Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: What day are you working on fourth down defense?
A: Fourth down, oh, it started on Monday (laughs). Shoot, it started on the plane ride for a little bit, then I fell asleep.
Q: These guys seem to go for it quite a bit.
A: Well actually, I started on the plane ride. So I watched our game on the bus and then on the plane ride, I pulled up the Chargers and I think it's the third play I saw (Chargers Quarterback Justin) Herbert drop back and threw like a ball like 25 yards down on a rope and I said, 'I'll get to this tomorrow.'
Q: What do you think about them going for it on fourth down so much now?
A: I'm assuming it's some strategy the head coach is working. I mean, I like it, being aggressive. Defensive-minded head coach, I'm sure it has something to do with the analytics part of it. Each situation is different. It might be analytics. It might be a feel in the game. You look at some of the stuff that happened in the Baltimore game. Baltimore had a good lead and maybe they felt like they needed to go ahead and take their chances there. It presents a challenge. The one thing we've got to practice no matter what play we make on third down to get a stop, guys have got to be alert on the sidelines, stay in the white, be ready. I've got to make sure I'm alert because sometimes you get so used to on third down, again, to get into fourth down, you're like it's a good play, but you might be going through the series in your mind, but you've got to stay alert. They might stay out there, so it's a challenge. It's definitely a challenge.
Q: With a guy like Herbert, there's a lot of good quarterbacks, but how challenging and unique is it to defend a guy who really there's no part of the field he can't put the ball in? How different is that game planning for you?
A: It's hard because you try to bring the awareness to the guys in terms of – just take for example, they're plus-50 when they get past the 50-yard line. He can do it from drop back. He can do it from the gun, in terms of from under center. He can roll one way and throw it back to the other endzone. It's a challenge. He's a big guy. I would say size-wise probably in terms of height and stuff, it's like (Steelers Quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) when you're dealing with Ben. In terms of arm talent, probably like him, (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, those guys that can just throw the ball a mile and he throws it on a rope and pretty accurate. It's a challenge, but you just go through it with the guys. I know we spent a lot of time going through the plus-50. We get more into the red area and the fringe tomorrow. We call that, I'd say from the 40 to 21, we call that the fringe, but like where he's throwing those shots and stuff where they happen, he can get it there. It's definitely a challenge and then they've got the receivers that can go up and get it. (Chargers Wide Receiver Mike) Williams, this guy – I know he's on some list or whatever, but we're preparing for him to play. It's a challenge. It's a big receiver that goes up and gets the ball. It's a good combination. But it's funny, again, ownership, people in the front office, that's been the Chargers for at least the 13 years I've been in the league. They always had those big receivers – (Former Chargers Wide Receiver) Vincent Jackson, all those guys in the past. They always had those big receivers. You had (Former Chargers Quarterback) Philip Rivers, who had an arm. It's giving me flashbacks to the first time I went out there to play the Chargers, I think it was – oh man, it might've been 2010 or 2011 and they just had so many weapons. They had (Former Chargers Running Back Mike) Tolbert. They had (Former Chargers Running Back) LaDainian Tomlinson as the back. They had Rivers. They had (Former Charger Tight End Antonio) Gates. They had the two receivers then the third receiver, I think it was Naanee (?) come in. Just all these big bodies and it's obviously a formula they like there with the Chargers.
Q: I think it goes back to (Former Chargers Quarterback) Dan Fouts.
A: Oh yeah. See, that's before my time. No offense Dan (laughs). Or (Former Chargers Tight End) Kellen Winslow because I'm friends with his niece. So no offense to those guys.
Q: Going back to the fourth down stuff, we know you're a defense that likes to substitute a lot and bring in different packages. Does it make you hesitant between the third and fourth? Do you know what you're putting out there already?
A: You have to be mindful. You have to be mindful. You have to be mindful on second down too because you don't know when they're going to sprinkle in the tempo. I would say there's a few situations where they like it the most. They get a big play first-and-10 within a series and boom, tempo. Sometimes to keep you out of your exotics on third down, they'll go from second to third down, which is a good strategy right there. You've got to prepare for that, so whether it's from third to fourth down, the key is for me as the coordinator, us as coaches, is to have calls that fit the situation. Potentially, you might have a longer list of calls, but really all the same calls, but like you've got to do it out of different groupings. You've just got to be aware of that. The key is, and I think a lot of defensive coaches think like this, an example being Flo (Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores) last week with Miami – keep pressure on them the whole game. That's just another way to keep pressure on them. Normally, you make a play on third down, OK, ready to get off the field. Fourth down, what are they going to do? It just causes you to practice it. You've got to deal with it. It's a good strategy. It's a good strategy.
Q: What do you think when you hear (Chargers Wide Receiver) Keenan Allen might not play, Mike Williams might not play?
A: I think my luck over the last 13 years in the league, they're probably going to play (laughs). That's what I think. We prepare for all the scenarios. Obviously, we'll have to be ready to adjust. It's no different than what happened as recently as last week with (Dolphins Wide Receiver DeVante) Parker. He got activated on Saturday, but you have to have a contingency plan and to be ready for that stuff. I talk to you guys all the time about that, just you've got to be ready. We've got to be ready and whatever scenarios come up, that's part of our job.
Q: Was your defense frustrated at all coming off of last game where you played very well for most of the game, but the offense isn't scoring enough points to give you guys a chance?
A: I think our defense is upset that we lost the game. Our guys, they go out there and play every down. Really, our job description, and I say 'our' because I'm part of the defense, is to hold them to less points. We've got to hold them to less points. I think we're more frustrated – we're frustrated with that, that we lost the game. The offense coming to play, those guys play hard. They go out there to do their job. Miami was good. It's our job to keep the points down and we've got to do a better job of that.
Q: You've had situations each of the last two weeks where in a key spot, (Defensive Back) Steven Parker is covering (Eagles Tight End) Dallas Goedert and gets a pass breakup, and then last week (Cornerback) Jarren Williams is all of a sudden logging as many snaps as he did. What does it say to you about those guys in the secondary, the fact that you're calling their numbers, some out of necessity, and they're actually stepping up and making plays?
A: That we have good coaches on our staff. That's what it says to me. Those guys – (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) in terms of with the defensive backs. (He's) relentless in terms of preparation and getting those guys ready even when they're not even on the active roster. What you've got to understand is the way we look at the game is we're dealing with a collision sport, right? So there's going to be injuries somehow, some way. Part of our job requirement is to have guys prepared and the extra meetings they do – whether it's Jerome, (Senior Defensive Assistant) Jeremy (Pruitt), (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier). When guys are on practice squad – when we do periods in practice and we call the plays that are going to come up in the game plan, it's all about preparation in terms of that and being able to see ahead and getting those guys prepared, so when these moments come up because it's not unique to the Giants. It's not unique to the Giants. It's not unique to this year. Every year those young guys are going to have to play at some point during the season and it's our job to be able to have them prepared and ready to go. It just tells me we've got the right coaches on the staff. They do a good job, where something happens, 'OK, can we still call this?' 'Yes, Pat, he's ready.' I think they do a great job at that. I'm proud to have these guys on the staff. They do a good job. They help me out a ton. We've just got good coaches. We've got good coaches on the staff.
Q: What makes (Chargers Tackle) Rashawn Slater a special offensive lineman?
A: Athletic ability, a combination of that and the strength. As a young player, it seems like I don't see a lot of mental errors out there. Sometimes you try to ID those young guys and say, 'alright, this guy's going to make a mistake, let's do this. Let's mug up over him. Let's do something to him to affect him.' You're not really seeing that. Again, he went to Northwestern, correct? I'm not saying – college doesn't matter, plus Northwestern is a safety school anyway (laughs). I'm joking, I'm joking. But that stuff doesn't come into play, but like he seems like a smart player. I was real impressed with what he's doing on the field. His toughness, athletic ability and he's playing strong right now and playing smart.
Q: What did you attribute the red zone coverage breakdowns to last week?
A: Again, for me, I'm second-guessing a few of the calls for myself. That happens all the time, sometimes I've got to remind myself stop doing that and it's about execution. I just think they had the right play call for when we called it. They did a good job. (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach) George (Godsey) and those guys, and Flo, and (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach) Eric (Studesville), they do a good job over there. They made the throws. (Dolphins Quarterback) Tua (Tagovailoa) made some good throws. That ball in the corner, (Dolphins Wide Receiver Mack) Hollins was playing around with the ball a little bit. You hope sometimes that ball bounces out of there, he doesn't get his feet down. And then the play when I think who was it, (Dolphins Wide Receiver Isaiah) Ford that came back through. 87, right? You try to pull up the quarterback, he makes a good play on the sideline. We got it to third down on that one, the second down play before the two minute. We've just got to hope that if it comes up this week, a little better execution, have the right call called and just play it again. But the thing is, like when we're trying to make them play left-handed, take away their targets and see if those other guys can make plays, the difference this week is you've got like a lot of weapons. You go down in the red area for the Chargers – the quarterback's a problem scrambling, or he could run if they decide to do that. You've got the back who's getting the ball at a high rate, especially down there in the high red. (He's) getting the ball at a high rate. You've got all those targets in the passing game, whether it's the tight ends. You can throw 82 in there when they get him in the high red and go through the middle of the defense and go on verticals. You try to make them play left-handed. Sometimes they make the plays. There's a whole bunch of stuff that goes in the play. That's part of being a coach. You start thinking about all the different scenarios. What could you have called better there? The bottom line is we've got to execute – and I'm talking about we, me as a coach, I've got make sure I'm executing the right call and it'll be challenging this week. We're talking about a good red area offense that has good weapons, so it'll be interesting this week. Hopefully, we do a better job.
Q: Real quick follow-up, on that touchdown where Hollins was juggling. Would you rather see (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) finish that play there?
A: There's a whole bunch of stuff that goes in the play with that. It was a tough catch, good throw. Honestly, I probably put more of it on me. I'm like, 'ah, we could've maybe been in this other call.' That's what I end up doing. Our guys, they play hard. They try to execute what we're asking them to do and obviously we've all got to do a better job to get the W, so thank God we've got another opportunity this week, and we've got good weather while we're out here.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: How are you liking this trip?
A: It's been good, it's been good. It's kind of like a, not a vacation, but just to kind of get away from a normal surrounding and enjoy some nice weather, especially in December. You can walk outside and its 75 degrees, that's a beautiful thing. It's been good. Guys get a chance to work in some warm weather, it's been good for us.
Q: (Running Back) Gary Brightwell has been the star of the week here locally, but he said yesterday that when he retires, he wants to be a special teams coach. What does that do to you when you hear that?
A: Well, hopefully I can be a good example for him. I had a great example when I was in college (Former Special Teams Coach) Frank Gansz Jr. was my example and a guy I didn't know, a guy by the name of Tommy Kaiser, and they were great coaches. Anytime you can help a guy with his future and be a positive influence on him and help him down the road, definitely, that's exciting to hear.
Q: How has Gary developed as one of your special teams' guys?
A: He's not your typical rookie. He has a special skillset. When you watch him cover kicks, he's hard to block one on one. It's a hard, hard win against Gary Brightwell and that's unusual for rookies. We haven't seen a guy cover kicks like him since (Former Giants Running Back) Ahmad Bradshaw. He's a different animal that way and he's along those lines. Not quite the monster that Ahmad was, Ahmad was just heavy handed and so physical, but Gary is so savvy and just really, really slippery and it's hard to get your hands on him and he can play with power also. He's developing nicely.
Q: I asked him about if he's disappointed since he's not getting any touches or carries on offense and he said that he hadn't even thought about that.
A: He's playing football.
Q: He's a running back, but is that what you see from him?
A: He knows his role. See, that's the thing you guys got to understand, like he knows exactly why he got drafted here. He understands there's a guy that wears number 26 that's in front of him, that's going to get the majority of the carries and you get a veteran guy in (Running Back Devontae) Booker, he understands his role. That, to me, that shows maturity, that shows selflessness and when you get a chance to get a guy like that and coach a guy like that and he understands exactly what it is and he's patient and then when he gets the chance to prove himself, I guarantee. He gets a chance to prove himself, you'll see. You'll see who he is as a running back and he's going to be a really good football player, he really is.
Q: We kind of take (Kicker) Graham Gano for granted a little bit, but how different of a feeling is it on a special teams unit and for a team to have a guy who you just don't think about?
A: Yeah, it makes my job a lot easier. It makes (Head Coach) Joe's (Judge) job a lot easier, it makes (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie's (Kitchens) job a lot easier when you know once you get to a certain point of the field, you've got points and you feel like you've got points. What he does, and this is so underrated, but what he does as a kickoff specialist, he is a weapon. It is kicks on call, like I can tell him, 'Hey, Graham, I want this ball to be right here.' 'Alright, right there?' 'Yep, right there. Alright Graham, I want this one to be on the 15-yard line, 3.8 hang.' 'Boom, got it.' If it's not within a yard or two or within a tenth or two of the hang time you want and the yardage you want, it's just, I can't explain it enough. It's rare, it is rare to have a guy like that.
Q: Any other kickers you can think of off the top of your head that you've worked with or seen in the league that are that good kickoff wise?
A: That could just do it on command? It's hard, it really is. I've had guys that have really powerful legs, I've had guys that were good directionally, but to be able to make a kick on command, just to be able to do it and not kickoff during the week, that's different. Graham doesn't kickoff during the week. It's just different, it's just the skillset and being able to do it and have the foot talent and the confidence to do it. It's just different.
Q: So, the players don't need to practice then?
A: No, not saying that. Not saying that. He kicks field goals during the week, but kickoffs. Kickoffs can be a little taxing, especially to older players, and Graham's had some injuries.
Q: Is that why he doesn't do it?
A: Yeah, it's just maintenance. Yeah, it's maintenance and he's had enough reps, muscle memory over the years of kicking off, playing soccer and all that stuff. He's such a great ball striker, he understands placements of the ball and where they need to go, and he has a talent to do it.
Q: I know what you're trying to do is win the game and you need two scores at the end, but you sent him out to try a 56-yard field goal, which is not a high degree of success even for him. He's got to go do it, but he also gets a miss and is frustrated by that, of course.
A: That's part of it, a situation we're trying to score quick, saves some time, get a field goal, come back, try to get a surprise onside and then throw a Hail Mary to the endzone. It's situations, you're just trying to work through the situations. That's part of it. Even for a guy as good as Graham, a 56-yard field goal is a 56-yard field goal and you look at the stats and it's about 50-50 for all the kickers in the league. Maybe (Ravens Kicker Justin) Tucker and Graham might be the only ones that are in that higher percentage that makes those kicks because Graham's, I want to say, is 65 percent, I think, he is from 50-plus.
Q: What about 55-plus?
A: Well, I remember when he hit 61 yards, so I mean, it is what it is. It's just you're trying to win a game, you're trying to give yourself the best chance to win the game. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.
Q: We're getting close to that time with the Pro Bowl. Why in your mind do you think he's deserving?
A: Consistency. I mean, you look at his body of work over the years, I might be reaching, I don't think I am, but I want to say his last three years, his average is probably 91 percent, 90 percent, right at it. There's not very many guys in this league, especially in this conference, that can say that. Tucker's probably the only other guy that can do it, maybe (Falcons Kicker) Younghoe Koo down there in Atlanta. He's a young cat.
Q: That's why it makes it tough, because he is pretty good. It's possible that they don't take three kickers.
A: He's really good. He is, but you get one from each conference. Last year, I want to say Graham was 93 percent or whatever and then Younghoe was maybe 93, 94, whatever it was. The young guy's got it and he did a great job, he did.
Q: So, this year is Graham's turn is what you're saying?
A: Who knows. Well, Graham went like 2018, I think he was in the Pro Bowl or something like that. Whatever it is, whatever year.
Q: I don't think that will make him feel better if he doesn't make it.
A: Yeah (laughs). Yeah, I'm sure.
Q: Are special teams coordinators throughout the league going to pop champagne like the 1972 Dolphins if someone finally runs a punt back for a touchdown?
A: You know what, with the analytics, it's just everybody's going for it on fourth down and you're just not getting the reps at it. You just hope as a punt return team, you get an opportunity to make a play. We had a few last week, so we just have to make a play. It's just league wide, it's a different day.
Q: When you talk about teams going for it on fourth down, the Chargers go for it more than anybody. You have to be really on guard to make sure you're not sending the punt return team out there on fourth down.
A: Analytics. A lot of these teams are going to analytics. It's just they're going for it on fourth and 1.
Q: (Cornerback) Jarren Williams is a player that's sticking there on the kickoff. What progress has he made? Is that a culmination of what he's been developing?
A: He's done a good job, he has. He's done a good job. Jarren, when he came in last year against Arizona at home, he made two tackles. We had a lot of plans, we had some big plans for Jarren and then he got hurt during camp. He's kind of picked up where he left off. We expect a lot of big things out of him moving forward. He's a good, young player. He's smart, he works hard and he's very confident. When we get a chance to just keep coaching him, keep getting him better, keep getting him reps. I was messing with him the other day, he was talking about being sore. He was like, 'I haven't played 40 snaps since Albany.' He was sore, so that's a good thing. We've just got to keep him going.
Tight Ends Coach Derek Dooley
Q: How did that go the last two weeks with (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie (Kitchens) taking over that role of play calling?
A: As far as what part of it?
Q: How does the offense change? What's been different?
A: Obviously, it's a change. Anytime you fire a coordinator there's going to be a change in the dynamic and Freddie's done a great job. Our coaches have been around football a long time, this isn't our first rodeo. Everybody really pulled all their energy together and worked together and helped him as much as we can to put in a game plan and help him on game day. I've just been really pleased with how everybody's been. Obviously, the results are not what we want and that's our job to try to get a better result.
Q: Without a traditional 'He's the offensive coordinator', are you asked to do more? Are you giving more input? Are you going up to him more during the game? How does that work?
A: When (Former Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) was here, we all gave a tremendous amount of input during the week and certainly he had a clear vision with this offense of what he wanted and what he wanted to call. On game days, he wanted things – every coordinator wants different things on game day to help him. I think we're all given similar input and ultimately instead of Jason deciding on what he's calling, it's Freddie deciding on what he's calling. I think any play caller – that's not specific to Jason or Freddie – sort of has things that he's accustomed to in certain situations, things that he's accustomed to offensively, so there's a natural adjustment from that standpoint.
Q: I know they're not your guys, but how does this offense get its skill position players more involved and into the end zone? You guys haven't had a touchdown—
A: The end zone is the biggest one. Obviously, the first key element of getting the skill players involved is having them dress out on game day, which is a really important thing. It's hard to get them the ball when they're in the sweat suit. If you said what's been a little bit of a challenge is you start planning early in the week and usually by about today or tomorrow you find out who's playing and who's not. That's a challenge that we can easily overcome, and we've got to do a better job of, but that's been our focus is try to get our best players the ball. I think if you look at any team, they do the best job of that, but at the same time the other guys make plays, too. I think about the first third down of the game, we called a play that typically was going to be designed for (Tight End) Evan (Engram). But if they're doubling him or they take it away, the next guy has got to be in the progression and (Wide Receiver) Pharoh Cooper did a great job. It was third-and-six or third-and-seven, he runs the route perfectly, how we coached it up, makes a tough contested catch. When you're on good offenses, which all of us on our staff have been a part of, not only are the good players playing with a great spirit, but then when the other guys, the role players, get an opportunity they pounce on it. But that's been our goal. Every week, we look at it and say, 'What could we have done better?' Then, try to do a better job planning it and then the players doing a better job of executing it.
Q: From what you've seen from this offense, when Jason – one of the last times he talked to us, he expressed that this offensive line is a work in progress. From what you've seen, how much have you guys had to navigate around that offensive line? You talk about getting the ball to the playmakers. The ball goes nowhere if the quarterback can't get it to them. What have you seen from this group and is it a constant challenge with all of your offensive brain trust to function with this offensive line?
A: Line one in the NFL in the pass game is how are you going to protect him, and this is not specific to the New York Giants. Most everybody's offensive line is not quite as God-gifted as the defensive line, right? Let's be honest, if you're really big and you're incredibly athletic and explosive, most guys play on the defensive line. When you're in high school and college, if you're not quite as good on the defensive line, but you've got really good size, what do they do? They move you to offensive line, right? So right away, you have an immediate mismatch from what God gave you. My point is, we're always starting with protection and the challenges, and every defense that you play typically has elite rushers. Obviously, we've got one this week. Sometimes it's the tackle, sometimes it's the two edge guys. Everything we're doing is trying to help our offensive line in the protection, but at the same time you've got to get guys out and get open, and then emphasize a ball out philosophy. I don't think it's anything unique to a lot of other teams in the league. Yeah, we're trying to do our best, but at some point, you've got to block a guy and you can't avoid that. There's no pass protection we can put out there where a guy doesn't have to block somebody.
Q: With Evan, just watching the game it seemed like he was getting the ball in different spots than maybe he had previously during the season. Was that a conscious change to put him in different spots or were you guys able to get to those routes because of certain things that may have happened?
A: That's a good question. No, we've pushed each week, each year to try to use Evan more and more. I think early in the year, we probably felt like we needed to use him more to help some of the protection stuff. We also had guys like (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) KT and (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard) Shep out there in the slots. Now that we didn't have KT, we don't have Shep, let's be a little bit more aggressive getting the ball out and Evan has all the skillsets to go do that. He made some tremendous plays, he did. He ran great routes like a receiver against tight man coverage, caught the ball well. Hopefully we can keep building on that.
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but to my untrained eyes it looked like a little difference you guys had the last two weeks is stacking your receivers a little more, using more routes to sort of work off each other. Is that accurate? And then why has that been—
A: I can't say specifically how much different things look than what we've done. I feel like every week we're trying to do the same thing, which is help our guys and put them in a position to where they can make plays. We can simply just line them up and say, 'Go win your one-on-ones,' but those guys on the other side are good, too. As much as we can do to help them – every team does it, the shifts, the motions, the stacks, the bunches. We're going to keep doing that. We have to.
Q: I heard that Jason is a candidate for the Duke head coaching job right now. Do you think that he's especially qualified for that specific job, that he would be a good fit there?
A: I mean, go look at his 10-year record in the NFL. How many active head coaches of the 32 have a better winning percentage? If you're asking me whether he's qualified to be a head coach – is that what you're asking?
Q: No, just specifically at Duke, this quickly after leaving the NFL, going to college after coaching an NFL team for so long. It's just that it would be different, you know?
A: Jason is incredibly intelligent and if you put him in charge of anything, he would quickly figure it out and have success. There's no doubt in my mind. Obviously, there's a different learning curve in college, but you just go in there and learn it and apply a lot of the things that you've been using over the last whatever years as a head coach. Ultimately, coaching is coaching, whether you're in high school, whether you're in college, whether you're in the pros. You're having to have this great connection with a player and motivate him to be the best player he can be, give him the resources to be the best player he can be and then give him all the tools on the field to help him play his best. That doesn't change no matter what level, it really doesn't. The good coaches – there are great coaches at every level that can coach at any level and I think he's one of those.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Opening Statement:Hey guys, I'm just going to start by clearing it up. I want to apologize to (Dolphins Quarterback) Tua (Tagovailoa). I didn't mean any disrespect. I made a light-hearted comment about me playing quarterback. I think he's a good player. He's humble. He approaches the game the right way and he made game-winning plays to beat us, and they won the game. I'm not a sore loser. I don't hate on players in the league. I have a lot of respect for players in this league. I've been in this league and he's doing it the right way. I wish him the best and I want him to know there's no disrespect there or any bad beef there. Just a comment that went the wrong way and I was trying to be funny, and it wasn't funny, and I don't want to disrespect him.
Q:*Congrats*on the nomination, what does that (NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year) award mean to you?
A: The nomination is awesome. I've been doing work for a lot of years and I wasn't doing it for the nomination. I just kind of was working in my own circles with people and trying to make a difference and trying to make the world a better place and to be noticed for that and recognized for that, not trying to get it, I think is the coolest feeling, so I'm proud. I'm honored to be the nominee for the Giants. I really want to win it and I really want to win it for the animal people out there. I mentioned there are a lot of people that do shelter work, volunteer, dedicate their life to that, don't make a lot of money, pet owners. There are a lot of good people out there that love animals and I'm not sure, but I think I would be the first person with an animal cause as his main cause to win that award. I do work with kids and police reform as well, but to highlight the animal people, I really want to win it for them and support them and give them notice.
Q: How has this trip been going?
A: It's been going well. I think it was good to get away, reset our minds a little bit. I think we had a really spirited practice today – two hours in the pads getting after it, having some of their team out here watching us play at the highest level and having some kids warm up with us. It's really cool, there are Giants fans all over the place. We've got a great fan base. But it's been a really good week. Kind of training camp mentality of just hanging out in the hotel room, watching film, going to the basketball game together, going to dinners together. It's been really good just to get around the guys and support our guys.
Q: How is (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) at throwing interceptions?
A: Not too good. They're hard to get off him. That's DJ, man. DJ is the ultimate teammate, the ultimate competitor, doing what he can do and if that's what he can do right now, he throws a great deep ball and we're going to have to go track it. (Chargers Quarterback) Justin Herbert has one of the strongest arms I've seen on tape. His arm talent is ridiculous. He makes field outs, field corner routes, he rolls to the right and throws the ball all the way across the field. Not too many quarterbacks in the league do that and we don't see that week in and week out, so we definitely need to get the work, and Daniel did a good job of giving us that. Daniel has that type of arm, so we did a good job of getting a look. But I think Daniel's servicing his teammates. I think a great teammate is the way to describe Daniel Jones.
Q: Is it hard to kind of reconcile that he's able to basically physically do everything, but he's still not cleared?
A: I mean, a lot of people can do a lot of things, but if the doctors say you can't take a hit, that's what the doctors say. You've got to protect and you've got to do what's best for him. I'm not a doctor or anything, but I'm sure when he's cleared for contact, he'll be cleared to go. If there's harm there, you're talking about a neck, a brain, those type of injuries, those aren't things to play with.
Q: What do you think when you hear that you're playing this team and you know the kind of passing attack they are and (Chargers Wide Receiver) Keenan Allen might not play? (Chargers Wide Receiver) Mike Williams, who knows how that goes. What goes through your head? How do you approach that?
A: We have to prepare for Keenan Allen to play. I know Keenan. I've been playing against him for years. My second year in the league as a Patriot, we put (Former NFL Cornerback) Darrelle Revis on Keenan Allen and that was eight years ago, and he's still been that guy for that many years. I think he's one of the best receivers in the league. It drastically changes whether he plays or not. We're definitely going to – we have packages to prepare for Keenan Allen and we'll prepare for that and if he's not there, that's good news and we'll do the best we can. But they have other guys, close contacts – we've got to assume Mike Williams is going to play and (Chargers Cornerback) Chris Harris (Jr.) is going to play. For Keenan, I've had COVID, I wish him the best. It's nothing to joke about or play about, so I just wish him the best in his recovery and whether he plays or not, that's just the protocols and how he's feeling. To say that doesn't impact things would be an understatement. He's a very impactful receiver and he's the most targeted receiver on third down in the NFL for a reason.
Q: What were you told about the chances of testing out? I saw (Steelers Linebacker) T.J. Watt did it this week, but it seems like it is so rare. What were you kind of told on that? (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) kept saying maybe you'll test out.
A: I think it's everything we're all learning about. It's something that we're all learning about, nothing I can prepare for in my career. If you have COVID, I think it's not too likely, but you have a viral load when you test, they show you your viral load. The lower the number is the more you have it, so it's actually backwards. The higher that number is, the closer you get to testing out. I felt like the last couple days I was close to testing out and I did get two negative tests in time for the game, but they were worried about – and there's a whole other thing of whether you're asymptomatic or symptomatic. So, because I had symptoms, I then had to do a three-day ramp up which I didn't know about. It's only reported that you have two negative tests and you're back to playing. So, I had two negative tests, I was ready to get back to play and then we ran until a whole, was he asymptomatic? Was he symptomatic? I don't know what these guys are, symptomatic, asymptomatic, viral loads, it was all news to me.
Q: I was just talking about your situation.
A: Yeah, so, I feel like it's hard to test out honestly in 10 days, especially if you have to do a ramp up.
Q: When you talked about kind of training camp vibe a little bit – basketball games, dinners. You said you had a good two-hour practice. This is unusual the way this is so late in the season. Are you kind of concerned or interested about that quick pivot out of this beautiful thing and then you have to play a really hot team in L.A.?
A: No, I think this gives us the best chance of preparation to beat L.A. We get out, we're not practicing in the snow in 33 degrees and then going into SoFi, it's a warmer place, I played there last year. It's a greenhouse. It's really hot on that field, believe it or not in there. I think this gives us the best for good weather and just the time to really adjust to things we need to adjust and make the improvements you need to improve to win the games down the stretch. I'm familiar with it, the Patriots have done this for years. I've done it all four years with the Patriots, taking a trip out west if you have those types of games and the schedule allows. It just gives you the best preparation in the weather that we can potentially play in these last few games.
Q: What do you think are the best signs of progress in your team and organization, if the wins aren't coming regularly? But what are you seeing as a team leader that things are going in the right direction and you guys are making progress and making strides, like as a defense, as a team?
A: Yeah, I mean look, it's all judged on the scoreboard. But at the end of the day, people's attitudes and mindsets at practice every day, you look guys in the eyes every day. As a leader, it's my job to inspire and rally guys and encourage guys to do it the right way and tell them some stories of what I've learned and what helped for me and leaders I've learned from, from the past. We talk about this league, it's a player's league and the locker rooms dictate a lot of things in this league. We just don't have a locker room that's given up. We don't have a locker room who's splintered. We don't have a locker room that's saying, 'Man, what's the point?' We've got a locker room that's fighting and scratching and clawing and obviously you want the results on Sundays and that's what we're judged on in this league. Progress is based on the results, honestly, but there's also a process to get those results and you can't win a game if you don't go through the process the right way. You have no chance of being a team that's a championship team or playoff team if you don't go through a certain way you practice, a certain way you carry yourself, a certain way you have accountability. I just don't feel like those are the issues that we have on the team right now. So, I think it's execution and you've got to work on execution in practice.
Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard
Q: How are you feeling?
A: Feeling a lot better. Today was a big test for me. Got moving around a little bit, got some contact, which is something that I wanted to get. Felt good with it.
Q: What was going on the last couple of weeks? It seemed like you were back at practice, looked like you were getting close and then at the end of the week that kind of tailed off a little bit.
A: I don't think that was the case. Like, I did a couple of pat-and-goes at the beginning of practice, but that was as far as that went. Today was the first full practice that I've been through.
Q: Did you think it would last as long as it did when you suffered the injury?
A: No. When I first did it, I thought it was going to be something like the hamstring and be back pretty quick, within two weeks. Just kept lingering. Was trying to do everything I could to get back and I'm here now. I'm glad with the way it's progressed over the few weeks and hopefully get back out to action.
Q: Any doubts in your mind? This Sunday is the one for you?
A: Yeah, I mean I'm still listening to the trainers. I've got to go back in today and they want to see how I feel tomorrow, but I'm very optimistic that I'll be able to be out there this week with the guys and hopefully that's the case.
Q: What can you give for the rest of this season? What can you bring if you're back and what can you accomplish?
A: You always want to put good tape out there no matter what. You never want to put bad film out. You never know what can happen in this league, so you've always got to give it your max effort. Plus, we've got guys that we're playing for. You're going to play for the brother next to you. We've been grinding with each other, so got to finish this season off with a bang. We've been here before; I've been here before I my career. I think it's always good to finish off the season with a bang.
Q: Before the season, you talked about how you want to get through a full season and play every game. How frustrating is it that these things keep coming up?
A: Super frustrating. You play this game to be able to play throughout the whole season. It's something that we love to do, we all love to do, and it's been frustrating for a lot of guys this season. Been pretty banged up, but that's the way it goes. You've just got to kind of roll with the punches and whenever you're out there healthy give it max effort.
Q: You did some things in the offseason to prevent this. You said how you worked differently because you really wanted – and you were in great shape this training camp. Do you look at it as just 'I did what I could, and things just didn't work out'? Is something else the problem?
A: I think in any situation I love to live without regret. I work hard every single offseason. The last camp was probably my best camp that I've had in my career, but I've worked as hard as I've ever worked this last season. This is football, stuff is going to happen from time to time. Sometimes you can get out of there with a clean season and sometimes that's not the case. You've just got to kind of roll with it and do everything you can possible and that's what I always do.
Q: It seems like one thing after another this year. Do you look at it as a bad luck kind of deal? How do you view it?
A: I don't know. It's hard to pinpoint what it is. To be honest, I'm not really focused on it anymore. Kind of got to just let it go and focus on this week and what we have with the task at hand.
Q: It's been a nice reset week for the team. Do you feel that way?
A: Yeah, it's kind of good to get out in this nice weather and be with the guys. We've all been having some time together, especially being at the hotel. We've got a little game room and stuff over there, so it's been good to reset with the guys and I look forward to this weekend.
Q: What will your excitement level be on Sunday? We talked about all the frustration, but I know you want to play. What's your excitement level?
A: For sure. It's been a bum just sitting on the sideline watching the guys, especially on game day. It already hits me whenever I've got to watch them practice and I'm not able to help them out with some of the reps and stuff like that. Then on game days, obviously, that's where you get all the juice and I still have that same fire, that same juice, but I'm not able to go out there and actually perform. It'll feel good if I'm able to get out there this week and play with the guys.
Q: When you were here before, there was a different offensive coordinator obviously, different offense, some of the same results. As a veteran looking at this, do you look at this and see where the problems are? There were problems before, but this year it seems to be magnified and they had to make a big change.
A: 'Big change,' what do you mean?
Q: Well, you have a new offensive coordinator and some of the same old problems with the squad.
A: This is (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie's (Kitchens) third game, so we're still figuring some stuff out with that. I feel like we'll be better this week. We've got some stuff that we need to correct, and I've been sitting in on the meetings, paying attention. It's stuff that we can control. It's all stuff that we've done to ourselves, so if we can clean those things up, I feel like we can fix some of those problems.
View photos from practice at the University of Arizona as the Giants prepare for their matchup against the Chargers.