EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Judge's Chambers, a weekly interview with Giants coach Joe Judge exclusively for Giants Season Ticket Members:
Q: Are you doing anything this week to try to heighten the sense of urgency with the players, or is it more important to you to be consistent and be the same coach after a win or after a loss, in good times or bad times?
Judge: "I'm always the same person. That's just me. Everyone has different personalities. I have mine. Every week is a different week, every opponent is a different opponent. To me, it's important the players come in, they know what they're getting with the person in front of them. I'm always the same person. Now as far as the urgency, we demand our players have high urgency every week. I don't see this week as any different. We demand our players come ready to go every day to work, and we demand they get prepared for the game ahead of them."
Q: You've talked about the day-to-day process as a team. Do you speak to them about sticking with the process and if you stay with the process, believe in the process, the results will come?
Judge: "Yes. To me, it's important to understand the flow of a game and the mistakes you made and the opportunities that you presented yourself with or you missed out on. It's important after a game to recap not only the corrections and the details we have to have -- and that's win, lose or draw -- but it's also do you understand the flow of the game so when you're in the game again, you understand how to react and what the momentum or certain circumstances may dictate the other team to do and how you can react. Now that being said, we're always demanding our players be ready week by week with the same urgency."
Q: The game against San Francisco was disappointing, but did you like how they responded to your critique on Monday and the attention to detail and effort they gave (Wednesday) at practice?
Judge: "I thought we had a tremendous practice on Wednesday. I could see it in their eyes from the jump in the morning meeting, that they came in locked in, focused with great effort and energy. That transferred over onto the field for practice. I was very pleased with how we came out to practice. There are always things to correct on the practice field. That's why we have meetings in the morning and meetings after practice, to clean things up and move on to the next phase of the game. But I've been very pleased with the way our team fights and the way they work and the way they stick together."
Q: Daniel Jones is the leading rusher on the team. Some outsiders - media, fans - might look at it and wonder if that exposure is going to result in an injury. As a coach, do you ever think that way?
Judge: "There are ways for the players to protect themselves. We obviously calculate any risk we do with our quarterback. We explain the situations, we explain the situation in a game may call for a different decision at hand at different times. But we'll take the production from wherever we can get it in the game. Every week, we do whatever we can to win the game."
Q: This is Devonta's (Freeman) second week in the system, second week of practicing – do you think he'll be able to play a larger role and be more productive this week?
Judge: "All of our backs in the game will have roles, and all of them will play. Devonta is obviously no different from that. Everyone will have their packages in the game and their roles as we play on out. When we get to Sunday, we'll see how everything develops."
Q: On a macro scale, you've been on teams where one back took most of the carries, then others where it was more spread around. Do you have a preference?
Judge: "No, not really, not really at all. To me, it's about however you can give your team the best advantage to match up the opponent and have success. If that's one guy doing a multitude of things, if that's several guys who each have a unique skillset that you have to maximize and make sure you mix in the game at different times, I have no issue with that. Everyone at the same time has to produce, everyone at the game has to contribute."
Q: How did you find (rookie cornerback) Madre Harper (who joined the team this week)?
Judge: "It's our job to know everybody in the league. Obviously, through last year with the college draft and then leading through this year, there were no preseason games, but you have an idea of who's on different rosters. You look at the 53 cut, who's being retained, who's being floated out, who's on different practice squads, who's being elevated on a weekly basis. You try to study all the moves in the league and who's out there. But he's a guy that's been on our radar for some time now. We had an opportunity. We thought it was a good time to bring him in."
Q: In the last five weeks, you brought in Logan Ryan, (Adrian) Colbert, (Isaac) Yiadom, (Ryan) Lewis, Brandon Williams, now Harper. It seems like you're searching for somebody to step up in the secondary. Is that accurate?
Judge: "No. Look, we're going to play a lot of defensive backs regardless. With the game plans in this league, it's a passing league, number one, so you have to have secondary players. That may be dictated based on team health or individual game plans, whatever we need. But we're always looking to add good players to our roster, and we use them accordingly by game plan."
Q: It's mostly a young group back there in the secondary, including Jabrill (Peppers). How important is it to have the two steadying veterans, (James) Bradberry and Ryan?
Judge: "I'd say regardless of age and experience, it's important to just have good play from your players. Being on the same page in communicating, execute the techniques each play with good fundamentals. Regardless of age, we're big on whoever's out there has to play and has to produce for us. That being said, those older guys have definitely done a good job for us on the field and with their individual assignments. Logan's done a good job for us really building in a lot of communication among that group. He brings in a lot of experience, obviously, that we can build on. But it's up to each individual player to make sure we raise our own level of the game and that the coaches put them in the best position possible to succeed."
Q: The Rams have the highest percentage of rushing plays in the league. My guess is if you ask Sean McVay if he wanted more offensive balance, he'd say, 'Why would I? We're a play away from being 3-0.' You have the lowest percentage of rushing plays. Is offensive balance important to you or do you want to be more productive no matter how you're doing it?
Judge: "For me, it's all about production no matter how we're doing it. Being a balanced offense doesn't necessarily mean you're 50-50 run-pass. It means you're able to run or pass when you need to. I think the Rams do a tremendous job of being balanced. They lead the league in rushing, like you said, being very balanced. They also lead the league on third down, they're the top scoring team in the league. They have a lot of leads in the league right now. They're a very good team, they're coached well, they have a lot of talent on the team. They're obviously a very, very tough opponent we have to get ready for."
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.
Q: Defensively, you're the best in the league on first down, allowing less than three yards a play. You're at the bottom of the league on third down conversion. Your reaction is probably that you need to do a better job on third down. But is that a little incongruous, that you can be so strong on first down and not as strong on third down?
Judge: "We obviously looked at our defense very critically over the last few weeks and specifically the last few days. We're always making the necessary corrections and adjustments, not only in the big picture but for the individual game plan we have coming up. Right now, we're just focused on the Rams. We have to do a good job on early downs against them. We have to do a great job on third down against them. They're obviously the best team in the league on third down, so it's going to be a pretty big challenge for us."
Q: They're second in the league by gaining an average of eight yards on first down. Do you really need to limit their first downs to get them in third and long situations?
Judge: "I think the teams that are really good on third downs, as you see with the Rams, are teams that are really good on early downs. The more you move the ball on early downs, it makes your third downs a lot more manageable in how you can approach them. If you're not successful on early downs, it puts you in third and long situations, and just the conversion rate of those is a lot less. This team is very well-coached, they're very talented. Thursday was a big day for us as far as going out there and working on third downs, two-minute, a little bit of red area. It was a big situational day for us, so we had a lot to work on."
Q: Their offense has a lot of well-known players. Goff, (Cooper) Kupp, (Robert) Woods. The passing game gets a lot of attention, but as you mentioned, they're also a very good rushing team. Their leading rusher is (Darrell) Henderson, who has more yards than he had all of last season. He's actually listed second on the depth chart. What kind of runner is Henderson? What do you see when you look at him?
Judge: "All of their runners are very talented. They really do a great job with their zone running game of stretching it and cutting it. They have great vision, they run tough, they have good ball security. These guys are very good in the passing game as well, whether it's isolating a linebacker in coverage, getting into the flat, catching a pass. They do a tremendous job with the screen game. Their line is very athletic. They get out there in space and make good blocks. Their runners run in space extremely well. Again, they can find a hole and split that thing going vertical. Open field tackling is definitely a big focus for us. We have to do a good job of that. You try to get these guys limited before they get started, but they're very creative and they're going to find ways to match you. You just need to play the game through for 60 minutes."
Q: I think everybody who's been on a Zoom call with the media this week has been asked about Aaron Donald, arguably the league's best defensive player. If he decided to take Sunday off, who are some of the other guys on their defense that really stand out to you?
Judge: "You start naming them. The secondary with (Jalen) Ramsey. But if you come back up front and talk about how dominant their front is, obviously, Aaron Donald is tremendous, everybody knows that. But look, (Michael) Brockers, he's a top-flight guy. He's one of the tops in the league at what he does. Fluid off the edge, he's a physical thumper. They really do a good job. That pressure up front really creates plays on the backend for their players. Ramsey is obviously one of the tops in the league at what he does. He has always been, so you have to be aware of him on the field at all times. He does a great job of turnovers, stripping the ball, tackling the ball. He does a good job with interceptions. If you're staring down a receiver, he'll jump it. He can really lull you to sleep. He has great reactionary quickness, he's long and he has really good top-end speed."
Q: As you watched their first three games, did they move Donald around a lot to try to create specific mismatches? Or is he a mismatch for anybody he goes against?
Judge: "I think this guy, being one of the tops in the league and really one of the tops in a long time at what he does, any one person is really going to have a tough time blocking him. They've done a great job of moving him around and creating matchups at different spots, whether it's early downs or third down. He does a good job against the run, he's very disruptive against the pass. He just does a tremendous job disturbing what you're trying to establish in terms of rhythm and timing. You have to know where he is on the field at all times."
Q: You called (punter) Johnny Hekker yesterday "a quarterback who can punt." He has completed 13 of 22 passes in his career. In your time in the league, is he a unique weapon?
Judge: "I think absolutely he is. The way that they started out his career, and obviously, he's not a young guy anymore, he's very experienced, but from the jump, he got out there and really put a different type of pressure on the return team. He really made it so every time they put the punt team on the field, you had to truly play defense. You see all the teams against him playing really with a defensive mindset and playing more cautiously, and that allows him to really sit back there and boom the ball down the field. He can flip the entire field position in any swing of his leg. On top of that, he's a very accurate passer with a very good arm. He's very savvy back there with the ball in his hand. This guy makes a lot of plays. He has a history as a high school quarterback. This guy has a very big arm, and he's athletic and can run. They had a number of runs with him all throughout his career. They're not afraid to put him on the edge and let him go ahead and take advantage of being in space and making a play. This guy has really good onside kicks as well. This guy is a tremendous weapon. He's really changed the way a lot of teams approach special teams. He's put a different curve on it, he's exciting to watch and when you play him, he makes you prepare."