Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: Dallas Week. Wednesday. I’ll try to take your questions.
Q: You have done some chipping, or had the tight ends stay in. What’s the balance of that? I assume there’s cons to doing that as well.
A: We always do that. I try to change the protections in a lot of ways. It’s not always obvious schematically. You change the protections, you provide chips. That’s just part of what we do.
Q: When you look at the way (Eli Manning) and (Odell Beckham Jr.) connected in the first game after not being together in a while, what’s the next threshold for them? Obviously they need to score points.
A: We had a couple opportunities to score points that we didn’t, but I think the fact that they’re producing, that that’s a good a thing. Scoring points is what you want to do.
Q: What do you see from the Cowboys, in particular their running game at this point?
A: It starts with the run for them. Certainly they’ve got an outstanding running back. I don’t know about the narrative about their O Line, but they look pretty good blocking to me, especially in the first week. They’ve got an outstanding run game. When you have the threat of the quarterback as a runner, that adds another element to it because the so-called zone read game shows up and they don’t worry about him running with the football. They do a good job of kicking the ball to the perimeter in their run game on their RPO stuff, so there’s yardage there, as opposed to just turning around and handing the ball off. They’ve got really good concepts in the passing game and if they do drop back to pass and we don’t corral the quarterback, that’s when he gets outside of the pocket and I call them 60-yard check downs, he’s outrunning the route, he’s got a strong arm and if he sees somebody open, he can get the ball down the field. That makes him also dangerous.
Q: Along those lines, you had a decent push with the pass rush last week, but only had one sack. With a multi-dimensional quarterback like (Dak Prescott) and a better offensive line, how do you get those guys home?
A: First, let’s kill the sack narrative. Sacks are certainly very important, but the rush needs to disrupt the quarterback and his timing when he makes throws, so I’m going to dispel that, whatever that is. To your point, it’s important that we put pressure on Dak and make him move his feet. More than half the time, he’s got to have to move when he tends to just drop back and throw. I think that’s what the rush is designed to do, so we’ve got to continue working on that.
Q: Speaking of sacks, has (Olivier Vernon) got a chance this week?
A: OV will be out there running around today, so you’ll get a chance to see for yourselves. We’ll see. He’s making good progress, he’s going to do more this week than he did last week and we’re hopeful that he’ll be back soon.
Q: Do you see similarities in Ezekiel Elliott and (Saquon Barkley), and was Ezekiel Elliott’s first two years and the impact a running back can make right away something you considered (when drafting Saquon)?
A: There are a lot of similarities. They’re big, physical guys, they have great collision balance, they’re powerfully built guys. When I say collision balance, in the hole, guys bouncing off, and they can keep their balance. That helps them in pass protection, because they drop their weight, they’ve got a little weight to them. There’s a lot of similarities between the two. His production in his first two years had nothing to do with us selecting Saquon, but they’re similar in a lot of ways.
Q: Can you comment on Cole Beasley and the damage he can inflict as a slot receiver? He looks like one of those under-the-radar type of guys.
A: He creates mismatches in the slot. As coaches, we’ve all been around guys like that where you develop a trust in him. Obviously Dak trusts him. Typically when you’re in the slot, you’re close to the quarterback and he can see you better, sort of knows what you’re going to do, and he finds a way to get open, and he throws him the ball quickly. That’s the challenge that those types of receivers present to the defense. We’ve watched him have success for many years and we’ve watched the way a guy of his size can have an impact on the game.
Q: You’ve spent a lot of years in the (NFC East). What do these division games mean?
A: Any division game means a great deal. Week 2 in Dallas, we’re certainly looking forward to it, and we understand what it means. I do think they all count, so it’s important that we put all our focus on Dallas and worry about beating Dallas on Sunday night, this Sunday night, before we move on to anything else. I’ve always enjoyed the NFC East rivalries. All the teams have great tradition, after last year now all the teams have Super Bowl trophies, and this is one of the tougher divisions year in and year out. I really feel like all the teams have quarterbacks, all the teams can play defense, all the teams have running games, and so it makes for very competitive games.
Q: You’ve been involved in some of these rivalries. Are they all the same, or are you interested to see what nuance or difference there is in Giants-Cowboys?
A: When you get a team ready to play and you look at the tactics, and you look at the players and all that, I guess you would have to ask the fans who they want to beat most. That’s more of that type of deal. I remember when I was in Philly, I was putting my trash out one morning early my first year, and we weren’t very good. It was early in the morning, and I was surprised by this person. They said to me, ‘Listen, you can go 2-14 if you beat Dallas twice’. So, that was Philly’s take on it. I don’t have the full feel here, I understand it’s important to beat everyone and, certainly, Dallas is our next one.
Q: There’s a lot of stats about 0-2 and how detrimental that is in trying to make the playoffs.
A: We don’t worry about that. That’s fun for everybody to talk about outside the building. We didn’t do enough in the first game to win the game, and we’re working to do what we can to win this next one. Period. End of story. All that stuff is fun for everybody to talk about, but we don’t worry about that.
Q: On DeMarcus Lawrence - Can a team necessarily stop him by just chipping him?
A: No, the guy assigned to block him has to block him. He’s certainly been very disruptive. The thing about him is, he’s long, he’s got a twitch and he can get going quickly. He’s relentless, he plays hard throughout the game, so you’ve got a full day with him. You’ve got to block him 65 or 70 times, or he’ll disrupt the game. You’re asking me about a really good player, and we have our challenge to block him.
Q: Saquon has an ability to improvise, to make something out of nothing. Can you practice plays where he changes the field and then guys have to hold their blocks an extra three seconds? Can you practice that as a team?
A: No, we practice the plays as we design them. They’re all run with the idea you’re going to gain yards and hopefully a touchdown. You can just see the skill and ability of a player as he finishes a play and does what Saquon can do.
Q: You said (Saquon) had a great run and that’s why you drafted him. What do you find special in him and what are your expectations here on out?
A: We found him special in all areas, that’s why we drafted him so high. Explosive runner. When you can hand a ball off to a guy and he can run 70 yards for a touchdown, there’s very few running backs that can do that. He’s a pro, he’s already old beyond his time in some ways because I’ve watched the way he’s trained in the last few months. He was in here doing what he had to do on a Tuesday, his day off, which means he’s already developing the right process. He can catch the ball, he can block, so he does all the things we need a running back to do, and he’s got a good mindset to boot.
Q: Is there anyone you know that won’t practice today – (Wayne Gallman)?
A: He’ll be out there. We’ve got a couple guys – Gallman will be out there, Tae Davis is coming back, and then (Olivier Vernon) will be out there running around so you’ll get a chance to see him. I don’t want to jinx it or anything, we’ve been pretty good that way.
Q: Do you think the Cowboys may consider moving their best pass rusher to (Ereck Flowers’) side until he proves he can handle it?
A: I don’t know. That’s a tactical question for when (Jason Garrett) calls you. I don’t know that.
QB Eli Manning
Q: What’s the mindset heading into this week?
A: I think the mindset is keep working, keep grinding. The way you look at it, it’s the first game of the season with a new coach, new players, new schemes. Not everything is going to be perfect. There’s some good things. Obviously, a lot we’re cleaning up as well. We just got to play better ball. We got to make some plays here and there, clean some things up, get on the same page with how we’re doing things. So, I think each week we’re going to learn a lot. We’re going to learn how to clean up this offense, how to clean up the mistakes that were made, and we’ll get better. There’s enough good things to build off, and know we can go out there and play better football.
Q: What’s the one thing you all need to clean up?
A: I don’t think there’s one thing. I think it’s just everybody understanding their assignments just a little bit crisper – just execution. Just make sure everybody knows exactly what’s going on. You just never know when that one mistake or little route here or assignment here can make a difference in a game. Just doing every little thing right. That’s on everybody, starting with me and the things I can do better.
Q: What did you think about (RB) Saquon Barkley’s touchdown run against Jacksonville?
A: I thought Saquon did some good things. He had a great run, which we needed. There’s some things we’ll work on, improve on, and find different ways to get him the ball, and see if he’ll continue to make some big plays.
Q: When you have a pass rusher like (Cowboys DE) Demarcus Lawrence, is there such a thing as over-preparing or overcompensating for a guy of his caliber?
A: He’s a good player. He’s high energy. He brings it every play. He brings it the whole game, all game long. We just got to know where he is and have a great plan for him. We got to mix up protections, mix up drops, mix up the point of where we’re throwing from, so we’re not always sitting there in the same spot every time, and try to get different ways just to slow him down.
Q: (Cowboys LB) Sean Lee has had some big stat games against this team. What is it in particular that gives you all the most trouble about him?
A: Sean is just a good player. He’s in the right spot. He’s kind of the leader of that defense. He’s does a good job of getting them all lined up. He just kind of smells out some things. He’s around the ball. He gets a lot of tackles. We just got to learn to know where he is. He’s going to be in the linebacker positon. We’ll just get our blocks on him, just be aware of him, and see if we can get him to miss some tackles.
Q: How important is that game for you guys in terms of not falling into an 0-2 hole?
A: Every game is important. It’s not one more important than the other. Every game is important and makes a difference. Our mindset is just having a great week of preparation, everybody being on the same page, understanding their schemes, know our assignments, go out there and play smart football, make plays, and put ourselves in a positon to win the game.
Q: What is different in these division games and rivalry games?
A: You just know the personnel well. You know a lot of the players. You play them twice a year for a number of years. You know they’re always a good team. They’re in the division. They’re going to have you all scouted, just because you’re used to playing them for so many years. It comes down to you have to execute and going out there and making plays in critical moments.
Q: Is it important for this team to get back the feeling of winning?
A: Yeah, I think it’s important to get that win and feel good about the work and the preparation. I don’t think it’s because of last year. You got a lot of new players, different guys. You put last year behind us. It’s about us as this group. Knowing that we can find ways to win football games.
A: You just avoid the penalties, and penalties are going to happen sometimes. We had some sacks on first down also, and you get third-and-long. It’s not just one thing, it’s a number of things. We also had some runs that just didn’t get some yards. Those things are going to happen some in games. We just had too many of those series. I think we had maybe five third-and-13s or 14s. Those are too many. It’s hard to have those. You need to have one or two of those a game instead of five or six.
Q: The one throw to (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) in the end zone, did you just throw it a little too strong there?
A: A little more to it than that. He kind of got bumped off the safety a little bit. So, it’s harder just to get the exact angle. He did a good job and kind of adjusted based off his route. That wasn’t his exact route. We were just improvising there a little bit, and we just missed it a little bit.
Q: Does the Cowboys building ever get old?
A: It’s a divisional game. I’ve played in a lot of those buildings in Dallas, Philly, Washington. It’s about being in the division, and you got to win those divisional games.
LB B.J. Goodson
Q: Without Dez (Bryant) there, could they become even more of a run-oriented team, do you think?
A: I’m sure they’re preparing the next guy up. They have a solid group over there. Whoever they have filling in for him, I’m sure he’ll be ready and we’ll be ready as well.
Q: If they are like the first team you played, this is a run heavy team, isn’t it?
A: Yeah I would say.
Q: What’s the challenge this week as opposed to last week? What do they do differently with Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) than the Jaguars did with (Leonard) Fournette?
A: They’re two totally different teams. Two totally different personnel so it’s obviously different and Zeke is obviously a big part of the offense.
Q: Is he similar to facing Leonard Fournette?
A: Two different backs, but they’re both all-around backs. Two different styles of play, I’ll say.
Q: What are the differences between them?
A: Different runners. I’d have to sit you down and break it down with you to explain it to you. Two different types of runners, but both great backs.
Q: Did you guys see enough of your defense last week? Did you see enough to make yourself feel confident about this rush defense this year yet?
A: That’s just one game and we have a lot more games to play out and a lot more to earn, you know, the level of respect you’re speaking of. We have a whole lot more to prove so as far as that goes, on to the next game.
Q: This would be a good get your respect game against a guy like Elliott, wouldn’t it?
A: Definitely would - going against a great back and a great offense.
Q: In the last two games, the quarterbacks had these monstrous runs. Was there something that opened that up? (Dak) Prescott can get on the move too.
A: There’s certain things and certain responsibilities that have to be dealt with.
Q: Is that just losing the edge on those things?
A: I really don’t want to get too much into it. I wasn’t out there so I don’t want to get into it.
Q: Can I ask you about their offensive line? They have some new pieces in there obviously because of injuries and what not. How much does that line change in your opinion from something you’ve seen last year?
A: Their offense line is always on point. They have a new young guy in at guard, but I’m sure they’re prepping him to be just as good because they have to work in unison so I’m sure they’re prepping him just as hard and working him just as hard as the other guys.
Q: Wasn’t too long ago we’d come in the locker room in a week like this and everybody would say ‘I hate the Cowboys, I hate the Cowboys, I hate the Cowboys’. Has that changed?
Q: Why not?
A: It is what it is. It’s tradition here and that’s just what it is so no, exclamation point.
Q: When did you become aware of that tradition?
A: I’ve been aware of it growing up and just seeing the rivalry, but it’s a great tradition on both sides as far as the rivalry and I’m on this side of the fence.
Q: Growing up did you not like the Cowboys?
A: Never was a huge fan of the Cowboys, just never was.
Q: Who were you a fan of growing up?
A: That’s neither here nor there, but definitely wasn’t the Cowboys.
Q: Was it something about them that irked you?
A: It was just a little too flashy for my liking. I’m a gritty guy and they were just a little too flashy for my liking.
Q: Does that explain your 20 tackles in the opener last year or whatever it was?
A: That had nothing to do with it. That’s just me playing ball.
Q: What do you recall about that night? Why were you able to make, I think it was 20?
A: Honestly, I’m always on to the next game so I’m looking forward to going out and competing against Dallas.
Q: What was it like defending Zeke?
A: It’s always great to go against another great competitor. He comes in game in and game out and lays it all out on the line. I’m the same type of guy so I love going against another great competitor like that.
Q: What makes him a special back?
A: His ability to make certain cuts and do certain things. His ability to catch out of the backfield and make moves in space and just all around a great back.
Safety Landon Collins
Q: How different does this Cowboys offense look without (WR) Dez Bryant and (TE) Jason Witten?
A: Without Witten, it looks very different. Honestly, Dez was a big influence in their offense. Somebody that kind of took a lot of pressure off their running game. Now that those two guys are gone, it’s kind of phenomenal that they’re giving the ball to (Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott) ‘Zeke’, and try to keep the run game going.
Q: Do you feel as if you’ll be lined up closer to the box more often to try to mitigate that damage that Zeke can do?
A: Yes, of course. Just making sure we disguise very well – side rotation and their gap schemes. We can get them out of whack with that, and getting our linebackers free and be able to shoot gaps and get our D-linemen to get pressure and get off those blocks a little quicker.
Q: When Witten retired, did you have to go, who is their tight end?
A: A little bit (laughter).
Q: Do you know who it is now?
A: Yeah, I know now.
Q: How important is it to get that winning feeling back for this team?
A: It’s very important. We’re stacking each and every day. We’re working each and every day to become better as a team, as a whole, and making sure we get that win.
Q: How important is this game for you guys in terms of not falling into an 0-2 hole?
A: It’s a big hole, especially in this conference game. So, we need this game. We need this win. It’s definitely big to us. Out of the two teams that we’re both 0-1, one of the teams got to come out with a victory.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in defending a running quarterback like Dak (Prescott)?
A: Keeping him contained, honestly. You want to keep him contained, because a majority of the time if you got a running quarterback and the defensive backs’ and the linebackers’ backs are turned and he takes off, he can get a 15-yard gain just like that. With a guy like him, you want to keep him contained with your defensive front. Make sure your rushers are in the passing lanes, and the running lanes are all closed up and somebody is there.
Q: How did it feel to hit (Jacksonville RB) Leonard Fournette in the open field and not get run over?
A: (laughter) Not many people would try to put themselves in that predicament, honestly. I’m used to that. I’ve been doing that all my life. I was expecting that. I knew it was going to happen eventually. It was definitely a good bang-bang play.
Q: How did it feel? (To hit Fournette)
A: It felt great, it felt great. Honestly, I want that kind of stuff. I want running backs to try to just turn up field on me and not try to beat me to the sideline, because nobody is going to outrun me, I’m sorry. Just may as well try to run me over or try to shake me or something like that. If not, you’re just going to get pushed out of bounds.
Q: There’s no Witten, there’s no Dez. Is all your emphasis shifted solely to Zeke now in terms of being the guy you all need to focus on?
A: Just like you said, we just really got to focus on stopping Zeke. Making sure that every run gap, we’re playing our gap assignments, we’re making sure we close the air out of their offensive running game. If we do that, put the ball into Dak’s hands, I think we’ll have a better shot at winning.
A: Like that was their go-to. Without (inaudible) it’s like who do you go to. He’s looking for Zeke more times he’s looking for any receivers down field.
Q: How much does it help you to have a guy like Saquon in practice to practice against him leading up to a matchup against Zeke?
A: I mean it’s good. You can’t tackle him; you can’t really hit him, so it’s good because it gives us looks to where you got to play honest with him. Saquon can definitely give you all (inaudible).
Q: This a team that was reliant on Zeke before. So without these guys…
A: He’s the guy. He’s the guy.
Q: Do you think if I just hand you the stats after the game and you just looked at Zeke’s numbers, you would know 100-percent if you guys won or lost?
A: Yeah. Correct.
Q: And how do you think Zeke and Saquon compare as runners?
A: Two different backs. I feel like Saquon – I mean he’s younger, got a little bit more wiggle to him. I feel like with Saquon, Zeke is a north-south runner, a pound guy. He’s going to put his shoulder down on you, he’s got a nice spin move and Zeke’s got real good vision. Same thing with Saquon, but the run game for Zeke is different from the run game for Saquon.
Q: Is it a concern last two games, the preseason finale and the game on Sunday, that the quarterback got outside and kind of went for a long way? Are you losing containment, is there a –
A: That was just gap assignments, missing gap assignments, not being on the same page with the defense in the front and playing the right gaps, that’s all that was.
Q: Everybody would say how they hate the Cowboys. Is that sentiment still exist in this locker room?
A: I don’t know, that’s a good question. The guys that have been here for a minute, yeah. They got it, but it’s not to the fact where I really don’t dislike Dallas because you got so many new faces, not many people know the tradition over here with Dallas and the New York Giants. They kind of know, but they’re really just focused on the game and playing each and every play to the best of their ability.
Q: You’ve been here a little while so how do you feel about the Cowboys?
A: They’re just another team in our way, honestly. We’re just trying to build on top of that and keep on pushing from there.
Q: How desperate is this team for a win? I know it’s only 0-1 right now, but you guys want a taste of victory, of course.
A: We want a taste of it. I wouldn’t call it desperate, but we’re working towards it each and every day. We keep on working as hard as we work, we’ll definitely know we’re going to get it and multiple ones.
Q: For the guys that are new around here, what would you tell them about this particular rivalry?
A: Just watch the history, honestly. There’s a lot of history between the rivalry. For me, I haven’t been apart of that history a lot. Only been three years so far so it’s not really taken in on me, but honestly, we just look at it as another game, another opponent and we’re just trying to better ourselves.
Q: What will that atmosphere be like on Sunday night?
A: Atmosphere is crazy. It’s always crazy when we get down there and play the Cowboys at home. It’s a different feeling. I feel like once we get there, we feel the hatred and then that’s where the fumes, the emotions and the tempers come.
Q: These games always seem to come down to the final two minutes or so, too. Why is that?
A: I don’t know, that’s a good question. That is a good question. I think it’s the fact that no teams are trying to make mistakes. The team with the less mistakes wins the game and if you could do that, that’s what happens and a majority of the time, we know each other so well on both ends, it’s like ‘alright, we know they’re going to do this so we’re going to play this and we’re going to beat them this way,’ so it’s like back and forth, back and forth so the team with the less mistakes wins.
Q: So these games are more fun?
A: Yeah, these games are more fun because you kind of know the opponent. You know what you’re going to get.
Q: Who’d you grow up rooting for?