Brian Johnson

Q. I wanted to ask you about QB Tanner McKee and kind of the challenges facing a young quarterback when he’s getting so much thrown at him? (Reuben Frank)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Just throwing as much as possible at him, trying to just get a feel for capacity. It’s always very difficult learning a new system. I think one of the things that ends up happening is, especially if you’ve been in the college system for four years of trying to say, ‘Okay, this concept is how we called if here,’ and just translating the language.

That becomes to me the biggest challenge, but I think Tanner has done a great job, [Quarterbacks] Coach [Alex] Tanney has done a great job of getting him ready to come out here and know what to do. Obviously, those guys have a ton of work to do in terms of handling the install, being able to communicate out there what they need to get communicated. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that I’m sure everybody has welcomed.

Q. First day in pads, do things change a little bit? (Ed Kracz)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, for sure. You get a chance to see some real football and to see how those mate blocks happen. You get a chance to see a little bit of perimeter blocking. There are some things that will go on with pads that we haven’t had the first couple or three practices that we’ve had, but everybody is excited to get out here and get started.

Q. It stood out to C Jason Kelce that you spent time in the O-line meeting room. He said that’s something that stands out for an Offensive Coordinator. Why did you do that? What was behind that? (Zach Berman)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think for me, the difference in this league and in college is when you were the coordinator in college, you coached a position. Having that ability to be able to kind of spread your time out. One of our main core values is connecting. [Head] Coach [Nick] Sirianni always preaches that, and it’s not just a sign that we have on the wall. I think we’ve got to be really intentional about it and just get a global view of what the offense needs.

I think it’s really important that you see not only the picture, but you see the puzzle, as well, and how those pieces all fit together. I just like going in that room and listening to [Run Game Coordinator/ Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland] Stout teach. I think he’s one of the best teachers in the world. That room has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. I just try to soak some of that up.

Q. Are there things you learned in that room that sort of changed the way you think about the dynamic? (Bo Wulf)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think you just get a feel for just different strengths and stresses. I think managing that is something that’s really, really important. We have 11 different positions out there, and each call has a strength and each call has a stress. Just understanding the intricacies and the details on how that flows into each position I think is vital.

Q. Four days into camp, how is QB Jalen Hurts doing? (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: J [QB Jalen Hurts] just continues to improve. He has a great demeanor about himself. He comes out here eager to learn, eager to get better, and I think just having that experience and understanding, seeing things and hearing things for the third year now, I think that just speeds up the process.

Q. How does QB Marcus Mariota kind of help in the evolution. What are you seeing from him? (Martin Frank)

BRIAN JOHNSON: [QB] Marcus [Mariota] has been great to be around. I think he has a very unique experience in this league, as well, and anytime that — you spend so much time in the building with these guys and they spend so much time together in the quarterback meetings, I think just being able to share that information, share knowledge is really important to the development of the position.

Q. We’ve seen RB Trey Sermon working with the first team and Head Coach Nick Sirianni has spoken highly of him. What do you like about him, and does he have a chance to make the team? (Tim McManus)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think we have a great group of running backs, and I think [Running Backs/ Assistant Head] Coach [Jemal] Singleton has done a great job of getting guys ready to play.

When you’ve got a number of guys that were all just kind of splitting reps right now and getting the reps that we need to get to see what everybody can do and evaluate skill sets and how we can deploy them, that entire group has done a really good job.

Q. With QB Jalen Hurts, you’ve been around pretty much since day one of his development. He talks about himself as a triple threat: passing, rushing and his mind – a process he’s very proud of. How much has he improved from a processing aspect? (John McMullen)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think he’s been on a journey of daily improvement since the day we stepped in the building. That’s a testament to who he is as a person, how important football is to him, and just his drive and overall determination.

Then you add that with the fact that he’s seen a lot of football now in the last two years. I think those reps that you get, just like in any profession really, the more you do something, usually the better you get at it. I think that experience starts to kick in, and you can start to see things happen before they happen.

Q. As a new coordinator, is this defense changing roles schematically, or are you just moving ahead from where you were last year? (Merrill Reese)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think the biggest thing is we’re always looking for ways to evolve. Not necessarily find a new way to do things, but find maybe a better way to do things. That’s under constant evaluation, whether it’s offseason, training camp or even in season.

For us as an offense, we’re always trying to find little wrinkles, little adjustments that we can have to make sure we’re getting the most out of what we have.

Q. Obviously a big part of your new job will eventually be calling plays on game day. What are you able to do out here in training camp to be able to prepare for that? (Dave Zangaro)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think Coach Sirianni does a great job of setting the schedule in training camp and allowing for some of those call-a-periods in setting up practice in a manner where you have to have some reactionary calls. He’ll blurt out situations and you’ve got to be ready to go. To me, that’s not just on the practice field. That happens, same thing in the meeting room and team meetings. I think the organization is set up in a way to where it helps you and gets you ready to go.

Q. Where has your level of comfort been in those situations? (Dave Zangaro)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I’m extremely comfortable calling plays, but ultimately we’re executing the vision that we have for the offense throughout the course of the week. Being here the last two years and understanding exactly how things are operated, understanding exactly how Coach Sirianni wants things done I think has been vital for me for sure.

Q. The play yesterday where QB Jalen Hurts rolled to his left, ended up scrambling to his right, threw a 40-yard pass to WR Olamide Zaccheaus, how have you seen Jalen Hurts specifically in scramble drills? (Josh Tolentino)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Scramble is something we talk about a lot, is the ability to make these off-schedule type plays. If you look around the league and you see some of the most explosive offenses, a lot of those plays happen in second-reaction football.

You have to have a plan for when the play breaks down and how you scramble and the spots that guys are getting to and how we’re managing that.

But again, I think it just goes to Coach Sirianni’s vision. In terms of the argument of there’s always, was it a sack, was it not a sack. But just getting that work and letting the play continue to develop, I think it pays huge dividends once the real games start.

Q. Last year the offense threw the ball to the running back less often than any other team in the league. Is that something you see as room for growth? (Bo Wulf)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think the biggest thing is you want to have — you want to create as many issues as you can for the defense, and using all five positional players in a manner that puts stress on the defense.

I think throughout the course of the week, just trying to figure out ways to deploy those types of match-ups, whether it be at tight end, receiver or running back and having all those guys be viable options to make plays when the ball comes their way.

Q. Knowing QB Jalen Hurts like you do and for as long as you’ve known him for, how much do you think last year’s loss to Kansas City is driving him even further? (Dave Uram)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Jalen is naturally a very uniquely driven person, and I think — he said something about he didn’t go through the fire just to smell the smoke. I think that just kind of throws another log on a very, very hot fire that’s burning internally already.

I have no concerns about that with [QB] J [Jalen Hurts] at all.

Q. Running backs catching the ball at Florida, that was a big part of your offense at Florida. Was that personnel driven or philosophical driven? (Zach Berman)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think it’s both-and. I think you always want to try to get your best players the ball in space with favorable match-ups. As many times as you can do that, I think the more productive you’ll be.

Fortunately, here we have a lot of really, really good players that can do special things with the ball in their hand, and we’ve just got to find ways to get it to them uniquely.

Q. When you called plays on the college level, how much of it did you do? (Tim McManus)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, a lot. My comfort level with calling plays is very, very comfortable in terms of seeing the game and being able to set different things up. But again, I think it just goes to what people may not often realize is a lot of that work is done during the week, and it’s always really, really collective with most staffs that I’ve been on in terms of breaking down the film and understanding all being on the same page of what we want to call in a particular situation.

For me, I’m excited for that challenge, excited for that opportunity.

Q. How has your relationship with QB Jalen Hurts evolved with your new role this season as opposed to the last two seasons? (Shamus Clancy)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think we have a great relationship, and it’s just continuing to evolve in terms of being able to have constant communication in terms of what we’re seeing in real time on the field.

I think that’s something that we will continue to develop and continue to grow as the season moves along.

Q. How do you prepare for defenses taking away specific successful plays you guys had last year, for instance, the QB sneak, the draw play, without knowing exactly how you are going to encounter that? (Jeff McLane)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think that’s part of our studies in terms of what we’re doing in the off-season of trying to find new wrinkles and evolve and complement the offense in a way that can be successful.

Like I said earlier, we’re always looking for ways to do something better or ways to evolve and not be stagnant.

Q. What have you seen from WR Quez Watkins so far in the first two days of practice? (Eliot Shorr-Parks)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, Quez has done a great job. He had a terrific catch the other day in the first team period. He’s highly, highly motivated. He’s obviously very, very talented, and that group in general, as with a lot of groups, this being the third year of the offense, there’s a level of confidence that comes with knowing exactly what to do, knowing the adjustments that need to happen before they even happen. Quez has been no different.

Q. As an organization, this franchise produces along the trenches. You have T Jordan Mailata and G Landon Dickerson together; they’ve been now a couple years together. How has that level of comfort grown this year? (Rob Kuestner)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think it provides just a ton of confidence when you play next to a guy for — and get as many reps next to a guy for as long as they have, just the intricacies of understanding exactly how they want to mate block things and how they pass off games and things of that nature that show up throughout the course of a game and throughout the course of a season. I think that continuity usually bodes well.

Q. You talked about familiarity with the offense. WR Deon Cain had some time here previously; have you seen any change in the way he approaches things this year? (Ed Kracz)

BRIAN JOHNSON: Some things have changed throughout the course of last season since Deon was here. The bones of it are still the same, but he came in probably with a higher base level than someone that has never been exposed to what we do on offense. But there’s still a challenge to continue to develop, continue to evolve as the offense evolves.

Q. You mentioned the tight ends; in terms of them, what’s it going to take for somebody to stand out playing behind Dallas Goedert? (Chris Franklin)

BRIAN JOHNSON: I think [Tight Ends] Coach [Jason] Michael does a fantastic job of getting that group ready to go and being very versatile, interchangeable with how we deploy them and get them the reps that they need. I think playing tight end, particularly here, behind [TE] Dallas [Goedert], you get a chance to see one of the best guys in the NFL do it at a high level.

Anytime you can have that reference point, I think it really helps your game.