EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As he routinely does on his Zoom calls with reporters, Joe Judge gave detailed and thoughtful responses to numerous queries, which unsurprisingly focused on quarterback Daniel Jones.
But the coach's two most significant responses can be condensed to these: no (he doesn't lament playing Jones yesterday) and yes (Jones will start again Sunday night against Cleveland if he's able).
After a week of speculation, Jones returned to the field after a one-game hiatus caused by the hamstring injury he suffered in Cincinnati on Nov. 29. His mobility limited, he completed 11 of 21 passes for 127 yards, was sacked six times and did not run the ball once before being replaced by Colt McCoy in the game's final minutes. The offense sputtered during much of the Giants' 26-7 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Judge had numerous conversations with the team's medical staff and with Jones and is convinced the decision to play the second-year pro was correct.
"There are no regrets, there's no second guessing," he said. "We took a lot of time discussing a lot of things. Scenarios with doctors, coaches, making sure it was the best position for the team. That's the decision we went with and move forward."
Jones made pretty much the same statement an hour after the game.
"I don't regret it," he said. "I felt good enough to play, I felt like I could do everything I needed to do throughout the game. So no, I don't have any regrets about that."
Last week, Judge specified criteria he wanted to see from Jones and the quarterback met them in practice.
"We saw he could protect himself in the pocket and move fluidly through the pocket," Judge said. "He could get rid of the ball if he needed. If he had to eat a sack at some point, that was something we were going to go into the game plan knowing it could happen. Obviously, there are some things that come up in the game. You get hit in the pocket at certain points. He's no different than the other 31 quarterbacks in the NFL. They all deal with the same risks every time they drop back in the pocket. To answer your directly, he was able to protect himself yesterday."
Judge added, "the way he moved in the game was what we expected. We put him through enough in practice last week to make sure he was put in a position where he could protect himself. We knew that there were things that were going to come up in the game and some limitations that he was going to have throughout the game. We were willing to live with those."
Jones said in his postgame interview the injury, "wore on me a bit during the game." But if he suffers no setbacks this week and again proves he can meet all his job requirements, including self-preservation, he will take the first snap against Cleveland.
"If Daniel is healthy to play and he looked the way he did in practice last week, I'd have no hesitation of playing Daniel at all," Judge said. "We made a calculation. We have a lot of confidence in Colt (McCoy). This has nothing to do with Colt. But there's also a commitment we've made to Daniel as our quarterback and how we're running this offense. We have confidence in all of our players. But if he's healthy enough to go out there and protect himself and we don't feel he's putting himself in greater danger to be injured worse and he's going to give the team a competitive advantage of going out there, then we're going to play him. We have no hesitation.
"Just because we're going to play Daniel doesn't mean at any time that we're not going to have a plan to put Colt in for a certain package or situation in the game, or we're not going to have a plan for any other player on the roster to at some point be used in a certain situation or circumstance to give us an advantage. Look, all options are always on the table in terms of what we're going to do by game plan. But to answer your question directly and simply, yeah, if Daniel is healthy enough to go out there and we think he's not in greater danger to be damaged or hurt, then we'll play him."
Last week, Jones was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday and participated fully in the workout on Friday. Judge conceded today he doesn't know if Jones will work when the Giants begin their on-field preparations for the Browns on Wednesday.
"I honestly couldn't give you accurate information," Judge said. "I have to talk to Ronnie (Barnes, the senior vice president of medical services) and his staff, along with the doctors' feedback. Talking to Daniel this morning, the conversation was more about the hamstring. How his leg felt and how he was through the flow of the game. He assured us he came out with the hamstring really the same as what he went in. He felt good through the flow of the game. We had a long conversation. I'll let him speak for himself on a lot of things. There was really no talk about anything other than the hamstring going on."
*Judge continued avoided discussing the NFC East standings, despite the Giants falling into second place when Washington defeated San Francisco.
"The focus is still what the focus has been the entire year: to come to work, to improve as a team," Judge said. "Move forward and play our best ball next Sunday. That's the only thing that can help us, that's the only thing that really matters."
*For the third consecutive game, the Giants had issues on special teams.
"We all have to do our job better, number one," Judge said. "This hasn't been one thing. It's not a schematic disadvantage. We're not getting isolated into something and we can't make an adjustment, make a correction. There haven't been repeat mistakes, but over six phases, if you have an issue in one phase per week, it's going to be glaring and go ahead and be magnified over time."
*Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick had five sacks and three forced fumbles, leading to Judge fielding a question that was essentially, "what happened?"
"There were some situations where it just came down to they were good in coverage," Judge said. "We blocked for a long time, and Daniel wasn't going to pull the ball and run in some of those circumstances yesterday. Some of those were, you can call them coverage sacks if you want to call them that. But it's all tied together. It's never one person, it's never one thing. It comes down to everybody on the field and the coaches with the plan we put together and the plays we call in that circumstance. Look, obviously, he's a good player. They made plays, you have to give them credit. They really showed up yesterday and played their top game. We have to be better all across the board, starting with myself."