EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: I know you're not a stats guy, but you look at some of the numbers: 23rd in offense, 31st in passing, three touchdown passes.
Daboll: "I don't look at numbers."
Q: I know. But others look at numbers. Another is don't have an interception yet. Why are you 4-1? Why have you been able to overcome those numbers?
Daboll: "We do what we need to do each game to win a game. Really, it's not any more complicated than that. We do whatever we can do during the week to prepare coaching-wise. The players go out there and play hard. We've made some timely plays to finish the games in the fourth (quarter). Of course, like I've said every time after a game and I feel this way strongly, there's a lot of things we need to improve on."
Q: Last week, you dressed four wide receivers who, when camp opened, it was a legitimate question whether any of them would be on the roster. They had 13 catches for 142 yards. (Cornerback Nick) McCloud and (cornerback Justin) Layne hadn't played a defensive snap, but contributed in the win against Green Bay on defense. Each week, do you emphasize the point to the players than any of them can be called on at any time? Do you make sure everyone gets reps in practice?
Daboll: "Absolutely. The coaches, I think, do a great job of getting the guys prepared. But the credit goes to the players, particularly the guys that are either on the practice squad or maybe haven't been playing a lot, to take mental reps. We do an offensive walk-through and a defensive walk-through every day, but 10, 15 yards back, there's a whole different group of players that maybe aren't even on the active roster going through the same type of plays, so that if something happens, we need to bring somebody up, that we can bring them up from our practice squad and kind of grow them, so to speak, in terms of how we do things culturally, how we do things offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. And then, we have an eye on them. It's different than just bringing another guy off the street. We do that, too. We'll go ahead and look at them Mondays and Tuesdays, but whoever we have in our building of the 68 players that we have, we expect all of them to be ready to go."
Q: Specifically, Darius Slayton didn't get a uniform opening week. He could've sulked, but he, in his words, "kept working at my craft." He led the team with six catches in London. Can you talk about how he responded?
Daboll: "We talk a lot about resiliency, and you need to have it in this league as a team, as a coach, as a player. You're constantly teaching different ways to overcome things, and I think that the guys that we have in our locker room do a good job of just controlling what they can, and sometimes it's not easy. It's hard for a player, or it's hard for a coach. Or it's hard for a team. But this is our industry, and you better find ways to be able to push through things because it will get tough. It's been tough. Things aren't going to be great all the time. So, we have to trust the things we believe in. And he did as we went on. And he's been a great teammate, even when he wasn't playing. He's been good in the meetings. He's had a positive outlook when sometimes it's not easy to have a positive outlook. And I'm happy for him. I'm happy for the team that he performed well. I'm happy for him that he was ready to go and helped us win."
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 6 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Q: The other day you had touchdown drives 91 and 86 yards, two of your three longest possessions of the year. What does that do for an offense and for a team?
Daboll: "Well, offensive football is exactly that: it's execution football. And defensive football is reactive football. Usually on offense, you need 11 guys doing the right thing for a play to have a chance. Now, a (running) back can go and break three tackles and make somebody miss, but everybody's job is so important to do. And to have those long drives, it's a testament to the players and their execution. And that's where the credit goes to."
Q: You've shown a lot of creativity in the red zone, whether it's the wildcat, Saquon (Barkley) handing off to (Matt) Breida, the run by (tight end Daniel) Bellinger. At the risk of stating the obvious, the red zone is very important. Do you spend extra time on that when you game plan during the week?
Daboll: "We spend a lot of time on it, but we spend a lot of time on really every area. Obviously, that's the scoring zone. And again, whether you run it in, throw it in, run a wildcat, our job as a coaching staff is to try to find ways to help our players get into the end zone, and their job is to go out there and execute it. But it's critical to the success of a team; obviously, seven points instead of three with these games that are close games in the fourth quarter make a tremendous impact."
Q: You have touchdowns on seven of 12 trips into the red zone – another stat. You'd like to score touchdowns on 100 percent of your red zone trips. What number are you looking for, realistically? Is there a number or percentage?
Daboll: "No. Just go out there and execute and try to put the ball in the end zone. Other things come into play, play call-wise based on situation. Score, long distance, but the job of an offense is twofold: it's to score points and take care of the ball. All the other outside statistics, where you rank passing, where you rank rushing, where you rank sacks, the rankings – I just throw those aside. It's really, 'How can we improve whatever it is we need to improve?' If we need to work on our pass protection, we improve our fundamentals in pass protection. We utilize different ways to help protect the quarterback. If it's the running game, what schemes are we using? We got to work our double teams, our pad level. That's where our area of focus will (change). Whatever it is we need to improve, not stats, just coaching, evaluating your players and evaluating your schemes, you need to do that every week. So, you're getting ready for the next week, but you're also evaluating what you've done to make sure that you're trying to correct and fix things that need to be fixed."
Q: You've been asked repeatedly about Daniel (Jones') mental and physical toughness. I'm curious about something else about him. In every game, there's that constant cat and mouse – the defense shows a coverage, quarterback checks out, defense changes its look, quarterback has to respond again. What have you seen from him in that area?
Daboll: "Whatever we've asked him to do, to pick up, to learn, Daniel's done a good job with that. Again, he's growing in our offense, and we're growing in establishing our offense. In the early part of the season, like I've said, there's a lot of things we can be better at. And that's what we work to do."
Q: When (defensive lineman) Leonard (Williams) went out (with a knee injury), there was uncertainty how well the defensive line would play. Dexter (Lawrence) seems to have really stepped up. Aaron Rodgers said he's a premier player. Have you seen him make strides and if so, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that he felt that he had to take on a bigger load with Leonard out?
Daboll: "He's been a good teammate. I think that's why his teammates voted him captain. He's a talented player, and he's been playing well for us. And so have a lot of other guys on the defensive front: Jelly (Justin Ellis) and Nick (Williams) and those guys that have had to step in. I remember getting asked a question about Leo a few weeks ago. The guys that we have on the roster are guys that we believe in. And I think those guys have been doing a good job, and Dexter is one of our leaders."
Q: One of the themes of the week is (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) facing the (Baltimore) Ravens. You have a lot of experience coaching against former teams.
Daboll: "That's the National Football League."
Q: When you were with the Bills, you had coached for every team in the AFC East, so you played former employers all the time. Is there really no extra incentive when you face a former team?
Daboll: "No. You just take each week for what it is. It's a tough week no matter who you play. We're playing an established program. (Baltimore) coach (John) Harbaugh has been there forever and had winning season after winning season and playoff after playoff. They have a lot of good players, and we have to do a great job during the week of preparing and ultimately going out there and executing on Sunday."
Q: The big league-wide issue concerns quarterback protection and roughing the passer penalties, which at times have been called when they're not warranted. Do you think it's applied too broadly or are you glad they're protecting the quarterback?
Daboll: "I'd just say in terms of rules and things that pop up and emphasis points, all we do is try to coach it the best way we can based off of the rules and interpretations of the rules. And that's what we'll always do. What we think of it, what we don't think of it, none of that really matters. It's 'how can we as a coaching staff communicate that with the players and teach the players so that we're not a heavily penalized team?'"
Q: I know you study situations from around the league. How do you take the (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom) Brady (roughing the passer) play or the (Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr roughing the passer) play from the Monday night game and show it to your defensive players? It looked like a normal tackle.
Daboll: "I think it's an inexact (science). Those officials do a great job. They're out there doing the best job they can do. They're bang-bang plays, and whatever it is they called, our job is not to disagree. That's not our job. Our job is to make sure that we're doing everything we can do to try to eliminate those."
Q: The Ravens are 3-2, but they've trailed for less than 12 minutes all year. Lamar Jackson is a former MVP and a running and passing threat. Is he a unique player?
Daboll: "I've been around a lot of quarterbacks these recent years that have good arms, that can throw it, that can run it, that are good players. And he's been in the league for a few years. He's one of the best players in the league. That's how I watch him. When I watch him, I'm just very impressed with how he plays the quarterback position, how he leads his team to wins. His winning percentage has got to be up there with the tops of the league. I think it's 74 point something percent."
Q: Behind Brady and (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, his winning percentage is third.
Daboll: "He's a sensational player."
Q: Last week, they didn't have (wide receiver Rashod) Bateman or (running back Justice) Hill, and (wide receiver) Devin Duvernay came in and was like a Swiss army knife, running, catching and returning. Do you know a lot about him?
Daboll: "Duvernay? Texas receiver. Strong, fast, obviously a very good returner. He has a very good skillset that they use well. But he's a great person to talk to in those (pre-draft) visits or when you're looking at him in the draft. Just a talented, talented young man."
Q: Defensively, they're tied for the league lead with 11 takeaways, including eight interceptions. They've allowed the most passing yards, but they have the most interceptions. I know protecting the ball is always emphasized, but do you have to really focus on it against this team?
Daboll: "That's always one of our keys – doing a good job making the right decisions, taking care of the ball. Whether it's (cornerback Marlon) Humphrey or (cornerback Marcus) Peters, those guys are savvy, crafty, good players. They play good team defense. You could look at stats however you want to look at them. There's a couple of busts there in the Miami game. They throw for however many yards; that obviously contributes. This is a good defense. This team has not trailed very much. It's an established program with really good players and good coaches."
Q: Justin Tucker has hit 61 consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime. He won the game the other day. His range is extraordinary. Knowing that, if you're in a close game, do you have to be cognizant that "We can't let this guy get into field goal range?"
Daboll: "I'd say, he's a really good kicker, tested. He's answered the bell time and time again. We've got to play a good, complementary game. He's a good kicker."
*On Sunday, October 16, the Giants will be celebrating Latino Heritage Month in partnership with Ford and supported by Dunkin' and PNC Private Bank. Fans will be welcomed with several plaza festivities, including: Sampling of Latin cuisine, live DJ, Latin style dance exhibition, Super Bowl trophy on display (weather permitting), and more. The festivities will be hosted by HOT 97's Laura Stylez and will take place on the plaza between MetLife and Verizon gates.
For more details, visit: Giants.com/Los-Gigantes