Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Why did you go so much more single-high in the second half? It seemed like your two-high was working well in the first half.
A: That it was working well? You're talking about the last game? Shoot, I can't remember. Probably the flow of the game, just whether it was single-high or moved to one-high or two-high or whatever it may be. Normally, just try to mix it up during the game based on what we think is best.
Q: Your pressure rate was really low in that game. How much of that was what you guys were trying to do and how much was it just not getting there?
A: Just talking in terms of bringing people or are you talking about pressure getting to the quarterback, you're saying?
Q: I don't know, I'm asking you. What do you look at with that and say here's why?
A: Each week – I'm looking at Dallas right now, one of the best offenses obviously in the league right now. You try to figure out, okay, who are you going to try to take away and how are you going to try to take away (them) or limit what they do. So, the quarterback is obviously good, they've got a good back, they've got a good offensive line, they've got good skill people, so any game plan we're trying to work and trying to manipulate – obviously, you want to get more pressure here, you want get more pressure there, whether it's four or bringing guys – but what we try to do is mix it up. Sometimes, it looks like we're not bringing five or we're bringing four or we're bringing six. Usually if you look at it from week to week, we've mixed it up in terms of bringing – you know, we just decide on what's best for that game, trying to figure out who to bring and stuff like that. Same thing we'll try to do this week against Dallas. I know this, you've got to affect the quarterback somehow, you've got to affect the offensive line somehow and that's the goal.
Q: Did you affect the quarterback enough?
A: We can keep talking about New Orleans, which is cool, but I'm really focused on Dallas. It's New York Giants-Dallas week and I know unfortunately for you guys it's Thursday right now, but I'm getting text messages from all the guys I know that played here. Like, this is New York Giants-Dallas week and I can't be any more focused on them. I'm just apologizing for that. I'm worried about this offensive line. You look up here at this depth chart – (Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari) Coop (Cooper), (Cowboys Tackle Tyron) Smith, (Cowboys Guard Connor) Williams, (Cowboys Guard Zack) Martin, (Cowboys Tackle Terence) Steele, (Cowboys Tight End Dalton) Schultz, (Cowboys Wide Receiver CeeDee) Lamb, (Cowboys Wide Receiver Cedrick) Wilson, (Cowboys Quarterback Dak) Prescott, (Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel) Elliott. Now, that's just the starters – (Cowboys Running Back Tony) Pollard. Look at all these guys up here. I mean, it's a lot to think about right now. Most of my focus is on Dallas.
Q: How important is it going to be to get more pressure this week against someone like Dak Prescott then?
A: We've got do whatever is necessary to affect Prescott this week. Again, I think whether you're going to compare it to last week or two weeks before or the year before, we're going to try to do what's best for the game plan for this weekend and hopefully it's enough to win the game.
Q: You kind of hinted at it a little bit, there's 15 regular season games and two Cowboys games. How big is this one and can you sense that in the building and outside the building?
A: I can only speak for myself. I'll never forget my first regular season game as a Giants coach and it was against the Cowboys. It was a four o'clock game and I remember JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) standing next to me during the national anthem and he said, 'This ain't the Jets' or he said something to me, right? Because I was with New England for my whole time and I said, 'Yeah, it's a little different, man. It's a little different.' I always remember that moment and how cool – he looked at me and he was so cool about it. After the national anthem he said, 'Little different.' That's what he said, he said, 'Little different, isn't it?' And I said, 'Little different.' And then we won the game. At the end of the game – and he had a great game, I just remember that – and I looked at him and said, 'This is a little different, man.' He said, 'I told you. This is Cowboys-Giants week.' I remember that. That stands out to me and that was a good memory. That was a good memory that first one, so I'm looking forward to it. I know it's important to the people around here, I know it's important to the fans around here, so it's important for us to prepare and get ready for the game. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Q: Those texts that you said you're getting from everybody, are they just reminding you how big it is or are they telling you that you better win?
A: Luckily for me, I have friends and mentors that are very honest with me, so I get 'Good luck,' sometimes I get some criticism, sometimes I get some advice. The people involved with football, I've got a lot of people that are real honest with me and I appreciate that about them.
Q: You've always said to start on defense you've got to stop the run. I don't want to go back to last week, but can you afford to give up 160 yards or whatever?
A: I'm an old D-line coach, that's never what we're looking to do, I promise you that. Obviously, we've got a lot of stuff to work on. That's what we're going to work on today out there on the practice field. Got pads on today, going to work on that. It's about getting off of blocks, setting a good edge and stuff like that. No, you can't afford to do that. You can't make a living doing that, doing it that way, so we've got to do a better job stopping the run.
Q: Is (Safety) Julian (Love) going in for (Safety Jabrill) Peppers if he can't play?
A: You've got to talk to (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) about all that stuff. Again, the injury thing, I don't really get into that, but in terms of the people – we've got so many guys out on the field that are interchangeable at the different spots, so I can't give you any idea on that right now. Really our first day of getting after it today.
Q: Last year in Dallas, the way that game ended and I remember back then your guys felt like they gave it away. Do you have to remind your guys about what happened there or is it so frustrating—
A: Oh, you definitely watch that game. You see the ebb and flow of the game. I think it was 17-3, then they get the ball and you really saw – again, I know (Cowboys Head) Coach (Mike) McCarthy from my time at Green Bay and you really saw him like, 'Okay, let's get the ball to Zeke.' And then that drive he busts – like, we had the formation level, but then he snuck through for about eight yards and that really got them going and all of a sudden, it's 17-10. Then, I think they made a play on defense. However the flow of the game went and that's – to me, when you get back to the question about the run game, this team goes as the offensive line and the running back go. I get all the skill guys and stuff like that, but the challenge is up front. That game is a great game to go back to and learn lessons from because once they got the run game going that's when they were able to get back into the game, and they eventually ended up winning the game.
Q: How do you slow down Cooper and Lamb?
A: How do you slow them down? Mix of coverages, mix of affecting the quarterback, but the thing about them is they're moving those guys around, whether they're in the slot, they're out, number 1. I think one thing that can help us is making sure (we) take care of the deep part of the field, maybe get some hits on them when they're down at the line of scrimmage but keep changing it up on them. They're pretty dynamic, they're pretty dynamic players, so we've got a challenge ahead of us.
Q: How about Zeke? How much does he look like the running back he was three or four years ago?
A: That guy – I mean, I never questioned whether (he would return to form). I mean, he's a good player. I mean, he's a good player, he sees it all, the way he presses the line of scrimmage and makes his cuts. You have to be decisive. He's truly one of 32 when you talk about that. This guy who knows how to carry the ball. He knows how to manipulate his blockers or use his blockers the right way. He can see. He can see the backside. If he's running frontside, he can see the backside if you overlap too much and he's cutting back there. I think he's pretty dynamic. The thing I'm noticing about him is how hard he's running. He's doing a good job of getting the extra yards like he always has, but he's a good player.
Q: What makes (Cowboys Offensive Coordinator) Kellen Moore tough to go against?
A: Smart. I mean, I don't know him personally, but I know Coach McCarthy and Coach McCarthy spoke highly of him. Smart. As a play-caller, you can see he understands defenses, so he's trying to attack your weaknesses. I don't know exactly what he's doing, but playing the percentages of what you're going to be in, trying to attack the weaknesses. He has his coverage beaters, he has his stuff intended to try to manipulate the edge. I think he does a good job with that stuff and he does a good job of changing it up throughout the field zones, whether it's backed up, middle of the field, fringe. I think he does a good job of doing that and then most importantly how most offensive coordinators are judged, he gets the ball out quickly to the guys who make plays whether you look at the percentage of the quick passing game or how they're getting the ball to Zeke. The guys who are productive with the ball, that's who he's getting the ball to whether it's based on down-and-distance, based on where they're at on the field. That's how I measure if a coordinator knows what he's doing (is) in terms of that, how they get the ball to those guys.
Q: Do you put any extra emphasis on tackling after Sunday?
A: Oh, yeah. I think you put extra emphasis on tackling because of the level of skills guys they have here, like Cooper, Zeke, all these guys, even Dak. They're all tough to tackle, so you have to put emphasis on that, no question.
Q: You're not preparing for him, but what have you seen from (Cowboys Linebacker) Micah Parsons? What kind of a player is he?
A: I haven't really watched him. I just saw him in college – you're talking about the linebacker, correct? I know he's fast, big, fast. He's bigger than you think. I heard that he's playing different spots, playing on the edge, playing back, different things, can cover, can rush, so I'm always happy to see guys have success. Met him one time at Penn State. Good kid, just happy that he's having success.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: As play caller, when your offensive line is playing well, how much confidence does that give you and how much does that open up what you can do?
A: Well, it really makes a difference, that's where it starts. The game is won and lost on the line of scrimmage every week in the NFL. I thought our guys did a good job in that environment the other day against New Orleans, against a good front in a hard place to play. Crowd noise is typically a factor there and I think they handled all of that really well. I thought the protection throughout the game was really good.
Q: The result was significantly different in that game. You threw the ball down the field a lot more than you did in the previous games. How much of that was you guys making changes and schematically doing stuff different? Or was it something else?
A: Yeah, I don't think anything we ran in the game was anything different, to be honest with you. Sometimes you call those plays and the ball has to go somewhere else for a variety of reasons. We had some opportunities to start with, the protection to hold the ball a little bit, and drive the ball down the field a little bit more than in the past. Again, a tribute to those guys going against a good front in a tough environment. I thought (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) did a good job seeing things, I thought the guys did a good job on the backend just winning on routes and were able to make some plays down the field.
Q: So much of the offensive line playing well is that chemistry and consistency. Your offensive line hasn't had that because of the injuries. How have they managed to put it together and get better?
A: Yeah, again, a real tribute to those guys individually. How hard they work every day, they're real pros up front. We've had some guys that have been with us for little bit, but then we've had some guys who are new. There have been some moving parts up there, but their approach is outstanding. They come to work, their preparation mentally and physically is really, really good. They work hard to develop that chemistry in a short period of time. They did a nice job in the game.
Q: This is your first year of coaching with (Offensive Line Coach) Rob Sale. What does he do that you like as an offensive line coach?
A: Rob is a good coach. He really is. He's done a good job with our guys. We put the system in place last year and I think the guys that have been around are understanding more and more of what we want to do, but he's certainly added a lot. He's helped those guys individually and collectively across the board.
Q: Is it more encouraging for you to see (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) cutting and running in the open field like he did on that touchdown? Or powering through like he did for that touchdown?
A: Well, he's a great player, like we've talked. I have so much admiration for him coming back from the injury that he had. He worked really, really hard to get himself back and I think we all see that he continues to improve day by day and week by week. We saw some of the plays that he's made throughout his career in the early part of the season, but that game the other day, you saw exactly what you said. You saw him make some great space plays, but also some tough runs inside.
Q: How much will the speed of (Wide Receiver) John Ross or (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney help Saquon? Maybe defenses can't stack the boxes as much because they have to worry about going deep.
A: Yeah, the essence of offensive football is attacking different ways. We've talked about this a lot, it starts with running pass, and if you can throw it to different guys and hand it to different guys and just simply attack them – whether it's tempo or personnel or formation use or movements. Whatever those things are. So, when you add those guys – Kadarius and John and they've proved they can be effective and make big plays down the field, that certainly gets the defense's attention. That opens up opportunities for other people.
Q: For the most part, Daniel has played pretty well this year. Where in particular have you seen the most progress from him since last year?
A: Yeah, I just think he's made progress over the last year and a half that we've been with him. It starts with playing winning football. You have to take care of the ball and I think he's done that. Starting from about midseason last year, he's done a great job taking care of the ball. He has made really good decisions, he's played decisively. I think he's getting a better understanding for what we're asking him to do, what defenses are trying to do to us and he's seeing the field and he's making a lot of good decisions. When things aren't there, he's made good decisions to get rid of the ball. Two or three times in the game the other day, maybe a rusher came free, or something didn't come up exactly like we wanted to, he used his feet, he threw the ball away, we went to the next down. So, I think that's a big sign of maturity and then he's been able to make more and more plays. As the environment gets better around him as we protect better and we get some guys outside who can make some plays for him, he's going to continue to play better. That's been my experience with quarterback play. You make the environment better, all of a sudden, the guy starts to play better and better. He's gaining more experience, he learns from his experience, his approach is outstanding, he's always so prepared – mentally, physically and emotionally to play. He did a really good job in the game last week, but he understands you put that one behind you, you learn from it, you build on the good, you clean up the bad and you get ready for the next one. We'll have a hell of a challenge this week in Dallas.
Q: How tough is it to build the quarterback when the environment around him isn't perfect or isn't great and still to make that progress?
A: Yeah, you just keep banging away. There's never a perfect environment. I think he's handled a really positive environment well. I think he's handled maybe an adverse environment well. That's a big part that goes to who he is and how he was raised and just simply what he's all about. He's a really mentally tough guy. He'll continue to grow as a player.
Q: When you've coached quarterbacks in the past and you've had success within the quarterback room, is there a moment when you've been with a quarterback where you can see that light go on? Have you had that moment yet with Daniel?
A: Yeah, the best ones I've been around, the best quarterbacks, best players, best people, it's always an ongoing process. There's never this feeling like I got it. Everyday you're trying to get better, you're striving to get better, and the best ones learn from their experiences. You have success, why did I have success? You try to build on that. This didn't go well, let's address it, let's figure it out, you learn from that and you move forward. When you play that position, you have the ball in your hands on every play and there are a ton of decision you have to make, there are a lot of variables. You never just simply have it down pat, you're always learning. I think the NFL is a great example of guys, obviously (Buccaneers Quarterback Tom) Brady, arguably the best player that ever walked, he's in his 40's playing. If you think about guys like (Former Saints Quarterback Drew) Brees and (Former Colts Quarterback Philip) Rivers and all these guys, (Packers Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers, played in their late 30's into their 40's, continuing to grow and get better. That's the nature of that position. If you approach it the right way, hopefully you'll get better and better. The best one's I've been around have been able to do that.
Q: When we talk about Saquon, we always think of the runner. How much of a matchup problem is he when you put him outside as a pass receiver?
A: He's just a really good player. He's a really good player as a runner. Again, his ability to run the ball inside like we saw the other day, to make space plays in the running game. Like I said, being a receiver out of the back field but also line up outside and make little plays and also make big plays. He's capable of doing that.
Q: What do you recall last year when (Cowboys Quarterback) Dak (Prescott) went down? What were your emotions in that moment?
A: It was a really tough moment for me and really for anybody who's been around him. Dak's a special guy. I have a great relationship with him, a great friendship with him and he's someone who's made my life significantly better. When you see a guy like that who you're competing against, go down and you know it's a serious injury, the human side of everybody comes out. No one wants to see injuries in this game. Nobody wants to see injuries to people they love and care about. That was not an easy moment for me or for anybody who was close to him. He doesn't surprise me one bit in how he responded to it. Immediately in the aftermath and what he needed to do to get on the road back to recovering and then what he's done since to come back and play as well as he has. He's a special guy, he's made my life way better.
Q: When you go back to play Dallas it kind of serves as reminder that you were a head coach in this league for a long time. Do you still have aspirations to be a head coach?
A: I'm just pretty focused on what we're doing here. I'm focused on our Thursday practice here with the New York Football Giants.
Q: Personally, what was the adjustment like for you going from being a head coach of a billion-dollar organization to offensive coordinator, running an offense, calling the plays again and developing a quarterback.
A: I'm not really focused so much on that. It was a great opportunity to come here with the Giants and work in this organization with the coaches that we have here and also with the players. Excited about this opportunity and what we're trying to do with this team. We're trying to rebuild this team. We're trying to get better every day, so that's really where my attention is.
Q: I was curious how different your day to day is. You don't have to put out every fire in the building and stuff like that.
A: Yeah, there are certainly differences from being a head coach and offensive coordinator.
Q: Dating back to last year, you guys have run that play with the end-around to (Tight End) Evan Engram a few times. What is it that you like about that play in particular and him as the guy that's running it?
A: Well, Evan is a playmaking type guy. If you remember when we played Dallas last year and we gave him an opportunity and a guy came free, he made the guy miss and ran it into the endzone. He is one of those guys you try to get the ball in his hands because he's able to make some of those plays and sometimes you block it well and it comes up perfectly, and sometimes it doesn't. Typically, you get a pretty good result, so you want to give those guys opportunities.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: We don't really ask you about (Wide Receiver) C.J. (Board), but just how valuable is he, the fact that he can kind of play so many different roles for you?
A: C.J. is a Swiss Army knife. The amount of value that he adds to this football team is amazing. He's an outstanding human being, a great person in the room, a great teammate. He works his tail off. He comes in, he doesn't say two words. He'll come in the room and he just puts his pen down to the paper and he just writes and he listens, and he does everything you ask him to do. If we could have 53 C.J.'s, guys that work like that, that come out here, and he'll run all day every day and never say a word. He never complains. He never says anything, but he just does his job, and he brings value. Love the kid, can't say enough good things about him.
Q: On punt return, you're going to have (Safety) Jabrill (Peppers), (Wide Receiver) Sterling (Shepard) and (Wide Receiver) Darius (Slayton) injured, who else do you have there if it comes down to it?
A: We've got a bunch of guys that can catch punts. KT (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) obviously can do it. We've got guys that can do it. Those two are definitely the top two right now. Just having those options, having guys like Shep and Pep – a lot of times people will be stuck and it's a credit to (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Dave (Gettleman) and (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) and how they go about building the roster to have guys that we know that can step up and step in and do the job. You look at C.J. jump right in, 26-yard return, longest return of the year and we didn't miss a beat. It's always good to have guys that have that skillset.
Q: How curious are you with KT though? I mean you see what he's able to do on offense, maybe try him at that?
A: I've seen KT play for a long time. I knew exactly what he was. I told y'all a couple weeks ago that he's different. I didn't say that just because I thought he was an alien. He's a hell of a football player. He's super, super talented, but again, he's a rookie and (we're) just going to spoon feed him. Again, he's getting more acclimated to what he's doing. He's obviously got a heavy load on offense, so once we get him going there – like I said, when it's time to go, he'll be back there.
Q: We've seen him return punts at the collegiate level, obviously, and there's a certain skill to it, but what is the biggest adjustment or couple of adjustments for a guy who has done it well in college to try to do it well in the NFL? Scheme-wise, maybe it's not different or is it?
A: Scheme-wise, it's a lot different. But a lot of times if you watch college punters and college returners, most of the balls that they're getting are off the ground. You get the rugby-styles – there's a ton of Australian punters in college football now. You get a lot of rugby punts. The style of punt is different. A lot of times you don't see the 52-yard, 5.3-ball or 48-yard, 5.2-ball. The high ball that turns over, you don't see that a whole lot in college football. Just being able to see the ball off the foot and just getting used to it, it takes some time to develop that skill.
Q: How stunned were you when (Kicker) Graham (Gano) missed the other day?
A: Just like the question, it's like, 'really Graham?' You know (laughs)? Graham made what, almost 40 kicks in a row or whatever it was, right? It's bound to happen, you know what I mean? I wasn't expecting him to miss that one, but it happened. He came right off the field and said, 'well, got to start another one.' It's what it is. He's got to start another streak and he's a pro, he'll move on and it's a small thing to a giant.
Q: Was there any trepidation when he goes out from 48 at the end?
A: No, not at all. Heck no, not with that guy. Like I said, everybody around here has seen Graham come up and hit a big kick from 60-plus and crush it hard. I know I have.
Q: Is a kicker like a hockey goalie where if he does something badly, you'll leave him alone?
A: Yeah, I don't say anything to Graham during the game. He figured it out. He's been doing it long enough. He knew exactly what he did as soon as he walked off. That's just one of those situations, he got overanxious, too quick, close to the ball, pulled it. Just one of those deals, it's football.
Q: How much discussion was there about a field goal at the end of the half as opposed to a Hail Mary?
A: If I can recall the situation, I think we had a timeout or didn't have a timeout or one of the two, but we talked about it. It was one of those, we talked about it, but I think it was more of just being smart and not doing anything stupid at the time. Just making sure that we play for good field position and not putting our kicker in a position where he's kicking a super long field goal, they put a guy back there and that's the last thing you want. You've got frickin' (Saints Wide Receiver) Deonte Harris back there with a bunch of offensive linemen on the field, probably not a good thing to happen for you. Just in our minds, not putting ourselves in a bad situation.
Q: It seemed like a good chance to give him the opportunity to break (Baltimore Kicker Justin) Tucker's record.
A: Yeah, if you're thinking selfishly about a record (laughs). I could give a piss about a record, we were trying to win a football game. It's also a chance for them to be two yards short and he scores on a 108- yard field goal return, so no, that's not a good option (laughs).
Q: I think you were at the 48, so it would've been 64, would you have considered that?
A: Yeah, a got-to-have-it situation, yeah, absolutely. If you have to have it, yeah, absolutely. But at that point in time, we didn't have to have it. At the end of the game, absolutely. End of the half, no.
Q: Coaching against (Cowboys Special Teams Coordinator John) Fassel, he loves to do fakes, trickeration, you guys got him on one last year, it came back through a penalty. But what's the balance of trying to trick a guy who likes to do that to you?
A: You know what, it's not really – I don't consider it tricking, it's just if you find something that's sound that you feel good with, you run it. Whether it's him or anybody else, you're always trying to find the scheme that you feel good about that the players can execute. Whenever you can have an advantage or create an advantage for your team, you create the advantage. Now going against him, that's a whole different animal. They give you everything under the sun. As special teams coaches, we're so thorough in how far we go back and 'Bones' has got like 90 years of fakes. It's like 85,000 reps and it's just you've got to be sound in what you do and how you do it. He does everything and he's done everything under the sun. So, you've just got to be sound in how you prepare, and we've been working on it all week. We worked on it all last year and we've got a game plan for it, so it'll be fun.
Q: I was just going to ask if you saw the Monday Night Football game, what you thought of a receiver like (Raiders Wide Receiver) Hunter Renfrow laying out that hit?
A: You know what, I didn't see the actual play because we were here working when it happened, but I went and watched the tape, and it was pretty incredible. Just to have the awareness and to be able to make that play – Hunter Renfrow, he's a hell of a football player. He's exciting to watch and I watched him in the offseason a little bit. He's a problem, like he's a real problem. That guy is legit. But to have that wherewithal and the awareness to come up and make that play, that was an outstanding play.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: (Wide Receiver) John Ross (III) told us that last game when he was in the game, the Saints DBs were actually like, 'Move back, move back,' because he's so fast. I'm wondering how having fast receivers like Ross and (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney help you? Have you noticed there are less guys in the box? Does it give you more space when teams have to respect the deep ball more?
A: Yeah, it just helps the offense as a whole when you've got playmakers out there. That goes from John, to KT, to KG (Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay), to Slay (Wide Receiver Darius Slayton), Shep (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard), when they're healthy. To (Tight End) Evan (Engram), to (Tight End) Kyle (Rudolph), all those guys. We're showing that we can make plays in the pass game and overall, that's going to help the run game. We've just got to keep sticking to it and keep working on it and every week it's going to improve and get better.
Q: Had you noticed that teams were stacking the box a little bit more before you guys were able to hit some big plays last week?
A: Yeah, you could see how defenses will attack the run game, especially in the RPO, but that's what football is for. You've got to be a team that can do it all. We've got to be able to run the ball. In the passing game, there's going to be some games where the run game takes over and we'll win the game like that. There's going to be some games where the passing game takes over. We've just got to continue to help each other out and be efficient on offense, so we can also help out special teams and help out our defense. Overall, that helps you get wins.
Q: You and Zeke (Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott) have been sort of the marquee running backs in the division for a couple years here, what's your relationship with him like? Do you compare notes?
A: I haven't talked to Zeke in a minute. When I got hurt, he hit me up on Instagram, I believe. Any time we see each other, it's nothing but love, nothing but respect. He's one of my favorite players to watch, one of my favorite players to go against. I've been going against him since I was 18-years old at Penn State, (and it was) his last year at Ohio State. So, I've always been a big fan of him and to see him starting to come back and show the world he's still elite and he's still that guy, which everyone else pretty much knew that. I'm just happy for him and look forward to seeing him Sunday.
Q: It's been a while since you guys have both been full strength going against each other, are you excited to for that?
A: Yeah, it's always a fun matchup going against him. Obviously, it's not like you're just going against Ezekiel Elliott. But as competitors, you tend to look up a bit more when you're going against a guy like that and see what he's doing, and it helps motivate you and want to push you to do a little better.
Q: Were you heartbroken at pick number 11 in April when (Cowboys Linebacker Micah) Parsons is sitting there and you're watching the draft and the Giants are on the clock and you heard it's a trade?
A: Micah's my guy. Actually, I was texting him when it happened, and he was up there and obviously I saw the trade. I'm happy for him. He got drafted to a great organization, a great team and he's a heck of a player and I think he's showing how special he is already and he's only going to get better. He's a freak athlete. You see clips of him playing defensive end and then you see him playing linebacker. You see him covering. You see just how fast he is running to the ball. He's a special player. (I'm) happy for him that he's having a lot of success and can't wait to look forward going against him on Sunday.
Q: I guess he can't stay at your house anymore though? He told everybody he stayed at your house before the draft, you going to let a Cowboy stay at your house?
A: Yeah, it wouldn't be on the weeks we play each other (laughs), but we're good friends. I kind of help recruited him to come to Penn State. Obviously, (Penn State Head) Coach (James) Franklin and all those guys, (Penn State Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Coach Pry and (Giants Defensive Line Coach and Former Penn State Associate Head) Coach (Sean) Spencer did a really good job of helping me get there, too. So, I knew him since he was 17, 18-years old and I was happy to see a guy from the area he's from, he put a lot of hard work in to be able to come in the NFL and (he's) slowly emerging as one of the marquee players in the NFL. I'm just happy for him. But to answer your question, (in the) offseason, yeah, it's a lot of love. But right now, it's not as much love as it would be in the offseason, I'll say that.
Q: What's been the key to getting the screen game going? What's the key to that?
A: We work it. We work it. I've got a good feel for it. The o-line's got a good feel for it. Not just myself, even with KT, I think we've been able to see what KT's able to do. It's important. The screen game gets your playmakers in space. It's big to set it up and have good relationships with the offensive linemen who's getting out there and the wide receivers who are blocking for you. We've been making some big plays on that. It kind of started against Atlanta. We were close, we were close, we were close, and we've still got so much more room to grow in that area of our game in my opinion.
Q: What's that balance like because obviously you're faster than your offensive linemen, so do you have to sort of like…?
A: It's just a feel. It's just a feel for it. It's understanding the count, how long you've got to take to get out, give them a head start so they can get on the blockers – and when they get on the blockers it helps you see it a little bit better, too. Just a feel, understanding the timing of it and being on the same page.
Q: I don't know if over the last year we've asked you anything about your knee (laughs), but the question I have though is after you were hurt, did (Bears Defensive Back) Eddie Jackson ever reach out to you?
A: Yeah, actually he did. He did reach out to me. He reached out and was like – I'm trying to remember, but basically, he hit me up and was saying like, 'I hope everything's okay.' Obviously, it was not like a dirty play or nothing like that and I was like, 'Yeah, we all good bro, much love and keep going, stay healthy.' But yeah, he did reach out to me after the game. Not just Eddie, just a whole bunch of players in the NFL when that happened and now, even in games. A lot of people are coming up to me and saying that they are happy to see me back out there and that it's better for the league to have me out there healthy. That's the thing they're always saying. At the end of the day, obviously you're competing on Sundays and you're trying to take each other's heads off and get the win, but the NFL's kind of a big brotherhood and you never want to see anyone go down. You just want to see everyone thrive and be successful and stay healthy.
Q: What showed you more that you're back to being yourself – the catch, touchdown, cut across the field or the game-winning touchdown between the tackles, a quick cut behind the line of scrimmage? What said to you more, 'All right, that's me'?
A: First one got me in my bag. After I scored, I was like, 'Yeah.' In my bag means in the zone, I got in my zone. I liked the last one. It probably made me feel like I'm getting closer to feeling better. Just the fact because the play before that I was in, I fumbled the ball. Obviously, you fumble, and you go out. I got my mind right back into it and I was still with it and to be able to go out there and they handed the ball off and trusted I'd make those cuts and get in the endzone was big for the team and also big for my confidence. I'd probably say the last one probably more, but I know that this is going to be an every week thing. Everyone is going to ask me about my knee, but like I said, I just keep trusting people – the trainers and all the people I talk to knowing that every single day I got to keep going in there and keep working with it and that's something that I'm going to keep doing.
Q: You spent a lot of time with (Linebacker) Lorenzo (Carter) last year rehabbing. You guys both had very significant injuries, what have you seen from him? Did you guys help each other sort of pull and push each other along?
A: Yeah, we were on and off because I was here, in AZ, L.A., but we're really close. We've been here – I think it was me, him, Gatesy (Center Nick Gates), (Guard) Will (Hernandez) from our class, I think that's it right now. But we were always chopping it up in there every time. Our lockers are not too far, and I always check with him and he checks with me and see how he's feeling. Obviously, two different injuries, but I got to see a little bit of the work he put in and he got to see a little bit of the work I put in. I'm happy for him. At the end of the day, you want to go out there and you want to win, but in reality, when you come back from a major injury you realize that the game can be taken from you every single day. So, when you know someone had to go through the same thought process and the same recovery and the same rehab, just seeing those guys getting back on the field and come off the field healthy is a win for them. I'm just happy to see him keep going and as the season continues to go, keep improving and getting better.
Defensive Back Logan Ryan
Q: What is the challenge when you go against an offense that is explosive, but also can just pound the run game?
A: I mean they're a good offense. They've got good players at every skill position, a good O-line and a really good quarterback, so it's just a complete offense. They have good balance, like you said, so that's just a challenge of they can move the ball effectively both through the air and the run game. It'll be a great test for us.
Q: I would imagine there are few people outside of Dallas who are as glad to see (Cowboys Quarterback) Dak (Prescott) back at full strength than you. What have you thought about watching him this season and going against him this weekend?
A: He looks really good. He looks healthy, which is great, and he looks like he's operating as one of the best quarterbacks in football with just how they're moving the ball and the command he has – great command at the line of scrimmage. You've got to root for a guy that's a good guy and had a tough injury, obviously. You've got to root for stories like that. I just love playing against Dak because he's a competitor and I am, and we are. I think we have to lead our units. We'll go out there and we've got to play the game, but between me and him, I'm happy that he's back, I'm happy that he's operating at a high level, because I think when you've played the game for years and you've won some Super Bowls and you've had some contracts, I think what keeps you in the game is the competition. You want to compete against the best. I think that's why everyone wants to play against (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom Brady and play against the best. Dak's one of the best right now, so we want to play against him and we want to play well. He's a great challenge.
Q: He said your encouragement was very helpful to him.
A: It was great to hear, it was really great to hear. Sending him books and all that, I've just been in a similar situation breaking my leg and kind of a guy that's always been go, go, go having some time (with the) injury, whatever it may be – they put you in a cast and say you can't do anything for this many weeks, and you don't want your mind to go stale. So, I had some books to help me get through it and I sent him some books, and apparently it helped him get through it. That was obviously my goal and intention, and just wanted him to come back a great quarterback and he is.
Q: You're probably thinking of a way he can pay you back this weekend.
A: Yeah, he can throw the ball right to me on the first play and we'll call it a truce and we're good to go (laughs). Then we can kick the game off, and they'll be down 7-0.
Q: We talk about players having overcome injuries, is there anything where if you hit a guy and he gets hurt, do you have to overcome anything? Is there anything that stays in your mind from it?
A: I think it depends on your intent. I really think it depends on your intent. I think last year was just a freakish play, a gruesome injury, but it was a freakish play. It was a tackle I've made over 500 times in my career and that one just felt different. To me, I didn't put much beyond the fact of just hoping that he – it was just unfortunate really. But for me, it was just, if I had any ill intent or malicious (intent) or try to go hurt somebody then I probably couldn't sleep well at night. Knowing it was just a normal play between two competitors, we've got to call it what it is and move on and try to come back better from it.
Q: What makes (Cowboys Wide Receiver) CeeDee Lamb such a tough guy to guard?
A: He's a first-round receiver. He's quick, strong, fast like a lot of these guys coming out of college now. Really good route runner. He has punt return ability, so he's good with the ball in his hands. I think he has a lot more play strength than people think. He's pretty strong and he likes contact. He's not one of these guys that doesn't mind contact. He'll take contact, he'll block a little bit, he'll chop it up, so to me he looks like a complete football player that likes ball and works at his craft. I just think he's one of those guys that's just a top talent.
Q: Do you think you guys are more effective in cover-two than in single-high?
A: Oh man, you're breaking it down again. I think our effectiveness is the ability to do both. I think if you do anything too much, if you're one of these cover-three defenses, you get to the playoffs and you get yourself blown out. You've got to be able to do both because when it comes down to crucial moments, it comes down to critical games to win championships. To get to the playoffs in the end, you've got to be able to pull it out and be able to have both under your belt. You just don't want to be a zone defense the entire game and someone has a two-three zone beater and you're having a rough day.
Q: Now that it got so much attention, did Brady ever get back to you and finalize the deal on the auction?
A: I think he had a lot going on last week (laughs), so I don't know how high up I was on his text list going back to (Foxborough). I didn't make that cut of talking to me before the game. So, no, I didn't get back to him yet, but I'm sure when we play them or whatever we'll have some time.