EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Judge's Chambers, a weekly interview with Giants coach Joe Judge exclusively for Giants Season Ticket Members:
Q: When you face a team like the 49ers who have a lot of injuries, do you give your players a scouting report on each of the opponent's replacements while emphasizing that this is still an outstanding team that played in the Super Bowl eight months ago'?
Judge: "This is a very good team. They have a tremendous roster. They have talent all over the place. They're explosive, they have great coaching, they have great schemes, they're going to find your weaknesses. They're a fast-start team that scores early in the game. They're really built to play from ahead because they can run the ball effectively when they have the lead, and they give you less opportunities with the ball in your hands. This team, they know how to win. They play really good team defense. It's a penetrating defensive line. They have a mass of talent all over their roster on the defensive front. They have speed at the linebacker positions, and they have really opportunistic defensive backs to take advantage of the penetration and disruption up front. There's a reason they were so successful last year. Really, this team built everything the right way over a couple of years. They took their time, they did it the right way and, obviously, we saw the benefits of it last year after Kyle's (Shanahan) first two years. You can really see the program they're putting together."
Q: You mentioned yesterday and again just now that they're a fast-start team, explosive right off the bat. You also said last week you don't believe in momentum. But the way your game went in Chicago, where you played better in the second half - the players seemed very cognizant they must start better this week. Do you think what happened in that game (a 17-13 loss) can help them this week?
Judge: "I think the important thing from the games we played are the lessons we learn. Whether it's a win or a loss, you have to take the good and the bad from the game and learn going forward. To me, what the players need to take from the last two weeks are we can't afford to make the mistakes we've made and give the other team opportunities. We have to make sure that we don't put ourselves behind the eight ball. We need 60 minutes of good, solid Giants football. That's really what we need as a team. I think the lesson they learned last week is it doesn't matter how far you're behind. You keep fighting, you keep playing, you string one play after another, you string one series after another. You accumulate points by playing good complementary football, and all of a sudden, you're in the game at the last play and you have a chance to win and be successful. Really, we've seen in both games, coming from behind, putting ourselves in a position to win the game at the end. We have to capitalize on our opportunities. We have to eliminate the mistakes."
Q: Daniel (Jones) has had two turnovers in each of the first two games, mistakes that can eclipse the good plays he makes. (Quarterbacks coach) Jerry Schuplinski said this week that sometimes they're part of the growing pains of a young quarterback. Daniel has started only 14 games. You don't want him to lose his aggressiveness, but you want to cut down on the turnovers. Do you have to establish a balance when you're working with him on that?
Judge: "Yeah, you have to play confident and aggressive, and you do that by executing at practice and stringing it together on the game field. We can't have any of our players lose their aggressiveness, especially not the quarterback. George Patton once said something. He said, 'Nobody ever defended anything successfully. There's only attack and attack and attack some more.' That's the mindset we want all of our players to have, that we have to go out there aggressively, know what our responsibilities are, play our keys, play with good fundamentals. Through doing that, you can play successfully and effectively and not have mistakes. But if you sit back and you just try to avoid mistakes, there's nothing positive that's going to come out of that."
Q: You brought Devonta (Freeman) in this week. He has four days to get ready. Do you think it's more challenging in general to get an offensive player or a defensive player prepared for a game in four days?
Judge: "I think each has its own challenges. It's about getting on the same page with the other players on the field. It's about learning our individual schemes, the alphabet of our offense, getting on the same terminology. You have to make sure that you just give each player when they join your team in a situation like this the opportunity to learn what they need to play their own individual game plan that week and how it fits with the rest of the team. You can't throw the whole playbook at them at once and just expect them to learn it. That's unrealistic."
Q: The running backs that are available now have different skillsets than Saquon Barkley, who is out for the season with a knee injury. I assume you want to maximize each player's strengths but within the framework of what you do as an offense.
Judge: "You don't want to lose your offensive identity in terms of what you do. But you have to make sure you fit the schemes and the concepts to what your players are able to do. Obviously, Devonta has a skillset, Wayne (Gallman) has a skillset, and Dion (Lewis) has a skillset, Elijhaa Penny has a skillset. However we use any one of those backs, we have to make sure we're doing what they do well."
Q: A lot of times, players who are on I.R. disappear. Saquon is a star, he's a captain, he's a guy who's so highly respected and well liked. Do you want him to be around the team?
Judge: "Yes, we've already discussed that with Saquon. He's a key part of this team. He's a captain. His teammates, they voted him a captain for a reason to represent them on and off the field. Obviously, he's going through some adversity right now that he's going to fight through. I'm anxious to see the result of the story, because I know he's going to really make something out of it. But look, once a Giant, always a Giant for all players, especially players still on the team. We want him around as much as possible. Obviously, within his individual rehab and treatment and what he's going to have to undergo and go through over the course of time, we'll have to balance some schedules. But we definitely want Saquon around as much as we can."
Q: We spoke last week about Evan Engram. He had kind of a quiet opener and then he had no catches at halftime in Chicago. But he had six receptions in the second half Sunday. Did coach (Jason) Garrett, as you said, start finding ways of getting him the ball? Did he get more aggressive? Or did Daniel maybe start looking for him more with Sterling Shepard sidelined?
Judge: "I think the opportunity just came his way and he made the most of it. Daniel found him, Evan made the play and Jason called some really good plays to put us in a position to take advantage of what they were doing defensively."
Q: You have four wideouts right now and you have four on the practice squad. Do you give those practice squad players some reps with the offense just in case you need to call them up and to better gauge their progress?
Judge: "We practice all of our players all the time, whether it's the 53-man roster, the practice squad, everybody practices every practice. We're always developing our team and making sure we're ready with whatever comes up."
Q: The cliché about Blake Martinez is he's a tackling machine. Actually, it seems he really is a tackling machine. He has 21 so far. Do you think players like him have a knack for finding the guy with the ball and hitting that guy?
Judge: "He definitely has really good instincts. He can find the ball, he knows how to navigate behind those defensive bigs in front of him. He has good anticipation of the scheme. He's a very good communicator for us. He's definitely a smart player. But he has very good instincts at finding the ball, so yeah, he definitely has a nose for it."
Q: What does it say about him as a new guy coming in that he was elected a captain and has become a leader on the defense right away?
Judge: "Every team is a new team every year. He started at the same time as all of our players who came in here. We all started in the spring together. The new year began for every coach and player on this team. Within that timeframe, he's done enough so that his teammates elected him captain. That says a lot for how our team views him."
Q: You were standing right there when James Bradberry made his back-to-the-quarterback interception in Chicago. Had you ever seen a cornerback pick off a pass without seeing the ball before getting his hands on it?
Judge: "If you watch enough ball, you see a lot of funky things. But yeah, you definitely see a lot of things sometimes where the players surprise. But listen, he put himself in position, he prepared for that every day in practice, and he went up there and took advantage of the opportunity."
Q: Is that just instinct? He has his back to the play and yet he winds up with the ball. It's not an easy thing to do.
Judge: "I think it's just a combination of having good instincts and experience. But also combining the preparation and what your keys and techniques are for that specific play and how it unfolds in front of you."
Q: Have the defensive players, coaches and you kind of taken a crash course on (San Francisco quarterback) Nick Mullens this week? If so, what have you learned?
Judge: "He's definitely a really great competitor. He gets the ball out of his hands fast. This guy was good for them in the past already. Obviously, he's more experienced within their system, whatever the individual plan is going to be for him within Kyle's game plan for the team. But this guy is a competitor. He's a tough dude, he's a hardnosed guy. He's one of those Southern Miss guys. Those guys don't have a lot of quit in them, so you know you're in for a tough game with him."
Q: Jerick McKinnon didn't play in 2018 and 2019, but it looks like he's running the ball pretty well for a guy who didn't play the last two years. Do you see that on tape?
Judge: "Listen, we've known about this guy in the league for a long time, and he hasn't really missed a step. This guy can definitely find the seam and get vertical. He has good burst, great instincts. He runs tough, he's a tough guy to tackle in open space. He showed that last week with a couple of explosive runs. He's definitely a guy we have to do a good job of keeping in front of us and getting him on the ground. But he's a very good back and a very good returner."
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.