Coach Coughlin: Good morning. We're excited to prepare to play the Washington Redskins in the division. Redskins are 4-6, as you know—2-4 after the first six games, and 2-2 in the last four. Two outstanding wins at home—down 24-0 to Tampa Bay, they came back to beat them 31-30 with an outstanding two-minute drive at the end of the game. 14-14 tie with New Orleans, they defeated the Saints 47-14, they were plus-two in the turnover ratio and Kirk Cousins had the distinction of having a quarterback rating of 158.3, which is the highest you can get. They lost to undefeated New England on the road, they lost to undefeated Carolina last weekend on the road in which the turnover ratio was minus-five. As I said, they're tied for second place in the NFC East and they have a very talented offensive team with many weapons. Cousins has a 89.8 quarterback rating and a 68.3 completion percentage with an 80 percent completion percentage in the last two home games. Their defense features an outstanding front. They're 12th in the NFL versus the pass. Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 4.5 sacks. They have outstanding special teams play, they're third in the league in kickoff return with two touchdowns; unfortunately we were one of them, the 101-yard return by (Rashad) Ross. There was a 99-yard return by (Andre) Roberts against Carolina. They're second in the NFL in kickoff coverage. They have a blocked punt against the New York Jets for a touchdown. I have three players that will not practice today—(Justin) Pugh, (Larry) Donnell and (Mark) Herzlich will not practice. The other guys on the injury report will all practice limited.
Q: Is Justin improved at all?
A: I think very little.
Q: Where is he in the protocol, is he still in the first step?
A: I can't tell you that, or I won't, one of the two. He's still in the training room. You ask me that every time.
Q: The Redskins' record is much better at home than on the road. From what you can see, is there any great difference in how they're playing at home as opposed to the road?
A: Just the fact that they've been very successful. But they've played some pretty good teams on the road, too.
Q: Do you tell your team, "This is for first place" or do they understand that?
A: Oh no, I tell them and they understand it. We try to make everything absolutely clear, absolutely understandable, the circumstances, as we go along. The six-game season, one game at a time, this is the most important game of the year, right here in the division.
Q: Any difference between Kirk Cousins from the first time you faced him?
A: Well, I think he's much more confident. I think the rhythm with which he goes about his business, particularly in the play-action pass game, is outstanding.
Q: Your team is 5-0 against this team the last three years. Do you think your players have a lot of confidence against this team, this quarterback?
A: I certainly hope so. But you have to earn it every time you play. Past records mean nothing. We're in the division.
Q: Is there anything schematically that you think sort of lends you to having success against them?
A: Could be.
Q: Larry Donnell is not practicing.
A: Continues to have the issues.
Q: He has spasms?
A: I don't know if it's spasms, but he does have issues, obviously.
Q: How much do you think you can get out of Weston Richburg today?
A: He's going to be limited and we'll see. We expect to hope to have him take a limited number of snaps but take some snaps, and we'll see.
Q: How realistic is it that Hakeem Nicks could step back in or do you even need him to step back right back in?
A: Well, we're going to have to find that out. That's what this week's practice is all about. We'll have him on scout team doing a lot of things so that we can see how he plays in that regard. And then we'll have to judge how fast he comes along with learning—the experience, etc., will help him but, nevertheless, it's a different offense.
Q: How different is your defense if you assume that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie continues to play at a high level that you can go back to bookending that with Prince Amukamara? How does that change it?
A: I would hope that does pick us up considerably.
Q: You talked about the safety position and the middle of the field being a weak spot of the defense. Have you contemplated making changes there and what goes into that decision?
A: No, we just try to take the information that we're able to gather in the off week where we can research ourselves and do a good job of teaching our players where some of the vulnerability may be and correct it.
Q: During the bye week, we talked to Dave Merritt. He seemed to suggest maybe Landon Collins is getting to the point where you're concerned about overloading him with information. Do you feel the same way about him in his rookie year?
A: I don't feel that way now. I understand what he's saying and that's always been something that we've kept our finger on because he's a young safety and he does have communication responsibilities. But we're deep into the season, we're in a very important time of the year for us. I think that whatever we prepare in the plan, I think Landon will be able to execute it.
Q: How do you deal with potential discouragement with Landon? He obviously had a play that was replayed a million times against the Patriots and also some other struggles in coverage.
A: He's a pretty tough, resilient kid. I think he realizes what could be done to improve that. All I'm interested in after the fact is how we correct it. I think he understands that, or I hope he does. It's one of those things to get a beat on the ball and have good judgement back there just like a center fielder in terms of how your body reacts and whether you turn and run or whether you're close enough to backpedal. I think it's been said before, so it's not new news that one of the things Landon likes to do is kind of creep up and he'll have to learn to stay deep.
Q: The league had a conference call with all the trainers last night in light of the Rams' situation with the quarterback. Did you hear from your trainer?
A: I haven't heard anything about that today, no.
Q: Your first- and second-year players—the rookie players obviously have not and neither have your second-year—have not been through this kind of playoff push yet. How do you think they'll handle this?
A: I think they'll handle it. Obviously, they're still young and the experience is new. I think the excitement of being involved is something that will help them, if you will. It's kind of been that way, to be honest with you, for a few weeks now since we've talked in that regard, back really quite a few games ago.
Q: Do you sense that this whole team senses the opportunity?
A: Yeah, I think so. I thought they practiced well Monday and I thought they came back off the bye in pretty good shape. Their morale was outstanding, so we need to continue that.
Q: What do you tell them about the difference of the importance of the games at this time of the year?
A: To be honest with you, it's an awful lot about fundamentals and about technique. Again, not having any kind of split-focus, but focusing on the most important thing, which is the next snap, the next play. Play your butt off and I'll let you know what the score is.
Q: On the safeties for a second… when you have Prince and DRC both out there at the same time, how much can that help that group and the middle of the field in general?
A: Well it can, but you still have to abide by your initial responsibility according to the coverage. I hope I just confused you well enough to move on from that question.
Q: It's been a while since anyone in this building was in this position this late in the season. Is this fun?
A: Yes, it is. It's a lot of fun compared to where we've been the last couple of years. And it is for you, too, and I appreciate that fact.
Quarterback Eli Manning**
Q: Does this feel like a first place game?
A: It feels like the next game. We know it's an important one, in the division, and every game counts right now. Every one is important, every one is big, and it's going to be a deciding factor in how the season ends. So we understand that and we got to go out there and play good football.
Q: When you look at what happened in the bye week though and see the opportunity here, if you guys get the win here against the Redskins, how much does that make it a little more critical?
A: They're all critical. Whether we win this one or don't, every game from now on is going to be important. Yeah, it's a big game. It's a big game, it's an important one in the division and we got to play our best football at the end of the year. Get into November and December and you got to play solid football and that's what we got to do.
Q: I'm sure you've probably thrown a thousand times to Hakeem Nicks over the years. Now that he's back, how much can that help?
A: Yeah, he looks good, he looks like he's running well, grasping the offense. We just got to be smart and put him in there, make sure he knows what he can do so we can put him out there and play fast. He was running some routes and there's obviously certain routes we've thrown many times and read his body language and go over things. I think he's picked up things pretty quickly and hopefully he can come in and help us out.
Q: They're one of two teams in the league that hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer this year. Are they that good defensively with the pass or is it people are just running on them?
A: I think they do a good job against the pass. They do a good job getting a pass rush, you don't have a whole lot of time to hold the ball and they're not giving up a ton of huge pass plays. Some teams are running the ball well against them. Hopefully we can have that mix and be able to run the ball, be successful at that. We're going to have to throw it, we're going to have to get completions, and just be efficient. Whether we throw for 300 yards or not isn't going to make the difference, we have to be efficient in our pass game and our run game and scoring points when we get opportunities.
Q: They're not viewed by people as contenders. Are they more dangerous than given credit for?
A: I think they're playing good football, especially at home. It seems lately they're protecting the football, they're getting turnovers, and we know they have the ability to play well and score a lot of points and be effective on defense and get turnovers. So we got to be on our toes and ready for their schemes and execute well and play smart.
Q: Anything different about their defense from when you last saw them, especially up front?
A: Well they've lost a few guys…linebackers, DB's and safeties. But they still do a good job up front getting pressure on the quarterback. A lot of times its bringing four guys and making the quarterback get off his spot or getting sacks and making him throw before he's ready. So we got to do a good job up front blocking up their pass rushers, that's one of their strengths.
Q: It seems like by game 11 you kind of are what you are, but is there a way this run game can actually become more consistent and more powerful than it is or has been over the course of the final month?
A: Yeah we just got to keep running. I think we've been effective, we're not going backwards, we're getting positive yardage. But you never know that day when you break a couple long ones and sometimes that's the difference in rushing for those big days is you break a 50-yarder, 60-yarder. We just got to keep staying with it but I think we've done a good job getting those four and five yards a pop and getting us in good down and distance which is nice. Yeah, if we want to break a couple long ones we'll take that as well.
Q: It has been three years since this team at this point, late November going into December, was really playing these meaningful games. Is it different to prepare for these games and a different approach at all?
A: It's fun. It feels good to be in these circumstances and feel like you're playing for opportunities to make the playoffs and win your division. I think guys got to sense that excitement and make sure it shows in our preparation and our play.
Q: You guys are relying on a lot of younger guys, first and second-year guys.
A: I think we just go about our business, keep preparing well. We have young guys, I think as you get late in the season just make sure they're staying focused and keep paying attention to the small things, the small details, and don't forget everything that you relied on that's been working for you. I think just enjoy the opportunity that we're in and kind of at this point, if you are a rookie, you're not a rookie anymore. If you played in enough games and you've been through the season, you need those young guys to step up and play well for you.
Q: You talk about small things, small details. What do you refer to, especially at this point of the season?
A: Just protecting the football. Whether it's a tight end in their run blocking stuff…just the things you work on every day, you keep working on those things. Or my mechanics or my drop, don't forget about the basics. Don't forget about your training and everything you've done, keep doing those things well. You got to grow and improve on other things but don't forget about the basics and doing the small things correctly.
Q: For the guys that haven't experienced it before, is there a difference in intensity this time of year or is that not something you really feel until the playoffs?
A: For me, I think every game is important, every game is intense. It's about just going out there and doing your job.
Q: You've had some success down there. Anything in particular about that stadium, the team?
A: No. No we've been put in some good positions. Every game, every season, every situation is going to be different. So hopefully we can go out there and we can execute well, guys can make plays, defense can do their job, get us some stops, get us some turnovers and offense don't make many mistakes and be efficient.
Q: What are you thankful for this time of year?
A: So much to be thankful for. Obviously my family, my teammates. Just to be here with the Giants playing football, preparing for another game. Excited about this opportunity and the opportunity for the Giants this year.
Q: At this time of the season is it more pressure or more fun, the fact that you can get the division or get to the playoffs?
A: Exciting, it's just fun. This is the things you prepare for and hope for, to be in these moments and to have a chance, have a shot. Guys got to enjoy that. It is a time to make sure our preparation and we're doing the right things and taking care of our body and prepared for everything going on. But it's an exciting time.
Q: Did you throw at all last week?
Q: Is that break helpful? Does your arm feel a little different?
A: Yeah I think the break is always good. After so many weeks and getting a little rest on the arm and do some stuff to keep it loose and keep it strong. Felt good today coming back there and throwing.
Q: You mentioned body language with Hakeem and that seemed to play such a role when he was here the first time around. Can you regain that in practice this week and have it pay off as quickly as Sunday?
A: That's the goal. There's obviously some things—similar routes, similar things we've run many times. He knows how to do it. I don't know what the plan is on how much or where's he's going to be or what all the thoughts are but he practiced today and made some plays for us.
Q: Hard for you to believe he's only 27 years old?
A: Yeah, he's young.
Tight End Larry Donnell**
Q: They haven't given you any indication if it's structural, nerve, anything?
A: I just walked in from the doctor, I was going to go in there and talk to him. I did the test a little earlier, so going to go try and figure it out.
Q: What about earlier when this first popped up. Did they have any thoughts on what it might be?
A: We thought it was just spasms and a strain. I feel fine now, but I mean obviously something is wrong, so we've just got to figure it out and see what the process is.
Q: Do you remember when this all popped up? After a game, after a play?
A: This injury? The injury happened against the Saints when I caught the ball in the field. It happened then. I thought I'd be okay by now. Like the plan was to go into the bye and it would be 100 percent, but it's not.
Q: What are you thankful for this year?
A: My family, this family, just getting up every day. Thanksgiving is a big time of year for my family and this family, so just glad to be here with them.
Q: What about the matchup with the Redskins? Another division opponent that you guys can put a little distance between.
A: It feels good. We had the week off and we're playing in the division, so that's also sweet and we have the chance to separate ourselves a little bit more against a good football team. It's going to be a good game and we're going to try and get a W.
S Landon Collins**
Q: In addition to looking forward to this game, this is going to be your first game playing on the field that Sean Taylor played on. That has to be exciting for you?
A: Yeah, when I go out there and do warm ups and stuff with myself, I just want to…of him and his name and stuff like that. It's going to be fantastic and it's going to be a dream come true to be on the field he played on.
Q: Since he's an idol of yours, do you feel you have to do his memory honor and just play to the level that he played?
A: All the time, that's every game, every game, especially playing on his field and his turf. That's definitely one of the keys for myself, for me to go to that field and do the same thing he did.
Q: Do you expect your snap percentage to go back up this week? It sort of took a dip last week.
A: I don't know, that's up to the coaches. We're doing this rotation thing now and we're just working on getting everybody in because all of us have been getting a lot of snaps and they're just trying to keep my legs straight and just trying to switch it up a little bit.
Q: That was the explanation, to keep your legs?
A: Yeah, to keep my legs.
Q: Are they feeling worn down at all?
A: No, not to me. I'm a young guy, so I'm good.
Q: Did that bother you at all, to see your playing time decrease? You were an every snap guy for most of the season.
A: Did it bother me? No, it didn't bother me. I understand where coach is coming from because it's a long season, and they just want to make sure I keep my legs underneath me, and be able to keep contributing as much as I can.
Q: Tom [Coughlin] talked a little bit about this, the instinct to come up and come towards the line of scrimmage. Do you still fight that a little bit?
A: What do you mean?
Q: He said a lot of time your instinct, your first motion, is to come up to the line of scrimmage, even when you're playing deep. Is that something?
A: I don't notice that. If he notices that, then that's something that I have to work on but when I watch my film study, watch myself play, my first steps are always backwards because that's what they're preaching and we rep every day. I kind of tuned it in my mind to go backwards before coming forward.
Q: That's a different direction than you've always played for most of your life?
Q: So you probably pay more attention to it and make sure?
A: Yeah, I definitely pay more attention to it.
Q: At this point in your career, do you feel the game is starting to slow down for you?
A: It's been slowed down but now it's just more film study and play formation recognition. Once I get that down, the sky is the limit.
Q: Is that necessarily harder than it sounds, the recognition and the recall?
A: You can say it's harder than it sounds, but once you get used to it and continue to constantly do it, it gets easier day by day.
Q: Have you ever personally had a moment like the New England game when the game is almost in the palm of your hands and you were not able to make the play? Do you have anything else besides what happened a couple of weeks ago?
A: No, that was the first time I had the game in my hands and dropped the ball. That was the first time that happened.
Q: Was it hard? Was it tough?
A: Yeah, it was definitely hard because I don't do that. I killed myself when I went home, I just couldn't take it, but I'm just ready to get back on the field and just keep it going and prove myself.
Q: When do you think you were at that point when you got over it? Was it right after the game?
A: It took a couple of days. I got over it, but I mean just to feel that I let the team down is always in the back of your mind.