Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: It's Wednesday, we've turned the page. We're fully on to Dallas as a team and an organization right now. We're looking forward to the opponent this weekend. Obviously, this is a big game for us being that it's a rivalry game, a divisional game, and obviously, there's a lot at stake. When you talk about this team, this is not the same team we played early in the year. I think notably, the pace they're playing at is different, the way they're playing a balanced attack on offense. They've gotten away from playing a fast-paced tempo. They're not so much a pass-heavy team at this point. Really, the offense always goes through Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) and the run game. That's what they use to set up those explosive receivers on the outside. Kellen (Moore) has done a really good job of mixing it up, using the screen game and the run game to create some shots down the field. Obviously, this offense can pose a lot of issues. There are some similarities to our own. But I'd say at the same time, it's a totally different offense based on how it's being called, who it's being called with, and some of the plays that have evolved throughout the year.
Defensively, this unit is playing very well. The thing is turnovers that have really separated them right now in how they've played lately than probably earlier in the year. This team is making a lot of plays with the pass rushes off the edge. The backers inside are making a lot of plays. They have a young defensive interior that's really stepped up. There are a lot of new faces and names that we have to get familiar with in a hurry and know how they play. But this team has really made a lot of gains defensively, and we have a lot to handle in our hands. We have to have a good week of practice.
Of course, in the kicking game with Bones (John Fassel), it always comes down to it's an attacking mindset. He has a lot of multiples. He's going to have some kind of gimmick in every phase, and they're going to call it. The bigger the game, the more gadgets you see. That ties into (Mike) McCarthy's own personal history as well. End of season games, whether it has playoff implications or something tied in with just wanting to use something for an edge, he's always practicing and always preparing for the onside kicks, the fake punts, the fake field goals. These are things we're going to have to be alert, aware, communicate and play with a defensive mindset anytime we don't have the ball, being on kickoff returns, punt returns or field goal blocks. That being said, I'll open it up to any questions you may have.
Q: You mentioned some of the ways you've seen this team change. What stands out most about your first meeting with the Cowboys, specifically when you think about the emotions of Dak Prescott's injury, how memorable is that?
A: I'd say just in terms of Dak, look, you never want to see any player hurt, on your team or any other team. Dak's a really good player and he's a really good person. I've obviously followed him from having just alma matter ties with him. I've been a fan of him for some time with the way he carries himself off the field and the way he plays on the field. When you go against a guy like Dak, you have to prepare for the run and the pass. This guy is a very smart player, he's a very tough player. He really brings a lot of dimensions to the game which you have to account for. That being said, Kellen's done a really good job with this offense and adjusting with Andy (Dalton) at quarterback. I think the thing that stands out with Andy is he's extremely smart. Andy's a very smart quarterback, he puts them in the right place, he knows where to go with the ball, he does a really good job getting the ball out of his hand quickly, which really helps the protection up front and negates the pass rush. He's been throwing the ball very accurate. Kellen's putting him in good schemes in terms of using the weapons they have on the outside, but really staying balanced with the run game between Zeke and (Tony) Pollard. They're really finding nice ways to use those guys. They have weapons all over the field on offense, and you have to make sure you account for them. You have to not just know what they're lined up in, but who's where. We have to go ahead and play with good run defense, and you have to stop the shots down the field as well. That's definitely how they make a lot of plays.
Q: On the defensive side of the ball, you mentioned the takeaways they've had in the last few games. What trends do you see in terms of what's working for them getting these consistent takeaways?
A: They're playing fast. They're playing fast in the pass rush coming around the edge, they're affecting the quarterback. You see the other day with (Jalen) Hurts with the pursuit when they caused a fumble in the fourth quarter, they folded on back. They're hustling to the ball, they're attacking the ball. They're really doing a nice job with how they're playing up front. On the backend, the DBs do a great job of reading the quarterback's eyes. This is a deal where if you get locked on a receiver and your eyes stay stagnant down the field, they're going to find it and they're going to break on that ball. They do a good job, the defensive backs, of attacking that ball, putting their face on it, really biting the ball, and they do a good job of attacking technique. Ball security is definitely a priority for our team this week.
Q: I'm not mentioning the "P" word, but what does it mean to you and your guys to be playing a meaningful game in January?
A: Look, you can go through and kind of give the whole 'every game is meaningful,' this and that, but I'm going to be honest with you, I think in anything that you do that you have a great passion for, you want it to be important to other people as well. You want to invest enough in yourself, and you ask the team to invest in themselves, you want it to be important across the board. Every game is important to us. You get 16 opportunities a year that you're guaranteed to go out there on Sunday and perform. We have to take advantage of every single one of them. But for us in this one right here, obviously, a division game, rivalry game. We want to make sure we continue to play and improve as a team. This is the last regular season opportunity for us to go out there and improve as a team. We didn't set out to say, 'hey man, we're going to get better as a team in 14 games.' We said in all 16 games, we want to see a raised level of play and coaching across the board.
Q: In the last two games Daniel (Jones) started, we've kind of seen a quarterback who's reluctant to run. Do the gloves have to come off this week? Do you have to use him at what he's best at?
A: Look, we're going to do whatever it takes to win the game. That being said, we're always going to consider our players' health as the priority. We're going to work to not put our players in any situation where we put them at greater risk of injury. That comes to how we protect him, how we call plays, and how we execute on the field.
Q: Just based on when Logan's (Ryan) extension happened, I don't think we even asked you about it. I'm curious why that was a priority and how involved were you in that process?
A: Without going through all of the inner workings on the back scene, I think obviously this was going to be a free agency type of deal. We just had the opportunity to get this done before it went to free agency. Logan's been a good player for us. He's been a leader in this organization. I think the biggest thing is he's been a productive player. You can talk about all the intangibles off the field, they're all very important. At the end of the day, it's a production business and he's been a productive player for us. The ability to be able to retain him in our program and not only continue to add depth in our defensive backfield, which has become a strength for us throughout this season with a lot of young guys coming up and developing. Look, it was a priority to keep Logan here and really keep that unit strong.
Q: I'm not asking you to repeat any of your comments because I'm aware of all of them, I've heard all of them, but have you felt the need recently to defend [Quarterback] Daniel [Jones], specifically the other day when you weren't asked about your quarterback, but you went on to talk about the many ways he's improving and has improved?
A: No, I don't feel a need to defend him at all. I think ultimately in this business what we do on the field is what's going on and what really matters. We can all say a lot of things and I took an opportunity to point out some things that I saw of him on the tape and his progression throughout the season. But in terms of defending Daniel – now look, he's a big boy, we all know what we signed up for here and there's going to be criticism on the outside, that's the way it's supposed to be. We're in New York, it's not supposed to be an easy job to coach or play here. We have to understand the climate we're in. It's a tough city, it's supposed to be a tough city and you need tough skin to play here.
Q: So that was more to sort of educate us on just what you're seeing in your quarterback?
Q: Where do you think you've made the biggest strides? It seems like a lifetime ago when you played the Cowboys last. Where have you improved the most? Where has this team matured the most, do you think?
A: I tell you what, if you watch that first game tape – and I've obviously watched it a couple of times throughout this week and leading up to this – these are two very different teams on the field. You can turn around and say there are a lot of the same players out there, similar schemes. You look at the execution from both teams, both teams are completely different in a lot of ways. I think, without jumping onto us, real quick and just talking about their defense, they're playing faster, they're definitely playing more confident out there, they're definitely more productive and disruptive in what they're doing. In terms of us as a team, I've seen a raised level of play across the board. I see more confidence starting with our quarterback in terms of how he's controlled the line of scrimmage, operating in the system and really helping guys around him. I see the signal-callers on defense with [Linebacker] Blake [Martinez] and [Defensive Back] Logan [Ryan] and some of those guys doing a really good job of working with multiples and controlling it on the field. Early in the season when you're four games in, five games in in a new system without a preseason, these are things that really take some time to develop that chemistry within a game setting. I've seen that really mature throughout the season. I've seen our defensive backfield be able to handle more multiples, disguise different variations of man coverage, have a greater understanding for who we're playing and how we have to play. I've seen our skill group develop some versatility in terms of how we can attack, and I've seen our offensive line improve with great strides. So, there's a lot of things that I can talk about throughout the season I've seen, but to me it's about when I watched that tape the other day, just looking at ourselves, you can see instantly and the players can as well, we're a much improved team on all levels, in all positions and how we're operating as one unit. That's encouraging. With that said, they're a much better team, too, so we have to go out there and have our best game on Sunday.
Q: Last time you played the Cowboys was the highest-scoring game you guys have played the last time you played the Cowboys. both teams had a lot of points. They have scored 30, 41, 37 their last three games. If this has to become that kind of game, can you guys keep up with that point-wise?
A: We'll do whatever it takes to win the game. Look, we want to play defense to keep those kinds of points off the board, and offensively we're trying to score every possession. We want to make sure we can finish drives better.
Q: Even if you don't go forward after this week, this team has not done a great job in the division the last several years. If you win this game, you go 4-2 in the division. Is that something you had a check on when you came in, we need to clean up our neighborhood here in the division?
A: There's a lot of marks since I came in here that we circled and said, 'We've got to hit these,' a lot of things that I haven't advertised, a lot of things internally everyone's aware of. But playing in the National Football League, it really does all start with your division, it's really the most important thing. You play these guys twice a year, you have to know your division, you have to improve within your division. A lot of people build their teams based on who they play twice a year in the division. Those games don't trump every other game, but they're obviously very important games because they almost count as more than one game because of how you're measured against the other teams in your division.
Q: [Wide Receiver] Dante Pettis, it took him a while to make his debut with you guys. He played quite a bit at receiver the other day. I'm just curious what you saw from him there and if you can envision him helping in the return game going forward. He obviously has a rich history in that area.
A: We're working him in the return game in practice every day. We also have [RB] Dion [Lewis] back on kick returns and [Defensive Back Jabrill Peppers] and [WR] Golden [Tate], when he's healthy he's out there as well sometimes for us, so we're working a number of players in practice. Dante obviously has a history of it through college and somewhat in the league, so we're going to work him all the time. We always want to improve our depth at those positions. It's tough to find punt returners, it really is. It's one of those positions you kind of take for granted and when you don't have one, everyone notices every week, that's just something that's a fact. In terms of him as a receiver, I've seen him really improve within our scheme and system. I thought he did a nice job in the game the other day, really showed the ability to get open and caught the ball for us. Had a couple that didn't come his way, was still able to get open and shed some tight coverage. I've seen improvement with him. Obviously, he's had kind of a short term in our system. He lost a little bit of time and development with us being on the Covid list for a period of time, so he's made the most of his opportunities and now he's on the field working. We'll see where it goes this week in terms of the game plan, but I've seen improvement from him, and I'm encouraged going forward with him.
Q: Just wondering if we could get some injury updates on some of the guys like [Linebacker] Kyler Fackrell, Golden Tate, [Tight End] Evan Engram, a few of those guys.
A: Yeah, so Evan will be out there today, Fackrell will be out there today moving around. Everyone will do something a little bit with the trainers. Today's kind of the hybrid day of individuals, some competition, a little bit of a walkthrough at the end, so some of the guys will get a little more in the walkthrough at the end than early on in the individuals and the competition. We're going to keep Golden strictly with the trainers today, we'll see where he goes going forward. Again, I know he's going to do everything he can to be out there. We're optimistic, we know he's working hard with the trainers, we'll see where he's at physically. I want to be fair to him and make sure he gets the opportunity to get out there and show us if he can get out there on the field, stay on the field and be productive for us. Look, this guy's done a good job for us, he's been really fun to coach, so obviously we want all of our guys out there healthy.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: We asked you a lot in the offseason about what it would be like learning a new offense when it was very early. Now you've been in it for 16 weeks. I'm curious what are some of the biggest differences or biggest changes that you've had to make this season as a quarterback?
A: Obviously, the terminology and learning how we're going to call things, how we're going to ID things from that standpoint. My job pre-snap and post-snap is a little bit different in this system. But I think that's something that we've gotten comfortable with and I've gotten comfortable with. Seeing certain plays, seeing certain concepts, being able to rep them and see them in live game action, learn from those reps and kind of take those mental notes or mental pictures to what you get in the game against certain plays and certain looks and being able to learn from that. I certainly feel comfortable where I am now and I've enjoyed learning it and working through it.
Q: The way things are trending, the Cowboys are scoring a lot of points the last month of the season and winning a lot of games. If that trend continues, how equipped do you think you are and your offense is to match points with a team that's scoring upwards of 20s, 30s? You guys almost did that the first time against the Cowboys. How about now?
A: We're confident as an offense. We have to take advantage of our opportunities to score points, particularly when we get the ball in the red zone and move the ball down there. We're certainly confident in our ability to do that and score points.
Q: The results have not shown that. What gives you that confidence? What gives you the sense that you're getting close?
A: Well, we have done it at times. You're right, we need to be more consistent with it. We need to finish those opportunities. But we have the guys capable of doing it. We've done it in spurts this year. It's going to take our best game on Sunday, and that's certainly what we're preparing for.
Q: This is essentially a playoff game. It's an elimination game for whoever loses. How do you intend on approaching this game? Do you expect anything different? A lot of times with quarterbacks, these are the kinds of games that people judge you on.
A: We're not focused on anything that happens after Sunday. Our job is to prepare as well as we can and as hard as we can to play our best game Sunday. That's where our focus is, is to be as prepared as we possibly can and play well. That's certainly my individual focus as well. That's the goal and that's kind of our mindset going in.
Q: Do you expect it to feel like a normal regular season game or how much do you think the intensity might be ramped up to a different level than you've seen so far?
A: Well, it is a division game against an opponent we know very well. From that standpoint, yeah, it will certainly be an intense atmosphere and guys will be ready to go.
Q: Do you feel ready to run now? You haven't had a designed carry since you hurt your hamstring. You only have one so far in the two games since you've been back. Do you feel like you're able to make plays on the ground when called upon?
A: Yeah, I'll continue to work with the trainers and trust that program. I've played from the pocket the past couple weeks, and I expect to continue to do that until I'm healthy. We'll see what exactly, but I expect the game plan and what I'm asked to do to be fairly similar to what it's been these past few weeks.
Q: How much does that limit the entire offense do you think, when you're not able to make those plays? That was a big part of what you guys were doing for a long time.
A: We have a lot of ways to run the ball. We have really good runners and guys we can get into space and can make plays. We'll continue to do that, get the ball to those guys. I'm not sure it limits us a whole lot, but we have to be good with what we can do.
Q: How hard is it on you to sort of curb those instincts to take off with the ball and run, if that is in fact what you're being asked to do?
A: It's certainly something I have to be aware of with my mobility and what I can do, and something I'm cognizant of playing in the game. But it's how I've played these last couple of weeks and I've kind of gotten used to it.
Q: When did you really feel comfortable in this offense? Was it harder to learn a new offense in your second year than maybe you thought it would be when you first realized you were going to have to last January?
A: I certainly feel like I've learned every week and I've improved every week. I'm not sure that I think about my improvement and my progression and scope with reference to our offense and understanding the system. I think of it more as me as a player and as a second-year quarterback in this league learning and trying to improve. I felt comfortable in this offense this whole year. There certainly have been things I've learned and picked up on throughout the way. But as far as how I see my progression and my improvement, I'm not sure that I look at it based on being comfortable in the offense or anything specific to that necessarily.
Q: I just want to go back a second. You said you intend to play from the pocket until you're healthy. Do you not consider yourself near full strength? Is that kind of what you're referring to there?
A: I feel good, I feel healthy. But I think you can tell from the tape that I'm not… I can't do a lot of the same things I'm used to doing. I'll continue to work and work to improve. But for the time being, I'll probably have to adjust the way I play. I've been doing that the last few weeks.
Q: I'm not asking you to put a number on it. But how close are you then to being at that point? How much are you limited?
A: I certainly haven't been as involved in the run game, certain areas of getting out of the pocket, scrambling, things like that. But I feel good. I feel a lot better, and I'll continue to work with the trainers and improve.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: Logan, this game Sunday is essentially like a playoff game. You've been through this a ton of times, so how vocal have you been this week with the younger guys on the defense?
A: I'm always vocal, that's what I do, that's what they brought me here to be. I'm very vocal about executing better, about executing well enough to win the game. Obviously, there's a lot at stake here, but there's been a lot at stake for a while. It's December football, so we want to play well. Those guys, they never have an issue of working hard or not listening or anything like that. We've got a great group of guys here doing everything they can to prepare throughout the week, so we've been doing a great job of that. There may be some extra player meetings, maybe some more things we're doing on our own just to make sure we're playing on the same page out there.
Q: Hey Logan, congratulations on the Good Guy of the Year award.
A: I appreciate it. You know, I want to thank you guys, everyone who voted. The George Young award, first time winning in my career. Extremely honored. I want to know who the two people who left me off are, but I'll find them eventually. But everyone else though, I appreciate it, I appreciate everyone, and I had fun talking to you guys and talking about the games.
Q: The question I wanted to bring up is the last time you played Dallas it was the [Cowboys Quarterback] Dak [Prescott] injury. Have you reached out to him since the game?
A: I think I spoke about that when it happened. I reached out to him that night, felt pretty bad about that. Obviously, it's football, but my people reached out, I sent him a couple books. I had a similar injury a couple years ago; I broke my fibula having a really good year and I snapped my leg on a fluke play. It really made me a better player, it made me become maniacal with my workouts, maniacal with my training. It was my first-time missing football games, so I came back with just a deeper level of appreciation for the game and a deeper hunger and a deeper work ethic. I really started waking up earlier. I reached out to Dak soon after that. Haven't been in touch much since – obviously we're both pretty busy human beings at this time of the year –but I wish him the best of luck and I'm sure he's having a great recovery from what I've heard and what I've seen.
Q: Hey Logan, now that you're signed for next year, the secondary, almost the entire group, is signed for next year, too. Is that kind of special that you're going to be able to grow with this group? I know there's a lot of young guys and [Cornerback] James [Bradberry] is under contract and [Safety] Xavier's [McKinney] a rookie and [Cornerback] Julian [Love]. Is it kind of cool that you guys are all going to be able to grow through this season, the offseason, next season together?
A: I think so. I mean, we want to grow this year, we want to play more games together, we don't want it to be our last Wednesday and we're going out there to do that. Look, I think it's great to have stability in this business. The last couple years, I've been playing on one-year deals, I've been betting on myself and that former nature. We know how that worked out, it worked out for me. It's good to have some stability, but my work ethic is not going to change. You never know what happens in this league, you might think the group's going to be exactly the same, it doesn't always work like that. But I love coming to work with these guys. For only being here for 16 weeks, no OTAs with the group, no offseason with the group, no camp with the group to really form that bond, I think we've done a great job of coming together. I mean, we can't even go out to eat together, we get fined. I can't even go in an Uber with somebody, I'll get fined. So it's been a tough year to do that and I think we did a great job of coming together as a group, and we really owe it to each other and owe it to the city and owe it to this organization to have a good game this game because we did form a brotherhood fairly quickly.
Q: Hey Logan, I know you've talked about the extension and obviously you wanted to be here. Just curious from the business side of it though, two weeks left before you would've hit free agency. From your perspective, why take a deal right now?
A: It was everything I was looking for. To me, at this point in my career I've accomplished a lot of things and I want to continue to do that. I like being here, I like being close to home, I like my parents being able to see my kids a little bit more, this organization is really good for my family – obviously, we know what happened in my personal family this year with my wife. The organization is top-notch, first-class, [Owners] the Maras, the entire organization, [Vice President of Medical Services] Ronnie Barnes really helped my wife a lot and mourned the loss of my child. My son, my two-year-old, just banged his gum and cut up his gum and they got us to go see a dentist on a short week and got his gum checked out. He'll make it, he'll be alright, he'll be good to go this week. But I just think it's a first-class organization, I like the city, I like being back in Jersey, I like who I'm playing with, the money was definitely respectable and definitely what I was looking for, the market I was looking for. I think there's a lot of growth at this safety position and they allowed me to come play it, they allowed me to learn a new position and they expected a lot from me right away and that's what I wanted to be, trusted, accounted for and counted on, really just the appreciation on both sides. I think it was beyond the money and I think it was just a good fit.
Q: Logan, we have two teams playing this week that lost very early their most important offensive player. What does it say about them that they're actually now playing for the chance to win the division title and get into the playoffs? What does it say about your team that you were able to overcome that loss of [Running Back] Saquon [Barkley]?
A: Had a lot of adversity, I think that's what this year has been. I think a lot of teams lost a lot of players, it hasn't been a healthy season, COVID, you don't know who's going to play and who's not. It's kind of that anxiety of 2020 football. It's something that I've never experienced, none of us have ever experienced, the differences of this season. I think our locker room has stuck together, I think our locker room had a willingness to adapt, I think [Head Coach] Joe [Judge] has done a great job adapting virtual meetings, everything that we've done, going into games with very little practice, stuff like that. I think every team has had to do that and it's affected every team positive and negative in some form or fashion this year. I just think our willingness to stick together, our belief in one another through good, bad or indifferent, no matter how it's gone, has given us a chance and given us a possibility to play a last game and a meaningful game, so you've got to be grateful for that. But I know the character of our locker room and how we've stuck together. We definitely earned the right, the ability to play in this game and it to mean something, and I think that's just coming back around with everything we've endured this year.
Q: Obviously, the last couple weeks your entire defensive scheme prioritized the running quarterback, especially last week against [Ravens Quarterback] Lamar [Jackson]. I'm curious from your perspective on the backend, how does it change when the pressure point – and not to take anything away from Dallas's running game – is now back in the secondary at least from my perspective with the weapons that they have downfield and what does that do for you guys in preparation?
A: Yeah, that's a great question, that's a really good question. We've faced all forms and fashions of quarterbacks this year and this is definitely a more traditional quarterback in [Cowboys QB] Andy Dalton. Offense is similar to what we see daily with [Offensive Coordinator] Jason Garrett and our offense, so I think there's some familiarity there. A division opponent, we've played them before. We're not going to discredit [Cowboys RB] Ezekiel Elliott, I think the offense goes through him, but they have weapons at receiver, they have a quarterback who gets the ball out quick, a quarterback who's extremely smart, he's taking care of the ball. So it goes back to us having to disrupt the quarterback with our pass rush, with our disguise, having to roll it around a little bit and not be too simple, not load the box up maybe as we have in the past, not to get too much in the scheme here. We're not playing Lamar Jackson triple-option football that we played last week with the run game, the scheme, so we might as well burn that tape up, throw it out the window, it's not going to help us this week. We have to prepare to make it difficult on Andy Dalton to figure our defense out and just make it tough on him because when you don't he's really efficient and he was really efficient last week. That comes back down to what I do best and what I love to do, disguise, communication, checks, playing a game with the quarterback, so it's really going to be a huge load on the secondary that we're preparing for on Sunday. That's what I love, great receiving corps and how to combat them and take them away.
Q: Hey Logan, you've played in a lot of big playoff games throughout your career. This is sort of a playoff game, it's an elimination game, whoever doesn't win can't make the playoffs, but it's also 2020, you don't have any fans there. What do you expect the atmosphere to be like and is it going to be something different than these young guys who have never been in that big game, playoff experience are going to face?
A: No, I couldn't say that. It's going to be new for me. It's going to be quieter than any playoff game or any big game I ever played in, it's going to be pretty much silent like how it's been all year, so it's always different. I mean look, these guys have all played a big game at some level of their career, whether it be the state championship in high school, some college Tostitos Bowl or Popeye's Bowl or something. There's something that they deemed a big game and at the end of the day it's, am I prepared, and can I execute? Did I work as hard as I can all week to be prepared and when it's time to execute it can I execute it when it matters? You know, your opportunities of saying, 'Hey, we'll get it right next week,' are gone. You've got to get it right that day, but you can't put too much stress on yourself and you've got to do what got you there which is trusting your instincts. To me, it's watching as much film as I can physically watch until my eyeballs fall out, lifting my weights, preparing, making sure my body is the best it can be so that I'm prepared and I have the confidence of being prepared out there and then can I execute my job, go out there and execute it and make the plays I'm supposed to make and be there for my teammates.
Q: Does intensity level though reach a different notch in these kinds of games or do you not view it that way?
A: I think the intensity is going to be there. As a competitor, you understand your days are limited in this league and you need to understand that. You need to understand your days are limited in the last game of the season, so I think everybody is going to have a heightened level of intensity going into this game. But I think the biggest thing we need to do and do a better job than we have been doing – because we have been very intense lately – is we've got to execute. I think it comes down to execution. At the end of the day, you can be the most rah-rah guy, but if you're not on your assignment it doesn't matter who you are, anybody can run by you in this league if you're not where you're supposed to be, so it's really about executing and being able to execute in those moments.
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.