EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: Your family visited Penn State last weekend?
Daboll: "We did. It was good. We got to go to (son Christian's) last game. He's been a student-coach there for three and a half years; he signals the plays in. So, they honored all the senior players, and the support staff that are seniors also got honored before the game. It was a nice Saturday drive to see him at Penn State, and we drove right back after the game."
Q: I would imagine given your schedule you haven't been able to do that too much during his time there.
Daboll: "Right, this game, and then there was a game last year on the bye week that timed up where I was able to drive down and see him. So, only twice."
Q: Did you do any scouting while you were there?
Daboll: "Oh, yeah. Before the game. So, you're able to see your son, and you're also able to take a look at some guys that are working out pregame and during the game."
Q: Did you spend Sunday watching NFL games?
Daboll: "Sunday, I watched the Washington game, and then after we watched that game, I did some work on Washington."
Q: This is a December division home game against the team right behind you in the standings. Would you concede this is a big game?
Daboll: "They're all big, so I think the most important thing is we have a process that we go through each week. And we go through that. We double down on all the things that are important from taking care of your body to sleep to hydration to nutrition to extra time in the treatment room to practices to meetings. This time of year, you kind of put everything in a drawer. And you're singularly focused on one team, one week. And you try to put your best performance out there."
View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.
Q: You spoke about this earlier this week, but when you're in the hunt at this time of year in the NFL, there's nothing like it?
Daboll: "It's great. But again, what you can't lose sight of is that the things that help you win in September help you win in December. Obviously, there's a little bit more excitement for communities, for fans, for organizations where teams are playing in games where (they are meaningful). I've been part of both of them. I've been part of teams where you have a good, winning record. I've been part of teams where you don't. This is ultimately why you play this game – to have an opportunity to keep playing for as long as you can."
Q: It looks like several injured players will return to the field this week. There's a tangible benefit from getting some of your best players back in the lineup. But do you think that also provides for the coaches and the players a psychological lift as well?
Daboll: "I just think that's the nature of (the league). Every team deals with injuries. And the person that's playing behind the person that's injured has got to be ready to go. So, of course, you like all your players to be out there. But I think you don't make any excuses about injuries or anything like that. Whatever you have in terms of players, those guys need to be ready to play. And if you get more back, then those guys have got to be ready to play. So as a coach, you like to have all your players."
Q: If you get (center Jon) Feliciano and (tackle Evan) Neal back, you'll have a lot of depth and competition on the offensive line. Do you prefer to keep the same five players on the field or rotate in substitutes?
Daboll: "Whatever we need to do to win. Again, I think whether or not we get all these players back is yet to be determined. I think we're moving in the right direction, but there's never a guarantee. And you hope that everybody will be ready to go. We're going to take it all the way to the end of the week to see if these guys can go."
Q: Last week, your decisions on inactive players were made for you, because you had seven guys hurt. This week, you may have to make decisions. Do you prefer to know early in the week so you can set up special teams, or would you rather players earn the uniform in practice?
Daboll: "Obviously, you want to have an idea of who's going to be at the game. I think that helps with depth chart decisions, particularly in the kicking game. Sometimes when you have a roster full of healthy players, which would be ideal, then you make that at the end of the week based on practice, and you move guys in and out. But you try to have the best idea that you can to make decisions based on – again, it usually affects the kicking game more than anything else. Preparation-wise, who's playing your right guard on the punt team? There's a lot of interchangeable pieces."
Q: Two weeks ago, we talked about the winning formula: running the ball, high time of possession, etc. You're 6-1 when you rush for 100 yards, and 4-0 when (running back) Saquon (Barkley) gets 100. The last two weeks you haven't run the ball as well. Do you need to get back to that?
Daboll: "I just think we need to execute the things we need to be able to do to win the game, whether it's a critical play, a block. All of us just need to do our job as well as we can do it. Again, whether that's throw it, run it, defend the run, play better red zone defense, third down, kicking game, there's a lot of things that go into winning and a lot of things that go into losing."
Q: (Running back) Gary Brightwell came in and gave you a little spark last week in Dallas. Did he earn himself more time? What prompted you to do that in the first place?
Daboll: "To try to give us a spark. I thought he ran the ball downhill with power. I thought some of the play designs with using Saquon as a little bit of a decoy helped loosen up some things. He ran, hit the hole with power, got his pads down. And we'll see where we go this week with it."
Q: (Wide receiver) Darius (Slayton) leads the NFC in yards per catch (17.6). He's done it both ways – catching long pass and taking short throws and turning them into long gains. So, I'll repeat a question I've previously asked: Do you have to get the ball to him more often?
Daboll: "I think the biggest thing for (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) is to throw the ball to the right guy. Again, we move guys all around, and if that's where the read takes him, then that's where the read takes him. I said this a couple weeks back with Darius, just a tremendous amount of mental toughness that young man has had this season, a positive attitude when things weren't going his way, resiliency, the ability to deal with adversity. And he's made the most of each and every one of his opportunities."
Q: Along those lines, Nick Gates got the Ed Block Courage Award. When you got here and you watched the tape from last year and saw the play on which he got hurt…
Daboll: "I saw it a few times this week, getting ready to play them."
Q: When you look at that and see where he is now…
Daboll: "It was a devastating injury, but just seeing him every day – where he was when I first got here to where he is now – I don't know how many people can do what he's done."
Q: You've been around football your whole life. When you see an injury like that, do you cringe?
Daboll: "Absolutely. I cringe on any injury. I never want to see players get injured. They work hard. There's only so many games you play each year, and they work their asses off. So, when they get injured, I cringe."
Q: When you announced to the team that he got the award, what was the response like?
Daboll: "Big applause. We asked him if he wanted to say a few words, and he politely declined."
Q: You've said a lot, and (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) does, too, that pressures and hits on the quarterback are as important as sacks. Pressures and sacks are just as important. But you haven't had a sack in the last two weeks. And sacks result in negative yardage and get everyone excited. Do you think you need to get more sacks?
Daboll: "Anytime you can get, whether it's a sack or a hit for a negative run, I think that helps the defense on the next down. Particularly, if you can get them in a long yardage situation or more pass-obvious situations. So, creating negative plays from a defense's perspective is always helpful, obviously, on the next play."
Q: This week you're playing Washington. The Commanders started 1-4. They're 7-5 now. Do you see a difference in the way they're playing now?
Daboll: "Coach (Ron) Rivera's done this a long time. He's very consistent. And I think that the team takes on his identity. They're tough. They run the ball. They play very good defense. The last eight games, I think they've given up about 16 points a game – that's it. So, they control the tempo of the clock. They play well in the kicking game. And they've won some close games down to the wire – obviously last week against Atlanta, getting the interception (with 58 seconds remaining). So, again, every week is a tough week in this league. And this is no different."
Q: (Commanders quarterback) Taylor Heinicke is thought to have a weaker throwing arm and is less athletic than Carson Wentz. But he seems to have that certain 'it' factor that inspires teammates and a knack for making a big play. Do you see that?
Daboll: "Yes. You see their record. I appreciate the way he competes and the intensity and the fire he shows at that position. I think it goes a long way with his teammates. I'm just saying from afar, watching him on tape. They get a first down rushing the ball, and he is as juiced up as anybody. So, it seems that way. He's playing good football. He seems like a very good leader."
Q: Rivera said this week that now they have (running back) Brian Robinson to run the ball with Antonio Gibson, "Using the two-back tandem, I really do think that being able to commit to the running game the way we have has really helped us." Do you see that having both runners helps them?
Daboll: "Yeah, and you can add (wide receiver Curtis) Samuel right in there, too, because they use him in different ways. So, tough nosed, old school kind of football. They're both talented guys. I've known Brian for a while, just being at (the University of) Alabama when he was a true freshman. He's a load to bring down."
Q: I mentioned Darius (Slayton) leading the NFC in yards per catch. (Commanders wide receiver Terry) McLaurin is third. And he's near the top of the conference in 25 and 40-yard receptions. How does he compare with some of the other players you've faced?
Daboll: "He's a dynamic receiver. Great person, having met him in the pre-draft process. But extremely talented. Fast. Great hands. Route runner. He's an explosive, explosive playmaker for them."
Q: For years, all discussions about Washington's defense begin with the front. They have four first-round draft choices and three of them (defensive tackles Daron Payne and Johnathan Allen and defensive end Montez Sweat) have a total of 20 sacks this season. (Defensive end) Chase Young is coming back this week. Are they as good a front as you've faced?
Daboll: "To me, if you can build your team from the offensive line and defensive line and have strong players in the trenches, that's where the game is really played – whether you run it, whether you throw it. And to have four of those guys – all high-round type of picks – they've played well together, that's where it starts. They've controlled games up front on the defensive side of the ball. That's why they've only given up 16 points a game."
Q: When they were 1-4, they had only one takeaway. Since then, they've had 13.
Daboll: "It's no coincidence, right? That's the game, too. Usually when you win the turnover battle, you put yourself in a pretty good position. Usually – not all of the time. And when you don't, you don't. So, ball security is always a high priority every game."