EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Judge's Chambers, Giants.com's weekly interview with Giants coach Joe Judge:
Q: We used to have a coach (Bill Parcells) here that said, 'In New York sports, it's either euphoria or disaster.' After a game like your opener, which you lost to Denver, the players hear what's being said by the football public. You still have 16 games to play. Do you tell them to ignore the noise and keep the focus on their jobs?
Judge: "The emphasis for us is always on improvement, that's the most important thing we can do as a team. Look, I'm in the same mood every Monday regardless of a win, loss, or whatever it is. I'm always in the same mode. I turn the tape on, and all I can think about is, 'Okay, what do we have to correct immediately? The opponents are watching the same tape. What do we have to eliminate?' Also, you have to focus on what do we do well enough to build on as a team and win. Good teams improve throughout the season. Our focus is to improve throughout the season. We're going to be a good team. We've got to keep on working. The emphasis is on the process of what it takes to be successful.
"We have to understand what happened in the game the other day, what we can do to be successful, and then also what we have to improve on to make sure that we eliminate lost opportunities and mistakes that cost us. I'm pleased with a lot of things from the game the other day. Obviously, it wasn't good enough. But there's a lot of bright spots to take out of the game as a team that we can build on. Also, there's obviously things that we teach the team and say we've got to correct this and get this off the map. We've got to do things as coaches differently and better. We've got to do things as players differently and better. The emphasis is always improving. The emphasis is always on the process of what it takes.
"The outside is what it is, that's not our focus. The truth for us is what's on tape. We understand what we're trying to do as a team. We understand what the mission at hand is and how we have to get there. That's the important thing. Whatever happens on the outside, we can't ride an emotional rollercoaster as the rest of world does. I talk all the time, the NFL is definitely a league of extremes. You're either the best or worst every single week. You've got to understand that the truth is not what people on the outside are saying. It's got to be what we do on the inside. We've got to go ahead and make sure that we keep improving as a team."
Q: You've said several times there are a lot of things that happened in the game that you liked and that you can build on. But Giants fans are saying a loss Thursday night in Washington will leave us 0-2 again. Do you always look ahead from a positive perspective rather than the negative?
Judge: "It's a one game season every week. You can't get caught up in what the outside expectations are. You can't get caught up in these extremes. It's a long season, it's a very long season. The important thing is that you improve throughout the season to put yourself in position, and that you're playing your best ball down the stretch. That's what it's got to be. September is a part of the year where you're really finding out as a team who you're going to be. You add new guys to the roster through the 53-man cut down. You get a lot of guys back from injury. You're playing different opponents for the first time and truly seeing new schemes from opponents. You're seeing things that you've worked in training camp that maybe didn't show up in preseason games. You're finding out in real time how effective you can be with those. The biggest thing, in terms of not focusing too much on the record at this point and what it may be, it's a one game season every week. We prepare every week to beat a good opponent. We have a very good opponent coming up, it's a division game this week. Our focus is fully on Washington. Everything that happened in the previous game we take as a lesson, good or bad, and we move forward."
Q: You've mentioned a couple times that September is kind of an extension of training camp. Is that particularly true this year because you had so many guys, mostly on offense, that missed so many camp practices and the preseason and you're still trying to get them to mesh together, like Kenny Golladay with Daniel Jones?
Judge: "I don't want to say anything that makes it sound like excuses. That's not really how we're wired here. That's not what we're going to do, but I think every year it's an extension of preseason to establish who your team really is and build in really what your identity is going to be, in terms of how you can play to be successful and making sure you limit the mistakes, as you go to carry on and be a consistently good team throughout the year. That's got to really go ahead and start showing up as you work through September, building toward that second quarter of the season."
Q: You have only three days between games. How does the preparation change this week? Is it mostly mental? You're only going out on the field once, you're not going to hit, so how do you prepare this week?
Judge: "It's really a series of walkthroughs, in terms of the physical. You've got to rely right now on the conditioning your guys have built up through training camp and what they've done. Obviously, it's a short turnaround. Physically, you're going to get your guys as fresh as they can be. Mentally, it's important to make sure they're on the opponent as fast as possible. They understand who they are, how they play, and then what we have to do to be successful within the game. It's a quick turnaround. You've got to go ahead and get the guys focused on what to do.
"We obviously corrected the tape on Monday. Then, we flipped it over before the players left, and we introduced Washington as a team. We came in Tuesday morning, and in the morning, the schedule simulates a Wednesday in season. It's really the early down focus, punt and punt return, things we would install on a Wednesday. Then, we come back in the afternoon, and it's more of a Thursday. We emphasize and work on third down. We work on kickoff and kick return, work on some hands team situations. Then Wednesday, we come in and we install the red area, short yardage, and goal line. We review all the special teams phases and some special situations. Then, we get on the train and go to Washington.
"So, you've got to get a lot done in a short period of time. The best thing we can do is try to at least mentally simulate some normalcy for our team as they get going. One thing for players and coaches in this time of year is these tight turnarounds right here, you've got to just focus and lock in, and it's going to be a grind. That's okay, that's what we have to enjoy right there. It's going to be a grind for these couple days. You have to understand there's going to be periods built in through the schedule to kind of get everyone mentally refreshed and physically refreshed. You're going to get some time on the back end. You've got to turn around really quickly and shift your thinking from the game you just came off and get into the game you're going to go play. In a lot of ways, these games are fun to turn around. There's a short memory. You get going and playing against the division opponent."
Q: You played well in the NFC East last year. Do you treat every game the same? Do you place special emphasis and talk to the team about the importance of division games, particularly division road games?
Judge: "I talked Tuesday morning to the team just in terms of the opportunity we have to play in this division. I think the NFC East is definitely a different division than other divisions. I say that in a very complementary way, in terms of the cities, the passion, the fan bases, the history, the type of football that has been played in this division, the intensity, the urgency, and just the passion that goes into these games. I think it's important for players to understand that when you play a division game, it is a little different, but you play a division game in the NFC East, it's different than everybody."
Q: So much attention was put on the newcomers on offense, including Kenny Golladay. But it was Sterling (Shepard) who had the most receptions and yardage in the game. He steps up but is sometimes overlooked. What do you like about Sterling?
Judge: "I like that he's a tough player that shows up in big moments and makes plays. He's a guy that puts the team first. He's very competitive. He goes out there and he works very hard at his craft. He's the kind of guy you want on your sideline on Sundays. I was very pleased with a lot of guys' efforts out there and some of the production from a lot of guys, both guys we've had before and guys that are new, so a lot of positive things to build on right there. The guys fought hard. We've got to make sure that we continue putting them in good positions. We've got to go ahead and capitalize on opportunities as a team, but there's a lot to build on from last week. The emphasis is on improvement, so we've got to make sure we keep moving in that direction."
Q: One of the new players is Ben Bredeson, who took most of the snaps at left guard after participating in just five or six practices. What does it say about a player who can play a big role after being here a short time?
Judge: "I think Ben's has done a really good job since he got here of really jumping in the playbook, getting involved, and making sure he understands what we're doing. He's very attentive in meetings and works very hard in practice. I thought (offensive line coach) Rob (Sale), (senior offensive assistant) Freddie (Kitchens) and those guys did a great job with the offensive line and getting them ready. I was very pleased overall from a big picture standpoint of how those guys played. There are some things we have to make sure we continue to improve on. But, in terms of how we game planned to play this game, give Daniel time to get the ball out, they did a good job for us. Ben was a guy that jumped out in that situation. There's definitely some chemistry he's building with his teammates next to him. There's definitely some variations from what he's learned from different systems he's been in, but this guy has done a good job really jumping in and becoming a Giant fast. I love the way he works. I like his intensity. I like his attention to detail. I like his team-first attitude."
Q: You had two unnecessary roughness penalties and a roughing the passer penalty, which are uncharacteristic for your team. Do you have a zero tolerance policy about that stuff? How do you respond to those infractions?
Judge: "We're always coaching and learning off the situation. That's something we emphasize on a daily basis. That's not something that we're going to tolerate from a schematic standpoint and an execution standpoint. To me, there's two types of those penalties. There's the malicious one where someone is doing something that's foolish and selfish. Then, there's the other ones where you've got to really go ahead and correct the technique and explain and teach guys in terms of this is why it got called. We've addressed this before, obviously, you're not doing it the right way. We've got to make sure we drill this better and get it ingrained. We have talked repeatedly about these issues. Then, there's other ones that we need to make sure we have to eliminate from a standpoint of we're not doing things to go ahead and give free yards to the opponent. We're just not doing that. That's not the kind of team we're going to be. That's not what we preach. That's not what we practice. We're not going to accept that."
Q: Usually, when we talk about the opponent, we start with the offense, but with Washington, you have to start with that defensive line. Is that about as talented as a group as you've seen with their four first round draft choices?
Judge: And (Washington defensive tackle Matt) Ioannidis.
Q: And Ioannidis.
Judge: "These guys are extremely talented. This is about as good a front as you're going to see anywhere in football. These guys are explosive. They're long off the edge. They play with a great deal of power. Whether you're talking about (Defensive end) Chase (Young) or (end Montez) Sweat, these guys are different. We saw a very talented front last week. I think these guys coming off the edge are second to none. You see the inside guys with (tackle Daron) Payne and (tackle Jonathan) Allen, they're very athletic. They're stout, they're young playmakers. They can penetrate. They can build a wall. They've got a lot of versatility on how they can be used. Their front is extremely talented. It's an issue you've got to deal with when you play against this team. It's just the reality of what it is. You have to be able to operate up front in the run and pass game to have a chance to be successful against these guys.
"Their front is extremely talented, but I wouldn't take anything away from the other parts of that unit either. Their linebackers and their secondary have great speed back there. They have great instincts and are aggressive players. They do what they do, and they play very aggressive within their system. They're not going to have a lot of variation, in terms of game to game. They're going to be sound in how they play and operate.
"Offensively, they're very talented. To me, you got to start with, obviously, who the triggerman is, the quarterback. I think (quarterback Taylor) Heinicke is a guy that you cannot sleep on. This guy is a gamer. This guy has some of that gunslinger to him. He moves around, he'll find the open receivers. He can extend plays, he can push the ball down the field, which is a big emphasis for this team this year. It's why they went out and drafted (wide receiver Dyami) Brown and brought in (wide receiver Curtis) Samuel, who's on I.R., but when you accompany those guys next to (receiver Terry) McLaurin, you get an explosive receiving corps right there. Obviously, (tight end) Logan Thomas is one of the top tight ends in the league. He's a huge third down and red area target. He's a big body with good hands. He's really grown in the position. The guy was a former quarterback in college. You got to do a good job matching up on this guy and understanding where he is and how they're going to use them.
"Then, you can't talk about their offense without centering in on the backs, (Antonio) Gibson and (J.D.) McKissic. Both these guys are dangerous runners, but they're both very dangerous in the pass game as well, checkdowns, screens, flares on the outside, and creating room to get them in space. These guys are extremely talented. They really know how to use their personnel. They can present a lot of different groupings to you and still be within the same grouping, if that makes sense. They can have two backs out there, which could become like one back and three receivers. They can go from that 21 to 11 (personnel), however you want to phrase it and play it right there."
Q: When you look at Heinicke in last season's playoff game, he appeared to be fearless. What do you specifically see from Heinicke?
Judge: "I think he knows how to find the open receiver and distribute the ball. He's not afraid to take a shot. This guy is very aggressive. He's a tough dude. He can extend plays, he can make them with his legs. Within this offense, with the boots and some of the RPO's they are going to run, this guy is going to fit right in their system and what they're doing. I don't think there's a great change from watching what (Ryan) Fitzpatrick was doing offensively to Heinicke. I think they're similar in a lot of ways. They're different players, they're their own player, but they're similar in a lot of different ways. The common thread I see with both those guys that really makes them effective is their competitiveness and kind of how they just make plays, extend plays, and improvise throughout the game."
Q: (Punter) Tress Way is a Washington institution at this point. You look at his numbers, he's very consistent.
Judge: "First off, he's extremely fast. I think it's one of the things with punters like him and (Thomas) Morstead, they're so fast. It's very tough to get to them and affect them. They have speed on the outside as gunners, which makes it tough for the returner to catch it clean and really get going. He can put pressure on you with big punts and they've got speed down the field fast. You can focus on rushing him, he gets it out fast. You can focus on the return, he gets a really great hang time a lot of times and hangs that thing out there forcing fair catches.
"The other thing you've got to watch out with this guy is there's a lot of hidden yardage with balls that are on the ground and roll. You've got to do a good job as returners of playing the ball on the ground and stopping the roll. Not every punt is a perfect punt. A lot of times, it's maybe a miss hit that will roll, or a ball that he hides, goes opposite, and the returner can't get to. You've got to stop that extra 15 yards on the roll. They get a lot of production out of that. Net punt is definitely one of their strengths. All that's important is net punt, gross punt doesn't mean anything, it's where they're going to start offensively. They're always in the top of the league in net punt, and Tress is obviously a huge part of that. He's been one of the top punters in the league for a long time for a reason. He's very talented, very experienced, very fast, and can really affect the field position."
Q: How do you instruct your returners?
Judge: "You always want to catch everything in the air at all times. The only time that may be an exception is in a plus-50 situation where you're backed against your own end line. You don't want to catch the ball necessarily at your three-yard line. But other than that, you want to catch every ball to always eliminate those rolls. If it's a fair catch or a return, you want to play it in the air. Now, if it's a ball on the ground, you've got to make a calculated decision on if you can field it cleanly, and how dangerous is it with the coverage. You've got to understand if it's clear or cloudy. If it's clear, you can field it and at least get it, possess it, and get down, or get it and steal some yards, great. If it's cloudy, meaning there's someone right on top of you, you have to calculate if you stop can this roll and field this cleanly, or if this is going to be too much of a bang-bang type of play where now the risk is not worth the reward."
View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team.