*Q: What did you see from Daniel (Jones) last week that you think seemed to really sort of click? *A: Well, it was good, number one, to see him start fast after having some time off. Sometimes, you can kind of get, you're on a roll and you can kind of get a little bit rusty. It takes you time to get into it. But right from the starting gate, he was on point, making quick decisions and accurate. I think he benefited really from our offensive line doing a great job in pass protection. The pocket was really clean. He had time to step up. His timing was good, so that was impressive. He took advantage of that.
*Q: Does he have an ability to kind of quickly see, know and pass where the coverage dictates maybe more than most? *A: I don't know if it's more than most. I think at times, he's really good at it, especially for a young guy. I think it'll get better. Then there are other times where I think he kind of will see things and maybe not quite pull the trigger, whether or not it's just not quite trusting it because he's young. He had those kind of show up actually a couple times last week. But because of our protection, he kind of got away with it and we still had some positive plays out of it. But yeah, I think he has that in him. We just need to continue working on improving it and having it be more consistent.
*Q: Saquon (Barkley) has been in a groove the last couple of games, but the Eagles have a defense which doesn't give up a lot. How do you approach that? *A: Yeah, I think we just need to keep on keeping on with what we're doing. They're really good upfront for a lot of reasons. They have a lot of guys up there that can win one-on-one battles and get off a block and make a play. Most of the time, they're going to have an extra guy up in there. But I think Saquon, we've all seen it, he just looks fresher, and I said that a couple weeks ago. The number one thing for him and for our offensive line is understand there are going to be some runs that we just have to kind of grind it out on. Be patient. We want to try to stay ahead of the chains where we're not playing in long yardage situations. That helps with more carries and, hopefully, anytime you get 26 the ball more, the production will be there. But again, it'll be tough sledding because these guys are really good against the run. Not just because of their ability, but they're well-coached and they have a good scheme.
*Q: This will probably be the last time we talk to you this season. I'm just curious what do you think about Daniel's overall progress? How much have you seen him progress? *A: Yeah, I think he's done a really good job. Unfortunately though, we don't have the wins to show for it. But just going back from day one of the offseason to training camp, his knowledge of what he's being asked to do and then the speed at which he does it has been impressive for a young guy. I think that like anybody else, he needs to continue to make strides in that area. He's very talented, but there are a lot of things that come with the position. The ups and the downs and the highs and the lows, and handling all of the 'what ifs', as we say. Things that maybe show up that you hadn't quite talked about, whether or not it's on the field or off the field. All the things that you're going to go through as a first-year player, and then you move into the second year. But right now, we're just kind of locked in on this week. He had a good practice today, so hopefully we'll have success early. But again, it's just kind of, as we talk to all of our players, just dial in on one play. Don't worry about anything else. Just worry about the things you can control and what you're asked to do.
*Q: I would imagine if I were to ask you what number do you like least from Daniel, it would be the fumbles. What number do you like the best? When you look at all the stats, what do you like best? *A: Just in general, statistically on paper, you look at the completion percentage. But then the things that we look at are the decision-making. How many times is he making good decisions? It might not be a completion, but it was a good decision. Like I said, there have been a lot of times where he's done that. Even in some of the games that we didn't win or maybe there were some negative plays, a turnover or an interception, a fumble or an interception, there have been a lot of good things. And they know better than anybody, we talk about it, those things are hidden because of a negative play like that. You kind of have to sort through those things and build on those good things, and kind of just eliminate the turnovers. I think we'll see the production go up and the wins go up.
*Q: Does having twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions resonate in… *A: Yeah, I think that's probably a good barometer. The last several years, people have talked about that two-to-one ratio. Really your goal on paper, if you're a three-to-one in that ratio, you're probably playing really good football and your team is winning a lot of games. Yeah, that's a good number to look at, whether or not it's a high number of each or a low number of each.
*Q: Your relationship with Daniel, we saw you at the pro day and it looked like you were pretty close with him. Do you have any other relationships with the quarterbacks that you've coached that you can compare to this one? Is there a satisfaction to see Daniel finish out the season? *A: You probably have to ask those guys you're talking about. But yeah, I think there's a bond that you share with the guys that you coach, especially at that position where you're right in the middle of everything, which is why I love coaching that position. The highs and the lows, right in the middle of the big decisions being made. First of all, as a coach, when the guy you're responsible for does well, you're on top of the world because you know how hard he's worked. If he doesn't do well, then you're as low as you can possibly be because you feel like it's your fault, and how you're going to find out a way to help him. You have to have a good mix of, obviously, getting things done right on the field, but then also kind of having a little downtime, just sharing some things where you can kind of let guys talk a little bit, open up, a little philosophy and try to solve some of the other world's problems.
*Q: Keeping on the quarterback vein, this might be the last time Eli (Manning) walks on the field in a Giants uniform. In two years, what has it been like working with him? *A: I feel really lucky. I feel really lucky to be here for a lot of reasons, with our ownership, with Coach Shurmur, with Dave (Gettleman), but especially coaching a guy like Eli. I've coached a lot of really good players. I've been really fortunate to be around, and he is really special for a lot of the reasons that won't ever go down on a stat sheet, in my opinion. The kind of guy he is, the way he handles things, watching him how he is with you all, with his teammates, with coaches, handling the situation earlier this year. It's just unbelievable. I'll never forget it. I've learned a lot from him in all areas of my life.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
*Q: An eventful game for you guys Sunday. That sequence there, can you take us through that punt getting downed at the 1-yard line, to the block and what happened? *A: You know, it was a great punt by Riley (Dixon), you're talking about going from one extreme to the other. Great punt by Riley, downed the ball at the 2-yard line, had a call that could've went either way. They called it. To come back and then Josiah (Tauaefa), it was just a simple day one rush, it was nothing fancy about it, the two just came underneath and he got beat. There's no other way you can…literally it's a simple day one installation rush we've seen since the spring. It happens.
*Q: Does that trickle down from (Alec) Ogletree? Because David (Mayo) was playing more or Buc (Deone Buccanon) playing more? *A: No, Josiah has been in that spot for eight weeks now, nine weeks. He knows it. It's not an excuse and it's just something that is part of his job. He knows, 'I block the two, I'm a tackle.' Since day one when he walked in here, that's where we started off. Same exact look. It's just unfortunate that it happened to him. Josiah is a great kid and I promise you he's learned from this mistake.
*Q: At the end of the game, what happens along the sideline? You've got a 62 or 63 (yard field goal). Does Pat (Shurmur) come over to you and say, 'Can he make it?'
*A: Yeah, we talked about it on the sideline. You know, I've got full confidence in Aldrick (Rosas). The kid has a strong leg. I think 60-65, he could've made it. But, you just never know. It's 30-something degrees out there, or whatever it was. It was cold, had a little wind in their face. If you mishit the ball and they've got one of the best returners in the league back there in (Steven) Sims, the ball comes short and then you've got your fat guys on the field. So, it's probably not a good idea. They double both your wings, throw out your fastest guys because that's what (Redskins Special Teams Coordinator) Nate Kaczor does. He'll double both your wings and then you've got a fast guy back there against your fat guys. So, it's not a favorable situation if the ball comes up short. You just never know. You mishit a ball or whatever it is, the ball comes out low, it's tipped or whatever bad situation. It's probably a 15 percent, maybe 20 percent, chance that he makes the kick, but you just don't want to take that chance. You know you're going to overtime, you throw the Hail Mary and get out of it.
*Q: This is going to be the last time we talk to you this season. What's your overview of special teams and how they've been this year? Last year you guys graded really well… I think this year in coverage units. You had a couple of just a few bad moments it seems like just scattered throughout. *A: Yeah, when you look at our group overall, I think our coverage units have been pretty good for the most part (knocks on wood). We've got one more. The return units have been good. Obviously, we've felt like we left a lot of meat on the bone as far as making plays in the return game. Coverage wise, again, I thought we did pretty good. Punt protection wise, obviously when you get two punts blocked, that's not good. Field goal wise, I think we could've been better. We had some issues with the operation and just being consistent. We've got to find that again. Field goal block wise, our guys have rushed hard the whole year. So, I mean overall, it's been solid. I think we could've been better in spots. I think situationally, we could've been better. Overall, I think we were solid. Moving forward, I think that with the good base of young guys that we have, having Riley, having Aldrick, having Colin (Holba), and just being able to create competition throughout the roster, I think we'll be better.
*Q: You talk about meat on the bone in the return game, how much of that is that you just didn't have a returner? You went through guys in different parts of the season.
*A: Yeah, I mean that's always a fluid situation as far as returners. Everywhere I've been, if you get a guy that's your guy, that's the guy, and you can keep him through the whole season, you're blessed. There are not a lot of teams that have guys that are fortunate just to have a guy dedicated to that one spot. Even if there is, a lot of times he gets dinged up or you know what I mean? That's something as a special teams coach you're going to always have to deal with. I think as far as just technique wise, execution wise, more so than personnel wise. Does that make sense? I think there are some things that we did during the course of the season that didn't help us because we didn't execute at a high level.
*Q: What makes Cody Core so good as far as getting down there and downing punts? *A: I think Cody, he's just starting to find his stride. That's the one thing about young players in this league, a lot of times it takes guys a while to figure out who they are as players and then once they find out who they are, they get comfortable in their role and then now they just start to flourish. So, he understands who he is, he knows what his role is, and now he can just step into that role and feel comfortable in it and just be who he is.
*Q: Do you tell Aldrick just to forget about this season and keep on working, or what? *A: Yeah, I think, you know he needs to finish strong. So, this Sunday, whatever opportunities we have, he needs to fish strong in those opportunities. Then this offseason just re-group. I think going into next year having the same battery guys together and making sure we get a good offseason together I think will be more advantageous to him to be able to execute and be able to go out there and get back to last year's form to where he's not thinking about anything, he's just lining up and just kicking the ball.
*Q: I know he's not your guy, but you've known him for a long time. What's it like working with Eli Manning? *A: Eli, he is a pro's pro. From the first day I stepped in here in '07 to now, he's been the same exact guy every day. Every morning, he's the first guy in the building, eating breakfast at 6:15 or 6:30. He gets out here, he works, he does what he's supposed to do. He's always a willing helper. He's just one of the funniest cats you'll ever be around. You guys don't (know), some of you do, but he's a big-time practical joker. He is a great guy, great teammate, and he's going to be definitely missed around here. He's a legend in his own right. I've got to thank him before he gets out of here for giving me a ring, because he did a heck of a job in that '07 season. All of the memories and just being around E all of time, especially back then when I first got here, just watching him grow as a quarterback and now just to come back and just to see him as the old man in the building, just the old grizzly veteran who is a guy that just loves ball. He just loves ball. He's a great teammate, and just to see the transformation being the starter to being the backup and how he's helped Daniel (Jones), and how good of a teammate he's been to Daniel. I'll tell you what, it's a beautiful thing because I promise you it doesn't happen like that all of time. This is his building. He was the first quarterback to move into this building and he's been the guy here ever since we walked into the building. To be able to make that transition and do it so graciously and with class is typical Eli Manning.
RB Saquon Barkley
*Q: What would winning this last game, finishing strong, mean to you and mean to this team? *A: Obviously not only me, but to the team, just because we wanted to finish strong, we wanted to finish the season off strong and we've got one more game as a unit, as a team, and we want to go off on the right note.
*Q: Does 1,000 yards mean anything to you? *A: No.
*Q: Why not? *A: It's just numbers. At the end of the day, we're still, hopefully we'll be 5-11, not a playoff team. So, when my production or the numbers I put up translates to us being a playoff team or in contention to be in the playoffs, then those numbers will matter.
*Q: You've talked about a lot how you think this team is heading in the right direction. You can see it, it's right there. Entering the final week of the season, what makes you think that? What do you see that maybe we don't see that says, 'Okay, yeah, I could see this happening?' *A: One, the season flew by, which is crazy to think how fast the season went by, but just the little things. I like the fact that even though we had a lot of adversity and the season's not going our way, just how people come to work and how people handle themselves. Those are things that matter to me. It's easy to give up, it's easy to not care, but to still have that mindset and then to come out every single week and fight at a high level, even though some of those games didn't turn out the way we'd like to, means a lot not only to me but to the team. So, that's why I don't just think, I know and I believe that we have it here and things will be better soon.
*Q: Being around Daniel (Jones) this whole year, what do you think is the biggest area that he's improved from his first start until now? *A: Leadership. He's a little more vocal on the sideline than he was in the beginning of the year when he first started. I would say that's probably the biggest thing. You don't have to be that vocal guy, when I mean vocal, it's not like screaming, 'Let's go, let's go, let's go,' it's sometimes just bringing an (tablet) and communicating with me or communicating with the offensive linemen.
*Q: You said that you believe there is a bright future here. Do you believe that Pat Shurmur is the right guy to lead you guys to that? *A: Yeah, I do believe. I don't only believe in Pat Shurmur, but I do believe in all the coaches, I believe in everyone here. It's easy to point the blame at one person, and that's what we kind of do. I know this business is a results business, but at the end of the day, it's not only on one person why we haven't been successful these last few years. For me, I'm not willing to just give up on somebody. I believe that if we all just continue to fight and continue to fight, have that right mindset, which I do believe and I know that we have, things are going to turn around.
*Q: Is there any sense among you guys, or you personally, that you're playing for Pat Shurmur's job on Sunday? *A: No, that's not the mindset that we have. That's not, I guess you could say not only for myself but for this team, we're just going out—Coach (Shurmur) made it a point, we all made it a point that we want to finish the season off strong. The way we do that is by winning the last game, the last three games of the season. So, we have the opportunity to do that, and that's the goal.
*Q: What about getting the chance to face the Eagles so soon after that that very disappointing loss? *A: The last two times we played them, we were up on them and then they came, but those last two games mean nothing to this game right here. There's going to be different ways the games play out, we've just got to be ready to execute when we can. If we do find a way to get up on them early like we have in the recent past, find a way to finish it, and if we don't, find a way to fight and come back and get the win.
*Q: Is there something to be said for trying to ruin their playoff hopes?
*A: No, no one cares about that. We just want to focus on ourselves and finish off the season strong. At the end of the day, we don't want anyone in the NFC East to make the playoffs besides ourselves, so someone's got to go besides us, so it doesn't matter to us if we win and Eagles don't get in, that means the Cowboys would go. Or if we lose, that means the Eagles go. So, at the end of the day, someone from the NFC East is going besides us, which we don't want any of them going, to be honest.
*Q: Do you feel this team is closer to being a playoff team than it was a year ago? *A: Yeah, I would say so. I think every week we've grown. We're a young team, that's just an excuse that I don't want to use, but it's just what it is, I guess you could say. We're a young team and just more reps, more repetition, more plays, and more games, you're going to evolve into better players, and I feel like we've been doing that this season.
*Q: You may have hit on this already, but when you look back on last week's video, what really clicked for both you and Daniel Jones and the offense to just have that kind of a day that you did against the Redskins? *A: It starts up front. The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. When you have an offensive line do that, it makes things a lot easier. They played their tails off for us and DJ (Daniel Jones) did a really good job of stepping in the pocket, they did a really good job of giving him chances to throw the ball, and they gave me holes. I feel like, personally, when I get those opportunities to get one on one with safeties that more times than not, I'll make that person miss and score a touchdown or get a big play for us. Not only me and DJ, I know the numbers go for me and DJ that we played awesome, but Shep (Sterling Shepard), (Golden) Tate, CC (Cody Core), all those guys, Kaden (Smith), all those guys played well to help us get a win and it's going to take that same effort to get a win on Sunday.
*Q: Finishing strong, how much does that impact you into next year? How can that carry over? *A: Just confidence. Any time, all these little things that we're doing just help build confidence. Especially like last week, that OT period two or three weeks before against the Eagles we lost in the overtime period, this overtime period we get the ball, we go down, and Jones and Kaden get the game-winning touchdown. Stuff like that, those little strides help you as a team and just help build your confidence up. I guess going back to his question, just not only knocking the Eagles out of the playoffs but going against a team that is a playoff contender and that we know we're going to give them their best, it's definitely going to help us in the future when the roles are reversed.
Opening Statement: I hope everyone had a good holiday. You see it out here, guys working hard, practicing with great energy. These guys are still focusing on the details. I've kind of said that all along about why I love working with this group, it's because they have continued to run to it. They haven't run from anything. They look at their tape, they work to correct the mistakes, they work to get better fundamentally and technique wise. I think that's the thing that probably looking through the course of the season I appreciate probably the most with this group. You've seen the progress with guys. You've seen guys really try to lock in on some very specific things in their game and get better at. You've progressively seen those things get better. I really appreciate those guys for that and how hard they have been working.
*Q: Do you sell your players on this is a game we can deny them the playoffs? Let's go out and do that. *A: The first thing we sell them on is it's a division game. We want to win games in our division. The second thing is just the plan, the matchup, the execution and all the things after that. That's what the players will have a conversation about.
*Q: How much do you have to change game plan wise from seeing them just a couple weeks ago? Is it a continuation of what you did? *A: There's certainly a balance. It is recent, and you believe in some of the stuff you were doing in the game. And you also look at whether it was injuries they might have or maybe how they have shifted using different personnel in the last couple of weeks, which they have done. You try to build your plan based off of both thoughts, the early season thoughts and these last two weeks since we have played them.
*Q: Why are these guys so good on third down? They are second in the league in third down conversion. *A: One of the things is they have two really dynamic targets in the two tight ends. Whether the ball is going there, or the ball is going somewhere else, you have to account for those guys and some of the routes they're able to run. Those guys run receiver type routes and they do a great job of creating separation in space on their routes. They are very detailed in the way they run it. Overall, they do a nice job running the ball on first and second down to try to create some two to sixes where on that third and two or third and three, just like when we played, they are going to try to run the ball too and keep you on your toes in regards to that. That helps them have a good balanced mix. The first thing that pops into my mind is the two tight ends.
*Q: You got a chance to see Markus Golden again this year. It looks to us like he is back to sort of his previous form. What's that been like watching him? *A: For me, that one is personal because I have such a great relationship with him. Having worked with him when he as a rookie coming in and seeing that first year, how hard he worked. To go from just being a 4-3 defensive end at Missouri to learning how to do some different things in this league, whether that's dropping or understanding leverage or just picking up the scheme. I saw how hard he worked and how important it is to him. To watch the injury going into a year where he had big plans for himself in Arizona and we had big plans for him. Then coming off that injury and continuing to battle and a knee turns into an ankle turns into another injury. Seeing him come into this season and just have the chance to play the game healthy. Have a chance to play as long as he can, as hard as he can during the course of the game. I'll forever be a Markus Golden fan and be one of his biggest supporters. He's done a heck of a job for us this year and I think he is anxious to go finish.
*Q: What is your evaluation of his play? What do you see (that says) okay that guy is back to what he was? *A: I think just the burst. The power that he's able to play with. When he rushes and Markus might be the first one to tell you, he's a blood rusher. To be able to have his power back from the lower half of his body and just to be able to have the burst when he might separate from a block and the first two steps off the block, that burst is important for guys like Markus. You can see that back and with that, I think, comes confidence. Confidence comes because you feel good and you're able to do some of things you know you've been able to do in your career. Once he got his confidence going, he's been pretty dynamic.
*Q: We've talked a lot about the young defensive backs, you have played almost all of them. Do you look at them and say they are good NFL players, maybe not right now but in a year or two. Wherever they are Beal, Ballentine, Baker and Love to a certain extent. These are all legitimate NFL players.
*A: I think all of those guys are certainly trending that way. I think we kind of talked about this, this was probably earlier in the season. I've been around it enough in this league to know that, whether it's one of those guys if you said he didn't have a good rookie season, or he didn't have a good second year. Players develop at different rates and that might be just them learning things at a different rate than other players. That may be their bodies physically maturing at a different rate than other players. I don't think there will be a true assessment on that until year two or three with some of the guys. That's the same with some of our second-year players. It will be year three, we all know pass rushers, that's year three and four. We've seen that with some guys that are now this year having really great years that some people probably tried to write them off early in their careers. That's just a development thing, it's strength, its physicality, technique, fundamentals. I know I have said this before, for instance, as a corner, the releases these receivers in the NFL are able to give you are so different than the college receivers. That's just because they're faster and they're all physical and most of them are pretty tough. To be able to play from press is different for those guys. The same thing for rushing an offensive tackle in this league. He's the most athletic guy that you might have rushed against in college. Some of the things you might have gotten away with, you can't get away with. You have to narrow those techniques down. The second piece of all that is narrow the techniques at the position that match you, match your body type, your skill set, what do you do well and understanding how you can use your tools to go compete on week in week out basis. I think all these guys are progressing. Their arrows are up and I'm anxious to keep coaching them each and every day.
*Q: Do you sense an anxiousness in your players to have chance to get back at the Eagles fairly quickly after what happened last time? *A: I think so. I think these guys are anxious to go out and compete. They've been that way every week in the way we've prepared and the way we've worked. We just have to make a couple more plays in the second half.