Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Did you see if (Wide Receivers Coach) Tyke (Tolbert) has a past playbook hanging around or anything?
A: Wouldn't be bad to look at that, but just really watching the tape and just getting a feel for the people. As the week starts to progress right now, (it was) a lot of scheme yesterday. Still got scheme elements of it, but now my focus and the players start focusing more on the people. We've got to know who's out there on the field, who's in the slot, who's the back, where they're lined up. You'll see just the tone of the players, the coaches, it just starts to get a little bit more focused in on it because it's narrowing down. It's almost giddy up time.
Q: What makes (Broncos Offensive Coordinator Pat) Shurmur's offense so effective?
A: I think one, they run the ball and he's committed to running the ball. So, in this league – and you can go back to Pop Warner – if you don't stop the run, the offensive coordinator has you right where he wants you because we're going to be scrambling to stop the run, so that's what's important. We've got to stop the run. Not only do they got good backs, they've got a good offensive line, they've got a good scheme, whether they mix in the zone schemes, the gap schemes. Coach (Shurmur) does a great job of mixing it up and staying committed to it. That's the biggest thing, so it's a big emphasis for us. We've got to match their intensity in the run game. You've got an offensive line that plays well together. I know they've got a new piece at the right tackle spot, but they play well together, so it's a challenge. But that's where it starts and then from there, the stuff off the run game – you've got the play actions, the boots, the nakeds, however you want to play off of that. And then, as usual, it comes down to the people. You've got a skill group like they have, the backs, the tight end, the quarterback. I think (Broncos Quarterback) Teddy's (Bridgewater) brought a calming sense to the offense. You could see that in just the efficiency in which he operated during the preseason and just over his career, so it's a challenge. The coordinator is part of it and he's a good coach and he's done a good job for a long time in this league, but they've got some good players that we've got to get focused in on.
Q: Jumping off that, (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) mentioned yesterday he thought this could be one of, if not the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. What kind of challenges do those guys present?
A: They've got people that can run. You ask any coordinator, any head coach, any DB coach, the first thing (is) who are the people that can run by you? They have several of those guys. They could run by you. If it's a foot race, they could run by you. Then, if the ball is thrown deep – again, I'm starting with all the deep passes. There are other passes in football, but I'm starting with all the deep passes because that's when they can score right away. They've got two guys that could just jump up and go get the ball with anybody, so right there you're like, okay, a few things to defend right there. Then, do they have anything on the interior? Yes, they've got things in the interior. Two of the fast guys play in the interior, so now it's vertical seams on the inside. That's tough right there, because who are they matched up on? Then, you've got to talk about the tight end. There's another guy who could run. There are multiple guys that can run and then the guy who's supposed to be the blocker, 82, he's the one that's catching all the passes in the preseason. So, yeah, it's tough. That's why I haven't shaved (laughs).
Q: You mentioned the guys running the vertical seams from the inside. I know the star position on your defense – I mean, every position is important, but when a team can do that on the interior, what does that do? I don't want to say to 'put you on your heels,' but schematically how do you have to defend against that?
A: No, it's a great weapon to have for them because the more stress you could put on, let's say not just the star, but let's say the hook area players, right? That's why the RPO (run-pass option) stuff is tough is you're putting stress on the hook player – I've got to run fit, and here comes a pass behind me. That's mostly the horizontal stretch or the horizontal dilemma you have right there. Now you add the vertical elements with it and now it becomes tough because whether that guy is a low responsibility player or not, he's probably got something to do with rerouting that, whether it's the star, the back or whoever it is. But he has a run fit, so the run pulls him in. Now, there's no reroute, now this guy's vertical in the seam and he's fast and he's behind everybody, and nobody touched him. It's hard. Offenses, they stress us out. You wonder why we're grumpy as defensive coaches, it's because they're stressing us out. I always say they're always trying to screw with us, which, that's a good thing.
Q: (Safety) Xavier McKinney. What do you want to see from him above all else in this game?
A: Keep it simple just in terms of team first, good football position and just valuing the process as he builds towards his game. It's all the stuff we talk about. In terms of his play, defend the deep part of the field – he's a defensive back – make sure we tackle, and I want him to have fun out there, have fun with his teammates. That's the main stuff right there. I'm not going to get into anything specific because I don't know what he's going to have to do. He might have to cover man-to-man, he might have to play the deep part of the field, he might have to tackle somebody on a long gain. I just want him to go out there and do his job to the best of his ability. We're looking forward to seeing him play.
Q: He seems to have a ball hawk element to him. Do you want him to take chances or as a young guy you just want him not to get beat deep?
A: I want him to play football how he's been taught to play and how he's played his whole career in terms of – I mean, is he a ball hawk? The past has suggested that and then his last game he played he got his hand on the ball to the end of the game. But I want all the guys – if the ball is near you, I want you to make a play on the ball. So, I just want Zay to do his job, do his job to the best of his ability, which I know he's working towards doing, and just trust his teammates and put the team first. Just all the stuff we talk about.
Q: You talked a lot about stopping the run.
A: I'm a D-line coach now, you've got to understand that (laughs).
Q: What is your confidence level now that there's no (Vikings Defensive Lineman) Dalvin Tomlinson and so that is a hole that you guys had to fill in your defensive line – how confident are you that you have filled that hole and you can still stop the run?
A: Again, we're so behind on the run game just in general in terms of the football – off-season, training camp, because in the off-season we don't really do it. So, again, you try to get engaged during practice, during training camp, try to get engaged during the preseason. I know this, where we're going to be on Sunday, hopefully, a few Sundays from now and 10 Sundays from now we're going to be a lot better. I have confidence in the players that are here because they understand how we want to play the run. It's not going to be on one person, if that makes sense there. The goal and when we talk to those guys about defending the run, we've got to set an edge and build a wall, and then the next thing is listen, nobody could go one-for-one. We're not looking for that. It's a passing league, so if you overcommit to the run game you could get into issues right there. It's a passing league, so we've got to have men that play out on that field that can not go one-for-one, meaning that, okay, I'm getting blocked by this guy, I've got to be able to play A-gap, B-gap, C-gap, D-gap, B-gap, A-gap. So, that's what we're looking for if that makes sense. And I have faith in the guys because they've been working hard. (Defensive Line Coach Sean) Spence (Spencer), (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer), these guys do a good job. You guys are here, how often (are) you not able to see the D-Line, the inside backers and the outside backers because they're over there in the blocking structure. We work it. Now, is it going to be perfect? No. Is it going to be perfect? No. I don't know how Sunday is going to go, but if we work it and we've just got to make sure that we keep striving to get better.
Q: Were you in Green Bay when Teddy was with the Vikings?
A: No, it was (Vikings Quarterback) Kirk Cousins.
Q: Did you ever coach against him before his injury?
A: No, he got hurt and then it was a (Former Vikings Quarterback) (Matt) Cassel in '14. We went up there in Week 3 or Week 2. They scored on the opening drive. (Former Vikings Offensive Coordinator) (Norv) Turner, I remember that one. They went down, we went over what not to do or what they were going to do, and they did everything they were going to do, and it was 7-0 real quick. That was not fun – little bit in the ear in the headset on that one – but he got hurt and then Cassel was the starter. But I remember that vividly, yes.
Q: What do you see from Teddy now?
A: Like I said before, again, I think there's a calming presence about him out there on the field. I've never met him before. He gets rid of the ball quickly, he makes quick decisions. I think you saw that from Carolina, his time in New Orleans, just going back watching tape just trying to get a feel for him because I haven't gone against him in the past that I can remember. But, a calming presence, making quick decisions and, again, to me, when you get these veteran quarterbacks, when they can get you in the right run play, that's just as beneficial as when they're going over on TV, 'Oh, he checked to this pass and all that.' I mean, whatever. When they get you in the right run play and it hits for 20 yards, that's a big deal to me when those quarterbacks can do that. So, you see that, him getting them in and out of checks. That's the benefit of having a veteran quarterback that's smart and knows what's going on, and then obviously he can throw the ball. I mean, every time he's been in the game in the preseason it's been a score for the most part, so good player.
Q: You've had this summer to kind of digest what your defense is going to look like, right? What do you expect to be better, an improvement? Where do you think the biggest gains are from this defense when you look at it compared to last year?
A: See, the hard thing is that I don't really do the comparison thing. Again, I'm not trying to be cliché or just coach speak. Every day is new, every year is new. I mean, it's a complete reset. Now, in terms of what am I looking for? There's probably more scheme that we're able to get to at this point than we were last year. That's a fair answer just to answer your question right there. There's probably more scheme there, but what am I looking for the first game of the season? I'm looking for us not to beat ourselves, no penalties, cut down on the mental errors, make sure we're tackling. You know how it is. You guys have been around football long enough – the first week of the season – I mean, how many missed tackles, how many missed assignments, people wide open, all types of stuff. I'm sure Joe talked about (it). We've got to cut down on that, so that's what I'm looking forward to, not allowing these guys to run free, make sure we know where we're supposed to be, make sure I'm not screwing up any situations with calls. It's the first game, everybody's first game of the year, I know we had some warmups with the preseason, but that's really what we're looking for. But to answer your question, there's probably more scheme that we're able to get to at this point because the guys are further along. Does that make sense?
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: Before we get into football, you were here 20 years ago. I'm just curious what your recollections are from that week and at that time?
A: Obviously, it's a tragic time in our country's history and just having been here, the memories are really vivid for me. I can remember so many specific details of the day and certainly the week and the time to follow. It just was a really, really sad time. One of the great takeaways – I actually was talking to (Former Giants Quarterback) Kerry Collins about this the other night, it was just amazing how this area and our country, in many ways our world, came together after 9/11. I can remember we were living in the city at the time, and I can remember we were going to go donate blood, and literally they said, 'We've had so many people want to donate blood, we do not need any more blood.' To us, that was always like this amazing thing, how everybody rallied around the cause after such a tragedy. It was such a sad, emotional time. In many ways, I think we felt fortunate as members of this team to be able to try to help the community in some ways. We spent a lot of time at firehouses and visiting police departments and some of the people who lost their dads or their moms. At least you felt like you were trying to do something, and I thought (Vice President of Community & Corporate Relations) Allison Stangeby and everybody here at the Giants did an amazing job connecting us with the community in that regard. I'll never forget the picture we took after the Kansas City game. I'm sure you guys have seen it. (Former Giants Head) Coach (Jim) Fassel – it was an emotional time, and it was an important game for us and somehow, some way we found a way to beat the Chiefs that day. I remember after the game he just brought everybody in and said, 'Just kind of get in the locker room,' and we all kind of just got in this picture and they snapped this picture. We felt a real burden and a responsibility to have success for this area and for the people who were going through such challenging times and I thought that moment captured it where we all kind of came together. It's still one of my favorite pictures I've ever had in football. I have it in my office. I have it at my house. So many distinct memories of that time. Twenty years later, I mean, they're vivid. They're vivid and you can still feel them. Obviously, a very tragic time in our country's history.
Q: You just mentioned Coach Fassel, does this have new meaning 20 years later? Have you been thinking about him more now?
A: Yeah, I just thought he did an amazing job. We had a chance to go to the dinner after the golf tournament they had for him last week and there were a lot of policemen there, firemen there, guys who were around at 9/11 who we stayed in touch with, and a big part of the tribute to him was around his leadership in response to that tragedy. So, I thought he handled it beautifully and it was great to see his leadership as a player help this organization and help this community.
Q: That's not in the coaching manual is it?
A: Oh, I don't think it's in anybody's manual. If we all think about that time, I mean, I think everybody – whether it's President Bush or the leaders in our country, the community leaders, just citizens – how do you respond to that? One of the things when you reflect back on that time, what was amazing is I think we were at our best in our response and how everyone came together. It wasn't about being liberal or conservative, it was about being an American and it was about being a human being. I thought we did a great job in this area and all across our country rallying around the cause.
Q: You mentioned the Chiefs game, the fans passed around firefighters' boots, were you aware of that? (It was) for donations in the stands and they would put money in the boots.
A: I don't know that I was aware of that specifically, but my great takeaway from that experience was Kansas City is a hard place to play, right? For years you go there and it's like, 'wow, this is a challenging environment.' I remember going out before the game to warm up and the fans were so warm and welcoming. Again, it was such an emotional time. I can remember them playing a lot of Bob Dylan before the game and it just seemed like a surreal experience. But the great takeaway was this fanbase in Kansas City that was always so behind their team was certainly behind the Chiefs, but you also felt their support for our team and for people in our area and that was a great takeaway. I think you reflect back on just the national anthem, and I can remember guys were just crying. It was just such an emotional thing and then you had to kind of get your energy right, take a deep breath and go play a football game. Personally, for me, I held in that game for the first time, and I can remember the pressure of that. Needing a field goal late in the game and Morten Andersen was our kicker and just making sure, hey, catch it and get it down. This is damn important. Good thing it all worked out. I thought our organization and our team did a great job responding to that time.
Q: I guess I'll ask a football question now. How has (Tackle) Andrew Thomas developed in terms of responding after maybe he gives up a sack or whatever? How is he in terms of bouncing back?
A: Yeah, I think Andrew's done a really good job in his progression as a player. Obviously, it's a really challenging position to play in the NFL, left tackle, and you go against the best rushers every week. If you reflect back on the early part of the season last year with no preseason games and kind of a crazy training camp, he's going against the (Former Steelers Outside Linebacker) Bud Duprees and the (Steelers Outside Linebacker) T.J. Watts, (Bears Outside Linebacker) Khalil Mack and (Bears Outside Linebacker) Robert Quinn and all those guys early on and it was like, 'wow, what is this?' But I thought he settled in. Mid-year, he started to settle in, and I thought he regained his confidence and started playing better and better. He's continued to do that here in training camp and through the preseason. You said it, it's the most important part of any position in football, particularly that one – those guys are really good. They're going to have success. How do you respond to the adversity that you have? You've got to come back, and I think he's doing that better and better.
Q: We've seen you really since the start of training camp spend time with (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) having your friendly competitions – I guess I put friendly in quotes. In terms of how you guys are going back and forth, how have those moments that you've gotten to spend with Daniel away from the grind of the X's and O's improved your relationship with him? How much more have you learned about him from doing that kind of stuff?
A: Oh, I think you're always trying to do that when you're a coach. You're trying to build relationships with your players. Certainly, you build them in the meeting rooms, but outside the meeting rooms with all your guys, you're trying to develop those relationships because what I would argue is that that's what allows you to coach them hard and coach them to a high standard, them knowing that you care about them and you want what's good for them individually and what's good for us as a team. So, I think Daniel understands that. For me, we've had a really good relationship right from the start. We do like spending extra time having our competitions afterwards – accuracy competitions and ballistics throwing competitions and just how you can perform in nut-cutting time competitions. So, it's something we've done with quarterbacks for a long time. I'm on a little bit of a streak here the last few days, so we'll see how it goes.
Q: I'm not sure Giants fans are going to be happy to hear you're beating him out there.
A: No, he could destroy me.
Q: What have you learned about (Running Back) Devontae Booker and how ready is he to play a role on Sunday?
A: Yeah, Devontae has done a really good job for us. We liked him a lot in the free agency process. I really liked him coming out of school. I think he's demonstrated that he can be a complete back in the NFL when he's given opportunities. I think he's picked up our system well. He can certainly run the ball inside and outside. He can pass protect. He can run routes. He can really do anything we ask him to do. So, he's off to a good start and he'll get opportunities as the season goes on.
Q: How much different is your offense, what you call, what you do, when you have (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) in the lineup compared to maybe when you don't like last year?
A: Oh, I think we have a lot of confidence in the guys we have, and we have a lot of confidence in Book (Devontae Booker). Obviously, Saquon's a special player and he'll certainly get his opportunities. He too can really do anything we ask him to do. But as a coach, you're constantly trying to put your guys in favorable situations with things they can do, and we feel confident about any guy that we put in there.
Q: What does it add to have Saquon back?
A: Oh, trust me, I was on the other side with this guy and he's one of those dynamic players, both in the running game and in the passing game. He's one of those players who can make a three-yard run and a four-yard run and a two-yard and a one-yard run, and then he catches a screen and goes for 65 yards. We've lived that trying to stop him, so it's great to have him on our side and, again, we'll try to give him opportunities. He's worked really, really hard to get back, to come back from a serious injury. He's done a great job and demonstrated great leadership about how you respond to adversity.
Q: Do you see that same Saquon though? I mean, do you see that same guy that you said before?
A: Yeah, a lot of confidence in him as a player and I think he's done a great job to get himself back healthy and 100 percent.
Q: (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham was saying earlier because it's his second year here he has a lot more scheme that he can put out there to his players. This is your second year here, do you say the same thing because it's the second year with a lot of these guys that there's a lot more scheme you have right now?
A: I think there's a comfort level the guys have who have been here that you can do a lot of the stuff that we've done, but also build on it. I think that's just a natural progression anytime you're putting a system of football in.
Q: As a quarterback and a coach, you've seen the Broncos revamp the secondary. Are you preparing for the players they brought in, the system they use, or what?
A: Yeah, I think it's always a combination of that. They have a system they believe in. (Broncos Head Coach) Vic Fangio's been a great, great defensive coordinator in the National Football League for a long time. He and (Broncos Defensive Coordinator) Ed Donatell work really well together. They have a system that they used in a lot of different places. So, I think it starts with that, but then the most important stuff is who's implementing that system. They've done a really good job building that defense. They're really good on the front. They're really good at the linebacker level. They're really good on the back end. So, we have challenges all over the place on Sunday.
Q: With (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney), do you have like specific plays that are just designated for him because he's kind of got a unique skillset?
A: There's certainly things you want him to be able to do and Kadarius missed a lot of time in training camp, so you want to be specific and purposeful with what you ask him to do. But that's really the same for any of the guys that we have.
Q: We saw you work a lot in the summer on red zone. How different are you going to be this year with the different personnel and the people that you've added in that area?
A: Again, I think you always just go back to: this is what we have. We feel really good about the players we have all across our offense and you're trying to utilize them to the best of their ability, so you want to put them in situations where they can have success. We feel good about the variety of things that each of those guys can do. It's not like, hey, he can't do that, he can't do that. The biggest thing is time on task, getting to a point where he can take the work that we do out here and be able to execute on Sunday. We're always trying to evaluate that as coaches and make the right decisions.
Q: On the offensive line, how much harder does it make it for a unit to gain consistency if you're rotating players in and out versus if you have the same five guys?
A: Well, I think like with any position you want to make sure guys get reps and there's time on task. Obviously, when you're talking about the offensive line, there's a lot of communication between those guys and among that group. So, I think you have to be mindful of that, but at the same time, guys have to be versatile. It's something where guys need to play the interior spots. Tackles need to be able to flip side to side. You want them in their spots, but versatility is a big part of that unit. Over the course of the year, they're going to have to play different spots. Ideally, you want those guys locked in, but again, flexibility and versatility is a big part of that position.
Q: I meant more like in the game the way you guys did last year. Like one drive until the next drive, you switch the left guard and the right tackle. Is it difficult in-game for those guys to maintain consistency?
A: Well again, you just have to handle that situation if it comes up and obviously there's reasons to do that. You want to give guys opportunities to play and grow, so, we'll see. We'll take that situation and how we play those guys really, a day and a week at a time.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: How does (Defensive Back) Nate's (Ebner) return affect (Fullback) Cullen (Gillaspia)?
A: It's going to help him a lot. Anytime you're a young special teams player trying to find your way in the league, and then you get a chance to learn from a veteran special teams player, that's a big advantage for him. Getting Nate back in here and being in the meetings with him and really just kind of being his protege, just learning from a guy who's done it at a high level for a long time – that's advantageous to him.
Q: Is Nate ready to go?
A: Yeah, he practiced yesterday. He's ready to go.
Q: Usually things aren't seamless, but is it seamless?
A: It's like anything else, he's got to get in football shape and get used to the volume. As far as the scheme and everything else, he's good.
Q: Has (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) earned your trust?
A: Kadarius is earning everyone's trust. He's getting out here and he's working. He's a rookie, he's trying to find his way and lead. He's going to try and find his niche and he's doing a good job, he is. He's different, he' a special athlete.
Q: Are you comfortable having him out there to be possibly the first Giant to touch the ball in 2021?
A: Who knows. It's one of those deals where whatever situation comes up, we'll deal with it. We've got a bunch of options at that spot, which is good. We'll just keep working those guys. We'll keep rolling them and see who ends up back there in the game.
Q: Are you still up in the air about how that's going to shake out or are you kind of set on somebody at this point?
A: We'll see. I mean, again, we've got a bunch of options. We've got three or four guys that can do it. We'll find out.
Q: Ball security is always the most important thing, so how do you weigh that even with a guy like Kadarius when you say, 'well, we get the ball in his hands, he can make something happen,' but you have to make sure whoever has that ball gets the ball in his hands first and doesn't lose the ball?
A: That's the most important thing we always tell our guys when it comes to punt return and especially punt return, the most important thing is, so we're getting the ball back. The ball is the most important thing. Obviously, ball security is the number one issue. Once we get that secure, then everything else will take care of itself. All those guys back there are capable of making plays.
Q: Is Kadarius good at that when you talk about ball security?
A: Yeah, he does a good job. He's a wiry, strong guy and he does a good job of fielding the ball.
Q: What is (Safety) Jabrill's (Peppers) defining trait or strength as a returner? We've all seen him be dangerous throughout his career, but what makes him dangerous as a returner?
A: He has great vision, he's powerful, he has excellent change of direction, he can make all of his cuts at full speed and he's just competitive and he wants to do it. A lot of times you get guys that they start to climb the ladder on offense and defense and that return part of the game kind of fades if they have that ability and he just wants to compete. It doesn't matter if it's nickel, if it's dime, if you put him back there at running back, I bet you wouldn't notice the difference between him playing offense or defense. He's just a football player. That's what makes him special.
Q: With Jabrill, (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) said last year that you hear him before you see him. Is he always in your ear wanting opportunities?
A: He's always wanting opportunities. Pepp (Peppers) is never one to shy away from anything competitive and that's what makes him special because he loves to compete, and he competes at a high level. Him getting out here and being able to do all the different things he can do, providing that value and adding value to your football team, it goes without saying, he's just invaluable to you. He does so much.
Q: What catches your attention when you look at the Broncos this week?
A: Oh man. (Special Teams Coordinator) Tom McMahon, his group is always really, really good. They're always super aggressive. They give you a lot of gimmicks, you get fakes, you get the surprise onsides. Their punt is different than any other team in the league. How they punt the ball with direction and limited hang and distance to try and get your returner running sideways. It's challenging and you always got to stay on your toes. They give you a swinging gate on the punt team. They can give you one of them – I mean, they give you all kinds of stuff. They make you prepare for everything and you just got to stay on top of it and just be ready for all the situations that might come up.
Q: You said you have three or four options for kick returner. Do you prefer to just land on one guy?
A: Anytime you can get continuity is always good. It's just like playing the same quarterback, it's just like having the same running back. Any time you can get consistency and continuity in a spot, that's what you want so guys can build chemistry, but that's my job. I might have, as a special teams coordinator, we might have four or five guys returning kicks in one year. Shoot, I've had it when we had two or three doing one game. So, that's just the reality of the business.
Q: Is their punter one of the Australian guys?
A: No, it's just their philosophy when it comes to punt. He uses the Australian style of kick. He will use the Aussie kick, he'll offset, pull the ball back to his left and he'll kick it out to the right. You can get you moving and hit a regular punt. So that's kind of their deal when it comes to the punting. They want to get you moving, but he does have the Australian style of kicks, definitely.
Q: Not that other guys can't do it, but against a team that's that tricky, does Ebner being back especially important because of his recognition of what's coming?
A: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Anytime you get a veteran guy that's been around, that's played against other people, it's always good to have. It's always good to have Nate out there and his experience is awesome.
Linebacker Blake Martinez
Q: Now that kind of all the 'hay is in the barn' in terms of the preparation for the season, you guys know what you have on the defense personnel-wise, you know what you bring back, you know what you added and what you accomplished last year, so how high are the expectations for you guys as a defense?
A: I think for us, I think it's kind of the whole thing of there's a lot of potential there. I think across the board you look at all the positions, all the players, (there are) really great players across the board. I think it comes down to us, like you said. All the preparation in training camp into this week – Wednesday, Thursday practice and Friday leading into the game is making sure we have all of us on the same page doing our job. If we can do that, we have a bunch of guys that can go make plays and when you do that you can be one of those top defenses in the league.
Q: Do you see that on both sides of the ball?
A: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. I think you look at both sides, you see when the offense breaks the huddle the amount of guys out there that can go and make plays, go make special plays. It's incredible and I think it once again comes down to executing those plays and if we do, we can be something special.
Q: You've covered (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), probably bumped him, maybe tackled him – how has he looked?
A: I mean, going against him makes me even better every day. That's kind of the mindset for both of us. He's looked good going against me. Excited for him when he gets that chance to go out there.
Q: Does he look ready?
A: I don't know, I'm not an expert on that aspect, so I'll kind of leave it to the medical people. But his quads look ginormous, so that's kind of my component on making sure Saquon's good to go.
Q: Has this defense developed the trust in (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham that he will always kind of come up with the solution for whatever is presented?
A: Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing. I think the best thing Pat does is he communicates really well with us throughout the week, even during the games obviously as well, of what we think is good, what we think is bad, what we should take out, what we should keep in. It makes it a lot easier to go out there and play for him because you know he's going to allow us to mold the defense in a way that we know we can execute.
Q: Has he been, for lack of a better word, more comfortable this year with the players and with himself?
A: Yeah, I think it's kind of the first year to second year type of thing, especially a decent amount of guys coming back from that first year on the defensive side at least. I think he can trust us and it's just growing our awareness within the defense and he's now able to go from the 101-type of classes to the 201-type of classes.
Q: When you play against a veteran quarterback, like (Broncos Quarterback Teddy) Bridgewater, how much more do you have to check your coverage in a scheme because he does, versus like a first- or second-year QB?
A: No, definitely. I think he's able to read defenses, see what we're in. I think it just comes down to us obviously executing what we're doing, but also trying to disguise as much as we possibly can to not allow him to see what we're in as fast and keep him guessing.
Q: Is that standard across the board though, like veteran to rookie QB? Or are there young guys who are really good at that, too?
A: I think it all depends on the given individual player. They can be a rookie or a 22-year vet. I think you kind of go through each game and see what they're kind of going through that given Sunday and then you kind of want to keep him off of their perfect game kind of thing.
Q: Is there any reason why this defense shouldn't get off to a fast start? There's a lot of veterans, you guys are healthy, guys know the scheme – any reason why you guys shouldn't start fast?
A: No, I think for us it's just going out there and executing. I think we've done a pretty good job as of late. I think the big thing for us was we go back to those joint practices and wanting to start fast, and I think that, as negative as that could've been that day, it was a positive thing for us taking it and knowing that we don't want that to happen continuously throughout the season.
Q: When Pat has talked to us, one of the things that he has kind of harped on is he says the one thing that concerns him is the run defense. I know (Former Giants Defensive Tackle) Dalvin's (Tomlinson) gone, but I mean, is it that big of an issue or what?
A: I think at the end of the day it keeps going back to the execution aspect. I think we have all the right guys and it's just coming down to understanding your assignment. Whether you're frontside, backside, knowing where the running back is, reading the offensive linemen, the run keys and going and making plays.
Q: This is kind of obvious, but have you talked at all as a team about how this organization the last few years has struggled to win early – the first game, the first couple of games. Is that anything you guys have talked about or is it just obvious that's what you're trying to do?
A: I think everyone goes into every game wanting to win. I think it's that aspect of starting off fast and I think we have the perfect kind of situation this season to start fast and start the fastest. Obviously, we play our game on Sunday and then we play instantly on Thursday, so it allows us to kind of change that perspective that has happened recently.
Q: Anything going against (Broncos Offensive Coordinator) Pat Shurmur's offense – I guess you've played him at some point. Anything specifically about him that's challenging to the defense?
A: I mean, he does multiple things. He has (the) ability to change up what he's doing, whether it's quarterback under center, quarterback in the gun. I think he keeps you second-guessing at moments and you just have to be able to read your keys and understand what they're trying to get done whatever formation they're in.
Q: I think people look at these two teams and say, Broncos and Washington, two really good defenses. You guys have an offense that hasn't been on the field together a lot. People look at this and say, 'Maybe these are going to have to be two low-scoring games and the Giants are going to have to win on defense.' How much, when you're going against a team that has a really good defense, do you put it on your shoulders and say, 'Hey, we have to limit their offense because their defense is really darn good, too?'
A: I think that's some part of the aspect when you go into games like that. But I think overall, I think we have such high expectations for ourselves and we want to go out there and be the game wreckers and do things that allow our offense to have that much easier of a game. I think as long as we go do that, that's our mindset no matter what team we're playing, what day we're playing. But yeah, it's definitely a thing we think about.
Cornerback James Bradberry
Q: What do (the Broncos) present? They've got some pretty good receivers you're going against this week.
A: Sure. They've got a mixture of some down the field, vertical guys and then they've got some shift guys with (Broncos Wide Receiver Jerry) Jeudy. Of course, (Broncos Wide Receiver Courtland) Sutton and (Wide Receiver) Tim Patrick are the deep ball guys, bigger physical receivers that catch the 50-50 balls down the field. They've also got some speedsters too in (Broncos Wide Receiver) K.J. Hamler.
Q: Who's your favorite teammate? If it's number 54, what's his name and how much do you like him? (Asked by Linebacker Blake Martinez)
A: My favorite teammate is Blake Martinez. I like him so much that I voted for him three times on the captain sheet. (laughs)
Q: What'd he give you?
A: Friendship, friendship. (laughs)
Q: When a team has this many good receivers, is it harder for them to put you on one guy to lock down? Doesn't it make more sense for you to have to rove and kind of what they're running, that's what you're doing?
A: It's definitely harder to match up with a team that has so many explosive receivers because they've got so many weapons. That's why a D coordinator puts together a good game plan for us to go into the game. Just go out there and execute the game plan.
Q: How important does (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) become in this because he has a different skill set, so you can match up accordingly if you guys decide to go that direction?
A: I think his role is very important because he adds another key veteran to our lineup. He's very smart, very athletic and he has that speed dynamic that we need on our defense.
Q: What's unique about (Broncos Quarterback) Teddy Bridgewater as a quarterback? What challenges does he present?
A: I think he's very accurate and he makes good decisions with the ball. I think that's what makes him very unique.
Q: When he was younger, he would run more. Has he cut that back at all?
A: I believe so. That happens anytime you have an injury to your lower extremity or something. You're going to stop doing something that you're used to doing all the time. So, I think he has definitely stopped running quite a bit, but I think he's still capable of running.
Q: Where do you view the defense in regard to your progression from where you started this summer compared to where you are now or looking at where you were last year even?
A: It's hard to compare where we were last year to this year, but I know we're in a good spot right now. Today we had a good practice and hopefully tomorrow we end up having a good practice as well. That will give us momentum going into Sunday's game, so I think we're in a good spot. We've got pretty much most of the same starters that we had last year.
Q: Why is it hard to compare then if you do have most of the starters?
A: Because we've got different opponents this year, different guys that we have to go against, different matchups. Then, you never know with injuries. It's football, injuries are going to happen. You never know how the season is going to turn out, so that's why it's so hard to compare to last year.
Q: Setting aside the 'what if' about injuries, you guys bring back a lot of people on this defense. You were pretty good last year. You added some pieces like Adoree'. In your mind, should this be a top-10 defense this year?
A: You've got to take it one week at a time. I think we have a good squad on paper, but you definitely still have to go out there, execute and make plays.
Q: Do you prepare your body any differently when you have two games this close back-to-back than you would for a normal week Sunday to Sunday?
A: You just know once you get done with Sunday's game you've got to immediately go to the next game. As far as recovery, I start recovery as soon as I can right after the game. It's a home game, so I'm going to get on my Normatec boots right after the game, probably try to do a little bit more treatment as far as massage and whatnot, extra stretching.
Q: (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham said there's definitely more scheme at this time now than there was last year. Do you feel the sense that you guys are ready to do more?
A: I think so. I think we're smart enough on the backend to do a lot, but of course last year was our first year under Patrick Graham's regime and his scheme. This year, it's kind of the same scheme. We're more comfortable in it.
Q: I know you guys got a taste of what (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) can bring to the backend, but was it enough of a taste to know what kind of player he can be, or do you think this summer he's kind of shown you guys how he's ready to be a part of what you guys have going on in the backend?
A: It's only his second year so I don't want to put too much on his shoulders, but he's growing and getting better week in and week out. I think the sky's the limit for him. He's just got to go out there and execute and just play well.
Q: Did he ever open up at the end of last season to the almost spreading your wings kind of thing that he wasn't a rookie, or did it take until you guys came back this year that you started seeing more of the guy he is today?
A: I think last year I saw from him that he was just happy to be out there after coming off the injury that kept him sidelined for so long. Then this year, of course he's trying to be more proactive because he's on the field now, he's able to take live reps and whatnot. He's always communicating out on the field, doing the extra stuff with some of the teammates. I feel like he's growing week in and week out like I said.
Q: Which interception was better, yours in Chicago last year or Blake's against New England?
A: I think it was equally a great play. Mine was during a live game, so I guess you've got to go with mine. It wasn't a preseason game.
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Q: Does it feel like the gang is getting back together? In the summer, the gang was a little bit all over the place. You were always there, but does it seem like when it's ready for the lights to go on the gang's getting back together here?
A: Yeah, for sure. I'm happy to be on the field with all the guys and all the different pieces and getting to see everybody work together. Starting to make this thing gel, just got to put it together on Sunday.
Q: How much different does the offense look the last couple weeks now that you have all those pieces in there?
A: You're just able to get those guys involved. Practice has been helping us, (and) after practice. Since those guys missed a lot of time, they've been spending a lot of time after practice just throwing with (Quarterback Daniel Jones) DJ, trying to get on the same timing as him and spending a lot of time in the film room as well. It's looking good.
Q: All things considered and considering how much time some of your key guys missed and the fact that you're playing two really good defenses to start in a short period of time, what are your thoughts about this offense's chances of getting off to a good start or maybe not?
A: Like I just mentioned, they're putting in the extra time, the extra work, so hopefully that makes up for the time missed. That's all you can do is kind of move forward every day. I'm proud of the way the guys have worked so far.
Q: I know you talked about how you play both inside and outside, you've done it, but it seems like you're going to play more on the inside. How much do you think that will help you with the ability to get open with what your skills are and with what you've done in the past?
A: I love being on the inside just because you have more space. Not to say that I don't love some stuff about the outside, but just my game matches up with the inside more just because it's more quick, intermediate routes. It's something that my skill set matches up with a little bit better than outside. I'll be bouncing around everywhere, so I'm excited about that part of it.
Q: I don't know if this is accurate, but I read somewhere you're the last Giant who played in a playoff game for the Giants still on the team.
A: I'm the only one on the team? Yeah, I think that's pretty accurate. (laughs)
Q: Are you standing there going, 'Wow, that means I'm old,' or does it mean it's time for it to change?
A: A little bit of both (laughs). I'm looking forward to this season and getting back to that spot. That's what we're all working for, that's why we come to work, so we need to change that for sure.
Q: One of (Patriots Head Coach Bill) Belichick's big fundamental things is using the middle of the field to get to the heart of defenses. He said there's more open space in the middle of the field – it's actually more crowded, but you feel like you can get open there. How important is that, getting that middle of the field to dominant opponents?
A: It's really important. You're able to get the middle of the field and it opens up some of the other stuff outside as you begin to hit those shots over the middle. It'll free up those guys on the outside – (Wide Receiver Darius) Slay (Slayton) and (Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay) KG – so we've got to be able to do that and we've got to be able to throw the ball around everywhere. We've got to be able to run it, too.
Q: When you talk about those guys getting in extra work in – everyone's kind of getting back together here – there are reasons why this offense could get off to a slower start. Do you take those reasons and push them to the side and say, 'Unacceptable, we have to get off to a fast start?'
A: What reasons?
Q: Guys coming back from injuries, guys just haven't been together, as you said.
A: There's no excuses. We're all ball players. At the end of the day, this is what we get paid to do, so whatever that individual or this offensive unit has to do to get started, there's no excuses. We have to get it done.
Q: You're close with (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), what kind of spirits is he in and how does he look to you?
A: He's excited. You guys see him running around here. He's been looking good at practice. He's just listening to everything that the trainers have to say and just going with the process.
Q: Do you find yourself peaking and watching to see how he looks? I know you're doing your thing, but –
A: All the time. I'm always focused on what I have to do first, but you can't help but get excited sometimes seeing him running around out there. That's like my brother and I love playing with him. I'm just happy to be back out on the field with him.
Q: If he does play on Sunday – I'm not asking you to make a prediction – but if he does, what will your emotions be seeing him suiting up in the locker room and running out there with you?
A: Obviously, a happy feeling. It's been a long road and to see him back out there doing what he loves is ultimately what I would like to see. That's how I feel.
Q: What have you seen him do out there that when you're kind of peaking and you go, 'Oh, hey, nice'?
A: Doing Saquon stuff. Hitting the holes, making cuts, doing stuff that he always does, making those wild plays.
Q: I saw something where you reworked your contract. I don't know if it's any significance for you in terms of what it means helping the team. Does it reassure you at all for yourself moving forward?
A: No, I think it was all business reasons. I don't think that's something that they do very often, so I'm grateful for that. Whatever's going to help the team out and get whatever we need to get done, I'm all for it.
Q: Did you do some kind of voiceover for some miniature cooking class or something like that?
A: Yeah, for I think it's like Pepsi or something like that. Yeah, I did do one for Pepsi.
Q: So, what was it, you just voiced over and they had a little doll or something giving cooking classes?
A: Yeah, it was one with cooking classes and then I know I did some other ones. I've done a couple of them in the past few weeks. I think the one that you're talking about is like a cooking one and recipes.
View photos of the Denver Broncos starters ahead of the Week 1 matchup against the Giants.