Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: You've had some issues, some OPIs called on you with those crossing routes the last three or four games. What's the issue there? Is it just a matter of selling it more or is it technique wise? What seems to be the issue there?
A: Well, it's something we have to clean up as a group, as a whole. Each one has its own individual issues. We just have to make sure we're cleaner on that and not putting ourselves in a position for the officials to make penalties. We just have to keep moving in the right way and make sure we don't do it the wrong way.
Q: Just to follow up, when you saw that (Evan) Engram flag last week, did you agree with that flag or did you kind of have to grab Engram and clean that up a little bit?
A: It doesn't matter whether we agree with it or not. It was a penalty, so we talked to all of our players about what happened, why it was called and what we have to do differently to make sure we don't put anybody in position to have a penalty called on them.
Q: How did you think Golden (Tate) handled the situation last week once you guys had that conversation and you came to the decisions that you did? He was in a different role obviously during the week.
A: We're kind of past that issue now. We're getting ready to play Philly right now. Golden's getting ready to play Philly as well right now. I love the way he came to practice yesterday, I love the way he's preparing so far today. We're going to be on the field today. We'll be over in the stadium. It'll be a good opportunity for the entire team to work on the turf for a day today and get moving forward with it. But look, we're totally past the whole situation last week. It is what it is. I look forward to getting Golden on the field with us. We'll roll him in fast.
Q: How is Devonta Freeman doing? Where is your running back rotation at now with the way Wayne Gallman has performed?
A: In terms of the rotation part first, look, whoever's at the game we're going to look to use. Right now, Burton (Burns) is doing a good job just mixing those guys in throughout the game and kind of keeping them fresh. We discuss obviously keeping everybody involved before the game, and as we get into the game, Burton does a good job of knowing where everybody is individually and keeping everybody involved. Devonta moved around yesterday. He looks like he's getting better along the way. Today is the first day we'll get to see him really move in full speed, so we'll get a much better look at him today in terms of how he looks. But he's definitely making progress. He's working hard, he's done everything the trainers and the coaches have asked him right there, so he's fighting hard to get back.
Q: I feel like I ask this every few weeks, but has Wayne sort of earned himself more opportunities?
A: I think every player on the team earns himself opportunities with the way they play. Right now, Wayne's doing a good job of being productive for us as a team. He's made a lot of improvement throughout the year. We have a lot of confidence in Wayne. He's done a good job in the run and the pass game. I see improvements with him in terms of his pass protection. I've seen improvements with him really running downhill and getting into space and being able to make sure he extends drives right there. Look, I'm pleased with the way Wayne's playing. I'm pleased with how Alfred (Morris) is playing, Devonta is playing and Dion (Lewis) is playing. These guys have all done a good job changing up when we hand the ball off to whether it's a receiver or Evan or some different combination we've had, those guys have all ran the ball hard for us. I'm pleased with the way all of our guys in the run game have been playing.
Q: You might not be thinking about this right now, but I'm just curious with the bye week coming up, teams can't leave for their bye weeks now because of the protocols. Can you bring families in so they can see their families? Like fly them in here? Or do you have certain things organized for guys to keep everything kind of contained or do you have to let them go? How does that all work?
A: Everyone has to test every day. In terms of trying to keep them around here, we're going to give them off next week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. That's going to be done for the players already. We can make it available for the players if their families come in to come in and get tested and make sure they're in the right position. I've talked to a couple of our guys already, I'm not going specifically into who, that are looking to bring their families up. We just want to make sure that everyone has what they need on the front end. Maybe get their families up here a little bit early, the opportunity to get them tested to make sure everyone is in kind of that same situation of knowing where we've been. That being said, I think it just comes down to we all have to be very conscious of what we do in those few days off, and make the right decisions on where we go and who we're around. That's easier said than done. Look, I can tell you personally from my standpoint, I have a ninth grader who's in high school. He's going to high school right now with kids from all over New York, New Jersey, some parts of Pennsylvania, going to his high school. It's a deal right there where I have to remind him on a daily basis to of like 'hey look dude, you have to make sure you wear your mask.' There have been a lot of weekends where I haven't been able to let him just go out and hang out at parties or walk the streets of some of the towns and hang out because, to be honest with you, we have to be conscious of if I let him do that, what am I bringing back into my house, what may I bring back to the team? There are tough effects it has on everyone's individual families, a lot of sacrifices people are making that go very unnoticed. Look, our players' families are making a tremendous sacrifice as well. You have players who haven't seen their wives or kids for some time now, whereas if it was a normal year, they might fly up for the game weekend, see the game. Obviously, that's not the case. In a normal year with a normal bye week, they would go home, see some family, kind of get a mental reset before coming back up. That's not the case, either. We have to do the best job we can for the players of letting them have some mental downtime on the backend of next week. That's something we have to do to kind of let them refresh and go through. We've been pushing these guys hard for some time. We're going to push them hard again today and tomorrow. When we get into next week, we'll figure out what's best for the team based on how this weekend goes in terms of practice versus walkthrough with the health of the team and all that stuff. But at the same time, we have to let these guys have a little bit of time. Four days in a season now seems like a month, I'll tell you right now. You get four straight days as a coach or a player, it's kind of you come back and everyone is a little bit rusty, too, to be honest with you. It's amazing how fast you can forget basic things when you can go ahead and shut your mind off for a minute. But we have to give them the opportunity to kind of mentally reset, and hopefully they do have the opportunities to see family or see friends. We just want to make sure they do it safely by knowing where everyone's been and making sure everybody has been tested if that's an opportunity.
Q: With Matt Peart, he has obviously played both sides and that's a good thing for you, that's a good thing for him to get on the field. But when you look at him, you obviously want him to, I'm sure, settle in at one spot eventually. Is his skillset better suited for left or right? Have you made that determination?
A: No, we haven't made that determination. Right now, we're just pleased with how he's playing on both sides, and that's definitely been a strength for us. As we work in the guards as well, we're going to start moving different guys on different sides. That may be new for a couple guys, Shane (Lemieux), Will (Hernandez) and those guys who haven't typically played on the right at different times. But we've practiced it that way. We'll continue to practice it and play it. I talked in training camp a lot about that in terms of practicing all the linemen on both sides and building in their flexibility and versatility. You kind of talk initially about why that's important. I think we're seeing right now of how that's important to the team to give us the opportunity in games of playing different guys on both sides. We're not looking to play musical chairs just to confuse everybody. We're just looking to make sure we keep building our team's depth and get everyone an opportunity to get on the field and contribute.
Q: I know you're obviously going to get really a first chance to see Will Hernandez back out there in pads, presumably today. I'm just curious how do you handle that over the next couple of days? I know it's great to have him back in the mix. But does the medical team kind of have to handle his situation differently than maybe you would a different type of injury? From your perspective, how do you handle that?
A: As a coach, to be honest with you, I rely on the medical team right here. When they give us a thumbs up and say he can do X, Y, Z at practice, we put him through X, Y, Z. If they say he can't do something, we don't ask him to do that right there. Right now, we're going into practice, we'll be in pads today. It'll give everybody a chance to kind of pop and get some contact and move around with the weight on them. Will looked good yesterday. It was only a walkthrough. We always typically get a little bit of a bounce in walkthroughs. It's a little bit more than a walk. It's more of a jog to stride, however you want to phrase that right there. But Will looked good yesterday moving around. Now that being said, there's a difference in moving around in a walkthrough than it is going through a practice of high intensity. We'll get a chance to see him today. Obviously, our guys will have their eyes on him to see how he progresses throughout the day, then also how he recovers tomorrow. There's a lot more things at play than just, whatever you want to say, the lungs and things of that nature, from this virus. It's also just two weeks of not playing ball. What's the muscle fatigue, the muscle soreness like? How is his body recovering? Just more of the athletic stuff that comes with it. We have to take a look at Will and make sure we're doing the right thing by him, and ultimately, that will be the right thing by the team.
Q: You mentioned earlier this week how you are aware and conscious of the bye coming up next week with a couple of the guys coming off injury. Does Will's situation also factor into that timeline and how much you push him over the next couple of days knowing that you do have that on the backend?
A: We haven't really factored that in for his specific situation. For Will, to me, it's more of just where is he individually in a physical nature right now. It's a little bit different than the other guys coming off possibly starting our clock on IR, whatever that may be. It's a little bit different in that realm because you're not battling the 21-day thing with Will. He's back, he's on the active roster, he's back at practice with the team. To me, it's just making sure that any player you put on the field can physically perform and defend themselves out there in action.
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Given the success you had last week, have you considered putting the entire game plan in on Saturday?
A: I know a lot is being made of that. Every coach in America does that stuff. It's a tribute to the players being able to handle stuff. As it goes, we keep grinding on. Open lines of communication between the coaches and the players. Just trying to fight and claw to try to get things right. Hopefully this week it serves us some momentum, but again each week is so different. We're playing Philadelphia. We struggled in the two-minute against those guys last time. We have to come up with some stops because it's going to come down to that. It comes down to red area, two-minute, third down. That's what wins games in this league. We tasted success last week and hopefully it pays off and we keep building off it for right now.
Q: (Jokingly) If you're such a genius, you would have thought of the wrinkle on Tuesday so you could actually practice it last week.
A: Exactly, I think I'm the opposite of genius. There is one true genius I know, I'm a big Einstein fan.
Q: How much of a difference has it been this year to play so much zone? I know you're a guy that really comes from a man background and you played a lot of that at Miami.
A: Over my career, again I haven't been in the coordinator role long, over my career, being a position coach, there's been years when we fluctuated between man and zone and had higher numbers of zone. I think back to maybe 2010-2011, we were a big cover two team. Then we went to cover 1, man stuff later on in a few years there. We fluctuated. Again, the main thing I can tell you about the system in terms of what we're trying to accomplish, we're going to do what's best for the players and what we think is best for that game. If it calls for man, some games we're going to play more man. We have to hold up and do what we have to do to win. Win our leverage, contest the balls and we have to get some rush. If we play zone, obviously we have to get our eyes on the quarterback, good breaks, punish underneath throws, defend the deep part of the field. Whatever we think is going to be best for the game, that's how we're going to play it. It's fluctuated over the years more than you would think if you were to look at the numbers.
Q: There was a pretty poignant moment at the end of that last Eagles game where you were sitting alone on the bench with your head buried. Can you just tell us what you were thinking there?
A: Each game is so different. I consider myself a teacher, first and foremost. I happen to teach football. I think like any teacher, whether you're a kindergarten teacher or a professor, you're trying to do your best job so your students can learn. You want to see them have success. To see them fight so hard, to give up that lead. Usually what happens, as a coach, obviously I didn't get the right calls in there. I failed them. If I'm being honest with you, I was just disappointed in letting them down personally, that's just me. In that moment of honesty, that's where I was at, we have to figure this out. For me right there, it was more I look at these guys as I'm a teacher than as a coach. I felt bad I let them down and I had to figure out a way to make sure they can taste success and get the reward of all their hard work. They're working really hard for Joe. I felt bad. They're working hard for Joe, working hard for all of us, and we didn't come away with the win. The beauty of this and division opponents is you get to play them twice. We got them this week, not that the last game has anything to do with this week. We got another shot at them. Looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and compete against them. Hopefully, we do enough to put ourselves in that position again to have a chance to win the game.
Q: The Eagles look a little bit different than the first time you saw them earlier. What kind of challenges do the guys that are coming back pose? Does that change how to attack them?
A: You have to look at Philadelphia over the years. These guys get hit with injuries and then whoever they put out there, they are pretty resilient. When the guys come back, they have a high skill level. You're talking about (Miles) Sanders, these are people with high skill level throughout this league. Obviously, some of your focus has to go to them. On top of that, you have the emergence of the receivers, the quarterback, who is dynamic. Now as a defensive coach, you're looking at all those weapons and you have to take a little bit of attention there, a little bit of attention there. Now your attention is getting spread out for all these players on top of the offensive line, who can block. It makes it more difficult, there's no question. That's why we like the competition of it, that's why we stay up late trying to figure out stuff. We're working on third down today, red area, and two-minute and all that stuff like that. We have to figure it out. They're happy they have all their guys back. They will be ready to go, so we have to figure out how to stop them.
Q: I just wanted to ask you about Jabrill (Peppers) and Logan (Ryan). Not necessarily their skillsets but how they mesh together. How does that help disguise things on the back end with what you want to do pre to post snap?
A: You have to ask them, but to me, they seem like they really like being around each other. You would have to ask Pep himself, but if I'm a young DB in this league, you're dealing with Logan, who has been in this league and has a lot of experience and been successful. It's a wealth of knowledge you can get from him. You see that and that helps, that definitely helps. In terms of being on the field, the more interchangeable they are, the more you can disguise it. For me, as they're growing with one another and understanding, okay, I can do your job, you can do my job. Now you start to play that game within the game, that's always a good thing. You don't want to put someone is harm's way because what I can do and what you can do is different. If I'm the post safety, then I'm going to play the post safety spot. I like the fact that they will work with one another and be as interchangeable as possible as we keep growing this thing as we work through the season.
Q: The evolution of your defense as a whole, to slam the door on Washington twice last week and close them out twice, what does that speak to the evolution of you guys as a group?
A: It all comes back to the players. When we have success, it's the players. It's them and if we're not successful, it's because there is something I can do better. The success is because of the players. Guys made plays in big moments. None of that matters this week, but you hope it builds some momentum as you start going through the season. You think about the guys who made the plays. Pep (Jabrill Peppers), Blake (Martinez), Logan (Ryan), those are guys we rely upon that do their job and do it at a high level. That's the positive there. They were able to do it at a high level when it counted and close the game out for us. As we think about the Eagles now, all the weapons they have, they have a great challenge in front of them. We, as coaches, have a great challenge in front of us, and we have to figure that out for this week.
Q: Do you need a victory this week, winning your battle against the Eagles in a big division game like this, to validate a lot of the success and improvement that you guys have obviously made as a unit?
A: This is a production league and the point of every week is to win the game. I would say as of right now on Thursday and how we go about it and how we attack each day, we're trying to win today. In terms of validation, I want to win today. I want to go out there at practice today and win our preparation on third down and win our preparation in two-minute. Get better at tackling at practice today and keep building toward Sunday. In terms of a validation point for the game, we need wins, that's what we do this for. If you're hungry for something as a football player, as a competitor, as a coach, you're hungry for wins. When I say hungry, I'm talking about a hunger. I need to eat, yeah, I want to win. We're going to do what we have to do today to win today. Hopefully, we keep stacking the days, we put ourselves in a position on Sunday if we come out and perform, to put ourselves in a position to possibly win. We're going to prepare to put ourselves in the best position as possible.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: When you got hired here, Nick Gates had never played center in a game at any level. What did you see to suggest he could play the position, and how do you feel like he's developing there?
A: What was interesting about Nick was that there was a lot of enthusiasm about him as a player. The people who had been around him here in this organization felt like, hey, he could play one of five positions. He could be a tackle, he could be a guard, he could be a center, all of that. We were excited about him, we were excited about what he looked like in the limited snaps that he had played. You just try to look at someone's skillset. To be honest with you, there was a little bit of a need. We needed to find a center. We felt like if we gave him a shot to compete in there, we thought it was a good idea, and he could always fall back on playing guard or tackle. We put him in there, he seemed to handle it well. He has a natural leadership quality about him. He's kind of a guy who loves to play football, he has a contagious spirit about him. I think the guys have rallied around that. The more he's played, the more command he's had of that position. Making communication, making calls that are necessary, and then technically playing the game at a higher level week after week. He's done a nice job in there.
Q: You've been a player in this league, you've been a head coach in this league, I'm curious, when one team seems to have the other team's number, does that ever become psychological year after year? You just got here, but the Eagles have beaten the Giants 12 out of 13. If you've ever been in a situation on either side of that where you're the team winning a lot or losing a lot, does that ever become psychological in the locker room and do you have to address that as a coach?
A: I think the thing you always think about as a coach, and certainly you try to think about as a player, we talk about it all the time, the mental toughness to be your best regardless of circumstances. That sets up well in our game because you can have success on one play, but you have to be able to put that play behind you and go play the next play. You can have adversity on one play. Okay, put that behind you, go play the next play. That applies play to play, series to series, game to game. Anything like this that comes up or we've had a streak where we've beaten a team six games in a row, we've lost six games in a row, the first part of that equation is many of the players and coaches weren't involved in that, the success or the adversity. That's one way to look at it. But the other way to look at it is, hey, it's like a new down. It's like a new play. Whatever we did before, good, bad or indifferent, is really irrelevant to what's going to happen right now. You try to lock in and prepare that way for every situation you're in, and this week will be no different.
Q: If I can change gears for a second here, Golden Tate obviously will play this week. Do you take into account like, 'hey, let's just get him involved early,' or do you move on from that whole mess by getting him a target early? Or do you not change anything from your regular game plan?
A: Golden's been a good player for us. When we've given him opportunities, he had the ball come his way, he's done a good job making plays for us. That's always an objective with him and with (Sterling) Shep and with (Darius) Slay and Evan Engram and when we get our backs involved. All those guys, when they play, we like to feature them at some point to give them opportunities. At the same time, everyone just play within the system. Typically, quarterbacks play their best when they read things out and throw the ball to the right guy based on coverage. We have a lot of confidence in any of our guys to make plays.
Q: Why do you think it's been a quiet few weeks for Darius Slayton?
A: Hard to explain why anybody has a lot of opportunities or not a lot of opportunities. Like I said before, we play our best when we attack different ways with different guys and the quarterback just reads things out. He's done a real good job for us when he's gotten opportunities, really over the course of the year and even these last couple weeks. Obviously, we're trying to run the ball a little bit more. That's been good for us against some of these real good defensive lines to quiet them down a bit. We feel great about Slay. Anytime he gets an opportunity, he's done a good job getting open, and typically he converts on the play, so we like him a lot.
Q: I was just kind of wondering if he's receiving a lot more attention. He has the number one following him around now and the safety over the top kind of deal?
A: I'd certainly say he's a guy that people have seen make a lot of plays over the course of the year. Often times, they'll put who they regard as their best defender on him for portions of the game or they'll roll coverage to him. That's really just a tribute to him and the success he's had.
Q: What did you think when you first heard of the rotating offensive linemen, like you guys are doing now? Is it something you've ever done in the past?
A: I think with our offensive line situation, we don't really have any established players. We don't have guys who have played a long, long time and are kind of locked in. We just talked about Nick Gates just playing center for the first time. Cam Fleming's whole career has been play right, play left, all of that, be ready for any situation. Then when you're talking about three different rookies playing, we're looking to give those guys opportunities to play. Each of those guys has handled those opportunities well, and they're deserving of more opportunities to play. Offensive lines through the years, when they've been established, five guys are in there and that can be really good for your team. But when you're trying to build a team and build a line, you have to give guys opportunities to do different things. One of the things we always emphasize with our offensive line is the ability to play different spots. If you're a one-hole player on the offensive line, that's not real good for you and that's not real good for our team. You try to use that to your advantage, give guys opportunities, and if they do well, they earn more opportunities.
Q: I'm just curious, how difficult is it as a play-caller to kind of walk the tight rope with your quarterback, wanting him to be aggressive and push the ball downfield but maybe also reigning him in a little bit to protect himself from turning the ball over and focusing on that ball security?
A: I don't know if we ever really talk about that. Something we talk about a lot as an offense and certainly at the quarterback position is to aggressively take what the defense gives you. There are situations where we have to run it and they're playing run defense, and we have to run it anyway. There are situations where we have to pass it, they're playing pass defense, and we have to pass it to have success anyway. But for the most part, you want to be aggressive, but you want to take what the defense gives you. I think the best quarterbacks in this league do that, whether it's reading a play out, maybe have a shot called on a play but they play out of there and you have to work your way through the progression and find the right guy and feel good about taking it. I think if you look at our offense, our guys have done a good job running with the ball after the catch. Think about the running backs catching and going north and south, some examples of Shep catching and going north and south. Those are good plays for us. Then when you get an opportunity to throw it up the sideline to a guy like Austin Mack and make a big play down the field, you cash in on those. I think DJ has done a good job of that, and that's really the language we talk in. Aggressively take what they give you and keep trying to be efficient and move the ball down the field, and make a lot of little plays. Then when you get a chance to make a big play, go ahead and do that. We think the best quarterbacks do that.
Q: I know that Daniel put the ball on the turf twice, but you guys recovered it both times. But it really seemed like his decision-making in terms of just protecting the football improved dramatically from Monday night to Sunday. What went into that and do you think there's starting to be a little bit of growth there in terms of his decision-making in the pocket?
A: Yeah, the quarterback has the ball in his hands on every play. He has to make decisions in the passing game on every play, and in our case, in the running game as well. You have to be a great decision-maker. That's what this position is about maybe more than anything else. The more you play, the more you're in situations, the more you're playing in a system, the more you see defenses, hopefully that decision-making process gets better and better and better. DJ's done a lot of really good things for us over the course of the first half of the season. There's no doubt he's a young player who's growing and developing every week.
Q: It seems like the last couple weeks, you've really dialed up some trick plays and really gotten creative. I think you had a flea flicker sort of into a screen that didn't work but I've never really seen that type of play. Just what's your process there? How do you come up with these? I'm sure it's probably kind of fun to sit there and draw them up. But I'm just curious how you do come up with them.
A: I think the biggest thing you're trying to do is put your players in a position where we can have some success executing plays. Part of that is your deceptives. I think our guys are capable of handling those. You said it, sometimes you call that stuff and you don't have success with it. We've run some arounds and reverses that haven't been real good. But other times, they are good and you hope they'll have a residual effect as well, that teams have to prepare for those kinds of plays. If you get a chance where they hit at the right time and you get a chance to cash in on them, you have to do that because they can be difference-making plays in the game. We've had a couple of those this year. You'd like to have more as we go here, the chance to make some explosive plays. I just think that's a part of playing offensive football, your deceptives, along with the base stuff that you run in your run and pass game each week.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Joe (Judge) was talking in his film breakdown about how Riley (Dixon) can kick the ball so it spins differently and falls differently. How common is that for a punter to be able to do that?
A: It's becoming more and more common nowadays. These guys are really, really good at what they do. The influence of the Australian punter has been big on a lot the American guys. Just being able to have a plethora of kicks to be able to make it harder for the returner to catch the ball. Especially when you have guys that are really talented and they are used to catching that ball out of the jugs machine and it's just an easy ball, it turns over. It's difficult, especially with the wind and the conditions. You get a ball that's going to spin a little different, something that you don't see every day. The ability to do that is definitely advantageous to us as a coverage unit.
Q: What you saw Sunday is ideal, the way it plays out?
A: (laughing) Yeah, definitely.
Q: Why do you think it didn't work out with Corey Ballentine as a kick returner? Did it just not click for him there? Is it too soon to expect Dante Pettis to make a big impact this week?
A: I wouldn't say for Corey it didn't click with him. He averaged almost 24 yards a return last year. With the COVID and no offseason, a ton of things that went into that. It's never really kind of flowed like we wanted it to. I think it was just a matter of time, we put Dion in there. It was progressing in that direction. Corey is going to be fine. We wish him the best of luck. He's a great kid, I love him to death. He's going to be successful in this league.
Q: Dante, can we expect him back there this week?
A: We're still going through an evaluation process with all these guys. He just got in. We want to let him get his feet wet first. Just trying to get him his bearings from the Bay (San Francisco) to Jersey is a little bit different. Dante is working hard. We'll figure that out once we get to the back end of the week.
Q: What's the season been like for you? You have a new coach, a whole new regime? I know a lot of you guys as coaches, your families aren't even here. I assume you haven't been able to go back and forth maybe as much as you would in the past. What has it been like personally on that end?
A: It's always hard. My family is in Houston. For me, the staff is great. The guys are great to work with, Joe is awesome. It's been really good. On the family side of it, you're right. The one time I was able to go home, see my son, see him play. As soon as I landed, I get to the stadium, I walk up. I get a text when I drive into the parking lot, Trent's hurt. I walk up to the stadium, I'm coming into the stadium up to the bleachers and I see him with this big wrap on his hand. As soon as he looked at me, I looked at him and he broke out crying. I knew something was wrong. To make a long story short, he dislocated a bone in his hand. He had to have surgery the next morning. I was literally there for 24 hours. By the time I got to the stadium we went straight to the emergency room. Picked him up, took him to the emergency room and he was in the hospital all night. I actually left the hospital at 4:30 in the morning to go home, get an hour of sleep, then hopped on a 9:00, 8:30 flight, whatever it was, to get back here so I could COVID test. That's kind of been our situation as a family. Just to give you a little insight, it's never easy as coach when you're away from your family and trying to do what's best for your family.
Q: I know there are bunch of other coaches who also don't have their families here. There's just been so many different elements to this year. Does it make you guys more like a close-knit group?
A: Definitely. We spend, to be honest with you, during the season, we spend more time around the players and other coaches than we do our own families. You have to enjoy the guys that you're working with. You're right, we do become a tight group because we spend so much time together. That's a good thing. I enjoy the guys that I work with. Obviously, we'd like to spend time with our families, but obviously we have to pay the bills and we have to do the things we have to do to get things done.
Q: Saw Joe's breakdown on the website about Riley's punt. He mentioned having Cam Brown lined up as what he called the "Canadian gunner." How common is that? Have you seen or used that in the past? How did you guys, if not, come to decide that was a scheme you wanted to work in this year?
A: We've used it before, we used it last year with Michael Thomas. It's been done before. It's a good scheme against teams that have really good returners so you can get that pressure and that third guy down the middle of the field that acts as a third gunner for your coverage. More speed on the ball. Putting more pressure on the returner. Either he is going to fair catch it or he is going to have to try to make a play. It kind of worked out for us.
Q: One more thing on Pettis. How much work did you put into him in the draft process a couple years ago? How in tune were you with him? Obviously, he has the numbers as a returner to back it up in college.
A: Dante was one of the best returners, one of the most prolific returners in the history of college football. When he came out, I liked him as a returner. He was on a really, really good football team. If you go back and look at the guys that were on that football team. Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, there was a lot of good football players on that team. I watched them closely because we had to evaluate all of them coming out. Dante is working and we'll see where he is toward the back end of the week.
Q: Did you start with Riley, have him training differently in the offseason because you knew you might have him put that spin on the ball? How long has he been working on it? Was there anything in particular that he did to kind of practice that?
A: He's been doing it for a couple years now. He used to hit it all the time in practice last year. He used to do it in pregame. This year is the first year he's hit it during the game. I think the more and more reps he gets at it, the more he can feel confident and hitting the ball consistently. Knowing exactly where the ball is going to go. Any time you start to develop a shot, those guys want to make sure they get enough practice reps and then enough game reps to where they feel comfortable with it. When I say game, like doing it in warmups, in a game-like situation. They want to make sure that they feel confident they can pull that cat out of the bag when they need to. That's always a tough deal when you go out there and you don't feel comfortable hitting the ball. When you're full of confidence and you know you can swing at and you can make an aggressive swing, you get a good result. He's been working on it, so now that's part of his bag of tricks.
Tight End Evan Engram
Q: What was the feeling like when the team walked off the field in Philadelphia three weeks ago? How has the confidence maybe, or how has the team changed since then?
A: The feeling walking off after that game, that was a real tough one. Real disappointing just coming up that short and just how that game ended wasn't a really good feeling. But I have a lot of confidence in the way we've bounced back since then, the way we've responded as a team, not just in the games but even just in practice. The preparation has been really good. I really have a lot of confidence in the way we've been preparing, the way we've responded since that game.
Q: That was the game, obviously, that you had the big drop. You came and you talked to us, you owned it, you put out publicly that you have to do better. Do you think you showed anything to your, believe it or not you're one of the older guys now around here, do you think you showed anything to your younger teammates with the accountability you took not hiding after that?
A: That will obviously be what they see and what they find in that situation and how I responded. For me, like I said, I'm not a guy that will make excuses. I never point the finger at anybody else in that moment. That was a play I should have made. But I think a lot of young guys definitely see the way guys respond in adversity. For me, just to kind of own that and then respond in the right way with the work going forward, that was important to me.
Q: I can remember Odell (Beckham) when he was here saying 'it's enough with losing to the Eagles. We have to beat the Eagles.' That was like two or three years ago and you still haven't beaten the Eagles since. Is it time for you guys to beat the Eagles? Is it just time at this point? I don't think you've ever beaten the Eagles. They've beaten you 12 out of 13 times. Are you guys getting frustrated with that, the guys that have been here a long time, with the way they've kind of bullied you guys?
A: To be real, obviously, it's a division rival. We need to win. We've been on the losing end a lot of times recently. We have an opportunity to change that this Sunday. That's what we're really focused on. We're definitely really motivated to be on the winning end this time.
Q: Obviously, because of there being no offseason, the weird training camp and whatnot, there was a little longer acclimation period between the players and the coaches, everybody getting to know each other. Do you feel at this point that everybody is kind of now familiar enough with each other to where on offense at least, you can take things to the next level? You're not still trying to figure out who can do what?
A: Yeah, definitely. This whole year has been an adjustment. We've had to kind of adjust on the fly. But I think just throughout the season and throughout the first half of this year, we've definitely learned a lot and have grown a lot. We've seen a lot of improvement the past couple of weeks. I think we've just been really focused on building and finding things to improve on each week. Just trying to become a more consistent team, and obviously, spreading the ball around and allowing guys to use their talents to make plays.
Q: For you, dealing with the highs and lows, since you've gotten here that's kind of been your story behind the story. You've learned how to go with the highs, go with the lows. For you, why are you able to do that? Or are you able to do that? From play to play, you mentioned the drop in the Eagles game, you come back, you catch a touchdown against Washington. Is there something that you've developed through the years you think mentally, emotionally, that allows you to be able to move past it? Or does it hang with you?
A: I think the biggest thing that I've learned is learning how to stay in the exact moment. There have been a lot of times where I've allowed a bad play to linger, and mentally it'll mess me up. It won't allow me to prepare for the next play and make the next play. I think my maturity and I've just kind of grown in this league and through the adversity and the lessons learned, I've learned to just kind of stay in the moment. When the mistakes do happen and the bad plays do happen, definitely you need to flush them. But when the time is right, you learn from them and you work on the things that need to be improved on that could have prevented that. The biggest thing for me is just stay in the moment, staying in that play or that exact second, where we are in the game or in the week in practice, whatever, and just kind of continue to work and be prepared for that next opportunity that I will get.
Q: When you talk about looking at what went wrong and then trying to improve it, in regards to the drops, when you look at them, is there something you see, is there something specific you're trying to work on that you know that that's leading to them? How do you sort of make sense of them this year?
A: Yeah, it's the small things. Maybe not looking the ball all the way into the tuck, or keeping your shoulders square while running a go route, or shooting your hands together, don't shoot your hands too early and continue to run through the ball. Just small, technical things that are important techniques in receiving the ball and being a receiver. Just really fundamentals. Just being able to focus on those and sharpen those things when there's time to do that.
Q: You haven't found a common thread though between them? Each time is kind of a different thing from what you've seen?
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: You've been in a situation where with the Patriots and even last year with the Titans where you probably owned a couple of your rivals. Did you ever feel like that became psychological? Obviously, I am asking because even though you are new here, the Eagles have beaten the Giants 12 of the last 13 times.
A: It's very different. Obviously on the Patriots (I was) on the right side of a lot of them. When I went to Tennessee, they never beat Andrew Luck. They were like 0 and something against the Colts or one and whatever against the Colts. Jacksonville was pretty split, and Houston won the division like every year. We were on the wrong side of it and we didn't care. I don't think players care. I think playing in this league for eight years, the division games matter. I think they're the toughest games. I think when you play somebody twice, I think it's tough because they know your tendencies. They know your players. They are going to work on what hurt them last time. They're not going to make the same mistakes. They're going to come with something different. It's tougher to prepare because you know them so well so they might change it up on you. I think division (games) are always tough because of the familiarity. When we scout other teams, I know we're playing the Rams or someone we don't play as often, we look at how the division plays them. We look at how San Fran plays them, we look at how those guys might play them and say oh they know them so this is what they do. I would say that division games are always close games, are always tough games. It comes down to toughness and physicality a lot of times. I'm sure the history of the Eagles and Giants comes down to a lot of physicality and tough hard-nosed games. With two tough cities.
Q: How are you doing? Is everything kind of slowed down for you? I know you obviously had to take care of some personal stuff the other day. How are you compartmentalizing everything?
A: I spoke about compartmentalizing and I don't know how realistic it is. I think about my wife every minute of every day. It's definitely emotionally tough. She's on the mend. Grateful to have her obviously still with me. We're mourning a loss at the same time. I can't tell anybody how to do it, just try to keep pushing one foot forward every day. If I am going to go to work, go to football and leave my wife and kids, I'm going to make sure I do my best at football. Give me all to it because it's how I provide for my family. Ultimately my family comes first. Compartmentalizing is tough I would think. Just take it the best I can one day at a time.
Q: From a football perspective, you've played for some pretty good defenses. You guys, by most stats are somewhere middle of the road. You are progressing upwards it seems. How close are you to becoming one of those top units in your mind?
A: Continue to trend upward one game at a time. I think the position we're in, every game matters. Obviously, our division is in play. Who knows, we don't even know how many playoff teams there are going to be this year. We're just taking it one game at a time. Trying to get better in two-minute. Against Philly, we lost the game in two-minute at the end there. We lost a lead. Last game we had three picks in two-minute. We had one at halftime. (Jabrill) Peppers had an interception essentially at two-minute there and I had the one to end the game. I think we're trying to get better in that situation. We're getting better at third down. We're light years ahead of where we were at the beginning of the year. We were the worst third down defense, couldn't get off the field. It was embarrassing. I think we're playing better on third down. I think we've always stopped the run pretty well. Those are always big keys of ours, and the red area. I think we're improving in the red area the last couple weeks and making people kick field goals and getting turnovers. To get to the top is just some ranking at the end of the year. However, they do it yards, this, that. We care about points. I think we have been a pretty good scoring defense. I think we can improve. I think we want to continue that trend of keeping people out of the end zone.
Q: Going back to the game against Philly, you guys coughed up the fourth quarter lead. How much does what happened last week give you guys confidence that you can carry over to this week? How much of that can become your identity? That you can close out teams at the end games.
A: You just want to be consistent. At the end of the game is winning time. Obviously, it determines the outcome of the game most of the time. Most games aren't blowouts so it's going to come down to those last possessions at the end of the game as we watch football to see who is going to win and who's going to lose it. I remember Magic Johnson quoting the last five minutes of the fourth quarter is his time, it's winning time. I think the better our best players play in those moments. The better I play in those moments, the better Blake (Martinez) plays, (James) Bradberry whoever it may be, Leo (Leonard Williams). The better we play in those moments, I think it's winning time for us to go make those plays. We were able to do it last week, the previous game we weren't. It's learning an experience right, learning opportunities unfortunately by taking a loss. We had to learn in the Eagles game. We did it better against Washington, we have to learn from that and try to continue that trend. I think Carson Wentz makes a lot of decisions all over the place, some good, some bad. I think that guy really wants to win and I think he puts the ball up with an opportunity to win the games, which he did against us last time. I just have to be better in those moments to protect our defense. I think I'm going to be better in these opportunities here to close the game out. That's what the defense relies on me to do.
Q: I think one of the things that gets lost sometimes when we think about your season is that you've switched positions. Has that gone better than you thought it would?
A: It goes as I put the work in. I think I work extremely hard. I've called myself a safety, but I've never really done it to this extent. It is my first year at the position full-time, my first year back there in the post. It's my first year doing the same things I do. I didn't have the reps in training camp, I didn't have the reps in OTA's. I was working behind the scenes. I honestly believe with my work ethic and my toughness and my willingness to be great, I think I can be the best safety in football. I'm working on it. I do think I have a ways to go. I'm learning from the safety's here. I'm learning from safety's around the league. Two of my best friends are Kevin Byard and Devin McCourty who are all-pro at the position before. I surround myself with people who are really good at it and I watch from everybody. I'm developing my own style on how to do it. I think ultimately my toughness, my work ethic and being fundamentally sounds and my ability to go get the ball, I think is what could make me the best safety in football. I'm going to try my best to do everything I can to be the best safety for the Giants. I'm excited the more reps I get. Every single game I am getting more comfortable at the position.
Q: What made you go through that transition this offseason. Obviously, you didn't have coach, you didn't have a team to tell you that you had to move. Why did you make that change?
A: Because I was tired of being labeled as a slot corner. I think in Tennessee we had three good corners in Malcolm Butler, Adoree' Jackson and myself and I played 100 percent of the snaps. I played on the perimeter, I played outside, I played inside. I matchup on tight ends, I matchup up on running backs. I matched up on whoever Dean Pees told me to match up. I was a versatile piece for our defense and a key part of it, similar to here. Then I got labeled as a slot corner. I just didn't think the label is really fair to modern football. I don't think we label Keenan Allen as a slot receiver. He's getting paid as a number one receiver. I don't think we label Michael Thomas, who runs 90 percent of his routes out of the slot, as a slot receiver. Let's pay him five million bucks, no, I think he's getting 20 million dollars because he is one of the best receivers in football. DeAndre Hopkins lines up in the slot a lot more. Therefore, some of your better defenders have to go in there more. James Bradberry has to go line up in the slot and match some of these guys a little bit more. He's not a slot corner by any means. I just think the future of football is having more versatile players out there. I feel like my future was to go to the safety position because I am able to match up these Evan Engram's, these versatile tight ends. These really good running backs out of the backfield. I'm able to blitz which is something I worked on. I'm able to ultimately play against the quarterback. I think my mind and my communication are my two biggest strengths. I think that bodes well for a safety. I think my best opportunity to be the best in the league is at safety. I had a lot of fun playing perimeter corner, won Super Bowls at it. I had a lot of fun playing in the slot predominately. Now I play all over, you can call me what you want to call me. I just want to be a really good defender.
View photos of the Giants practicing at MetLife Stadium ahead of Sunday's rivalry game against the Eagles.
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