EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: You are about to begin your 27th consecutive season as a football coach, your 23rd season in the NFL. Are your emotions the same now as an NFL head coach as they were when you were at William & Mary (as a volunteer assistant in 1997) or when you were a position coach or coordinator?
Daboll: "It's a new year, it's a new journey. You're really focused on the first game and there's a level of excitement probably for everybody in the organization, players, coaches. You feel that every year in the opening game, whether it's in high school, college, the pros. There's a little bit of the unknown and you're looking forward to getting out there and competing."
Q: What are you like the night before a game and the hours leading up to it?
Daboll: "I'd say I'm relaxed. I feel prepared from my week of preparation, my routine with the people that I get to meet with, from the coordinators; the coaches; obviously, the players; people who work in the analytics, rules. You go through a process and a routine leading up to the most important day, which in this case is Sunday, and you want to do everything you can to make sure that you're prepared. And then, ultimately as a head coach, that your team is prepared. So, the night before the game, I'm pretty relaxed. Review some last-minute reminders, get a good night's sleep and be ready to go the next day."
Q: In the preseason, most starters play not at all or very little and teams run simple offenses and defenses. Does that make opening games more of a mystery than other games because you're really not sure what you're going to see?
Daboll: "I think the early part of the season is like that. Certainly, the opening game is, but you have a lot of time in the offseason as a coaching staff to research things and you look at different teams, the opponents when the schedule comes out and there's a lot of studying going on, a lot of things that we're trying to improve on. But these games have really come down to the big things - taking care of the ball, trying to get the ball, good communication, tackling well, doing the right stuff on offense and being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. And that really goes through, at least in my experience, the first month of the season, because you're still figuring things out as you go."
Q: Last year when we had our initial conversation, you said one of the adjustments you had to make as a head coach was you had to watch the entire game tape, as opposed to just the offense. Did you see things that you either borrowed or tried to implement that you hadn't before?
Daboll: "You're talking about watching tape and looking at the other side of the ball, and I think you always do that as a coach. You're studying different teams throughout the week and maybe a play comes up and or an interesting pressure or a punt block or something like that. I think part of being a coach is being open to new ideas, because certainly we don't have all the answers. I know that. We try to put stuff in that our players are comfortable with. But you're also looking to improve and grow your system week-to-week. In the offseason, you spend a lot of time on that."
Q: In last year's opener, you started Austin Calitro, Tae Crowder, Nick Williams, Kenny Golladay and David Sills. Not to take anything away from them, but do you think you enter this season with a stronger roster?
Daboll: "You try to collect talent in the offseason, but it's really the team building process that matters. And you really don't know until you're out there and you're going through struggles and until you face some adversity and go through some difficult times and a play might not go exactly the way you want to. I got a lot of respect for everybody that plays this game. You've got to build through the offseason, but now is the time when things really matter. When there's down times or tough times, you find out about your team, and that's what you're coaching all the time."
View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.
Q: The top two cornerbacks on your depth chart (Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins) are rookies. The last team to start two rookie corners in a season opener was the 2008 Chiefs. When you were a position coach or coordinator, were you ever hesitant to play rookies?
Daboll: "No, I think that that's why you have all these meetings and practices, starting in May. People that earn the right to play, earn the right to play."
Q: Another rookie, John Michael Schmitz, is starting at center, with four linemen who started last season. What does it say about him that he's able to step in with more experienced players and take-charge up front?
Daboll: "He earned that opportunity. There's a standard we hold all of our players to, and he's worked hard to try to reach that standard. And he's going to need to continue to work hard."
Q: The rookies have played football for a long time, but the opener against Dallas will be very different for them – a prime time NFC East game against one of the Giants' fiercest rivals. The sport is the same, but the game is different. Do you talk to them about that?
Daboll: "We talked to them before the first preseason game and then we talked to them at the beginning of the week. I really let the captains take control of that, the ones that have played and can add their experiences to it. But we do that early in the week. We're into our routine and they've played football for a long time. I think there were a lot of good pieces of advice from the guys that talked to them. And again, we do that early so that our focus is really just on our preparation and our day-to-day improvement."
Q: As always, all eyes will be on Daniel Jones. In your experience, does a quarterback often improve the second year in an offensive system?
Daboll: "I think every situation is different. Daniel has had a good camp. He's worked hard, he's committed to his process, to our process, and it will be good to get out there and start playing."
Q: Publicly, you do not buy into the narrative that division games are more important than any other game. Your first two years in Buffalo, the Bills lost all four games to New England and the Patriots won the AFC East. In 2020, Buffalo started beating the Patriots and the Bills have won the division each season. Do you not think division games are more important than any other?
Daboll: "I just think that the next game is the most important. Every game is important in this league, you only get 17 of them. You don't get 162 or anything like that. Every game is a one-game season and when you're done playing that game, whether you win, lose or draw, you move on to the next week and that's where all your effort, your attention, your energy needs to go, preparing for the team you're about to play."
Q: (Dallas coach) Mike McCarthy and you have each been in the league for more than two decades. Do you know him at all? Do you have any relationship with him?
Daboll: "I do know him. I wouldn't say that we talk a lot or anything like that, but I see him at the Combine, we say hello, maybe we talk a little bit. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and everything he's done in the coaching profession. He's a heck of a coach and he's a good dude."
Q: Now that he's calling the plays, do you expect to see more west coast concepts in their offense?
Daboll: "I don't know, you'd have to ask him on that. You prepare for this game, and you look at a lot of stuff. Ultimately, it comes down to being able to execute your things."
Q: What do you think it means for them to now have Brandin Cooks playing opposite CeeDee Lamb?
Daboll: "Veteran player and he's played a long time in this league and he's not very old. If I'm not mistaken, this is his 10th year (it is). There's a lot of playmakers in this league. He's one of them. He's done it for a long time. He's done it at a high level. He's explosive, he's fast, he can take the top off and it's a good addition for them."
Q: Defensively, they've led the league in takeaways each of the last two years. I know you emphasize ball security all the time, but this team has been very good at taking it away. Does it kind of become more of an emphasis when you play them?
Daboll: "Our standard is our standard. We have a standard in every facet of our game, and you coach it, you drill it, you teach it. That's a high priority for us. It has been since we've been here."
Q: Wink (Martindale, the Giants' defensive coordinator) talks about his position-less defense. Dan Quinn's Dallas D has outside linemen who move inside, safeties who play linebacker – do they also have a position-less defense?
Daboll: "Every NFL coordinator has a certain way they want to play. Dan Quinn is an excellent coach. He's been an excellent coach for a long time. I worked with him back in '07 and '08 (with the Jets). He was the D-line coach, I was the quarterbacks coach and we stayed friends for a long time, competed against each other. He runs a good system. He's got really good players, and that's always been a trademark of a Dan Quinn-coached defense, being fast and taking the ball away, creating negative plays."
Q: They were the only team last year to have seven guys with four or more sacks. But Micah Parsons is the guy everyone looks at. What is different about him?
Daboll: "He just has God-given ability. He uses it, so he's explosive, he's quick, he's dynamic. He's all the adjectives you want to use. He's got them."
Q: How about their acquisition of cornerback Stephon Gilmore to play opposite Trevon Diggs?
Daboll: "Veteran corner who's been playing at a high level for a long, long time in this league. He's a great person, a true pro and a very talented corner, and he's done it for a long time."
Q: With John Fassel as their special teams coordinator, do you have to be prepared for some kind of gadget play?
Daboll: "I'd say particularly Week 1 and in the early part of the season. You could practice a variety of things, but again it falls back on your rules. You're probably not going to practice the exact same thing. You can research all the years. He's been a coordinator and pulled off every single one of them. You can show them to the players, which I'm sure every team does, and you have to be able to trust your rules and go out there and execute at a high level under pressure."