EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: The tenor of the questions you got Monday after the 20-20 tie with Washington was that you've become more conservative.
Daboll: "Yeah, that's not the case."
Q: You went for two points late in the opener in Tennessee, but you're not thinking about playoff implications in the first week of the season. Is it fair to say you have more to consider at this time of year?
Daboll: "Absolutely. I think there's a lot of different outcomes that you (consider). Look, you try to win every game, so things that we talk about with our analytics department and support staff (are) because there's a lot of situations that you go through at this time of year. So, we do that every week."
Q: Do those discussions get longer the later you get into the season?
Daboll: "There's a lot in December if you're in the (playoff) hunt. You don't let those affect any of your decisions until the minute it comes up. You're always trying to win the game. But then, there's conversations and studies and numbers and a bunch of things that go along with it."
Q: We usually discuss the opposing team late in the conversation, but (11-1) Philadelphia seems worthy of moving up. As you study the tape of the Eagles, do they jump out as a team that's playing at a higher level than other teams you've seen?
Daboll: "Yeah, that's why they're 11-1. I'd say it's a complete team. The players they have on their roster, they have a lot of talent. I think (Eagles coach) Nick (Sirianni) is a really good coach, along with his coordinators (Shane Steichen on offense, Jonathan Gannon on defense and Michael Clay on special teams). I think those players execute at a high level. (Quarterback) Jalen Hurts is a winner. If you go back and look at the games he's played as a starting quarterback – at (the University of) Alabama, at (the University of) Oklahoma, at Philadelphia – it's like 58-15. It's about an 80 percent winning percentage as a starting quarterback since he's played the last five years."
Q: When you got to (the University of) Alabama, Jalen was already there. Do you remember watching him for a couple of practices and saying, "This kid is special"?
Daboll: "I think his attitude and his leadership are special. But then, he's got a really good skillset. So, combine all those things together, he was raised in a football family. His father's a football coach. He's got instincts, he studies. And you want the ball in his hands; he can hurt you in a lot of different ways. That's a hard quarterback to defend."
View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.
Q: A couple weeks ago, we talked about the Cowboys coming off that 40-3 win in Minnesota. The Eagles' (35-14) victory last Sunday against Tennessee was almost as impressive. In the last two weeks, they've scored 75 points and gained 953 yards. They have three different players who have scored nine touchdowns. How difficult is it to defend a multifaceted attack like that?
Daboll: "It's difficult. You have to defend every inch of the field. They can stretch it horizontally. They can run it inside. They can run it outside. They can throw it vertically. The quarterback can hurt you, not just with his arm but with his legs. So, you're basically defending an entire field, and they can hurt you in a variety of ways. They've done it. They've thrown shots. They've thrown screens that went the distance. They can run quarterback zone-read stuff. They can just run quarterback stuff. They can run back stuff. Nick is a fantastic coach, and they have some really good players: (A.J.) Brown, DeVonta (Smith) are exceptional receivers. (Wide receiver) Quez (Watkins) is problem with his speed. (Tight end Dallas) Goedert hasn't been out there, but you've got two backs that can make plays in (Miles) Sanders and Kenneth (Gainwell)."
Q: A few times this year, I've asked you when you face two running backs if they are similar. Brown and Smith each have 61 catches. Are they similar, different? How do you look at them?
Daboll: "I would say they're both skillful. They have different strengths to their game. A.J. is really never covered. Even when he's covered, he's never really covered: He's got such strong hands and the ability to make contested catches. So, that's a problem. And he can run routes. They're both complete receivers. You watch him when he was with Tennessee, and you're like, 'Phew, what a good player.' Now he's with Philly. And I was with Smitty at Alabama. He caught that last play (from Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to win the national championship). I would say he's got great body control, quickness. For a thinner player, he plays strong. He's got strong hands, got really, really good hands. (He has) quickness, suddenness, speed. There's a reason why this team's 11-1."
Q: The defense is also very impressive. They lead the league with 23 takeaways and 15 interceptions. On the offense, you always want to be aggressive, but do you have to be wary of the fact that this team is very good at taking the ball away?
Daboll: "Ball security is an everyday thing for us, and it starts with us. Things that lead to ball security issues, those are the things we have to be good at. And it starts with how we handle the ball, our decision-making process, our ability to protect inside-out. All the things that create turnovers, they're good at. Turnovers are one of the more important statistics in terms of wins and losses. So, we got to do a good job of it. And we have to try to get them, too."
Q: I feel like I've been asking about (Eagles defensive linemen) Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox for 20 years. They're still there.
Daboll: "They're still there, and they're still producing at a high level. I'd say they're, really on both sides of the ball, we just talked about those skill players, but the foundation of a good team is the offensive line and the defensive line. They're at the top of the line in these two categories. (Defensive tackle Javon) Hargrave, Fletcher, they drafted (defensive tackle) Jordan Davis. They got (defensive tackles Linval) Joseph and (Ndamukong) Suh back. And then their edge guys – (Josh) Sweat, (linebacker Hasson) Reddick and Graham. They just roll them in there, and that's what makes everything go. They're tough to block. Numbers are numbers. You watch the Tennessee game. They did a pretty good job in the running game against one of the better running teams in the league. You're going to have to stay as balanced as you can and not just lean on one area against a team like this."
Q: I know the season (2012) you and Nick Sirianni spent together in Kansas City was unpleasant for many reasons, but he said yesterday he wishes he had more years with you. And there's things that you taught him that he still uses today. What is one thing about him that jumps out to you about that year you spent together?
Daboll: "Well, he was a QC (quality control) when I was there. There were some people in the building when I got there that thought highly of the job he did as a young coach just getting into the league. And when I had an opportunity to sit down and meet him, I'm like, 'Interview this guy for the receiver job. This guy is sharp.' So, I'd say immediately for me, it was his intelligence – particularly on receiver play. He was a former receiver – went to Mount Union (College). But his ability to communicate the techniques and the fundamentals of the receiver position were impressive, and you could see that he understood the game probably at a higher level for a pretty young coach. And we spent a lot of time together. His office was basically right across from my office. And I leaned on him, even as a young coach, because he was very, very smart. He could see the game; he had really good ideas. That year, I had two really young coaches that were QCs, if you will. Nick just went from QC to his receivers job. Jim Bob (Cooter, now the Jacksonville Jaguars' passing game coordinator) was a QC, so the three of us spent a lot of time together. And I learned a lot from Nick in terms of fundamentals. He's tough; I'd say he's fair. His players really respect him. I didn't really care about his age because he helped them get better technically. We've been really good friends throughout our careers. We're from similar areas – around Buffalo. He comes from a football family, too. (We) have a lot of similarities: competitive. I have a high opinion of him as a person and him as a coach, too."
Q: You coach against your friends all the time in this league. You're one of the most competitive guys ever. Have you always found it easy to just put that aside when you coach against a friend?
Daboll: "You don't think about it because you have a job to do. Whether you're a receiver coach, a quarterback coach, a defensive line coach, a coordinator, a head coach, your job is to prepare your team, go out there and coach them and try to win the game."
Q: You mentioned the Eagles did a very good job against (Tennessee running back) Derrick Henry (holding him to 30 yards) last week. When you were playing your best football, you were running the ball really well. Do you think you need to get back to that?
Daboll: "We run the ball. Every week, it's a numbers game. And it's different. When you're up, and it's close and you're running it – there's been a couple games when we haven't thrown the ball at all in the fourth quarter. And every game is different. I think the biggest thing, offensively and defensively and in the kicking game, is executing your assignment. It takes all 11 guys on most plays to execute their assignment – run, pass, screen, whatever it may be. And that's what we focus on."
Q: I asked Tom Coughlin about his address to the team Wednesday and he said, "They don't know me from Adam." I doubt that was true. Did the players enjoy hearing him speak?
Daboll: "Of course, they know him. I asked him to say a few words; I've got a lot of respect for Coach Coughlin and his accomplishments and the things he's done. He's coached a long time. I think it was good for everybody to listen to him."
Q: My weekly (wide receiver) Darius (Slayton) question: He's really become your primary wide receiver, has 266 more yards than anybody else on the team and is third in the league with a 17.2-yard average. Do you see teams covering him differently than they did earlier in the year?
Daboll: "Nope. We'll see how that goes, but nope."
Q: You got (tackle) Evan Neal back last week. The more that you watch (tackle) Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal, do you think these are two building blocks you have going forward?
Daboll: "I feel good about those guys. I think Evan's just coming back from being out for a while (with a knee injury). For any player, let alone a rookie, to get back into the groove and get out there playing, hopefully you see each week that you get a little bit better and better. But also, I'm conscious (that) Andrew is a really good football player for us. I think that it's good to have him in the room with Evan because he's been a young player, been a high draft pick. Evan's very conscientious. He does everything we ask him to do. They're two good young players for us. I'm glad we got him."
Q: (Outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) – you really only coached Azeez two games before last week. To see him come back and make the big plays and have that kind of impact, what did that mean?
Daboll: "I'd just say it's good to have him back. He's a good football player."
Q: (Running back) Saquon (Barkley) is your Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. We've talked a lot about him as a player. What have you come to know about Saquon off the field?
Daboll: "Just a really good person. (He's) good-natured, cares about his teammates, very respectful. (He) is a person that's always trying to help others, whether it's his teammates or obviously outside the building. I think that's really important to him: paying it forward, if you will."