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Coach's Corner

Coach's Corner: Young Giants learn by playing

SHURMUR

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach's Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur.

Q: The players were off on Monday, the first day after the Miami game. Have you changed your thoughts at all about Victory Monday, something you don't typically do?

Shurmur: "No. It's just been a long year. It was good that we won. It was spurred on by Eli (Manning) saying it (in the postgame locker room). I just let it go."

Q: Did you notice any extra bounce or excitement from the players when they came in after a win? Or is this an emotionally level group?

Shurmur: "I think their preparation has been good all year. Their attention to detail in practice has been good all year. We've just not made enough plays in games to win enough games. That's something that we did on Sunday, and that's why we saw the results that we did."

Q: The best part of the game, of course, was winning. But as a coach, what facets of the game most pleased you? All three phases contributed, the way you took control in the second half, you got the running game going, you held them to 150 yards in the second half - as you watched the tape, what stuck out?

Shurmur: "First of all, we won the game, and to your point, it took all three phases. We played decent in the first half. We had the turnovers that affected us, certainly, so we went in (down) 10-7 at halftime. What I liked in the second half is in that spot in the game in the third quarter, where things have kind of gone against us, we forced it to go our way. We punted them in and backed them up. We got a safety. They kicked the ball back to us, we got a good return, we went down and scored and made it a two-score game. Then, all of the things you want to do on offense take over. You can run the ball more, you can run some of your special plays more. The defense did a good job of getting them stopped, and we had contributions from special teams. Then, the score ends up being like it is (36-20)."

Q: Saquon (Barkley) had 112 yards without a run longer than 12 yards. He had 24 carries, 14 in the second half. Was that your intention, to feed him a lot? Or once you get the lead, does it become an extended four-minute situation?

Shurmur: "Well, no, that's the way games play out. When you're ahead, you can tend to run the ball more, and when you have a running back of Saquon's quality. Unfortunately, in games this year, we've been behind, which doesn't allow you to run the ball quite as much. It's just the way the game played out. You like them all to play out that way, so it's important to play well early in the game."

Q: I don't like asking 'Are you surprised' questions, but the way the secondary played with those four first-year guys, holding them to six completions in the second half, did you expect them to come together this quickly?

Shurmur: "I don't know what you call quickly. It's been all season they've been playing. But certainly, in the last half of that game, we played better pass defense. They're getting better. They're improving. But they're still young players, and they have to continue to improve."

Q: (Sam) Beal certainly made his mark. He had 11 tackles. I thought the safety was the turning point in the game. It was only his fifth game. Has he personally progressed pretty rapidly? He didn't play early in the year, now he's starting and playing a big role.

Shurmur: "Well, he didn't play early in the year because he was hurt. He was on I.R. But he's making improvements each week, for sure."

Q: Is (14-year veteran safety Antoine) Bethea a stabilizer back there?

Shurmur: "Antoine does a good job of getting the guys lined up, yeah."

Q: Daniel Jones was asked about not playing the last two weeks, and he said, "You see things from a different point of view, and I think it helped." Everyone obviously wants to play. Can a young player take anything positive from sitting back and watching for two games?

Shurmur: "I think you learn the most quickly by playing. But when you're forced to not play for a while, you do what you can to learn by watching. I think that's just talk, to say that for him to step back and play, then not play, then step in, that they learn something. I don't think so. I think you continue to learn by playing. Then you evaluate it. You have your 'a-ha' moments. I think that's like halftime adjustments, quite frankly. It's BS. You learn by playing, and once you start playing, there's something to learn by being in the game."

Q: Daniel spoke to Eli between series. Did he offer suggestions on the sideline, like a veteran might?

Shurmur: "He was good. That's why I took him on the first road game (in Philadelphia), because I think he has great insight, he has great knowledge for a young player, and I think he contributed during the game."

Q: You've been very complimentary toward Nick Gates since he arrived last year. You probably have 20-25 undrafted rookies each year. Why did he stand out so quickly for you?

Shurmur: "There are a couple of things. Number one, he has a feel for the game. There are a lot of guys playing that don't have a feel for the game. He has a feel for the game. That's what makes him a football player. There are a lot of guys that can run and jump and 'Oh-ah, he has great potential' but he has no feel for the game. That's not Nick. I think he has a great feel for the game, he can play inside, he can play outside. The only thing that hurt Nick was he couldn't play last year (when he spent the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury). Last year was like year zero because you can't play. Much like Beal. So, in my mind, this is like year one for Nick, and he's made the most of it. He's kind of been our sixth lineman. He went in (at right tackle) against the Jets, and his guy didn't touch the quarterback. He went in last week and battled hard on the inside (at right guard). We work him at center. I think he has a bright future because he's a football player. He's not an athlete or a track athlete. He's a football player and he's got the mind for it."

Q: Can he play all five positions (on the offensive line)?

Shurmur: "Yeah, he can. He can play. He's played tackle in a game, he's played guard in a game. That's why he's a very valuable guy at this point. In the very near future, he'll probably be a starter."

Q: Your punter, Riley Dixon, has been very consistent all season. He's on his way to career-high averages in both gross and net yardage. Has he been an under the radar contributor for you this year?

Shurmur: "No. We liked him a year ago. I think he was getting used to things here. He's had an outstanding year punting the football, and he was rewarded with a (three-year) contract extension, which I think was the right thing to do. He should be part of the answer moving forward."

Q: The Redskins have changed a lot since we last saw them in September. Do the (Bill) Callahan Redskins look much different schematically than the (Jay) Gruden Redskins? Do they run the ball more? Are they much different from what you saw the first time?

Shurmur: "Very similar on defense, certainly. On offense, similar concepts. They probably utilize the shotgun throws and the quick game a little bit more than maybe Jay did. But for the most part, it's the same. The young quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, is a very talented player that has more games under his belt. They've developed a core of young receivers, 13 (Kelvin Harmon), 15 (Steven Sims, Jr.) and 17 (Terry McLaurin), that have been very productive. Then their running back (Adrian Peterson), he's running as well as he has. He runs hard. Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Fame player that's playing extremely well."

Q: It's a little strange not to see (Ryan) Kerrigan out there. He didn't miss a game from when he entered the league in 2011 to this season. But they have (Matt) Ioannidis (team-high 8.5 sacks) and last week (Ryan) Anderson had two sacks and three forced fumbles have. Have they compensated for Kerrigan's loss?

Shurmur: "They're very good players. It's good for the Giants. It's unfortunate for Kerrigan that he's been put on I.R. He's one of the guys that I've admired… I've admired him for a very long time, because he plays extremely hard throughout every season. He's been very durable and he's been there. It'll be a little surprising for me not to see him, because you always count on him being there. But they certainly are getting good production from the other players upfront."

Q: They've had injuries in the secondary and added two new players there this week. How much do you have to get up to speed on what their new look in the backfield?

Shurmur: "We obviously have seen all of the players that are new in the secondary. We've seen them play. We know a little bit about what they're about. Anytime you add new players in the secondary, you don't know if that's going to change them tactically. Are they going to play more man? Are they going to play more zone? Are they going to pressure more? That's something we'll find out as the game goes on."

Q: You mentioned Peterson. He only got to play three games for you in 2016 (in Minnesota). Last week, he moved up to fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing list. What was it like to coach him?

Shurmur: "He's a real pro. He might be the last of a dying breed. He's a hard, downhill runner, and they utilize him that way. I think they're doing a great job with him, too. I think he's catching the ball extremely well out of the backfield. He's a hard, downhill runner. His presence matters, I'm sure, for their team because his style is very, very physical. He's been able to play at a very high level for a very long time. I'm sure that's an inspiration to their team. That's what you need from your running back, is be able to play on all three downs, because there are times when you can't block every player on defense. You need to be able to run with a physical style. For guys that have the bodies for it, and he certainly does, he does a great job."

Q: You mention the young wide receivers. We didn't see McLaurin the last time. He has so many more catches, yards and touchdowns than any other receiver on their team. What do you see from him on tape?

Shurmur: "He's a very talented player. I can say this, we as coaches really loved him coming out of the draft. Certainly, when we were evaluating Dwayne Haskins, we got a chance to watch him (the players were teammates at Ohio State). We got to visit with him. We thought he was going to have a very bright future, and it's played out the way we thought. He's an outstanding young talent, makes great catches, and he runs great routes. You saw last week, he caught a slant and scored a touchdown. He's doing the things that we're kind of getting from (Darius) Slayton. But he's a really good player and he has a very bright future."

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