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Quotes (9/19): Shurmur, Manning, Greco, Apple

Head Coach Pat Shurmur

Opening Remarks: Getting ready for Houston. You probably have some questions about some of the injuries we had. Eli (Apple) probably won’t be out there today, we just have to evaluate him as we go, but I don’t think he’ll be out there today. (Olivier Vernon) will try to do more, I’m not sure how much he’s going to be able to do, so those are the two guys of note.

Q: What do you see from (Houston’s) run game? They lead the league in rushing yards, you’d think they would be more of a pass-oriented team, but they’ve racked up the rushing yards.

A: Certainly they’re a good rushing team. Any time you have a quarterback that can attack the perimeter like they have, that puts a little bit more pressure on the rest of the run game, and they’ve got a very good runner. They actually have a couple good runners, and those guys do a good job of running it. There’s no doubt that’s going to be a challenge for us to stop their run.

Q: Are you at all concerned about the mobility of Deshaun Watson given that (Dak Prescott) and (Blake Bortles) both had some big runs against you guys?  

A: Until we fix the zone read stuff, we will continue to see it, especially from mobile quarterbacks. Again, it’s another challenge for us. Those are really where the big runs came last week. I thought our guys battled the run pretty well considering the type of runner that we were playing against and type of offensive line. Sometimes those zone reads pop out on you. That’s always the challenge when you have a quarterback that has legs like they do. 

Q: What was the issue with the zone reads? Three times there was nobody there.

A: It’s just the way we were playing it, just got a little bit undisciplined with it and that’s what happens, trying to stop the other portion of the run.    

Q: Have you coached that?

A: Oh yeah, with (Chip Kelly). 

Q: Does that give you any kind of edge?  

A: Having seen it now, we’ve got some ideas of how we want to change and how we’re going to play it.    

Q: When you have a young quarterback (Deshaun Watson) who missed most of the season last year, do you see a drop-off in Watson’s play, maybe he’s off to a slow start?

A: No. I think it’s hard to evaluate a team and a season after two weeks. I really do. The Houston Texans last year, it wasn’t going so well for them, and then at one point there was a stretch where they were lighting up the scoreboard and then he got hurt. I think it’s a little early to draw final conclusions on a team, especially a team like Houston. They’ve got a quarterback, he’s an outstanding player, and he’s got a good arm, he’s got two really good receivers on the outside, he’s got a good running game, and he can get the ball down the field when he chooses to and he can run around a little bit. I’m sure coming back from injury it’s going to take him a little bit of time to get to what he would consider himself to be full strength, but he’s certainly a guy that can play winning football.

Q: Even though Eli Manning has been around a few years, is there ever a worry about confidence level when an offense is struggling, and what would a breakout offensive game do for both Eli and the offensive line?

A: When it clicks and those almost-plays or those plays where people say, ‘that was blocked well’, ‘that was a good throw’, ‘that was a good catch’ – when those plays start to hit, then that’s when the confidence starts to build. The good news is we’ve got a lot of high quality guys in our locker room that they understand it, they’ve all been through the ups and downs of a season and we’re embarking on our third game. It’s important that we continue to get better. I know I said that quite a bit yesterday, but I think that’s really where it’s at. 

Q: Eli is a very even-keel guy, he doesn’t get too high or too low. How critical is that kind of demeanor in a stretch like this? 

A: It’s super critical. We’ve watched him play good football here for a very long time. I can remember, I remember this in Philly, I think it was the 2007 season. I can remember seeing the back page of one of the newspapers and it was a split shot of Eli and Tom Coughlin, and it was “Will They Survive?” Then, low and behold, they won a Super Bowl. Now, that doesn’t say what’s going to happen, but you just have to play it out and keep playing. That’s the important piece. That’s, I think, what we as competitors embrace. If this was easy, everybody could do it. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way we wanted the first two games, but we just get back to work and try to put it all on the table for Houston.  

Q: Do you consider it important to get the ball in the hands of your playmakers where maybe they have one man beat, not six?

A: I don’t know about that. I think we need to get the ball in the hands of the playmakers the right way. The first game, Odell touched it a bunch. Last game, Saquon touched it 25 times. Really, it doesn’t matter if we’re running it or throwing it to him, he touched the ball 25 times. We’ve got to do a better job in all areas so there’s a little bit more space, I get that, but it’s certainly important to get the ball to your playmakers and we will continue to do that the best we can.

Q: Do you have to make any major adjustments?

A: We’re adjusting all the time. We didn’t play well enough to win. I hope I said that and I’m on the record for that probably 10 times yesterday. I think what’s important here is there were little things that happened. Eli checked to his slide protection the other night, we didn’t slide all the way through it and it was a bad thing, and we had a guy wide open that could’ve gained 30 years – ifs and buts, we understand that. We just fix the little things that happen in there and then we move on, and then the next time it happens, we gain those yards. That’s the way it goes. You’ve just got to keep grinding through. This is a new group, new philosophies, new plays, and we’ve just got to keep grinding through. I’ve been other places where it starts this way a little bit - the defense a little bit ahead of the offense, and then it gets going.

Q: Do you think late in the second half when Dak kind of went after (B.W. Webb) a little bit – is that just smart play by them? Do you go after the backup as opposed to…

A: That’s in the handbook. The starter goes out and you do that. That’s in the handbook.

Q: Do you protect the guy a little bit?

A: Sure. There are ways to do it and we will be prepared to do it. He’s got to carry his own weight, though, too. That’s the important piece is, you can’t get queasy about it, you’ve got to keep playing, go out there and cover your guy. You’ve got to cover your guy, you’ve got to block your guy, and keep playing.

Q: You mentioned everybody not getting the slide protections, it seemed like a lot of those sacks were because of assignments or mental issues-

A: No.

Q: So guys running free wasn’t a missed assignment?

A: A guy running free, we missed a couple twists. Right? That’s why a guy runs free, but we had the hat for them. That and the one I talked about on the sack, we’ve just got to keep running through it. It’s a technique thing, and you just do it. We had a hat for the guys that were blitzing. We had one play where it was hot and it was when we tried to throw a screen to the left, and Eli had to dump it to Saquon to the right. That was hot, that was a screen. We ran the same screen later and gained a bunch of yards. It’s just how it goes.

Q: How do you make improvements along an offensive line whether it’s assignments or whatever, in just a few days?

A: You get three opportunities to practice and one walk-thru and just keep on working on those fundamentals, and keep trying to get to the plays they can execute better.

Q: What does the new fullback (Elijhaa Penny) do for you?

A: He’s a guy that our personnel guys liked on tape. We had a spot and wanted to bring him in and take a look at him. He does what all fullbacks do -- he’s a good blocker, he’s got good hands, he can run the ball in a pinch, all the things you look for in a back.

Q: You said two weeks is hard to evaluate teams, do you feel like because of what happened last year here, that’s being done already?

A: See, that’s why I’m answering the questions with fresh eyes. I don’t remember what was here a year ago. I’ve got compassion for the questions and what the experience is, I get that, but we are moving forward with the idea that we’re going to do what we can to get ourselves right. I’m not worried about that.

Q: Do you think (people) are evaluating you after two weeks?

A: We get evaluated all the time. I understand when you don’t win, this is what comes with it, I get it. When you do win, you’ve still got to turn your back on what people say and just keep moving. I get that. We’re always evaluating everything, and when the game is over you give praise and assign blame, I get that. But I think what we have to do as a team is not let all that conversation polarize us. We just stay together and move forward. And typically the teams that do pull through in the end.

QB Eli Manning

Q: What does the focus need to be this week in practice to get the offense back in a rhythm?

A: I think it’s just doing our job, doing the things we need to be doing and just have a great understanding of the game plan, attention to detail to everything and go out there and play the way we know we can play. I think guys are doing things well, we just got to eliminate some of the bad plays, some of the mistakes and we’ll have opportunities to move the ball and do a good job.

Q: What do you guys have to do to just get plays to execute so you can break that big play again?

A: It’s just doing our job. We got to find a way to get into a rhythm early. We hadn’t done a very good job at that and get some first downs, stay on the field. We were close a few times on sustaining drives. We were half a yard away on some things, on some third downs so I think we’re close on a few of those things and then there will be some opportunities to take some shots, we got to do that, but it’s also being patient, waiting for it.

Q: Is that the kind of stuff that can be fixed in a week’s worth of time?

A: Yeah I think we’re close on things. You’re going against good players and they’re going to make plays sometimes and that’s fine, but when there’s opportunities and when things should be picked up or guys should be going certain ways, you got to do those things and give yourself an opportunity to make those plays when they can be there.

Q: When you change centers, is it a seamless transition?

A: I think it will be. (John) Greco’s a vet. He’s been here, he came here last year. He’s been here all training camp. We’ve worked together, we’ve gotten snaps throughout training camp and everything so that shouldn’t be a problem. He knows what’s going on. We’ve met this week, we’ve talked a bunch on some calls, making sure we’re saying the same thing and hearing things the same way.

Q: The way J.J. Watt can wreck a game in so many ways, can there be an over preparation for him? Can you spend too much time worrying about him?

A: Yeah obviously, you got to take care of him. You got to know where he is and it’s not just him. They got a couple of studs on that defensive line who do a good job getting to the quarterback getting sacks. You got to plan different ways to attack it whether you’re doubling or getting the ball out fast, just have a lot of different things, different looks for him, try to slow him down. Again, he’s a good player. He’s going to make some plays, but hopefully it’s not the ones that can change the game too much.

Q: How does this team just not take these two games and over accentuate the results of it and keep moving forward?

A: I think that’s just what you have to do in football. You play long enough, you just know it’s about obviously fixing the mistakes and going out the next week and getting better. Every week have a mindset of ‘hey we got another game’ and whether you’re playing good football, you win two games, you still look at the things – there’s always going to be corrections, there’s always going to be mistakes. You fix those things and everybody just stay together and figure out a way to fix it.

Q: Pat’s (Shurmur) message a couple minutes ago to us when we were talking to him was very much you don’t evaluate a team after two games. You’ve been doing this a long time. Is that kind of the mentality you have to spread a little bit to maybe some of the younger guys?

A: Definitely. I think when you have new schemes, new coaches, new players, 30 new players or whatever it is, it takes some time for everything to come together and start clicking. You hope you can find ways to win some games. We’ve kept games close, been in it in the fourth quarter. We just got to get a little faster start, get a lead, do some things a little bit better and we’ll get those opportunities to score more points.

Q: What, if anything, did you learn about Pat and the way he’s handling the early adversities in his coaching tenure?

A: I think he understands the big situation and I think he looks forward to the challenge of where we are and that we are going to get better and we’re going to make improvements and things will come around, but it does come from everybody. Everybody’s feeling this out and getting used to each other, used to how things are going to kind of work out week-to-week and game planning and I think we’re all kind of figuring out the best way to approach each week.

Q: Is he an even keeled kind of guy approaching it or does he ramp up the intensity at all?

A: No, he’s pretty even keeled. He gets his message across, but he hasn’t changed. You got to stay true to your personality and that’s what he’s done.

Q: How much of the outside, external hysteria do you hear or feel when – obviously the sky is falling going 0-2?

A: Just stay away from that. Keep the pulse of the team where it needs to be. Listen to your coaches and your players and just worry about us and that’s the only thing that’s going to affect us is the guys in this locker room, in this building that have a positive outlook on what’s going to happen.

Q: Because you’ve gone through this a number of times over the years you’ve been around a long time, how important is it for you to convey that to some degree because you were obviously a very level, even keeled kind of guy.

A: I think obviously there are young guys that are going to be looking at the vets to see how they respond and how they act and guys are coming from college where all of a sudden you lose a game, you lose two games the season’s over where the NFL we’re one game back in the division. It’s a long season, a lot can change and we still got great opportunities to just keep working and just worry about kind of the process and just doing things the right way and things will come around.

C John Greco

Q: Is this kind of strange here for you? You came in as a guard, then three weeks into the season and you’re starting at center?

A: No, I wouldn’t necessarily say strange because if you’re kept on the roster, it’s because you can play multiple positions, and when you’re a backup that’s what you have to be ready to do, and that’s the situation were in right now. Just have to be ready to rock and roll. 

Q: What’s the mindset of the group up front, losing Jon (Halapio) and guys struggling so far?  

A: Any time you lose your partner in crime, one of your buddies in your room, you feel for him and we know that he’s going to come back stronger than ever, but at the same time we just have to do everything we can this week to try to get a win. It’s going to be a tough road game, awesome atmosphere down in Houston, so we are excited about the challenge and opportunity. We’ve just got to work hard. If everybody just gets a little better each day, that’s all we can ask.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk about the guys up front, it’s been an issue here the last few years. How do you guys react to the talk out there of how you guys have struggled? 

A: We just have to focus everything on in-house. We don’t really listen to the talk outside, we know we have to play better and that’s the focus every week. When we get some wins it’s going to be the same thing. There’s going to be no let-up, and that’s how you’ve got to approach it. You can’t be complacent and when you know things aren’t going your way you just have to do everything extra, and do everything in your power to be the cause of the wins and not the cause of losses.     

Q: Jon made all the line calls. Is that automatically fall to you now?

A: Yeah, that’s typically something the center does in conjunction with Eli, but that’s something I’ve been used to and we worked on all spring and that’s what this system is. It’s something I’m used to. 

Q: How would you describe going from guard to then Brett [Jones] gets traded, now here you are the starting center? The turn of events that’s kind of led to this point?

A: It’s out of my control. I’m here, I’m the starting center right now and what transpired and what went down I have no control over, I have nothing to do with. At this point I’m in there playing and snapping the ball, that’s all I’m focused on right now is trying to do everything I can from the center position to help us get a win.

Q: In terms of the matchup that you’re going to face, (Duke Ejiofor) -- what have you seen form him on tape? It looks like he came on strong and made some good plays, I think [Texans Head Coach] Bill O’Brien said something about getting him more plays or more reps?

A: Right off the bat, they have one of the most talented front sevens in the league and they rely on their pass rushers, their big guys up front to make plays and wreak havoc. That’s an issue were going to see every week, there’s never going to be a week where it’s like, ‘oh these guys are going to go out there and lay down’. Every team has talent and this particular one has a lot of talent, so I think it’s an exciting opportunity and they do have some good young talent in the middle not to mention edge guys and linebackers. We have hands full and we will every week and I’m excited about a good challenge.

Q: Do they do a lot of stunts and twists like the Cowboys?

A: Every scheme is a little bit different with their (defensive) coordinator, everybody has that in their playbook and in their arsenal. There’s a question of whether we’re going to see a higher frequency of them, and we are preparing for that but at the same time were going to prepare like we do each week and watch the tape, work on their stuff. Everybody does something new because it’s not going to just be a vanilla thing that you’re not going to see the same thing you’ve seen the first two games, they’re going to throw a wrinkle in here or there but at the end of the day they have some talented players they can just pin their ears back and go so we’ve got to be able to block them.  

Q: Probably a year ago you didn’t imagine you’d be in this place right now, right?  

A: A year ago this time, I was at home. So, yeah, but I knew I still had enough gas in the tank that I could’ve been playing and I was just happy I got the opportunity here last year and then again this offseason, and here we are. So, that really hasn’t entered my mind. It’s more of a laugh thing I can do at myself but yeah, I’m excited about the opportunity. 

Q: You’ve known Pat [Shurmur] probably longer than anybody else, how is he handling 0-2

A: The same way I think any other coach would. Never too high never too low, just have to keep approaching each day like we have been and eventually if we keep putting in that effort and investing the time and energy into it the wins are going to come. Hopefully sooner than later, and that’s kind of our mindset we just have to do it. Every man has to look deep in themselves and find one thing to get better on each week and that’s going to help us.

CB Eli Apple

Q: Are you practicing today?

A: No, I won’t be practicing. Just off to the side trying to take it day-by-day.

Q: How bad is it (groin)? Do you expect to practice or play this week?

A: Just taking it day-by-day. I’m going to know a lot more after today.

Q: How does it feel compared to Sunday?

A: Kind of still feels the same a little bit, but like I said, I’m going to know more after practice.

Q: Is it tight and painful? How would you describe how it feels?

A: Yeah, it’s a little tight, a little pain. Just got to take it day-by-day.

Q: You were playing well. How frustrating is it to have that happen in the course of a game?

A: Yeah, it’s very frustrating. You want to stay out there and help your team as much as you can. I think I was just getting in a groove too, and a rhythm. It’s definitely unfortunate I had to come out, but it’s about getting back and bouncing back from it.

Q: With the team being 0-2, how do you manage the importance of you being on the field, versus taking time to recover from your injury?

A: Just got to be smart. Got to take it day-by-day, and listen to the coaches, the trainers, listen to your body, and come back stronger.

Q: Was the (injury) on any particular play? Or was just something that got worse as the game went on?

A: It kind of just wore on me as the game went on, and kind of got real sore, and just was something that was definitely hurting me at the time and hampering me from running my full speed.

Q: It was pretty noticeable the Cowboys knew you were out and went after BW Webb.

A: I think they still ran their offense. I don’t think it was anything like that.

Q: Is this a frustrating feeling to have this happen after playing so well the duration of the game?

A: I’m not frustrated, it’s just about getting back stronger and taking it day-by-day.

Q: Have you learned anything about your head coach and how he’s handled a 0-2 start?

A: He’s a great head coach. He’s just super positive. Just telling us it’s about taking it one day at a time at practice, and getting better. That’s one thing we know. If we can just take care of the little things in practice, we can definitely make a big improvement on game days.

Q: Has it been the same even-keeled approach the same way he was in the summer? Is there no real change in him after the start?

A: He’s staying solid and telling us let’s go get it in practice, and be solid in practice.

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