19 of the best photos from Thursday's practice presented by Hospital for Special Surgery
QB Eli Manning**
Q: Nine games to go and it starts Monday night… How does this team approach this stretch?
A: We know we have our backs up against the wall a little bit with the way we started the season. We don't have the record we exactly want, but we still know it is all going to come down to how we finish the season. It starts this Monday night, playing against a good Colts team. We have to come out ready to play. We need everybody to step up their games. We need our young guys. They are no longer rookies. It is no longer their first experience. We need those guys to step up. We need the veterans to step up as well.
Q: Coach said today that you guys have to make plays above the X's and O's… What do you think about him reaching out to you guys?
A: That is always the case. You have to make plays. You have to make the plays that are there and available with your read. Sometimes you have to play above the X's and O's and scramble around and have guys be athletes and make some big plays.
Q: When you see Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throw for 522 [yards against the Colts last Sunday] and 6 TD's, do you watch the film twice or did he have a good game plan?
A: They made a lot of plays. Some of it was him scrambling around. They had great protection. Even on plays where he checked it down, their offensive line did a great job. Receivers did a good job getting open. It was one of those days where everything worked for them and did not work Indianapolis. You have to look at all the games and figure out their scheme and what they might try to do and have a good answer for it.
Q: What does it mean to be [playing] at home?
A: It has been awhile. It's good to have a home game, especially a Monday night game at home. I haven't had many of those in my career, so it should be a great atmosphere. It should be a good crowd.
Q: What does that mean to play above the X's and O's? **
A: It basically means that you have your reads and, for me, I have to go through my progressions and my reads and find the open guy, but sometimes you get to the end of the progression and no one is open. [So] you have to scramble around and receivers have to break off their route. They have to create some. You don't want to get into that every single play. You don't try and do something that is not part of the play or the scheme. It is just a guy making an extra effort or a guy making an extra block. Someone doing something to create a big play.
Q: Has that been lacking so far this year?
A: I think we have created some. Guys have done a good job making plays. It is also the case of not creating a bad play, either. It is more of us having too many cases of us not being able to overcome our setbacks and overcome a penalty or overcome some of those things. That is what we have to do a better job of.
Q: When you are playing the number one offense in the league, do you go into a game like this saying we might be in for a shoot-out?
A: You go into it saying we have to do our job offensively. That is controlling the ball, controlling the clock, converting third downs – all those things are important. We have to get touchdowns instead of field goals and try to take advantage of every opportunity that we have.
Q: Did it feel like the bye week came at the right time?
A: Yeah, I think so. With the five preseason games and you play seven games, especially with the number of young guys we have playing, I think a lot of the guys needed a little mental break. Learning a new offense and a lot of new things going on, it is good to step away a little bit and give the mind and body a little rest so you can come back knowing exactly what you have to do to have a great season.
Q: Jerry Reese said the other day the offense has been too cautious… Do you agree with that assessment?
A: I think we are just trying to run the offense. I think we are trying to run things we feel comfortable about and that we know guys are doing well. If we can create some throws down the field, that is great, but you can't force them just to throw the ball down the field. We are looking for completions, and hopefully we can create some big plays.
Q: Isn't that kind of what happened last year where you were forcing it a little bit, which led to more turnovers than you guys wanted?
A: Yes. We are not going to force anything. We can't change our scheme or my reads or my decision-making. We have to keep that the same. If there is an opportunity to hit a big one, so be it. If there is not, then we have to keep doing what we have been doing.
Q: Have there been a lot of opportunities where you looked at the film and thought you had that right there?
A: You can always look back and say I could've thrown one here. I am just trying to go through the reads. It is one of those cases where someone might have been open, my first progression might have been open, and you take that and look back and, well, if you would have gotten to your second progression, you had a go route that was open on it. That is part of football. You can't start second-guessing or start changing your reads just to try to get something deep because all of sudden you do that and the deep one doesn't win and you are stuck with sacks or several bad plays. I have to stay the course and keep going through my progressions and hopefully guys can keep winning their routes and we will find completions. As long as you are getting completions and first downs, moving the ball, having drives, that is good, also.
Q: When you see what Pittsburgh did to them last week does that make you guys want to open up the offense more downfield?
A: We are going to run our offense and find completions. It shouldn't change up too much.
Q: When you are trying to extend plays and play above the X's and O's, is it easier when you have guys who you have worked with before and have chemistry with? Is it harder because of all the turnover that has happened here?
A: I don't know. I will let you know. I don't think you go in trying to play above the X's and O's. You go in with a game plan to execute the game plan. Sometimes that is just football. The play that you end up running more than any other play is a scramble drill – moving the pocket, scrambling around and finding guys. We work that. We have rules to it. Hopefully those guys can win and we can hit some big plays.
Q: Do you think because it is a new offense, guys are a little more to the book and the X's and O's?
A: It is still a matter of doing your job. That is the most important thing. We have to do our job better. That is what it comes down to. We have to run our routes precisely. Block the right guys. No penalties. We have to be sharp in our execution. That is the number one thing. There may be several opportunities where they have the perfect defensive call, a great blitz call, and you don't have it protected, that is where you have to make a play out of nothing.
Q: With Rashad [Jennings] out for the game Monday, it seems like the offense has kind of lacked the element of a receiver out of the backfield… Is that something you think is missing?
A: He is a threat out of the back field catching the ball and does that real naturally. I still think we have enough weapons and guys who can get open and make catches for us, so we will be in good shape.
Q: What stands out most to you about Justin Pugh from his rookie year to this year?
A: He is a smart guy. He works hard. He is very committed to his craft. He fits into the mold of linemen we have had here in the past. Great toughness and [he] loves the preparation part of it and going to games. He expects to play at a high level and has great determination.
Q: When he was so vocally hard on himself after the Eagles game, what did that show you about his accountability?
A: That is football. You have tough games sometimes. It is about bouncing back from those and not accepting it and taking responsibility when you have those games and letting yourself know and your teammates know that is not the norm and not acceptable.
Q: Did [Pugh] speak to you after that or was it just kind of carry on?
A: Just carry on. I have great confidence in him. Some of those on him where he technically might have given up the sack weren't his fault. I have to do a better job. That was a team effort that game.
G Geoff Schwartz
Re: Getting back in the flow on the field
A: I think being older helps with that. Like I said, I've been going to meetings so as far as off the field, we have great camaraderie off the field. That hasn't really changed. On the field, maybe the verbal communication, just getting used to doing that again. Especially today, hearing the cadence and getting off of the ball, some little stuff like that. It shouldn't be too bad. I'm not terribly worried about my communication.
Q: Bottom line, though, for this weekend is…?
A: I don't know. They haven't told me anything. I'll probably find out on Sunday or Monday.
Q: You hear of all the other injuries, ACL tears, bicep tears, things like that. Do you think people really realize how frustrating your injury, the dislocated toe, is?
A: I don't think anyone… if you look at guys who have toe injuries, foot injuries, it's tough because you don't realize, I guess I never realized how much I really use my big toe. It's everything I do as an offensive lineman. I know being my weight doesn't really help it either, but that's kind of who I am, so I deal with it.
Q: Is it frustrating?
A: It definitely is. It's tough when you just can't play. I came here to play, I like playing. All the practice that you do is for Sunday. I don't play this game to do the practice, I play for Sunday.
Q: Do you think they have figured out the right padding situation?
A: Yeah, my situation in my shoe is fine. They got everything done.
S Antrel Rolle
Q: Coach was pretty fired up in his press conference about making plays. What is your reaction to that?
A: Obviously, that is the name of the game. You've got to make plays, you've got to make big plays, when an opportunity presents itself…..playing above the X's and O's. Re: challenge the Colts present
A: Every game is a challenge, every week there is a challenge. They are good at what they do; they are very good at what they do. They have a lot of weapons, obviously. They have a lot of guys that make big plays.
Q: It is a little different when the quarterback can keep the play going so long.
A: It won't be the first quarterback we faced in this league that does that. Andrew Luck, he is definitely beyond his time. He is a very poised quarterback; he is very smart in his decision-making, he can make every throw, and he can also extend the play. I think he is definitely the total package when you are talking about a quarterback.
Q: He has thrown for 350-400 yards a game. Is this one of the best quarterbacks you have seen in a while with the way he is coming in right now?
A: He is very good at what he does. I don't really get into ranking quarterbacks, but he is very good at what he does. He controls the offense and he has a lot of playmakers, his success is warranted.
Q: Is it going to be weird seeing Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw on the other side? **
A: We had a little glimpse of that in the preseason, but those guys are phenomenal players. Both of those guys are very passionate about the game and they are big play guys, we definitely have to keep a look out on those guys and there is going to be a lot of emotion flying both ways on this game. We are looking forward to the battle.
Q: Everything that you want to accomplish is right in front of you.
A: Yeah, everything is still right in front of us. We still have to take it week by week and game by game, and make sure we capture the ones we have in front of us.
Q: We hear the phrase 'play above the X's and O's' a lot. What does that mean?
A: It means doing your job and beyond. Doing more than is asked of you to do. Being opportunistic, going out there and making things happen, taking advantage of those opportunities. Even ones that are not there, you have to create them.
Q: Isn't that kind of what got you in trouble earlier in the year when guys weren't doing their jobs and were outside the scheme or is there a difference?
A: There is a huge difference. You play within the scheme; obviously, you have to take care of your responsibilities first, but if you can play beyond the X's and O's when a play permits itself, then you know you go do it, see ball, go get ball. That is pretty much the ball of it.
Q: Do you think because there are so many new guys there was a little hesitation to do that at first?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Guys that want to be poised and do their job, doing their job and their technique the right way, which is something that should be done that way. When you tackle a guy, strip the ball, when the ball is in the air, you do your best to go get it. If you can't go get it, you make sure you do the best that you can so the other team, so they won't grab the ball. Like I said, it is the game of football; we know how to play this game. We have been playing this game since we were young. So go out there and play ball, man; there is no algebra involved.
LB Jameel McClain
Q: Down the stretch, nine big games. What's your attitude, what's your focus? What's your approach?
A: Nine weeks of focus. Nine weeks for a season. Nine weeks of passion. All of those things. We get a chance to show the world who we are, how we finish and it's a great opportunity for this team to prevail. My mentality is nine weeks to win.
Q: Coach says, 'We have to make plays.' That's not just the offense, that's the defense, too.
A: We all have to make plays. It's a football team. We've got to make plays for the offense, the offense has to make plays for us. More importantly, I'm a defensive player and the only thing I care about is how the defense focuses. We've got to go out there and make stops. We've got to go out there and be dependable. That's what's important for this team.
Q: In getting the Indianapolis offense off the field, because they average 35 minutes a game time of possession, is it earlier in the downs that's more important to get them in third and longs or do you have to get off on those third downs?
A: You want to get any offense in third and long. You want to make the quarterback have to make the tough decisions. When you get into a shorter third down you have the option where you can run it, check the ball down and show the routes. We really want to get them in that position. How we get them in that position is stopping the run. That's rule number one, you stop the run, so you live to fight another day. That's going to be our perspective. That's the goal of any defense in any situation – stop the run and then get after them in the pass. Then when we've got JPP, we can do a lot of things.
Q: Andrew Luck, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton, there are so many different weapons on this team. How are you going to try to slow down this Indianapolis attack?
A: It's crazy, man. It's really unique, I'm telling you… we're going to play defense. That's how we're going to stop them. We're going to do the most unique thing you've ever seen – we're going to play good, sound, fundamental defense and with that, we'll see how it ends.
Q: Are they as deceptive as they look on film in terms of it looks like they're going to run and they pass and it looks like they're going to pass and they run? **
A: I don't know. I don't know if I would call it deceptive. They have a really good scheme. You just have to be aware of what's going on. For every run, there is a pass off of it, that's just part of what they do. Having a quarterback of that caliber when you can do all of that type of manipulation, it makes it a pretty good offense. We've just got to focus, really.
Q: You guys are facing four top-tier quarterbacks these next four weeks. What's the challenge going to be like?
A: The challenge to play four top-tier quarterbacks in the next four weeks? I'm telling you, we've got to do this crazy thing once again, man. We've got to play defense. And playing against whoever you're playing against, this is the NFL, in my opinion everybody is top because we all worked hard to get there. We're the top of the top. We've got to bring our 'A' game. No mistakes. None of that. It sounds so simple and it's something that we have to complete as a defensive unit, myself to everyone else.
DE Jason Pierre-PaulQ: Nine games to go, starting this Monday with the Colts, how are you and your teammates approaching this stretch?
A: I think we are doing a pretty good job, to be honest. We're coming in here and we are working, doing our jobs, and doing it well. That is basically it, it is nine games to go and we take each game one by one. We are not looking ahead and that is how it is.* *Q: Number one offense in the league and you've got that challenge this week. What do you need to do?
A: Honestly, this is the number one offense. I think it gives us a great shot to prove to the world what our defense is capable of, our offense as a team. We will be playing at our best and that is basically it, we can't do nothing less but play our best. Like I said, we're taking this one game at a time, there are nine games left, and take one game at a time.* *Q: Is there a certain excitement for you. It is Monday Night Football, you have done it a couple of times, but do you still get up for those games?
A: Football is football, you know. Everybody watching you, you are the only team playing. At the end of the day, you come out and play your 'A' game. You know if you make a mistake it is going to be on national television, everybody is watching, but I am going to come out and play and I know my teammates are going to come out and play, too, with me. Like I said, it is nine games left and you might as well say it is like the playoffs for us. We've got to win, we've got to win basically, we've got to win. We've got to take one game at a time and can't look ahead. There have been games that we should've won, but that is all in the past, it is the second half of the season. Anything can happen, that is how I am looking at it.* *
Q: Basically the playoffs have started.
A: Yeah, they have started. We've got a great group of guys here and our coaches, too. They are going to put us in the best position to win.* *Q: Statistically, one of the toughest quarterbacks to sack this year is Andrew Luck. What makes him so difficult when you watch him on tape?
A: He is a good quarterback, can't really say anything bad about him. He knows how to read coverages, he is a mobile quarterback. Anytime time we face a mobile quarterback, we hate them. There is nothing to hate in him, he is a great quarterback and that is why they've got the number one offense right now. I think it is going to be a great atmosphere and it is going give us a shot to prove to everybody in the world that we are capable of stopping the Indianapolis Colts. Our job is to stop the run and get to the quarterback as fast as possible. I am pretty sure we are coming to play, they are in our house. We are coming to play, and I know the fans are going to be 100 percent into it. We need those fans as much as possible; we need them more than ever. They are going to be in the game and I am going to be in the game, and my teammates are going to be in the game.* *Q: Do you think he is toughest quarterback you guys have faced this year?
A: Yeah, he is basically. At the end of the day we are going to face some tough quarterbacks. We've got to challenge those tough quarterbacks coming in here, it is going to be tough, but we are going to make a way and try to win these games.* *Q: This is the second time this year we asked you about facing the number one offense. When Atlanta came in, they were number one.
A: Yeah, when Atlanta came in, they were number one, and we rose to the challenge. For us, we don't like to make it easy; we like to make it hard. At the end of the day, it is going to be a tough challenge, but we are known for accepting those challenges and actually playing the game. Everybody is surprised when we win, but at the end of the day, we know what we are capable of doing. That is a good thing. I know we are going to rise above the expectations that everyone wants us to be at. I am going to be ready. I know my teammates are going to be ready. I am taking these games now as one game at a time. I am not looking ahead of the next game we got; I am taking this game one at a time like it is my last game playing. I look at it that way; I am going to play my best.* *Q: Coach and other people have talked about playing above the X's and O's. What does that mean to you?
A: It means they emphasize that more and more in practice now. I think it means play more than you can play, do more than what you can do. If it is making that tackle in the backfield, making it there and probably strip the ball. That is playing above the X's and O's. Being at your job, do your job, don't try and do anyone else's job. If you can make the play, you better make that play. He emphasizes that more and more in the meeting room, and I am pretty sure everybody is getting the good picture.* *Q: Everybody understands?
A: Everybody understands that and that is something coach Tom Coughlin is great at doing. Everybody listens, everybody is buying in and that is what you need on this team. Once everybody buys in, you are good. We can't have any individuals, which hurt us. Everybody buying in and we know what he have to do to win.