EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Dabs' Digest, our weekly interview with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: You've talked a lot about the process when you're building a new program. Do the players buy into the process more easily when you're winning?
Daboll: "Probably. We live in such a results-oriented profession. But I'd like to think that what we do and how we prepare and how we practice has resonated with them. How we structure our practice time, the amount of time we allow for treatment, taking care of their bodies, the way we meet, it's all encompassing – the time we give them between the last meeting and a practice. We're always adjusting certain things. But they understand how important it is to put a good product out there on Sunday. Ultimately, it's how you play the game on Sunday. But I'd say there's truth to that probably in any profession."
Q: Monday night, you will host Dallas in your first NFC East game. Are you different with the players before a division game?
Daboll: "I think everybody understands the importance of division games. The most important thing – whether it's a Monday night, a Sunday night game, a Thursday night game, we play home, we play on the road, we play in London – the biggest thing for us is preparing for the game and then playing well, executing when your number is called upon. I think you can acknowledge it's a Monday night game, it's a division game. But everything comes back to us and how we do our stuff."
Q: You've scored six first-half points on two field goals. When that happens, a coach is often asked, 'Can you hurry up the offense" as if that guarantees improvement. When you're starting slow and early scoring is an issue, how do you approach and attack that?
Daboll: "With consistency. You owe the players composure. You'd like to score every time you touch the ball in the National Football League. I mean, that's the goal of an offense. I don't know what the percentage is of scoring touchdowns and how many drives you have. But you look at every area throughout the week, and the coaches do due diligence on how they want to open up the game and how we want to open up the game. And it comes down to execution. You don't make more out of it than it is."
Q: You had two scoring opportunities with good field position after early fumble recoveries in the victory against Carolina on Sunday. Each time, you settled for field goals. After the second one, you looked a little agitated. Is it hard not to feel frustration on the sideline when that happens?
Daboll: "I wasn't agitated necessarily at the result. It was what led up to the result. There were a few minor mistakes in there and because of those things, you can't worry about the field goal. You have to focus on the things that caused the outcome. The outcome is the outcome. It's just like getting ready for a week, and you talk about preparation and practice. In the game, it's doing the basic things properly or the things you need to get fixed. That's all you're doing in between series. Whether it's the first series, the eighth series, it really doesn't matter."
Q: In the first half, Daniel (Jones) threw 17 passes, and you ran the ball eight times for zero yards. A lot of people were probably thinking you would keep slinging it. In the second half, you again threw 17 passes, but also had 25 rushing attempts. Are you a big believer in continuing to run the ball even if it's not working early?
Daboll: "I still think we're figuring out our football team. I think you try to call plays as a play caller that are going to work. And if something's not working, you have eight runs for zero yards. It's hard to keep calling runs."
Q: But you did.
Daboll: "We did. Every situation is different. Look at the game, how the game went. How many third downs were in the first half (three)? How many were in the second half (15)? Or in a four-minute drive at the end of the game, there's more runs. Everybody talks about rushing attempts. There's a feel in the game, a part of the game where you get up – whatever the score is – a lot of times those teams that win are running the ball out at the end of the game. So, it's run after run after run after run. Was that like that in the first half? I don't think you just have to keep banging your head on something just to bang your head on something. And again, we have a pretty good (running) back, so as on offense or a play caller, you still want to give him opportunities unless the game gets away from you. That was a tightly contested game. And (we) certainly didn't want to take the ball out of 26's (running back Saquon Barkley) hands just because we had a few bad plays in there."
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Q: Daniel's been sacked eight times, plus he has the 16 rushes – two of them were kneel downs. That's a lot of potential times for him to get hit. He seems to be pretty good at either getting out of bounds or sliding. Does that mitigate your concern that he is exposed? \
Daboll: "I'm not making comparisons, but I've coached quarterbacks that have run a lot. And I trust that when the ball is in his hand that he will make the right decision. I can sit here and say, 'Get down.' I mean, there's a flow of the game: what you need to do for a first down, when to be smart, when to go for it. And when you put the ball in anybody's hands, you should have confidence that they'll make the right decision."
Q: One of the big stories this week is that Kenny Golladay played just two snaps on Sunday. I imagine he's not the first player that you've ever told that his playing time is getting cut. Can you say to players in this situation, "Things change in the league all the time. You have to be patient. You have to just work hard?" Things certainly changed for (San Francisco quarterback) Jimmy Garoppolo, who didn't get a playbook and was barred from meetings in training camp.
Daboll: "It's the National Football League. You can't make everybody happy. That was a decision we made last week. And Kenny has been a pro. He's done everything that we've asked him to do. It's not that Kenny played bad. He's done everything that we asked him to do. He's been a pro, and he'll continue to work. And (I) have full confidence in him."
Q: (Wide receiver) Richie James is your leading receiver. Two of your three touchdown receptions are by (fullback Chris) Myarick and (tight end Daniel) Bellinger. I don't think anyone would have guessed that. It seems like you are getting a lot of players involved. Do you feel that way?
Daboll: "There's power in numbers. There are times when you have a team where you're going to feed one person in particular or two – ours is (number) 26. I think the more you can make people involved, whether it's Bellinger, Myarick, Sills, KG (Golladay), James, KT (Kadarius Toney) – they're all here for a reason. When you bring them to a game, there are times you want to try to use all of them. There are times when you think the best thing to do is stay consistent with what you have. It's week-to-week."
Q: It sounded earlier in the week like you were pretty hopeful that (outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) and/or (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) will be back. They've been out at practice and getting team reps.
Daboll: "I've been hopeful the last few weeks, so I'm hopeful this week. Does that mean they'll play? I don't know."
Q: If you get them back and you have (outside linebacker) Oshane (Ximines) and Haddy (outside linebacker Jihad Ward), that seems like a pretty good group. Does it give you options to have all four of them available?
Daboll: "We'll see. We haven't discussed that yet. So, that's hard to answer right now. We'll see where these guys are at the end of the week. Obviously, we have different packages we've used defensively. As a coaching staff, whether it's defense, in the kicking game or offense, guys that are active, you try to find some role for them. It might be on special teams, it might be in a few personnel groups. We try to use all our guys if we can."
Q: We don't know what Leo's (defensive lineman Leonard Williams) status is yet. Since midway through his rookie season, Dexter Lawrence has not played a game without Leo next to him. If Leo doesn't play, will that affect Dexter?
Daboll: "No, I think Dexter is a pro. He's going to go out there and do his job. It's just as if you were an offensive lineman. We're rotating the guards in there. Everybody's got to do their job to the best of their ability and trust the person next to them to do theirs. Certainly, there's familiarity when you play with a guy. But I think Dexter, I don't want to speak for him, has confidence in the guys like we do."
Q: (Linebacker) Jaylon Smith is an interesting signing (to the practice squad). He was here last year and is a former second-round draft choice by Dallas. What did you see in him?
Daboll: "We're going to try to upgrade the roster any way we can. He's on the practice squad. He's got to learn our system. We'll see how that goes as time goes. Whether it's practice squad, roster addition, I think (general manager) Joe (Schoen) and the scouting department, we have however many tryout players in on Mondays and Tuesdays, whether it's an emergency purpose, whether that's to get a look at someone on the practice squad to see how they look and move more than just a workout. And once those guys get here, we see how they fit into our culture, our organization and get a better evaluation of them."
Q: It sounds like (Cowboys wide receiver Michael) Gallup is going to play. (Tight end Dalton) Schultz is uncertain. They're talking about perhaps elevating (tackle) Jason Peters from the practice squad. When there is uncertainty about some of the opponent's players, does it influence your preparation?
Daboll: "No. Our focus is on us and getting better in the stuff that we need to do. Whether you go back and study (Cowboys quarterback Cooper) Rush in the (Cincinnati) Bengals game or last year against the (Minnesota) Vikings or you go back and watch Peters' tape or Gallup last year, you look at the individual matchups to make sure you're on top of it. I think it's important for players to do that as well – guys that can potentially play – to make sure that you're watching obviously the tape that they're playing in. And if they're there, they're there. And if they're not, they're not."
Q: You're kind of a connoisseur of quarterbacks. What are your thoughts on seeing Cooper Rush run their offense as opposed to Dak (Prescott)?
Daboll: "I think he's a good player. I think when they give him space, he operates well. He makes good, accurate throws. He's played two games, and he's won two games – toward the end of the game as well. He makes good decisions with the football. It looks like he has a firm grasp of what they want to do offensively. So, he's a good, young quarterback."
Q: They've redone their (offensive) line, but they still have (guard) Zack Martin in there. I saw a great stat on Martin: eight years, seven Pro Bowls, five holding penalties.
Daboll: "That's pretty good. I'd take that."
Q: If you were watching a tape of the Cowboys and all of the players were wearing plain white jerseys, would (linebacker) Micah Parsons stand out?
Daboll: "Yes. I said this earlier this week, he's a problem. And he lines up in multiple spots. He can do anything you ask him to do. He's very, very talented. Explosive, quick, fast, instinctive, playmaker. He's a fun guy to watch when you're not getting ready to play him."
Q: Not so fun when you are.
Daboll: "That's exactly right."
Q: (Cornerback Trevon) Diggs has 14 interceptions in two seasons. He had two against the Giants last year; is there a line between you wanting Daniel to be aware of where he is, but you don't want him too worried about where he is?
Daboll: "The focus goes back on us. And with Daniel, trusting his eyes and making good decisions. I've known Tre for a while. He's a heck of a football player. I would just say when you watch Micah, you watch Trevon. He's got very good awareness. He's instinctive. He's long. He guesses right a lot of times and makes plays on the ball. He's got unbelievable ball skills. Smart player. It runs in his family."
Q: John Fassel, Dallas' special teams coordinator, is known for his gadget plays.
Daboll: "Yeah, 29 of them."
Q: You counted them? He tries to use one almost every game. Does your group have to be particularly aware of them this week?
Daboll: "I would say you have to be aware against him. He's been doing this for a long time. He's had a lot of good success with it. And you can practice those things. It's not going to be the one that he's going to do. You have to be alert to it. You still have to play your fundamentals and assignments because it's not an every-play thing. But it'll probably happen. There's a good chance. And I'd say the same thing offensively with (offensive coordinator) Kellen (Moore). But again, those are plays that you just have to play the fundamentals of the defense or the punt return unit – the punt rush unit – or if it's a surprise onside or if they've got a throwback or a sleeper play. They have a lot of different things that they've run that can't take away from your assignments or fundamentals of what we need to do. We just have to be alert to it, and we've practiced a number of them. It will probably happen. And we just have to do a good job of reacting when it does."
Q: You talked last week about you look at league situations for teaching examples. There seems to be a lot of them – numerous comebacks last week or (Browns running back) Nick Chubb not going down in Cleveland.
Daboll: "There always is."
Q: There's no more than usual?
Daboll: "There's so many each week. Power is in the details. So, learning it as a coaching staff when it happens is important so you can teach it to the players. I'd like to think we've been prepared throughout the spring and summer and covered about every situation we could, but when you think that, there's always another one that pops up or something happens that hasn't happened in three years and what a great learning experience it is. You just hope it's not your team on that tape."
Q: Whether you're well ahead or behind, I guess the message is never stop playing.
Daboll: "Our mantra is 60 minutes, regardless of the score or situation, and play the next play. That's what competitors do, just play the next play. It's a humbling league, sometimes from play to play, and you have to trash that last thing, good or bad, and move onto the next one."