*The McAdoo Report, an exclusive weekly interview with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo: *
Q: Whenever a team has a rough start, the players are asked if the locker room is fracturing. Is that a concern of yours? How much do you rely on your veteran leadership?
McAdoo: "I think we have talented men of integrity throughout. We lost a couple close ballgames there, the last two right at the end. We're playing better football. We have yet to put a complete game together, but we have character. Our locker room has a lot of character. Guys are sticking together, staying positive. Guys are fighting through and the leaders are fighting and that certainly helps because a lot of the young guys will follow when the leaders fight. The biggest concern is guys can't get numb. You have to stay emotionally engaged and we can't get used to this feeling."
Q: They talked against battling adversity and how their backs are against the wall. Is that the type of attitude you want from them?
McAdoo: "Absolutely. Adversity introduces a man to himself. You really get to learn a lot about yourself and your teammates when you get off to rough starts. We still have a lot of football left to play, and we're still working hard to seek that first win. Everything is correctable and we have to have confidence in ourselves and our teammates so we can get this thing going in the right direction."
Q: Your focus is on the next opponent, but do you ever talk to them about the big picture? You still have three quarters of the season to play. Nothing has been decided.
McAdoo: "We talked about the fact that we have a lot of football left to play. Some of these rookies haven't played. We have 12+ games left and they haven't maybe in their career played this many games. So it's a long season. We have a lot of football left to play and we're going to improve as the year goes on. That's something that we've talked about early and often, that we got to get a little bit better each week. We just have to find a way to come up with a win."
Q: You said earlier in the week when you looked on the tape, it looked like sometimes the players are pressing or that they're hesitant and that you want to simplify things. What does simplifying things do? Does it make them play more instinctively?
McAdoo: "I think when you do simple better, it gives the players a chance to let their natural instincts come out a little bit more. You reduce the thinking as much as possible. Give them a chance to go out and play fast, stick their foot in the ground and be more physical and aggressive up front on both sides of the ball, and let their natural talents come out."
A look at the playmakers of the Giants' upcoming opponent
Q: Do you have to guard against making your game plan too simple? Is that a concern?
McAdoo: "No, it definitely isn't a concern. We're more worried about us more than the opponent. We feel if we go out and execute at a high level, then we control our own destiny. It's important that we play in the framework of how we want to play. Keep penalties to a minimum, that's important for us. Play physical, play heavy handed, win the turnover battle."
Q: You haven't scored in the first quarter yet. It didn't really affect you the past couple games. You scored 24 in the fourth quarter in Philly and 17 in the middle quarters at Tampa Bay. But if you could get a couple of scores early, what do you think that would do psychologically for your team?
McAdoo: "I'd love to find out. That's something we'll have to see how this team plays. We've been working hard at the beginning of games. Things haven't panned out early for us. We've moved the ball. It's not that we haven't moved the ball. We just haven't finished drives. Getting points early in the ballgame would be a big boost for our football team, and playing with a lead would be something that we would look forward to. As the games have gone, we have fallen behind early, we've really had to battle back in the second and third quarters the last couple weeks and expend a lot of energy to do that, and take the lead. We've taken the lead in ballgames four times. But we haven't been able to extend the lead once we've gotten the lead. We just need to play with the same sense of urgency that we do in the second and third quarters throughout the game."
Q: How much could your defense improve, especially against the run, simply if you tackled better? And how much can you work on tackling throughout the course of a normal week?
McAdoo: "Come to practice (Thursday). We're going to spend some time working on tackling. We're going to have a bigger emphasis on wrapping and rolling on our gator roll tackles. And we are going to thud up good in the team periods and make sure we get some work on thudding, on wrapping, and on releasing. Again, we don't want to take guys to the ground. You only have so many running backs on your roster, so we can't be teeing off on our running backs. But it's important for us to improve as a tackling football team. Blocking, tackling, catching, punting, and kicking are all important, but nothing is more important than tackling."
Q: You have said you have been practicing well, what are your thoughts about not being able to take what you have been doing in practice into the game?
McAdoo: "People always want to compare 2016 to 2017. After four games this year versus four games last season, I don't think we are that different of a football team. We just found a way to close games out in a couple of ballgames last year, and we haven't been able to do that this year. I'm confident that we will be able to do that. We have the men in the locker room to get that done. We have the scheme to get that done in all three phases, it's not just one phase. But I have confidence in that area and everything is correctable."
Q: You were asked yesterday about the defense's inability to stop opposing tight ends, but opponents are having a difficult time stopping your tight end (Evan Engram), too. Are there more good tight ends now around the league than you've seen recently?
McAdoo: "I think it goes in cycles. For a while there, it was very hard. You go back to 2009, 2008, there were some good tight ends coming out of the draft. Some playmakers, some special weapons. And there really has been a little bit of a dry run there. Recently, you've had some dynamic guys come out, some playmakers come out. Some guys that can change the score of the game as well as offer you skills in blocking.
"That's where Evan shows up. He works hard at blocking, he works hard at special teams, and he can make plays in the pass game. When you have a tight end, whether it's here or anywhere else, who's a playmaker in the pass game, it provides challenges for the defense, because the game is about players and the game is about matchups. The more guys you have that create matchups, if you give the quarterback time, he can move the ball and put points on the board. So you have to figure out from a defensive perspective who can wreck a game. Is it the number one receiver if he's a 4.4 receiver or a 4.3 receiver that can run down the field, you better make sure you tilt that safety to him and have coverage tilted to him so you know where he is. And you may have to double him, because he can change the game in one play. If they have another receiver who's a good player, you may have to do the same thing, so all of a sudden, you have two guys you have to match up on. Then you have to stop the run and all of a sudden, the third or the fourth piece is that tight end, and if he's dynamic even underneath maybe not as a vertical threat, but even underneath, he can have a big day against you. But it may not hurt you as much in the grand scheme of things as some of the receivers and stopping the run."
Q: Has Evan brought to your offense what you hoped he would the day you drafted him?
McAdoo: "Evan's a young player. He's learning each and every day and he works at it. He gets football, he likes football. So that helps. But he is a young player and he has a lot of learning to do." Q: You've had to make a lot of changes on your offensive line and you might have to make another one this week if Weston Richburg can't play. The center is in charge of communicating on the offensive line. Is Brett (Jones) ready to step in and handle that?
McAdoo: "We have guys in that room that we have confidence in, and they've been here with us for a couple of years. They've earned the opportunity if Weston (Richburg) can't play to be the next man up."
Q: Did you have auditions to be a fullback and Kerry Wynn won? How did you pick Kerry Wynn to play fullback?
McAdoo: "You got me to smile. Kerry Wynn is one of the better strikers we have on the team, especially on special teams when you see him in space. And we thought that's a good skill to use for the fullback position."
Q: You're preparing to face the Chargers. The strength of their defense is in their front with (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa. Are they similar to each other?
McAdoo: "No, they are different. Bosa is a big, long man built a little like (J.J) Watt. Has some size to him. He's a good run defender. He's a physical player and he has some length. Good athlete. Ingram is an explosive player. He likes to play on two feet so they can play him on two feet or bring him out of a three point. They'll move him around a little bit. But he's very explosive. He can run. He has some dynamic traits as a pass rusher."
Q: Having two of those guys on the line, how big of a challenge is that for an offensive line?
McAdoo: "They're very challenging. They're good run players and good rushing the passer and they can move both of those guys around, too. They are not just in one spot. So we'll always have to know where they are at all times."
Q: Except for Travis Benjamin, all of their receivers and tight ends are 6-2 or bigger. Does that in itself create a problem for a defense when you have so many tall receivers? Or is it more the skill than the height?
McAdoo: "It's tough to cover big men. Their target radius is huge. They have a variety of guys that fit that mold. They're friendly targets for the quarterback. So even when they're not open, he (Philip Rivers) has a chance to complete the ball and that's a huge challenge for the defense."
Q: When you watch Keenan Allen, does it look like he missed a year with his ACL? He has two 100-yard games already.
McAdoo: "I think he's one of the most underrated players in this league when he's out there and healthy. I think he is a special talent. He plays the game faster than whatever he timed the 40 at. He can cover some ground. He can stick his foot in the ground and drop his weight for a big man, which is usually hard to find. And obviously he has tremendous hands, big hands. He's a good hands catcher."