EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' three NFC East rivals will play this weekend while they take a break on their bye. No matter what Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas do in their games, the Giants will be in the division race when they begin their six-week stretch run on Nov. 29 against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Joe Judge said today the best way for his players to take care of business in the division race is to ignore it and focus instead on their game-day performances.
"The importance needs to be improving as a team," Judge said. "All that other stuff will take care of itself. Cincinnati is a good team. We have to get ready and go ahead and improve ourselves internally. Turn the page and move on to Cincinnati and get ready for a tough game out there. We have a tough stretch of games coming up. We can't go ahead and start looking at rankings and division races and all that type of stuff. We just have to focus on getting better each week. That's what will ultimately help us in the long run."
Judge's players might not so easily dismiss the competition to win the division. The possibility of participating in the playoffs has been an incentive for generations of players. Judge, who was an assistant coach at postseason perennial New England for eight seasons, perfectly understands that.
"One of my core beliefs is, motivation, to me, is an individual thing," Judge said. "As long as you're working for something and it collectively raises the team, that's a positive thing. It's professional football, I don't care if a guy is working for a paycheck or a guy is working for a championship. If both guys come out and they are giving their best every day, that's going to make the team better. Whatever motivates these guys, that's great. My job as the head coach is to make sure they understand the big picture goal. Right now to me, that's improving on a daily basis and getting to be the best football team we can be at the end of the season. All that other stuff takes care of itself."
The Giants have shown improvement in the last two weeks, winning consecutive games under Judge for the first time with victories against division rivals Washington and Philadelphia. Yesterday, they broke an eight-game losing streak to the Eagles with a 27-17 victory in MetLife Stadium. The Giants received significant contributions from all three units; the offense gained a season-high 382 yards and scored three touchdowns, the defense held Philly without a successful third-down conversion in nine attempts; and punter Riley Dixon dropped all four of his kicks inside the 20-yard line while posting a net average of 53.3 yards, a career high for a game in which he punted more than once.
Judge is pleased but not close to satisfied.
"I don't think we ever want to look at something and say, 'Okay, we've gotten to the point we want to be at,'" Judge said. "There's a lot of improvement we want to keep making. There are a lot of things that we want to clean up. I would say this though. On a weekly basis, I've seen a lot of improvement from our team. To me, it's most evident when you turn the tape on. Look, there are several plays from yesterday that really encapsulate what I want our players to show everyone that watches that tape, and it's important they look at it. Whether it's Wayne's (Gallman) touchdown on the fourth and one where we drove everyone into the end zone and finished the blocks, or Wayne going over the top with good ball security. Whether it's converting some tough, get back on track situations, defense getting off the field when they have to, special teams covering kicks and establishing field position. There were a lot of positive things that to me, the effort, the urgency.
"One of the things that we've emphasized as a team to be honest with you that showed up yesterday that I was very proud of is you see when our players score, everyone running into the end zone celebrating with them. That's important to me. It's not a hot dog thing, but we don't really want individualistic celebrations. We want the team to celebrate. It's not about one guy getting into the end zone. It's what did the line do to block to get you down there? What previous plays are you celebrating? It could be a receiver having a touchdown catch. Alright, well the running back should go down and celebrate because he had runs previous in the series that helped get us down there. The offensive line is a part of every play. The quarterback is obviously a big part of every play. We want the team celebrating together and acknowledging that it takes all 11 on the field every time to be successful. It takes everyone on the sideline as well, to be part of it, to be collectively successful."
At his introductory news conference on Jan. 9, Judge said, "We're going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of, because this team will represent this area." He believes the team advances closer to that ideal each week.
"You talk about our team and one word I use all the time is resilient," Judge said. "When I think about people in this area, blue collar people who work hard every day. It's obviously a very competitive area to be in. That's what you have to be up here. We want our guys to be successful on the field, but it matters to us how we're successful. We want to play with the right attitude. We want to play a tough brand of football. We want to run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks. We want to go out there and be able to play in tough elements and be successful. We're not going to be a team that makes excuses or comes back and says we had them, but this happened instead. That's not the way we're made up, that's not what we're going to do. I think we're getting closer to putting a product on the field that hopefully people can see themselves in. That people are proud to put on those blue caps or t-shirts on Mondays and go to work and celebrate that they root for the Giants. That's something that's important to us here. We want this team to be about the area. Not just about the guys in the building."
View photos from the Week 10 matchup between the Giants and Eagles at MetLife Stadium.
*The Giants today added three players to their practice squad – running back Taquan Mizzell, guard Kenny Wiggins and cornerback Quincy Wilson.
Mizzell, 5'10" and 185 pounds, played in 12 games with one start in 2017-18 for the Chicago Bears. In 2018, he rushed for 16 yards on nine carries and caught eight passes for 78 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, while starting one of the nine games in which he played. Mizzell spent the entire 2019 season on the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints, who released him on Aug. 2 this year. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Baltimore in 2017, from the University of Virginia.
Wiggins was released by the Giants on Friday. He signed with the team on Nov. 3. The 6'6", 315-pounder played in 79 games with 38 starts (31 at right guard, six at left guard, one as an extra lineman) for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and Detroit Lions from 2014-20). This season, he played four games for the Lions, primarily on special teams, before his release on Oct. 24.
Wilson, 6'2" and 193 pounds, played three games with one start this season for the Jets, who released him on Nov. 7. Wilson was a second-round choice (46th pick overall) by Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He played three seasons for the Colts before the Jets acquired him for a sixth-round draft choice on April 25. Wilson's career numbers include 32 games with 11 starts, 61 tackles (49 solo), two interceptions, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery.