EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach’s Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: The Washington Nationals were 19-31 and rallied to win the World Series. Can that be an inspiration for the New York Giants?
Shurmur: “You know what, we talked about it in our team meetings, how they had a slow start and then ended up having a magical year. Certainly, that was really great. We certainly don’t have the win total that we want or need at this point. But I anticipate that our guys are going to continue to play hard and put all our efforts into beating Dallas.”
Q: The Giants face the Dallas Cowboys Monday night. When you start a season against a team and then play them again to start the second half of the season, is that a good way to gauge how far you’ve progressed during the course of the year?
Shurmur: “I think so. We gave up too many big plays (in the season-opening 35-17 loss) in Dallas. We moved the ball against them, but we didn’t score enough points in the last outing. So, those are certainly things that we need to improve on. We’ve had stretches this year where we improved in those areas, and we have to continue to do that. It’s safe to say that halfway through the season, you’re a different team, and I anticipate that we’ve improved.”
Q: They basically have the same team as they did in the opener. You are now starting Daniel (Jones), Golden Tate’s here, David Mayo didn’t play a defensive snap last time, (DeAndre) Baker’s playing a lot more, (Deone) Bucannon and (Leonard) Williams are here. Can you surprise a team or catch a team off-guard simply with new personnel or is it more schematic and things you do in the game?
Shurmur: “I don’t know if you surprise teams. I do think that we have an opportunity to go out and play well against a really good team. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win.”
Q: That first game was the only game this year you did not have at least two sacks. Do you think putting pressure on the quarterback is one area in which you’ve improved?
Shurmur: “I think so. Some of the players that are getting the sacks have played hard throughout, and because they play hard throughout the down, they give themselves an opportunity. But we’ve made improvements there. Ultimately, it’s about keeping them out of the end zone.”
Q: Markus Golden, in particular, is on pace for 12 sacks. He leads the team in quarterback hits. Has he been the most consistent player pressuring quarterbacks?
Shurmur: “Well, he’s played hard and played well throughout. It is not a surprise to me that he’s had that type of an impact. He’s removed from an injury (torn ACL), but three years ago, he had a double-digit sack season. So, I know it’s in him and I’m glad he’s had an impact.”
Q: This week, Dave Gettleman reviewed the scenario that led to the acquisition of Leonard Williams. He said he reached out to the Jets G.M. (Joe Douglas). When you heard that you might get Leonard, did you have to study up on him, because when he was drafted (in 2015), you were an offensive coordinator and likely did no work on him?
Shurmur: “No, I knew about Leonard because of who he is as a player and the impact he’s had on the league. I said it earlier and I think it’s held true for just the few practices he’s been with us. He plays extremely hard, he’s a very professional guy. I think he can have an impact on the run and the pass. Our reports were that he was a great person and a great teammate, and I’ve already seen that.”
Q: Players and coaches like to say the best ability you can have is availability. Leonard has never missed a game. The fact that he is out there every game, every down, how important is that to you as a coach?
Shurmur: “Very important. I think you’re right. It doesn’t matter how talented a player is. If he’s not on the field, he can’t do what he can do. That’s part of what makes him who he is, and we look forward to seeing him play as a Giant.”
Q: Dave Gettleman said Leonard is another in the group of good young players you have. He mentioned, among others, Daniel (Jones), Saquon (Barkley), B.J. Hill, Lorenzo Carter, Will Hernandez, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. The record is not what you want it to be at this point. But do you feel at midseason this year, because you have this stable of young players, that you’re in a better place than you were midseason last year?
Shurmur: “Oh, I don’t know. We’ll see as it plays out. We have a lot of very young players playing a lot of snaps. They’re good players, and they’re learning each time they go out there. I think what’s important is that they continue to improve and we do what we can to win games.”
Q: This is the third week in a row you added a new player – (running back) Buck Allen, and then Bucannon and now Williams. Is it difficult to keep adding new parts every week like that, or at this point of the year, it’s pretty easy to integrate new players constantly?
Shurmur: “I think we all know that that’s part of it. It’s not difficult when you add good players like we have. I think it helps your team. We’re always looking for ways to improve our team. In all three cases that you just mentioned, we did that.”
Q: Daniel had 28 completions the other day, his season high. What do you think was his best pass the other day?
Shurmur: “I think he had a lot of really good throws. It’s hard for me to say. I focus on the ones he didn’t throw well. He had a small number of those. But I think the big thing with him is, obviously, to be aggressive but be smart. We have to continue to do things to protect him to make sure he can stay on his feet. Then he’ll reward the Giants with good play.”
Q: This could finally be the first game, hopefully, where you have all of your offensive weapons available. Do you believe your entire playbook is at your disposal for the first time, as well? Or have you tried to just call games as normally as possible even though you didn’t have players that you wanted at different points of the season?
Shurmur: “You have to try to utilize the players that you have. Certainly now, having (Sterling) Shep(ard) back will be a boost to us. The guys that are out there have made good progress and have made an impact. But certainly, the more frontline guys you get back, the better chance you have to be successful.”
Q: Are you at all concerned about Aldrick (Rosas, who has missed a kick in each of the last two games), or did we get spoiled because he missed only two kicks all of last year?
Shurmur: “No, I’m not concerned. I think he’s an outstanding player. He’s demonstrated the ability to make kicks from all distances. I anticipate he’ll be that way.”
Q: With the onside kick rules that they instituted last year, it seems like the team kicking an onside kick gets the ball as often as they overturn a pass interference penalty.
Shurmur: “It’s always been one out of five. It’s about 17% on the return.”
Q: Would you like to see it go back to the old rule to maybe give the team kicking a better chance to recover?
Shurmur: “I like the rule. It’s fine.”
Q: The Cowboys’ M.O. is to get a lead, run the ball, try to wear the other team down. Your team has faced early deficits in the last four games. When you have those twin factors, I don’t know if stepping out of character is the right phrase, but do you try things that you normally wouldn’t to try to get a lead?
Shurmur: “Well, if you remember correctly, we got ahead on them last time we played them. We went down and scored, so it was 7-0. So no, you just play football. You try to be consistent, efficient and explosive, and when you present yourself with opportunities to score, you have to score. That’s the way you approach every game. We have to do more good things early and less bad things.”
Q: The defining feature of their defense seems to be speed at all levels. Would you agree with that, and does that make it difficult to attack them because they have that speed in so many places?
Shurmur: “Yeah, they are very fast, they’re a very active defense. That’s the way they’ve played now since (coordinator) Rod Marinelli has been there. The challenge for us is to block movement. Get them blocked upfront so that we can have success throwing the ball. Then do what we can in terms of the run game to make sure we get a hat on a hat so Saquon has room to run.”
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