EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Judge's Chambers, a weekly interview with Giants coach Joe Judge exclusively for Giants Season Ticket Members:
Q: In any business, people want to see their hard work pay off. When you have a football team that works hard and gives great effort on game day and doesn't win, it can be discouraging. Is that something you look for as a coach, to see how the players respond emotionally? Do you tell them, "Keep at it, it's going to get better, stick with the process"?
Judge: "Our guys have done a great job of really coming to work every day, regardless of the circumstance or situation, and working their butts off. I'm very pleased with the effort and the energy they come with on a daily basis. It's our job as coaches to give them evidence of not only what they're doing wrong and how we have to correct it, but where they're improving on a daily and weekly basis, and where we're moving toward. We have plenty of evidence of that. We always show that to our players to make sure they understand how it's supposed to look, what the expectations are, and they come to work every day with a full head of energy and ready to roll."
Q: The defense played very well for most of the game last week in Los Angeles. If that continues, can the defense keep you in any game you play?
Judge: "We have to have good, complementary football between all three phases. Look, you come out of any situation, you're looking for what you have to do to elevate all sides of the ball and how we have to play better. We have a different opponent this week in Dallas. They're a very, very explosive offense. It's going to take everything we have to stay with this team. We have to go ahead and make sure we can match their weapons, and that's what we're working on at practice."
Q: In a situation where the offense is not producing the way you would like, you can keep working on your base plays and try to get them right, or you can expand the attack until you hit on something that consistently produces. Where do you stand on that?
Judge: "We always have a game plan element to what we do. Every opponent is different. You have to make sure that the way you plan for opponents gives your players the best opportunity to be successful. It's across the board in all three phases. Every coach, we have to do our jobs better to make sure that we get the results we want. But I'm going to be honest with you, that's whether it's a win or a loss, we'd be saying the same thing to our players and coaches right now. We have to all keep improving at our jobs and doing a better job week by week."
Q: You've scored three first-quarter points, so I think it's fair to say that you haven't started games as well as you'd like. Dallas has also been a slow-starting team. Given that, is it important to kind of jump on them early, especially since their running game is minimized when they have to play from behind?
Judge: "I'll tell you what, the thing that stands out to me about this Dallas team is how they finish. They're explosive. There have been situations they've found themselves in where they're maybe behind other teams on the scoreboard, but they run really fast to catch up. You blink, these guys will score points. Hey look, if you're up 21 points, they're three plays away from tying you up. They're that kind of team. You have to play 60 minutes against this team. You can't ever fall asleep and you can't ever have that mindset that the game is out of reach, because it definitely is not with them."
Q: Daniel Jones was asked the other day about the lack of big plays in the offense. Do you think a couple of big plays, if you hit them, can catalyze the entire offense? Or does it work the other way where once the offense starts producing a little better, the big plays will come?
Judge: "Every game is different. Whether it's moving the sticks systemically or you're looking for chunk plays, there are different elements of play calling going into each game plan. The thing for us that's important is to have consistent execution across the board by all coaches and by all players."
Q: Devonta Freeman got 15 touches last week. As you watch him in practice and in the game, is he looking less rusty? Do you think he can start handling a bigger load?
Judge: "Yeah, I love the way he comes to work every day. Obviously, when he first got here, there was a little bit of a learning curve to get acclimated to our systems. He's shown a great deal of understanding and improvement. It doesn't feel like this guy is new to our program at all. Each week is kind of like dog years in the NFL. This guy has really worked hard to get into our playbook and know what we're doing, and it's starting to show up for us on the field. I'm very pleased to have him in the program."
Q: Defensively, you have four takeaways in four games. How can you as coaches create an environment to force more turnovers?
Judge: "You should be opportunistic and when it comes your way, be in position to make sure you capitalize on it."
Q: A big storyline this week is Jason Garrett, the former Cowboys coach, and the information he can provide about their current team. You have Marc (Colombo), Stephen Brown who also worked in Dallas, and Patrick (Graham) worked with Mike McCarthy a couple of years ago. With all the detailed scouting that goes on nowadays, how much information can people on the staff really help you? Do those of us not in the room make too much of that?
Judge: "I'd say first off, obviously, we use everything we can to learn anything about another player or program that may be applicable. But every year it's different. Every team is different. Dallas is a different team this year than they were last year. Even though it's a lot of the same players, they're a different team in how they use their players as well. Some of the information is applicable, some of it is not. I'd say just in general, the NFL is a small league. There are only 32 teams. Every team you play, someone has coached players on the other team, someone has worked with other coaches on the other team, players have played in different organizations. To us, it's not so much about where you've been. It's about where you are right now. There are always adjustments made within teams to account for maybe some crossover of personnel or coaches. Teams do that on a year by year basis, and it's a long season. Within the season itself, people make adjustments."
Q: I know this is very much a one-week-at-a-time league, but you only get six division games, and you've got five of them coming up in the next six games. Do you allow yourself to think like that, to look at the bigger picture in that sense, and do you want the players to do that?
Judge: "The only thing we're thinking about right now is Dallas. That's it. Our sole focus is on Dallas this week. That's all we have time to worry about."
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Q: You mentioned that you wanted to get (rookie tackle) Matt Peart involved, and he played a series last week, and you hope to do the same with (rookie guard) Shane (Lemieux). Is Spencer Pulley a candidate for a similar look, or because he's a veteran and a center, he doesn't fit in like that?
Judge: "No, we plan on all of our players that go to the game playing in one way, shape or form. But yeah, Matt last week, we had a plan to kind of get him in, just give him a little bit of experience. Shane was part of that same plan, he had just different roles within the game. As each game plan presents itself, each opponent is different. We're going to look for opportunities to make sure we have roles for all of our guys at the games."
Q: (Linebacker) David Mayo has returned to the practice field (from injured reserve). What have you learned about him from watching the tape of him play last year and working with him in the spring and in camp before he got hurt?
Judge: "I've been familiar with David for some time. He's actually a guy that I worked out down at Texas State when he was coming out for the (2015) draft. Obviously, he ended up in Carolina before we had a chance to deal with him. But we've played against him, we have experience with him. He's a solid player, he's a good dude, he's a tough dude. He definitely brings a lot of versatility to the kicking game and defense. He's been with the trainers for a significant portion of time, but we had him for a while in training camp. We've had a lot of exposure with him already. Look, at this point, we're excited to get him back out there. We just have to be fair to David and give him time to re-acclimate to actually playing football and practicing with the team and getting his body back in the flow of things."
Q: Earlier, you touched on the Dallas offense, which is number one in the league in overall yards and passing yards. What do you think when you look at the individual talent they have on that unit - Dak (Prescott) and Amari Cooper, (CeeDee) Lamb, (Michael) Gallup?
Judge: "The Joneses have always done a phenomenal job of building talent. Whether you go back to the (Troy) Aikman, (Emmitt) Smith and (Michael) Irvin days, now you have obviously Dak, Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, you have CeeDee Lamb and Gallup in there, as well. They've always had just a ton of stars on their team, and it's always been a very talent-rich organization. Over the test of time, since the Jones' have taken over, this team has really had just top-level talent. It doesn't matter who's in there. Obviously, this year, they have some of the top players in the league. They're very, very explosive. You have to respect them on every down because they can truly score on any play of the game. You have to be aware of that and you have to play the situation, but every situation comes with that home run shot opportunity, as well."
Q: They've had injuries, linebackers and corners, but you spoke (Wednesday) of their talented edge rushers. Aldon Smith has four sacks after not playing for four years, and Jaylon Smith is leading them in tackles and making a lot of plays.
Judge: "I don't think that's surprising to anybody. Obviously, both of those guys are extremely talented. Aldon does a great job coming off the edge, plays with his length. He has good burst to close, he's very instinctive. He really poses a lot of multiple threats for the offensive line and how he matches up with not only tackles, but they'll move him inside as well to mismatch guards. They've done a great job. Mike (Nolan, the defensive coordinator) moves him around a lot right now and tries to find the matchups, and he's been productive as a result. Jaylon Smith is a guy that… hey look, obviously, this guy has overcome a huge injury coming out of college and he's become one of the top players in the league at his position. He's explosive, he can run and tackle, he definitely moves well in space. It's no surprise that these guys are successful players."
Q: John Fassel has a reputation that he'll try just about anything. I know you were matched up against him in the Super Bowl not too long ago. Is he as difficult a special teams coordinator to prepare for as there is in the league?
Judge: "I'll tell you what, Bones does a great job of really, first off, he's willing to roll the dice. He makes sure he has specialists that put him in a position to do so. He's not out there just making calls. He actually has a whole system that he's built around it. So yeah, when you play Bones, you have to play with a defensive mentality. You're always alert for the fakes and gimmicks. He does a lot of things in terms of giving his team a chance to play aggressively, and they look to capitalize on big play opportunities."