EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Judge's Chambers, Giants.com's weekly interview with head coach Joe Judge:
Q: You always pride yourself on your consistency in your approach and in how you interact with the team, the coaches, the media and others. When you're losing players to injuries and you've lost a couple games, is there a temptation to try something new when things are not going well?
Judge: "It's not that we don't try new things. We're always looking for new and better ways to do everything we do. To me, consistency is about the consistency with the urgency and the intentness that you prepare with, the thoroughness that you prepare with, and the consistency on how you present yourself to the team every day. You can't ride the roller coaster, high or low. To me, when there are variables and when there are extremes, that's when it's most important to be consistent. They have to know what to expect from me on a daily basis. They have to understand how I'm going to be and know how I'm going to react to things. So, to me, my consistency and the consistency of this staff has to feed into the consistency of the players. They have to come in as well with the same mindset of preparing, competing and performing that we have every week, regardless of the circumstances."
Q: You were asked a question Monday in which it was inferred that you should consider changes, including personnel. You said that we're going to play the players that practice the best and give the best effort. Did you change anything in practice to help identify those players? Are you looking for anything different this week?
Judge: "We're always playing the players who prepare and perform the best, so practice is a key part for us. We're always evaluating how different guys do. There's always competition within every position group, but there's always select position groups, based on circumstances every week, that there's probably two to three guys that are kind of hedged against each other. They've got to go out there, and they have to demonstrate that we can depend on them, that they're the best one to go out there and perform. That's through how they practice. In terms of this week, we went out there on Wednesday and went out there a little bit earlier than normal and had a good practice. We went out there with specific things in mind. We focused on the run game, both offensively and defensively. We were able to really get after it. While the volume wasn't extremely high just due to the circumstance we had with the team and with available players, the intensity was very good. The competition was very good. We're able to really see a lot of things that we believe will carry over into the game and give us a good window as far as how our guys are doing. Thursday was kind of the day where we were able to get out there and get after it for a little bit for the first part of practice together and kind of segment some New York Giants work. Then obviously, we'll be into the Carolina Panthers for preparation. So, we definitely have enough to go ahead and make the assessments and make the decisions."
Q: We ask similar questions every week about constructing game plans because you keep losing players to injury. If everyone was healthy, you could sit in a meeting and say, "We can try this with Saquon (Barkley)" or "We can do with Kenny (Golladay)." When you don't have a lot of your best players, do you feel restricted in what you can try? Does it constrict your game plan? Or, do you try to what you normally would?
Judge: "It's never truly do the exact same thing, because you have to think about the players you have available and what they do well. To me, it's always the aggressive mindset of who's available, what do they do well, and how do we go ahead and use that against what the other team shows. To me, it's always the perception how you look at things. I trust all the players on our roster. We prepare everybody all the time. I expect everyone to be ready to play and produce, so we prepare for everybody. When certain players may be eliminated for one reason, it's the next man's opportunity to make a play. We're going to look to put that player in a position where he can use his strengths to create something for us."
Q: Is your planning affected more by the absence of ballhandlers like Saquon or Kadarius Toney or a lineman like (tackle) Andrew Thomas?
Judge: "Our mindsets are never what are we limited to? It's always what does the other team do well, how do we match up against that, and what you can do to create an advantage? We don't ever think about what we don't have. We think about what we do have and how you push forward with that."
Q: A couple of situations to ask about. The red zone offense has a lower touchdown percentage (41.2) than you'd like in 17 trips inside the 20. Is the issue the opportunities you have, or not having as many red zone opportunities as you'd like?
Judge: "The most important thing is to complete the ones you do have. We want to finish with touchdowns more than field goals. We've been able to move the ball down there in certain games, and we have to finish better. Then, there's been some games where we haven't had that kind movement offensively to get the ball into the position to actually consider having many red area opportunities. But you want to finish down there with touchdowns instead of field goals. You take field goals when you have to, but we have to do a better job of getting in the end zone."
Q: Each of your first six opponents has scored a touchdown in the last 93 seconds of the first half, five in the last 36 seconds. Is there a common thread there? You had this issue early last season. Is it maddening or annoying to keep seeing this?
Judge: "We definitely have to be better at the end of the half. There's no secret about that. That's something we focused on a lot as a team. It's not one repeat issue. There are different things in different games. To me, it all comes down to execution, making sure we're in the right call at the right time, and putting it together with the coaches, and players executing on the field the right way. We've done a lot of things that are positive, and we have to eliminate those shots they get where they move ball down the field. Obviously, last week, you have the drive start in a certain way (Matthew Stafford dropping a shotgun snap before picking up the ball and throwing quickly to his left to Cooper Kupp, who turned it into a 25-yard gain). That's something that we should have handled better. We've got to make sure that we don't make any mistakes again like that."
Q: Before last week, Daniel Jones' only interception was on a Hail Mary. He had three last week, including one when the receiver slipped. Two, he said, resulted from poor decisions. You're not a coach who says, "Well, it's out of character, and he won't do that again." So, how did you handle it?
Judge: "We definitely review the tape. That happens through individual meetings, unit meetings and squad meetings, so he obviously gets corrected on multiple levels like every player does. But, it's not one thing to sit down and say you're doing this, and that gets corrected. You look at the play, what's leading into that factor, what happened on that play, what are we doing, what do we have to correct, and how do we not do that going forward. But everything gets addressed here. Nothing gets swept under the rug. Nothing gets brushed off, like it just won't happen again."
Q: You're seventh in the league in pass attempts and you've run the ball on about 32% of your offensive plays. In a perfect world, would you prefer a more balanced offense?
Judge: "A lot that has to do with some of the circumstances we've been in. To me, it's about doing whatever is productive in the game to get going. Running the football is a key part of the game. That's something we push to do. It's something we want to do better. It's something we've made some strides at. In different circumstances, we found throughout game plans and opponents that throwing the ball has been more effective for us at different times. So, the offense has made strides in a lot of ways. We have to be more consistent as an offense and do a better job finishing drives. But there are times when throwing is the best option. Other times, you have to run the ball, and you've got to be effective doing it. I'm a big believer in the run game. That's something that we're going to go ahead and use. You want to be balanced. To me, balance doesn't mean 50/50. Balance means being able to run or pass when you need to. Different game plans may dictate different flows of the game, but the run game is obviously something that we have to improve on and keep pushing forward with."
Q: (Right guard) Will Hernandez is the only offensive or defensive player that's played every snap this year and the only offensive lineman to start every game at the same position. Last year, when he didn't regain the starting job after he was on the COVID list, there were questions about where he would fit in. Now, he's again a pillar on the offensive line. What can you say about how he's played this year?
Judge: "We didn't really have those questions internally last year. We know he went through some things off the field and obviously was sick. That set him back a good bit, and that's a different set of circumstances. In terms of Will, I'm very pleased how he's worked, prepared and managed his body to stay healthy. I'm very pleased with how he competes on a weekly basis. Will is a guy who's played a lot of snaps here over the last few years. That's something he's done a good job with for us, so I'm pleased at how well he's working. He's doing a good job. Again, he has been the constant out there for us. For someone to play every play, that's saying a whole lot for him at any phase of the game."
Q: Will and Nate Solder have started every game. With all the changes on that unit, is it important to have a couple of constants?
Judge: "I've made the point before over and over, we're going to play all of our players, so there are yes's and no's to that. To me, it's important for the guys that play in every game to be prepared and ready to go physically, mentally and emotionally. Whoever we have available to play, that's who we're going to play with. I expect everyone to be ready to roll."
Q: I think you've been asked about all the draft choices except (running back) Gary Brightwell. He's been overlooked a little bit. He has one carry and one reception. Have you seen him make strides in practice? If he had to step in and play a larger role, is he ready to do that?
Judge: "He's already playing a large role for us. He's a four-core (special teams) player. He's making an impact right now on how he's playing the coverage units. He's done a very good job in the return game in making his blocks and matching up. He's a guy that we brought in here with the focus of developing him as an offensive player and having someone who's going to give us good core value from the running back position. That's definitely something that was a priority, in terms of our roster makeup from last year. He's done a really good job for that. In terms of his improvement, I see improvement every day from Gary on offense and special teams. I'm very pleased with how he's playing right now. He's been very productive for us in coverages. He's done a good job in the return units. He's really learning the tricks of the league from some of the vets he's been around and guys he's going against, but he keeps on competing and playing. Offensively, he's done a good job advancing and growing. I'm very confident in Gary if he has to play."
Q: You've played three games now without (linebacker) Blake Martinez, who basically never left the field last year. The opposing rushing yardage has been high. Was there any kind of shock to the system when Blake went out? Do you think the defense still may be adjusting to his absence?
Judge: "I think (linebacker) Tae Crowder stepped in as the signal caller and has worked very hard to master that craft. He's done a good job making strides with it. Obviously, Blake is a very good player for us. You don't want to lose any player to injury. He's here in the building working hard with his teammates right now trying to help them kind of get going and help with some of the prep. When you lose a guy like Blake, there's differences in the defense, but I see a lot of guys making strides to step up and make the plays that we have to make on defense. We have to improve our run defense. It's been a main focus for us. That'll help you play all other aspects of defense as well. So, you don't want to be without Blake, but at the same time, I have confidence in Tae and Reggie (Ragland) and all the other linebackers they play with."
Q: It isn't every week that the opposing head coach announces his intentions, but (Panthers head coach) Matt Rhule said, 'We're going to redefine who we are. We are going to run the football.' Do you expect them to come out and really try to run the football?
Judge: "We'll see on Sunday. You can read the headlines, and you can overcommit yourself to something somebody says. We'll see how the game develops. Obviously, they've got a very good passing game and very talented receiving group. Whether or not the focus is to run the ball, I'm sure they're going to throw the ball, too, so we have to be able to play balanced on defense."
Q: Their leading rusher is a fourth-round rookie, Chuba Hubbard. What kind of runner is he?
Judge: "He's a good runner. He's got good vision. He's a downhill runner. He's more of a vertical one-cut guy than a dancer in space. He's got good speed that can build and really separate. He hits the hole hard. If you give him a lane and he gets going, that's when you're in trouble. You want to try to make him gather up early in the down and stop his feet and restart. That's where teams have had a little bit of success against him, but this guy is a tough runner. He'll lower his pads and go right through it. You talked about him being a rookie. Obviously, he carried the ball a lot in his life. I think running back probably is one of the easier positions that translate in this league. Not that anything is easy, but the instincts and the carryover of what you're seeing makes it probably the fastest transition in the league, and this guy has definitely made a fast transition."
Q: (Wide receiver) D.J. Moore has more than twice as many catches as anybody else on their team. As you prepare, do you say he is the guy you have to stop in the passing game?
Judge: "Look, one out of every four plays they have is targeted for him, so he's obviously a main focus of their offense. As we explained to our players, there's 100 snaps this game. He's getting 25 of them, so we better know where he is on the field and how they're using him."
Q: Statistically, this is the best defense you've faced. They're third in the league in yards allowed, second in passing defense, sixth in scoring. We all remember what (outside linebacker Haason) Reddick did last year (5.0 sacks for Arizona vs. the Giants). What else jumps out to you when you studied their defense?
Judge: "I think the speed with their linebackers, both on the edge with Reddick and (defensive end Brian) Burns, and you can talk about (linebacker) Shaq (Thompson) when he's back and those guys in the stack right there. They really play fast. They roll all their players. That's one thing about this team is they roll a lot of defensive players. They keep them fresh, and they keep them active. They keep them moving. You talk about the defensive backs, we'll see if (cornerback Stephon) Gilmore is out there, but they're a very talented group with (cornerback A.J.) Bouye and those guys out there. They're very aggressive and jump the ball. They really challenge you. On third down, there's a lot of man coverage, so they want to get up in your face and really pressure you at the front and get the backers going after you. They have very, very good team speed. They play very disruptive. They really run to the ball well as a unit, and that's really helped them be productive."
Q: Lastly, the specials. They changed their punter last week (to Ryan Winslow after they were last in both gross and net yardage). Alex Erickson has had some good punt returns.
Judge: "Erickson is one of the top guys in the league for a long time. He's very instinctive. He's very natural. He has great running vision and makes the right decisions. He's a good ballhandler, so that guy really does a good job of setting these guys up. In the return game, he's very dangerous with the ball in his hand. In terms of specialists, they have talented specialists. I think they're an improving kicking unit right now with how they're going. Obviously, they had a lot of confidence in the punter that they made the change to last week. He's continued to be the guy as everything we know right now. I think with the track they're on, it's obviously working for them right here, and they're playing the defense off of the field position they get."
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