Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: I'm curious when you bring in a guy like Devonta Freeman, your first impressions of him at practice yesterday? Then you guys kind of go from having a bell cow back in Saquon to now a committee. You guys ran a lot of committee backfields in New England. What are some advantages to that sort of situation?
A: I think you just use whatever you have on your roster, whether it's a guy like Saquon, we still have Dion Lewis who we rely heavily on, and Wayne Gallman who we rely heavily on. Obviously, Saquon's situation, we all feel for him. He's going to work his butt off to get back here as fast as possible. We're happy to have Devonta. The thing I see with him is he's a ball guy. You can tell this guy has a lot of passion for the game, he has a lot of experience, he plays hard, he practices hard. I was very impressed yesterday out at practice with the fire he practiced with, the attention to detail, how fast he picked up on a lot of our system. He's an experienced guy, but sometimes experience in other systems doesn't always translate over to knowing the alphabet of what you're doing. But he really did a good job of understanding what we're doing in practice, being able to get in the huddle, break the huddle, know what to do and do it very effectively. It was very encouraging on day one.
Q: I'm wondering, we hear so much about next man up. I'm wondering do you say anything to Wayne Gallman when you sign Freeman about why he doesn't get that same chance to be the bell cow first? Also, I think I've heard you say in the past that your running backs need to be productive pass catchers. That's an area that seems to have held Wayne back a little bit. Where is he in that regard?
A: I think Wayne does a good job for us in the pass game. So does Dion, and Devonta will help there as well. Obviously, when you have any kind of injury on the roster, it's just natural that you're going to look to go ahead and fill that spot for the need of the team. We don't feel any need to explain to every player because within every game plan, every player has a role. Anybody coming in doesn't replace somebody else who's already here. They just add to our team. There are different strengths to every player brought in. We're going to have to work to make sure we play to every player's individual strengths. But we're relying on all three of those backs very heavily, along with Eli Penny, along with the guys we have on the practice squad as well. All three of them have to play an integral part of us having success. We have to get Devonta caught up in our system. He's done a good job of that so far. Wayne had a good day of practice for us. He did at training camp for us, as well. Dion's been a steady player for us. He's a tough dude who has a lot of vet experience, and he's a great teammate.
Q: The question about backfield by committee, if some guy comes out and is ripping off yards, does he become the guy?
A: He may be the guy for that moment. Maybe he's the guy for that game plan the way things are working and clicking. But I'd say within every specific game plan, we're going to always look to use all of the players we have at the game, and make sure we have enough combinations to go ahead and create advantages for ourselves.
Q: With Logan Ryan, I know when you signed him, obviously, you were very familiar with him. You knew what he brought to the table. You're sitting here in Week 3 and you're selling the message about no white flag yesterday. When a guy who has gone through what he's gone through, Logan, in different places and won, how much more weight does his voice carry in that locker room with the guys buying into what you're still trying to sell now Week 3?
A: I think it's important for players to learn from each other's experiences. It doesn't have to be somebody who specifically went through a system with me, or someone from the same tree as me. I think it's just important that people learn from their own experiences, but also sharing each other's experiences. Look, it's a long season. We have a long way to go. It doesn't matter what the record is. There's a lot of improvement that has to be made across the board. Logan is definitely a respected guy in our locker room because of how he works, by how he prepares himself, and about how he holds himself. The benefit of having Logan here more than anything else is he's a really good player for us. That's the number one benefit. Number two, he's a really good teammate. He's helped with the communication on the backend, and he's really helped bring along a lot of guys with him because he's just that kind of a veteran player. He's done a really good job in preparing himself and making sure we prepare as a group and as a unit, and that's really benefited the team. Personally, I love having Logan around here. He's fun to be around. I've known him since he came into the league. He's known me since I've been a very young coach. We kind of grew up in a lot of ways together, figuring things out and certain things working on special teams at some point. But Logan is a guy that's great to have on the practice field, he's great to have in the games. He's gone through a tremendous amount of adversity. He's come out on both ends at different times. This is a guy, his experiences in Tennessee with going into a new program with Mike (Vrabel) and putting together a program that took a little bit of time to get rolling but eventually it paid off and they're still moving in the right direction right now. What he went through in maybe New England through different phases of his career there. He has a lot of experience to lean on and share with other teammates. But really, all that's truly relevant for this team is what we do here. We can learn from the experiences in the past, we have to learn from what happened in the last two games, but we have to take those experiences, learn from them and move forward to make them beneficial going forward for our team.
Q: Isaac Yiadom was obviously in a difficult position coming over. He had been practicing in a completely different defense on a different team, then he got sent to you right before the season started. I'm curious how you've seen him handle that? I noticed his playing time increased. Is he a guy you knew anything about before you guys brought him in?
A: Yeah, I'd say I knew about him coming out in the draft. You know all the players coming out in the draft, we study them at that point. Then we knew about him from being in the league and his days in Denver. But I would say he's really done a good job of getting into our system and proving an understanding of the techniques with the big picture concepts as well. He's made a lot of improvement, he's playing aggressive, he has that mentality to him. I know now he can play more confident and aggressive just with some experience in the calls and how we're looking to play with him. I'm glad Ike's on our team. He's a tough dude, he works hard every day, he's good to have in meeting rooms, he's great to have in the locker room.
Q: Just the other day, you said Jason has to put some ways to get Evan out there and get him the ball, and you guys are working on that. Without Saquon in the passing game, obviously, without Sterling, what do you mean by that, Jason has to figure out ways to get Evan the ball?
A: I wouldn't look too far into that. I understand the way it came out and the way it was phrased. I wouldn't look too far into that in terms of that. It's just when we put together any game plan, obviously, we're thinking with our players in mind. We're putting together schemes that kind of fit up to what the opponent does as well. Look, we're trying to get every player on our roster the ball, not just Evan. Obviously, when you get all of our players, they have the ability to make plays. Evan showed that the other day. I wouldn't read too far into that quote. There was nothing kind of undermining the thinking about that. That's just kind of thinking in general of when we get together and hash out a game plan, we're thinking of ways to give our players advantages and make plays.
Q: Do you see Evan in some ways as a little bit of untapped potential? Everyone knows what he can do with the ball in his hands, but it's getting him to that place.
A: You know what I look at him as? As a developing player. I think Evan's young enough where we have not seen his best ball. But he's a guy that works every day tirelessly. You guys saw him through training camp. This guy really empties the tank. You see him every day in practice. This guy, when you look at his GPS reports after practice in terms of yards and speed and all of that stuff, he's a guy you have to monitor and kind of back off a little bit because this guy has no governor on himself. He goes full speed all the time. He works tirelessly. The guys respond to him. He does a great job preparing himself. He's very mentally tough. He's improving all the time. A lot of guys got on him after that first game in terms of where the production was. I think we saw a glimpse of that last week. He really made some good plays for us at key times, and he'll continue to do that throughout the season when the opportunity comes his way. He doesn't have to force it. He doesn't have to do anything outside of his own responsibility or job. When the play comes his way, he has to be in position to go ahead and finish it. We have confidence he will.
Q: We were talking to Daniel yesterday. He talked about how when the team came off the field, Saquon was in the tunnel waiting for everybody. Obviously, he's not going to be on the field for you guys. Do you want to keep him around? How does that process work with what he's going to be going through in the next three months? Is he going to be at the game on Sunday?
A: Without question, we want to keep him around. There's a lot of protocols and rules this year that we have to look into in terms of how can we give him access to maybe the sideline or a booth or a box or something like that. But as much as we can have him around here, we absolutely want him to. This guy was elected captain by his teammates for a reason, and he's an integral part of this program. He's a very positive guy, he's a very team-first guy. Again, the adversity he's going through right now, he's going to work as hard as he can. I can say that with absolute confidence. I'm very anxious to see him on the backend coming out of this thing, because I know the aggressiveness he's preparing with. But absolutely, we want Saquon around here as much as he can. Now with that being said, day to day with his treatment and rehab and when he goes through surgery, that will obviously change his schedule a little bit. But working around his schedule, he is a part of this team. He's a part of this team, and we want him around as much as we can have him.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: I just wanted to ask you about this 49ers run game, really the Kyle Shanahan run game. Why does it seem like no matter what running back is in there, they're super effective?
A: It starts with, one, they're well coached. I think they do a good job. But that's not to diminish the skillset of the players. I think they do a good job of evaluating guys, where some people might not have seen the value. Not even that, it's the guys they want for their system. I don't know those guys that well, but it does seem like whoever they get, they plug them in there and they can play and they present problems. They probably have a checklist of what they're looking for. They probably go out there and evaluate, whether it's through the draft process, free agency, guys being familiar with guys from other teams and just say, 'hey, this is a guy that fits the mold for what we want.' They do a great job.
Q: Isaac Yiadom is a guy you guys traded for right before the season. He was a third round pick for the Broncos, he started for two years and then they traded him right before the season for a seventh round pick. I'm curious when you get a guy like that who has kind of been through that kind of journey, do you say, 'come in and prove the Broncos wrong for giving up on you'? Is that a conversation you have with them?
A: Is that the motivation? No, because I don't know the reason why. They might have had needs somewhere else. It's all about the value. I can't speak for those guys. But do I use that as motivation? No. I'm just happy he's here. He's a big corner who can run, who can tackle, has some speed and plays physical. I'm just glad to work with him.
Q: How has he handled that quick turnaround? He got traded to you guys right before the season and then got thrown into the fire pretty quick, obviously.
A: He's working hard. Extra time in the meetings with our younger coaches like Mike Trier and (Anthony) Blevins working with him. He's getting all the coaching he can take and just trying to catch up because he wasn't here for the spring, the Zoom call part of it, and he wasn't here for training camp with us. But he's catching up.
Q: Where do you stand at that number two cornerback spot, on the outside across from (James) Bradberry?
A: Guys are competing. Whether it's Corey, Ike, Slim, all those guys are competing for the spot. We'll figure it out, see what happens on Sunday. But we still have two more days left of competition. I know the guys are looking forward to practice here today. Usually what we do, we just evaluate it as the week goes through. Then you get to the game and if there's some place that you need to change there, we'll do that. But I think it's just an on-going competition right now.
Q: It seemed like Corey Ballentine was benched after the touchdown. He really didn't play much, if at all. What was the thinking behind that and what have you seen from him early on this season?
A: I know yesterday, Corey was working really, really hard in practice. I saw him running to the ball yesterday. I'm proud of the guy. A young player going out there practicing hard, working on his skill. I thought he did a good job there. In the meetings, he's been great as we try to get caught up on the 49ers and the receivers we're dealing with from them. Corey's preparation in terms of what he's doing right now to get ready for the 49ers has been good. He's practicing hard and I'm sure he's ready to go practice today.
Q: Are you content with his play on the field, though? That's also part of the equation, right?
A: I'm not content… We all have to get better. I'm not going to single him out. I have to get better. Patrick Graham has to get better. We're in the early part of the season. I have to do a better job of coaching, I have to do a better job of calling the game. That's how I see it. Everybody has to get better. Any time we get complacent in this league, it might be your last day, it might be your last year. Who knows? But I'm not ever going to get complacent. I'm never going to let them feel me getting complacent. We have to keep improving. Am I content? I hope not. I hope not. If I do, then I'm probably at the end of my career.
Q: You guys have been pretty good against the run, but that last drive, obviously, you end up forcing a long field goal. But the way the Bears were able to run the ball on that last drive, that's kind of contrary to the identity that you guys want. I'm just wondering, what went wrong on a drive like that in giving up chunk plays like that, especially when you know they're kind of trying to protect their quarterback and how do you guard against that happening again?
A: I think the first thing is, watch the tape. I think about the 49ers, this is the best rushing team in the league and we have a great challenge there. I can speak for myself, but in terms of wanting to get back at it, we have a big challenge this week to get back at the run game because they're going to give us a healthy dose of it. If we want to get better, which is always the goal, that's what we're dealing with right now. It starts in the meeting rooms and the film room going through it, practice yesterday with pads on, getting the physicality of the game and working through the run game. That's the main thing, just putting the work in for it. Obviously, when you give up rushing yards, especially when you know they want to run it, that's not what you want to do. It all falls back on me. I have to do a better job there putting the guys in a better spot. But I can tell you this, we're working to get better at it right now. Those guys, they worked their tails off yesterday at practice, working hard. But again, I don't want to talk about it because talk doesn't mean anything, especially when you're talking about the run game. To me, talk about the run game means absolutely nothing. We have to go out there on the field and execute. I'm looking forward to practice today, build upon that, and see how it comes to fruition on Sunday.
Q: I wanted to ask you, Ryan Lewis, obviously you guys brought him up to the active roster this week. I know he's somebody you have history with. How does he fit into this equation and the backend? Is he an option to kind of be on the outside for that second cornerback spot opposite Bradberry?
A: You're going to find I'm very simple when it comes to the corners. Can they tackle? Can they run? Do they have toughness? Being with Ry Lew for a while, I know he can run. That's a given. I know he has toughness and he can tackle. He's in the mix. I'm telling you, you can't have enough of those guys in this league, a passing league. We're going to be dealing with a lot of the run game right now and that's what we have to defend, but it's a passing league, so any of those corners who can run, tackle and have toughness, they have a chance with us. I'm looking forward to it. He's been competing, competing pretty hard yesterday in practice. We have a big day today with some of the situational football. Yeah, he's definitely in the mix.
Q: When Blake Martinez came to the Giants, he said that in Green Bay he was more of a cleanup guy and he was looking forward to being more of an impactful guy near the line of scrimmage. We know Martinez is going to get a lot of tackles. We know that. What do you see from him as far as the quality of his tackles? Is there anything you can maybe help him with to make more tackles at the line of scrimmage, tackles for loss, things like that?
A: The thing about Blake, I think I said this before, I'm not really concerned about last year. No offense, but I'm not concerned about last year. Blake's trying to get better every day and he loves to be coached. I think Blake is playing at a good level in terms of getting to the ball, controlling the defense, manipulating the front, he's being physical at the line of scrimmage. I told him, I said, 'you look fast out there, you're playing with your hands, you're being physical.' I'm sure he'll be the first one to tell you that he probably has two or three plays he wishes he did better. Add the plays that I think he maybe should have done better. I know this, yesterday after practice, the physicality when we had pads on, he was trying to get that done. I appreciate how he goes about trying to execute and how he goes about working every day. He comes to work to get better every day. How can I help him? Like all the players, whether it's him, Devante, Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, I'm just honest with him. If it's good enough, it's good enough. If it isn't, it isn't. The beauty about Blake is he usually knows when it's not good enough so he works hard to get better. If it is good enough, he thinks he can do it even better. I couldn't ask for more as a coach. How much can I help him? Putting him in the right spot, be honest with him. But the relationship is he helps me more than anything, because he's a good player who can execute. He helps me more. I just try not to mess him up.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: When you lose a back like Saquon who is so multifaceted, how do you scheme around that when your offensive line is struggling? How does Devonta Freeman fit into what you guys need to do?
A: I just think you go back to work with the guys that you have. We have a lot of confidence in the backs that we have here with Dion and Wayne and those guys will certainly get opportunities. For us to be able to sign a guy like Devonta Freeman is a real bonus for us. He came in and had a good workout the other day and practiced well yesterday. We want to see how he handles the work as the week goes on. He's obviously been a really good football player in this league for a while. He's a smart guy, he's a football guy, he's instinctive. We'll try to get him up to speed as quickly as we can and just keep going back to work,
Q: You're coming from a place where you had Zeke and now you had Saquon at least for two weeks and building a game plan around him. What are some of the advantages to having that committee approach that maybe people on the outside don't understand?
A: I just think the biggest thing you try to focus on as a coach is who do we have and how do we best utilize these guys individually to take advantage of their talents. Also, how do we utilize them so we can be the best offense we can be. If you have a guy like Saquon Barkley, a lot of the offense is going to go through him. He's going to get the ball a lot, he is a really good player. When I was in Dallas, we had to defend him a lot. The focal point of our defense was number 26. When you have different guys in the roles, maybe the focal point is not quite as narrow on that particular player. Maybe that works to your advantage a little bit. Make no mistake about it, Saquon's a great football player and he'll be missed. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the guys we're putting out there.
Q: One of the things Joe said about the 49ers yesterday was that they don't give up a lot of explosive plays. You're an offense now that is missing two of your homerun hitters, so to speak, with Sterling and Saquon. Do you need to find those long explosive plays or can you get by on taking baby steps down the field and piecing together long drives?
A: They're an excellent defense for a lot of different reasons. They're really stout up front, they're disruptive in the running game and obviously can get after the quarterback. Their backers run well and their secondary is awfully good. It all fits together. They believe in their scheme and they play it really well. Another part of playing that is they don't give you a whole lot of stuff. They certainly don't give you a lot of big plays. Against a defense like this, you certainly look for ways to make big plays. The correlation between making explosive plays in a drive and scoring is pretty high in this league. When you don't make them, it's much more difficult. I think we've done a pretty good job over the first couple of weeks of having some long drives. You have to mix in some explosive plays within those drives. That's how you score points in this league. We're always finding ways to do that. This week could be another challenge against an excellent defense.
Q: The last drive against the Bears, Daniel threw the ball in the endzone on that last play and even then, I think Golden was at the goal line. Were you comfortable with the way he managed it? Do you or him need to take another shot at the endzone there?
A: I thought he handled it really well. You want to get yourself to a point where you can take a makeable shot to the endzone. We had an opportunity. I think we were out there in the low teens, to get us a little closer so the last play could be a legitimate shot. It really was a legitimate shot. They had a three-man rush and Daniel broke the pocket. If you look at the history of the NFL, a lot of touchdowns are scored on that kind of a play, where the team is playing zone and because the play gets extended, the zone breaks down a little bit. The quarterback is able to make a play and the receiver on the other end is able to find a hole. That's a little bit of the design of the play and we had a pretty good opportunity at it. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.
Q: Coming out of training camp, there were really high hopes for Evan Engram. In the first six, seven quarters, he was pretty invisible. The fourth quarter on Sunday was like what we were expecting. What changed?
A: You just have to keep banging away, you really do. There were some plays in the first game and the early part of the second game that certainly Evan would like to have back. You keep playing, you keep banging and he's done a really good job working hard in practice. He's playing hard. He had some opportunities as that game wore on and he took advantage of them. He won some one on one matchups, he made some runs after the catch that were impressive for us. Big, explosive plays like we're talking about. He's certainly going to be a big part of our offense going forward. Just love his approach, love everything about it. He'll get better and better and better the more he plays.
Q: We saw a lot of zone read, RPO's in camp with Jones. You seemed to have gotten away the first few games from it. Is there a reason for that or is it something you are going to look for down the road? Can you explain that?
A: I think typically there is a lot of stuff that you put in over the course of training camp that you like. Maybe you don't like certain things each week. Obviously, we game plan for opponents. We try to go into the plays that we have both in the run game and in the pass game that we think are appropriate to attack a particular defense. We have a long way to go offensively, we all know that. We have to get better running it, get better throwing it. Some of those "deceptives" that you are referring to, when they fit into the plan, we'll certainly use them going forward.
Q: You spoke about the importance of those explosive plays which correlate directly to points scored in this league. Can you be the offense you want right now without getting those plays from Evan? No Saquon, no Sterling Shepard. How important is he to this offense at this point?
A: It was better the second week than it was the first week. Obviously, we played against two good defenses that challenge you, Pittsburgh and Chicago, among the better defenses in the league. I do think we did a better job making some of those explosive plays in that second game against Chicago. The run action stuff was really good for us that we used on early downs. You saw Daniel making some plays in the middle of the field, whether it was to Darius or to Golden or some other guys. Evan made a really nice play with the run after the catch and explosive plays. Again, those are a big part of scoring in this league. The best offenses I've been around have different guys who are capable of doing that. We feel like we have guys who can do that, and we just have to keep banging away. Making big plays has a lot to do with trying to put your players in the right position and simply executing. I think we've had some opportunities that we've taken advantage of. We'll keep trying to get those opportunities for our guys.
Q: Being the lowest scoring offense in the league through two weeks, is it not fair to judge that yet because there was no preseason? So, are we really looking at a preseason development of an offense so to speak? Do you have to press the urgency button right now?
A: There is always a sense of urgency obviously. What you're trying to do with each phase of your team is you're trying to put yourself in the position to win a game. Some games are going to be more lower scoring games because of the team you're playing or the style you want to play. Other games, you might want to open it up a little bit more. Obviously, we need to score more points. We need to be more productive of an offense. Moving the ball on a more consistent basis, scoring points on a more consistent basis and that's what we're trying to do. You go about it each and every day, you come to work, and you just try to improve. You try to improve day by day, week by week. We're certainly trying to do that with all aspects of our offense.
Q: I don't have to tell you, coaches obviously have to deal with injuries and adjustments every week, maybe every day in some cases. In the case of someone like Saquon who was such a big part of your running game and passing game, I'm sure when you installed your whole offense, Saquon was one every page. Is there a point where you have to sit down with Joe Judge or your offensive staff and kind of regroup at some point after this ACL and say we have to change a lot here? We have to figure this out and then just go ahead and do it.
A: I think you're always trying to do that. You have an offensive system that's flexible enough to adapt to different situations that you have. If you have a player you want to feature either in the running game or the passing game, you have to be to able to do that seamlessly within your system. We believe we have a system that allows us to do that. In Week 1, we didn't have Golden, so we used more three tight end type sets to try to take advantage of some looks in Pittsburgh. Last week, you try to do some different things against Chicago with the guys you have available to you. You're always doing that, you're always evaluating who you have, who you're going against and what you want to do. Hopefully your system is flexible enough to do that. Obviously, Saquon is a great, great football player and really impactful player both in the run game and the passing game throughout his career. He was going to be a big part of what we wanted to do this year. Now we have to adjust. Again, we feel confident in the guys we have behind him in Dion and Wayne and now Devonta. Give those guys opportunities both in the run game and the pass game from that running back position. Also get some other guys involved in the passing game to help us try to move the ball and score some points. Pittsburgh was a really good defense. Chicago, really good defense. San Francisco, really good defense. We're going to play really good defenses all year long. We have kind of keep figuring it out, keep growing day by day and week by week.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: I wanted to ask you about something that didn't happen in one of your games. In the Dallas-Atlanta game the other day, where it kind of looked like some Atlanta players didn't kind of know the rule, do you use those plays with your guys as teachable moments? At some point, do you have to trust that the guys you are putting out there know the rules that you can't cover.
A: You never assume, right? You know what they say when you assume, right? We go through those situations all the time. Matter of fact, last Friday we were out going through some hands and onside situations, that very thing came up and we talked about it between Golden Tate and a couple other guys on the front line. Those are things that you are constantly coaching, those are things that you are constantly trying to make sure that you never, ever put yourself in a position where that 'I' is not dotted and that 'T' is not crossed.
Q: At some point though ,do you have to trust that some of the guys know the rules?
A: Yeah. It's easy to say just trust them, but you have to teach it to them and they have to know it. Then they have to go execute. When the pressure is applied, what's in you will come out. You have to make sure they are full of the right stuff so when the pressure is applied, it comes out correctly.
Q: I'm sure it killed you that that one punt wasn't downed inside the one. What makes Riley Dixon so good at really pinning those punts deep like that?
A: Repetition, he works at it. There's no substitute for success. That comes through hard work and that kid has been working his tail off. He's been doing it for a long time. That's something that we're doing a lot of. We have to do a better job of making sure that we can take advantage of that skill set. That's something that we're working at. We have some new guys in that position. Not having a spring and not really being able to fine tune it, this is an area of our game we really have to improve in. It starts with the guy that's sitting right here. We have to make sure that we get these guys ready and we can take advantage of the 25 yards that we lost the other day on that one play, that's big. Over the course of the game, losing that kind of field position, it's unacceptable and you can't do it.
Q: On that punt, how do you punt the ball 60 yards and have it checkup like it's a sand wedge? Is that something with technique? How do you do that?
A: You have to ask Riley that. He has a really unique skill set and he's very confident in himself. He knows what he's doing and how to do it.
Q: What do you think of some of the young guys' performance on special teams or new guys I should say, too? Guys like C.J. Board and also through the first couple of weeks Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin. How do you think some of the new guys have acclimated and played.
A: They're all working hard. They're trying to figure it out. It's like everybody else, this is the first time some of these guys have ever done this. It's the first time they have ever done it on this level. It's no different than when you try to do anything else for the first time, something new. There's some things they have to learn. There's been some really good things that we have seen on tape. Each one of those guys individually has to work on the individual skill set and just understand the nuances of the positions that they're playing and who they are playing against. They will keep getting better every week and that's our mantra in our room. (Inaudible) The act of continuous improvement. We're always trying to find ways to get the old guys and the young guys better.
Q: If guys struggle early or whatever, would you rather turn it over on a certain unit until you find the right matchup? Or would you rather live with some young mistakes to build consistency with a group, like say on kick return?
A: The thing about it is, it's a complete maturation process of the whole unit. This is a brand new unit, this is a brand new year. We have to understand that it's going to take time, it's a process. Throughout the process, you are going to find out who's who. Who can do what and there are going to be some guys who rise in the process and they are going to be some guys that phase themselves out in the process. That's the one thing we have to do, just stick to the process. The process is what it is. When we're on the other side of it, we'll see who's doing what and see how much success we can have.
Q: This is kind of a simple one. Graham Gano went out there for the 57-yarder and I assume it was within his range. Did he mishit that or what?
A: He just missed it, just a little deep on his plant. Not deep enough on his plant, that happens. 50-yard field goals are right around 55, 65 percent for most pro kickers. That's just part of it. Sometimes you hit them, sometimes you don't. For Graham, that's well within his range and he should've made it, and he would tell you the same thing.
Q: It looks like Jabrill Peppers is on the verge, is that the way you see it? What is the next step, how do you get to that point?
A: Just working on our individual techniques at the line of scrimmage, especially when it comes to punt return. Then just finishing at the point of attack. That's the thing. We have to get better at the line so we can be cleaner and then we can have better technique down the field. Once we get to the point where we're finishing at the point of attack, Jabrill's natural instincts and ball skills and open field run skills take over. That's the part we have to get to, and we'll get there eventually. Again, it's a process.
Q: You think you're close?
A: Yeah, I do. Any time that guy has the ball in his hands, he has the ability to make a play. We just have to understand as a punt return unit, the guy we got can make plays. We just have to make sure we do our job as individuals to make sure we contribute to him making that play.
Running Back Devonta Freeman
Q: What would you describe to Giants fans about what you bring here? This is a nervous bunch of fans who are a little anxious about having a drop off with Saquon going out. What can you kind of say to reassure them about what you bring to the table and how would you describe your skillset?
A: I feel like to everyone, there's a lot of ball left. There are a lot of games to be played. I'm fortunate and blessed to be on this team. It's a young team. I'm happy about the opportunity. I just think it's a lot of growth for this team, for myself. I'm just here to help contribute as much as I can and be a part of this team. Just come in and do what I can do, do my best, and just help out these guys as much as I can. I think that's the main thing.
Q: You're not an old running back by any means. But how much do you think you have left in the tank?
A: Football really doesn't go anywhere. You just get older. I feel like it's all up to you, the way you take care of your body, the way you keep maintenance on your body. You can be as young as you want to be. I've seen guys do it and be around this league for a very long time. I've studied them, watched how they take care of their bodies. That's the same with me. I'm just copying those guys and adding to my game and to my body and how I can get better.
Q: I was wondering two things. One, where were you when you saw Saquon get injured? Were you watching the game when you saw Saquon got hurt? I think you were on the Eagles visit. Did you have the game on TV? Did you see him get hurt and did you think immediately, 'that team might call me'?
A: I wasn't watching the game at the time. I was in Philadelphia and that was the only game on TV. I was at the hotel watching the game, and it just went across the news and it said, 'breaking news.' That's when I saw it and found out about the injury.
Q: The other thing is what was your reaction when the Falcons cut you, because it's obviously such a… it was just a year or two ago you were playing at a Pro Bowl level. What was the reaction when they cut you? Kind of an unforgiving league. How glad were you that you got a big contract before that?
A: I understand the game and I understand the business. As always, business decisions have to be made. I just do my part and come to work every single day and leave my best out there on the practice field, on the game field. Whatever I'm asked to do, I just try to take advantage of my opportunity, if that's catching or running or blocking. I just want to contribute as much as I can.
Q: You've obviously been through a lot in your life between growing up where you did in Florida and your journey to Florida State and through the Falcons, getting cut by them, all the things you've been through in your career. Do you ever take a step back and think about your journey to this point and how you're back in the NFL playing for the Giants and getting a chance to do what you love? What is the Giants locker room getting in Devonta Freeman?
A: Just a guy that wants to come in and contribute as much as I can, work hard, gain these guys' respect and trust. Just whatever I'm asked to do, do it to the best of my ability. Just continue to take advantage of the opportunity. I think that's the most important thing.
Q: I'm curious what made you choose the Giants. Take us through the journey of this offseason. You had other options, you said you were in Philadelphia. There was a report that you turned down an offer from the Seahawks. Take us through that process and kind of why you settled on the Giants.
A: I just think a lot of situations didn't fit me and fit what I want to do and some of my personal goals. I know I still have a lot in the tank and I just want to go out and play football and have fun. This was a great opportunity at the right time. I'm coming in trying to compete and work to get a job and continue to get better.
Q: You said this fit what you wanted to do. What do you want to do? What do you want to get accomplished?
A: What do I want to get accomplished? One game at a time, win. Take it one game at a time and try to win. This is a long season, it's a tough season. Try to stay healthy and try to win one game at a time. When it's all said and done, hopefully win the big game, but I don't want to look too far down the road. Main thing is just one play at a time, one quarter at a time, one game at a time, that's what I'm most looking forward to.
Q: The other day Coach Judge was talking about how there's a difference between being in workout shape and football shape. I'm just wondering where you would put yourself at this point. I don't believe you have been in a camp since last year. Along those lines, what are your expectations as far as how much you feel you might be able to give the team on Sunday?
A: When you are actually out there with the guys running around and running plays, going drill for drill (inaudible), individuals. All that stuff that these guys have been through in camp is definitely a different type of shape than I've trained my body to be in. I know that I'm in shape and just have to continue to get in game shape and practice shape. Keep climbing and keep getting better. It's definitely a difference. I'm also working towards that, to get my body in the best condition I can be in.
Q: Realistically speaking without giving away any trade secrets, do you feel like you can contribute a dozen snaps, 20 snaps? What's usually realistic in this type of scenario?
A: Any opportunity I get, I want to contribute. It doesn't matter about the snaps. When I get in there, what I do with the opportunity, that's how I want to contribute.
Tight End Evan Engram
Q: Did something click for you in the second half in Chicago where you really picked up your production? When you see guys like Saquon and Sterling Shepard go down, do you look inside yourself and say, 'ok, I need to do more now'?
A: The first question, I definitely kind of got going. I got into a rhythm, kind of got settled in. That was our mindset as an offense coming out for the second half. To get going, make some plays, get the ball rolling. That was just me kind of getting opportunities and cashing in on them, doing my job. About Saquon and Shep, it's very unfortunate. It sucks losing my brothers like that. I think it's on everybody. Everybody on the offense, everybody on the team to kind of dig deep and come in ready to work hard and perform.
Q: Why do you think early this season, at least for you personally, the big plays haven't been coming?
A: It comes down to execution. I think that's kind of what we're improving on as a team and working on, building on, is executing the small things and fundamentals. Making sure those things are happening, and then allowing those things to lead to the big plays. We're chipping away, we're working, and we're staying ready for those moments. Like I said, we have to cash in on them when they present themselves.
Q: You've been outside in the slot a lot this year. Does that help with that in that regard of being able to produce the big plays? How does that work for you?
A: That's just the offense within the scheme. We have guys that move around everywhere and are going to get opportunities to make plays all over the field.
Q: We haven't gotten the chance to talk to Wayne Gallman much. I know you guys are close. I'm curious what his mindset is now? Obviously, Saquon goes out. What do you say to him or what has he said to you about his opportunity here, because we know last year he stepped up when Saquon got injured for a game? Then Wayne got hurt and he kind of disappeared down at the end of the season and we never really knew why. What do you see from Wayne this offseason or this week or now about his opportunity?
A: Wayne has always been a guy that just comes in and attacks everything that he's asked of. Obviously, he's been in the room with Saquon and definitely working behind him, learning from him and learning with him. That's helped him a lot. But he's attacked every single day, especially this camp. He came in and really attacked camp and has always stayed ready. Wayne is a real laidback guy. He definitely understands the opportunity that presents itself, but he's still coming in, attacking the work the way he always has.
Q: Just going back to what you were saying before. Do you think the slow start in general was a result of a new system, you hadn't really had as much time to work on it in the spring, you had to learn it on the fly in the summer? Not learn it but execute it. Do you think things are just kind of slowing down, not just for you but for the rest of the offense?
A: I don't want to make any excuse. I think everybody is in the same boat. Everybody has had a different offseason and had to overcome some things with the circumstances that COVID has kind of presented. Our mentality as a team is we have to be better. We have to start faster. We have to get it done. You can't really look at, 'oh, we didn't get to do this or haven't gotten to do that'. It definitely was good to get going as an offense in the second half. Show what we can do. But now it's all about building on that and being more consistent.
Q: Admirable, but you say everybody was in the same boat. You guys were learning a brand new system whereas not every team was learning a new system. I appreciate you don't want to make any excuses, but with that said, I'm sure that had to play into it just a little bit, wouldn't you say?
A: Like I said, there are no excuses on our end. We need to get it done. That's what we're doing, we're working on it.
Q: You have obviously been here the last three years. You know, I know this is not a place where you guys want to be at 0-2. But considering where you're at right now, assuming you do, why do you have confidence this is different than what you guys have experienced in the past and where this team thinks it can go over the next couple of weeks?
A: Just the way we work. Like you said, we'd like to be in a better situation, but it's where we are. But I do feel confident. That's not going to change because the way we work and the way we practice and the way we prepare. We're expecting to go out there and execute and win. There's no time to really dwell on where we are and what the record is. Right now, we're 0-0 with the opportunity to go 1-0 against the 49ers.
Q: I'm sure you've heard this stat because we write it all the time and say it all the time, but last year, you, Slayton, Shep, Tate and Saquon never played a snap together. Then this game, you guys were all there and I think it was like five snaps together. Now you're going to go this whole year without it because of Saquon. What do you make of that? I know you don't want excuses, but is it almost like you throw your hands up and say, 'when are we going to get to show what we can really do?'
A: It's tough. Like I said, it's unfortunate. It's tough losing brothers and it's tough not being able to compete as a group. It makes it harder because of all the work we have put in together, and definitely we're expecting big things of ourselves and preparing for big things. It's kind of the hand that we're dealt. We have to continue to move forward.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter
Q: James Bradberry doesn't seem like the kind of guy who is going to talk much about himself, so I was wondering if you could. What have you seen from him so far in his play the first two games?
A: Just his skill set, his ability to match up with the best receivers on the other team and actually matchup with them pretty well. He's done a good job just coming in, accepting his role and doing well. We just need more of it. You saw he had that great play. He's had a couple pass break ups. We just need that type of stuff to get where we want.
Q: The pass rush through two games has been better than it was last season. especially you, it seems like you guys are getting home more, getting more sacks. Is that the different scheme and you guys being comfortable in it? Is that because it's your third year, not your second, X's second year not his first? Is that attributable to you guys developing or is this a better fit for the way you guys play?
A: I would say it's all of us trying to take the coaching and do what we're coached to do and play ball fast. I wouldn't say that it's like any different scheme. All the guys, we're working together better, we're getting to know what each other's weaknesses and strengths are and we just play to that. All of us are out there hungry. Everybody is out there wanting to get the sacks, wanting to get the big plays. We're really just trying to play cohesive ball, play complementary football for the back end, and they do the same for us.
Q: Is there any more urgency this year? It's your third year, it's a contract year for Leonard Williams. It's B.J. Hill's third year. All you guys all kind of coming of age? Is there any more urgency this year, like we're not young anymore?
A: I don't even think we think about the contract year or the third-year thing. It's more we know the guys we have in the locker room and we know the abilities we have on tape, we've seen it, we've seen flashes. It's more of let's put this together consistently and all the time. Help out the secondary, help our team get wins.
Q: It seems if you look at your stats, the first half and second half. You've given up points in the first half, the second half I don't know if you're making adjustments. You've given up 10 points all season in the second half. What's happening?
A: I think it comes down to coaching. Our coaches do a good job coming into halftime and making adjustments. Also, the players, we know we have to start fast and finish strong. That's one thing we focus on, finishing strong. We try to put ourselves in the best position to win. If the offense can't score points on the other side, then that helps us win games.
Q: It looks like the coaches have been asking you to do different roles than you were doing in the past. I'm just wondering is what I'm seeing accurate when I say that. Number two, do you feel more comfortable with what they are asking you to do?
A: Yeah, the game plans change by week, coach told us from the jump. One of the main pillars of our defense is putting the team first. That includes doing different things each week. Whatever coach asks me to do. If he wants me to play inside back, wants me to play defensive end, defensive tackle. He has a reason for it, and he lets us know with explanations. I'm comfortable pretty much anywhere he puts me. If I'm not comfortable with it, we can have those conversations. It's a pretty open relationship with Coach Graham and the defensive players. We have communication, we talk about what works and what doesn't work. We just go from there.
Q: Have you gone to him going back to early on with suggestions? Has he taken your suggestions into consideration?
A: Oh yeah, we talk about stuff. We talk about what works, what doesn't work, what we need to do better. I know I spend a lot of time with him just talking ball, talking what we can do better. Whatever works, works. He lets us know also, we're the players out there on the field. If we feel like we need to do something different, then we can come to him and talk about it. If he feels like we need to do it or there's a reason we're doing it, then we have to suck it up and play ball. It's an open relatiionship, open communication.
Q: In terms of the game plans and stuff, how unique is that for you guys? I know there was so much emphasis on details in the summer. Now that you have gone through a week to week situation, hearing from some guys, it does sound like it is as advertised. That this game plan will change depending on who you're seeing. I imagine that puts a lot on your plate in terms of what you guys really have to adjust to and what you have to embrace week to week.
A: Yeah, it's pretty different. But the good thing about it is Coach Graham from the first day of virtual meetings in the spring, we started going over the defense as a whole and we did it conceptually. Everything is pretty much if you understand the defensive shell, then you can play pretty much anywhere on the field. It's not too hard to grasp once you understand the defense as a whole. Playing a different position is just understanding where you are in the shell.
Q: I think it was Coach Bielema who mentioned the other day that you guys kind of have five or six starting groups based on packages. Whatever packages are called on that day determines who has more snaps, who has less snaps. What do you like about your outside linebacker group that has been able to embrace that from the beginning of the season?
A: We just support each other. We all know that, like you said, it doesn't matter who starts out there. We're all going to get a chance to get out there and show what we can do. Each package is different and each package you still rotate. You can be one in one package or a two in another package. You still have a chance to get out there and ball. We all support each other. Our outside backer group is pretty close, and we have some good players, so there's no drop off.
View photos of Thursday's practice as the Giants ramp up for Sunday's game against the 49ers.
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