EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach’s Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: Winning always improves the working environment around a football team. After two victories, do you feel there’s a little more energy and excitement on the practice field? Do you sense a different attitude?
Shurmur: “I think our guys have always been about their business. Certainly, when you win a game, and we won two games now two different ways. We had to come from behind in one (at Tampa Bay) and then we played from the front in the other (last week vs. Washington). You learn from that. I think the players can develop some confidence. But I thought the work week was actually really good this week in terms of them being about their business.”
Q: You came out and took a quick 14-0 lead last week after, as you noted, coming from behind in the previous game. Was starting better an emphasis last week?
Shurmur: “It was. Certainly, in the first three games, we didn’t start the way we wanted to. I challenged them and they challenged themselves to play the first half like we did the second half against Tampa. Our guys came out and they responded to that. Now we need to learn from it and try to repeat it.”
Q: You had 37 rushing attempts last week, which indicates you’re controlling time of possession and probably ahead. Is the number in itself good, or was that just a byproduct of playing well and you had the running game going?
Shurmur: “Normally when you can get out to a lead, and at least in that game, they were struggling to move the ball and score points, I felt like it was important for us to establish that. I’m all for running the ball. We need to gain yards when we do it, and I felt like we were pretty efficient from that standpoint, at least in terms of getting yards. That was certainly a game where because we were ahead, we could probably run it more than you normally would.”
Q: It was a mixed bag for you in the sense that you got the four takeaways, but you also had four giveaways. The first number usually results in a victory, the second makes that outcome much more diffiuclt.
Shurmur: “A mixed bag, that’s fair. The two interceptions happen at times. There are reasons for it. Obviously, the quarterback ends up being responsible for that, but there were things that we could do better. The fumbles, those are the ones, along with the interceptions, that we have to avoid. They were in two drives where we were trying to run the ball. One was in the red zone, which now eliminates your opportunity to get points, which when the game is closer, those could be things that could be devastating.”
Q: You’ve coached a lot of young quarterbacks, and Daniel (Jones) is obviously special. When you have a young player like him, can you see progress week to week, game to game?
Shurmur: “I think so. With Daniel, young players that are good players and are seeing things for the first time, they make bigger jumps with regard to improvement. I anticipate that will be the case for him throughout the year.”
Q: (Wayne) Gallman had 118 yards from scrimmage, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Did you learn anything about him that you didn’t know before that game?
Shurmur: “Well, maybe. He went into this game for the first time in my tenure in the lead role as the runner. Obviously, he filled in well the week before. He was able to have good production, and really aside from that fumble, did a good job.”
Q: Saquon (Barkley) has been coaching up Gallman and the backs. He’s been texting Gallman encouragement, tweeting out encouragement. He has been very enthusiastic on the practice field, though he isn’t practicing. How important is it to have him do all that?
Shurmur: “He’s fully engaged. He’s like any pro that’s been injured, he’s doing everything in his power to come back quickly. That’s part of his role as one of our better players, to help encourage. You see that from all of our players, but when you see it specifically from Saquon, you can tell that it’s something that’s important.”
Keep an eye on these five players when the Giants host the Vikings in Week 5.
Q: Do you think the fact that Golden Tate has been in the league for 10 years will help him step right in after the four-week absence and contribute? Also, the fact that he’s playing a team in the Vikings that he’s very familiar with?
Shurmur: “Probably, yes. He’s a veteran player. He kept himself in good shape while he was away. We’ll get him back in there and get him going. We’re hopeful he’ll have an impact in a positive way on the game. Then, obviously, being a veteran, and there is familiarity with the Vikings, certainly, from his days with the Lions, I think that will help.”
Q: A week ago, Jackrabbit (Janoris Jenkins) was criticized for his performance at Tampa Bay. Now he is the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after being responsible for three of the four interceptions against Washington. All cornerbacks have to shake off those types of games like the Tampa game, but the fact that he was able to do that and come back and play so well, what does that say about him?
Shurmur: “I’m happy for him that he was able to have success. Each game is different. The matchups are different and how we try to play the games is different. To his credit, he came back and he worked hard. He really prepared himself to have a good game, and then he was in position to make plays and he did. That’s a credit to him.”
Q: Does the way Janoris carried himself and rebounded set a good example for a rookie like DeAndre Baker?
Shurmur: “Absolutely. Listen, everybody doesn’t play great every week. For him to come back and play like he did, he obviously had a positive impact on the victory.”
Q: (Linebacker) Josiah Tauaefa is now on the active roster. Like a lot of undrafted rookies, he arrived here relatively anonymously. When did he start to catch your eye, and what impressed you enough about him for you to put him on the roster?
Shurmur: “Well, we needed him. We have injuries at linebacker. That’s why we had to make the moves we did this week. But I think the most important thing is he’s been a guy that since he’s gotten here, he’s improved every day. He’s most likely going to get an opportunity this week to go out there and compete first on special teams, and then see where the role takes him. But he’s done a good job. He’s worthy of being on the 53-man roster, and I look forward to seeing him play.”
Q: When you were talking about the Vikings (Wednesday), you said a lot of what they do there, “we try to do here in terms of building our team.” Were you talking about roster building, scheme, attitude?
Shurmur: “Most of it is from an attitude standpoint in terms of bringing in tough, competitive players, and then trying to establish a physical mindset. Being able to not only pass the ball but be able to run the ball and play defense. Those are very critical components. Those are things that have stood the test of time in our sport. So, it’s a little bit of all of the above, but a lot of it is just the mindset.”
Q: You’ve had a lot of success in the league and you’ve coached for and with a lot of good coaches, (Minnesota’s) Mike Zimmer being one of them. Are you in some way a composite of a lot of the guys you coached with and for, like Andy (Reid) and Zimmer?
Shurmur: “I think so. I’ve tried to learn from everybody that I work with. For an offensive guy, I seem to… Aside from my west coast roots, which is one of the systems in the league that’s stood the test of time, aside from the offensive stuff that everybody talks about, I think a lot of the influence I’ve had has been from defensive coaches. The way that they teach, I think it’s had an impression on me, and certainly the same can be said for the impression Zim has had on me.”
Q: You’ve said their offense is old school. They’re one of only two teams that has run the ball more than pass the ball. (C.J.) Ham probably plays more than any fullback in the league. Is this a different type of challenge for your defense this week?
Shurmur: “In some ways, yes. But we’re just going to have to see how this plays out. They had two games where they got ahead by a bunch and they were able to run the ball and rarely throw it. Then they had a couple other games where they threw it probably more than they would have liked. So, we’ll just see how the game plays out.”
Q: Their offensive scheme has changed since you left (after the 2017 season). But you know a lot of their players: (Dalvin) Cook, (Adam) Thielen, (Stefon) Diggs, (Kyle) Rudolph. Would this be a week where you might spend a little more time with the defensive coaches talking about their guys because you are so familiar with their strengths?
Shurmur: “I think our people have a good feel for who their players are. I think you have to really understate the fact that you think you know somebody. It’s our players playing against their players. It doesn’t really matter what I think of them, and I have a super high opinion of their players. It really just comes down to how well our guys compete against them.”
Q: Conversely, some of their defensive coaches know you. Do you have to disguise things and change terminology because of that?
Shurmur: “We all do that anyway. One day, apple means run; the next day, it means pass. I think we all do that. We practice doing that frequently because when you play a team twice like we do all of our division opponents, you have to do that. Then when you have a team that knows you, so to speak, or knows quite a bit of your terminology, then you just make those little tweaks.”
Q: The Vikings have six defensive Pro Bowlers. Is it fair to say that (Everson) Griffen and (Danielle) Hunter are arguably one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league?
Shurmur: “There’s no question. We’ve faced four pretty good defensive lines already, and this one is going to be a big challenge for us. That’s part of their charm on defense. They get you into some obvious throwing situations, and they can play any coverage that they want. They can count on pressure. We just have to block them.”
Q: Four of their five top defensive backs are former first round picks. Is there one guy that stands out to you, whether it’s (Xavier) Rhodes or (Harrison) Smith?
Shurmur: “Listen, you mentioned it. There are a lot of first round picks in that secondary. But they play well together. They’re a very coordinated secondary. They know what they’re looking at, they know when they see it and they know what to do. That’s a credit to how they’re coached. But it’s also a credit to how well they work together.”
Q: Marcus Sherels rejoined the Vikings in time to play the Giants. Is he one of the more dynamic return guys you’ve worked with?
Shurmur: “He was an outstanding returner the years I was there. He just has a knack. I don’t know what it is about him, but he finds a way to make yards and make big returns. That’s going to be a challenge for our team.”
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