EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – James Bettcher knew the questions were coming, so he decided to answer them before they were asked.
The Giants' defensive coordinator today had his weekly meeting with reporters who cover the team, his first since a 31-13 loss to Green Bay last Sunday. Following that game, veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins, or Jackrabbit, as he prefers, expressed dismay at being deployed on one side of the field, instead of "traveling," i.e., following the Packers' best receiver, Davante Adams wherever he went, something he has done in the past.
"I'm sure you're going to ask questions about Jack, about Janoris," Bettcher said. "Let me just say this about Janoris Jenkins, you noticed it today at practice, he competes every day. Since I've been here and had an opportunity to work with him, he has competed on a daily basis for me and for his teammates. If you were here and watched some of the walk-thru, you'll see him grabbing young players, our young corners, and leading them around and making points to them of what he's looking at, of what he recognizes, and him and I have a really good relationship.
"I have been places where we traveled all the time and I've been here where we've traveled at different times and in the course of different games and different situations. The philosophy on that is if it works for everyone, it's a great thing to do. If it works to where it allows our best guy to be on their best guy, but at the same time, the other guys that are on the field playing to have their feet settled and able to play the downs in whatever those man or zone, or whatever coverages you want to run on them, then it's great. And we weigh those things when we make the decision, what's best for the collective group. Again, I love Jack, love working with him, he's been competing his butt off and I look forward to him having a strong finish to the rest of the season."
In Week 3, Jenkins was the primary defender covering Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who caught eight passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Bettcher was asked if that game impacted his decision not to have Jenkins travel last week.
"The decision is on the collective, not on the one guy," Bettcher said. "It was the same way if I go back to my time in Arizona when I had Patrick (Peterson, an eight-time Pro Bowler). If it would not have been the best thing to do for everyone, we wouldn't have done it."
Bettcher said what all coaches preach – the unit and the team as a whole take precedence over any individual player. And no unit on the Giants is comprised quite like the secondary.
Jenkins has played in 112 games in eight seasons. Antoine Bethea, the 14-year veteran free safety, has played in 205 games. With strong safety Jabrill Peppers sidelined with a back injury, the other four players getting the most snaps in the defensive backfield are all rookies or first-year players: DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine and Julian Love, who has stepped into the starting lineup for Peppers. Those four players have played a combined 36 games, all this season.
"Well, they've got to play," coach Pat Shurmur said today. "They've got to do it. When we go to nickel, we've got three rookies in there, basically. Beal is a rookie. And unfortunately for these young guys, they've all missed a big portion of the offseason training, each one of them. Whether it be injury, Ballentine's situation (he was wounded in a shooting the night he was drafted), certainly, and Beal was injured, Baker was injured for a big stretch during training camp, and that's just reality, though. They've got to go do it and they've got to play and they've got to figure it out fast. I think that's what we're dealing with. And because they're good players, in the long run, they'll look back on it and say this was a great experience for them. In the short run, sometimes, we all know this, it's a little painful."
The Giants, of course, want to continue developing those young players. But as they prepare for their Monday night game in Philadelphia, winning remains the team's overriding goal.
"We're a few days from playing Philadelphia," Shurmur said, "and the short run is to put a winning effort on the field and win that game. So, that's the short run and that's my focus as a coach. Then, you just take it from there."
Bettcher has devised a game plan that he thinks is best for stifling Philadelphia's offense. But he doesn't want to neglect the importance of helping his untested defensive backs become better players.
"At the very beginning of the year, we talked about when you develop rookies, it's not just backpedal, break," Bettcher said. "It's in the meeting room, how you take notes, the film you have to watch when you go home. When you watch the tape, what are you looking at when you watch the tape? I think there's a distinct process. I think that's why players generally that make it and play a long time in this league, their prime years are three, four, five and six because they build their process. I'm not saying anything about a luxury of playing or not playing. I just think as players play more, they are able to take good things they do, mistakes they make and learn from them. That's how they build their process and build themselves into being able to use some of the talents they have to play at a high level."
Bettcher was asked if that youth makes it detrimental for him to move players around as Jenkins said he'd prefer.
"Again, you look at the collective and whatever those reasons are," Bettcher said. "I've seen young guys that are fast to pick up, I've seen Julian Love the last couple weeks and he gets in there and he's fast to react, fast to respond, fast to communicate. So, I don't know that it's youth. It's just you look at each situation, maybe even each week separately. When we traveled all the time, there were weeks we didn't travel because it wasn't maybe best for some of the stuff that the opponent did."
The Giants hope their four neophyte defensive backs someday form the nucleus of an outstanding secondary. But right now the priority is doing what's best for the team and the focus is on beating the Eagles.
Daniel Jones "very unlikely" to play
*Shurmur reiterated that Daniel Jones is "very unlikely" to play in Philadelphia. Eli Manning remains on track to start – and play – for the first time since Sept. 15.
"He looks good," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "He's had a good week. He always has a good look in his eye. He's been great for me, as a coach, to be around. I've learned a lot from him. I look forward to watching him on Monday night."
Zak DeOssie's legacy
*Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey paid tribute to long snapper Zak DeOssie, the 13-year veteran who was placed on injured reserve last week.
"Me and Zak came in together in '07, it was my first year as an assistant here," McGaughey said. "Basically, we kind of raised him as a rookie. He was the first long snapper I had that went to the Pro Bowl. He's meant a ton to this organization. This guy, he's been a constant pro, he's been a great leader, a great teammate, and is just a selfless person. It's kind of hard to describe, really, and give it true justice, the kind of guy that he is, the kind of teammate that he's been. He'll definitely be missed, definitely."
*Five players did not practice today, including Ballentine (concussion), who was limited in practice yesterday. He was joined by Jones (ankle), Peppers (back), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion) and linebacker Chris Peace (knee). Tight end Evan Engram (foot) was limited. Wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) and tackle Nate Solder (ankle) practiced fully. Tate was cleared from the concussion protocol this afternoon.
Photos of Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
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