Quotes (9/4): Shurmur, Manning, Peppers

Coach Pat Shurmur

Opening Statement: I really don’t have anything to lead with. Good walkthrough. We have a couple guys still that you might not see out there. (Darius) Slayton and (Garrett) Dickerson probably won’t make it this week. But other than that, we’ll just see how practice goes today. As we get going here, I’ll let the injury report speak for itself. I’m not trying to be cryptic about it. If there’s a big injury or something, we’ll talk about it. But if there’s a guy that’s going to end up being out there on Sunday, I won’t mess it with it too much. With that, I’ll try to answer your questions.

Q: It looks like you’re going to go into this week with 22 starters. What does that say about the process of keeping these guys healthy, and how much does it ease a coach’s mind knowing you can go in with your best guys?
A: Well, I think that’s important, obviously, to have what you consider to be your best guys. We did have some tough decisions at the end when we put the initial 53 (man roster) together. Some of the guys that are playing missed portions of training camp. As you play through the season, it’s important to still keep practicing. You’re obviously doing everything you can each week to win that game, but it’s a long journey, as we know.

Q: Ezekiel Elliott signed today. What’s your reaction to that, and how do you approach that now?
A: It’s not a surprise. That just adds another outstanding player to what’s really an outstanding offense. They have an outstanding offensive line, they have an outstanding quarterback, they have really outstanding receivers, and they added Jason Witten back to the mix. Like I talked about on Monday, we have to defend that offense, and they’ve added another outstanding player to the mix. We’ll get ready to play.

Q: Will you address that to the team? Did you? Will you?

A: We talk about all of the players that we’re playing against every week.

Q: I believe you have two injured cornerbacks, (DeAndre) Baker and (Antonio) Hamilton. They’re both listed unofficially as starters. Will they be ready to go?

A: Yeah, they’ll be ready to play. You’ll see both of them in the game.

Q: Tight ends last year gave you guys some trouble with the inside linebacker coverage. Obviously, (Jason) Witten is one of the best if he’s still what he was (before retiring). How do you guys improve against tight ends in coverage?
A: Yeah, it’s been a focus, obviously, schematically on defense to make sure we take away the tight end when he’s a primary target. You just work on it. Then we have some things schematically that we can do a little bit differently.

Q: Do you expect (Jason Witten) to be the guy he was before he went into the broadcast booth?
A: Absolutely. I saw him throughout the year last year doing games. He looked pretty fit to me. I’m sure there were a lot of teams that he broadcasted their games that offered him a job, I would imagine.

Q: You weren’t one of them?
A: No. I like Jason. We have a good relationship. He’s where he belongs. He’s a Cowboy.

Q: How important is this game for your team? It’s sort of like a litmus test, even more than normal, just because it seems like this is one of your top competitors in the division. Do you look at it that way?
A: It’s the first game of the year, and we have to put our best foot forward. We have to do everything in our power to beat Dallas. That’s the importance of it. I tell the players all the time, it’s the players, not the plays. So, we have to get the players ready to play and go do it. There’s always some uncertainty in the first game. They’ve probably lined up in a formation and run the ball that they’re now going to throw out of, and they’ve probably lined up in a formation and passed that they’re going to run out of it. We all do all those things. It’s important that we go play hard, we play very fundamental, and we do all of the things you need to do to win games. Take care of the football, defend the run effectively, pressure the passer. Then on the flipside, we have to score points when we get a chance.

Q: With the uncertainty with (Ezekiel Elliott), was there always just one scheme for the Cowboys? Or does he add a wrinkle to the playbook that you now need to add in?
A: No, I think you play team defense. You’re certainly well aware where the outstanding players are on their team. But they sort of simplify it for you because they have outstanding players everywhere. So, you play defense. That’s not the first time I’ve been asked that question about Zeke. It’s sort of like, was just talking to Pat (Hanlon), halftime adjustments. The third preseason game is the tune-up, or the dress rehearsal. You have to play defense. You have to play team defense, and you have to defend everything the Cowboys present. I just mentioned, it’s going to be a big challenge.

Q: You have a pretty young defense. You have guys could be playing starting caliber snaps for a guy at every level, rookies Dexter Lawrence, Oshane (Ximines) and (DeAndre) Baker. How much of a challenge is this Cowboys offense right out of the shoot for that young group, and are you concerned about so many moving parts coming together all at once?
A: That’s the 10th question about that. Yeah, they’re very talented. I think that’s why we have to be really good and fundamental about what we do and buy into the team concept. Then do the very best you can when you’re forced into matchups with their best players. That’s where it comes down to the tactics defensively, and then the players playing their best.

Q: I don’t know how much you’ll be willing to tell us, but you’ve mentioned in the past that you’ve done work on the Cowboys going back months. The roster wasn’t finalized until recently. As they changed, how has your preparations behind the scenes progressed along the way so that you’re current with what they’re doing?
A: I’ll just give you a little background on what our offseasons look like. We do projects on all of our opponents once we know (who we’re playing). We know who they are early in the deal, we just don’t know when and what weekend. So, we know who we’re going to play, and certainly we know who we’re going to play every year in the division. We work on it constantly. There are certain plays and schemes that you run in practice that you’re going to run against Dallas, then Washington, then the Eagles and so on. I’m answering these questions with the idea that we always work on things that are important, things that we feel we’re good at, but also how they apply to the teams we’re going to play.

Q: How much has Dak’s (Prescott) game progressed? Is he the same player he was two years ago, or do you see a different quarterback now?
A: He’s improved. It’s just like any player. He’s an outstanding player. Early on, he did a lot with his legs. It appears to me like he’s more comfortable in the pocket. He can beat you in the pocket as well as running around. He has that ability, too, that a lot of quarterbacks have. The 60-yard check down, where he breaks contain, he’s running around, he keeps his eyes downfield and finds a guy wide open. That to me is a big challenge for a player like Dak. Then he can pull it down and run with it. He’s built like a running back. I think he’s developed nicely for them.

Q: In the past few years that you guys have played Dallas, preceding you obviously, the Giants have went in with an offensive line that was not able to function 100%. How confident are you that you guys have the right guys with this group heading into the first game?

A: Well, we made progress from a year ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing those guys compete. We’ve made progress. I feel like we’re better upfront as a unit, and now we just have to go do it. All this progress we’re talking about now. The rubber is going to hit the road here. We’ve got to go play.

Q: You mentioned before that it’s the players, not the plays. But you as the play-caller, do you feel good about what you have at your disposal? That you can run through your offense as well as you would hope going into a season?
A: Sure. I really like our unit. I look forward to trying to give them good stuff to work with. When I say the players, not the plays, let’s not minimize the tactics involved. But I think what’s important when I say that is we have to do everything we can to help the players play fast and play well. That’s what we have to do as coaches. There are a lot of plays that I’m fond of that our guys would probably not run as well as those plays would be run when I was in Minnesota. You kind of get away from some of that. When you’re thinking about the players, you try to do the things that help accentuate what they can do.

Q: It being the second season opener with the Giants, are there things that you know now that you couldn’t have possibly known the first year? Or are you more convinced about some things as they relate to the opener?
A: I’ve certainly learned a lot about the Cowboys of last year and this year and where they’re at. Their schemes are going to be a little bit different on offense. I’m sure they’ve held back on some things. Very similar on defense. They’re very active on defense at all three levels. But when they’re matched up, they can play extremely well. So yeah, I have a good feel for who they are, and they’re an outstanding team.

Q: After a long offseason of a lot of talk about Eli Manning, where he fits and his future, are you excited to see him play on Sunday?
A: I am. I am, because I’m excited to see a continuation of what was the back half of last season. I’m excited to see that.

Q: I asked Dave (Gettleman) the same question. You’re entering Week 1 of a new season. What to you would indicate progress as you enter the season?
A: Well, you’re always looking to win the game.

Q: Is there a number? Is there a threshold for you?
A: Let’s worry about the Cowboys. Again, I’m not trying to avoid that question. The progress is we need to start playing winning football in general.

QB Eli Manning

Q: What are your thoughts as you officially begin your 16*th* season?

A: Just excited, excited about this team, the players we have, about the work we have been able to accomplish these last five weeks. Looking forward to making all that count towards the first regular season game, in the division, on the road. A great opportunity for us to go out there and play well.

Q: Do you feel you can carry over what you did at the end of last season?

A: Well, I feel it’s just a comfort level in the offense and a lot of those same guys are part of this offense, we have a few new faces that should hopefully help us out and get on track early and play at a high level. Nothing is guaranteed from one year to the next year, but I think it’s more in just what we’re doing offensively, the style and kind of finding our identity. Hopefully we can establish that identity soon.

Q: A lot of the receiving corps talked about this “team mentality”, how does that impact how you execute?

A: I think it’s just a matter of trusting everybody to do their job. We’re not trying to get certain people in the exact right spot, we are calling good plays that guys know how to run, they know where they are going to be, they can play fast, they can react. Avoid the negative plays, the bad plays, and we’ll find the opportunities to hit the big shots and the long plays when those opportunities show up. You have to be patient and wait for them and then execute when you have the right looks.

Q: What’s the potential for this offense, Shepard didn’t play, Engram only played one series and Saquon didn’t play. We haven’t seen your three best playmakers with you all preseason?

A: Yea, obviously we have to get all three of those guys involved. It’s just a matter of everybody doing their job, that’s what a team is. It’s 11 guys all on the same page to have success. It starts up front with the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, finding running lanes and me finding the open receivers and then executing running and catching the ball and doing the fundamentals correctly. I think we have guys that know what they are doing and they can make great plays when you give them the opportunity.

Q: Have you got on those three about how you played more in the preseason than they did?

A: No, I understand some guys had some injuries and other reasons. I enjoy playing, I didn’t play a whole lot in the preseason, either, but I enjoy getting out there and getting in a rhythm.

Q: How much different do you think the Cowboys defense will be witg Demarcus Lawrence coming back from surgery?

A: They have a number of good players. The play very fast, it’s a fast defense, they run to the ball. They are very disciplined in their assignments and their technique. It’s a team, they have good players all around, we just have to know their scheme, have answers for certain looks and execute our game plan.

Q: With your offensive line, do you think you go into this year more protected and better suited than you have the past few years?

A: Yea, I think the offensive line is strong. I think for the talent and the guys we brought in and the old guys we have and just the comfort level the guys have. That first year going into a new offense last year with a lot of new guys can take a little time for everybody to get on the same page. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to have mistakes before you fix them. I think now a more vet group, a more experienced group with guys that have been around and played together, I think a lot of the questions have already been answered and now we have to go out there and play well.

Q: Is there a level of excitement to see what this offense can be?

A: Yea, I think there is always an excitement for the first game and for the guys we have. I think you get the excitement from the way we have practiced and played in some preseason games and executed. I think we just have to be humble enough to prepare this week and have a great week of practice. Know your opponent and be confident enough to go out there and perform on Sunday.

Q: How important is it for you guys to get off to a good start this season?

A: You always want to get off to a good start, that’s always the goal. Right now, we just have to focus on our game plan, on the Cowboys, what they are doing, and we need to go out there and play well.

Q: You have started 0-2 five out of the last six years. When you are in that spot, you feel the weight of it, right?

A: We will just worry about this week.

Q: Do you feel that with Daniel Jones behind you that will push you more?

A: I don’t think that’s necessarily the concern. I think you are pushed to go succeed always. You prepare to go out there and win football games, that’s the mindset. You want to do it for all the guys in this locker room, the coaches, this organization, the fans and everybody that puts so much effort into having a great year. That pushes you more than who else is on your team.

Q: You have played a lot of NFL football, but when you play the Cowboys, is there anything that’s different facing them?

A: I think you go into every game with the same mentality. It is obviously in the division. I think those division games mean a little bit extra, because you play them twice every year and they just mean more in terms of winning your division is the only way you can guarantee getting into the playoffs. They mean a little bit more, throw in that we always seem to play them the first game of the season, is always important because it’s the first one. There’s a lot of special memories in playing the Cowboys.

Q: Did you tell Jon Halapio that you want to see him walk off the field after this one?

A: I think that’s always the goal, keep everybody healthy.

Q: Was that one of those injuries where you say “Oh, that’s ugly?”

A: I haven’t watched too many, but you never want to see someone go down with a bad injury.

Q: You’ve talked about some of the uncertainty you felt coming into this year about if you would be back or not. When you take the field in a very familiar setting, the first game in Dallas, do you think you’ll feel a little different, or appreciate it more?

A: I think now you’re just focused on the game plan and going out there and playing. As you get later in the years, you’re always grateful for the opportunity that you’re still playing football. You’re still part of a team and part of something special, and in a great organization. So, I think that you’re always appreciative of the circumstances you’re in, and I think you do, as you get older, appreciate it a little bit more.

Q: What is your level of pride in being the first Giant to play 16 years? Does that mean something to you?

A: I didn’t know that until someone mentioned it this year—I think in the media, one of you nice fellas (laughter)—and so, I didn’t know about it, but I guess it is something to be proud of and I’m just blessed to be with this organization, and no one has enjoyed playing for this organization more than I have, and I’ve been appreciative of it. I have a great respect and love for the Giants and the whole history of the organization.

Q: I know you concentrate on staying in the moment and worrying about what you have to do, but how much would it mean to you, both personally and as a team, to sort of prove the doubters wrong?

A: I think there’s always something special in that, but we’ve got a long season to do that.

Q: Is that kind of ramped up a little more this year, for you personally?

A: Again, I think you find your different inspirations, and I think there’s bigger inspirations than that, that reflect how you want to play and why you want to go out there and win football games.

Q: It’s low on your list then?

A: I’d say so.

Q: This starting offensive line, even though it’s looked good in limited work, they haven’t played together in a regular season game yet. What are you seeing that’s telling you that they’re improved and that it’s a better group?

A: I think just the way we’ve practiced and the way they handle things—the preparation—and the way they have played in the games. So, I think just the combination of all those things, just being more prepared just with the experience and added vets I think will help us out.

Q: Because you know what you have in Saquon (Barkley) and Evan (Engram) and Sterling (Shepard), is it more important for you this season to see the fact that the entire offensive line plays together in every game? It’s a lot easier to judge where the offense is, I would imagine, based on those five guys, that’s the biggest unknown.

A: Right, I think whenever you’re talking about the offensive line, it is different because it is five guys working together. It’s not necessary--the timing kind of between a quarterback and receiver, it’s just two people—the offensive line has to pass things off and communicate and be on the same page. There’s a lot going on. I think it’s important for those guys to go out in the preseason and play some series, and have kind of un-scouted looks in the preseason—those things you don’t game plan a whole lot, so now, you have a lot of time to prepare. There will always be new looks, but I think we’re just better adjusted and can make calls and can make adjustments quicker.

Q: Who has said something to you in the offseason that has resonated with you, as far as your situation and what you go into this year?

A: Nothing coming to mind, sorry.

Q: When you look at Saquon last year, how can he even get better?

A: Well, I think first off, it’s obviously about the team success and winning games. He’s a guy, I think we’ll just have a smarter player, knowing the reads, the runs, get him involved in the pass game, just doing everything a little bit smoother. He works extremely hard, so I think he’ll be primed to go out there, and the guys around him, we have to do our job, we have to play well, and we have to give him opportunities, and we have to convert on third downs, and we have to score points in the red zone, and do all those things to give him more carries. The better your third down conversion is, the more first downs you have, and the more opportunities to run and play-action and be successful on offense.

Q: You mentioned earlier trying to establish an identity early as an offense. What is the identity that you think you guys can establish if you’re functioning at your highest level?

A: All offenses, I think you want to stay ahead of the sticks, and be able to run the ball, be able to play-action, be able to find ways to move the ball, be patient, and then when there’s opportunities to take shots and hit your deep stuff, you take advantage, but I think it’s just being able to be consistent. I think those are the offenses that are good, when you’re not having the negative plays, when you’re not having the penalties, you’re not having the incompletions, or the plays where you’re going backwards. If you can stay ahead of the sticks and just be consistent, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

S Jabrill Peppers

Q: Did you have any reaction when you heard that Ezekiel Elliott is in Dallas and signed his contract?

A: No, I’m definitely happy for him. I personally think he deserves it. As far as game plan wise, they have a lot of weapons that we have to prepare for, and with him being there now, we’re prepared for him as well. That’s the National Football League. There’s a guy every week you have to prepare for— they just happen to have a couple of them.

Q: One of them is Jason Witten. Before you were here, the Giants struggled to cover tight ends for a long time. How can you guys match-up with Witten?

A: Watching the film, seeing what routes he likes against certain coverages out of certain personnel, where he’s at on the field, and what he does from there. Really, just extensive film study. Taking the challenge head on and going out there and competing at a very high level.

Q: Do you expect him to be the same player he was before spending a year in the broadcast booth?

A: We’ll see, I don’t know. I think if he feels good enough to come back, I would bet my money on it that he is.

Q: What makes him a challenge? You’ve studied him…

A: Size. He uses his body very well against smaller safeties. I think he’s faster than a lot of people give him credit for. (inaudible). He’s established at the game. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to get open (and) he’s been there forever. They have a guy who can get him the ball, and they have guys around him who can stretch the defense out and let him sit in those soft coverages. We are definitely going to take the challenge.

Q: Have you heard or were you aware that he has been a ‘Giant killer’? Did you know that growing up?

A: No, I haven’t heard that.

Q: I guess you’re one of the guys that has to end that.

A: I guess so.

Q: Any chance that you would play offense on Sunday?

A: No.

Q: Do you expect to return punts?

A: Yeah.

Q: It didn’t matter that you didn’t do it in any preseason games? You didn’t want to do it, or how did that work?

A: I don’t know.

Q: We saw you do it every practice.

A: I just know that when my number is called I’m going to perform to the best of my ability.

Q: There are so many young players on this defense. You are a young veteran, it’s your first year here but not your first year in the league. Is there any wonder about how all these young guys will do when all the bright lights come on Sunday in Dallas?

A: No, I think they are ready for it. All of these guys have played in big games. In college, the stadiums are a lot bigger than the league stadiums, but I don’t think anybody has played in a game this magnitude. Being in the big game atmosphere definitely helps relieve some jitters. Once you get that first pop in you, I think everybody will be fine.

Q: How about you? This is a new start for you as well.

A: I’m ready.

Q: Did you look at a lot of the defense from last year in terms of the Giants’ season and what they did and how they approached things?

A: Absolutely.

Q: How do you think that you’ll be able to help change from what you’ve seen on tape?

A: I guess you’ll have to wait to see that.

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