EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, our weekly interview with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: This is probably easier than most short weeks, because both your Monday night and Sunday games are at home. What are the challenges on a short week? Is it mostly physical?
Daboll: "Yeah. We adjust our practice schedule, one. So, Wednesday is more of a walkthrough, then normal Thursday, normal Friday. I'd say the coaches, the assistant coaches, they get working ahead on short weeks. The coordinators don't; they have to make sure their mind is exactly where it needs to be in terms of calling the plays for the opponent. So then, the day after the game, we still review the game tape from, in this case it was Monday night. We reviewed it on Tuesday. You're just here a little bit longer Tuesday. In terms of game planning, you're missing a day in the game planning area of it. So, you try to make it up on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday. That's really the challenge."
Q: Do you get to review the game tape with the players on Wednesday?
Daboll: "No. What the coaches do is they'll take a few clips out, corrections, from a short week. Make sure we get those corrected. Usually you're watching the entire game, but you have to get onto the next week's opponent pretty fast."
Q: Are you establishing the identity of a team that favors a rushing attack and is a bit conservative on offense? You have almost the same number of runs and passes, though if you include 13 sacks, there are more dropbacks.
Daboll: "I just say we try to do what we need to do to win a game. I'm not really focused on how many passes, how many runs. Having the identity of being a tough team that plays for 60 minutes regardless of play selection is really important."
Q: You have scored 47 of your 56 points after halftime. You haven't scored a first-half touchdown. How do you attack it? Do you get together as a staff and say, "We're not doing what we need to do before halftime. How can we do this better?"
Daboll: "You do the same stuff regardless if you're scoring a bunch or not. I've been part of teams that score more points than anybody in the first half. I've been part of teams that haven't scored. Obviously, the objective is to score points as an offense. So, you look at really everything, whether it's scoring in the first half, red zone, fringe, run offense, pass offense, and you stay consistent with your approach. There's some things we can do better coaching-wise. There's some things we can do better execution-wise."
Q: You've been asked repeatedly about Daniel Jones' exposure to hits, primarily because he runs so often. He's on pace for 141 carries, which would easily be a career high. He seems to have almost a reluctance to slide, or he does it later than most quarterbacks. He always seems to want that extra yard or two. Would you agree?
Daboll: "I trust what he does with the ball in his hand. You don't overcoach a guy that has athletic ability. If he thinks he has to run and he's got space, run. He thinks he can make some yards, make some yards. If he's got to take care of himself, take care of himself. The only guy that can control that is the person holding the ball. I've been around a lot of quarterbacks that have pretty good athletic ability the last six years or so, and that's a weapon for you, too. I have confidence in him."
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
Q: Last week you abandoned the left guard rotation. Ben Bredeson played every snap (and Joshua Ezeudu none). Was that a product of the opponent (Dallas) and you were running the offense at a faster tempo?
Daboll: "We felt that was the best thing to do for that game. We'll see where we're at for this game. But that was a decision we made early in the week."
Q: Right now, you only have four healthy receivers for the game. Does that concern you at all?
Q: Four's enough?
Daboll: "Maybe there will be five. You never know. There's always transactions that happen throughout the week. But no, confident in those guys."
Q: In 25 years, you've had a lot of players that have suffered injuries. But to see Shep (wide receiver Sterling Shepard) work as hard as he did to get back (from his Achilles tear) to suffer a ACL, even for someone who's been around, I would imagine that's a tough thing to see.
Daboll: "It is. You build special relationships with your players, and you hate to see any of them get injured. Unfortunately, it's the business we're in. Particularly a guy that's coming back from a pretty significant injury that worked extremely hard to get back here for his teammates. And the energy that he brings for our team; he's a great person. He's been a really good player for us. And more than anything, you hurt for the person because you know how important it is. And football's important to Shep. His team's important to him. And you just feel for guys that bust their ass for eight months, nine months of rehab. Nobody sees him down in the training room; nobody sees him out on the practice fields when they're rehabbing or doing tough exercises. You don't see that. All you see is he's back, and he's ready to go. So, all that behind-the-scenes work that he's committed to, to get better, and another injury happens, that's tough."
Q: Dallas rushed for 176 yards. Can you attribute some of that to Leonard Williams' absence? Do you think his not being there made a big difference.
Daboll: "Sure. Anytime you're missing a really good player, it makes some type of difference. But we have confidence in the guys that we have. We have to tackle better. We have to play in our gaps better. When we run blitz, we have to make sure we're where we're supposed to be. And you're going to get hit for some runs. You have to try to eliminate the long ones. The 46-yarders, the 25-yarders – those are the ones that get you."
Q: It was a rare game in the sense that the defense had neither a sack nor a takeaway. Does that put – I don't know if stress is the right word – but it must make it harder for a defense when you don't make those plays.
Daboll: "You want splash plays. I mean, splash plays change field position. It's playing complementary football. It was a pretty clean game in terms of turnovers all the way around, except the last play (when David Sills fell and Jones' pass was intercepted). So, it's when you start getting on the other end of it when they have three (takeaways) and you have none. That makes it difficult. But that's something that we stress ad nauseum, so we'll continue to do that. And hopefully they come in bunches."
Q: You were asked earlier this week what you've learned about yourself as a head coach. Coaches often talk about the stress of the job. Do you feel stressed?
Daboll: "I don't. I try to prepare. I try to focus on the things that I can control. I understand that the results might not be what we all want them to be, but I trust how we do things. I trust our preparation. I trust the coaches' preparation. I watch the players work. I trust how they work in terms of watching film, out on the practice field, in the weight room. And if you do everything you can do to prepare yourself for a game, then you should feel confident going into the game. And then it comes down to executing under pressure, whether it's a quick play call, making a tackle, making a contested catch, making the right decision at quarterback, getting the quarterback off the spot, covering a kick, making a good decision on a fair catch – those are things that you try to make a habit on the practice field. And then you have to ultimately execute them under pressure, whether that's an important call for a coordinator, a big stop for the defense on a third-and-one that we make a tackle and hold a guy up or again make a great decision on a third-down play, when to put it up in the air or take off with your feet.
"You try to practice as many of those situations as you can; that's what OTAs are for. That's what training camp is for. And you kind of build off of the things that you learn and try to create a habit. But I learned a long time ago: control the things I can control. Be as prepared as I can be. And you can live with the results. Again, no one wants to lose. I'm as competitive as there is. And when I'm by myself privately, I'm not happy after a loss. But I think you have to be good in stressful times or good when things aren't going good as a leader. And that's what I try to do."
Q: You worked with (Chicago head coach) Matt Eberflus in Cleveland (in 2009-10).
Daboll: "I did. He's a good friend."
Q: What do you remember about him? Have you stayed in touch over the years?
Daboll: "Yeah, he's a good football coach. He's a good person, a good friend. I called him when they won their first game and congratulated him. He congratulated me. He's got a great family. He's very prepared. He was good when I was there as a coordinator in Cleveland. He was a position coach (linebackers). Very good teacher. He has the respect of his players. He's done a good job of molding the team the way I think he wants his team. They're tough. They can run the ball. They've done a good job of stopping the run. I think they're only one of three teams (that) haven't given up a touchdown in the second half."
Q: The Bears have been very conservative offensively (104 runs, 45 passes). Justin Fields had the fewest pass attempts among starting quarterbacks each of the first three weeks. Last week, he had just eight completions, but they beat Houston. Does your approach change defensively against such a conservative offense?
Daboll: "I wouldn't necessarily use the word conservative when you're talking about offenses. You have to try to do what you can do to win a football game and use the strength of your players. And just because you hand the ball off doesn't mean you're conservative. You can do it a wide variety of ways. I think that they are a physical group. I think they have two really good runners (David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert). I think Justin – and I've known Justin for a while, I recruited Justin when I was at (the University of) Alabama – is a very talented, talented player. So, in terms of what they're doing with him or not doing with him, I just know he has very, very good talent. And he can throw it. I'm sure if they wanted to throw it 50 times, they could throw it 50 times with him. He can run the zone-read game. I think he's got a bright future in this league."
Q: Montgomery was hurt last week and Herbert stepped in and rushed for 157 yards. What did you see from him?
Daboll: "Very good runner. Good vision. Good instincts. Can break tackles. Both of those guys, you know, Montgomery at Iowa State, what a great person he was when we talked to him whenever it was he came out. Diligent worker, tough. And Herbert falls right in line. I mean he's played, and he's been productive when he's played."
Q: Defensively, (linebacker) Roquan Smith (Chicago Bears linebacker) is far and away their tackle leader. You have (defensive lineman Robert) Quinn and (safety) Eddie Jackson is playing really well in the back.
Daboll: "Good defense. Like I said, they haven't given up a touchdown in the second half. I remember Ro (Smith) from (the University of) Georgia. He was a dynamic player then. He's a dynamic player now. You have to get a hat on him, or he'll make like 20 tackles. Eddie is a very instinctive player – a Roll Tide guy. He does a great job of playing their defense the way they like to play their defense. You always got to be aware of him; he's a ballhawk. He gets the ball out. He gets his hands on the ball. And Robert's been doing this for a long time – one of the premier players rushing off the edge. They do a good job. I'd say Evan Williams, their defensive coordinator. I know he worked with Matt at Indianapolis. He was a running backs coach at William & Mary in my first year at William & Mary. So, they have a good scheme. They play fast. They don't give up a lot of big plays. They run to the ball. They tackle well. They're very sound."