EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: You seemed to have come up with a winning formula. You're running the ball very well. You're second in the league in rushing attempts. You don't turn it over. Your time of possession is good. (You convert on) third downs. You say you do what you have to do to win that week. That kind of formula seems to be one that would work in a lot of weeks. Would you agree?
Daboll: "I think it depends on the team you play and ultimately how you execute your offense when you're out there playing a high-executing defense. We try to play a complementary game; we've had close games pretty much every game so far. The one that wasn't a one-score game (in Seattle), we turned it over a few times. And then play well at the end of the game and the second half. However we chose to play, it comes down to execution of the plays, ball security, situational football, smart play calls, decision-making. Everybody's got a hand in it, and we've all got to do our job the best we can."
Q: As an offensive coordinator, you developed a reputation as a coach who likes to pass the ball. Everybody remembers the Tampa Bay game last year when the only runs you had in the first half were (Buffalo Bills quarterback) Josh Allen's. Have you used this style in the past?
Daboll: "I have. I had (former running back) Peyton Hillis one year (2010 in Cleveland). That's what we chose to do and how we played. (Former Kansas City Chiefs running back) Jamaal Charles, where we ran the ball quite a bit (in 2012, when Hillis was the backup). I don't subscribe to one set system or one set style. I think that it's just what you have to do to try to win a game. You have to try to put your players in the best positions you think they need to be put in to help you win a game. And ultimately, they have to go out there and execute it. All we try to do each week is come up with things on all three sides that we think that, 'These are our musts. This is what we've got to accomplish.' And if we do, we have a chance. And if we don't, we won't (have a chance)."
Q: You're fourth in the league in time of possession. I was a little surprised when I looked. Buffalo was fifth last year. You have six games in a row with over 30 minutes and six games in a row with at least six third-down conversions. It seems that if you keep the ball away from the other team, which you're doing, it's going to increase your chances to win.
Daboll: "I think time of possession, too, (is a big indication.) Teams that run it more, do they have more time of possession? Probably. But I also think that's an element of executing plays and sustaining drives. I think we're up there in terms of long drives for scores this season. We haven't had a lot of big plays. To march down the field and score without having a lot of plays, that isn't an easy thing to do because a lot of things have to go right. Those series that we are going down to score, we're executing at a high level. And the ones that we're not, we're not."
Q: And if you don't have those chunk plays, does that make the third downs even more critical?
Daboll: "Absolutely, because everybody knows third down for an offense is the hardest down in football. It's a high percentage the other way for the defense having success. And the longer you go, the harder it is to pick up. So, producing on early downs is really critical for us."
View photos from the life and career of Brian Daboll, who has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.
Q: Saquon (Barkley) leads the league in scrimmage touches (227). When you first started working with him in the spring, he was coming off three seasons in which he had been injured. Through the spring and training camp, did you have to gauge where he was physically before you decided you could give him the load?
Daboll: "When we started back in OTAs, he felt pretty good. We practiced him accordingly. He looked sharp out there, he looked quick. He looked explosive. I think the biggest thing now is to make sure that we're doing what we need to do to help him stay as fresh as he can throughout the year. Obviously, he takes a lot of shots. Most running backs do in this league. And he touches it often for us, so to make sure we're getting the best version of him, I think we need to do a good job – strength staff, trainers, our sports science – of making sure that we do the right things for him over the week."
Q: Daniel (Jones) only has two interceptions and really one of consequence all season, which was the one he had in Tennessee. He hasn't had one in two months. I spoke to him yesterday, and it seems like it comes down to what we tell our kids before they go out at night: "Make good choices." He spends a lot of time with (quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney) and Kaf (offensive coordinator Mike Kafka) talking about when to take a shot, when to be more careful. How much do you talk to him about that as well?
Daboll: "I have discussions with him. That was really the start of our relationship – OTAs and training camp – where I would say I was pretty active with him on the practice field in telling him the way I saw things and getting input with the way he saw things, which is important to do. But like I said before, Kafka has done a really good job with our offense. And Shea is an outstanding football coach, and I think he's done a really tremendous job with the quarterbacks – not just Daniel but all of them that are in that room. He works his butt off, does a lot of things for those guys. I think they really appreciate him. Credit always goes to the player, first and foremost, and Mike with the offense and Shea working with the quarterbacks."
Q: You talk about teaching moments in terms of plays and situations you see in games. (Wide receiver) Darius Slayton basically didn't play the first two games and has become your big play receiver and the team's yardage leader. Can his ascent be used as a teaching moment for other players?
Daboll: "I think players see it. Players know players, and players watch players on their team or watch players in the league. The only thing I would say about a guy like Darius – really, it's a great example for all of us, coaches, players, staff members. There's going to be some rocky times during the season, during the game, during the week. It could be for multiple weeks or multiple games. It's easy to fold up. It's easy to get so down that it affects your performance, whatever your job is. It's an easy thing to do. It's hard to stay committed to improve and do the right thing day in and day out. Be consistent. That's hard. It's not easy. I think that's a testament to Darius and how he approaches things and how he's been since he's been here."
Q: I didn't ask this last week because I didn't know whether it was a one game operation, but you played (linebacker) Jaylon Smith inside again the other day, and in those two games -- Seattle and again last week, other than the 44-yard run -- it seems the run defense is strong. Do you attribute part of that to that change?
Daboll: "I think that he's done a good job for us. Certainly, there's a lot of things that we still need to improve on in that area. And we'll be tested this week with it. But he's done a good job for us."
Q: A lot was made about (safety) Julian (Love) getting the green dot last week, but also, he played a lot of free safety, which he hadn't done. He's played a lot of spots. Is he your most versatile defensive back?
Daboll: "I think (defensive backs coach) Jerome (Henderson) and (assistant defensive backs coach Mike) Trier do a really good job with those guys. Most of those guys that play back there (are versatile). I know Wink (Martindale, the defensive coordinator) always refers to it as a position-less defense. They can do a lot of different things, and that's why we place a premium on intelligence. And Julian is certainly that."
Q: A lot of times, the biggest cheers you hear in a post-game locker room is when the coach says, "See you Wednesday," meaning they have Monday off. You bring the players in on Monday. Are you not a proponent of Victory Mondays?
Daboll: "I just think there's a lot of work that needs to be done still. We've got to keep improving, and I think learning from the tape is the best way to do it besides being out there and learning on the field. (It's about) making sure that we make the necessary corrections so we can move forward to the next week, so you kind of put the game to bed on Monday. And I think that's important for where we're at with our football team right now."
Q: It was an interesting week in the NFC East with Philly and Dallas losing and Washington and the Giants winning, which tightened up the standings. As you start getting toward the end of the season, do you start paying more attention to what's going on in the division?
Daboll: "No, unless we're playing them. I think you have to take care of your own house and focus on the things you need to do for that week. And that's what we've done since we've been here – since OTAs and training camp and preseason games and the regular season games – and you just focus on one week at a time and try to put everything you've got into that particular week, the team you're playing. And then you usually empty the tank after the game and you're tired and you've got nothing left. And you've got to fill it back up, and it takes everything you got to do that."
Q: This week you face the Lions. They've lost four games by no more than four points. You've been there.
Daboll: "Eagles, Minnesota, Seattle and the Dolphins."
Q: Yes. Those teams are a combined 29-9, by the way. The Lions are ninth in points, sixth in yards. This is the highest-scoring Detroit team in a while. They haven't gotten it all together yet, but they have many good players and they're improving.
Daboll: "They are. I think (Detroit offensive coordinator) Ben Johnson does a good job with their offense. They hit a lot of explosive plays; they're good in the red zone. Their quarterback (Jared Goff) can make all the throws. They have good, quick guys at the receiver position (notably Amon-Ra St. Brown) that can create separation. They have two really good running backs (Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Smith), and everything starts with the offensive line. And I'd say this is one of the better offensive lines in the league. They execute at a high level. They've scored a lot of points. So, this is a really good football team."
Q: Do you consider Goff more of a traditional drop back passer than a lot of the quarterbacks you've faced this year?
Daboll: "I think he can do both (run and pass). He's a big guy. He's athletic enough to escape outside the pocket and make some loose plays. He throws a really good football – a catchable football. He puts it where he wants to put it. They've scored what, 35, 36, 45 and 31 points? They've scored a lot of points, and they're very efficient. They have good players, and I think they have a good scheme."
Q: Jamaal Williams already has nine rushing touchdowns. And St. Brown is having a terrific year. Last week, he lined up in several spots.
Daboll: "Very smart. Very smart. He went to Mater Dei (High School) out in California. He's just a good, young, talented skill player who's got good position flex. Good hands, and he's very productive."
Q: Defensively, their numbers aren't good, but they start rookies and (cornerback Jeff) Okudah is playing really well. Do you see the individual talent on the defense?
Daboll: "Absolutely. There's a lot of improvement you can see. I think (defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn is a fantastic football coach, and I think there's been improvement throughout the season. Talented guys – (defensive lineman) Aidan (Hutchinson), Okudah, (defensive lineman Isaiah) Buggs, that I had at Alabama. I think their arrow is pointing up."
Q: They're second in the league in kickoff return. And Michael Badgley kicked four field goals last month against you (with the Chicago Bears), and now you face him again.
Daboll: "Whether it's A.G. (Glenn), or Ben (Johnson) or Dave Fipp – who's their special teams coach – they got a really good unit. They present a lot of problems. They do a great job of covering kicks. Coach (Dan) Campbell is known for surprise onsides, fake punts, things that we have to work on. Even though we work on them, you've got to do a good job of playing your assignment and try to do the best job you can of understanding what might come up. So, challenging really in all three phases."
Q: They go for it on fourth down more than any team in the league (23, succeeding on 10).
Daboll: "They do. The Dallas game, it was 24-6, but it was 10-6 with three minutes left. The Patriots game, where they lost, 29-0, they were 0-6 on fourth down. That's like a possession. That's like a turnover. To go for it six times throughout the game, we have to be prepared for those 'got to have it' type situations or fourth-down plays because they definitely will be aggressive and go for them. And they have a lot of confidence in their offense."
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Detroit Lions.