EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: This is the first time since the 2002 realignment that three teams from one division advanced to the second round of the playoffs. You knew you were getting into a good division, but I don't know if anyone expected this.
Daboll: "It was definitely a tough division this year. You got the one seed (Philadelphia) and there's a lot of competition. The Eagles are leading the way with being the one seed and having a bye week."
Q: When you face the Eagles Saturday night it will be your 12th divisional playoff game. You're 9-2, by the way. With each week in the postseason, is there more excitement? More tension?
Daboll: "I just think everybody understands, playing in the playoffs, it's win or go home. The big thing for us, I've said plenty of times, our goal is to be as consistent as we can with our process, our preparation, our practice and get ready to play our best game."
Q: Short weeks are becoming the norm for you. After 18 games, is the preparation at this time of year more mental than physical?
Daboll: "No, we have to go out there and have good practices and practice our timing and the plays we install. But it's a combination each week of physical and mental. I think you adjust your schedules and things like that as the year goes on, and we did this week relative to a little bit of a shorter week. We've been on a shorter week before, so it's a normal shorter week for us."
Q: You noted that except for the game against Indianapolis, you've played the same three teams since Dec. 4. You did the same thing last year in Buffalo, playing New England three times in seven weeks. This is three times in seven weeks against the Eagles. Do you construct a game plan that is part old and part new?
Daboll: "That's our job as a coaching staff. And again, it really doesn't matter the other two games or how close they've been. It all matters what we do and our preparation and ultimately how we go out there and play against the number one seed in the NFC."
Q: The last two games your starters played were your only 30-point games of the season. Do you sense that the team is peaking at the right time, and you're playing some of your best football now?
Daboll: "That's our goal. Each week, it's to improve from Week 1 to Week 2, from Week 14 to Week 15. It's certainly a goal of ours to keep getting better, but when it comes down to it, you've got to play your best for that particular week. So, it's all going to come down to how we play and perform on Saturday."
View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Q: In each of those games, (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) led the team in rushing. He had a combined 169 yards. He's led the team in rushing three times in those seven games. Did you anticipate that kind of production from him as a runner? Or has that kind of evolved as the season has gone on?
Daboll: "Well, he's a big, strong, athletic guy who has a lot of physical ability. So, we've used him each week, maybe some less than others, maybe some more than others. It comes down to that particular week and what we think we can get out of it."
Q: A lot of your current players and former players have been asked if Daniel has proven if he's an elite quarterback. I don't know if you want to attach labels to him, but is it fair to say that he had an elite performance in Minnesota and he's doing what he has to do to help this team win games?
Daboll: "I'd say everybody has a job to do on our team. His job is to play quarterback as best he can. That's what we've asked from him since day one. Each week that we've gone out there and played, that's what he's tried to do."
Q: (Running back) Saquon (Barkley) had a stretch where he had 20 or more carries in five of six games. The last nine games, including the one he was inactive, he's had no more than 18, including two with nine – one last week in Minnesota. His receptions aside, is the fact that you're getting a lot of production from Saquon without overtaxing him physically the best of both worlds?
Daboll: "Yeah, we've used him some in the passing game. There's different ways to get him the ball. Again, it just goes back to for that particular week, what we think is best for the team."
Q: When (wide receiver) Isaiah Hodgins arrived here 10 weeks ago, he had four career catches in two games. He now has 41 in nine games and five touchdowns in the last six games. You have said many times: "Once you're on the team, it doesn't matter how you got here." Is he the best example of that?
Daboll: "I think we've got a lot of guys that maybe haven't played as much or young players that have improved each week that have done what we've asked them to do. He has. He had familiarity with our system when he got here. He's done a nice job, along with the other receivers, of being where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there and then ultimately making a play when the ball comes his way."
Q: In the win against the Vikings, you had a lot of players who contributed who were not here when the season began: Hodgins, (tight end Lawrence) Cager, (inside linebackers) Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis, Landon (Collins), (tight end) Nick Vannett. What does that say about the front office's ability to find those players and the coaches' ability to get them ready to contribute in a playoff game?
Daboll: "It takes everybody. It's our player programs with (director of player engagement) Ashley (Lynn). It's LY (director of coaching operations Laura Young) with organizational stuff. It's the coaches. It's the scouts. It's the equipment people getting everybody ready to go. Every time you add a new player to your team later in the season, it takes a village to help that player get acclimated to his new surroundings. And that's all of our jobs, to help the players be the best versions of themselves. Add trainers to that, video, you can add all of it. Writers (laughs)."
Q: (Tackle) Andrew Thomas was selected second team All-Pro. He's played well all season at left tackle. When he's asked about Evan Neal, he always reminds people that he, Andrew, had some rough moments as a rookie, too. Andrew would never say, "I'm pretty good now." But the message is, "Give him time, we all go through this."
Daboll: "I think that's why his teammates elected him captain. He does what he's supposed to do when he's supposed to do it, which is the definition of dependability. And he's been a good player for us. He was drafted here. This is the only place he's been. I think he provides a lot of leadership not just for the offensive linemen, but for the entire team."
Q: He's not a real vocal guy, but he's one of those quiet leaders?
Daboll: "He'll talk. He'll talk when we're in between the white lines. Look, you don't have to be vocal to be a leader, either. He says what he needs to say. He's a good leader for us."
Q: A few weeks ago, I asked you if it was important to have an obvious number one receiver and you dismissed the notion. Is it different at cornerback? Adoree' (Jackson) was back last week, and after (Vikings wide receiver Justin) Jefferson wrecked the game the first time, he had just one catch in the second half last week. It took everybody, but Adoree' traveled with him the entire game and seemed to make a big difference.
Daboll: "Team defense is how we want to play. As many good players we can have out there, which when Adoree' was out we had a lot of good players step up and play well, too. So, you'd like to have everybody as healthy as you can have them to go out there and play."
Q: On the flip side, the three receivers had good games the other day. You're now playing a team with two very good corners in (James) Bradberry and (Darius) Slay. What kind of challenge do they present?
Daboll: "Same the last two games we've played them. They're instinctive, good, talented. They're All-Pros and Pro Bowlers for a reason. They've had a really good season, both of them."
Q: T.J. Hockenson caught 23 passes in the two Minnesota games. Now you're facing (Eagles tight end Dallas) Goedert. You didn't play him the first game, but he had six catches in the second. Do you see similarities in those two tight ends?
Daboll: "They're both good players. There are a lot of good players on their team, so you've got to defend five eligible players. And all of them are good. So, we're going to have to play good team defense."
Q: I asked you the first two times you played the Eagles about Hurts, (running back Miles) Sanders, (wide receiver Devonta) Smith, (A.J.) Brown. I don't think we've discussed (running back) Boston Scott, who has kind of been a Giant killer. Ten of his 17 touchdowns are against the Giants. What jumps out to you about him?
Daboll: "Much like all the other guys – good football players. You've got five eligibles out there. So, whoever's out there for them, they're all good. That's why they have the record that they have. That's why they have the production on offense. It's going to take a collective effort on defense."
Q: You coached Jalen Hurts at Alabama. He's the first quarterback to have a top five passer rating and 13 rushing touchdowns in the same season.
Daboll: "Productive players."
Q: Did you see greatness in him when he was young?
Daboll: "Yeah, he's a productive player. He's been good everywhere he's been. If you go back and look at all the games he's started, his college career into the pros, he's probably got one of the highest, if not the highest, winning percentages as a starting quarterback."
Q: Lastly, they had 70 sacks, which is 15 more sacks than any other team had in the league. What sets them apart? Is it the talent? Is it the scheme?
Daboll: "All of the above. First of all, let's just start with the players. They're extremely talented. They all can rush the passer. They have a good scheme, and then they play good team football. They get up on people and turn it into a passing game. Those guys are hard to block. They're hard to block on early downs when you don't know if it's a run or pass. And then if you get behind the sticks or you get behind in the game, they can just tee off. They're a hard team to block – all of their guys, too. It's not just one guy. So, you can't just devote attention to one particular player. All across the board, whether they're inside or outside, they're a dynamic group."
View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for the Divisional Round matchup.