EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shurmur Sez, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: The big news of the week is the trades of Eli Apple and Damon Harrison. I assume in 20 years in the league you've been with teams that have made big moves. How do you want to see the players respond?
Shurmur: "I think it's typical of this league. There's business dealing that is done throughout the year, and this just happens to be during the season just before the trade deadline. We were presented with offers for the two players we traded and we wish Eli and Snacks (Harrison) well. We appreciate all their efforts and what they've done. This is a great opportunity for guys that we have on the roster for a reason to show us what they can do. And we anticipate that they'll play well."
Q: I'm sure you're aware the narrative outside the building is the Giants are looking toward the future. You have nine games to play, nine chances to win games. How do you combat the outside perception in the building?
Shurmur: "I think that's exactly what it is. My focus is obviously the here and now and staying in the moment, and doing what we can to win every game we play. I realize there's a balancing act between the short and the long term vision of the team, but in this case, all our focus is on playing the Redskins (Sunday at home)."
Q: You said locker rooms have a way of moving past this and players are always going to get ready to play the game. Have you liked what you've seen from the players?
Shurmur: "I have. There are guys that were in the locker room for a while they got close to, but this happens all the time. This isn't the first time this has happened in a locker room, where a player is no longer there. Sometimes it's trade. Sometimes you cut a player. Sometimes they're injured. For whatever reason, players leave locker rooms and the locker rooms have a way of making it right."
Q: The players that you still have at the positions – you have (Dalvin) Tomlinson, (B.J.) Hill, (Josh) Mauro, Kerry Wynn, Mario Edwards and John Jenkins up front, and (B.W.) Webb, (Antonio) Hamilton, (Mike) Jordan, (Grant) Haley in the secondary. Are you excited about some of these guys?
Shurmur: "I am, and in the case of B.W. Webb, he played in the game that we won against Houston and did a nice job against some fine receivers, He's a gritty, tough guy. We can play him inside or outside, and we look forward to seeing him do good work."
Q: How about the two guys that have played a lot already upfront, Tomlinson and B.J. Hill? What have they shown you?
Shurmur: "Two good young players and then you add (John) Jenkins to the mix. I think those are guys that have done good work to this point. I think the front has been pretty solid in a lot of the areas, but Dalvin now will play probably more nose to replace where Snacks was, and that is sort of his natural position."
Q: The offense has had three 400-yard games in a row, which hadn't happened here since 2011. You threw three 50-yard passes in Atlanta the other night, which the Giants hadn't done since 1990. You had four drives of at least 72 yards. Is that the kind of thing you're looking at when you say you're getting close and you're improving?
Shurmur: "Those are areas that we've improved. The area we haven't improved is in five trips in the red zone, we only scored two touchdowns. If you do the math and you get them all in, that's 35 points and that's a respectable day at the office, and that certainly would've been enough to beat Atlanta. The reality of it is we get down there, now we got to finish the drives better. I think that's the important piece and that's been the focus all along; once we get down there, what do we do to get the ball in? And I think there's a lot of things that are good about what we're trying to get done. We haven't put it all together yet, and I think some of the statistics that you mentioned point to that. But until we put it in the end zone, it doesn't really matter."
Q: What are some of the challenges of producing in the red zone?
Shurmur: "I think we all have a red zone philosophy and it's important when you run the ball, you make yards, and then certainly when you pass the ball, you either have to advance the ball or in the case of the touchdown/check down mentality, get the ball in the end zone. Depending on how teams play you, it changes a little bit, but I think we've done it more to ourselves than I think teams have done it to us, and I think that's an area where we can improve."
Q: Eli Manning absorbed some criticism early in the year. We talked then about the longer passes, and he threw for 399 yards against the Falcons. Do you think he is more comfortable in the offense than he was earlier in the season? Is he playing better, in your opinion?
Shurmur: "I think he gets better every week, but I think everybody around him, for the most part, is improving. We have new linemen in there, new from the beginning of the season, and they have to get used to working together. We have a center (Spencer Pulley) that played his first game. We have a guy (John Greco) that's playing right guard for the first time. (Chad) Wheeler is starting to settle in at the right tackle. I think as they play more and more together, they'll get better, as well."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants conclude the first half of the season on Sunday
Q: If this particular five-some is given a chance to gel, do you think this could be a pretty good group?
Shurmur: "I do. I think they can be a good group and the value of the offensive line — certainly, it's important to be able to block your guy, but you're also — it's important how well you work together. And the longer that this group can work together, I think the better it will be."
Q: Your decision to go for two when you did in the fourth quarter was a little outside the box. In general, do you talk about situations like that prior to the game with your staff and try to determine what you can do differently if you get in certain situations?
Shurmur: "I think it was the right thing to do. Statistically, there are numbers to support the fact that if you go for two there, then you give yourself a chance to win, especially at the end of the game where there's fewer possessions. Then the next possession, you kick the extra point to win it and I think we're in it to win it. Some would say that that's not the right way to go. But remember early in the year where I didn't use my timeouts before the half, and I promised myself, and we study and we're aware of all those things and we talk about it to make sure we're doing the right thing, I promised myself that I would be aggressive for our guys, and I think they appreciate that approach. The first two-point play that we attempted, I think it was a good route. The ball got in there. It's safe to say both the quarterback (Manning) and the receiver (Odell Beckham, Jr.) – the ball got in there, so it needs to be caught, but it probably should've been closer to the pylon. Nonetheless, we got what we were looking for. He threw it to our best receiver. Had he looked on the other side of the field, we also had Shep (Sterling Shepard) breaking wide open. So we had the play we wanted, and that's partially why I felt it was a good thing to do, because I liked our two-point play selection."
Q: Has your philosophy about when to go for two changed a lot since the longer extra points came into play?
Shurmur: "Not really. I know there's a little bit lower percentage of making the extra points, but I don't think it's enough to kind of skew whether you go for one or two."
Q: (Wide receiver) Corey Coleman was the 15th pick in the draft two years ago. He clearly has a lot of talent. He's been here a short time. What has he shown you and what do you think he can do for you?
Shurmur: "He's shown us why he was the 15th pick in the draft. Very talented young man. He's a very explosive player. He catches the ball well and you can see that he's got the skill and ability to play wide receiver, so we're trying to catch him up so that he can compete first on special teams and then certainly in our offensive sets."
Q: It was a small sample size, but (Quadree) Henderson did have a 21-yard punt return. Does he look like he's got the skillset to be a good return man?
Shurmur: "It was a welcome return. It was the first one he had this season and he was a fine returner in college. That's why he's here. That's the primary reason why he's here, and he's picking things up on offense in terms of being a receiver. But the first important thing is to catch the ball and he does that well. Then it was nice to see that he was able to get that return. I felt like we blocked it well and he did a good job running it."
Q: You picked up (cornerback) Tony Lippett yesterday. He hasn't played in a while, but he was with (secondary coach) Lou (Anarumo) in Miami. How much do you know about him and what do you think he can do here?
Shurmur: "I know Tony well. He played at Michigan State and he was a wide receiver/corner and kind of a two-way player. Played two positions throughout his time at Michigan State, so I did a lot of work on him when he was coming out. Liked him quite a bit. He's long, he's got good length for a corner, which helps him in bump and run. He's coming off of an (Achilles tendon) injury. We'll get a chance to see what he can do in practice and where he's at coming back. But he's a talented young man and we're glad to add him to the roster."
Q: Washington has had a very good front seven early in the year. They selected two defensive linemen from Alabama, (Jonathan) Allen and (Daron) Payne, in the first round in each of the last two drafts. What have you seen from them?
Shurmur: "Their front is outstanding. They've had two good edge rushers (Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith) for a while now. They've added some good players on the inside, which makes it tougher. I feel like they've done a good job kind of adding players to their defense that fit their scheme. The two Alabama players have played in this style of defense, the 3-4, and they're playing well."
Q: No active player has sacked Eli Manning more than Ryan Kerrigan. He's never missed a game and then you have Smith on the other side…
Shurmur: "It seems like they've been playing there together for 100 years. Two very good players. The one thing about Kerrigan is he's tough and he's relentless and he keeps coming. You have to block him from the first play to the last. I've always admired his style of play and the same with Smith. Smith's got real good length and reach and plays his position equally as well."
View photos of the unofficial starters for Sunday's game against Washington
Q: The Redskins are one of those teams that like to run the ball, control the clock, and wear down the defense. Is that a type of team that's hard to get out of its offensive rhythm?
Shurmur: "I don't know that. I think with Adrian Peterson, you know he's an explosive, violent runner. I think we're all trying to score points, so they certainly have good targets to throw the ball to. Two really good tight ends, got nice wideouts, and they do a good job blocking, so I'm sure they're going to mix it up."
Q: You were with Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. He's 33, the 10th leading rusher in the league. Is he, as you look at him, a bit of a physical marvel?
Shurmur: "Yeah, he's a freak physically. I think he's always taken good care of his body, but he's one of those guys that's been chiseled since birth. He's that kind of guy and there's a lot of power and explosion in his body. Now he'll run some flat path runs, but in a previous life, he's kind of been a hard downhill runner where he hits it hard and then bursts through the defense. We have to do a good job of tackling him."
Q: Alex Smith has been accurate throwing down the seam. He's thrown only two interceptions. They like to throw to the tight ends. Is there similarity between them and what the Eagles do?
Shurmur: "Some. I think they've got more of a two-back offense than the Eagles, but some of the concepts are the same. We all throw seam balls, and I think they do a good job of it and utilizing the strengths of their tight ends."
The Giants have faced the Redskins 170 times in the regular season since their first game in 1932, making this their most frequently-contested rivalry.