an outside attack guy. JC (Jermaine) Carter has shown some of those abilities. We’ve got to see what Efe Obada can do out there. Bryan Cox is another young man that has those kinds of skills sets. It’ll be interesting to see how those guys come back and whether they fit that kind of role or whether we keep them at the defensive end spots.”
On whether DJ Moore can be a No. 1 receiver: “How do you label a number one? Is it a vertical number-one threat, or is it a guy that works underneath the defense. For us, he has both skill sets, but the most important thing is getting the ball in his hands more than anything else. That’s the biggest thing we’ll work with DJ on: finding ways to get the ball in his hands. After the catch, I think he was number two (in the NFL) in total yards after the catch, so he’s a guy you want to put the ball in his hands. You’ve just got to find ways to do it.”
On if Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams fit into the plan at offensive tackle: “They do. It’s just a matter of where they are when they start getting ready for OTAs and minicamp. It’s been a long process for both of them, but they’re rehabbing, getting themselves ready to go. Going forward, it would be exciting to have them both functional and ready to roll, and then we can get where they are exactly and how it’s going to fit for our team.”
On if he thinks Matt Kalil will be on the team next season: “Well, yeah I do because he’s working out and getting himself ready to go into the offseason programs.”
On the difficulty when scouting for defensive players who can defend the run: “I do think the way they play certain things in college do impact the types of players that we’re looking for. You’ve got to really find that pipeline. It’s difficult, but you’ve got to be able to do it. You’ve also got to be able to pull the trigger. At the end of the day, if the guy is sitting there but somebody else is sitting there too that you like, who is going to impact you more? I do know that one thing we’d love to make sure we’re able to do is shore up our pass-rush. Losing Julius (Peppers) is a big blow to us because of what he’s brought to the table the last couple of years, but you’ve got to be able to replace that.”
On the art of the draft-plan smokescreen: “Everybody is trying to figure out what you’re doing this time of year, but it really starts to play out once you start going out on the road and visit players and bring players in the closer you get to the draft. I think it’s important because you can’t really let people know what you want because they will try to jump you.”
On the re-signing of safety Eric Reid: “What it does for us is it gives us a position that we know is going to be solidified for a number of years – a guy that will be around a number of years. And we have two young corners (James Bradberry, Donte Jackson) that had really good years for us, so we’re pretty excited about that. For sure we know who the three guys will be, and now we’ve got to go out and find who the next match is next to Eric, and we feel really good about what we could potentially have at nickel.”
On the skill set the team looks for in a free safety: “Well it really depends on where we're going to play Eric and as we start getting closer to the OTA time and the phases - first phase, second phase, third phase - we'll get a chance to look a little bit deeper into it. We do feel we need to find a pair. We do like some of the young guys that we have on the roster that we think could also be a nice fit for us.”
On the team's plan of using C.J. Anderson to spell McCaffrey: “He had some good games. We’re very pleased with what we got from Christian. We thought Christian’s numbers – almost 2,000 total yards on offense –was great for us. I thought Christian ran the ball well inside and caught the ball well for us out of the backfield.”
On the hardest transition for rookie offensive linemen in the NFL: “The run game. Watching tape, I’ve watched a couple of offensive linemen that only blocked five running plays out of 85 plays – I really have. It’s amazing how much they throw the ball. I know that everybody runs the RPO (run/pass option), but when you watch, a lot of these RPOs the ball is being thrown. It’s amazing that in a game of 85 plays, there were 80 throws."
On scouting offensive linemen who can transition well in the NFL: “At that point, you look for the young man’s skill set, and hopefully it translates. And you’ll find enough tape that tells you if he has that kind of ability or if he has a long way to go.”
On the plan at left guard: “What Greg (Van Roten) did for us was exactly what we needed from that position. I was very pleased with it. He played very solid, did some good things. We also know Tyler has that ability, but Tyler is going to get an opportunity to work at center, so we do have to get some good young talent, got to bring in some depth. There’s also free agency, so we’ll see what happens in the next month.”