OC Alex Van Pelt (5.31.23)
You excited about the first week of training camp in West Virginia?
I am. That’s beautiful down there. I’ve actually never been. It’s about an hour from my dad’s house, so I’m going to get to see him during that time as well, but I’ve heard great things about it. Excited to get away with the team and do some bonding.
How is Deshaun looking with all his new pass catchers?
I think it’s gone well. Really, I think we had two explosives today where we stretched the field. Bringing in Marquise (Goodwin) and Elijah (Moore) has been a boost to that room with their playmaking ability and their speed down the field. Just getting a feel for those guys right now and their timing and their pass routes, that’s the big part. Impressive, we hit a couple of deep balls today. We’ve circled that as an area of improvement and we showed up today, so that’s a good start.
He missed those last week, didn’t he?
We did. And we’re going to keep pushing those balls down the field. Something we’ve talked about. Keep throwing them so we all get on the same page.
What does Elijah give? I mean, what makes him so unique as a weapon?
He has great flexibility inside and outside flexibility. He can run individual routes outside and win out there. He can come into the slot and has the twitch to win in the slot as well. He has excellent hands and a good feel for the game. So really a complete receiver that can play both inside and out.
Yesterday, Deshaun talked about building back the confidence, that he had before and then the time off kind of waited a little bit. Can you see evidence of that growth?
Absolutely. There’s no question. It’s just his confidence in the system itself, understanding and what we’re asking of him and how to communicate at the line of scrimmage, everything from protections to calling plays in the huddle. He’s improved tenfold since this time last year. He made a throw today, I haven’t seen it. The hair stood up on my arm. He dotted a touchdown in the red zone that was really an impressive throw. So you’ve seen it all start to come together, playing with a little swagger out there, having some fun.
Was it a throw to Elijah?
Yeah, it was a throw to Elijah. The seam route that was over the hook player and right on the face mask. So that was a throw, that degree of difficulty would have been high and he smoked it. That’s a positive.
Has your hair stood up on your arm for other ones?
It’s been a long time, I will say that. And I’ve been around some good ones, but that was one I literally got goosebumps. I was like, wow, that was a tremendous throw and catch.
Do you feel that you guys have just everything you need now to run whatever you want to run and there are no limitations on Deshaun, and now he’s got all those different types of pass catchers?
Yeah, I do. I feel like we’ve added great pieces. AB and the crew upstairs have given us some pieces, more weapons. Being able to bring (Ethan) Pocic back at that center spot, that was a huge lift for the coaching staff as well as the players. To have that continuity up front and then the experience and the level of play of that offensive line, it’s really impressive. And then you add Nick (Chubb) to the mix in the backfield. You get Desean out there on the edge with the pass catchers. It’s positive. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We know that. We’re not there yet. We’ll still learn and grow, but excited about what the future could be.
You talk about the emphasis on the deep ball. Obviously, Elijah is a part of that and then Marquise. How much was that a focus for you going from last year to this year?
As all coaching staffs, you go through your scheme evaluation, and that was an area where we’ve got to be more explosive in the pass game. How can we get that done? Maybe some route combinations we change up. We’ll put some different people in those spots, but definitely something we’ve highlighted as an area that we want to improve.
What does Marquis specifically kind of let you do in that area?
Well, his speed down the field is world class. So a safety that may feel like he’s deep may not be deep enough, and he could run by. That’s one of the areas. So I think he’ll help us there, stretching the field, taking the top off if they don’t respect him being able to make the play down the field for a big explosive.
Obviously, you know what Nick Chubb is going to give you, but behind Nick, he’s got a lot of young guys just I guess where are you at with those young guys? How do you feel that they will be able to step into that number two running back role?
Sure. I mean, there’s a spot there. There’s an opportunity for somebody to step up at this time. Jerome (Ford) has done a nice job when he’s had his opportunities. He’s doing a great job in his protections. John Kelly just makes plays on the scout team when he gets in there, so there’s great competition there. Then (Demetric) Felton adding him back in the room with his flexibility to work out in the backfield. I feel like we have a good mix of different types of players that can all play roles for us.
How does Demetric fit into the mix with a crowded receiver room and a crowded young running back?
It’s an opportunity for him to expand as a player, really. We know what he can do at receiver and he’s good in that role as well and had success for us. We haven’t handed him too many balls in the past, but he came out as a running back, so I know he has that skill set in him as well. Then his ability to come out of backfield and run routes as a slash player. That is an area I think can help us.
Could you find some things for DHOP to do if you guys end up with DHOP?
Yeah, I’m sure we could find something for him to do. We’ll see what happens down the road. That’s a question for those guys upstairs. Again, I can’t tell you how happy I am with what they’ve already added to us.
Has Deshaun been in your ear about it, though?
He’s talking to the wrong guy if he’s talking.
Sticking here with Amari, just what did you learn about him over the last year that you maybe didn’t know when he was elsewhere?
I didn’t know how good he really was, just watching the tape until I saw it live. Watching the way he comes off the football, his ability to run every route in the book. He’s a true route runner with great explosion. If you watch early in the season before he was injured, it was hard to cover. Really hard to cover. So I’m just excited to get him healthy and back to full speed.
What does it say that Amari toughed it out last season?
That’s just toughness. It’s the culture of this place. Everybody just works. We’re here for each other. The players believe in each other and don’t want to let each other down. And him playing through injury and grimacing running down the field on touchdown receptions, that’s something to see. It means a lot to the players in that locker room. Certainly it means a lot to the coaching staff and the guys who get to work with them. That’s greatly appreciated.
Given that you had Deshaun now for a full season, how different do you think the offense look? Whether it’s systematically, even philosophically, just when you have a quarterback like that?
It opens up a whole lot in the run game, especially the gun. Run-guns, we’ll see more than we have in the past and the under center play, but we obviously know we can get under center and run the football with our scheme as well as our players. So it’s finding that balance of how often are we under? How often are we in the gun? And then how often do you really want to use Deshaun in the run game as a runner? As a true runner. That stuff will work out through camp and get it ironed out as we go into the season, but it does give us a lot of opportunity, a lot of different schemes in football.
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