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Coach Daboll Weekly Q&A

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Dabs' Digest: Our focus is where it needs to be


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest,'s weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:

Q: Anyone who's been in the league as long as you is going to have games like the loss to Philadelphia last week. At this point in your career, is it easier to move on from a game like that or an exhilarating victory like you had with Tennessee and Baltimore?

Daboll: "I've learned you've got to move on quickly regardless of the outcome of the game you just played – good or bad, tight, lopsided, whatever it may be. There's just 17 of these games, so you can't dwell on doing something well or getting an outcome you want or getting an outcome you don't like. You certainly don't like it, but that's the reality of the league we're in. So, you have to learn from it, move on quickly and get ready to play the next team."

Q: You're always gauging the psychological feelings of your players, but after a game like that, do players need to hear from their coach, "You're better than that. It's just one of those games?"

Daboll: "I think what we've tried to do here all the way back in OTAs, whether it's a practice, a competitive scrimmage, going into the preseason, you're constantly teaching your players. It's not just X's and O's and techniques and fundamentals; there is a psychology part to it. Whether you're winning, whether you're losing, the main thing is just be consistent. Let them know that this is the NFL. There's going to be some rocky times. There's going to be some tough times. The best way we can go about our business is taking another step and learning from what we did – good or bad – and being consistent with the things we do during the week and then going out there and doing a good job on Sunday."

Q: The stakes are apparent this week in Washington – playing the team you're tied with in your division. Do you have to do things differently in the interactions with the players and drive that point home just to make sure everyone understands that?

Daboll: "I think after a long season, you put everything into it, it goes all the way back to April. I think everybody understands this is an important game. I've stressed it from day one. Each game is important. You don't get 82 or 160-something. You get 17 of them you're guaranteed, and each week is important. Let's not make one week more important than the next. Let's make sure we're focused on things that we can control, which sometimes isn't always easy. So, you're constantly teaching that."

Q: DJ (quarterback Daniel Jones) was asked this week if this is the biggest game of his career. And, predictably, he said, "It's a big game for all of us," which I'm sure if someone asks you today, "Is this the biggest game of his career," you'll say, "Well, this is a big game for all of us." Do you, as a coach, learn more about your players in so-called big games, high stakes, pressure games (more so) than other games?

Daboll: "I think you learn from your players every week – how they approach things, how they handle adversity, how they handle success. That's your job – to help them in those areas and not make something bigger than it is. Let's keep the main thing the main thing and keep on doing what we need to do to put ourselves in a good position each week when we play a game."

Q: You were asked earlier this week what you have learned about the NFC East. And your immediate response was, "Haven't won any games." You've coached for 11 division champions. In your opinion, do you have to win a division game to be a legitimate contender?

Daboll: "I don't think of it like that. Our job is to go out there and do everything we can do to win the next game, and that's what we're going to try to do."

View photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

Q: Did you watch any of last night's San Francisco-Seattle game because it had implications for your team?

Daboll: "No. Thursday, once I get home, the kids are almost getting ready to go to bed, I'll sit down with them for a little while. My five-year-old son, he loves football. I'll watch a little bit with him, and then put him to bed. As soon as he's in bed, I'm in bed."

Q: When you woke up today and saw Seattle had lost…

Daboll: "Yeah, I saw. It's just loving the league – whoever's playing on a Thursday night, you wake up in the morning, and you see who won and who lost. Our focus is really where it needs to be."

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages, if there are any, of playing a team twice in three games?

Daboll: "I think every team, if you play a team that close together, as a coaching staff, you've prepped. You've watched pretty much every piece of film you can watch. And you're playing them again so soon, it's like déjà vu all over again. Both teams have it; Washington just played us. We played them. Our players know them. Their players know us. It's really going to come down to fundamentals and execution."

Q: You like to watch a lot of tape of an opponent before the game. Did you go back and watch a lot of Commanders tape? Or did you watch only your game two weeks ago?

Daboll: "Of course, you watch your game. I don't know how many times – it's been a lot. And I've watched all the games they've played. So, the preparation doesn't change. You still want to make sure you're doing everything you can do to put together the best plan for your players. And really, you get a feel for the matchups when you play this close to one another. They have certain players coming back that didn't play the first game, but we've watched them. Again, it's going to come down to an execution game – a division game. You just played them. You know them. They know you. And you have to do a good job fundamentally, execution-wise, decision making, all those things."

Q: So, in a lot of ways, you treated it as if this was the first meeting?

Daboll: "Well, you have that tape you just played."

Q: But you watch the other tapes as well?

Daboll: "You absolutely do. Yeah, and it's like, 'Man, I just watched that.' You make sure you go through everything with a fine-tooth comb."

Q: (Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) has said several times this year that you try to hold something back early in a game and bring it out in the fourth quarter. When you know you're playing a team twice in three weeks, do you hold things back knowing you're going to play them again?

Daboll: "No. You do everything you can do to try to win that game. And then, again, the way it usually works when you're playing a division team is you have a game plan. You put stuff together the first game. Obviously, you don't get all that stuff called. You kind of revisit, 'Here's some of the things we wanted to try to do the first game that maybe weren't called. Do we still like these? Do we want to tweak anything based on what happened in our game?' And those are the discussions that you have as a coaching staff."

Q: When you watch the tape of the first game 12 days ago, did anything jump out at you? "Oh, I didn't realize that?

Daboll: "Again, you go through it with a fine-tooth comb. You look at matchups. You look at situations. You look at play designs. You look at decisions. You go through all those things, and you obviously use that to game-plan for the next game."

Q: (Running back) Saquon (Barkley), who obviously is one of your most valuable players, said yesterday, "I feel like I've been lacking the last couple of weeks." It's laudable that a player would be willing to put that on his shoulders. But it's a team game. Should one player be shouldering that responsibility for the shortcomings of the rushing attack?

Daboll: "I would hope that everybody, and I say it always starts with me – we can all do more. Obviously, when you're not getting the results that you hope for, I think that's a testament to Saquon and his character and his commitment and his (ability to say), 'I'm not going to make excuses.' We all own it. We try to fix it, and we move forward." 

Q: The last four games, the opposition has rushed for at least 160 yards in every game, including 253 last week. You're not going to use injuries as an excuse, but you didn't have (defensive lineman) Leonard (Williams) and you have guys out in the secondary. Wink said you start working on it, plugging the dike and running out of fingers and toes to plug the dike. Do you feel that same way?

Daboll: "No. I just think, look, every game is different. So, some of these stats – run game defense – can we do better in that? Yeah, we can do better in a lot of areas on the football team. But that's a team stat, too. So, based on how the game's flowing, is one team up and they just keep handing it off more than they would if the game was a little tighter? You never know. I think run game defense comes down to team defense, getting knock back at the line of scrimmage, making sure we're in the appropriate gaps, tackling and hustling to the football. And that's run game defense. So, there's areas, and it's not just run game defense, like I said, there's areas in every part of the team that we can do better. That's what we try to do each week."

 Q: TMac (special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey) said on the Eagles' two long kickoff returns last week the players just weren't getting off their blocks. Is that one of those fundamental things when that happens, you go back and emphasize it a little more this week?

Daboll: "Absolutely. I think when you have things pop up from week to week, certainly you try to fix those things that are glaring. And that was glaring for us; they had a lot of good returns against us, and that changes the dynamic of the game as well – that field position created by special teams units, which that's something that we've worked on. We worked on (it) hard this week. Hopefully, we see some results from it."

Q: Does kickoff coverage become more important now because you're not going to get as many touchbacks in the cold and the wind, especially in the Northeast?

Daboll: "As it goes on – absolutely. Each team game plans you differently. Some of them just want to kick it in the end zone and just take it at the 25 (yard line). Other teams just want to go ahead and pin you back. We had a couple of those against Washington the last time we played. Remember, we got them down to the five-yard line. Field position this game is going to be critical."

Q: In the last two games, (Washington running back) Brian Robinson has 201 yards – a third of his season total. He had 21 carries last time. Would you expect him to have a big role on Sunday?

Daboll: "You have to ask (Commanders head coach Ron) Rivera. (We're) understanding they want to play how Coach Rivera talks: they want to be a physical football team that controls the clock, is able to run the football. And then, they have really good play action passes off of that with (wide receivers Terry) McLaurin and (Curtis) Samuel and (Jahan) Dotson. They've got a lot of good skill players. They play a certain way. They're a physical team. And we're going to have to match their physicalness."

Q: You play great receivers every week in this league. Is there something about McLaurin that sets him apart?

Daboll: "He does everything well. He's a good route runner. He's fast. He has strong hands. He's tough. (He's) good with the ball in his hands. (He) can beat you over the top. He can take a quick screen and run it for a lot of yards. He's a dynamic receiver."

Q: Neither team protected its quarterback very well in that first game. (Commanders quarterback Taylor) Heinicke was sacked five times and took 10 hits. (He) still threw for 275 (yards). Were you impressed how his toughness stood out in that game.

Daboll: "I've been impressed with him since he's been playing. He's a very, very competitive, tough quarterback. And I think a play that really illustrates his competitiveness, his will, is that fourth-and-four play where he's scrambling out to his left – the defense's right – and he makes a good play to keep the drive going. He plays with a lot of energy, emotion. Again, I don't know the young man. But he seems like a fiery, competitive young leader. And they've been playing well with him."

Q: Lastly, last time you played Washington, we talked about their defensive line going into that game. Were they as formidable a group as you had been told and watched on tape?

Daboll: "I've coached against their team before when I was at Buffalo. These guys are good. They were picked where they were picked for a reason. They're hard to block. They're disruptive. They're good in the pass and the run. Again, that's where all football starts – the lines: the offensive line and the defensive line. I think that'll hold true this week."


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