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Quotes 12/21: Coach Joe Judge, TE Evan Engram, LB Blake Martinez

Head Coach Joe Judge

Q: What's your overall message to your ball club now? With two games still to play and a lot still out there.

A: We have to have a good week of preparation this week. We are going to need our best performance on Sunday. The approach is still the same, come back to work on Wednesday. Make sure we go ahead and stay together as team. Make improvement. We want to be the best team we can be at the end of the season. The message has been the same all year. They have responded to it. We've seen a lot of improvement throughout the season. No reason to change on it right now. 

Q: This late in the season, do you look at your team and say we want to improve things, but we are what we are right now? We're a team that we have to try to get to 20 points. We really don't often score more than that. Kind of build your team around that. Would you agree that finding more points is the one thing that has held your team back more than anything else?

A: I've done a lot of studying on this. One hundred percent of NFL games, the team that scores more points, wins, so we're going to try to do that as much as we can. Not to be a complete wise guy to you, at this point in the season, we have to know what our strengths and weaknesses are. That being said, the focus has to remain on being the best football team we can be. We've got to make a lot of improvement in these next two weeks to give ourselves a chance at anything beyond. The goal at the beginning of this year was to be the best team we could possibly be at the end of the year. We still have a lot of work to do. We have two weeks of work to really get in. Our focus is on the Ravens this week. When we structure the game plan, we always structure it around what our strengths and weaknesses are as well as who the opponent is and what they're capable of. That may affect how we call certain games. When we get into the game, that may affect how we form a game plan for certain teams. At the end of the day, we're going to work to be the best team we can be and then call the game plan to our strengths. 

Q: You think your team can produce more points here in these last two games? Obviously, you are going to say you think they can. The record shows that the points are going down. Do you think you can squeeze more points out of this group?

A: Yeah, absolutely. We have to do a good job as coaches putting them in the right position to do a good job of executing on the field, finishing plays and finishing drives. We're absolutely capable of more points. 

Q: I know you have been a big proponent of the O-line rotation. How come no snaps for Matt Peart yesterday?

A: We had a plan for Matt in place. He had an ailment that popped up last minute. It had nothing to do with his performance as of late. It had nothing to do with eliminating the rotation. He should be fine to go next week. We just wanted to make sure we kind of kept status quo with Cam (Fleming) and Andrew (Thomas) unless we absolutely needed him. 

Q: Has being in the playoff race changed how you deploy personnel at all? Are you still on the same sort of big picture developmental view you've had all year?

A: I'm still looking to develop as many players as we can. That being said, you want to develop players by still putting ourselves in position to be successful on Sundays. We're not out there having tryouts on Sunday, but we are working to make sure we get as many young guys as many reps as we can, to keep giving them experience on the field and improving as a team overall. 

Q: I know there have been some weeks where you guys have focused on running the ball. You only have one passing touchdown over the last fives games and 10 over the whole season. Is the passing attack where you want it to be right now as you head into Week 16?

A: We always want to be balanced. That means being able to run or pass when we need to. It doesn't mean 50/50 run or pass. We want to improve in all aspects, offense, defense and the kicking game at this point. We've had opportunities we have to capitalize on. In those situations, we have to make sure we put the players in the right position. We want to keep on improving in all aspects, the run game and the pass game. I know that sounds very generic, but that's where our focus is. We don't really care where the points or production come from. We don't care what player gives it to us. We're going to work every week to make sure we go ahead and get it out of them and put our team in a position to be successful. 

Q: With a couple straight days of negative tests for the team and the staff, is the NFL telling you guys they are confident you are on the other end of this thing from last week? Is it kind of day to day here?

A: We're taking every precaution we can. The one thing I've learned throughout the season watching other teams as well as dealing with it internally, this thing is kind of like weeds. You think you picked the last one and then one pops up. You can never let your guard down. We're going to remain out of the building for the most part today and Tuesday as coaches. I'm in here for media obligations and some other things. For the most part, guys are working from home. Coaches that do come in the office work isolated in their offices with the doors closed making sure we don't interact. On Wednesday, the plan is to bring in part of the team. We did the same thing last week a little bit. Some of the team will zoom in, some of the team will come in. We'll make sure that we have everybody out at practice. We'll keep spaced out and we'll thin out the numbers in the locker room, training room and cafeteria to make sure there is not too much interaction within the actual building. What we have been told is that studies have shown that this has not been spread largely at practice or at games, in those settings. We have a lot of confidence in how we're going about the protocols. We really need to make sure we remain tight inside in the building in the interactions. I'd say although we've had a couple straight days of negative tests, we have to have our guard up on this to make sure if something pops up, we can make the right decision at the right time. I thought last week, being able to go ahead and change on the fly, with taking Thursday and turning that into more of meeting day, I thought the players responded the right way. We came in and had a very productive day on Friday. We had a different kind of Saturday than in the past with the longer walkthrough and more of a kind of on the field practice than we've done in the past. I thought the guys were in tune, I thought they responded. They understood why we had to change up what we needed to.

Q: Do you expect to have Jason (Garrett) back for this game in Baltimore?

A: We're waiting on final details. From what I understand, he'll be available for the game. There's still some gray area in terms of the travel with the team or without the team, what it could entail. We're hoping that everything goes well. Obviously, we're hoping that Jason remains in good health. We have been checking in with him. He's been very active in our meetings. One unique thing about this year, I would say, even being out of the building, we've become so accustomed to using Zoom and working virtually. There hasn't been a main difference other than when you're actually on the practice field and obviously at the game last night. 

Q: You have downplayed the whole playoff thing and division all along. How important is it you to, at least in determining the success of this season, that you win this division?

A: I don't think our progress as a team is going to be measured necessarily on making the playoffs. I'm focused right now on Baltimore this week. This is obviously a team that we knew when the schedule came out early on, this would a great challenge for us. One thing that I am very interested in as a coach is seeing how our team responds to challenges, how they are able to adapt to different game plans and different styles of play from opponents, see how they work going forward. There's a lot of things we have to improve on, big picture wise. There's a lot of progress we still have to make. I'm pleased with the way the players have been working. This will be a great challenge. I'm not downplaying playoffs. It's the National Football League. We're all here to compete. We're all here for the highest prize in all of sports. We all know what that is. At the same time, I'm a firm believer in just keeping our sights on what the immediate goal is and the long-term goal will take care of itself. 

Q: Is that because of the situation you came in and you're trying to build it up? Is this the way you have operated in all your past stops? Why are you taking this approach? What is the thinking behind it?

A: There may be a time that we talk about it in the future, possibly, based on what the situation is. That being said, it's always been my belief to keep focused on what you're doing right now. We can't do anything about Dallas right now, that's a week away. We can only control Baltimore. Anything that may or may not come after that doesn't even exist yet. Wasting mental energy and focus on something that doesn't exist, to me, is just wasted time. We need to focus on Baltimore. They are very real. They are getting ready. They're a very good team, they are very well coached. They are very talented, they are very physical. They're good in all three phases and they have some dynamic players. We start looking past Baltimore, then anything that may come after them is not going to matter anyway. 

Q: Now that you guys are further out from Daniel Jones getting injured, does the standard to get him back into games change? How much more difficult is it with only maybe having one or two practices to evaluate him this week?

A: Hopefully we have three practices to be able to evaluate him. We're going to decide tomorrow as a staff what we think the best course of action is going forward this week in terms of getting these guys on the field. Obviously, with Christmas, that kind of throws a little bit of how to manage the week. We've got a couple plans in place. I'll talk to the captains tomorrow and iron out what the best plan is going forward. We have a pretty good idea of what we're going to do anyway. In terms of Daniel himself, the standard remains the same. My concern with him has been his health, making sure he can go on the field and protect himself. Because of any change of number of games remaining in the season, that doesn't dictate what we would put him at, in terms of risk on the field. I still want to make sure we can put him out there and allow him to move around and protect himself. There's things that come in the game naturally that I thought Colt (McCoy) did a really good job last night. Protection was good in the passing game. Colt helped that a lot by stepping up and moving within the pocket and protecting the ball. You want to make sure that you can put a quarterback out there in position. Not necessarily that he can just pull the ball down and run all the time. Just moving in the pocket fluidly and protecting himself. If you can't do that, you're just putting yourself at a greater risk. I've got to see Daniel move around. I want to make sure I make the right decision for him short term and long term. 

Q: With James (Bradberry) and Darnay (Holmes), do they have any chance of coming back this week?

A: Yeah, they are. There's chances on both those guys coming back. James, in terms of his exposure outside the building, we're going to have to wait for clarity from the league in terms of timetable and tests and all that good stuff. With Darnay, we just have to get him on the grass and move him around. He's a player that we did not IR when he got hurt out of hope that we could get him back in a few weeks. The signs looked promising enough that we didn't have to put him on IR. We'll have to see him move around on the grass. The test is always, can he hurt it worse or is he dealing with pain tolerance? We're going to make sure that we're putting him in position out there, that he is going to be okay.  

Q: You mentioned Christmas. Is the plan to bring them in early and then try to get their families together?

A: If we do bring them in on Christmas, which is the plan right now, the plan would be to bring them in early in the afternoon, noon or one o'clock. I think you kind of consider more guys with kids and guys with families opening presents in the morning. To me, that Christmas morning is something you don't want to lose. We're going to double check with the guys tomorrow and make sure they're good. We touched base last week in our captains meeting, they were good with the plan overall. Obviously, we don't want to miss a day of preparation. I've done it both ways. I've worked on Christmas. I've traveled on Christmas and I've had Christmas off. All three can be effective. You just want to make sure that you're doing the right thing. If we do bring them in on Christmas, it will be a shorter day. It will be a little less intense day on the field. We're going to have to stay ahead in how we work on Wednesday and Thursday as a team.

Tight End Evan Engram

Q: Obviously, how disappointing has it been the last two games at home and coming out on the short end?

A: Yeah, it's disappointing. We were on that run, and then dropped two in a row. It sucks. I definitely feel like we left a lot out there. We just have to continue to find ways to improve, fix the mistakes, work on capitalizing on our opportunities going forward. 

*Q: We talked to you sometime during the winning streak and you were excited about playing meaningful games here for pretty much the first time in your career. These last two games, can you feel that slipping away? Can you feel the weight of like 'Oh God, the playoffs are slipping away here, we're not in control of our own destiny'? *

A: We're not looking on the negative side. I wouldn't say we're worried about slipping away. I do think our sense of urgency is up, and we do understand what's ahead of us. I think we're really motivated. This is as meaningful as it gets. This week is important. We're worried about Baltimore. We have to take care of that before anything. 

Q: I want to ask about just a lack this offense has of explosive plays, explosive passing plays. It seems like every touchdown drive is a methodical, multiple first downs kind of drive, not the big play, easy score. Why do you think that is? I asked (Sterling) Shep last night about lack of separation, which is what the analytics say. Do you think that's what it is? Why do you think there are less explosive plays?

A: I think we just have to do a better job of capitalizing on the opportunities. There are plays that we all left out there. Yeah, I feel like we definitely had the capability to do so. We just have to cash in when we have those opportunities. 

Q: Even when you guys were in the winning streak, you were scoring in the teens, maybe get up to 20. I guess 27 against the Eagles. You beat Seattle only scoring 17, and the last two weeks seven and six points. How galling is that for a guy who makes his living on offense to look up and see so few points on the board so many games?

A: It's definitely not a testament of the work we're putting in. I think we work really hard and we have a great plan, and we execute all week. Like I said, we just have to capitalize on the opportunities that we get. It's tough, but at the end of the day, we just need to get back to work.

Q: Does it become a situation where you almost expect to have to be in a grind out game? Win a game 20-17, win a game 17-14. Or do you think there's always a light at the end of the tunnel every Sunday?

A: Every game is close. It can be 14-13 or it can be 35-34. Every game is close, every game is a battle. I don't want to ever go in and think about that. We just try to go in and execute and win the battle, because every Sunday is a battle. 

Q: If you had your druthers on a one-point game, would you take 35-34 over 14-13?

A: I'd take the win. 

Q: How much did you play through yesterday? How much work did you have to do coming off Friday to be ready for that game? (had a calf injury on Friday)

A: I felt fine yesterday. Friday was a little precautionary thing. It definitely didn't hold me back or anything. Just more being smart and being ready to play. Yesterday, I was fine.

Q: You played a lot last night, but it looked like there was some plays where you normally would be on as part of a two-tight end set blocking that you came off. Was that any kind of a semi pitch count to just keep you fresh, or am I just seeing something that's not there?

A: Yeah, I think you're seeing something. We have a lot of packages where Kaden (Smith) and Levine (Toilolo) are the heavy lifters in our run game. That's been a thing all season, so I wouldn't say that. 

Q: Can this season be a success in your mind if you guys don't win the division at this point?

A: I don't really understand the question, but I think our goal is to go win the division. That means our goal is to make the playoffs. Obviously, we put ourselves in that position to. It will be disappointing if we don't. I guess not.  

Q: From what you saw from Daniel (Jones) last week, are you going into this week thinking that there's a good chance that he's going to play?

A: That's all up to our training staff and coaches and how DJ is feeling. I know he wants to be out there, and I know he's doing everything he can to get out there.

Linebacker Blake Martinez

Q: I know you guys tried to do it last night with a combination of blitzes or just contain them up front, but how can you generate a better pass rush as a defense, especially to complement how you guys were stopping the run fairly well last night, and a lot of your game plan was working. But how can you get to the passer and get to the quarterback so that you can disrupt them and not let that happen?

A: I think, overall, it's just dialing in on your one-eleven. In the game plan, whatever play is called, making sure the frontend is working with the backend. Us covering long enough, or if I'm blitzing, us getting to the passer quick enough and not allowing him to be able to see his third or fourth progression. Then being able to work together when you are rushing with the other guys that are in the rush as well to make sure that you're getting the right rush plan down, the right game plan, the rush plan for that given week, to make sure that you get to the spot or set up the other guy next to you to be able to get to the quarterback in time.  

Q: In a way, were the Browns like the perfect appetizer for the Ravens? I think they're one and three in the NFL in rushing yards. Can some of the game plan that you had to stop the run against the Browns carry over to the Ravens or no?

A: Definitely. I think every week, we have a certain kind of understanding for a team. What they're really good at, what their strengths are. Then for us as a defense, we always pride ourselves on being able to stop the run. We've gotten better at it each and every week. But I think it more comes back to kind of the cliché thing of it comes back to us doing our job on every single play. Being in the right gap, leverage in the formations, understanding the offensive formation to being able to stop the play. I'll always give us the upper hand if we're in those situations and we're in the right spots.  

Q: We probably won't talk to you again for the rest of the week, so how hard is it to be a linebacker against Lamar Jackson?

A: Oh yeah, he's one of those special guys, and I think everyone knows it. I kind of got a taste of it early before he was the MVP Lamar Jackson. We played him in the preseason last year. He was spinning, doing crazy stuff, jumping over people and we're like, 'wait, hold up, who is this guy?' Obviously, he had his amazing season after that. It's one of those things you obviously as a competitor, for me, you want to go against guys like that. But it just adds the extra heightened awareness to make sure that you're extremely perfect in all fundamental aspects of your game going into that. 

Q: Just big picture here. You guys were right in the thick of the playoffs, controlled your own destiny two weeks ago. Now you've lost to the last two teams, playoff caliber teams. What has that shown you? Was this team maybe two weeks ago a little ahead of schedule and now realizes that maybe the better teams are a struggle for you guys? Where do you look at this?

A: No, I think every single week, we know we can hang with anyone. I think each and every week, we go back to the film and look at it and are super critical of it. It came down to winning in the key situations. Third down, red zone for us as a defense. It was little things that we went over in practice, and we just weren't in the right spots or covering the right people. We just kind of had our own little mental mistakes going into those situations and gave up easy points.  

Q: When Joe Judge says after the game, 'we weren't going to win that game kicking field goals,' you can take that two ways. You can say he had ultimate faith in his defense that if they gamble and don't, you guys can hold them back there deep inside Cleveland territory. Or you can say, the Browns scored 40 points in each of their last two games. He didn't think you guys could hold them down, so he knew that he needed a lot of points. Which way did you look at it?

A: I looked at it the way of you have three kind of groups that go out there, special teams, the offense and defense. I think it's the complementary football. He trusted in our complementary football to go out there, execute, whether it was them going and getting that fourth down and end up scoring, or if it didn't happen, all of a sudden our defense would go out there. We would do what we needed to do. Then obviously, our punt return, once it led to that, would do what they do to all of a sudden give us that field position and advantage across the game. I think that's the type of coach that you want, the same type of mindset that you want going into a game. We just didn't execute completely across those three facets of the game.  

Q: I don't know how honest you can be on this, or if there is an honest, it's a conjecture. If I asked you a few days ago, I guarantee it you can hold the Browns to 20 points, take it or leave it, what would you have said?

A: Me, as a defensive person, I don't want them to score any points. But no, I feel that's something you go into a game and you want to hold them as minimal as possible. But every team makes plays and has those moments. I'd rather you tell me you hold them to 20 points and we score 21 points. 

Q: I'm not telling you that. You don't get that. You get 20 points, take it or leave it, that's it.

A: I feel like I need more information on that one.  

Q: Tonight, they announce the Pro Bowlers. What do you think your chances are? That's a really tough position in the NFC. You've seen that before. Bobby Wagner, Fred Warner, Jaylon Smith, Devin White. There are a lot of guys there. What do you think of your chances and how disappointed would you be if you don't make it tonight?

A: Every single year, you have individual goals for yourself, obviously, especially as a player in the NFL at my position. Any position, you want Pro Bowl, All-Pro, for me, lead the league in tackles, all these types of things. It's just one of those things that if it happens, it happens. If not, it just adds that extra chip on my shoulder to keep going at it each and every day to get better to be able to get to that position for next year. 

Q: How gratifying would it be, though? Is it sort of a that validation that, 'ok, I know I'm doing it but everyone else is actually noticing'?

A: I feel like every single moment, you kind of have that want to have someone kind of have that praise, I guess, and recognition for yourself. But at the end of the day, it comes down to myself. As long as I know I'm playing the way I want to play, at a high level, that's really all that matters for me.

View photos from the Week 15 matchup between the Giants and Browns in primetime at MetLife Stadium.

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