The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: You're 0-1, and this is the only home game in the first quarter of the season. Is there a greater sense of urgency this week or do you try not to put extra importance on any early-season game?
Coughlin: "Every week there's a great sense of urgency. We don't pick and choose. The importance of every game in this league is well documented. What we're trying to do is improve, to get ourselves to a position where we understand what happens in a game when it's 21-14 and the ball is at the 27-yard-line and you only have so many opportunities. And our execution has got to improve. We had chances (in the season opener in Washington), and we didn't take advantage of them. That's the only way to put it. But as far as what we believe, every game is the most important game on our schedule. I don't know how you can get any more significance than 9/11, playing on 9/11, playing in the opening game. So it's going to be this way every week. This week is a Monday night game. It's the second game of the season. We're 0-1. St. Louis is 0-1. Both teams, I'm sure, feel like this is a critical game."
Q: Do you think you need to establish some success on your home field?
Coughlin: "You've got to win at home, that's all there is to it. You've got to combine the 12th man with the enthusiasm and the excitement of playing at home. This is our first home game. As you mentioned, the beginning and the first phase of our season finds us on the road a lot. So this is an opportunity to be at home, in front of the home fans and to take advantage of the circumstances, the situation of Monday night football, the fact that our fans will be really into the game. You try to utilize all factors, including the 12th man, to help us get a win."
Q: Do you worry at all that the players will look at the injuries your team has suffered and say, "What's going on, why do we keep getting hit like this?" Do you have to monitor that kind of thing, or have the captains monitor that?
Coughlin: "No. I mean, this week's set of circumstances is typical of an in-season week after a physical football game. You just played a divisional foe. It was a very physical game. You have a couple of guys that potentially won't make it, but that's not different than anything that you go up against on a weekly basis in this league. So I think that the players understand fully that each individual is asked to do more than he's ever done before, and the people that are asked to step up have got to step up to play at the championship level. That's all there is to it. And we have substitutes and they have to go play and they have to play well, well enough for us to win."
Q: You were one-for-10 on third down against the Redskins. When you have an area like that that you're not pleased with, how do you go about correcting it? Do you review the self-scouting you did in the offseason?
Coughlin: "You do it all. You look at what the opponent does, you look at what you can do. It's always a matchup circumstance, and what you try to do is create the best possible matchups for you. We had some ridiculous (long) yardage ones last weekend, which would be very difficult under any circumstance to be positive with. But there were others that we should have made. There was a third-and-three in there. There was a fourth-and-one and a third-and-one. Those are things you've got to get done. If you expect to win, you've got to accomplish that. We've looked at it, we've evaluated it, we've done some things that hopefully are going to show up on the field and allow us to execute. It's a matter of execution. All you've got to do is look at it and you see there's a missed block here, there's a missed block there, there's a dropped ball here, there's a dropped ball there. To win a one-on-one matchup, that's what guys eventually have to do. There are 11 of them and there are 11 of us, and somebody's got to win a matchup one-on-one. Sometimes that doesn't happen. So we just came up short on a couple of them, too. You hit (Mario) Manningham on the third-and-eight and we got seven that created the fourth-and-one. So there's all kinds of things like that. But until we get the execution, the identification, the execution, the precision, the quickness in speed with which all these things are determined – it's a process. We're, what's that phrase - we're a work in progress."
Q: Last week there was a lot of attention on rookie Greg Jones starting his first game at middle linebacker. In your experience after those young players are in the spotlight for their debut, do they settle down once they get through that?
Coughlin: "I think anytime you've been there, you've done that, you've seen what it's like, it helps you. You probably expected the worst before that first game. Maybe it wasn't as bad as you expected. So now you have to do what everyone does. You have to become a football player. You have to see where you come up short with your preparation, where you've come up short with your learning, where you didn't quite give them enough credit nor know yourself well enough to put yourself in the right position all the time to be able to make the play – all these things you get better at as you go along. This guy wants to be a good football player, and so you know that part of it is being done. The effort part is being employed. Now what we have to do, what our coaches have to do, is to help him in terms of how he can be the best he can be. Every one of us has some kind of limitation, something about us that we're dealing with. And you can sometimes be helped. He's a physical guy. You'd like to have the ball turned in toward him all the time."
Q: A lot of attention was placed on Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the two defensive ends who didn't play…
Coughlin: "How about the ones that did? (Dave) Tollefson and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) played well, and even (Justin) Trattou, when he got in the game, helped us in some situations. In our business – I was asked a couple questions about that this week – I'm not trying to be disrespectful, I'm trying to say this – that, again, the guys that are on the field are the guys that are going to play the game. And they've got to play it at the highest level. Now obviously we have other players on our team that we would like to see out there. At this point in time, they are not. So let's get the guys that are going to play in the best frame of mind, the best preparation that we possibly can, make them understand the circumstances. Up comes JPP with two sacks and a forced fumble. Up comes Dave Tollefson with a sack and some solid, solid play. So that's what has to happen. It's just too bad that the big play aspect of some of what we saw in terms of the big play passes kept us from really isolating in on how well those guys did play."
Q: When you look at JPP, are you starting to see the potential when you drafted him on the first round last year? Has he made the strides you hoped he would make when he first arrived?
Coughlin: "Definitely. He is much more aware of what his responsibilities are, what the surroundings are. He does a better job of preparing against the opponent that he's going to play against. Once he gets zoomed in and dialed in, not only is he fast and athletic, he's a powerful man with great, big, long arms that will knock your butt back into the backfield and utilize those arms to keep you from trying to tie him up or grab his jersey."
Q: What do you like about Brandon Stokley, the veteran receiver you signed this week?
Coughlin: "He's a slot receiver that's had tremendous success, well documented in his years in Indianapolis. The guy came in here and had a heck of a workout. There isn't any question that while we've been grooming young receivers to play that spot, we can't manufacture experience. You have to play your way through it. So with a Stokley here, what you're saying to yourself is, 'Okay, (Victor) Cruz, okay, (Jerrel) Jernigan, okay you guys, study this guy because he can help you learn to be an exceptional player.'"
Q: With a young group of receivers is it important to have an experienced player like Stokley who can lead by example?
Coughlin: "That's what you're trying to do. You're trying to not only win games, you're trying to establish confidence for the quarterback and you're trying to create dependability. And in the meantime, you're trying to develop some young guys who can play there for a lot of years."
Q: As you study the Rams and you look at Steve Spagnuolo's defense, did you say, "Oh, that looks familiar?"
Coughlin: "Obviously, it's different people, a different guy calling the game. But it still is the same defense. There are similarities with the Philadelphia package and similarities with the Giant package from a few years ago. Yeah, you don't have to go too far to put a name with the defense."
Q: They're attacking, blitzing – is that a difficult style to prepare for?
Coughlin: "That's pretty much every week in the NFL now. It's an aggressive defensive style. That's, number one, to be expected, and number two, to be anticipated. But they're good. They're balanced. They disguise very well. They do a lot of things very, very well. So it'll be a nice challenge."
Q: Their offense has lost some weapons due to injury…
Coughlin: "They've got plenty of weapons. They've got size and speed on the outside, and the young tight end played very well the other day. The running backs out of the backfield are to be dealt with, a little different style third down package. So, yes, they've got a lot of weapons."
Q: How about their quarterback, Sam Bradford? Coughlin: "Strong arm. Big, strong, athletic guy that has good accuracy and will stand in there and deliver the ball and not lose his focus as the rush gets closer."