Q: The Cowboys still rely on a lot of big plays on offense to score a lot of their points. What can you guys do to contain those big plays?
A: Well, keep the ball in front and keep it inside. They have really explosive offensive players and they have made a bunch of big plays. And they spread the ball around so they have a lot of different guys doing it. All of their tailbacks could start for the majority of the teams in the NFL. And as you know, they have a whole crew of wide receivers that are great vertical ball catching threats. So we just have to keep the ball in front and keep it inside, so they don't have breakouts.
Q: RE: Trying to make a move at middle linebacker this week.
A: We didn't have to; we just want to play Jon. He is a guy who has been developing and we have a lot of faith in him. We just wanted to give him an opportunity to play. Chase is still going to play. We didn't feel we needed to make a move. We just wanted to get Jon on the field – get some of the younger guys who haven't played much that we think are going to be good players. So that was our thinking there. We were not disappointed in Chase at all and Chase is going to play.
Q: What did Jon show you in practice that made you guys ……
A: Well, he is just a very conscious guy and knows the defense. He has proven that he can handle the calls and make the calls at the line of scrimmage. And he is a good football player – very physical and he is tough. And he has demonstrated that since he has been here. He had inexperience going against him early on. And now he has been here for a while, so we want to put him on the field and play him.
Q: What bothered you or disturbed you the most about the Denver game?
A: It is the same thing that has really probably been the most frustrating, in my mind: we are inconsistent on defense. We look like world beaters on a lot of downs. The next downs you don't look that way. And, to me, that has been our Achilles' the entire year – I just think inconsistency in our play, both in run and pass. Because again, it isn't like nothing is happening to us consistently all of the time. But by the same token, we are not consistently either stopping the run game or stopping the passing game. That is as frustrating as anything – just the inconsistency. Because we – like I said – there are – half the time we look exactly how you want to look. But just the consistency is the most frustrating.
Q: Is the tackling there? Are you happy with the way this team is tackling in general?
A: No, and that is part of it – that is just like anything else is part of the defense. Yeah, you can watch any game where they are getting plays – whether it is our game or any other team in the NFL, when guys are missing tackles people are going to get first downs and gain extra yards after really when the ball should be stopped at the point where the guy missed the tackle. So that is just reflective of any kind of inconsistency – whether it is tackling or coverage or pass rush or ….. the runs ups.
Q: Do you think Aaron Ross is ready to be your regular safety?
A: That is a good question. We are working him that way and because Michael Johnson may very well be out he is getting more reps now even in first and second downs as a safety. And so it is like any position, any guy playing a new position – there is a lot of development that goes on, not only from a technique but just learning the schemes and what it is like to play from that vantage point. That is obviously completely different than lining up as a corner. So he is developing and doing a good job. We are working him that way – toward trying to be able to play more regular downs.
Q: If Michael doesn't play in this game, then we will see a lot of Ross?
A: You will see more of him, yeah, you will see more of him. We are still going to play the other two guys that are more familiar with the first and second down package.
Q: So Ross wouldn't start?
A: He has been starting on what we call our sub personnel grouping. And he would continue to do that. But, no, we wouldn't play him – we wouldn't throw him in there right now on first and second down and just put all of that on him. But he has been taking practice reps since he has been playing safety and he is still developing in that area. But no, we wouldn't just throw him our there and say, 'Okay, you have to play every single snap in base and sub.' We are trying to still get him more up in the sub which he has done and is going to do this week. But first and second down we will play the other guys.
Q: Physically - Do you worry about him being safety?
A: Not really. It is more just like mental and knowing what to do and knowing the different coverage checks and the run game and that kind of stuff. That is the biggest thing, because in sub you are playing coverage. And coverages are a little simpler in the sense that you are not playing this or that based on where the wide receivers are. You are just playing what we call 'single digit' coverages. So it is not really physically. Aaron will play physical.
Q: Do you think he will come up and …..?
A: Oh, yeah. Yeah. He is not a 220-pound safety like you would like, but I have no reservations about him being physical – absolutely not.
Q: When you play a team like the Cowboys, it's going to be a lot of emotion, obviously, with this rivalry. Is that something that can be harnessed effectively? Do you have to warn them to beware of these penalties that might ….?
A: Penalties for them or us?
Q: For you guys.
A: Oh gosh, I hope that is not a problem. No, that won't be an issue at all. To me you can't get wound up enough. And our guys will be; they will be wound up. It is an NFC East rival. So, no, our guys will be juiced and no, we don't want to harness that at all. We want them coming out of their skin.
Q: One of the criticisms of you has been that you are not emotional enough. How would you respond to that in the wake of Steve Spagnuolo being very emotional?
* *A: I laugh when I read that and I don't know really how to react to that. I don't know what kind of response I can give that would be appeasing. That is so far from my level of concern – how I'm coming across. I don't even have a response for that.
Q: But you didn't read that thought because you don't read the papers.
A: No, I do not. But since you are posing that to me, I don't know – what is the right response for that? I don't know.
Q: Has the job been more difficult than you thought it would be replacing a guy as beloved as Spagnuolo?
A: It hasn't been more difficult. And no, I have enjoyed every single day of it. It is a blast – an absolute riot -- being around these players and our defensive coaching staff. So, no, it hasn't been more difficult because of following Steve.
Q: Have you second-guessed yourself a lot? Have you found that part of the job?
A: Not too much. Of course you do that in anything you do for as many decisions as we are asked to make, not only on game day but through the week of planning. And I wouldn't necessarily call it second-guessing as much as just reflective thinking and trying to make modifications as you need to as you go along. But I don't really second-guess myself, no.
Q: How would you assess the chemistry between you and the players?
Q: Could you elaborate on that?
A: No. How do you want me to elaborate?
Q: In what way is it excellent?
A: It is nothing but that. It is good. You would have to talk to the players about that, but in my mind it is excellent. I have an excellent rapport with every single guy on our defensive team – unless you know something that I don't know.
Q: Have you ever approached Tom about letting you go upstairs again?
A: No. And really that hasn't been an issue. I know I initially thought ideally that is the way I would like to do it. But now after 'x' number of games, that is not even an issue at all, no.
Q: You are familiar – you have been here for a while – you know the tradition here. This team – this defense – has not lived up to that tradition. How much does that trouble you?
A: It troubles me a lot. But honestly, I'm not worried about the past and the tradition. We are just worried about what is the next game. So I'm well aware of that tradition. But we don't dwell on that – we are too busy getting ready for the next team that is in front of us. And right now we have a huge challenge coming up this weekend. So we really don't sit around and think about that stuff. We are so busy doing the next – every single day I'm in the building, it is either the next meeting, the next practice or the next part of your game plan, whether it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We are up to our ears until 11 p.m. every single night.
Q: Do you think you have done a good job?
A: I don't even think like that. You can answer that. Obviously, based on how our defense has played – not good enough, if that is the answer that you are looking for. No, not good enough. We have lost 'x' number of games in the last month or so; so not good enough.
Q: Even though you don't read the papers, do you think criticism of you is unfair?
A: Honestly, I don't even think about that. I don't know, probably not. I'm responsible for the defense, so if we have sub-par performances, that absolutely falls on my shoulders. I have no problem handling that. But I don't really think too much about fair or unfair criticism. I have so many other things to worry about. I appreciate your questions, but I don't have magical, clever answers.
Q: Do you think you have the personnel here to turn it round?
A: Absolutely, yeah.
Q: There was some talk about what Matt Millen said on the broadcast the other day – you told him that you didn't think this unit was physical enough. Is that true?
A: We have been very inconsistent in our physical play, sure. The players know that. They watch the same film and they hear the same critiques every day when we watch film or watch the game film when we come in on Monday.
Q: What has your message to them been this week?
A: Get ready for the Cowboys. We talk so much football stuff. Tom does a great job of handling the 'intangibles' and what my job and our job is, is to get them ready for the offense that they are going to see and give them a defense that is going to stop it. So, yeah, we talk about intangibles all of the time. And Tom handles that and does a great job of it. But our job is to get our players ready defensively to help them stop the offense.
Q: Are you confident that Giants fans will see a physical defense Sunday?
A: Yes, absolutely.
Q: RE: Physicality up the middle with those tackles. I know Barry and Fred are coming off major knee surgeries. Have they not been themselves this year?
A: I wouldn't put it on them. I just don't think overall – like I mentioned earlier – we are just not consistently physical. There are times where we knock the dirt out of people and have guys flying around and getting tackles in the backfield. But other times we don't have it. But I certainly wouldn't put it on our two D tackles.
Q: But I know Fred was playing in the backfield a lot last year. With that knee thing, he probably doesn't have that same explosion this year. How much are you missing that?
A: As much as we are of the other parts in the other positions as far as just – and I think those guys are as frustrated as anybody, too. They know that they can play better than they have been playing. They have a lot of personal pride and they are equally as frustrated.