EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Judge's Chambers, an exclusive weekly interview with Giants head coach Joe Judge:
Q: Are you going to get some family time Christmas morning before you head to Philadelphia?
Judge: "We will. The way the schedule works out, Friday is Christmas Eve. Typically, on Fridays in the NFL, staffs get home a little bit earlier, so we'll have some nice family time Christmas Eve. I've got the team coming in mid-afternoon on Christmas Day so that everyone has time to be with their family, watch the kids open presents, and things of that nature."
Q: You still have seen players on the COVID-19 list. But it's not like last week when you seemed to be adding or losing a player every day. Does it seem like a more normal week regarding planning, player availability and knowing who you will have on Sunday?
Judge: "I think sudden changes are just part of the normal, so we don't really get too caught up in the moves or the flexes that we may have to make. (Wide receiver Kadarius) Toney is back in the building with us (Thursday). We'll ramp him up on the field and see how he looks physically before making any decisions. (Defensive back) J.R. Reed and (linebacker) Oshane (Ximines) are also back with us. They're in the same program as well, so we'll see how those guys look with the trainers as part of the ramp up, and we'll know more about whether or not they'll be available for the game."
Q: You see the reports of all the players testing positive around the league, plus two head coaches last week and two more this week, including the coach you're facing on Sunday. Do you keep repeating to the players the same message about remaining vigilant, and do you take any extra precautions when you see head coaches getting COVID?
Judge: "We definitely make sure we get the message to our players. They have to be matched up in the building today in all the meetings and the walkthroughs. Then, on the field is a different story, but we always make sure our guys are spaced out and following all the protocols in place. Me personally, to be honest with you, I guess my lifestyle kind of already keeps me a little bit quarantined from everyone outside this building, anyway. We're masked up in the building. I'm around people who are tested and vaccinated, and I follow the protocols the league puts in place."
Q: It's not every week you can watch your next opponent live five days before you play them. Did you watch the Eagles game Tuesday night when it was on, and was it helpful?
Judge: "It's always good watching games from a T.V. view. You see a lot of different things that the coach's tape doesn't show all the time, whether it's things that happen on the sideline between players and communication with players and coaches as they interact throughout the game. Those are always things you want to watch. They're valuable tools as well as hearing some of the communication from the offense, defense, kicking game, and things that nature. We definitely watched the game. I had it on right next to me as I was breaking down tape in the office and going through some game plan stuff. But, obviously, when the game on is your next opponent, you're really watching that game more so than you're doing the other part of the work. We made sure that we got a chunk of our work done early, knowing the game was coming on. We were able to stay ahead and give ourselves the flexibility to watch the game and have an idea what the flow is going to be."
Q: Tuesday is game plan day, normally. Does it complicate the process when the opponent isn't playing until Tuesday night?
Judge: "No, it's no different than if you're playing someone who plays on Monday Night Football because you start game planning as well on Monday. You just have to go back, watch that previous tape, and make any adjustments to the game plan that are necessary."
Q: You're playing the Eagles for the second time in less than a month. Are there advantages and disadvantages to playing an opponent twice in such a short time period?
Judge: "I think the important thing when you play a team in such a short time period is that there a couple of things to keep in mind. Number one is that you're not the same team, and they're not the same team. You have to keep that in mind. That's based on personnel, performance and a lot of factors right there. Then also, when the game is so close, which is different than when we play Washington again where it will be stretches from Game Two versus Game 17, this is only a few games in between for us and them. It's less for them because they had the bye week, but you've got to expect things to show back up from the first game. What happened on that tape? What are they going to check to make sure that you've fixed? What advantage do they maybe have that they didn't get the ball to somebody? What play was maybe called back by penalty? What are they going to try to get back to that had success or had the opportunity for success in the first game?"
Q: In general, to have Jake Fromm in contention to start a game when three or four weeks ago he was on the Bills practice squad, that's quite a journey. What have you learned about him in the time he's been here?
Judge: "I like the way he works. He has a good attitude. He definitely has a nice presence about him and some command in the huddle. He was able to get in last week, compete, and do some nice things. I like the way he holds himself on the field. He was able to get out there in the game, demonstrate his ability to make quick decisions, and get the ball out of his hand. I like the way (quarterback) Mike (Glennon) is working as well. Both guys have strengths they offer to the team. We'll watch him practice throughout the week and make the decision based on what we think is best for the team."
Q: When Daniel (Jones) was playing, you solicited ideas from him, and Daniel had a lot of input. Mike is a veteran who also has insight. When you have a quarterback who hasn't really played in the league and is a younger guy, do you want him giving his input also? Or, with a young quarterback, is it more, "This is what we want you to run"?
Judge: "I think it's always important with the quarterback, more so than any other position, to know what they're comfortable with. Those are parts of conversations we have with Daniel, Mike and Jake, especially Jake this week. There's been conversations in terms of what are certain things, whether it's route concepts, patterns, plays, tempos, or operations on the field. We're just making sure that whatever we do, we're working to his comfort level if he has to play. It's the same thing with Mike. We go through the same conversation with Mike every week, 'What do you like?' Now, Mike has more experience in the league. Mike has just more knowledge of the league, the defenses, ways to match up teams, and trying to expose them. So, when Mike offers ideas, like Daniel, there's a little bit more behind it in terms of experience in the league of what he's done elsewhere or what he's comfortable with within the scheme we have. They're a little bit different, but ultimately, it's about doing what the players are comfortable with."
Q: (Linebacker) Blake (Martinez), (safety Jabrill) Peppers and (center) Nick (Gates) are all on injured reserve but have been around the team as much as possible. Obviously, you want Daniel to be around the team as well. Is it particularly important with a quarterback because of the position he can contribute in different ways when he's not playing?
Judge: "Absolutely. It's important for me for all the leaders to stay involved. It's important for all of our players to understand, healthy or injured, that they're still part of this team. We keep every player involved one way or another, especially for the captains. Unfortunately, we've lost a significant number of captains this year. It's been important to have those guys stay engaged, involved, and still show leadership. With guys like Blake, Daniel, Pep, (defensive back) Nate Ebner or Nick, those are guys who are used to being in signal caller roles. Those are guys who are used to being in a position of sharing ideas with the coaches or conveying issues to our coaches. They've done a good job of continuing to do that. Now, they've been removed to a degree as well because of surgeries, rehab and unavailability at different times, but when they've been around the team, I've been very pleased with how they've been."
Q: We talked about this earlier in the season, but with Daniel down, Graham (Gano) is the only one of your seven captains who has played every game. Have you seen other guys step up in the leadership roles in their absence?
Judge: "We have, and that's part of it. We talk all the time about getting leadership from all levels in the team, and everyone has got to be able to touch somebody. To me, to be a captain, you've got to reach everyone in the locker room, and everybody has to have leadership and be able to impact guys around them to do the right thing. I've seen a lot of guys step up in their roles. We've seen a lot of guys give very good examples of how we're supposed to go about our work. I've seen a lot of guys step up vocally and get guys really going. That's been players that have been in our program for an extended period time, and it's been from a couple of new guys, too. They were able to step into the flow pretty quickly, make an impact, and really jump into the team concept here. I think we've added some guys that really have the right kind of demeanor to fit our culture and fit what we believe in as a program here. I'm pleased with the guys we were able to add throughout the season, and we've gotten leadership from a lot of different areas."
Q: Against Dallas, (Linebacker) Lorenzo Carter played what might of been his most impactful game since you've been here. Did you think he made a big difference the other day? When a player who you're waiting to have a game like that, do you say, "You did it once, you certainly can do it again. We want to see more of this?"
Judge: "We know Zo has the ability. Zo works incredibly hard to go out there and make impact plays. Look, there's a lot of avenues, to be honest with you. You mentioned that since I've been here, but Zo has missed a significant amount of time in both years with injury. Zo is coming off a significant injury (torn Achilles tendon) from last year. I'm very pleased with how he's worked and how he's pushed to come back. I've seen his level of play improve as his health improved. He had some setbacks in the mid-part of the year where he missed a significant amount of time, and I was pleased that he played last week. Through these final three games, I look forward to seeing the same level of execution."
Q: When you signed (Linebacker) Jaylon Smith to the practice squad last Friday, did you envision that he might play 17 snaps and have four tackles on Sunday?
Judge: "I wouldn't say that we didn't. Obviously, we were very fortunate to be able to sign him at that time. He was able to get in and make some plays for us and plays fast. He's been a pleasure to coach so far. You know him from other parts of the league, obviously. There are some people in this building that have some experience with him elsewhere, but I've been very pleased with Jaylon. He's done a good job so far. He's continuing to learn our system overall. You don't have it all in this short amount of time, but I'd say within the game plan, he's been locked-in, focused, and understanding the intricacies that we're going to play with."
Q: You've had a couple guys like (linebacker Benardrick) McKinney who came in contributed pretty quickly, (defensive back) Steven Parker. Do you find that guys who have experience playing in the league can come in and pick things up quickly enough to contribute right away?
Judge: "I think it's based on the individual. But what we try to always do is when we get players in, we just find what they do well, how can we go ahead and use it within the game plan and let them focus on that."
Q: The Eagles are number one in rushing now with seven straight games over 175 yards. They've had 200 yards rushing in four of their last five, including 208 against your team in the first game. Given that this has become such a passing league, do they almost present a unique challenge in trying to stop their run game?
Judge: "I wouldn't say it's a unique challenge in the fact that they run the ball, but they do it very, very well. They really pose issues from the run game. This complements their passing game, which also ties back into the running game with how the quarterback will pull the ball down and run, so you're always defending all parts of the field."
Q: You watched the game the other night. (Quarterback) Jalen Hurts had a couple of early turnovers, but he rebounded to complete 20 of 26 passes and ran for two touchdowns. I assume from the coach that must play him next, that was an impressive performance.
Judge: "He looked really good. Obviously, coming off that ankle injury that held him out of the Jets game, you wanted to see how the guy comes back, how he's moving. It didn't look like he missed a beat right there. He was pulling the ball, he was running. He was playing aggressively, he was playing strong. He was throwing the ball accurately, he was pushing it downfield. They have an arsenal of weapons that are all making plays for him. (Tight end Dallas) Goedert made some big catches downfield. (Wide receiver DeVonta) Smith came up with some big catches, so you see how they're using him. This guy is definitely evolving within his role in their system, but he's' definitely just developing as a quarterback in this league."
Q: The first time you played them was pretty soon after they traded (tight end Zach) Ertz, and Goedert has become their number one target. He has two 100-yard games in a row. As you've watched the tape since you last faced them, do you see him playing a bigger role?
Judge: "Absolutely. Although, I wouldn't say we're shocked with how he's playing. You knew he's a good player. I always calculate when a team moves on from such an accomplished player with someone else on the roster, you have to understand that they get to see that player every day in practice. They get to see things that we don't always get to see in games and on game tape, so they obviously knew their players very well and knew what they were capable of. This guy is definitely being used the right way in their system. He's making a lot of big plays, he's making a lot of contested plays down the field."
Q: That front of (defensive ends Josh) Sweat and Derek Barnett and tackles Javon Hargrave and (Fletcher) Cox were all over (Washington quarterback Garrett) Gilbert the other night. We always talk about Washington's front when we play them, but Philly's front seems just as good as any you face.
Judge: "Well, I'm not comparing any fronts against each other, but this front is as impactful as they come in the league. They have speed off the edge, they have power inside. They've got a good level of experience. They still have good youth with fresh legs. They rotate their guys all throughout the game. They play fresh and stay ahead of you. They do a good job mixing their games inside. They do a good job of just straight rushing with speed and power. They know how to combine it, compress that pocket on you and keep pressure."
Q: (Linebacker Alex) Singleton didn't start the other night, but he still leads the team in tackles. Are they using him selectively, or how are they using him?
Judge: "In terms of how they're using their roles within the games, they're moving their defensive personnel around a little bit, but he's definitely a key part of their defense."
Q: (Kicker Jake) Elliot has now made 40 kicks in a row, and we talked last time about (linebacker) Shaun Bradley. Is he still running and making a lot of special teams tackles?
Judge: "He's still an impact special teams player in this league, and Elliot is still one of the top kickers in the league. He's been that way for some time now. He's a big leg kicker. He comes from Memphis that has produced a lot of good specialists. He's going to carry on the tradition."
Q: Lastly, you grew up in the Philadelphia area. Did you go to games at Lincoln Financial Field when you were young?
Judge: "I've never been to a game at The Linc, except for playing against them. I went down to a few games in the Vet growing up. We went down to the parking lot a whole lot, whether it was Phillies or Eagles. We just would take the train on down there and hang out. We went to more Phillies games than Eagles games, but I went to a few growing up."
View rare photos of the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.