EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: You have trailed in every game this season and you already have the full-season franchise record with three wins after trailing by 10 points. If you keep the game close in the fourth quarter, does this team have confidence it can find a way to win?
Daboll: "Yes. Look, there's a way to play every game. We obviously don't want to get behind. But I think having the mindset of playing for 60 minutes and playing the next play regardless of what happened or the score or the situation, that's important for a football team."
Q: Graham Gano has played on more teams and in more games than anybody here. He said, "I've been on a bunch of teams, and on a lot of them, you can kind of sense guys just getting down. And there's not a single person on this team that gets any feeling like that." Why do you think that is? Is that something you preach?
Daboll: "Absolutely. I tried to do it all the way from (the time when) I first got here in OTAs and training camp – put them in different situations. Put the coaches in different types of situations and just go back to focusing on the next play and controlling the things you can control, which is how you play and how you coach."
Q: Daniel Jones said you preach "competitive stamina". How would you define that?
Daboll: "I would say playing fast, playing physical, being resilient, which is focusing on the next play, and finishing regardless of score or situation."
Q: With a team, you can see a personality develop during a season. Do you see a resolve developing on this team?
Daboll: "I think the guys are just trying to control what they can control. Again, I know it's boring, but play the next play. There's a lot of things that are going to come up this season, good and bad. And to maintain a consistent attitude and a consistent approach is what I want to do in our organization."
Q: You mentioned that you don't want to fall behind, but in the first half you've been outscored by 24 points. And you've outscored the opponent by almost 40 points in the second half. Does that become a dangerous way to play at some point? Do you need to play better in the first half?
Daboll: "Yeah. You always want to play well. You want to play well for 60 minutes, and we'd like to get off to a fast start. It's something that we work on. Unfortunately, we haven't had one yet. So, that's what we've been focusing on a lot."
View photos from the life and career of Brian Daboll, who has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.
Q: The win against Baltimore last week was the first in which you had significantly fewer penalties than your opponent (3-10). Is that an important advantage? Is it something you preach?
Daboll: "We just preach on being smart. To me, there's two different types of penalties. There's pre-snap penalties, which are really concentration and focus penalties, which we want to avoid. And then there's in-play penalties, and that's usually a result of techniques and fundamentals. So those are the things that we teach as a coaching staff; they're going to happen sometimes. We want to play aggressive. We want to play physical. And you've just got to do your best to play with good technique and good fundamentals. The pre-snap and the post-snap penalties – the penalties that you get after you shove somebody and you get an unnecessary roughness penalty, or you do something that's going to hurt the team based off of emotion – those are the ones that we really harp on."
Q: Before you arrived, turnovers were an issue with Daniel Jones. This season, his turnovers are down significantly, and he has the highest completion percentage of his career. I assume reducing his turnovers was a priority. Was improving his completion percentage another?
Daboll: "I think we just coach him the way we think we need to coach him in terms of fundamentals and techniques, decision-making process, being aggressive, not reckless. And I think he's a very coachable player. I think experience helps, but we've tried to do everything we can do to put a system around him that he feels comfortable with."
Q: You've had pretty good success in third-and-longer situations, which at times can be difficult.
Q: Last week on the Wan'Dale Robinson touchdown drive, you had the 18-yarder to Darius Slayton and the 15-yarder to Wan'Dale. Daniel seems to be good in those situations. Is there a specific reason why?
Daboll: "I think he's executing well. In those situations when the entire stadium pretty much knows it's going to be a pass, for the most part, it takes all 11 guys being in the right spot. Whether you have pressure or not, you're going to get a full-charge, full-head of steam rush. So the line has got to do a good job of letting receivers get down the field if you're choosing to try to convert on really long situations. Daniel's doing a good job. But the 10 other guys around him, they've got to do their job, too."
Q: Your third-down defense is one of the best in the league. I've always been told that a good third-down defense is a corollary of a strong first-down defense. But your first down defense is actually last in the league in yardage allowed per play. Is that incongruous to you? Or do you step it up on third down when it's crucial?
Daboll: "I just think you look at the third downs. They're their own entity. When you get them in third-and-long, usually third down in the NFL is advantage defense. If you look at numbers throughout the years and see the percentage of converting and go from two all the way on, it obviously gets less and less. So, the times we're in third down, I think we're playing good team defense. Our goal is to get them into more third downs."
Q: When you are asked about your assistants, it's usually about the coordinators. Daniel Bellinger is a player who's getting a lot of attention for his good play. And tight end is one of the positions that you coached. Your tight end/fullback group is a bunch of 'who are these guys?' Can you talk about the job that Andy (Bischoff) is doing with this group?
Daboll: "He's done a really good job. I think he's got a good understanding of our scheme and doing the things that we want to do. I think he's had some good experience He's a good fundamental coach. He brings up good ideas to (offensive coordinator) Mike (Kafka) and to the offensive staff. I think he's got a good relationship with his players. I think they respect him, and there's good give-and-take in that room. These guys are younger players or more inexperienced players. I think Andy has done a really good job of developing their skillset. I would include (offensive quality control coach) Angela Baker, too, who helps out with the tight ends. I think both of those coaches do a great job of telling the players what to do, teaching them how to do it and then demanding that they do it the right way and keep improving."
Q: When you have young players who show you they can perform at a certain level and handle a certain amount of work, do you then say, "Okay, they can do this. Let's try to give them a little more and a little more," as they prove what they can do?
Daboll: "I think anytime you're developing a young player, experiencing live-game situations helps them because the next time they see it is not the first time they see it. So, that helps a great deal for young players in general. From game one to game four, from year one to year two, you usually see a lot of young players make probably their biggest jump from year one to year two because of the experience they got. And as you get going throughout the season, I think you're identifying what you do well, too, offensively not just for young players offensively, and then as a coach, you're trying to put them in the best position they can be put in, and they're also improving throughout the year. You see certain things that come up and say, 'Boy, let's try this,' or 'Hey, you're really doing a good job of this. Let's focus on this.' Or maybe it's something that they're not doing well, and you take it out. But I think player development, particularly young player development, is very critical to success of teams."
Q: The situation last week where Saquon (Barkley) went down before the end zone to retain possession. You said it had been discussed previously. Are there situations that you go over every week? Are there others that you cover more infrequently? Are there some that are opponent specific?
Daboll: "Situational football, you're constantly coaching. I meet every week with (offensive assistant/game manager) Cade (Knox) and (director of football data & innovation) Ty (Siam). They are long meetings. We study a lot of different things from around the league. We talk about a lot of different situations on our Saturday walkthroughs with the team. We spend a great deal of time – on both sides – of situational football calls, as we do on Friday practices. You try to be prepared. That's your job as a coaching staff, to be as prepared as you can be when things come up. And they come up fast, so you have to have answers fast. The more you can talk about it, review it, study it, communicate with the coordinators, the more everybody's on the same page, the quicker those decisions can be made. But we practice a lot of situations."
Q: Some of the funky – for a lack of a better term – plays and formations like the inverted wishbone last week from which you passed to (running back Matt) Breida. Obviously the goal is to have – as you did the other day – a big play. But is there also an added benefit by giving the opponent and future opponents more to think about?
Daboll: "Yes. When you do unique things, so to speak, you want them to work. And when they work, it's great. And when they don't, you're not very smart. I want to encourage all our coaches each week to think outside the box. And if there's something that we think can help us or give us an advantage, let's bring it up and discuss it. I want each meeting room – relative to the special teams room with the coaches, the defensive coaches, the offensive coaches – to throw out as many ideas as it can, and communicate, 'This would be a good play because of this.' There's no bad idea. You just have to come to the conclusion as a staff to make the right choice in terms of what you want to do. Sometimes you have a few in a game; sometimes you have more than a few. Sometimes you don't have any. But I think that to cultivate rooms in which people can freely come up with cool ideas is important to the growth of our team."
Q: The last time you were in Jacksonville, you were part of one of the ugliest games probably in memory. The 9-6 game (that Buffalo lost to the Jaguars on Nov. 7, 2021).
Daboll: "Let's move on from that."
Q: Bad memory?
Daboll: "Yeah. It was brutal."
Q: Jacksonville has four losses but all by one score. Like the Ravens last week, they seem to have played better than their record indicates.
Daboll: "All you do is focus on the players and the schemes that you're getting ready to play each week. To me, records are meaningless until the season is over, and you figure out where you're at or not at. You don't get caught up in, 'Well, this team has this record, or this team has this record.' This is a good football team. They have a lot of young, talented players on their team on both sides of the ball. I think (Jacksonville) coach (Doug) Pederson is a fantastic coach. Look at when he was in Philadelphia. He's got a great offensive mind. I've never worked with him, but he just comes across as a really good leader. I think he's done a really good job at Jacksonville. When you put on the tape, and you watch them play, they're a tough opponent to play against. They have a lot of challenging schemes. Offensively, they're very creative. And defensively, they are, as well. They have really good players, a lot of high round picks that have a lot of talent. Again, usually these games come down to a few plays each week in our league. They put it on a couple of really good teams and had the opportunity in some other games, too. Relative to their scheme, their coaching and their players, this is a very talented group."
Q: They're the only team with two 300-yard rushers: James Robinson and Travis Etienne (Jr.). Are they similar in the way they run?
Daboll: "They're all good. They're all talented. They have their own strengths, and they can take it to the house. They can take it the distance. They have. They've had some really big runs. They all make yards, catch the ball. They'll play two of them at a time. They'll play one at wildcat; I'd say it's a unique running back group that can do a lot of different things. You need to know who's in the game, and you've got to really tackle well in space because these guys can eat up a lot of yards. And they can take it to the house."
Q: They ran for 243 yards last week.
Daboll: "Yeah, a couple of big plays."
Q: And you gave up 211 yards last week. I know run defense is always a priority…
Daboll: "It always is. Each week, it's a new week. You're playing a different team with a different set of challenges with different schemes with different players. The thing that we stress each week is just continue to improve our fundamentals. That's why we come in every Monday, because there's a lot of things you have to fix and correct, and when you're doing those things, you're not just doing them because you see it on tape as a coach. You know there's tape out to every team in this league, and your opponents are seeing a lot of the same things that you're seeing. In order to improve as a football team, those Monday meetings or if we have to come in on Wednesday to make sure we're fixing the things that we need to fix. We have a long way to go. There's plenty to fix. From one week to the next, if you don't get it fixed, you expect to see some of the same stuff you saw until you get it fixed."
Q: (Jaguars quarterback) Trevor Lawrence has eight turnovers, which is not unusual for a young quarterback. But as you watch him on film, do you see the sharp decision making, the arm strength, the accuracy?
Daboll: "I do. He was that pick (first overall in 2021) for a reason. I've seen him play in high school. I've seen him play in college. I've obviously seen him in the pros. (He's an) athletic quarterback, gifted, arm talent. He's got a very bright future. He's a good player."
Q: Lastly, Travon Walker and Josh Allen get a lot of the attention because that's what edge rushers do. But (linebacker Foyesade) Oluokun and (linebacker Devin) Lloyd are posting impressive numbers. Oluokun, according to the Jaguars, had more tackles than anybody in the league last year.
Daboll: "I would just say that they have a talented defense in general. They've got a lot of speed. They've got good strength and power. I think both of the linebackers that you just talked about are very good tacklers. They see ball, get ball quickly and get guys on the ground. We have to do a good job of getting a hat for a hat in the running game here."