The McAdoo Report, an exclusive weekly interview with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo:
Q: Last year you went to Dallas for your first game as head coach. Now you return to start your second season. How much different is it for you now that you have a year under your belt?
McAdoo: "We are confident in the process. So trusting the process is a big part of it. It seems like we are waiting forever to play this first game, and I think just keeping the team focused, keeping everyone focused on the task at hand on the preparation, especially Wednesday and Thursday, is huge for us."
Q: You coached most of these players last season. Does that familiarity give you a stronger sense of how they will play in a season-opening game?
McAdoo: "There are some new faces. There are a lot of guys that we haven't stepped on the field with in the regular season yet. We'll have to see how they respond. We have some rookies, we'll have to see how they respond. But the energy was good for Wednesday's practice and there is a good energy down there in the meeting rooms getting ready for a Thursday practice, and that's important. We need to make sure we squeeze all of the juice out of the orange here in these couple of days, and take advantage of every day leading up to the game. There is a lot of excitement."
Q: You said a couple of weeks ago there is little correlation between the preseason and regular season. Because teams show so little in the preseason, are more adjustments made in a season-opening game than in other games?
McAdoo: "I think it's very hard to be a defensive coach in the first game of the season and the first couple games of the season. There are a lot of new things that offenses can spring on a defense. But defenses that have schemes that they can hang their hat on and lean on those when it comes time, especially if an offense has a script that they have been working on all offseason to get ready for the first game, it helps the defense. One thing that you can draw from the preseason is a chunk of confidence, and I think as a football team, we got a little chunk of confidence out of the preseason in the last couple of games. That may be something we can draw on, but certainly there is no major correlation between preseason games and regular season games."
Q: You have some rookies that are expected to play big roles, such as Evan Engram and Dalvin Tomlinson. Do you say to them, "You have been playing football your entire life, this is just another football game." Or do you tell them that this is not just another game, but it's a big game against a division rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
McAdoo: "I think that's a mistake. I think we need to prepare and be ready to go play a game regardless if it's a division opponent, regardless if it is on primetime TV, whatever the case may be. It is the first game of the year, so there will be a lot of emotions raging during the national anthem. But we just need to remember to breathe, play it one play at a time, and trust our training. If we do those things, we'll have a chance to hold our head high when the final whistle blows."
Photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Cowboys
Q: Do you try not to make one game any more important than any other game?
McAdoo: "I think you get a chance to play one a week, and the game you're playing that week is the most important game of the season. This week is important. It is one of 16. But each week, you go all in for the game and that is important. We have a good plan. I feel good about the plan on offense, defense and special teams. We've got to finish up our preparation and get that part of it right. Practice well. But again, it is one of 16 and it's a great opportunity to go on the road against a division opponent and it's a tough place to win."
Q: You have been in situations when you were unsure if a star player would suit up, as you are this week with Odell Beckham, Jr. The year (2013) you coached Aaron Rodgers and he missed seven games with a broken collarbone comes to mind. The last three weeks he was sidelined, it was reported he might return. The players say they can win without Beckham if they have to. But do they need to hear that from you?
McAdoo: "I think that's a good point. I believe that defensively, we believe we can win every game and hold teams to a low number of points. We have that type of confidence on defense. Offensively, we've shown some signs of doing some good things, but whether Odell plays or not, that's a medical decision. I have confidence in the offense to perform at a high level with or without him. So again, I treat it as a medical decision. I take all of the drama out of it. I don't worry too much about those things. We just have to prepare with the players we have practicing, and go play at a high level."
Q: Fifteen of the 22 starters from the 2016 opener in Dallas will likely start Sunday night. Do you feel like you have a lot of continuity on both sides of the football and how important is that?
McAdoo: "I feel like we have a good nucleus of players who are coming back, whether they were starters or not, and what it does is it helps you elevate the way you communicate in a football fashion. You don't have to start from the ground level necessary this time of year on a lot of things. Your football conversations are more algebra 2 type conversations, not algebra 1 type conversations. So that helps when you get into game plan mode."
Q: Eli Manning has spent a lot of time – on the field, in the locker room, in the weight room – helping Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram learn the team's offense and signals. How important is it to have Manning take on that leadership role?
McAdoo: "Eli might be the best person to prepare for a game that I have ever been around, whether it is a player or a coach. He really immerses himself in the game. He does it for each and every game. Watches a ton of film, he really goes back a ways to watch film. Prepares for every practice, and pulls other guys into it in his own way, and that goes a long way for us. He always makes it about the team. He doesn't make it about himself. He knows that you need to play good offense. To play great offense, it has to be all 11 guys functioning as one."
Q: You have only two players not practicing because of injuries. Does that make practice more competitive because guys don't want to be put on the inactive list?
McAdoo: "I think you see some competition in practice. Guys want to be up. We don't necessarily tell guys going into a ballgame who is up and who is down. We like to see how they practice that week to make the final determination, and that builds for a great competitive practice environment."
Q: Have you told the team who the captains are?
McAdoo: "The voted captains were Eli, J.C. [Jonathan Casillas] and Zak (DeOssie)."
Q: Those are the same three captains you had last season. Can you talk about the captains group?
McAdoo: "The group of captains is a special group of men. Obviously, Eli's history in this building speaks for itself, and a lot of the things that he has accomplished with this team. Just a tremendous pro. Zak, you know he is an all-day, everyday type guy. He's a man's man. He really gets that special teams unit going. He ignites them. He leads by example and he knows how to push some buttons, which is always great. J.C. has been a few different places and I think he has found a good home here. He's a guy who has football get-it. We are fortunate to have all of those guys."
Q: And you will continue to have game-by-game captains as well?
Q: The Cowboys have three All-Pro linemen, the NFL's leading rusher (Ezekiel Elliott), a quarterback who threw only five interceptions as a rookie (Dak Prescott), Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten - when you look at their offense, do you see talent just about everywhere?
McAdoo: "It all starts up front with them. They are good up front. They lost a couple pieces, but they haven't missed a beat. They are very talented there with the guys who jumped in to replace their two departures. They are very good, very physical, and they work well as one. Talented in pass protection, as well. They may be the finest unit in the league. There are a couple others that are chasing them, but they are very good. Obviously, Dak does a nice job. Really jumped in with both feet last year. I'm sure he is a lot more confident going into his second year than he was in his first year, and they seem to be putting more on him this year from a mental standpoint. Zeke is one of the better backs in the league. He is a complete back. He is not just a runner. He can play, he can protect, he can play in the pass game, and he's very explosive and dynamic when he gets into space. The perimeter players, what makes them unique is they all complement each other well. They have a big receiver in Dez. They have the quick twitch receiver in Beasley, who can get open in a phone booth type guy. They have Witten, who is a consistent pro, a future Hall of Famer who can do a variety of things for them, including block, which he doesn't get a lot of credit for. They have some other role players that come in and do a lot of good things for them. So they are very talented. One of the better offenses in the league."
Q: They ran 51 percent of the time last season. Does balance in and of itself make an offense harder to defend?
McAdoo: "I think yes, certainly. I think the offenses that do what they do best are usually the biggest challenge. When you have balance and you can do both well, it makes it really hard to defend."
Q: Their defense might play eight linemen, and Sean Lee is always around the ball? When you watch tape, what stands out about Lee?
McAdoo: "Sean Lee fits the mold for them in that stack backer-type position that you go back and you take a look at it. (Lance) Briggs played that role in Chicago. Lee is playing it for them down here in Dallas, and they do a lot of line stunts up front and they play very fast. They play hard up front. The backers get a chance to run free. Sean Lee, where he grew up (near Pittsburgh, as did McAdoo), a lot of linebackers are born. He has a nose for the football. He has a knack for it and he doesn't miss many tackles when he gets there. Good defense. They are locked in, they play hard, they strip the ball. That's one of the things they do the best. They really rally to the ball. They are as good as anybody in the league in ripping it out and creating turnovers that way."
Photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Cowboys