Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: How frustrating was that performance late in the game by your defense?
A: I'm focused right now really on Atlanta and third downs today, but just to speak on it in terms of frustration, I'm frustrated with myself more than anything. Obviously, I've got to do a better job in those situations, the two-minute and stuff like that. Got to do a better job there, but thankfully (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) has given us a bunch of opportunities this week to work on it like he has every week and hopefully we execute it better starting with practice. That's the only way I know how to attack it. Start with practice, start with the meetings, start with the preparation, and attack it full on and look to get better at it. That's how I've worked throughout my whole career, so thankfully we have another opportunity hopefully. That will be good.
Q: Joe said that he was going to sit with you on the train ride home and sort of go over what happened. What conclusions did you come to and what changes need to be made?
A: You've got to talk to Joe about the specifics of stuff, but in terms of – as we move forward, obviously it's about execution, whether it's the right call from me as the coordinator, playing however we're supposed to play the call, whatever it's supposed to be. Again, what I can tell you is this, and this is all I know, is to go out there and practice, go through the meetings, learn from the tape and thankfully we've got a whole bunch more opportunities and I'm looking forward to those. We've got to do better. I've got to do better. I've got to do a better job. That's why I love this challenge, this job. Every week is different, and every day is different, so (I've) got to do a lot better, that's all I know.
Q: Regardless of what call you send in, especially in the two-minute situations, if your pass rush doesn't get to the quarterback isn't that kind of an X-factor in whether the coverage looks good or not?
A: The thing for me – and again, just thinking about Atlanta. You've got (Falcons Quarterback) Matt Ryan back there who's arguably one of the best quarterbacks since I've been in the league. One of the best quarterbacks, was MVP, went to the Super Bowl, been to championship games, whatever. The thing (about) how you affect the quarterback is you're looking (at) whether it's the pass rush, the combination of the pass rush and the coverage. It doesn't necessarily have to get to the quarterback, it's how you disrupt him. It could be the passing lanes, it could be the disguise and dropping guys out, so it all plays together in my mind. I can't place blame on any one thing. The main person I'm going to blame is myself. I've got to do a better job. It comes down to that. These guys, they work their butts off out there on the field, they work hard out there in the stadium for us, so the key is for me to get it right first. Get it coached right, get them in the right spots, that's my job. To me, I'm not going to talk about the pass rush, I'm not going to talk about the coverage, it starts with me. That's how I see it and that's never going to change. That's never going to change. That's how I see it, that's how I talk to them and that's my job. That's what I get paid to do, so that's what we're going to work on.
Q: Whether it's you or the players or whoever, are you surprised that it's not all working as well as it did last year? The defense was such a strength last year and it's obviously not up to the same caliber in the first two weeks.
A: Thankfully, again, we've got another opportunity this week. Out of 17 games, and you want to use two games, that's fine. I still think if you do the math you've still got a chance to be okay (if) out of 17, you had two. For me, I'm just looking at it as this, I really can't talk about last week – I mean, I could, but I'm going to choose not to keep going down this road because I'm so focused on today. I know this, today is early down situations, get back on track, first-and-10, whatever it is, third down emphasis. We've got to take care of (Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin) Ridley, we've got to take care of (Falcons Tight End Kyle) Pitts, we've got to take care of the quarterback and even the run game to get into with (Falcons Running Back) Cordarrelle Patterson. That's where my focus is. Again, the good thing about my job is you get another test the next week and that's the best part about it. Whether I failed the test last week, I get another crack at it, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q: What can you say about how (Cornerback) James Bradberry has played?
A: James is playing at a high level, at a high level. His vision, he's seeing the game, the questions he has just having conversations with him in the hallway. I love James' cool demeanor – you guys get a chance to meet him – his cool demeanor and now that there's more of a relationship developing, now there's more conversations and all that stuff like that. I really think he's playing at a high level, I'm really proud of what he's done, and I know he wants more. He wants more. So that's always good when your best players want more and they're not afraid to get coached, they're working hard out there on the field. It's a beautiful thing. We've got a good group of guys, a good group of guys and it's my job to put them in the right spot.
Q: Are you surprised though that he's been getting targeted as much as he has?
A: Again, these numbers that you're working off of are fine, but it's two games. Again, I'm not a math person or a mathematician or anything, but I'm going to give it a little bit more time. I hope they target JB, feel free. (laughs)
Q: You played a lot of zone last week. What went into your thought process with that?
A: At the heart of it, I play zone coverage. Most of the downs are early downs. You've got – what was it, 72 plays last week? 72 plays? – so how many of them are early down? We play zone on early downs a lot. Zone coverage, you play with zone vision, break on the ball. That's why you play zone. Again, it's calculated what you decide to do based on what the offense is doing, but whether we play zone this game and the next game we play man, it's all based on what we think is going to be best for the game plan. Again, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but as we move towards Atlanta and the people that we're dealing with there – I talked about the receiver, talked about the tight end, talked about the back and the quarterback, but the offensive line is playing well, they've got some new pieces, some of the young guys are getting more experience, they've got some veterans out there. It's going to be a challenge, it's going to be a challenge and they've got a challenging scheme. (Falcons Head) Coach (Arthur) Smith does a good job of working that stretch run game in there and then the play-actions off of it, so we've got our hands full this week with Atlanta, that's the main thing for me. We're going to see what's best for this game – zone, man, whatever it may be, pressure, not pressure – but, again, it's a calculated risk and calculated decisions in terms of what we think is best and we'll rock and roll from there.
Q: In the summer you talked about (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and what his role will be. You said when we get to Week 1, let's see if anyone hits the ground (running). What have you seen from him the first two weeks?
A: I've seen a young player who's made a few plays, and he wants more. The thing that's encouraging (to) me with Azeez for these young edge guys, is his ability to play the run. He's playing stout in the run game. You think about a young edge player, they're thinking about, 'Okay, I've got to get sacks. Everybody wants to know how many sacks I'm going to have.' He's playing stout in the run game, that's what's encouraging for me. Whether it's the challenge of last week dealing with those tackles and those tight ends from Washington, or Denver. Then you go into this week (and) now you're dealing with, again, big bodies out there. It's a challenge for him and I'm excited to see how it plays out, but he's been doing a good job. He's been working hard, and he knows he has to do better, but we all do. We all do. It's early in the season.
Q: You have said a few times that you need to do a better job. You've mentioned that five times here–
A: Probably ten times when I go back in the other room. (laughs)
Q: You're putting this on yourself, so what in particular do you need to do a better job at?
A: I need to do a better job of coaching. That's my job. You're all not worried about me fathering or being a husband. For you guys and the people listening, I've got to do a better job of coaching.
Q: How so?
A: I've said it from the jump, as a teacher I've got to do a better job of teaching. I've got do a better job teaching, coaching, and putting them in the right spot. I think clearly, that's my job, so I've got do a better job. That's it.
Q: What makes Pitts a unique challenge for you guys?
A: He's big, he's fast, he can catch the ball. Because it's only a two-game sample size and some of the preseason, if you go back and watch his college tape it becomes really scary, because all those corners that get drafted in the first round, that's who those guys had covering him. All those teams in the SEC had guys covering him. He's a pretty dynamic player. The combination of speed, size, catch radius and all those catchy terms like that makes him a dangerous player, and his willingness to block. He'll be the point of attack in the run game, which is a bonus for him.
Q: When we talk about, 'degrees,' as in it's either great or it's not great and we never see a middle ground – with your defense, are you close or is it one extreme or the other?
A: If I had to define it to you – and those guys in the room will probably tell you the same thing – if we don't win, it's not good enough. I don't care what the score is. That's just how we're built. We've got a group of selfless guys that want to win. Nobody cares about their stats. Nobody cares about what the next contract is. We just know for the guys in that room and the camaraderie we build in that building over there and out here on this field, we want to win for each other. That's how I feel, that's how they feel, that's how we talk about it, so if we don't win, I highly doubt anybody feels good. I don't, so that's what we're working towards today. The focus is on today – third down, finishing up early downs, getting a jump start on the red area. The focus is on today to put out our best out there on that field on Sunday at one o'clock and give us a chance to win. That starts with me putting them in the right spots, us executing on the practice field and then going out there and seeing what we can do on Sunday.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: So obviously we all saw the video of (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) yelling in your direction. Is there something you want to address with that?
A: Yeah, to me, it's not a big deal at all. We're excited about having Kenny Golladay here. We liked him a lot in free agency and we brought him here and he's done a really good job for us. I love the guy. I love his competitive spirit. We talk a lot about passion, emotion and enthusiasm in our players. That's line one and he's demonstrating that. We talk a lot about fighting and competing. He's a guy who wants to be a part of this thing. He missed a lot of time during training camp. He's done a good job when he's gotten some opportunities here in the first couple of weeks. He had a couple in that game the other day that unfortunately we didn't finish and probably had some frustration. That stuff happens on sidelines all the time. We ask our players when they're between the stripes to go out there and compete and battle and scratch and claw and we can't say when they come to the sidelines all of a sudden we're choir boys again. We understand that. I've been on the sidelines for a long, long time, so that happens. But he and I had a good visit after the game. It was not an issue at all. Going forward, there's always better ways to handle things. As you go forward, better ways to communicate, but it wasn't a big deal to me and to our team at all.
Q: Can you speak about the offensive line and the job they did considering that you had a short work week and some shuffling to do and just how they performed overall?
A: Yeah, those guys have done a really good job in the first couple of weeks. They've had a lot of injuries up there, a lot of moving parts, different guys in there and real credit to the guys who have come in. We have three guys who have come in here in the last 10 days to two weeks who have played a lot of snaps for us. A tribute to them — professional players, prepared. You can tell they're veterans, guys who have been around football a little bit. They've transitioned well. Credit to (Offensive Line Coach) Rob Sale and the guys working with the offensive line to get them ready. Again, moving parts, but that's the situation we're in right now and we've just got to respond the right way. They've done a good job so far.
Q: On Golladay real quick, you said you had a good visit with him after. Did you feel the need to make sure that nothing was kind of going to come out of it?
A: Yeah, I just talked about it. It wasn't a big deal.
Q: Do you agree with that assessment that you get him the ball in different ways and how did you take the criticism that he was – or whatever he was upset about? What did you make of that?
A: I'm not going to keep talking about this. Kenny got different opportunities in the game and did a good job with some of them and a couple of them we didn't convert on. That's just what the situation was. We addressed it and we moved on.
Q: When you guys drafted (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney), there was a sense like a lot of the routes in your playbook that we see a lot of your veteran receivers run aren't necessarily the routes that he had a lot of success on at Florida. So, are you adapting more Florida Kadarius Toney routes into your playbook? Does he have to do a better job learning the traditional NFL routes because he seems like he's getting a lot of snaps but not getting a lot of touches?
A: Kadarius hasn't played a lot of football for us, yet. He missed the spring. He missed most of training camp. He practiced about three days before the season started, so he's a young player who's learning. Receivers, it takes them a little time to transition into the NFL. We all know that. I would say, in general, college receivers when they're coming into the NFL, there's a whole repertoire of routes that they haven't been exposed to, so he's in that process. It's not unique to him or to us, that's just the nature of things. The biggest thing with him is practicing day in and day out and developing some consistency. No fault of his, he's just been hurt and been sick and has been dealing with some different things. He's done a good job here lately continuing to work in practice. He's continued to develop the trust that coaches and quarterbacks have in him and just continue to grow. You said it, he played some more snaps in the game the other day. He did a good job with his work. He just has to keep doing that.
Q: With the success (Quarterback) Daniel's (Jones) had running, do you sit down and say, 'let's do it more'?
A: I think you want that to be a part of what you do, and he's done a really good job of that here the last couple of years with us. That's certainly going to be a part of what we do going forward. I don't think we're going to turn into a triple option team. I don't think that's it. I think one of the best things that he does is he has an ability to throw the ball from the pocket, throw the ball on the move and then run the ball different ways. So, that's certainly an asset to our team.
Q: With (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) and the long run he broke off the other night specifically, do you look at that – I mean, that's really the first time with you as his coach that he's had a run like that, right? The first week last year he didn't really have one. How much do you look at that and say, 'he's getting there, we're getting there'?
A: A real credit to him. He had a serious knee injury last year and he's worked really, really hard to come back. For him to come back as quickly as he has, it's really amazing. Again, a credit to him, a credit to our training staff and everybody who's worked with him. With him, it's just day by day getting better and better and better as he goes. We started to see him the last couple of weeks of training camp come back and really do everything we've asked him to do. You have to speak to him as to how he's feeling, but we're just excited to have him back and he's done a great job for us the first couple of weeks.
Q: Why do you think the offense isn't generating a lot of yards after catch and how do you go about generating more of that?
A: Again, you're always trying to refine things. Certain defenses give you certain things with run after catch, so I think that might vary week to week. I think the other piece of that is just the precision you have with route-running, accuracy, catch on the run, all of that. You're always trying to get better at that. (There were) good examples of that during the game where we did it the right way. Certainly, some areas where we can get better. It's just part of the process you go through as you try to improve and build your offense.
Q: If I could go back to Kadarius for a second because we didn't talk to you last week on the short week. That first game against Denver, he had the two snaps, the ball went right to him in the first half. Do you feel like the defense knew, 'Kadarius is in, it's going right to him'? I guess to that end, does he have to be more of a decoy sometimes so that you can eventually hit the big one to Kadarius?
A: He'll be a piece of what we're doing. We have a lot of guys on offense that we like and we want to get the ball to. We were excited to draft Kadarius and we're excited to have him on our team. We're excited to play him. But you know, we're excited about playing (Tight End) Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay and (Wide Receiver) Sterling Shepard and (Wide Receiver) Darius Slayton and some of the other guys, too. Our guys are going to earn their opportunities, earn their opportunities to get a jersey, to play and to get opportunities within the game.
Q: What in particular did you like about how Daniel played the other night within the context of the areas where you are looking for him to take the next step?
A: I think Daniel has really improved in playing winning football at the quarterback position and that's line one. That's where it starts. You have to be able to take care of the ball. You have it in your hand every play and I think if you go back to probably the middle of the year last year, you see the strides he's made in that area and that's line one. That's where it has to start. But then you have to have an ability to make plays, too. I think he demonstrated that with his arm and with his feet. From the pocket, throwing the ball quickly, throwing the ball down the field. He made some plays. He handled pressure. He threw it well against man and zone. It wasn't perfect by any means, but he's certainly making a lot of strides and going about it the right way.
Q: On the last drive, when you guys were trying to make them use their timeouts there. On those runs, when Daniel's running was working so well on those read options, why call runs to Saquon more than actually giving Daniel the option?
A: You certainly can do that. In those situations where it's a little bit of a sell-out, sometimes you want to use bigger personnel to protect the run a little bit more rather than spreading them out. You certainly could do it. There's a number of different things you can do in any of those situations. We felt like that was the right thing for us to do at that time.
Q: What's the balance there, play-calling aside, on making them use their timeouts versus just going for a touchdown and trying to win the game?
A: Yeah, we were trying to win the game and the way we were trying to do that is to try to run the ball the way we did and then try to convert the third down. Unfortunately, we weren't able to convert the third down and give us a chance to keep that drive alive.
Q: How much do you view that game as sort of a significant step forward for the offense? You put a lot of points on the board and lose even more out there with the penalty that brought back the touchdown and the dropped pass.
A: I thought we made some strides. I thought we did a good job having a balanced attack, attacking them different ways – running it and throwing it. That's what you're trying to do. It's a good defense. It's a really good defensive front. Those guys are hard to block. They've done a good job keeping offenses from moving the ball and from scoring points. Certainly, a competitive game. We did some positive things and certainly plenty of stuff we've got to clean up.
Q: As a quarterback, on the play that Slayton runs by the defense, is there a chance that Daniel can just lollipop it when he's that open or do you not even get that chance when you're a quarterback? You know, keep it short because he's 20 yards behind everyone.
A: Daniel was trying to complete the ball. Unfortunately, he missed it by a little bit. It was a good route and a near miss throw. So unfortunately, that one didn't work out for us.
Q: People call it conservative play-calling there at the end, but there was a time not long ago when giving the ball to Saquon twice wouldn't have been conservative. How close is he to being that guy that you can rely on to make plays in the fourth quarter?
A: Saquon's a really good player. I think we all know that. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. He's someone we certainly want to get the ball to in any situation – early in the game, late in the game. We want to hand it to him. We want to throw it to him. He'll keep getting better and better as the season goes on.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: With (Kicker) Graham (Gano), how much input do you have on if you're going to attempt a 50-plus yard field goal, is it predetermined before the game or on the fly?
A: No, it's always kind of predetermined. It depends on how he feels. Graham is always – if you ask a kicker, 'Can you make it?' They're going to always tell you, 'Yes.' It's just the flow of the game. How it's going to pan out, how we're moving the ball on offense, what's the wind like. Just all those different things that kind of play into it and just managing the situation as they occur. It's so many different factors that come into determining whether we're going to try to kick from 55 yards or 58 yards or whatever it is in the half, in the game. It's just a bunch of different scenarios that can come into play.
Q: You guys were working out some punters this week. What was the thought process there?
A: You're always trying to kick the tires, see what's out there. You're always trying to find young talent to develop. In this COVID era, you've just always got to cover your butt. That's the landscape that we're in now. So, you're always looking for guys to bring along, like we did with (Former Giants Kicker) Ryan Santoso and then you also want to have potentially, if the roster allows you, some legs. We've got an older kicker, we've got a veteran punter, if we can find a guy that kind of helps us in practice, we're always looking for that too.
Q: How much of that is also finding a left footed punter? I think you have a couple of those guys on your schedule.
A: Yeah, anytime you can get that you want it. Anytime if you can get a guy to come in and work out for you and have your guys see it live off the foot, that's something that you want.
Q: With (Defensive Lineman) Dexter Lawrence, what's the coaching point on that play or did he not do anything wrong?
A: It's like anything else. It's just keying it back, tip of the ball. We talk about it all the time and it's just one of those deals. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. In this case he had to learn. It's a hard lesson to learn, but you've just got to be disciplined in that situation. He had five or six times before to see the mechanics of what went on. It's tough, but that's part of growing and learning in this league.
Q: You want him trying to time it and jump it?
A: No, we're just watching the ball. It's no different, he does it every day, every play on defense. You know what I mean? It's like at the snap of the ball, you're keying it back, tip of the ball. It's just, he made a mistake. That's just part of it.
Q: Do you think he went early, or he just timed it better than the rest?
A: No, when everybody else doesn't go and you go, and it might be perfect – it looks different. To the eye, they're going to throw the flag because it just looks different.
Q: You have a couple of guys that are injured this week, (Linebacker) Cam Brown, who is a key guy for you, (Defensive Back Nate) Ebner. How much does that throw your personnel plans into array?
A: We talk about this all the time with these guys. We're making gumbo, you know what I mean. It just depends on who you have and what kind of gumbo you're making that week. That's our job as special teams coaches. We've got to make the adjustments. Whether it be Cam, whether it be whoever it is, we juggle those balls, we move the pieces around and make it fit.
Q: Yeah, but when you make gumbo and you do substitutions, the recipe is not always going to taste the same. How do you prioritize that?
A: Sometimes you might want shrimp gumbo, but you don't have shrimp that week. You know what I'm saying? That's just the reality of it right? You've got to have chicken gumbo. It doesn't have the andouille sausage in it this week, you know what I mean? (laughs) That's what it is. We've got to make do with what we have. In the situation with Cam, obviously you don't want to lose a guy at that caliber, but that's the National Football League. You're going to lose some guys (and) you're going to gain some guys. It's opportunities for other guys to step up and make plays, so we'll see what happens.
Q: With (Falcons Running Back Cordarrelle) Patterson as the returner, I know the respect that (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) has, and you guys have talked about him last year when you were playing him. Does it make you rethink the strategy of now wanting to put the ball through the endzone every time you have the opportunity because of a guy like that?
A: It makes you rethink a lot of things when you have a guy like that. He's different. He's arguably the greatest kick off returner of all time. (He's) got eight career kick off returns (touchdowns). That's a whole lot. Even in this situation, when you have a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson, you have to respect him for who he is. We just have to go out there and accept the fact that he's on the field and we got to go play him. We played him last year when he was in Chicago. It's not foreign to a lot of our guys, so we've just got to go out there and play football, be disciplined, play with fundamentals and techniques.
Q: Does it change your preparation when looking at the punting for them whether they have (Falcons Punter Dustin) Colquitt put out there or (Falcons Punter Cameron) Nizialek?
A: Yeah, Colquitt's a lefty, he's been in this league for a long time. We played against him Week 1 last year when he was in Pittsburgh. He's not foreign to us. I've been coaching against him since 2005 when he came in the league. The other kid is a young kid. He struggled a little bit, but that's what young punters do. Young kickers, young punters, young quarterbacks, they struggle. It's rare will you see a guy, a rookie come into the league and he just tears it up. That just doesn't happen. Whoever's in there, our guys will be prepared for it. We've caught lefty jugs, we'll be ready for it, so whoever is in there we'll be ready.
Q: I think three of the eight longest consecutive field goal streaks in league history are active right now including one here. Is there something that is league wide that is still allowing that to happen? What do you see that makes that happen?
A: I think you just have to give credit to those guys that are kicking. It's not the easiest thing to do, obviously. I would venture to say that all three of those guys who have the long streaks probably have the consistent snapper and the same holder. When you can get that continuity, that makes a big difference. It's no different than any other position on the field whether it be quarterback, the center and the o-line and receivers and quarterbacks, d-linemen and the secondary. Guys playing together, the consistency, that part of it, that makes all the difference in the world.
Q: There was a punt that rolled and then the next one (Wide Receiver C.J.) Board went in. Was that something you guys weren't happy with (Safety Jabrill) Peppers not fielding that?
A: That's what happens when you play (Washington Punter) Tress Way. He'll hit one 65 yards, 60 yards and crush it. Then you start backing up and playing him at 50, 55 and then he'll mishit one that rolls at 37 yards. It hits at 37 yards and rolls for another 20. That's just who he is. That's what makes him as good as he is too. He's been to the Pro Bowl, he's a Pro Bowl punter, he's really, really good. You have to respect him, the distance, but also the mishits are going to come. When they do, when his ball hits the ground, it just takes off. It's just part of playing the game. You just hope you can catch one on the run and make him pay that way.
Q: At any point do you want to kick the tires with (Wide Receiver Kadarius) Toney and see what you got as a returner?
A: At some point in time, when the opportunity presents itself, it'll happen. He's got a lot of things he's working through on the offense, but he'll be fine. When it's time for him to get back there, he'll be back there, and he'll make a play. It'll come.
Q: Do you think Way mishit that or did he do that on purpose?
A: Oh, he mishit it. Yeah, he's not trying to hit that on purpose. He isn't that good (laughs). That's what he does. He's no different – there's been other players in the league that have done that before. (Former Cardinals Punter) Andy Lee was the same way. Andy Lee would hit a ball 60 yards, 55 yards, 60 yards and then all of a sudden you play him back and he'll mishit one at 40 and it rolls for 15 yards. That's what happens when you have a big ball hitter. They swing really hard at the ball, and then sometimes if they're off just a little bit, the ball instead of going 65 yards it'll hit at 38 or 40 yards and it'll just take off and run.
Q: So, it backs you up so when he does mishit it, you're not as ready?
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: How are you feeling? Guess it's a weekly question to start.
A: Same motto, just take it one day at a time. Keep trusting my body. Every week I feel like I'm getting more comfortable. I feel like I felt way better from playing Week 1 to Week 2. But yeah, taking it one day at a time. Still getting better every single day.
Q: You felt better after 50-whatever snaps than you did after 20-whatever snaps?
A: Yeah, that's going to be the thing for me this year every week, (it's) going to get better. Everyone that's ever tore their ACL – you don't realize how many people actually tore their knee until you tear your knee, whether it's teammates, old teammates, the (Running Back Adrian Peterson) APs, the (Wide Receiver) Julian Edelmans of the world. Getting in contact with them and they tell me every week it's going to continue to get better, continue to get better. Just got to continue to trust it and continue to work.
Q: We saw the 41-yard run, how did that feel? And then all the other runs, were you just kind of waiting for the 10 and 12-yard runs to come? It seems like it's either four or five or a big one.
A: Four or five. (I've) got to keep doing a better job of eliminating the negative plays. It felt good to open up and break a big one, but at the end of the day no points came out of that. Myself, and us as an offense, have got to do a better job of capitalizing on our big plays, but the four and five (yard runs), just keep sticking with it. The 10 and 12 (yard runs) are going to come. Last week, we ran for like 160 yards. We've got a nice little package going on, a scheme where (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) is able to use his feet, so it definitely gives the defenses something else to account for in our run game.
Q: Last week, you got limited opportunities in Week 1. How are you with that right now with getting rid of rust and finding a rhythm?
A: That's just kind of going to continue to happen as the season goes on, not playing football for a year. Last week, I felt like – I know it's going to sound weird, but my eyes and my feet were moving at the same pace. I was seeing things and making cuts as the game got on, especially towards the end of the game, a lot better, so just continue to trust it, continue to watch film. When I come out here and I practice, get the most out of my reps. Those are the things that are going to help me to continue to grow throughout the season.
Q: Is it also a feel for this offense? I forgot until it hit me this morning that you had one game in this offense last year to get a feel. I know you put in all the work and it's not about knowing the plays, but from your perspective are you still getting a feel for the scheme, what they're asking to run, how they're asking you to run? Is that all part of it?
A: No, I wouldn't say that. I think the coaches do a really good job of explaining the scheme and what's to be done in the scheme, what's my role and what I've got to accomplish throughout the plays, so I wouldn't say that. But going back to what you said, I only played one game in this scheme, meaning I only played one or two football games last year and not playing for a whole year definitely takes a part, but I don't want to use that as an excuse at all. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm just going to continue to keep growing, keep trusting it and just having fun out there. Obviously, the season started off 0-2, but we have a great mindset within our team, within our locker room and with our coaches. I'm excited to go out there and try to get a dub in front of our home fans and get this thing rolling.
Q: How valuable were the 10 days for you?
A: Definitely big. I think I said last week, not ideal for someone coming off of a major knee injury to play two games in five days, but it is what it is. I'm happy I was able to play those two games and, like I said, I got confidence out of it. I felt like I grew throughout those two games, from one to two, and having those 10 days to get my body right, to see family, to go home, go to Penn State, see familiar faces, definitely just helped the mental part of it, too.
Q: The running game all goes hand in hand, how do all the changes up front affect you? You weren't working with (Offensive Lineman Ben) Bredeson or (Offensive Lineman Billy) Price in training camp. If we go back to last season or the season before that, you really only have experience running behind (Guard Will) Hernandez and (Tackle Nate) Solder. How does that all affect you, running behind an offensive line that's never really been stable?
A: That's a great point. I never thought about it that way, but those guys are stepping up into the roles. I'm going to continue to get flow with them and continue to grow with them throughout the year. They come out here and they work their butts off every single day. They have beliefs in the run game, and I have a belief in the run game, and they believe in me and I believe in them. That's key. Obviously, we would love for it to happen Week 1 or Week 2, but it's a 17-week season for a reason. I'd rather not be hot in the run game Week 2 and then in the middle of the season or end of the season it falls off, so we've got to get this thing going. With the run game, I think we found a new part of it – I don't think it's new because DJ showed it last year, but even on Thursday (with) him pulling it and the RPOs makes you have to respect something else in the run game. That naturally is going to help the run game out a lot, too.
Q: On the final drive with those last two runs, did you leave yards out there or did you take what was given to you there? Do you feel like if you were 100-percent do you do more there, do you gain more yards there?
A: I don't look at it that way. Always feel like no matter what, even if I break a 40-yard run if it's not a touchdown my mindset is, 'what could I have done to get into the end zone?' I wouldn't say I left yards out there, but I've got to do a little bit more to put us in a better position, whether that's break more tackles or feel it out and read it out better. Those are things that are going to continue to come. Just as an offense, we've got to find a way to capitalize on the big play by (Cornerback) James (Bradberry) there, but for me personally those two runs, I've got to be better for my team.
Q: How do you look at it that a quarterback leads the team in rushing?
A: As a competitor, obviously you want to be leading the team in rushing and leading the league in rushing, but at the end of the day you want to win games. We put ourselves in the position to win the game and we just didn't finish. That came on DJ playing a great game for us with throwing the ball and running the ball. I look at it – like I said, it's a 17-week season for a reason and I look at it as that's going to help me. There are going to be times where teams are not going to just continue to let him pull and take it for 60 or 80-yard runs, which he showed he can do. There's going to be times when that defensive end is going to have to sit and play DJ too and that's when I get my opportunity to make things and make things shake. Not only with that, with me running the ball, with him pulling it and throwing it overtop – you know, safety is coming down trying to stop the run – it's going to leave our wide receivers open over the middle and running slants and getting open. We've just got to continue to do those things. As an offense we were able to put up 29 points, but it wasn't enough. We've got to find a way to finish games and find a way to come out with a W.
Q: Was it eye-opening for you as a rookie coming into the NFL as far as on the field and off the field, how to be a pro? Was there a transition that you felt?
A: I had great vets – (Former Giants Running Back) Jonathan Stewart was here, did a really good job of seeing the way he took care of his body and how he operated, (Former Giants Quarterback) Eli Manning, (Former Giants Defensive Tackle Damon) 'Snacks' (Harrison). There were a lot of great vets that we had here, but for me I think with (Former Penn State Running Backs) Coach Huff and (Penn State Head) Coach (James) Franklin, they did a really good job when I was at Penn State and knowing my goals and knowing my dreams, what I want to do and what I want to accomplish, helping me and preparing me, getting me ready for the NFL. I think I've been doing a really good job of that so far on and off the field of handling being in New York, taking care of my body, handling ups, handling downs. I've only been in the NFL – going on year four right now, so there's going to be more of that too. I'm just going to stick to myself, be who I am and just go by that way.
Q: What'd you have to give Shep (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard) to wear a Penn State jersey?
A: He wanted to wear a 2-6 jersey. I had to find a way to get out there. I had to show him what real college football looks like (laughs). The big way, the White Out. I wish I could've taken all my teammates, especially my SEC teammates. They have this opinion that their crowds and student sections are different, and I just keep trying to tell them that that isn't Happy Valley and when it's all white it's a whole different scene. He got to see it for himself, but it was fun to go back out there, see familiar faces and see Coach Franklin. Also, they got the job done and they got a W.
Q: What did you think about that criticism of your beer pong game, your jump shot there?
A: Yeah, they only really put my bad shots up, but that comes with it. I think it's a good thing that I'm not good at beer pong right now to be completely honest, so I'll take it with that. It was fun, on social media it was fun. Like I said, it was good to get back there and see a lot of people, but that was our little break and now it's time to get back to work.
Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney
Opening Statement: Before I get started, I want to address the elephant in the room with social media. I know a lot of stuff was misinterpreted by me talking about the Giants or whatever. It had nothing to do with the Giants. (I'm) just focused on (getting) ready to play against the Falcons. I know a lot of people saw what I posted, like media wise, me saying the media this and that. That's not meant for everybody. The ones, they specifically know who I'm talking about because of the story that they want to make, want to create, stuff like that, they know exactly who I'm talking about. I apologize to the rest of you all who do a great job in what you all do. I'm going to leave it at that.
Q: What were you referring to with the initial post?
A: It's really a personal issue. It's a personal matter I don't really want to address it like that. That's why I left it at what it was.
Q: What have you learned about social media and what could happen when you post things on social media?
A: What (have) I learned? I really learned that it's really your job to create whatever you're all going to create or out of whatever you all want it to be. From my standpoint, I'm just going to go back to what I normally used to do and not post at all to give you nothing to really talk about.
Q: What's the advice that your teammates and coaches have given you on this?
A: Really just stay encouraged and keep going like I always (have) been doing.
Q: How do you feel about your role so far?
A: I feel pretty good in it.
Q: Would you like to be used more?
A: I feel pretty good where I'm at.
Q: How anxious are you to give people some football to talk about?
A: I mean everyday I wake up with football on my mind. I don't really know what to tell you. If you all don't see the progression or whatever coming along by now, I guess you all won't ever see it.
Q: We don't see it on Sunday. Fans don't see it in the games. Do you need a big play or something on the field in a game where people see it and say, 'That's the guy?'
A: Yeah, a play would be pretty good. As far as me taking that (as) the first thing on my mind as soon as I wake up, not really. I wake up every day, come in, do my job, do what I can every day to increase my role, increase my ability every day. I don't really need justification from everybody about what I'm doing because I understand what's going on.
Q: What is the next step you need to show the coaches in practice in order to earn their trust for more snaps and opportunities in the game in your opinion?
A: Get ready for the Falcons.
Q: Where are you at with your progress with finding a rhythm in this offense and sort of mastering this offense? Where are you at right now with that?
A: Coming along. We did that in practice, so this is a day (and) step closer to playing the Falcons right now.
Q: Physically, how are you doing? You're not on the injury report anymore, how are you feeling?
A: I'm feeling pretty good. I'm ready to play against the Falcons right now.
Q: Is it a relief to feel back to your old self physically?
A: I kind of (always) felt (like) myself because I wake up myself every day.
Q: Is there more attention on you in the NFL and New York than you expected or anticipated?
A: Yeah, I just kind of am getting the grasp of it, getting pretty much new to this. Yeah, I'll say it's increased since I've been in Florida, so yeah.
Q: What do you say to the idea that by responding to some of these things, means you're listening to it and you're hearing it and you're letting it affect you?
A: Not half the stuff that's on social media really affects me. That's what it looks like (from) your point of view. It really doesn't sway me this way or that way, because at the end of the day, I still have to come in, do my work, do my job, try to be the best player I can be, be coachable by the coaches every day. I doesn't really affect (anything) that I do.
Q: Then why respond?
A: What do you mean? Because I can, I've got a mouth (laughs).
Q: There was a point in the game on Thursday where (Head Coach) Joe Judge pulled you over and you were talking on the sideline. What was his message to you there?
A: Just stay encouraged. Just stay locked in because at the end of the day, the game was not over. I had to just go get ready to get the corrections that everybody else received and get ready for the next drive.
Q: How different is this offense or the plays for the receivers, the routes you're running from what you were running at Florida?
A: There's not really a difference because it's all pretty much just football. You can run the one route, you can run that same route ten different ways. It's not really like a big difference.
Q: It's a long season ahead obviously, so how excited and eager are you to get out and show people that this is what you can do on the field and here's how explosive you can be?
A: Right now, I'm just focused on really playing the Falcons. I'm not really taking a lot of that into consideration. I'm just ready to play honestly, show the coaches what I can do. Coach Judge, he always keeps me encouraged and stuff, so that's what I pretty much do.
Q: What kind of a player do you expect to be?
A: An exciting one I guess from what you all tell me or from what you all want to write about. So exciting, that's what I'm aiming for.
Q: On a lighthearted note, should some of us take it as a compliment that you referred to people as clowns because your nickname is 'Joka'?
A: 'Joka,' that's a whole different entity than football. That's something totally different, but I don't want you guys to get offended by me calling you 'clowns' because it's not everybody that I was referring to. It was only the few people that really try to create a mess or create a whole scene about what I posted, even though I normally post anyway on Instagram. It could be seen by a million people, but as soon as I post it at a certain time or whatever, you all feel like it's uncomfortable then it's this and that, that I'm talking about the Giants – which I never referred to the Giants or anything like that.
Q: Obviously, you and (Falcons Tight End) Kyle Pitts put on a show down there. You're going to see him this weekend, but on the other side of the field.
A: It's going to be exciting. I just want him to be the best player he can be, I want to be the best player I can be. I wish him the best of luck. I'm just ready to play against the Falcons right now.
Q: Do you have a little scouting report for what he brings that the defense will have to worry about?
Q: Do you think you can learn to love the New York area and playing in this market?
A: What do you mean? I love the New York area. I never said anything bad about it.
Q: I'm talking about the spotlight.
A: Do I like the spotlight in New York? I really kind of like it. It can either help you or harm you. It's really what you want to do with it, so just got to be smarter and make better decisions nowadays.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: How frustrating has the defense's performance been in these first two weeks?
A: I don't know, we know we've got to be better. We hone in on it everyday in meetings and when we come out here to practice. We don't see it that way, we see it as we've just got to get better. That's it.
Q: In what ways? Where do you look at it and say that we need to be significantly better?
A: In all the ways. Any way that we see that we need to get better, whether that's being better at communication, better in just doing our assignments. I think it's all around for us and we know that. We go into practice and meetings and work on that.
Q: What's the combination of (Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin) Ridley and (Falcons Tight End Kyle) Pitts and what kind of challenge does that give you guys on the back end?
A: Obviously it's a challenge. I think week in and week out, every opponent that we play, obviously every team is going to have some guys that are really good, that we are going to have to really lock in on. It's going to be challenging for us as a defense. I think we've got the right game plan to go in there and be able to compete and be in the winning situation.
Q: Did you draw Pitts when University of Florida played University of Alabama? Did you have to cover him?
A: No, I never played Pitts, no.
Q: People have described Pitts as a unicorn. What do you see from him on film that makes him special?
A: Yeah, he's a really good tight end. Like I said, he's one of those guys that he's a tight end, but he plays like a receiver. I think that's why they probably use that term for him. Like I said, they've got some good guys. We'll just go out there and I think we've got a good game plan, and we've got to go out there and execute it at the end of the day.
Q: Is it hard for you, (Safety Jabrill) Peppers and (Defensive Back) Logan (Ryan) to all be on the field at the same time? Do you guys look at it as somebody is always going to have one game out? It might be you as the odd man out, one game where it might be Jabrill or it might be Logan. How do you look at the idea that it's hard to get all three of you, so somebody is the odd man out every game?
A: I'm not sure. I think we just go into it and we try to do our jobs. That's how I see it. I think that's how they see it too. I don't think about it.
Q: What did you think of (Jacksonville Head Coach) Urban Meyer saying that the NFL is like playing Alabama every week?
A: Oh yeah, I didn't see him say that, but I could see that's a true statement though. I think, like I said, there's guys on every team that are going to be really good. I's hard to kind of just go into it kind of lackadaisical. You can't really do that, or you won't win a lot in this league. That's what I've come to notice. I agree with that statement.
The Giants took the practice field Thursday to continue their prep for this weekend's matchup against the Falcons.