EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Judge's Chambers, a weekly interview with Giants coach Joe Judge exclusively for Giants Season Ticket Members:
Q: Will Hernandez was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. You have concern for your players and coaches while keeping in mind that you must prepare for a game. How do you balance everything?
Judge: "We've been balancing this the entire year. Obviously, COVID is nothing new to the league. It's nothing new to our team as an organization. We're going to just keep following the protocols. We may have to adjust a couple of things internally in terms of how we meet and possibly how we practice for the remainder of this week. But our focus is purely on Tampa right now. We're going to play a game this week, so we have to do everything we can to get ready."
Q: Speaking of striking a balance, last weekend when you did not have a game, were you able to spend time with your family but also work a little bit? You mentioned you watched the Buccaneers.
Judge: "I think it's always kind of a working weekend. It's very hard to step away. Not that you want to, but it's very hard to even just pull yourself away in-season from football. But I was definitely able to enjoy a little bit of family time. I got to see my son play his football game, I got to see my daughter play her soccer game. There were definitely bright spots in the weekend for us right there."
Q: Is the Judge family on a little winning streak now?
Judge: "It was a productive weekend. They both won, so it was a productive weekend. They went out there and had fun and competed as hard as they could. It's just fun to watch them playing out there."
Q: It wasn't a bye week, but you did get a few days off. Coaches often like to self-scout when they get the time. Did you do that or was there not enough time for you to get that done?
Judge: "No, there was plenty of time. There was a lot of that, actually. We closed out the Philly game on Friday, we reviewed that as a staff. We spent the weekend with some self-scout projects that we worked on. Came back in here on Monday and had meeting time with the players in the morning. We went through our entire program to this point as coaches. We went out there and were able to work on New York Giants emphasis stuff on Tuesday on the field and had a productive practice."
Q: You just played three division games that were decided by a total of five points, which is the franchise's fewest since the merger. What does that tell you? The obvious is that the division teams are very closely bunched. But also if you can find a way to finish these games a little better, you're right in it with these other teams?
Judge: "Yeah, I've seen a lot of progress with our team all throughout the season. I've said many times, we just need to keep harping on the fundamentals and eliminate the mistakes that kind of hold us back. But I've seen our guys play through a lot of adversity. We've played in different situations on the road, on short weeks, coming off west coast trips. I've seen them respond to a lot of adversity going through, and I haven't seen them blink. That's really a positive sign with what we're building moving forward."
Q: Any chance you may let Daniel (Jones) hang out in the running backs room the way he's running the ball?
Judge: "He's doing a good job for us. I think (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) is doing a good job of using those calls throughout the game as they come up, and I think Daniel is doing a good job making the decisions whether to hand it off or pull it. When he has pulled it, he's been a productive runner for us. Again, we don't care where the production comes from. Everyone is expected to help the team do everything they can to win, and Daniel's been doing a good job of that."
Q: I know some of this is due to not having Saquon Barkley, but if someone had told you before the season that after seven games, Daniel would be your leading rusher and average almost 10 yards a carry, you probably would have questioned their sanity. As you see what he can do with his legs, is that something you want to incorporate more?
Judge: "We've seen it before I ever got here. We knew that he was a very capable runner from his time in college as well as his rookie year. It's definitely an element of the offense we didn't want to lose sight of. Based on the opponents, the game plan, some of the situations that have come up, it's been something that's really allowed us to have some big plays in games and some momentum moving the sticks."
Q: Were you impressed with Wayne Gallman's contributions last week in Philadelphia?
Judge: "Wayne's been working hard for us. He got in the game and did some good things. Like all of our backs, we expect them all to contribute. We have a plan for all of them at the game. Wayne is obviously no different there. We expect him to get in, and the plays that he made were no surprise to us. I was pleased to see him get in there and compete."
Q: Can that be a lesson for the players? Gallman had just 15 carries in the first six games, he had 10 last week in Philly. Can you point to that and say, "This is why I tell you to always be ready, you never know when your number is going to be called?"
Judge: "We always have a lot of examples of that throughout the entire year. We've had a lot of young guys that have had to step up and play. We've had a lot of guys step into positions that maybe they didn't anticipate having to play that week due to injury or circumstance. But we do. We expect everyone to always be ready. It's everyone's responsibility to prepare themselves physically and mentally for the games. It's our job as coaches to make sure we keep them mentally prepared and physically within the right techniques to be successful. But Wayne's done a good job. No matter what his role in the game has been or what it's evolved to within the game, he's responded for us."
Q: No rookie ever completely avoids bumps in the road. Andrew Thomas has been criticized outside the building. You've been very consistent in your support of him. Is your experience with rookies that you have to let them play through these periods and let them develop?
Judge: "The development is the most important thing, and that comes from how he's taught in the meeting room, how he practices throughout the week and how he can execute in the game. There are always different elements that we have to string together and put together. But I'm very pleased with how he competes. This is a guy that fights for 60 minutes. We all have to do a better job of coaching and playing to make sure we finish these games with the right results. But he's making progress in his career. We have a lot of confidence in Andrew."
Q: On the other side of the ball, Devante Downs was kind of the defensive Wayne Gallman last week. He hadn't played much recently and came on and played a lot of snaps and was productive. What did you think of his performance against the Eagles?
Judge: "To be honest with you, we've been seeing that for a while. We've seen that earlier in the season in some games, maybe due to some circumstance or packages that we've played. Some of the other offenses haven't allowed some of those things to be highlighted, but I think he did a good job coming downhill for us last week. Really played physical at the point of attack, did a good job in the run game. He was able to give us some really good downs out there."
Q: What do you think (recently-signed 10-year veteran defensive end) Jabaal Sheard can do for you?
Judge: "I think he'll do whatever he's asked to do. He's definitely a guy that we have a little bit of history with (Sheard played two seasons in New England when Judge was an assistant coach there). We know him from before. He's a hard worker, he gives you an element of some length and some edge rush ability. He does a good job setting the edge in the run game and plays with a high motor. He's a guy that we're going to depend on for early and third down type situations and see what packages he figures into in Pat's (Graham) defense this week. We're going to evolve his role within this team as much as we can going forward."
Q: You were on the Patriots' staff coaching special teams for seven years before adding wide receiver duties last year. That gave you an opportunity to work more closely with Tom Brady. Did you learn anything about him last season that maybe you didn't know in the first seven years you worked with him?
Judge: "No. I think last year being a little closer to him in terms of working hand in hand a lot more just gave you a little bit more insight into some of the things of maybe how he thinks. Look, the guy is a great player. He's a tremendous, tremendous player, and he's great to be around on a daily basis. As coaches, you have to really open your eyes and ears because you can learn a lot more from the players than you can ever imagine when you just watch them go to work and you watch how they have success, especially being able to watch an older, veteran player like Tom and all the things that he's accomplished in his career. But really, he's continuously gotten better in his career, and he's really playing at a high level now, and that's not by accident. This guy works tirelessly. He's a great communicator in the meeting rooms, he's a great communicator at the line of scrimmage and on the sidelines as far as making adjustments. This guy is thinking ahead within situations and really thinking about the next series, the next play, the next call, all the time, and he's doing everything he can to help set it up. He's done a tremendous job in (Tampa Bay coach) Bruce's (Arians) offense right now, and he's making all of the players around him, obviously, they're having a lot of big plays. They have a really good, explosive offense."
Q: They have a lot of big names on their offense. Leonard Fournette, Mike Evans, (Chris) Godwin. They have Ronald Jones leading them in rushing, Scotty Miller is leading them in receiving yards. Are they about as deep of an offense as you've played so far this year?
Judge: "They're definitely very talented. There are a lot of players you didn't even mention in that conversation. Shady McCoy and those guys. These guys are very, very talented, but they're very explosive, and I think that's a thing you have to remember. At all of their positions, whether it's the receiver, the tight end or running back, they're all dangerous receivers. The way they're running the ball right now downhill at teams, they're making a lot of plays. It's really setting up their play action game, which really leads to a lot of their shots. They really complement themselves on offense nicely based on how they set up the play actions with the run game. Then how they're able to just sit back and execute on third down situations and the red area, with Tom hitting his back foot, stepping up and making the throw on time, and those receivers are really playing well for them."
Q: Defensively, Todd Bowles uses many creative blitz packages. They have JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul), (Shaquil) Barrett, (Devin) White, Carlton Davis is playing really well. Do you see them as very strong at all three levels and with Bowles a difficult team to prepare for?
Judge: "First off, I think coach Bowles is a tremendous football coach. We've gone against him a number of times from going back to his days at the Jets. I think he's a tough-minded, very intelligent coach whose players play very hard and disciplined. He does a great job of spinning the dial and keeping you guessing. But then he also makes great in-game adjustments. You have to think ahead. He's a phenomenal coach. His players are always prepared. They're very, very talented, they're very deep on defense, and they can make plays at all three levels."
Q: Nothing really jumps out when you look at their special teams numbers. But I assume to you, as a special teams guy, something does.
Judge: "I think it all starts with their coordinator, Keith Armstrong. The one thing that always jumps out about Keith is the physicality. His teams play sound and they play very physical and aggressive in their technique. When you get ready for Keith's units, you know what you're in for. He does a great job of game planning, of matching up personnel and creating matchups on your players. But ultimately, the thing with Keith is his players play sound, and they play hard. It jumps out on the tape to me. I've known Keith for a long time. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a man and as a coach. We've had a good friendship in this business. You go against Keith, you know what you're getting. You're going to have a tough 60-minute game, and his units are going to be prepared for all situations."