PANTHERS HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
MR: I appreciate you coming. I thought it was a good football game. Really proud of a lot of our guys. He thought both defensemen came out early in the game and thought they did a really good job against their own. Good job. They have a lot of good players. Unfortunately, we gave up the explosive that led to a score, and then we gave up the rest of the points off short fields. One, obviously, the Sullivan fumble. Great job by the defense to come out and get that stop, hold them to a field goal and keep it a close game.
After the pick six, which was great by Tae Hayes, the unfortunate got the penalty and I gave them a short field. I thought there were a lot of things defensively that we seemed to improve on. I thought special teams had that look. Offensively we couldn’t move the ball enough today. He battled ahead late in the game. So there is a lot of work to be done. With this we will see what questions you have.
Q: Matt, you said a couple of weeks ago that after this game you would consider naming some starters. Now that this game is over, are you ready to name a starting quarterback?
MR: Not yet. You know, he’s not ready for anything other than watching this tape. As I’ve always said, when we know, and we’ll announce something when it’s right. Right now, this moment is about the guys who played with me tonight.
Q: Can you tell us the reason for bringing PJ Walker into this latest series?
MR: Yes, Corral was down. He was injured. They stepped on his foot, so they took him in for an x-ray, so he was out.
Q: I know you said you want to focus on the guys who played tonight, but should we read into anything that neither Sam Darnold nor Baker Mayfield is playing tonight?
MR: No. The ones that didn’t play and those guys are competing to be with the others, so we wanted to make sure they had a chance. We didn’t want to put one or two guys out and play them behind the second offensive line. The second and third quarterbacks, really the third and fourth quarterbacks, went out there and played behind the second offensive line. Just like we had Derrick Brown, who didn’t even play last week, we held most of them, except maybe Tommy Tremble just because we needed some tight ends. We are very thin on the position right now.
Q: What were you able to understand about Corral tonight when he was in there?
MR: I thought it seemed pretty early. I thought I had completed balls. In the end I thought a lot of the situations usually with four minutes left and timeouts, we probably make a draw or a screen or something and punt the ball and try to play defense. Those were invaluable plays for Matt to be down there. There’s going to come a time when you’re going to have to direct a drive out of somebody else’s end zone with the crowd like that and put those guys in the huddle and make sure they have the quick count and making sure we’re not in false exit . Even though he left the field, I followed him a bit. in a good way Those are teachable moments, right? What we don’t want to do is come out in these games and make it easy on guys because, hey, he’s got two, he’s got three. We want to give them opportunities to show that, hey, I can play for you. So prepare them for their opportunity. I thought Matt did a lot of good stuff and there’s a lot to learn from the tape.
Q: Not many starters played, but Ickey and Christensen opened this game. Was it so much to give these guys a chance to work together?
MR: Yes, Ickey is young and, as I told you, a young left tackle. We have to make sure he’s ready for the season, so he needed those reps. To go against Judon, to go against Deatrich Wise, those are excellent pass rushers. Even when we walked off the field together at the end of the game, because obviously he gave up a hit on a TE and then he gave up a sack. Hey, what happened and his thought process, and help him learn from that so he can, hey, this is what happened. I was expecting a bull; I went to that. Priceless, priceless work, and the same for Brady. So, you know, we wanted these guys to get some reps and we did.
Q: It was reported that Jaycee Horn started this game and then was removed. Can you tell us what happened there?
MR: Yeah, I wasn’t going to play with him. I told him, hey, get ready to play. We fell short in some corners so I wasn’t sure if I would need it or not. Duke Dawson couldn’t go. But in the end he got a good job in the pre-practice, and I felt good that Stan and those guys were able to play. For me it was a game decision. I wanted him warmed up and ready to go in case I needed him. Jaycee wanted to go, but at the end of the day we made the decision to train and pre-train, let him do the conditioning and we knew the other guys would be able to play well. We’ve all seen good things. Tae Hayes obviously makes a play every day, plays every day in practice, so it was a good opportunity for a lot of guys.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Tae Hayes. What have you seen of him during camp and this week?
MR: Very good football player, he was with us for a while last year. He is absorbing knowledge. It’s weird because it’s the preseason, but at one point we had our micro linebacker playing defensive end. We had our support at will – we had all kinds of guys playing different positions. Daviyon Nixon is a three-technique. He has to play at the other end. Tae Hayes just showed up, Wasson showed up. So it’s part of the preseason and guys get a chance, but the thing with Tae is he makes plays. He made a play last week in the game, couple plays. He makes plays in practice and he made a play today. It’s challenging right now.
Q: Can you talk about what you saw of Brandon Smith?
MR: You know, we really like Brandon. As for today, I saw him run as physical, amazing. We know what a great athlete he is. It’s about his ability to play in the box and what he can do. I’m anxious to watch the tape and see more details, but we’re really excited about what it’s going to be, and these are valuable representations of him right now. He’s got a room full of veterans in the rookie room, and those guys are helping to bring him up. He and Mosby, they played a lot of football tonight, which was good.
Q: Did Terrace Marshall aggravate anything again? What was your plan with him today?
MR: There really wasn’t a plan. I was hoping he could play. Terrace practiced on Monday, finished it, felt bad the next day, felt like he couldn’t go. So I was hoping he would be ready for the game, but the medical staff and him, they worked on that and they couldn’t get ready for the game. So we need Terrace to start practicing. We need him to step up. Shi had a great camp, Higgs had a great camp. We are losing some receptions right now. Zylstra comes out with a hammy; he’s out with a hammy. We need Terrace to come back, because he was having a great camp until he got hurt.
Q. How do you feel about your tight end position right now?
MR: Well, we’re a little depressed. Ian is down, Colin is down. I think it’s a shame that Sully found that ball because I really thought he had a great week. Catches the ball well and blocks the ball well. I think he had at least one other catch in the middle. So he made that play and I said he was ready to get going and then put the ball on the floor. We will have to continue working with Sully. I am very excited about him. Gio again had another catch. Excellent special teams player. So I feel like we don’t have the one, hey, that’s our tight end that we’re going to go to all the time. We have a lot of guys that we think can get open and catch the football that are versatile and can block. It allows us to play with multiple groups. We’re still pretty vanilla right now. There’s no reason to show teams early in the year exactly what we’re going to do. We like the versatility of Tommy and Sully. What I like about the offense, now obviously we didn’t put up a lot of points and we were fighting for everything we got, but I like the fact that the ball is going to so many people and not just going through one. person
Q: When you finished in Spartanburg, you mentioned how you felt this team came together in a way it hadn’t in years past. Did you learn anything new about this group of guys after this trip?
MR: Yes. This was incredible. It was great for us, going to dinner together, going out together, practicing together. If I were you, I’m not telling you what to do, I’d ask the JJs and the Shaqs, you know, how close this team is. I think at the end of the day we worked really hard this week. This is a very good team, isn’t it, and we trained against them. Even the way our vets are on the sidelines. They are watching the game throughout the game. They are closed. They have celebrated I told them if they had a pick six to have some fun. It’s the guys who don’t have their shirts on that get the penalties. If you’re wearing a t-shirt you’re fine. So it was all the other guys, so they all went past me. But we have a fun team and a good group. This was a good time for us. It was a good job against a great, great organization.
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