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EJ Manuel: "It's all about execution"

Posted Jun 17, 2014

EJ Manuel addresses the media after the first day of mandatory minicamp at One Bills Drive.

QB EJ Manuel

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 

Q: Do you like that more of the playbook is being taught earlier than last year?
A: We were a little frustrated, I know I was, before OTA’s.  But I like the fact that he’s putting more on us, especially because we’ve got young guys in skill positions.  It’s really put more of the onus on us to get stuff down and that’s made this week easier because we pretty much know all the plays already and we’ve run them all a bunch of times, so there’s not going to be any new stuff to learn.

Q: Tell us about the plays you’re running.  Were you able to change the plays last year? Do you audible now?

A: Well, there’s never been a time where coach has said ‘No, you can’t audible.’ I was able to audible, but a lot of times I just haven’t needed to. I know in the running game, Coach [Hackett] has us checking in and out of plays, run to pass, pass to run.  All of these things have come with my maturity within the offense.

Q: Will you have more freedom this year? Or did you have all the freedom you needed?

A: I think so. I think Coach Hackett is going to put everything on my plate that we need to win.  I don’t think we will be limited at all in terms of play calling, but at the end of the day it’s all about execution.  You can go out there with 20 plays, if you execute those plays well you’re going to win the game.  Football’s not that hard, you just got to execute and make plays.

Q: Are you more likely now to say “Coach, I don’t like that play.” Or “Coach, maybe that’s not a good idea” with certain plays?

A: Well, I would never say something was a bad idea, but I think it’s just about having rapport with your coach.  Sometimes, there’s going to be plays that I don’t like, and I’ll tell him.  I know there are a few plays that we came into this week in minicamp, I wanted them to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads, and I told him, “Hey, I don’t like that play.” and he took them out. 

Q: How much different will it be when training camp starts? Will there be plays that won’t be there that he didn't like?

A: I think so, a lot of the plays we put in are new, so some new formations or those kind of things, to throw some wrinkles at a defense, instead of them just looking at us as a vanilla offense, running this way then that way, giving defenses different looks is going to help us.  There are still a few things that we’re playing around with, but of the things he’s put in I like them a lot.

Q: Execution, continuity, chemistry, whatever word you want to use, talk about how that’s developed thus far, now headed into minicamp.

A: Well, I think everything for us, as quarterbacks comes down to footwork.  If your feet aren't in line with what the receivers are doing with their routes, the ball isn’t going to get to them at the right time.  If you drop back and you hitch, you can’t take another hitch because then the ball’s going to come out late, it’s going to get knocked down, something like that.  Obviously, that comes with some frustration, but it’s something we have to get past and have to learn.  It’s better to make those mistakes out on the practice field than in a game on Sunday.

Q: Can you feel the intensity level racketing up as you go through the OTA’s and now head into minicamp?

A: Yes, you can definitely feel it turning up a lot more.  Having big Marcell [Dareus] back, Kyle [Williams] back, Mario [Williams] back, Manny Lawson, all those guys are back, so as far as a defensive push is concerned it’s really picking up.  Also, with guys like Brandon Spikes, they’ve got a lot of good leaders over on the defensive side and they’re giving us a great look each and every day.

Q: What do they do with you guys at OTA’s? What time do you get here? Do they put you through meetings? What is your day like?

A: The quarterbacks usually get here around 7 a.m., but we have team meetings at 8 a.m. and we’re pretty much done with everything around 8 p.m., so it’s a 12 hour day for us. 

Q: After the team meetings do you hit the weight room?

A: We do the weight room in the morning. I don’t know if you want me to do the whole schedule, but we have about four or five separate meetings throughout the day so we have plenty of time to watch film and install the plays we have coming up for that day. We obviously get the weight room in and do some extra stuff after practice but I want to say we have about three hours of meetings. It’s pretty much a normal camp.

Q: Do you have the heat like normal camp?

A: No doubt. It feels like Tallahassee. It’s good to have a little bit of summer time. It’s good to get in shape and you get in shape because of it. You just have to push through the heat.

Q: It’s been such a long process but what is it about these three days that you guys take away? What separates this minicamp from everything else?

A: I just want to have an identity. I know we often want to have our identity set in these three days. Obviously we had nine practices for OTAs, but in these next three days and the next three or four weeks we want to set our identity for training camp and pick up where we leave off and fall right into the season strong.

Q: Talk about where you’re at right now and how you’re feeling.

A: I’m feeling very good. OTAs went well and went right on to minicamp. It’s not a huge transition from OTA’s to minicamp. We’re just here a little longer but it’s no different than any other training camp day.

Q: How do you feel your timing is with (Sammy) Watkins?

A: I think it’s good. Sammy has been learning and he’s done a great job. He’s put in a lot of effort off the field after practice, asked questions and used the playbook a lot.  He texts me asking questions about certain plays. Sammy is going to be great. I’m not worried about him.

Q: What are a couple things that really stand out this year opposed to last year at this time?
A: I think we’re all used to each other now. The whole line is used to hearing my voice and used to how I call the plays and how I get in and out of plays. I think our rapport overall as an offense has gotten a lot better. Obviously, we are an order together. It’s good to have the same OC and the same head coach and not have a bunch of different changes. I think everyone having rapport with each other makes it easier to hold each other accountable. If somebody is not doing the right thing then they aren’t going to take it the wrong way if you point it out.

Q: Have you taken a bigger leadership role?
A: Definitely. Like I said, it’s holding each other accountable. If you have a rough day, it’s not that we’re coming down on you. Obviously we’re going to critique what we need to critique. If I have a rough day with my receivers I’ll say, “Hey, you should have done this.” I think it’s just us holding each other accountable and that just comes from having a relationship with each other.

Q: What is it like working with Coach Downing?
A: Great. I worked with TD during the Senior Bowl so I was really excited when he got the job here back in January. He’s a great guy. I spend a lot of time with him up in the film rooms and after hours. He’s a great guy and I’m really excited he’s our quarterback coach.

Q: What aspect has he been most helpful with you?

A: He’s very positive. Coach TD doesn’t really sit or dwell on any negatives. I think whenever you have a coach like that it’s easier to let a mistake or a mishap roll right off your shoulders. I think that’s contagious and it goes right into all of us. If a play doesn’t go how we want it to go, you have to keep moving. We have 40 other plays left to practice. I love that attitude.