Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: Let me first start with injuries that we know about. Evan Engram has got a knee, we’ll have to just see where he’s at. Just normal kind of post-game stuff, but we saw that he got hurt on that one pass catch down the sideline. That’s the injury of note right there, and then aside from that, just the normal wear-and-tear after a game. We’ll just have to see where everybody is from there. If you’ve got specific questions, I’ll try to (answer) them other than getting into it. Again, it was a great victory for our guys. I told our team if we just keep focusing on being a team and being tough and being gritty and caring, which means you work to get better, then I think we can build on this. I encouraged them that even though it was more painful to go through the mistake-correcting after two losses, I think it’s equally important to go through it with the same amount of detail after a win. Then we, as a team, will get better. There were a lot of good things, I thought the good news is early on we were able to score some points. On the first drive, they got a field goal, which was good. Really, the big play there was (Deshaun Watson) getting outside the pocket and kind of hitting a check down on the move that got the ball down the field into field goal range. I thought we did a good job in the red zone on defense, and same thing on offense. We got our scores, we were able to get a lead going into halftime. I thought in the second half we did not play as well on offense early in the third quarter. On defense, we sort of allowed them to move the ball but the two key plays were certainly the turnovers that kept them out of the end zone, and then at the end of the game we were able to kind of muster a drive there to make it a two score game again, which is super important in this league, because you can see at the end of the game in kind of a two-minute type coverage, teams can find the way down the field. I thought special teams contributed, we obviously don’t want to have that punt that got tipped, and that certainly is one thing we’ve got to clean up. But I thought the special teams contributions was a winning effort. I was just happy for our guys to get it pushed over the top. So, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Evan Engram, there is a report he had a right MCL sprain. I assume he’s going into an MRI today. Is that encouraging news?
A: Yeah, I mean, it’s a knee. I think that’s accurate, but we’ll just have to see how it progresses.
Q: I was just trying to clarify if that was coming off of the MRI today or just on initial diagnosis?
A: No, we’re just waiting to see how extensive it might be. That’s all.
Q: On Damon Harrison (Snacks) and Saquon Barkley’s possible injuries – sometimes the day after, a knee like that can cause you to get sore:
A: Just normal wear-and-tear, but I think Snacks is going to be fine and certainly Saquon is sore. When he has as much activity as he’s going to have, he’s going to have some soreness, but he’s ok.
Q: Did Saquon show you anything by taking that first hit? He limps off but he came back in a couple plays later, finishes that drive himself in the end zone, and the day he had. Does that show you something about a rookie doing that?
A: Yeah, he’s everything that we thought he would be to this point. He shows up on game day. He really, when you see it up close and personal, you see the way he’s into it and how competitive his spirit is, and how he wants to compete and get the ball in his hands. There’s a reason why he’s got a chance to be a really good player for a very long time.
Q: Did you have any problem with the hits on both Engram and Barkley. There have been some questions on whether they were legal hits or not? Did you have any issues with those?
A: No, I think that’s part of playing football. When you’re running with the football, you have to protect yourself and certainly when you’re getting tackled by defensive backs, then we had another low tackle on (Sterling Shepard) on a naked, you’ve just got to be able to protect yourself. Their style of tackling was to go low. Guys running with the ball have to be able to protect themselves.
Q: It looks like you were able to achieve balance on offense -- 27 runs, 29 pass attempts. How important was that for you coming into this game, especially after the lopsidedness the first two weeks?
A: Yeah, I think balance is a weekly thing. I think it’s important to call run plays but also when you call them, you have to gain yards. I think that’s important, because ultimately, you want to score points. In some games, it’s 60-40 runs, and some games it’s 60-40 pass, and some games it’s 50-50, and some games you’ve got to throw your way into it if you get behind. The way that game played out, and the way that we were able to get a lead early in the game, and our defense did a nice job of keeping them off the scoreboard for most of the game, then you’re able to continue to run the ball, which I think is important because then all the other play actions – boots and nakeds and all that – are much more meaningful. So, a long-winded answer, that balance was achieved last night, but I think it could be different each game depending on how the game plays out.
Q: John Greco steps in at center and he’s played for you at a couple different spots before. Did his familiarity with you and your offense and the system, did that make a positive difference in a game like yesterday? Did that help your offense operate more efficiently?
A: I think so. I think there’s no substitute for experience, especially as an offensive lineman. The ‘been there, done that before’ idea is hugely important, and that’s why veteran players especially in the offensive line can have an impact, especially if they come in sort of a backup role or filling in for an injured player. Yeah, I think that had something to do with it.
Q: Can you talk about Kerry Wynn’s game? He seemed very disruptive.
A: I thought Kerry was outstanding. He had five tackles, he had one special teams tackle, he had two assists, he forced a fumble, he had a pass breakup, one quarterback hit, and one quarterback pressure. I mentioned that Eli (Manning) had a pretty good day at the office. That’s a pretty darn good day at the office as well. Kerry is long, he’s kind of a relentless player, he’s tough, he’s all the things you’re looking for – he’s tough, he cares, he works, and he finds a way to make plays. That certainly was an outstanding performance on his part.
Q: For all that Eli Manning has done in his career, do you think he needed a day like yesterday?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know that. Listen, I believe in him, and our quarterback needs to know that we believe in him. We know that he’s got that in him, and the thing I like about Eli – and I appreciate this about anybody – at some point in this game, you don’t win all the time, and at some point you take a punch, and Eli can take them and keep playing. I think that’s the thing that even before I knew Eli, as much winning as he was involved with here all those years, I always admired the fact that he just stays the course and keeps playing with the idea that tomorrow is going to be a better day if today isn’t such a good one. I admire that. That’s really the most important thing, toughness and grit. You can be smart, you can be well-dressed, you can be well-spoken, but at the end of the day and it’s absolutely demanded in our sport, is your ability to be tough and gritty. Those are the attributes in people and especially in football players that is an absolute necessity in our business.
Q: Saquon mentioned that before the game yesterday, there was just a different feeling about things, a different vibe, a good energy. Odell said the same thing, he said he didn’t think the guys were playing like “oh no, we’re 0-2, we can’t go 0-3” – they just went out and played ball. What do you attribute to the tone being set in that way? Is that you staying the course, or do you think there are players who set that tone? How did you see that develop in the week in such a big game for you guys?
A: I think it’s an organizational message of just shutting out the noise, and it’s equally important this week. I don’t read it, I don’t listen to it, and if I have to hear it or answer the questions to it, it’s not something that we concern ourselves with. The 0-2 and ‘what does 0-3 mean’, to their credit, they shut all that out and went out and played hard. That needs to be the approach every week. You’ve got to turn your back on the pats on the back, too and just keep moving. Then we’ll add them up at the end.
Q: When you watch the tape, what was (Chad Wheeler’s) performance like? Some good, some bad?
A: Here’s what Wheeler did, he did a really good job, I thought, in the run game against a really unpredictable player. I thought he did a good job, and he finished blocks. When you watch him play, you say there’s a guy who’s finishing blocks and doing those things. I’m going to take responsibility for it, a couple times he got stretched out and just pure one-on-one (pass protection) against (J.J. Watt), and I can’t put him in those positions as many times as I did, but he battled and in my opinion, even though he got beat on a couple of snaps, I thought he had a winning performance.
Q: Any optimism on Olivier Vernon being available this week?
A: Better. I just happened to see him running around outside my window here, so we’ll just have to see. I think we’ll consider him day to day and see how far he can come with it. He’s making progress, he hasn’t had any setbacks, and we just all know that these high ankle sprains take time.
Q: Eli Apple as well?
A: Same. He was out there running around as well. At some point here later this afternoon, (Ronnie Barnes) will come back with some of what he thinks moving forward, but they were both out there working out and kind of getting their normal rehab and running. They were both running, so we’ll just have to see how far along they can come.
Left Tackle Nate Solder
Q: What was the challenge Chad Wheeler was going up against and what was the challenge your line went up against and how did you come out of it on top after obviously taking a lot of heat coming off the Dallas game?
A: Those guys are really good. We had to go down there to their place and beat them. Thank goodness, we made enough plays to do it and it was ugly at times. We did some things that we need to improve and that’s the whole idea is to win and move on and get better.
Q: Going back to Chad (Wheeler), what did his entrance into the starting lineup at right tackle – did that help you guys in the run game? Did that help you guys solidify things? What impact, do you think, his presence had, if any?
A: I really respect Chad, I think he’s a great guy, he’s working hard, he’s done all of the things he’s asked of by the coaches and everything like that, so just going forward, like I said, we got to continue to work on improving. I’m sure Chad will say the same thing, as we all have to get better because that was the last game and we’ve got to keep working.
Q: You have played three games now with Saquon (Barkley). When he makes a play like that on the outside, lining up as a wide receiver, that 21-yard catch, have you ever seen – what backs can you think of you’ve played with that are able to do so many things and how dangerous would that make your offense?
A: I understand your question. I think comparison is a waste of time. I think Saquon’s just unique and a very talented guy and obviously a great teammate and so to have guys like that to make up for a lot of the things we might screw up and make big plays regardless of that, despite that. If we can continue to solidify what we’re doing, get better at what we’re doing and just be a more cohesive unit, I think that will really help us in the future.
Q: Kerry Wynn had one of those games yesterday where he was very disruptive and I assume you’ve gone against him once or twice in training camp. What makes him so effective?
A: What specifically, technically, I don’t know exactly what they had game planned and what he was doing, I wasn’t out there, but I didn’t even get a chance to see the defense play, but practicing against him the guy, he is a competitor, he plays really hard, he’s a strong guy, he’s a competitive guy. I think those are some of the characteristics I can describe about him.
Q: Wanted to ask you about the job John Greco did yesterday stepping in for Jon Halapio. On the outside looking in, there’s always concern, if that’s the right word, that whenever you have to replace a person on the offensive line, especially a center, sometimes the communication can be off or there can be some rough spots in the very beginning, so can you talk about the job he did and if it was smooth?
A: Like I said, we have a lot to work on and I think he did an excellent job. I thought that his communication was very clear and he understands the offense as well as anybody, so to get that communicated across the board, but we weren’t perfect and we need to be a lot better and that’s not John, that’s all of us and we can’t make excuses because it was loud or because we did something different or whatever, we have to continue to work hard to be as efficient as possible.
Q: You sound unsatisfied with the line’s performance. Is that an accurate statement? You keep saying you need to get better than you guys were yesterday and there are things to clean up. Are you just saying that because that’s the weekly process or are you not satisfied with the line’s performance yesterday?
A: No, that was game three, so we got a lot more to go and we got a big season and with a lot of teams, we got the Saints this week and that’s going to be a tough game, so we got to be better and that’s just the way that it is throughout the NFL. It’s a race to be the best team at the end and that takes one week at a time.
DL Kerry Wynn
Q: Talk about the confidence you possess to go out there and make the game-changing type plays you’ve been making.
A: We knew that it was going to come down to just getting turnovers, and we knew we needed to have a spark for the offense. There’s times when we need a spark ourselves. We ran to the ball. When you keep running to the ball, good things are going to happen.
Q: Were you guys playing with desperation as you guys are making those defensive stands? Knowing how important is it to come out with a win.
A: Two weeks in, I don’t want to say we’re in desperation mode. I think we were more so hungry to get that first win. I know the first two games, we had done a lot of great things, but a lot of things – errors that we had – kept us from winning games and making us more so almost-winning, or an almost-team. So, we wanted to get over that hump and finish it out.
Q: Why do you think your style of play fits this defensive scheme so well?
A: First and foremost, I want to give all the glory to God. This defense is a very attacking defense, very aggressive, and D-linemen love that. Me personally, I try to make sure I’m always around the ball. When you’re around the ball, good things tend to happen. Just running around and trying to make stuff happen. I’m having fun with the defense. I love it so far.
Q: Is it meaningful when two rookies in (LB) Lorenzo Carter and (DL) B.J. Hill get their first sack? You’ve been there before, what does that do for a rookie’s confidence and ability to take another step in their progression?
A: They know their importance on this team. It takes all 53 guys on this team, practice squad guys throughout the week included, to win on Sundays. They knew their importance, and I know it felt good for them to that first one under the belt. So, I was happy for them.
Q: As a defensive group, what can you all do better than what you did yesterday?
A: This is the NFL. You’re going to have spurts where the offense you’re going against makes plays. It’s more so how you respond to them. I think in the fourth quarter, we locked down a little more, ran to the ball, and (LB Alec Ogletree) “Tree” made a huge interception in the end zone to give the ball back to us. Just some little things that we can clean up, but I like the direction this defense and this team is going.
Q: Did you receive any texts or phone calls from family stating how well you played and how much you were talked about?
A: I got back so late, I really just talked to my mom and just a few people. Yeah, I had a lot of friends and family hit me up. I’m going to get back to them today and respond to them. Last night, I got home and kind of just called it a night. I was pretty exhausted from the game.
Q: Could that have been your best game ever?
A: I don’t if it was my best game ever. I know I had a productive game, and it feels even better to have a game like that where we come out victorious from it. Hope to have more like that.
Q: What does it mean to you to hear Coach Pat Shurmur describe the defense as tough and gritty?
A: I feel like at the end of the day, football is football. Football is exactly that. It’s a tough sport. It’s a gritty game. Often times, the grittier, the tougher, the more hungry team comes out up at the end. It’s going to take that every Sunday to stack these wins.