EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: You said on Wednesday that it's December, it's time for the players to extend themselves. What exactly do you want to see from the players now that we're in the stretch run?
Coughlin: "I want to see our leadership council group take responsibility not only for practices, but for meetings. I want to see everyone in that locker room spend more time at their profession. Whether it be coming to work early, staying late, taking information home, studying not only the opponent, but the guy that's going to play across from them in terms of strategy in X's and O's.
I don't think at this time of the year - one of the phrases we end up using is, 'Practice until you can't get it wrong.' But it's also that unless you really master and spent time working at your job, it's very difficult to be instinctive. At this time of the year, we should be instinctive. Let's face it, we've played 15 games; even the rookies have played 15 games.
But I do think that because of the nature of our profession, the time of the year, the limited number of games left, and the margin for error being ever so slight, that it requires extra. And I want to see it. I want to see the extra, I want to feel it. I want to feel it in the room. So that's what we stress."
Q: You've been in a lot of pennant races as a coach in the NFL. What does this time of year mean to you? Is there a little bounce to your step, too?
Coughlin: "Well, there's a tremendous energy boost just to have opportunity, and that's what we have, we have opportunity. But nobody does it for you. There's a difference between talking about it and doing it. You have to go on the field, no matter what the circumstances are, and you have to perform at a very high level in order to win at this time of the year. And it doesn't matter whether you've got injuries, it doesn't matter, nothing. If you're going to be a factor, you've got to prepare and then go do it. And you do play like you practice, and we've got to overcome whatever is thrown our way in order to continue to have this opportunity. And there's only five weeks left."
Q: Last week's game was different from some other defeats. It was not decided in the final seconds, but you still had some "what-if" moments. The touchdown in the third quarter you could have had, the late third down you didn't stop...**
Coughlin: "It was a lot different. It's 3:55 to go, we have two timeouts, they have the ball. Get a stop. We just scored twice in the fourth quarter."
Q: It was another disappointment for this team. It's human nature to experience repeated disappointments and become discouraged. How do you guard against that and make sure this group does not get discouraged going forward?
Coughlin: "We got to regroup and come back. And I always challenge them with the same thing at the top of the (practice) schedule, 'It's not about getting knocked down, it's about what you do when you've been knocked down.' Do you want get back up with greater resolve, greater determination? To the point where you will not be denied? Is that the kind of power of will that you have? And you have to have it that way. There's a difference at this time of the year, and those people that have it mentally as well as physically, they've got to overcome."
Q: A lot of people in football believe the offensive line is the heart and soul of a team. When you have injuries on your offensive line and it is not whole, does it affect the entire operation?
Coughlin: "It does, it does affect you. Again, you do whatever you can. You help in whatever ways you can, no matter whether you have to keep people in (to help block), whether your backs have to be involved. Even if it's a four-man rush, you've got to help, you need help. It's all strategically a part of, again, what's being presented to you and what you can do. I told the players, 'Whoever is up has to go play and play at a high enough level for us to have a chance to win.'"
Q: You were asked about Eli this week. Do you have a concern that he puts too much on his shoulders? That he feels that he has to do too much to get this team going?
Coughlin: "No. He's great about it. He knows."
Q: He likes the responsibility?
Coughlin: "He loves it, he loves the responsibility. With this offense, he has a chance to maneuver everything - personnel, play call, everything. Because we've put it all together in that kind of package. I'd love to be able to run the ball; it would help him. I would love to be able to distribute the thing. We had some runs early (last week). And we get behind and we're down, 20-0. You can't waste any downs. You're trying to spark a big play. Right, wrong or indifferent, you are."
Q: You mentioned how many games the rookies have played. Players like Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins, including the preseason, have played more games than they ever have. Do you worry about the rookies hitting the so-called wall?
Coughlin: "You do. But our bye came at what should have been a great time for them. Just enough time to step back, take a deep breath, realize where we are, rest up. And they're young."
Q: You've played two games now without Johnathan Hankins. How have the defensive tackles responded?
Coughlin: "Hank's a big part of the interior part of our defense, and to take him out of there, you're missing a player that has played well for us in there. But again, we have other players, and they've got an opportunity now even for more reps and they have to go get it done."
Q: Odell (Beckham Jr.) was targeted 18 times last week. He's clearly your most explosive weapon. As you watch tape, do you see teams trying to take him out of the game with more frequency?
Coughlin: "At certain times and under certain circumstances, yes. And we expect it. Sometimes, we put him where we know he's going to get doubled, so we know what we've got on the other side. So all of that is part of it."
Q: Yet he keeps producing.
Coughlin: "He's that kind of player."
Q: The Jets don't seem to have a terribly complicated offense; they're either handing it off to Chris Ivory or passing, throwing it to Brandon Marshall.
Coughlin: "It's complicated enough. It's complicated, because they can open up and go from being a two-tight end running game to then going empty with three and four wide receivers and their running back. They do force you under the circumstances of their combinations of personnel to be able to adjust to them. They have weapons, they have some outstanding weapons. So you're always in that position, because not only are they good, they're big. Your matchups are a big deal. Hopefully with DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and with Prince (Amukamara), we can matchup better."
Q: Their defensive front makes you work for every yard…
Coughlin: "Yes, they do. They sure do. They're not bad behind the line of scrimmage with (linebacker David) Harris, either. And they have probably four corners. Now, (Marcus) Williams may not play with the knee, but they have four corners that can match up and run."
Q: The Jets are No. 1 in the league inside the 20-yard line on both offense and defense, which is unusual. What did you see as you studied them?
Coughlin: "They execute very well both sides of the ball. But don't forget, they run the ball well. That's the difference, that's the green zone difference. If you run it, you have a lot of things you can do. So no spilt milk, I'm just telling you, it's the truth. The advantage when they're in that part of the field is that they have a veteran offensive line, they don't make any bones about it, and they have a very powerful runner who is a difficult guy to tackle. Not a bad ingredient."
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