Q. Where are you with the running back room now that you’ve seen the guys for a little bit? How do you think that’s progressing and what’s kind of stood out to you? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: It’s been great. It’s a really fantastic room. I think [Assistant Head Coach/ Running Backs] Coach [Jemal] Singleton has done a great job of getting guys the reps they need to see what we need to see as a staff and as an organization. Really excited about that competition and how it’s looking.
Obviously, we’ve got a lot of talented players at that position, and they all have unique skill sets that we’ve got to try to find a way to use and put them in a position to be successful.
Q. You said last week that they were standing with the receivers when they were on the field learning with the receivers how to run routes and stuff like that. Is that something that you’ve seen more of from that group? (Ed Kracz)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think anytime you can create value and cause issues for the defense and make all five guys available on every single play, I think it puts a lot of stress on the defense.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of being able to use everything you have in your toolbox to give you the best chance to be successful.
We have some guys with a very unique skill set, and it’s our job to try to find ways to utilize that in a way where it would fit in the normal flow of the offense but also highlight what our players do well.
Q. What have you seen from the guys behind QB Jalen Hurts – QB Marcus Mariota, QB Tanner McKee, QB Ian Book – how are they shaping out? (Rob Kuestner)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, it’s just been constant growth. With a lot of these guys, I think this is everybody’s first training camp in the quarterback room other than Jalen. I’m just continuing to fine tune the details of the offense, understanding that we’re just putting in — like everything right now, and it’s not tailored specifically to a game plan, so we’re just trying to get looks at things, of how it fits with our personnel, with our scheme.
Those guys have done a great job. [Quarterbacks Coach] Alex Tanney has done a great job in the quarterback room of making sure guys are prepared and ready to go for the installs.
But it’s unique because I think our quarterback room, they all have different skill sets, right, and then how you deploy that and how you utilize that is really dependent on what you have in the room.
Q. Are you calling the game from the sideline? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, so I’ve done both. I called from the sideline at the scrimmage the other day, so I’ll be on the sideline for the preseason game.
Q. Why is that your choice? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I’ve done it both ways, and I don’t know that one way is necessarily better than the other, but I think just for having the ability to communicate face-to-face with guys in that environment, I think provides a little bit of added impact.
Q. We saw last week Head Coach Nick Sirianni get on QB Jalen Hurts pretty hard at practice. What is your philosophy in terms of hard coaching, and is it any different when you go from Quarterback Coach to Offensive Coordinator? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, the standard is the standard. I think Nick does a tremendous job of praising you when the standard is met and correcting when the standard is not met. Jalen has been around hard coaching his entire life, so that’s nothing new to him.
One thing I think that’s very, very important to realize and understand, sometimes it’s just about the message and what was the message that was trying to get across in that instance.
Those guys have a great relationship, and I think it obviously helps your team when one of your best players is eager to be coached hard. I think that just sets an unbelievable standard for the entire organization.
Q. How do you balance QB Jalen Hurts’ ability as a runner with a desire to keep him healthy and upright at the same time? (Shamus Clancy)
BRIAN JOHNSON: We always take into consideration how much we’re putting him in harm’s way, specifically in the run game. There are some things that naturally happen throughout the course of a game or throughout the course of a play where it becomes second reaction football. But Jalen has always had a great feel for avoiding contact and being able to get himself down in certain situations.
I think just as he continues to grow and develop as a player, it’s really important that he just uses everything he has in his toolbox to make sure that he’s playing as well as he can.
Q. You’ve had a little while now to work against Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai’s scheme. What’s been helpful about the looks that he gives you? What’s that experience been like? (E.J. Smith)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, training camp is great in the sense that it truly is iron sharpening iron. Nick preaches that, and it’s evident on film, particularly on the lines of scrimmage. You get a chance to see [LB] Haason [Reddick] versus [T] Lane [Johnson] and [DT] Fletcher [Cox] versus [G] Landon Dickerson and things of that nature.
It truly is good-on-good, and I think that’s the best way for guys to challenge themselves and get better.
Sean is obviously very, very bright. We’ve got really, really good players, and it’s been a fun competition going back and forth.
Q. Is there ever a competitive aspect to it, kind of like trying to catch each other with something advantageous or anything like that? (E.J. Smith)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, there’s always competition. That’s obviously one of our core values of the organization and the program. So, competition is always at the forefront of everything that we do. But at the same time, I think everybody understands that the ultimate goal is we’ve got to prepare our team to get ready for a very, very long football season.
There’s definitely some back and forth schematically in terms of how we operate, things that we would try to get to versus certain looks and vice versa for them, I’m sure. That competition is definitely a part of the daily grind of training camp.
Q. I know that most of the work is done during the week, but do you find there’s an art to play calling, and the good play callers you’ve been around, what’s a common theme that makes them good? (Tim McManus)
BRIAN JOHNSON: There is no question about it, to me it’s part art, part science. I think the best guys that I’ve been around have that feel.
A lot of it, like you said, is done during the week, but the biggest thing is being ready to adjust and understanding what the potential problems are, so understanding your strengths, understanding your stresses in each different call and how defenses can try to attack you. You’ve got to have your counterpunches ready to go.
Q. How much leeway did they give you in college in terms of calling plays? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: I’ve called a bunch of college games throughout the course of my career, being coordinator for five years in college. It is a little bit different, just the communication aspect is different. Obviously, there’s no mic to the quarterback in college football, so that part of it is a little bit different.
There’s some creativity that goes on in college football in terms of how to get the play in to the quarterback, so you see all of the signals and the posterboards and things of that nature where in this league it’s a little bit more streamlined in terms of the communication directly to the quarterback.
Q. How much of an advantage did you have? (Jeff McLane)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, I think just being able to see the game through the eyes of the quarterback is something that’s really, really important because I think if you can get the quarterback the play consistent and get the quarterback the play well, your offense has a chance to really excel and has a chance to really shine.
But I think as you grow, and this is my 14th year now in coaching, so you just — the more you do it, the more you learn. I think you have to continually try to have that growth mindset of trying to find ways to do things a little bit better than you did the day before.
Q. With the mic to QB Jalen Hurts, does he want just the play call, or does he sort of want you to give him other instructions? (Bo Wulf)
BRIAN JOHNSON: It varies from time to time in terms of — I think that’s a part of the art of it, of are you giving the player too much information, or are you giving them just enough of what they need to know to execute their assignment. I think it varies.
It varies on play call, it varies on game, it varies on the week. I think having that balance and understanding, that just goes back to our core values of connecting.
I don’t think you would truly know that unless you are really connected with someone. Having that mindset and just having that feel of what does player X need in order to go execute this play properly, because there are times where you could give too much information and it could be paralysis by analysis, so to speak.
Figuring that out is all a part of it.
Q. A big part of bringing you down to the sideline was to allow you to communicate with QB Jalen Hurts so former Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen could talk to Head Coach Nick Sirianni easier. How will you navigate that? Will you spend more time with Nick Sirianni between series and less time with Jalen Hurts? (Zach Berman)
BRIAN JOHNSON: You have to do both. You have to get your next set of plays. You have to get your adjustments ready to go. But there still has to be that constant communication with the quarterback in terms of what he’s seeing and how we want to attack, how we want to counterpunch and the next set of plays that we’re getting to.
I think that communication piece can’t be understated in terms of how important it is to run a successful operation.
Q. How much feedback do you expect to get from QB Jalen Hurts either during the week or in game about play calls? (Dave Zangaro)
BRIAN JOHNSON: A bunch. For me, that’s something — it’s all about communication. At the end of the day, [QB Jalen Hurts] he’s the one that’s back there, so we put in plays, but the players have to go execute it, and I think one of the main reasons that they can execute at a high level is if they have confidence in what we’re doing.
I think we just have to get to that point where everybody is on the same page, and he’s calling it as I’m calling it, and we’re seeing it exactly the same.
Q. Who are some lesser-known wide receivers that have stood out to you that maybe don’t get as much publicity? (Tim McManus)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Well, it’s a fantastic group. I think [Wide Receivers] Coach [Aaron] Moorehead does a great job. He is an outstanding receiver coach. I get a chance now to go over to their individual and kind of relive some quarterback days and throw some individual to them. It’s a really, really talented group. All of those guys are eager to become great players, and I think the biggest thing is that they have such a great veteran presence to look up to in guys that have done it at a really high level for a long time, both collegiately and in the NFL in [WR] A.J. [Brown] and [WR DeVonta Smith] Smitty and those guys.
They obviously set the standard, and those young guys get a great up close and personal look every day at what it should look like.
Q. Is there anybody else unique that’s lobbying you for touches? (John McMullen)
BRIAN JOHNSON: There’s always [CB Darius] Slay, there’s always [DT Fletcher Cox] Fletch. Defensively, I don’t know. We’ve got some of these young guys, [DT] Jordan Davis, and I know [DT] Jalen Carter played some fullback at Georgia, too, so we’ll see. There are always some chances of some creativity.
Q. Fans are asking about T Jordan Mailata getting touches? (Rob Kuestner)
BRIAN JOHNSON: Yeah, Lane has caught a touchdown here before, so I think the lobbying will start to go to the other side here pretty soon.