EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach’s Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur. This interview was conducted on Wednesday, the day prior to Thanksgiving.
Q: Thanksgiving is a big football holiday, and the Shurmurs are a football family. Is it a big holiday for the Shurmurs? Do you enjoy Thanksgiving, a chance to watch football, spend time with the family?
Shurmur: “Yes, nice. The family is around, so we’ll have a chance to just have a meal, a good visit and be able to enjoy the games. We’ll work here, obviously, in the morning. We’re going to practice. We have a lot to get done Thanksgiving morning. Then the players and coaches and staff will all be able to spend time with their families in the afternoon and evening.”
Q: You’re bringing them in early tomorrow?
Shurmur: “Early morning. We’ll meet and practice, and make sure the players are gone before noon. They’ll have the afternoon and evening to be home. Then we’ll get back with a normal Friday.”
Q: When you’re home with everybody watching the games, do you easily revert to, for lack of a better term, a football fan and just watch the game from that perspective, or do you watch from a coach’s perspective?
Shurmur: “I’m always watching the games with the idea that this is what we’d do with that team. Obviously, the Bears and the Lions are going to play each other, and we played both teams. We know both teams pretty intimately. We just played the Bears here less than a week ago. So, obviously we have knowledge of the teams that are playing, so you watch them that way.”
Q: I’m knocking on wood. (Daniel) Jones has not thrown an interception in exactly 100 passes, covering two and a half games. Is that an indication that he’s making good decisions? That’s not easy to do for any quarterback, go 100 passes without an interception, let alone a rookie quarterback.
Shurmur: “I think he’s making good decisions. You certainly want him to get a couple more completions. We want some more touchdowns. But once we clean up some of those fumbles, I think he’s making progress in terms of his decision-making, his timing and his accuracy and all of those things.”
Q: With a young quarterback, are fumbles easier to clean up than interceptions?
Shurmur: “In some ways. Again, the fumble the other day (that was forced by Khalil Mack in Chicago) was not necessarily… We have to do a better job of protecting. Certainly, get the ball off, in that case, maybe just a touch quicker. That’s probably the deal there. He’s fallen victim a couple of times trying to get the ball off on time and being hit too quickly. Then there’s a couple of other times when he’s held the ball. He’s trying to throw a screen pass to Saquon (Barkley) in one of the games, and he’s holding onto it a little bit too long. He’ll learn that he can’t do that. Then there were a couple, in his first game against Dallas, he fumbled the ball running outside the pocket, like a running back. Then he had another one later in the season off of a good scramble that would have been a first down, where you just have to secure the ball. Those are obviously things you can clean up.”
Q: Saquon spoke in the locker room and said he’s fine physically and even told a reporter, “Don’t try to make excuses for me.” I don’t know to what extent his ankle bothered him when he first came back, but as you look at him now, do you see glimpses of the Saquon you saw last season – hitting the hole, the cutting, that everyone was looking for?
Shurmur: “I think he’s like all of our players. We’re fighting through a tough season, and we’re all trying to do everything in our power to perform at a high level and win a game.”
Q: The other day, the Bears averaged just 2.5 yards on their 26 carries, the lowest by a Giants opponent with that many carries in 12 years. The previous game, the Jets averaged just a little bit over 2.5 yards per carry. Why do you think the run defense has stepped up recently, posting good numbers in four of the last five games?
Shurmur: “Well, we’ve done a better job of playing good team defense. That’s really what it becomes. Everyone has to defeat their block, address their gap and then tackle the runner. I think we’ve done a better job playing team defense.”
Q: When you have (Corey) Ballentine, (Sam) Beal and Julian Love all on the field at the same time, you’re essentially playing three rookies with almost no experience. Obviously, you’re looking at them to play at a high level, but when they have so little experience, do you have to accept the fact that there’s going to be some growing pains?
Shurmur: “There’s always growing pains. Obviously, we have a lot of rookies playing. It seems like we add a new rookie every week. Last week, Julian Love played an extended amount of time. Unfortunately, if Jabrill (Peppers) can’t go this week, then he’ll be inserted as a starter. Kaden Smith played as a tight end last week for the very first time as a rookie. It’s never okay to make mistakes. They need to understand the urgency of not making mistakes. But certainly, anytime these guys are doing things for the first time, things pop up.”
Q: You have those guys on defense, and Kaden, Darius (Slayton) and Daniel are still rookies. You have a lot of young players.
Shurmur: “Will’s (Hernandez) only a second-year player, Saquon’s a second-year player. We’ve got a great deal of first and second-year players. I think we’re well into the 20s now of rookies and second-year players that have started.”
Q: Aldrick Rosas clearly still has a strong leg and much talent. He went through this a couple years ago, missing a kick in five consecutive games and came back and had a Pro Bowl season last year. What can you, as his coach, do to help him get over this mental hurdle or whatever it is?
Shurmur: “Well, a player in a situation like this, he sort of has to get over it himself. But we as coaches, what we try to do is practice. Practice well, warm up well, and help him develop the confidence that he needs. It’s a matter of just doing everything fundamentally right and doing it over and over and over. Then he will be more successful.”
Q: The one thing that kind of got overlooked, the field goals were both close, he really ought to make them. But the out-of-bounds kickoff at the start of the second half was very uncharacteristic of him, wasn’t it?
Shurmur: “Definitely. They did it to start the game. It’s not something that you expect. It’s certainly something that we have to eliminate.”
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Q: You brought (wide receiver) Da’Mari Scott up to the active roster. He played a little bit for Buffalo last year. What have you seen in him and is that because you’re a little unsure about Golden (Tate) this week?
Shurmur: “We have a couple of guys that are going to rush to make it to game day that actually serve in the return role as well, with Jabrill and Golden. Da’Mari Scott has that return ability, and then if for some reason Golden’s not able to go, he’ll help being able to fill in as a wideout.”
Q: We’re expected to get bad weather on Sunday when we play the Packers - rain, maybe snow and ice. You’ve played many games in poor conditions. Do you practice with a wet ball to prepare for it?
Shurmur: “We will. That’s partly what warmups are for, but we’ve done it in the past. I think guys just need to learn how to handle the ball. We’ve practiced it throughout. They’ve always practiced it. That’s part of what warmups are as well, to get used to that.”
Q: The Packers have only eight giveaways all year. (Aaron) Rodgers has two interceptions in 380 throws. We know how talented he is, but because he’s seen so much, is it just hard to goad him into things, to fool him?
Shurmur: “I think it’s a combination of things with Aaron Rodgers. He’s obviously very talented. After what, 15 years, you’ve seen about as much as you can see. I’m sure he has a good feel for who his skill players are, and he’s smart about what he does with the ball.”
Q: (Running back Aaron) Jones has 17 touchdowns in his last 17 games. Do you have to focus on him maybe more than most other running backs you play?
Shurmur: “No. Obviously, he’ll be the focal point of stopping the run. Then we have to corral him when they throw the ball to him, do a good job of covering him. He’s an outstanding player. Seventeen touchdowns in 17 games is pretty good.”
Q: One thing that stands out about their wideouts and tight ends is most of them are very tall - 6-4, 6-3. Does height in and of itself present a problem?
Shurmur: “It can. When you get matched up, if you’re not as tall as them, certainly, they can play above the rim on you. It’s part of how they execute their offense. It’s going to be a challenge. We have to be real smart about how we cover. We can’t let that height become an issue.”
Q: Defensively, Blake Martinez always seems to put up huge tackle numbers (Green Bay lists him with 141 this season). When you watch tape of the Packers, is he noticeably making plays all of the time?
Shurmur: “He is. He’s very instinctive. He’s obviously presented in the middle of their defense. He’s able to make plays on both sides of the formation. He’s an experienced player, and he does what a linebacker has to do, tackle. He’s a very steady, sure tackler. Not surprising.”
Q: The Smiths – Preston and Za’Darius – have combined for 21.5 sacks. When you have players on either side that have 10 sacks, how hard is it to contain them? You can’t double both of them, can you?
Shurmur: “We faced the same situation last week with (Khalil) Mack and (Leonard) Floyd. Chicago had two outstanding rushers. Both of these guys have had an impact on the game lately. We have to do a good job of blocking them.”
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