ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The entirety of the New York Giant’s core coaching staff spent some time with the media today as the team prepares for a week three match up with the San Francisco 49ers.
Transcripts of all four interviews can be found below.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: I’m curious when you bring in a guy like Devonta Freeman, your first impressions of him at practice yesterday? Then you guys kind of go from having a bell cow back in Saquon to now a committee. You guys ran a lot of committee backfields in New England. What are some advantages to that sort of situation?
A: I think you just use whatever you have on your roster, whether it’s a guy like Saquon, we still have Dion Lewis who we rely heavily on, and Wayne Gallman who we rely heavily on. Obviously, Saquon’s situation, we all feel for him. He’s going to work his butt off to get back here as fast as possible. We’re happy to have Devonta. The thing I see with him is he’s a ball guy. You can tell this guy has a lot of passion for the game, he has a lot of experience, he plays hard, he practices hard. I was very impressed yesterday out at practice with the fire he practiced with, the attention to detail, how fast he picked up on a lot of our system. He’s an experienced guy, but sometimes experience in other systems doesn’t always translate over to knowing the alphabet of what you’re doing. But he really did a good job of understanding what we’re doing in practice, being able to get in the huddle, break the huddle, know what to do and do it very effectively. It was very encouraging on day one.
Q: I’m wondering, we hear so much about next man up. I’m wondering do you say anything to Wayne Gallman when you sign Freeman about why he doesn’t get that same chance to be the bell cow first? Also, I think I’ve heard you say in the past that your running backs need to be productive pass catchers. That’s an area that seems to have held Wayne back a little bit. Where is he in that regard?
A: I think Wayne does a good job for us in the pass game. So does Dion, and Devonta will help there as well. Obviously, when you have any kind of injury on the roster, it’s just natural that you’re going to look to go ahead and fill that spot for the need of the team. We don’t feel any need to explain to every player because within every game plan, every player has a role. Anybody coming in doesn’t replace somebody else who’s already here. They just add to our team. There are different strengths to every player brought in. We’re going to have to work to make sure we play to every player’s individual strengths. But we’re relying on all three of those backs very heavily, along with Eli Penny, along with the guys we have on the practice squad as well. All three of them have to play an integral part of us having success. We have to get Devonta caught up in our system. He’s done a good job of that so far. Wayne had a good day of practice for us. He did at training camp for us, as well. Dion’s been a steady player for us. He’s a tough dude who has a lot of vet experience, and he’s a great teammate.
Q: The question about backfield by committee, if some guy comes out and is ripping off yards, does he become the guy?
A: He may be the guy for that moment. Maybe he’s the guy for that game plan the way things are working and clicking. But I’d say within every specific game plan, we’re going to always look to use all of the players we have at the game, and make sure we have enough combinations to go ahead and create advantages for ourselves.
Q: With Logan Ryan, I know when you signed him, obviously, you were very familiar with him. You knew what he brought to the table. You’re sitting here in Week 3 and you’re selling the message about no white flag yesterday. When a guy who has gone through what he’s gone through, Logan, in different places and won, how much more weight does his voice carry in that locker room with the guys buying into what you’re still trying to sell now Week 3?
A: I think it’s important for players to learn from each other’s experiences. It doesn’t have to be somebody who specifically went through a system with me, or someone from the same tree as me. I think it’s just important that people learn from their own experiences, but also sharing each other’s experiences. Look, it’s a long season. We have a long way to go. It doesn’t matter what the record is. There’s a lot of improvement that has to be made across the board. Logan is definitely a respected guy in our locker room because of how he works, by how he prepares himself, and about how he holds himself. The benefit of having Logan here more than anything else is he’s a really good player for us. That’s the number one benefit. Number two, he’s a really good teammate. He’s helped with the communication on the backend, and he’s really helped bring along a lot of guys with him because he’s just that kind of a veteran player. He’s done a really good job in preparing himself and making sure we prepare as a group and as a unit, and that’s really benefited the team. Personally, I love having Logan around here. He’s fun to be around. I’ve known him since he came into the league. He’s known me since I’ve been a very young coach. We kind of grew up in a lot of ways together, figuring things out and certain things working on special teams at some point. But Logan is a guy that’s great to have on the practice field, he’s great to have in the games. He’s gone through a tremendous amount of adversity. He’s come out on both ends at different times. This is a guy, his experiences in Tennessee with going into a new program with Mike (Vrabel) and putting together a program that took a little bit of time to get rolling but eventually it paid off and they’re still moving in the right direction right now. What he went through in maybe New England through different phases of his career there. He has a lot of experience to lean on and share with other teammates. But really, all that’s truly relevant for this team is what we do here. We can learn from the experiences in the past, we have to learn from what happened in the last two games, but we have to take those experiences, learn from them and move forward to make them beneficial going forward for our team.
Q: Isaac Yiadom was obviously in a difficult position coming over. He had been practicing in a completely different defense on a different team, then he got sent to you right before the season started. I’m curious how you’ve seen him handle that? I noticed his playing time increased. Is he a guy you knew anything about before you guys brought him in?
A: Yeah, I’d say I knew about him coming out in the draft. You know all the players coming out in the draft, we study them at that point. Then we knew about him from being in the league and his days in Denver. But I would say he’s really done a good job of getting into our system and proving an understanding of the techniques with the big picture concepts as well. He’s made a lot of improvement, he’s playing aggressive, he has that mentality to him. I know now he can play more confident and aggressive just with some experience in the calls and how we’re looking to play with him. I’m glad Ike’s on our team. He’s a tough dude, he works hard every day, he’s good to have in meeting rooms, he’s great to have in the locker room.
Q: Just the other day, you said Jason has to put some ways to get Evan out there and get him the ball, and you guys are working on that. Without Saquon in the passing game, obviously, without Sterling, what do you mean by that, Jason has to figure out ways to get Evan the ball?
A: I wouldn’t look too far into that. I understand the way it came out and the way it was phrased. I wouldn’t look too far into that in terms of that. It’s just when we put together any game plan, obviously, we’re thinking with our players in mind. We’re putting together schemes that kind of fit up to what the opponent does as well. Look, we’re trying to get every player on our roster the ball, not just Evan. Obviously, when you get all of our players, they have the ability to make plays. Evan showed that the other day. I wouldn’t read too far into that quote. There was nothing kind of undermining the thinking about that. That’s just kind of thinking in general of when we get together and hash out a game plan, we’re thinking of ways to give our players advantages and make plays.
Q: Do you see Evan in some ways as a little bit of untapped potential? Everyone knows what he can do with the ball in his hands, but it’s getting him to that place.
A: You know what I look at him as? As a developing player. I think Evan’s young enough where we have not seen his best ball. But he’s a guy that works every day tirelessly. You guys saw him through training camp. This guy really empties the tank. You see him every day in practice. This guy, when you look at his GPS reports after practice in terms of yards and speed and all of that stuff, he’s a guy you have to monitor and kind of back off a little bit because this guy has no governor on himself. He goes full speed all the time. He works tirelessly. The guys respond to him. He does a great job preparing himself. He’s very mentally tough. He’s improving all the time. A lot of guys got on him after that first game in terms of where the production was. I think we saw a glimpse of that last week. He really made some good plays for us at key times, and he’ll continue to do that throughout the season when the opportunity comes his way. He doesn’t have to force it. He doesn’t have to do anything outside of his own responsibility or job. When the play comes his way, he has to be in position to go ahead and finish it. We have confidence he will.
Q: We were talking to Daniel yesterday. He talked about how when the team came off the field, Saquon was in the tunnel waiting for everybody. Obviously, he’s not going to be on the field for you guys. Do you want to keep him around? How does that process work with what he’s going to be going through in the next three months? Is he going to be at the game on Sunday?
A: Without question, we want to keep him around. There’s a lot of protocols and rules this year that we have to look into in terms of how can we give him access to maybe the sideline or a booth or a box or something like that. But as much as we can have him around here, we absolutely want him to. This guy was elected captain by his teammates for a reason, and he’s an integral part of this program. He’s a very positive guy, he’s a very team-first guy. Again, the adversity he’s going through right now, he’s going to work as hard as he can. I can say that with absolute confidence. I’m very anxious to see him on the backend coming out of this thing, because I know the aggressiveness he’s preparing with. But absolutely, we want Saquon around here as much as he can. Now with that being said, day to day with his treatment and rehab and when he goes through surgery, that will obviously change his schedule a little bit. But working around his schedule, he is a part of this team. He’s a part of this team, and we want him around as much as we can have him.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
Q: When you lose a back like Saquon who is so multifaceted, how do you scheme around that when your offensive line is struggling? How does Devonta Freeman fit into what you guys need to do?
A: I just think you go back to work with the guys that you have. We have a lot of confidence in the backs that we have here with Dion and Wayne and those guys will certainly get opportunities. For us to be able to sign a guy like Devonta Freeman is a real bonus for us. He came in and had a good workout the other day and practiced well yesterday. We want to see how he handles the work as the week goes on. He’s obviously been a really good football player in this league for a while. He’s a smart guy, he’s a football guy, he’s instinctive. We’ll try to get him up to speed as quickly as we can and just keep going back to work,
Q: You’re coming from a place where you had Zeke and now you had Saquon at least for two weeks and building a game plan around him. What are some of the advantages to having that committee approach that maybe people on the outside don’t understand?
A: I just think the biggest thing you try to focus on as a coach is who do we have and how do we best utilize these guys individually to take advantage of their talents. Also, how do we utilize them so we can be the best offense we can be. If you have a guy like Saquon Barkley, a lot of the offense is going to go through him. He’s going to get the ball a lot, he is a really good player. When I was in Dallas, we had to defend him a lot. The focal point of our defense was number 26. When you have different guys in the roles, maybe the focal point is not quite as narrow on that particular player. Maybe that works to your advantage a little bit. Make no mistake about it, Saquon’s a great football player and he’ll be missed. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the guys we’re putting out there.
Q: One of the things Joe said about the 49ers yesterday was that they don’t give up a lot of explosive plays. You’re an offense now that is missing two of your homerun hitters, so to speak, with Sterling and Saquon. Do you need to find those long explosive plays or can you get by on taking baby steps down the field and piecing together long drives?
A: They’re an excellent defense for a lot of different reasons. They’re really stout up front, they’re disruptive in the running game and obviously can get after the quarterback. Their backers run well and their secondary is awfully good. It all fits together. They believe in their scheme and they play it really well. Another part of playing that is they don’t give you a whole lot of stuff. They certainly don’t give you a lot of big plays. Against a defense like this, you certainly look for ways to make big plays. The correlation between making explosive plays in a drive and scoring is pretty high in this league. When you don’t make them, it’s much more difficult. I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the first couple of weeks of having some long drives. You have to mix in some explosive plays within those drives. That’s how you score points in this league. We’re always finding ways to do that. This week could be another challenge against an excellent defense.
Q: The last drive against the Bears, Daniel threw the ball in the endzone on that last play and even then, I think Golden was at the goal line. Were you comfortable with the way he managed it? Do you or him need to take another shot at the endzone there?
A: I thought he handled it really well. You want to get yourself to a point where you can take a makeable shot to the endzone. We had an opportunity. I think we were out there in the low teens, to get us a little closer so the last play could be a legitimate shot. It really was a legitimate shot. They had a three-man rush and Daniel broke the pocket. If you look at the history of the NFL, a lot of touchdowns are scored on that kind of a play, where the team is playing zone and because the play gets extended, the zone breaks down a little bit. The quarterback is able to make a play and the receiver on the other end is able to find a hole. That’s a little bit of the design of the play and we had a pretty good opportunity at it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
Q: Coming out of training camp, there were really high hopes for Evan Engram. In the first six, seven quarters, he was pretty invisible. The fourth quarter on Sunday was like what we were expecting. What changed?
A: You just have to keep banging away, you really do. There were some plays in the first game and the early part of the second game that certainly Evan would like to have back. You keep playing, you keep banging and he’s done a really good job working hard in practice. He’s playing hard. He had some opportunities as that game wore on and he took advantage of them. He won some one on one matchups, he made some runs after the catch that were impressive for us. Big, explosive plays like we’re talking about. He’s certainly going to be a big part of our offense going forward. Just love his approach, love everything about it. He’ll get better and better and better the more he plays.
Q: We saw a lot of zone read, RPO’s in camp with Jones. You seemed to have gotten away the first few games from it. Is there a reason for that or is it something you are going to look for down the road? Can you explain that?
A: I think typically there is a lot of stuff that you put in over the course of training camp that you like. Maybe you don’t like certain things each week. Obviously, we game plan for opponents. We try to go into the plays that we have both in the run game and in the pass game that we think are appropriate to attack a particular defense. We have a long way to go offensively, we all know that. We have to get better running it, get better throwing it. Some of those “deceptives” that you are referring to, when they fit into the plan, we’ll certainly use them going forward.
Q: You spoke about the importance of those explosive plays which correlate directly to points scored in this league. Can you be the offense you want right now without getting those plays from Evan? No Saquon, no Sterling Shepard. How important is he to this offense at this point?
A: It was better the second week than it was the first week. Obviously, we played against two good defenses that challenge you, Pittsburgh and Chicago, among the better defenses in the league. I do think we did a better job making some of those explosive plays in that second game against Chicago. The run action stuff was really good for us that we used on early downs. You saw Daniel making some plays in the middle of the field, whether it was to Darius or to Golden or some other guys. Evan made a really nice play with the run after the catch and explosive plays. Again, those are a big part of scoring in this league. The best offenses I’ve been around have different guys who are capable of doing that. We feel like we have guys who can do that, and we just have to keep banging away. Making big plays has a lot to do with trying to put your players in the right position and simply executing. I think we’ve had some opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of. We’ll keep trying to get those opportunities for our guys.
Q: Being the lowest scoring offense in the league through two weeks, is it not fair to judge that yet because there was no preseason? So, are we really looking at a preseason development of an offense so to speak? Do you have to press the urgency button right now?
A: There is always a sense of urgency obviously. What you’re trying to do with each phase of your team is you’re trying to put yourself in the position to win a game. Some games are going to be more lower scoring games because of the team you’re playing or the style you want to play. Other games, you might want to open it up a little bit more. Obviously, we need to score more points. We need to be more productive of an offense. Moving the ball on a more consistent basis, scoring points on a more consistent basis and that’s what we’re trying to do. You go about it each and every day, you come to work, and you just try to improve. You try to improve day by day, week by week. We’re certainly trying to do that with all aspects of our offense.
Q: I don’t have to tell you, coaches obviously have to deal with injuries and adjustments every week, maybe every day in some cases. In the case of someone like Saquon who was such a big part of your running game and passing game, I’m sure when you installed your whole offense, Saquon was one every page. Is there a point where you have to sit down with Joe Judge or your offensive staff and kind of regroup at some point after this ACL and say we have to change a lot here? We have to figure this out and then just go ahead and do it.
A: I think you’re always trying to do that. You have an offensive system that’s flexible enough to adapt to different situations that you have. If you have a player you want to feature either in the running game or the passing game, you have to be to able to do that seamlessly within your system. We believe we have a system that allows us to do that. In Week 1, we didn’t have Golden, so we used more three tight end type sets to try to take advantage of some looks in Pittsburgh. Last week, you try to do some different things against Chicago with the guys you have available to you. You’re always doing that, you’re always evaluating who you have, who you’re going against and what you want to do. Hopefully your system is flexible enough to do that. Obviously, Saquon is a great, great football player and really impactful player both in the run game and the passing game throughout his career. He was going to be a big part of what we wanted to do this year. Now we have to adjust. Again, we feel confident in the guys we have behind him in Dion and Wayne and now Devonta. Give those guys opportunities both in the run game and the pass game from that running back position. Also get some other guys involved in the passing game to help us try to move the ball and score some points. Pittsburgh was a really good defense. Chicago, really good defense. San Francisco, really good defense. We’re going to play really good defenses all year long. We have kind of keep figuring it out, keep growing day by day and week by week.
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: I just wanted to ask you about this 49ers run game, really the Kyle Shanahan run game. Why does it seem like no matter what running back is in there, they’re super effective?
A: It starts with, one, they’re well coached. I think they do a good job. But that’s not to diminish the skillset of the players. I think they do a good job of evaluating guys, where some people might not have seen the value. Not even that, it’s the guys they want for their system. I don’t know those guys that well, but it does seem like whoever they get, they plug them in there and they can play and they present problems. They probably have a checklist of what they’re looking for. They probably go out there and evaluate, whether it’s through the draft process, free agency, guys being familiar with guys from other teams and just say, ‘hey, this is a guy that fits the mold for what we want.’ They do a great job.
Q: Isaac Yiadom is a guy you guys traded for right before the season. He was a third round pick for the Broncos, he started for two years and then they traded him right before the season for a seventh round pick. I’m curious when you get a guy like that who has kind of been through that kind of journey, do you say, ‘come in and prove the Broncos wrong for giving up on you’? Is that a conversation you have with them?
A: Is that the motivation? No, because I don’t know the reason why. They might have had needs somewhere else. It’s all about the value. I can’t speak for those guys. But do I use that as motivation? No. I’m just happy he’s here. He’s a big corner who can run, who can tackle, has some speed and plays physical. I’m just glad to work with him.
Q: How has he handled that quick turnaround? He got traded to you guys right before the season and then got thrown into the fire pretty quick, obviously.
A: He’s working hard. Extra time in the meetings with our younger coaches like Mike Trier and (Anthony) Blevins working with him. He’s getting all the coaching he can take and just trying to catch up because he wasn’t here for the spring, the Zoom call part of it, and he wasn’t here for training camp with us. But he’s catching up.
Q: Where do you stand at that number two cornerback spot, on the outside across from (James) Bradberry?
A: Guys are competing. Whether it’s Corey, Ike, Slim, all those guys are competing for the spot. We’ll figure it out, see what happens on Sunday. But we still have two more days left of competition. I know the guys are looking forward to practice here today. Usually what we do, we just evaluate it as the week goes through. Then you get to the game and if there’s some place that you need to change there, we’ll do that. But I think it’s just an on-going competition right now.
Q: It seemed like Corey Ballentine was benched after the touchdown. He really didn’t play much, if at all. What was the thinking behind that and what have you seen from him early on this season?
A: I know yesterday, Corey was working really, really hard in practice. I saw him running to the ball yesterday. I’m proud of the guy. A young player going out there practicing hard, working on his skill. I thought he did a good job there. In the meetings, he’s been great as we try to get caught up on the 49ers and the receivers we’re dealing with from them. Corey’s preparation in terms of what he’s doing right now to get ready for the 49ers has been good. He’s practicing hard and I’m sure he’s ready to go practice today.
Q: Are you content with his play on the field, though? That’s also part of the equation, right?
A: I’m not content… We all have to get better. I’m not going to single him out. I have to get better. Patrick Graham has to get better. We’re in the early part of the season. I have to do a better job of coaching, I have to do a better job of calling the game. That’s how I see it. Everybody has to get better. Any time we get complacent in this league, it might be your last day, it might be your last year. Who knows? But I’m not ever going to get complacent. I’m never going to let them feel me getting complacent. We have to keep improving. Am I content? I hope not. I hope not. If I do, then I’m probably at the end of my career.
Q: You guys have been pretty good against the run, but that last drive, obviously, you end up forcing a long field goal. But the way the Bears were able to run the ball on that last drive, that’s kind of contrary to the identity that you guys want. I’m just wondering, what went wrong on a drive like that in giving up chunk plays like that, especially when you know they’re kind of trying to protect their quarterback and how do you guard against that happening again?
A: I think the first thing is, watch the tape. I think about the 49ers, this is the best rushing team in the league and we have a great challenge there. I can speak for myself, but in terms of wanting to get back at it, we have a big challenge this week to get back at the run game because they’re going to give us a healthy dose of it. If we want to get better, which is always the goal, that’s what we’re dealing with right now. It starts in the meeting rooms and the film room going through it, practice yesterday with pads on, getting the physicality of the game and working through the run game. That’s the main thing, just putting the work in for it. Obviously, when you give up rushing yards, especially when you know they want to run it, that’s not what you want to do. It all falls back on me. I have to do a better job there putting the guys in a better spot. But I can tell you this, we’re working to get better at it right now. Those guys, they worked their tails off yesterday at practice, working hard. But again, I don’t want to talk about it because talk doesn’t mean anything, especially when you’re talking about the run game. To me, talk about the run game means absolutely nothing. We have to go out there on the field and execute. I’m looking forward to practice today, build upon that, and see how it comes to fruition on Sunday.
Q: I wanted to ask you, Ryan Lewis, obviously you guys brought him up to the active roster this week. I know he’s somebody you have history with. How does he fit into this equation and the backend? Is he an option to kind of be on the outside for that second cornerback spot opposite Bradberry?
A: You’re going to find I’m very simple when it comes to the corners. Can they tackle? Can they run? Do they have toughness? Being with Ry Lew for a while, I know he can run. That’s a given. I know he has toughness and he can tackle. He’s in the mix. I’m telling you, you can’t have enough of those guys in this league, a passing league. We’re going to be dealing with a lot of the run game right now and that’s what we have to defend, but it’s a passing league, so any of those corners who can run, tackle and have toughness, they have a chance with us. I’m looking forward to it. He’s been competing, competing pretty hard yesterday in practice. We have a big day today with some of the situational football. Yeah, he’s definitely in the mix.
Q: When Blake Martinez came to the Giants, he said that in Green Bay he was more of a cleanup guy and he was looking forward to being more of an impactful guy near the line of scrimmage. We know Martinez is going to get a lot of tackles. We know that. What do you see from him as far as the quality of his tackles? Is there anything you can maybe help him with to make more tackles at the line of scrimmage, tackles for loss, things like that?
A: The thing about Blake, I think I said this before, I’m not really concerned about last year. No offense, but I’m not concerned about last year. Blake’s trying to get better every day and he loves to be coached. I think Blake is playing at a good level in terms of getting to the ball, controlling the defense, manipulating the front, he’s being physical at the line of scrimmage. I told him, I said, ‘you look fast out there, you’re playing with your hands, you’re being physical.’ I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that he probably has two or three plays he wishes he did better. Add the plays that I think he maybe should have done better. I know this, yesterday after practice, the physicality when we had pads on, he was trying to get that done. I appreciate how he goes about trying to execute and how he goes about working every day. He comes to work to get better every day. How can I help him? Like all the players, whether it’s him, Devante, Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, I’m just honest with him. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it isn’t, it isn’t. The beauty about Blake is he usually knows when it’s not good enough so he works hard to get better. If it is good enough, he thinks he can do it even better. I couldn’t ask for more as a coach. How much can I help him? Putting him in the right spot, be honest with him. But the relationship is he helps me more than anything, because he’s a good player who can execute. He helps me more. I just try not to mess him up.