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Coaches talk Big Blue D


The Giants' assistant coaches spoke to the media during this bye week. Today, we're posting a selection of quotes from the defensive position coaches. The series began Wednesday with quotes from the team's three coordinators - Kevin Gilbride on offense, Perry Fewell on defense and Tom Quinn on special teams. Yesterday, we featured quotes from the offensive position coaches.

Defensive Line Coach Robert NunnRe: Jason Pierre-PaulNunn: "He's a long way away from where he can get to. He's done such a good job of coming in and learning the system. He hasn't played much football. I'm amazed every day by JPP. Every game it's just like something he learns new and he continues to improve. I think he's improved mostly on the practice field. I think his focus on the practice field is where he's improved the most and it's showing up on Sundays. He's a very unique talent. He's got unique ability. He's got such good quickness. Once he begins to play full speed, it's scary. It's not that he's loafing. It's just the game is still moving fast for him. It continues to slow down more and more as we go. He's got to be accounted for every snap."

Q: Are you talking more about being a student of the game?Nunn: "Yes. He just has not played that high a number of snaps in his lifetime. You're talking about going back to high school, junior college, college. He's learning as we go, but he's focusing much more in practice than last year. I think that's when you ask about the most improved area, I think that's probably it."

Q: What kind of ceiling does this guy have?Nunn: "I'm not sure. I really don't believe that we're close to it. I really don't. He's a very talented guy. He's got tremendous strength, a very powerful young man. The game is still moving pretty quick for him. He's had to play a lot more reps at times than we wanted him to because of the injury situation. We've had him out there when he was dog-tired. He is not playing as fast as you want him to. It looks like he's loafing, but he's moving faster than most people out there."

Q: When Osi Umenyiora got here, did you say anything different to him?Nunn: "Osi has never done anything for me but come to work and do a great job. His numbers, he has three games this year, so 16, that's 19 games (I've coached him). I don't know if there are very many defensive ends that have better numbers than he does – the number of caused fumbles, the number of sacks, the number of quarterback hits and pressures. He does nothing for me but come to work and do an outstanding job and be a great football player. I have no reason to believe that he's going to do anything but continue (to be great). He's been outstanding in the classroom as a leader and been outstanding on the field on Sundays. I honestly don't focus on any of that, don't listen to it, don't read about it. I try to get him not to, too."

Q: How is he against the run?Nunn: "He's done a very good job against the run. It's something we do with all of the other defensive ends, it's something we continue to tweak with his technique and a great pass rusher like that, he's got to continue to work, because they're going to attack him differently than they do Justin (Tuck). They're going to attack Justin differently than they do Kiwi (Mathias Kiwanuka) and Dave (Tollefson). They all have different styles and different techniques. He's certainly got room to improve in both areas – run and pass. He continues to work and be very coachable and very receptive to ideas and what we're trying to ask him to do."

Linebackers Coach Jim HerrmannQ: Is Michael Boley playing his best football right now?Herrmann: "I think Michael has taken on the leadership role now that Jon (Goff) is not here. If you come into my meeting room, there are four rookies and him. If you add (Mathias Kiwanuka) to that mix, (Kiwanuka) is really new to the position, too. (Boley's) experiences help the room. I think he takes a lot into that and sees, 'Okay, I'm the guy out there. I need to make the calls.' He's doing the things to make it so that he does have a great year. I think he's enjoying this year probably more than he has his last six, seven years of football, because he is the guy and the younger guys look to him and the defensive guys look to him. It's a role that he's never had before. He's learning as he goes too."

Q: What did you lose when Jonathan Goff suffered his season-ending knee injury?Herrmann: "I think Jon, just from having him for the two years, stepped from the first year that I was here to the second year. Last year, he started every game. He made a big step. Just seeing how he matured as a player and as a person, I was looking for him to have a great year. You miss that maturity and you miss that experience. In terms of playing in games, Jon's started for 16 games. These young guys have started for one. That experience is what you lose. Something new, Michael might be able to see it, but maybe Jacquian (Williams) doesn't see it and Greg sees it right away. Those things you have to learn. You have to learn it somewhere. They have to get their experience somehow. That's what we're trying to do. I'm very pleased with all of them. They're all going to be very good players. It's a good class."

Q: Jacquian Williams was a sixth-round draft choice. You had no offseason program. When did you find yourself saying, "He is going to help us?"Herrmann: "We were in training camp and on a whim I said, 'Okay Jacquian, go out there, you're in for Boley. You're going to cover the tight end man-to-man. You have inside leverage. Stay on his inside and your help is all on top of you so stay below his hip.' And he went out and covered Travis Beckum like a glove. I went, 'Okay.' Because I didn't tell him any assignments, I didn't tell him the defense. Just go cover that guy and this is how I want you to cover him. I knew he was a fast player, bang, bang, bang and I was like, 'Alright. There's going to be a spot for this guy.' And we were looking for a nickel linebacker guy. Last year, we had to play with a safety, Boley and Deon Grant, but we were looking for a linebacker to play in nickel. So it worked out well."

Q: Did you expand his responsibility every week?Herrmann: "Yes. He's very good. He comes in extra and spends time. He's been able every week to take in the entire nickel package and this past week we expanded his role on first and second down. I think he'll get better. The biggest thing is that we don't overload him to where he'll blow a fuse. And I don't think he will. Now it's, 'Here's what you're doing. Let's focus in on these things. Let's do these things really well. Let's try a couple of these things, see where you are.' That's really going to be the thing with him, keep adding little by little so that at the end of the year he's where he needs to be. Same thing with Greg (Jones) and Mark (Harzlich) and Spencer (Paysinger)."

Q: What kind of progress have you seen out of Greg Jones?Herrmann: "Same as all of the other rookies. It's just learning the NFL game – the speed of it, the size of it. One little tiny mistake that he might have gotten away with in college could equal an 80-yard touchdown here, because the guys you're playing against are so good. I think all four rookies are learning that. They're seeing that this is an exact science. They know, 'I have to be where I'm supposed to be.' The biggest adaptation they have to learn right now is the speed of the game. They're all doing very well. I think the more they play, the better they'll get. You can't find experience. You have to earn it and you have to go out there and play it. Then you'll get experience. Then once you have experience, what do you with it? They're all very smart guys and they learn from their mistakes and they continue to get better and better. That's all I've asked them to do. 'I say, 'Every day you come in here just get better. You're not going to be perfect. I'm not going to be perfect. None of us are going to be perfect. Just get better.'"

Q: How about Mark Herzlich, who hasn't had the opportunity to get on the field yet?Herrmann: "Mark plays a very important role in our special teams. Last week, I think he had 21 snaps on special teams. He's been on the field and so has Spencer Paysinger. I think as we go here in the next 10 games of the season you'll see more and more of those guys defensively, because in a season let's say you have 1,100 defensive snaps, you can't take all of those snaps. Your body won't last. Now that they're getting experience, they've been on the field, they know what the speed is, they'll be able to get out there and play a little bit. I'm looking forward to it. I think they'll all do very well because they're all smart guys."

Q: Can you tell that Herzlich has made progress?Herrmann: "Oh yeah. They all have. Mark's a very studious player. He takes it to the 'nth' degree in terms of learning the position, learning the calls, knowing the calls. Even though he doesn't get very many reps in practice, he and Greg are always standing behind me. I can hear them saying the calls, 'This is it, this is that,' which is good. That's what they need to do. When they get their reps, like they got today, they got some reps today, can you perform under pressure? That's really what it's all about."

Q: Do you tell Jacquian Williams, "Even though you might not fully understand things sometimes, play fast?" Is that an emphasis?Herrmann: "We tell all of our players, 'Play fast. If you make a mistake, make it fast and don't worry about it. If you make a mistake, okay, I'll correct it. Just go onto the next play or finish that play the best you can and we'll get it corrected.' The biggest thing for young guys is they live with that mistake and then it causes two more mistakes. You have got to move on to the next play. Everybody's counting on you to perform on the next play. Then when you come to the sideline we'll make corrections. We'll show you on the pictures and we'll be fine. To me, coaching young players, and I've done it my whole life, you start very small and detailed. Say, 'Okay, you cover that man.' Two more weeks, 'Okay you're covering that man, but pay attention to his alignment and who's next to him and now you can start to guess the routes. Once you get to that level, now you can fake a blitz over here to help us out and then go cover that guy.' It's a step-by-step process for all of them. They'll all do well and that's where they are right now. They're very focused in on simple tasks and now they'll open it up as the season goes."

Q: Do you sense that Jacquian has gotten good at leaving that one mistake behind?Herrmann: "I think that's where the older players help. The Michael Boleys, the Justin Tucks, the Deon Grants. You'll see them come up and pat them on the butt and say, 'Come on. You have to play ball. We need you out here. You're part of this 11 on the field. Let's move on.' That's where your leadership really helps. Because they're out on the field, they're not on the sidelines. I can't get to them. I can't talk to them. I can't look them in the eye and say, 'Hey, what are you thinking here, bud?' That's where your older players help."

Secondary/Cornerbacks Coach Peter GiuntaQ: With Corey Webster, do you have to look beyond the numbers with how well he is really playing knowing that he is covering the opponent's number one receiver?

Giunta: "(Stevie Johnson) last week, he had five catches, but they were only for 39 yards. One was for a touchdown, but Corey came up with two interceptions and a big pass breakup. He did a great job on that guy. He limited him to that many yards on five catches. He ended up with two interceptions, a pass breakup and other times the quarterback wanted to throw the ball that way and wasn't able to. The guys did a great job in coverage. It complements the guys up front. They were able to get three sacks. (The Bills) were able to get the ball out quick. We were able to knock balls down. The coverage complements the defensive line and the defensive line complements the coverage. It came in handy real well for us."

Q: Where do you see Prince Amukamara at this point and what do you expect out of him on Monday?Giunta: "We're waiting for (team physician) Dr. (Russell) Warren to release him, that he gets the clean bill of health. They read his X-rays and say, 'He's got a green light to go.' I know Byron (Hansen, Coordinator of Rehabilitation) has been working very hard with him to get him back and ready to go. We try to do a little with him after every practice to try to bring him along slowly, but until that foot is completely healed they're not going to turn him loose. (We're) just waiting to have that opportunity to turn him loose."

Q: Prince seemed to think that the plan was for him to start with individual drills.Giunta: "Whenever anybody comes back from an injury like that, they will do individual first, maybe for a practice or two. If they do well in the individual, let's say he comes back on Monday, he does individual with us on Monday then he watches the rest of practice. (The doctors) will say the next practice he can do individual plus he does some of the scout team work for us. Then they evaluate – did the foot swell up? That's what they do. They gradually build him up to where he can start doing more and more in practice."

Q: How long do you think it will take him from participating in full team practices to being ready to play in a game?Giunta: "It will take him a while to get that timing back and everything. Getting in football shape is a lot different than being in just running shape. He's working very hard to get into football condition, the change of direction and all of that other stuff. It's going to take him a little while."

Q: What about the mental part? The next practice will be his third in the NFL and no offseason. Won't he be incredibly behind?Giunta: "Sure, he'll be behind, but hopefully we can bring him along slowly and we can give him a limited role to get him started and then gradually increase his role, just like you do with rookies in general."

Secondary/Safeties Coach David MerrittQ: What has Antrel Rolle showed you so far?Merritt: "Antrel came into the league as a corner as we all know. He has transitioned into the safety position, but then for him to now transition back to a corner, he actually said the other day, not in seven years would I have thought that I would be back at the corner position. He has done a good job. For him to go into the slot position and cover that third wideout that comes into the game fresh when he has been on the field the entire time is tough. That is the one thing that I want to make sure everyone understands. A lot of times when that third wideout comes in, you bring in your third or fourth DB and they are both fresh and going to battle. Antrel is on the field the whole entire time and then all of a sudden he has to cover that third wideout who just came on the field as a fresh player. We have put him into man-to-man situations as well as zone and he has responded. He has and he is doing a really good job."

Q: When Prince got hurt, did you look at Antrel as the first option?Merritt: "It actually goes back to when we first came into camp, we said we were going to use Terrell Thomas as the nickel and use Prince on the outside as well as Corey Webster or Aaron Ross. Then all of a sudden Prince and Terrell Thomas go down and you say, 'Who is the next best guy now?' It is Antrel Rolle. We were never going to use Prince in that position right away. It would have been Antrel as the second nickel and when Terrell Thomas went down, that is when it accelerated his mental as far as learning the slot position, which he hasn't done in a couple years. If you go back to last year, he actually played in our three-safety package at the nickel position. I actually related it to when we called it X, Y or Z last year and that is all you are doing, but just a little more. It is a little more man-to-man. He has responded well."

Q: How has Kenny Phillips played so far?Merritt: "Kenny has actually come back and every game he is actually playing at a high level right now. Kenny is playing the best that I have seen him since he has been here with the Giants, especially coming off that microfracture (surgery) two years ago. Going into last year, we were trying to hold him back a little bit and now all of a sudden he has free rein. Kenny has done an excellent job for us as far as what he is doing in the run as well as the pass. I have to make sure I get him back at deep safety a little more so that he can control the airways, but he has done an excellent job. Deon Grant came back to us and again if you look at some of the injuries that have occurred, Jon Goff at that linebacker position, we didn't intend for him to come back and play as a deep safety. Deon last year played the Will linebacker position for us, so he was down around the box. Now because we don't have anybody that we are comfortable with in the back end, Deon has to play that safety position and that is a little different for him as well as Antrel. We have two guys that are coming in and playing positions that they didn't think they would have to play a lot of. That's what they are doing and they are doing well." 

Q: Does playing nickel cause the big gains in the running game?Merritt: "No, I think the reason why is because of gap integrity and the experience of the players who have been run at us. When you have younger players at positions and this is their first year in the NFL, it is tough on them. It is a learning curve that they are going through right now. Jon Goff could have answered a lot of things and we all know that. Terrell Thomas could have answered a lot of things and we all know that. Prince Amukamara could have answered a lot of things and we all know that but without those guys there, your second and third team guys have to be able to step in. We can always recall what we did years ago back in Philly in 07, we had to put in two young safeties in Craig (Dahl) and (Michael) Johnson. They had to step up because (Gibril) Wilson and (James) Butler were injured, so your young players have to step up and win games for you. They only had to step up for one or maybe two games, these guys have to play the entire season because of injuries. I just think it is the fact of experience and gap integrity and understanding that here is where we would like you to fit so just get in that place." 

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