The Giants' assistant coaches spoke to the media during this bye week. Today, we'll run a selection of quotes from the offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Tomorrow, we'll turn to the offense position coaches and Friday we'll do the same with the defense.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride
Q: Who has surprised you the first six weeks?
Gilbride: "(Tight end) Jake Ballard. I thought he would be a good blocker. You saw a big strong kid and in the time that he was with us, could hold his own with the big defensive ends and outside linebackers we were going to face. He has done that. I thought he would catch the ball well. I didn't see a guy that would be as effective as he has been running routes down the field, but he has done a nice job. I think that it is attributed to him being a bright kid and he is able to assimilate what we talk to him about in meetings and use it on the field. Not everybody can learn as quickly as he has. He has adjusted to the flight of the ball much better than we have ever seen, because we never threw the ball to him down the field in practice like that. He has made some terrific catches. The one in the back of the end zone against Arizona when the ball was behind him and he was able to get his feet down and he caught one today in practice that was a remarkable catch. I thought he would be a good solid point of attack blocker but I didn't think that he would be as versatile as he is right now. He is bright enough to continue to grow and get better. If there was one guy that has been the most surprising, I would say that it has probably been him."
Q: Did you watch him on scout team last year?
Gilbride: "Yes, I would watch it and if you see something that you can help with fundamentally or technique wise but more than anything, I just assessed guys. I would say this guy can do something or what have you and other times I am watching to see what other teams are doing offensively to see if it is a scheme thing or something that would be a good idea. You really are just looking at guys and again that was when my initial opinion was formed. I thought he could block and maybe something short area if he was open in more of a traditional, prototypical tight end. He is a big, strong blocker and from the line of scrimmage and ten yards down the field, maybe could be fairly affective. He has done beyond that."
Q: Is it chemistry between Ballard and Eli (Manning)?
Gilbride: "I think it is a combination of a couple things. I think he has done a great job running his routes. He has earned the trust of the quarterback and the quarterback believes that he is going to get open. I think people were probably more attentive to Kevin (Boss) because Kevin over the years has been very effective down the field. I don't know if they expected Jake to be that way. I saw this past game that there was a little more attention paid to him. It was more man coverage on him. He hasn't encountered a lot of that whereas people were very respectful of Kevin Boss. Kevin going down the field was a special receiver and through the years, has made some phenomenal catches and demonstrated some great courage. I think it is a combination of him doing a great job, he has earned the trust and confidence of the quarterback and the quarterback is taking some chances with him. I think some people have schemed to take away the deeper routes and that has opened up some things for him. I think things will be more challenging for him as we go forward." Q: Did you see something that allowed you to go more to Jake during the games?
Gilbride: "No, just as it has gone on. Initially it was scheme and I saw the pattern and I saw what teams were doing defensively so we would call a play that I thought would have a chance to be open. You then would just cross your fingers and hope that he would make a play. I thought that he would but you never know. Of course, after he makes those plays, you become more and more inclined to look for those opportunities. So far he has delivered for us when we have gone to him. I think that they are going to make things more challenging down the road because he has been a very affective player for us. The good thing is that I think he will respond to that and I think that he will continue to develop some technique. It is all tied in and if he is defended a certain way then it opens up some opportunities for some other people. I think people are very concerned about Hakeem (Nicks') deeper stuff and that has opened up some chances for him. Now, he will open up some opportunities for some other people."Q: What is your message to Travis Beckum?
Gilbride: "Just to keep working and not get discouraged. Just to keep plugging along and hopefully your chance will come. I believe it will so be as ready as you can be so that when that opportunity presents itself, you take full advantage of it."
Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell
Q: The defense gave up two early big plays against Buffalo, but after that they seemed to rebound. How good was that for you to see?
Fewell: "That was very good. I thought the first series we played a good series of football. Then (Buffalo) came back and bang. Then we gave up a score. For us to regroup, maintain our poise – and I thought we played better as the game went on – that was a positive step."
Q: What was it like on the sideline when the defense gave up the big plays?
Fewell: "There was a little frustration. I won't say that there wasn't. We had high expectations going into the ballgame. We thought we had a good plan. The guys felt good about their preparation. When you give up two big scores, two big plays, which we're trying to eliminate in our football, it was a little bit of frustration, but they regrouped."
Q: Aside from the two big interceptions against Buffalo, how well has Corey Webster been playing this year?
Fewell: "We started matching Corey up to who we think is the best receiver on the opponent's football team. I'll measure it by this; we don't call his name too much. I'd like to keep it that way, except when he gets interceptions. But that first interception … it was phenomenal. It was a one-handed interception. It was a big play for us. The second one was even a bigger play because it led to the winning field goal. Corey's been doing exceptionally well."
Q: What made you switch to locking Webster on the one receiver?
Fewell: "Just to challenge Corey a little bit. We did that a little last year in the second part of the season, when we played Philly. He really did a good job on Jackson, we thought, a year ago. We just thought, 'Hey let's challenge Corey a little bit. Let's give him some confidence and let's let him see that we have confidence that he can go out there and do this for us and we'll play around him.' He's answered the challenge."
Q: That's a lot of trust by the coaching staff.
Fewell: "We definitely believe he's up to the challenge."
Q: Webster was upset earlier in his career when he was kept away from the opponent's top receiver. What kind of response did you see from him this year?
Fewell: "You see a sparkle in their eye. It wasn't that Webby comes out and says, 'Hey, I'm the guy' or anything like that. He doesn't beat his chest. He studies. There's that twinkle, that look like, 'I got this responsibility. I am the man.' You see his practice habits improve. You see his whole demeanor improve."
Q: How would a healthy Justin Tuck change the dynamic of the defensive line?
Fewell: "I just think it improves our dynamics and it improves the flexibility that we would have, that we don't have right now. If we can get a healthy Tuck and get our D-line intact, our defense would improve tremendously."
Q: Do you see that as a crunch for playing time for guys that are currently up there?
Fewell: "No. We feel like, for instance JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul). He's averaging 55, maybe 60 plays a game and he's producing good numbers right now. If we could reduce that to 40, 45 plays a game he could produce even better numbers, because he plays slow at times. We think that's because he's winded. If he had that little breather on the sideline, he could come in and produce and do some things that we feel like can accelerate his game to a different level. We think that's good for those guys."
Q: Are you happy with how your defense has responded to the injuries and moving around?
Fewell: "I've been impressed with their mental toughness as far as that's concerned. Do I want better play? Yes, I always want better play, but I definitely have been pleased with their mental toughness and their willingness to stick to it and their willingness to stay together. I think that says a lot about the character of our players."
Q: Do you have a sense of what you can expect from Prince Amukamara?
Fewell: "That's such an unknown. One thing about an injury like that (a broken foot) and then a lack of practice time is that we are so far ahead in how we are preparing and how we're thinking and how the communication process and the chemistry with the players on the field right now. We want to get him involved with that. That's a new process for the defensive backs – a new communication piece for the defensive backs. As much as we want him to come back, that's a piece that you have to put in and then kind of work with and find out how it works."
Q: Will it be a bonus to get him on the field?
Fewell: "No doubt. Believe me, as excited as we will be to get him back and get him on the field, we have to be kind of careful because again, there is a lot of teaching that's gone into the positions that those guys are playing right now. Once you move a guy to that position then there's a lot of re-teaching that has to occur. We're excited to get him back, but again, we have to be careful with that process."
Q: Does Greg Jones' comfort level affect how much you can use the 4-3 base?
Fewell: "We haven't used as much base, because we faced a lot of three-wide, four-wide, multiple receiver set teams. That affects the 4-3 base, because we want to match up athletes on athletes and skill on skill. (Tuesday's practice) was good for Greg, because we've been playing him in some sub and trying to get him ready for that role. It's a different game when it's the sub package out there and he's got to be matched with wide receivers and tight ends and sometimes fast backs. I expect his acceleration and learning to take place a little bit more as we continue throughout the season and hopefully you'll see him in those sub packages. That's our plan."
Q: Do the three-wide receiver sets limit what you can do with Mathias Kiwanuka? Will that be a problem when Tuck comes back?
Fewell: "No. Actually, we think it's a bonus because we'll be able to play Kiwi in a number of positions – at the linebacker position and then we'll be able to put the three, maybe four defensive end-type people in the game for an even better pass rush, a more productive pass rush. With Kiwanuka and Tuck and JPP, as well as Osi and Dave (Tollefson), we get the flexibility that we would like to have that we haven't had this season. We think it's a bonus."
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