Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Bye week-wise, we got the guys in today, reviewed the game tape, talked through a few self-scout things. We're going to get the guys on the field today. We're going to split the team based a little bit on where some of the guys' bodies are at, so we're going to have the majority of the older guys who played a lot of volume in last week's game, they're going to work a lot with the trainers, the strength staff after our walkthrough today. We'll keep a lot of the younger guys out for some developmental work and we'll do something very similar tomorrow, as well. So, we'll be on the field a little bit over an hour today total with different plans and then we'll regroup on the backend for some meetings, continue some self-scout and build in some things going into future opponents. That being said, I'll open up to any questions you have.
Q: Is that a normal bye week thing? Is that what you did last year?
A: Last year was completely different because we had the COVID situation last year. Last year's plan was to come out and have a couple good practices. Due to the circumstances we found ourselves with COVID last year, we went completely virtual last year, so we actually lost that time. We've done different things in different programs I've been in. I think it's important to do what's best for your team at that time and not to try and follow some template of what's going on. There's a large focus right now trying to get our team healthy and fresh. We had a lot of guys play a lot of snaps and they've done a good job for us. And there are some older guys I want to make sure get as much rest as they can this week, but then mentally they've got to make sure they get either an introduction of new things we're going to do or corrections of things we have to clean up. But it's important mentally to make sure we make progress this week.
Q: In terms of what you mentioned, that some guys need rest and stuff – coming out of the bye, obviously you get that bonus day on that Monday, a week from yesterday. Do you think you'll do anything that day or are you going to give those guys—
A: The Monday coming back? We will. We will. We'll come in. Actually, this one will mirror very much what we did last year coming out of the bye week. We actually did this and found it to be a pretty good way to kind of phase them back in, so after a few days off, we'll bring them back. It'll be mostly individual fundamental focus. We'll do a couple things in terms of group teach together, but because it's going to be a longer week anyway, we'll get them back, get them moving, get their bodies back into it. Tuesday is going to be a day off and back into work Wednesday.
Q: Obviously, you're looking for a mental break, a physical break for everybody, but also for your coaching staff. How do you balance that versus – you have a game that's on the horizon, how much do you guys just completely box it away until you get back on Monday? How do you balance that?
A: I always think it's important that on the front end of these weeks you put in the work. Our guys were here working last night, we'll work again tonight. We'll get the coaches and players out of here tomorrow afternoon. Coaches will get out a little bit later than the players will, but to me it's about (how) you still have the things you have to do. They have projects working into this week in terms of self-scout, looking internally at what we're doing schematically, personnel-wise, what we can do better going forward. Then, also looking to future opponents coming up and you want to go ahead and get a jump start on those guys. In terms of the game-planning specifically for Tampa coming out of the bye, we'll jump on that as a staff really when we get back. In terms of the breakdowns, the cut-ups, the internal and the individual thoughts on how we should play those games, we'll get a jumpstart on those as a staff. From the players' perspective, you want to make sure that physically you get them back as much as possible. For guys that need more work on the field, you want to get them as much individualized teaching and fundamental work as you can get. We've got a lot of younger players who we're anticipating and expecting to help our team down this stretch. We've got a lot of guys on practice squad or who haven't had a lot of game experience yet, and we've got to get them extra work these next two days. It's good in the smaller group setting to really make sure they can get all the coaching they can possibly get, film review it on the backend and give them just enough of a jumpstart going into the backend of this season that they're more confident going out there and executing.
Q: What has stood out to you during the self-scout?
A: It's a volume of things. There are a lot of things we've done well and things we've got to correct. To me, this time of year it's more important with the coaches that we look at it through this week of truly the self-scout and what we have to do, and we'll talk in the meetings about that. Then, really give a large part of that to the players on Monday when we come back. There's a lot of things we want to sit down and have conversations (about) instead of just rushing on through it and make sure we find the best way of doing things or tweaking things going forward. To me, the fundamentals are always the number one thing you have to emphasize to the players this time of year. Go back through your penalties, your turnovers, your tackling, your open-field running, go through those things and talk as a team of what we have to do better as a team, what we have to correct and they have to understand that when we come back into next week while we're working certain fundamental drills and while we're changing maybe a couple things in practice to emphasize the things we have to do better. To me, you come out of camp, you want to be as crisp as you can fundamentally. The reality is it takes all of September to really get in that football mode of fundamentals and conditioning, and then you've got to go ahead and re-emphasize it going through this part of the season to get them back thinking about the fundamentals and the things that really make a difference in winning games.
Q: It seems like you guys use the practice squad a little bit different than other teams and maybe they haven't caught up to that, to the new rules and bringing guys in that are low-risk – (Wide Receiver) Pharoh (Cooper) is there now. How quickly did you adapt to those rules, do you like them and do you hope they stay permanent?
A: I think there's plusses and minuses to the rules. I think the plus would be (that) the practice squad is always how you can build on roster depth and it's truly to develop players. We tell guys all the time, we're not looking for a group full of Rudy's to come out here and just run around all high energy. We want guys to improve as players to make our team better and we want guys constantly competing to be on the field. We get all these guys ready to play every week because they will eventually. If we do it the right way, we should have a number of guys from our practice squad step up, make contributions and make our roster. (Linebacker) Trent Harris is a great example. He got special teams' player of the week for us this week in the game. He's a guy that (the) last two weeks has been elevated. He's a guy that stays ready, whether it's short notice or he's kind of in that limbo sometimes. He's done a great job for us the last two weeks stepping up and being ready and being productive for us as he prepares. There's a number of those guys that step in. With the rules with the vets this year, it definitely changes a lot of things that are out there. I think this is kind of a talking point for both sides and we talked about the pluses and minuses of it. With the rules for the vets being on the practice squad, what that's really changed just these last two years is the availability of who you can go ahead and bring in to add to your roster. The importance of getting on that practice squad early and then staying after it of making sure whoever is available, every opportunity you get to get somebody in that can fill a spot for you, you're thinking, 'Will he go ahead and meet a need for you?' you want to try to do that because eventually, there's not going to be that inventory on the street like there used to be. It used to be if you had a guy hurt on Sunday, Tuesday you had a long list of workouts, you'd picked someone Tuesday morning, you'd meet with them Tuesday afternoon, they're practicing with your team on Wednesday. The reality now is the inventory on the street is so much less because most of the good football players – and there are good players out there – but most of the better football players are already on someone's practice squad kind of in that holding pattern for when they get elevated or taken off for somebody else's roster.
Q: What are the keys to a good red zone defense and what have you guys been doing so well these last three games?
A: Communication is huge. I think communication is a big part of red zone defense because when you talk about the red zone, once the space gets restricted, the speed of the game picks up so much faster. The ball's got to come out faster, got to be more accurate, receivers have to get open faster, make tougher, more contested catches. Defenses have to be in their spot right away so when you're working a disguise, you've got to make sure you adjust and get there right after the snap because those tight windows are going to get hit. Any space there is in the defense, the offense is going to find a way to get it. Most teams in the red zone are using some type of indicator to figure out what you're in and find out where the best matchup is. Whether it's zone and you're talking about spacing and vision. If it's man, you're talking about leverage. You've got to make sure that everyone is working off of each other, complementary that wherever your help is, whether it's zone or a man, you're working with that man because any space that's open, they're going to fit in there very tightly. I think when you talk about why has the team been more productive in recent games in the red area, I think (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) and his staff have done a good job with the plan. I think the players have done a really good job of coming out and practicing and executing it. We've done some different things in terms of how we prepare for the red zone. We've put more of a focus on it earlier in the week. We've spent more time walking through it and introducing it and then going ahead and hitting it with better tempo later in the week. I think that's something that's carrying over in terms of the understanding and obviously the execution on the field, but I think it always comes down to having good fundamentals. There's a lot of plays last week whether it was (Linebacker) Tae Crowder having that tipped pass and that comes down to really his zone vision, reading the quarterback. Flowing off into the same play right behind him was (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) in tight coverage. He was really playing more of the man element of that defense right there to play or shift it there. (Cornerback) James Bradberry had a good pass break up for us on a third down. We've got to get the defense off the field and that really came into us just playing with good leverage in man, moving his feet and just playing through the catch point to break that thing up. To me, it all ties back into the fundamentals. The other stuff is all critically important. You've got to know what the call is, know what your assignment is, execute it correctly, communicate to make sure you're on the same page, but ultimately, you've got to do it with good fundamentals.
Q: Big-picture, do you look at all at the rest of the NFC this week and where you guys are compared to the other teams in the playoff chase? And does last year's experience help at all when you guys didn't necessarily have the record but were in it because the way the other teams' records were?
A: No. The biggest thing we're focused on right now is just us, improving ourselves as a team and going 1-0 each week. You do that, it'll take care of itself in the big picture. We're so far away from the end of the season where all of that stuff really comes together. Are you conscious of what's going on in the rest of the league? You are, but are you focused on it? No. Really, right now the most important thing is we play our best football and we match up against whoever we play.
Q: There's a chance when you come out of the break you'll have the majority of your skill players. Will you be able to dictate more to defenses in the sense that they can't solely double on (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shep (Shepard) or somebody like that? Will that work to your advantage?
A: I think it all depends on the defense and how they view what you're doing, schematically how they want to play you. We're not going to call their defenses for them, so I can't tell you exactly what they're going to do. We want to have all of our players back and healthy. That's definitely something we focus on. However, more important than that, it's whoever's available at the game for them to be productive. I'm pleased with the way guys have stepped up and improved throughout the year. We continuously see guys improve throughout practice and when they get to the game they've done a solid job for us. We want to try and get everyone back and healthy, but our main focus is going to be whoever's available, maximizing their opportunities.
Q: How is (Running Backs Coach) Burton Burns doing?
A: He's in good spirits. As soon as we can get Burton back in here, we will. He and his wife, Connie, are kind of over in their condo right now hanging out and he's staying connected through Zooms. We've obviously been talking to him constantly. Between him and (Running Back Gary) Brightwell, they're both engaged and active in meetings with us. There's just some time limits getting them back in the building.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: You've got a big game, you've got to be going tonight, right?
A: That's right, yeah. Yeah, I'm going to go catch the game, excited to see those guys play. I've heard a lot about them.
Q: Who are you going with?
A: I've got Duke. I've got Duke.
Q: No, I'm saying who are you going to the game with? Are you taking any teammates?
A: Oh, I'm going with my family. I think some guys are going, but we'll probably see each other there.
Q: How do you feel about where the offense is at as you head into the bye week?
A: I think it feels good to get a win on Sunday. I think that was important for us to be able to run the ball like we did and kind of control the line of scrimmage. I think the guys up front did a great job with that. I think overall we've played games differently based on the opponent, based on kind of what the opportunity is. I think that's encouraging that we can do different things as a group. We have a lot of guys who can make plays, so continue to work on that, continue to work through the stuff we need to correct. I think we've got a good group and I'm excited for the rest of the season.
Q: As you guys have gone game to game and kind of changed your offense to fit your opponent and the game plan, how much input, like unique input, have you been giving or are you allowed to give on making suggestions? Like, 'let's add something we haven't done all season, but I think this can work.' How much of that have you done?
A: Yeah, here and there. I think I'm a player in my third year versus coaches who have been around the game a lot longer than me and seen a lot. I feel like there are times I can give my input and kind of what I think. It's always a conversation and we're always talking about it. Most of the game plan comes from the coaches and what they see, and I think they've done a great job of it.
Q: (Former Giants Quarterback) Eli (Manning) used to say that he would have a meeting with the coaches on Friday or something and said, 'these are the throws that I'm comfortable with,' is that something you do?
A: Yeah, me and (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Jason) Garrett talk on Fridays and kind of go through the call sheet and how we see it – what plays we like, what plays we don't like. I let him know based on the week of practice, based on film study, obviously, what you like going into the game.
Q: I'm sure you saw (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) opening up out there and running pretty fast and looking pretty good. What did you think of how he looked?
A: I was actually inside kind of doing some recovery stuff, but talking to him I know he's working hard and doing everything he can to get back. Yeah, he's been doing good, I think.
Q: What's your self-assessment for the first half of the season? On yourself I'm talking about.
A: Overall, I think a lot of the things I wanted to do better, I think I've done some of them and that's been encouraging. I think at times I can be better protecting the ball and getting it out quicker and I think those are things I'm always focused on, so just being more consistent with that and continuing to work to improve.
Q: Do you feel like getting healthy is the most important thing that this team can do this bye week?
A: Yeah, I think that's a big part of it, certainly. We've dealt with a number of injuries and this gives a us a chance for guys to work to get back. You never know what's going to happen, but I know guys are working hard like we've said to get back, so you've got take advantage of the time.
Q: Is it a misconception to think that Saquon comes back, (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay), and (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney), and Shep (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard) and everybody's back, that suddenly you guys become the Rams? Is that going too far?
A: I don't know. We're not focused on being anybody else. We are who we are, and who we've practiced to be, and who we've shown to be. I think you mentioned some guys and getting some guys back that are big time players for us. We'll continue to work and game plan and work to improve every week. There are certainly some difference makers in that group.
Q: But having those guys back though, does it make defenses react differently in the sense that if you only had Shep on the field, couldn't they double him all the time and limit your options?
A: I think the more guys you have like that, the harder it is on a defense. I think like I've said, like we've said, the guys who have stepped up have done a great job for us and have played really well at key spots. We'll continue to work that and work through that and play with what we've got.
Q: In Tampa, you obviously had one of the best moments of your career there, you won a huge game two years ago, did you save the ball from that game a couple of years ago? Do you have anything from that game?
A: I don't know if I have the ball. I don't know if I saved the ball or not. I don't remember. I think I have my jersey though.
Q: What do you remember about that game? What sticks out to you three years later?
A: I think just that second half. The first half obviously wasn't great. We did a couple things, but the second half and kind of just catching rhythm, making plays. The final drive I think was the thing I'll remember the most.
Q: Just to totally change the tone, with the game against them last year, was that sort of the low point for you personally?
A: It wasn't a great game for sure and definitely things that I could've done better, things I learned from. Whether it was the low point, I don't know. I think protecting the ball was big in that game and we didn't do that great.
Q: It seemed like you changed after that game, you really cut back on the turnovers. I don't know if you put the line right there that that's where it started, but was that –
A: I think there were several key plays in that game I learned from and mistakes that we talked about not making anymore. That was an important game from a learning standpoint and protecting the ball.
Q: You guys started 1-7 last year and put something together in the second half and played meaningful games all the way up until the end. Did that help this year when you guys were 1-5 and kind of staying focused on there's still a lot to play for? Because now I look up and you've won two out of three and that's all it took to get back into the idea of where you guys could be in the playoff hunt.
A: I think obviously a lot of guys around here this year are from last year and kind of leaning on some of that experience. I think it's just a credit to guys staying focused on one week at a time and making sure we're locked into what we're doing and to prepare that week. That's the approach we've got to take going into Tampa as well, kind of focusing on what we're doing and not get outside of that and not try to see a bigger picture, but focus on preparing that week.
Q: What is your approach to the next few days? I know you have another practice again tomorrow, but do you want to just take time completely away or do you still come in and work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday? What's your approach to that?
A: I'll take a little bit of time. I'll take a little bit of time away. I'll try to get ahead here early in the week and look at some of the Tampa stuff. As we get to the weekend, I'll try to take some time away and relax a little bit.
Q: (Head) Coach (Joe Judge) was talking about how they do a lot of self-scouting, do you do that? Do you look back at the first nine games?
A: Yeah, we've started that. I think that was a big part of today and will continue to be tomorrow. Looking at that, looking at myself and what I can do better.
Q: When you were in high school and college developing, how much work does it take to, when you know you're about to get hit, still step into the throw? Do you have to train your mind to do that? Is that something that you've always been good at, like stepping into it even though you know you're taking a shot?
A: I think that's part of the job. I think it's easier to do it when you know someone's going to be open and you're kind of waiting for the last possible second to make the throw. That's part of it. Part of it is being able to do that, being able to know what's coming and deliver an accurate ball. The guys on the other side are good in this league and good at getting to the quarterback, so you've got to be able to do that.
From Daniel Jones' one-handed catch on a trick play to Xavier McKinney's pick-six to the OT thriller in New Orleans, re-live the best moments from the first half of the season in this must-see photo gallery.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: What do you think of that approach that (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) had with these practices, early in the week getting a really light workload in that time?
A: I think it's a Tuesday. Typically, we wouldn't be on the field in a normal week today anyway. I think Joe does a great job of adjusting throughout the year on what the team needs. Obviously, the team needs to get healthy. We had a good stretch kind of at the midway point here, great opponents, played on a short week last week coming off the Monday Night game. Have a pretty long break until the next Monday Night game. I just think he's doing what's best for the team needs, and that's get healthy and make some improvements going into the bye week.
Q: Is that the most important thing that you guys need right now, to get healthy?
A: That's what we can control right now. We can control getting healthy, resting, cleaning up some things, watching film. But for sure, we need to get some guys back, have a strong push and we need to continue playing some good ball on defense and get some of our playmakers back on offense, and put it all together.
Q: Do you guys look at the standings at all this week big-picture, seeing where you guys are compared to the rest of the NFC, that seventh seed? Does it help last year that you started off poorly, only had the five or six wins and you were in it until the end, so you know every game matters?
A: To be honest with you, I'm not looking at the standings at all. It's way too early to tell, but some upsets throughout this week which we saw. That's the beauty of the NFL, you've got to line it up every Sunday and you never know. You're chasing improvement and I think we've been improving these last couple of weeks and we've got to continue that trend.
Q: How do you feel about where the defense is at as you head into this halfway point?
A: I feel pretty good. I think the areas that I've talked about before – red area, third down, keeping those points down, two-minute – I think those are areas of emphasis and areas we improved on. I still think we can improve our tackling. We've been getting more turnovers, which is always the goal of defense, to get them off the field and make them kick field goals if they're in that position and get the ball. We've been doing a better job of that and we've got to continue doing that. Speaking to (Raiders Quarterback) Derek Carr a lot and (Raiders Quarterback) Marcus Mariota, who I'm close friends with, they had trouble with our disguise, so I think that's getting better and that just takes time to work on that. We saw that kind of happen last year as the season progressed. It just takes reps with the unit to work on disguise to make it better and make it hard on these really good quarterbacks. We've had a stretch of a bunch of them lately.
Q: You talked about the offensive guys getting healthy again. As a defender, when you look at what you guys put out on offense, would it be nice to see everybody back?
A: Ideally, when you have your roster you want to have everybody healthy. That's how it's constructed, but you also need depth. It's football, it's 100 percent injury rate. A lot of guys are banged up, a lot of guys aren't playing completely healthy. Some guys can't play, some guys are getting healthy or getting closer. Ideally, you want your playmakers on the field. It gives us the best chance to win when your star players are on the field and that's what they get paid to do. That will give us a better chance to win without a doubt, but I just think you've got to give credit to DJ (Quarterback Daniel Jones) and the guys who have been out there holding it down and finding different ways to compete, different ways to win like we've had the last couple of weeks. Defensively understanding with some of our guys down on offense that we need to step up and win the games and step up and control the tempo of the games. We took that upon ourselves in the darkest times to each step up and play a lot better, and I think we've done that.
Q: We all saw what (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) did in that game. When you watch the film and you look at the totality of his season and his career so far, how high is this kid's ceiling and what do you think about him?
A: I'm not here to talk about ceiling. I mean, it's through the roof. He's a really good player, he's a smart player, he works hard. He's productive because he's good at finding the ball in the air. The good thing about Xavier is he had a ton of success in college obviously, and he came from a program that is used to that. He's able to come to work each and every day and he doesn't seem like he's acting any differently with the success. He seems like it's what he expects of himself and what we expect of him. With (Safety) Jabrill (Peppers) going down, (there are) more opportunities for me and Zay, and I think it was our best game as a tandem last game of doing our job for the most part and at the end of the game making the plays necessary for our team to win the game. We put a lot on our shoulders back there as signal-callers, as leaders. I'm in year nine, he's in year two – basically, it's game 12 of his career and he's playing well beyond his years, and that's what we expect him to do.
Q: Can you give us an example of how – we keep hearing (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham simplified everything and that's the same thing he did last year around the midpoint. Can you give us an idea of how things have gotten simpler, what it allows you guys to do and why in the last two years has that happened in October for you guys rather than clicking in Week 3?
A: We talked about it after games, simplifying. I think Pat's as good as any coach in the league of listening to his players and listening to his coaches and not being afraid to take advice from the players. I think on my 'Mic'd Up' it might come out, but we talked about changing the defense a little bit in the fourth quarter that led to some big plays that a coach told Pat to run or a player told Pat to run, Pat was willing to call it and willing to use that. I think he does a great job of adjusting throughout the year and listening to his players saying, 'Although we thought this was going to be what we practiced all week, actually I think we need to run this,' and he does a great job in implementing that. I don't think we're any simpler. I think we're executing better. I think Pat's done a great job of choosing things that we do well and calling the things we do well in critical situations, like third down and red area, as opposed to trying to have the perfect defense for what they might run, kind of going back to what we do well and let them beat us in that and putting guys in position to make plays. I think Pat does a great job of listening.
Q: Instead of simpler, it might be paired down a little bit?
A: I think understanding. I think he has a great knowledge of who his players are and what we do best. It might not be what you pictured in the offseason, it might not be how we had this guy and we're going to run this this year, we're going to run more man-to-man this year. That was the big talk, like we got (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson), it's going to be man-to-man every play. That's not the case. Understanding what's best for our team throughout the year and not being afraid to adjust and go with what the guys are doing best.
Q: What do you think of the term, 'bend, but don't break'? Is that a negative thing for the defense? Do you embrace it? How do you view that?
A: I just think that's a cliché in football. I think that's being good in situational football, which is third down and red area. I think every defense wants to be a, 'don't bend, don't break,' but offenses are going to move the ball at times. They have good players, they're going to move the ball, but at the end of the day that drive comes to a third down, that drive comes to a red area stop or a red area play, that dictates three points or four points, seven points, whatever it may be. I think you've just got to be really good in the critical situations.
Q: On that fumble, did you go for the ball or did you go for (Raiders Running Back Josh) Jacobs?
A: I went for Jacobs. I had a basketball coach tell me, 'First team to the floor on loose balls normally wins.' I saw him bending down to pick it up and I figured if I cleared him out, we had a better chance again. I tried to (Troy) Polamalu punch it to our goal line – I don't know if that's, you know, whatever – but I tried to Polamalu it and I cleared him out and we were able to get (Defensive Lineman Leonard) Leo (Williams) on the floor. There are some pictures of it, and I think you saw our guys diving to get the ball and I think you saw some of them bending to pick it up. Rule number one in basketball, you've got to dive for loose balls.