Q: On Sunday night in Dallas, you will be standing on the sideline for your 19th NFL opener as a head coach. What are your emotions at this time of year?**
Coughlin: "I'm excited, I'm anxious. This is my first game on the sideline as the head coach of the New York Giants, that's how I look at it. I don't look at it any other way. The cumulative, yeah, there's experience there and there's reason to feel confident, because I've been there before. However, it's the start of a new season. It's all new. Look at the team. It's all new. So I look at it that way. I'm excited, I'm looking forward to it. Hey, it is what it is. The season begins whether you're ready or not, that's what I always say. I told the players that. 'Fellas, buckle your seatbelts. Because whether you're ready or whether you're not ready, it's starting Sunday night. You better be ready.'"
Q: Some of the players said you get a little more intense this week. Do you ratchet it up to make sure that they understand the importance of the game?
Coughlin: "No, they have to be ratcheted up, so I'm ratcheting them. We talk about game day culture around here. Well, that's what has to happen in practices. Somebody has to show me that they do get it, because you are playing in a whole different kind of context. It's not preseason. People aren't counting snaps. I start the week off with that one. 'Guess what? You were tired last week with 30 (snaps)? Guess what, you've got 70. Be ready.'"
Q: Judging by the tone and content of many of the questions you get at your news conferences, this was the most calamitous preseason ever.
Coughlin: "They're all negative, everything is negative."
Q: Has this been any different than any other preseason? Don't you deal with numerous issues every year?
Coughlin: "You do, you do. The one that nobody saw coming is with Victor (Cruz). It's not the knee. It's something else (his calf). But as far as where we are and the things that happened during training camp? Sure, every year it's the same thing. Nothing ever changes that way. So for me, what are you talking about? What's different about it?"
Q: The offensive line has been a popular topic all summer. But when you look at the line, you have a high second-round draft choice at center (Weston Richburg) and two first-rounders (Justin Pugh and Ereck Flowers) to his left. So it seems like you've got a lot of individual talent there. Is it just a matter of them now coalescing?
Coughlin: "They have to play together. They have to see what they're going to see on the field. And this is a great place where they're going to see it. These people (the Cowboys) rely on the stunt game rather than pressure, at least on paper going in. Last year, by down and distance, they're not a high-percentage pressure team. But they're going to move that front all over the place, they're not big. They're penetrators, and they're powerful. And then seeing (Tyrone) Crawford, he'll knock the living daylights out of you. Ereck Flowers has this (Jeremy) Mincey guy. I hope he prepares himself, because he's a powerful man for not a big man."
Q: I was going to ask you about Flowers. He's the first Giants rookie to start at left tackle in a season opener since William Roberts in 1984. Do you like what you've seen in his progress?
Coughlin: "I like what I've always seen in him, okay? He's a rookie. He's had good days, he's had bad days. That's got to work itself out. There's no room for a bad day. There can't be a bad day. He's a left tackle with a right-handed quarterback. But he's a competitive kid who fights you. That's not bad to start with. And he's a big man."
>> GROUND GAME GIVES OFFENSE MORE OPTIONSQ: Eli Manning is entering his 12th season as the elder statesman on the offense. Has he taken more ownership for what happens with that unit in terms of leadership and mentoring?
Coughlin: "He's always the same. That never changes. He's always been that way. Totally involved, interested, always coaching somebody. He'll stick his nose in the receiver room or go in with the offensive linemen. That's always been that way, whether it's year four or year 12. That doesn't change. He does have ownership for his team. But he's a quarterback. Quarterbacks are completely engulfed in what they do, because they've got to see, and they've got to react, and they've got to get people in the right (place). All the things that go into the cerebral part of the game before the ball is even snapped. That's what takes their time. (Phil) Simms never said a word. He was busy. Well, this guy is busy. He's got things to do."
Playmakers on Cowboys first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
Q: Is there a corresponding player on defense? Cullen Jenkins, a 12-year veteran who has won a Super Bowl, comes to mind.
Coughlin: "Well, he's done more. Cullen has done more, there's no doubt. It's very much needed, it's needed."
Q: You need those leadership guys to step up.
Coughlin: "We need a lot more than we're getting. We need people to jump up. But it's what they stand for, and their example. And if you're smart enough to be a young guy and plugged into a veteran guy, it's an advantage for you. (Take advantage of it) if you want to be around. Everybody has limitations. So whatever your limitations are, overcome them by virtue of how you take care of yourself, how you prepare yourself, how you are when you go to work. Don't be a 'Nobody is at home' guy, you won't be here five minutes. Who wants them? I don't want them."
Q: Larry Donnell caught 63 passes last season, but seems to dwell more on his four fumbles (all recovered by the opposition). Do you want him still thinking about the turnovers?
Coughlin: "He's got to address it, because every team in the league is going for it with him. This (Dallas) will be the number one team. This is the team that goes right after the ball against him, so he's got to take care of the ball. And it's a matter simply of grasping the ball properly when you catch the ball, and then converting it to the proper position. I think lots of times he doesn't get it in the right spot, and then he can't get it where he wants it. Then, it's vulnerable. That's what he has to do."
Q: If he stops that, do you view him as an ascending player?
Coughlin: "I do. I think it's all in front of him."
Q: So much is expected of Odell Beckham after the season he had last year. Did you ever say to him something like, "Don't feel like you have to light the world on fire. Just play your game, play within the offense." Or do you just let him play?
Coughlin: "Play. Play. Get started, and play. All the stuff we talk about, the things he is in control of, the professional things, that's where he has to step up. He likes to play, and he loves to compete. He's going to run into some different things, and he's got to be able to handle that, too. That's part of maturity, too. That's not going to be as easy. They're not going to let it be. Especially if the other people out there on the field don't balance up for him. Hopefully, (Shane) Vereen can help too there."
Q: You have a new punter (Brad Wing), new return man (Dwayne Harris) and a kicker (Josh Brown) coming off his best season. Are you excited about the special teams?
Coughlin: "I am. I'm excited about seeing us with finally our best foot forward in those areas. I was very impressed with the punter yesterday, he had a nice day."
Q: You seem to have a lot of new components to help special teams this year.
Coughlin: "Yes, and we need that. We need better. That's why we brought Harris in here, for that reason. He's the leading tackler on special teams (last season for the Cowboys). Their punt return team and their kickoff return team, I think, were 13th in the league. Well, we need a top 10."
Q: Dallas has 10 of 11 offensive starters back. The one guy who is not back (DeMarco Murray) led the league in touches and rushing yards. Do you think they're going to change much without him?
Coughlin: "Why? Why? What they've done is they've taken the pressure off the quarterback (Tony Romo). The quarterback had a great year. They're going to run, they're going to run, they're going to run, and hopefully we can do something about the run. The offensive line hasn't changed. That's the reason."
Q: You alluded to this before, but defensively they were second in the league with 31 takeaways. Taking care of the ball is a focus every week, but is it particularly important vs. Dallas?
Coughlin: "No doubt. We've pointed out all the stats with that. We have to take care of the ball. We can't give them any advantage. Any advantage they get, you watch some of their close games. You see even late in the game, all of a sudden, the other team is backed up. They're coming out of their own goal line. Same thing we did over here. You cannot give them any advantage, because they're a 12-4 team."
Q: Do you go into every season expecting the NFC East to be a close race, down to the wire, with every team involved in it?
Coughlin: "I do. I think it's obviously a great division, and historically a great division. Everybody says they do it, they point toward the divisional games. I just keep going back to what Joe Gibbs said to me one time, 'I just hope we've got enough guys left for the following week.' Because that's how they play these games in this division."