On the run: James Conner entered OTAs as the team’s No. 1 running back, but that isn’t changing the way he prepares. He is a regular at the voluntary practices, knowing there is always room for improvement and growth.
“The first rule of getting better is showing up,” said Conner. “With all of us being here, running the plays we are going to be in season, it’s going to help us in the long run.
“I want to knock the rust off, do some conditioning, and be around the new guys. A little bit of everything.”
Conner said he doesn’t look at himself as a leader, even though he is the most experienced running back in the group. But if others look at him that way, he knows he needs to step up.
“It’s something that just happens,” said Conner. “I just go about my business, and when I can help someone I will. If that is a leader role, it is.”
Conner is excited to have rookie Benny Snell join the running back group, and the energetic, physical back can do nothing but help the group overall.
“That is how you win games, with depth,” said Conner. “If you look around the league a lot of good teams have multiple running backs. I know he had great numbers in college. I know he can play. There will be no drop off. That is how you win games, with depth.
“We are getting to know each other, getting to know the new guys. They are great people and great players. We are getting to know each other in the meeting room, on the field, in the locker room.”
Working together: Linebacker Mark Barron, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has been working in a rotation at inside linebacker along with Vince Williams and first-round pick Devin Bush.
And so far, so good, for the new addition.
“Everything has been good so far. No complaints,” said Barron. “I like everything that has been going on.
“It’s a process. Any time you step into a new scheme there are going to be a lot of thing going on, a lot of terminology. They are going to do things different. It’s a learning process, learning curve.”
Barron said he is already impressed with Bush, who has already picked up the nuance of calling out the defense in a short time.
“A good young talent,” said Barron. “I knew that as soon as we picked him up. I am excited to work with him. I always feel like great players bring out the best in each other. Just getting to work with each other and bring the best out of each other, I think that will be good for the team as a whole.”
Barron isn’t the only one who likes what Bush has brought to the table so far. Williams also has taken notice.
“He is amazing. He is smart,” said Williams. “Top 10 athletically. Loves football.”
Williams did say he wasn’t ‘impressed’ with the way Bush picked up the playbook so far, but that isn’t a knock on him.
“I am not impressed,” said Williams. “After having a few conversations with him he seems intelligent. If I was impressed that would say I’m surprised. I am not surprised. He seems like a sharp guy. That would mean I am surprised.”
Williams said the addition of Bush definitely helps the defense, adding to the competition which will make everyone better.
“I was excited about it,” said Williams of his reaction to Bush being drafted. “It adds more playmakers to the defense.”
He said it:
Terrell Edmunds on if the defense has something to prove this year:
“Definitely. Last year we were Top 10. This year we want to be the best. We are working on being the best. We are trying to make turnovers. Last year we didn’t do what we wanted to do, what we are capable of doing.
“We want to get more interceptions, be comfortable with the ball in our hand. That is a big emphasis. Going after the ball. Having it in our hands even if it’s a pass breakup. We have the mentality of we have to have the ball when it’s in the air. It’s ours.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster on the improvement he has seen from James Washington:
“He is not jumping every time he catches the ball. He is running through all of his routes. Powerful, strong. His conditioning is up there.”