AUGUST 23, 2021 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 17-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns and plans for the upcoming week of practices against the New England Patriots:
Q: Will you use (Patriots Quarterback) Cam Newton’s situation as a teachable moment for your remaining unvaccinated players? And how much patience would you have in-season if a key player missed a game just because they didn’t get vaccinated?
A: To be honest with you, I just got informed somewhat on the situation as I walked out of the staff meeting, got caught up a little bit on it. I’m not familiar with all the details. I don’t know that I’d be able to give an accurate answer on that. Just to give you the back end of the question, if someone were to miss a game because of any kind of failure to follow protocol – we’ve been very clear with our players the entire time that obviously they have the choice and we’re going to support their choice, but the protocols have to be followed and make sure we’re on the same page. I want to make it clear because I don’t know the situation that happened up there and I’m not going to comment on anybody else’s team.
Q: I know you’ve talked a bunch about (Quarterback) Daniel Jones and playing him or not playing him in the preseason. Obviously, not playing in the first two games is not an indication you think he’s ready, he doesn’t need to play, things like that. Can you talk about the risk-reward and the fact that clearly not playing a quarterback specifically has a lot to do with the risk of getting him hurt, correct?
A: I would say really injury risk had nothing to do with him not playing at this point. The plan all along was to make sure (QB) Mike (Glennon) got as much time as he could in the first game when we played against the Jets, along with a lot of other guys that were in the game. Mike meshed with some of our older offensive linemen, got out there, got some chemistry together with those guys. In terms of not playing this last week, it truly came down to what we thought we accomplished in practice with both the volume and intensity as a unit, along with some of the things that the Browns were doing in the game themselves. To me, him not playing, we initially thought about playing those guys for about a quarter or so. We made the decision based on what they had gone through from a physical load standpoint and intensity. It was a very quick turnaround going from those practices into a full game situation, so we thought this was in the best interest of the health of the players that we held. I made it very clear to the players that didn’t play, not playing is not a reward and playing is not a punishment. We play our players to get them ready for the season and we’ll factor in based on what they did in practice to get them ready for that point. This week we’ll treat more as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. My expectation at this point would be for Daniel to play at least the first half and we’ll decide on what we’re going to do in terms of coming out of halftime later in the week.
Q: I know every situation is different, but there’s a school of thought out there – (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom Brady played a series in the first preseason game, so did (Chiefs Quarterback) Patrick Mahomes. People say where does Daniel Jones get off not playing in the first preseason game?
A: This to me has nothing to do with comparisons to other players in the league or their individual status. This is our team and how we choose to prepare them the best, get the guys exposure to who we thought we needed with different units and different situations, and keep building our team going forward. This is no comparison to any other player and it’s not a reflection on any kind of comparison by any position within the league.
Q: Do you expect Giants-Patriots joint practices to be an annual thing for as long as you and (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) are there? And how are these joint practices different for you than facing anyone else since you’re more familiar with the coaches, the personnel, the way practices are run, etc.?
A: The first part of the question is we have discussed as an organization continuing these as an annual event. This is a team that we play in the preseason anyway, so to continue working with a team that you have an established relationship with is very important. I thought about that last week working with (Browns Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) in Cleveland, the relationship that’s important between coaches that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish and that you can control the practices to make sure your teams are in the best situation to practice competitively, but safely. In terms of the practice format up there, it will probably be some familiarity for our players. It’s not identical, but there are some similarities in terms of the flow of practice and in certain periods. We’re going to have a lot of situational football this week as part of the emphasis going up there and working against New England. This time of the year going into the third game, we’re really making sure that we get the opportunity to go through a lot of situations that otherwise you might not get the opportunity to do in competitive situations because they don’t come up in preseason games. So, we want to make sure that we go ahead and we go up there as a team and execute and operate and gain the experience of going against a foreign opponent before we get into the regular season.
Q: There’s a stat out there that a lot of Daniel’s sacks come on pressures that are quick drop backs, two-and-a-half seconds or less, and that’s why he gets knocked a lot for decision-making. Everybody says he’s really smart in the meeting room. Have you seen his pre-snap decisions improve maybe in the second half of last year and so far in training camp? Is he making better pre-snap decisions to get the ball out quicker?
A: The first part of it talking about the protection aspect, that’s everybody’s responsibility. That starts with the protection up front, the receivers getting open, the running backs in blitz pickup, it starts with the quarterback’s decision-making, so it’s all 11 when it comes to the protection aspect, it’s never just one person. Specifically on the question of have I seen Daniel improve on pre-snap, I’ve seen improvement in his game across the board, pre-snap and post-snap, just understanding and processing. I think it’s something that naturally happens for players, number one, as they go through their career and obviously a few years into his career, and now he’s going to gain more experience every year. And then being in the same system for multiple years to be able to process the decisions and the adjustments as they happen at full speed.
Q: You spent a lot of formative years of your coaching career in New England. You get a chance to go back with Bill. What does it mean to be able to have this kind of joint session with him and will you reflect back on that time when you’re up there?
A: I’m sure it’ll be a little bit different coaching against a lot of those players for the first time, but to be honest with you, I’m a New York Giant. I’m focused on getting our team developed and ready for the season. This is a great opportunity to work against a good opponent, very well-coached, and to go up there and make sure that we hit some specific situations and focuses that both teams need in the regular season. This is really just a great opportunity for us to go up there and work against a quality opponent. This isn’t some kind of trip down memory lane. I wouldn’t bring the team up there for any kind of personal reasons, just the team we’re going to play anyway in the preseason. We know we can get quality work in with them and it should be a week to help our team progress like last week did, and we benefitted.
Q: It seems important for you not to make this a personal thing.
A: The only thing that’s important to me is the New York Giants. That’s what it’s about right here. This week, going up is helping the Giants get better and that’s what our focus is.
Q: I wanted to ask you about two players. The first one is (Safety Xavier) McKinney. Was he calling the defense or just making the checks behind the line of scrimmage pre-snap? And how did he do?
A: I thought he did a good job. I thought he was able to line everybody up and get the communication out there. That was really the main goal of putting him out there, just putting that on his shoulders. Did a good job in some situations for us. (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) calls the defense, but the signal callers on the field echo the call and they make the adjustments to make sure everyone is lined up and on the same page, so that was his role yesterday.
Q: The second guy I wanted to ask you about is (Fullback) Eli Penny and what you’ve seen from him with the football in his hands. That’s something that hasn’t happened much in regular season action. Sometimes it happens and teams have flirted with that in the past. What do you like about that situation and what kind of element does that bring?
A: Obviously, dealing with the roster situation in the offseason, looking at how to add some depth and some versatility to our players, and considering (RB) Saquon’s (Barkley) position as a running back and when he would or wouldn’t be healthy – we weren’t really too sure at that point – we started just talking through the options at running back. Obviously, there are some guys off the roster that we brought in, there’s a guy that we drafted, but then sometimes the answer as well could be on your roster already. Eli is a guy that’s done a good job for us as a fullback. He’s got experience in his career as a runner. Eli is a guy that we just talked about, we talked about last year. Things we did in practice didn’t necessarily show up in the games, but Eli is a guy we wanted to go ahead and use as a runner for us, as well. So, not just that true fullback position, but there’s going to be opportunities for him to play as that back, not just by different personnel groups or different situations. He’s practiced all training camp for us, been kind of a dual fullback and running back and he’s had an opportunity to play in the preseason, as well. I think he’s making progress every week he keeps on working it. Eli is a guy that does anything you ask him to for the team, whether it’s kicking team, offense – I’m sure if we asked him to do something defensively, he’d kind of laugh and do it full speed. I’m pleased with the way he’s worked and the progress he’s made, and, again, building our team’s versatility can only help us.
Q: When it comes to Saquon, are there any boxes that still need to be checked before you guys ramp him up to a more competitive setting? And do you expect to have him on the field next week against the Patriots in the game?
A: That’s not decided yet. We’re going to talk a little bit later today with the medical team. The priority will be to continue ramping him up and doing more and more. Last week in Cleveland, he did some one-on-ones, some pass drills with our guys and against our defense early in practice. We were keeping him out of competitive periods last week, that was by design. We’ll see where he is. He keeps advancing in his rehab. His foot is tapping every day, wanting to do more and more, and physically he keeps progressing and showing us he can do more and more. So, once we talk to the doctors today, we’ll formulate a plan for what he’s going to do in Foxborough through the practices and the game, but I would expect it to be more than what we saw last week. Now, I can’t say that means 11-on-11 or seven-on-seven, I can’t give that answer right now, but as soon as we find out we’ll let you know before the practices happen what we expect him to do that day.
Q: Obviously, I know you personally don’t want to take a walk down memory lane in Foxborough, but I also know you’re a lover of history and how that matters to building your team and what your team appreciates. Just wondering if you’ve prepared any stories or lessons for your guys to see what they’ve built up there and what you were a part of, and how much that reflects on what you want to build down here?
A: To be honest with you and to be completely transparent, I don’t try to get too much into places I’ve been before. I draw things from every experience I’ve had, whether it’s working under Jackie Sherrill or Sylvester Croom, playing for Jim Algeo, working for Nick Saban, working for Bill Belichick. Every coach I’ve ever had the opportunity to work under, I draw from those experiences and I learn, and I try to put them into my own personality and my own philosophy and belief structure. Obviously, there’s a great deal of football that I learned in New England, a great deal of success and memories that I’ve had, but to be honest with you, that’s things for later down the line to sit back and reflect on. That’s not something right now that’s very important to me and to be honest with you, we don’t have time to do that. For me, the history that’s important to me to know is the history of the New York Giants. The thing that’s relevant for the history of this team is reflecting back on some of the games and the rivalry of the Giants and Patriots in recent years, understanding the history of how predominantly the Giants were really the team in all of New England until the Patriots came into existence. And they’re still living up there, a tremendous amount of Giants fans that still occupy the entire New England area because that was the team they watched on Sundays. So, there’s a lot of history that the Giants share in New England right now that I think is more important for our players to understand instead of any personal anecdotes that I can share right there. To be completely honest with you, I’m very careful a lot of times to make sure everyone in this organization knows that I’m not trying to make this team anything but the New York Giants. I’m not trying to recreate anywhere I’ve ever been. I’m not trying to go ahead and emulate or imitate any other program. This is the New York Giants and we’re going to do it with our players, we’re going to do it in our personality, we’re going to do it the way we think is best for us every day and we’re going to work on focusing to make our team the best team that we can possibly be. I have a great deal of respect for everything that Coach Belichick has done up there, I have a great deal of respect for the players who are still there who played for me, I have a great deal of respect for the staff members I worked alongside, but right now my priority and my loyalty is fully with the New York Giants, with our staff, our players, this organization, and I can’t make that more clear to every player, coach and fan. Again, we’ll go up there and face a quality opponent, just like we did against the Browns last week. We’re going to get better as a team through how we’re going to work and the focus is getting ready for a game this week that should help us prepare for the regular season.
Q: You said for the past couple of weeks that Sunday will be your dress rehearsal. Should we assume that what we see on Sunday is your starting team? Is the offensive line set?
A: No, I wouldn’t assume any of that. Obviously, when we get out there on Sunday, it will directly reflect based on how people have performed to this point and where the depth chart has indicated. However, there’s going to be a lot of guys that we’ll be getting one final look at and we have final cuts after that game. We’re going to have to take a look at certain guys in certain situations, see how they mesh within certain units and the chemistry and impact they can bring. But in terms of having a set depth chart, nothing is ever concrete. The best players will always play. If somebody is outperforming somebody in practice, then they’ll play that Sunday. So, just because you see something in game three, I wouldn’t assume that that’s what it’s going to be against Denver in Week One. We’ll make the decisions as we get closer. One thing about this year is it’s a tough part of the year for players and coaches. There’s necessary cuts you have to make by league rules that allow the roster to turn over, and that means losing players and it also means adding new players at times. So, there’s a lot of change that happens over these next few weeks, so we’re going to go ahead and adjust as we need to and make the best decision for the team.
Q: Will (Tackle) Nate (Solder) be back this week?
A: I’ll talk more with the doctors later. He’ll definitely be on the trip with us. We expect him to do more than he did last week in practice. I’ll see physically where he’s at in terms of entering the game.
Q: What can we expect from (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney this week? And at what point would it be realistic for a rookie who hasn’t done much in live drills to need to get in there in order to contribute early in the season?
A: Every player is unique and every story is different. I couldn’t give you some kind of arbitrary timetable for any player coming in of when they can make an impact. That’s really all based on the player, how they prepare and how they execute on Sundays. In terms of his health, he’s progressing, he’s working hard, he’s doing everything our training staff is asking him to do. We’re pleased with the progress he’s making. He’ll definitely be on the trip with us, along with several other players who are continuing their rehab. We’ll talk later today to see if we can build him more into some of the early practice individuals and see if at that point he’s ready to go ahead and progress and do anything more competitive, whether it’s seven-on-sevens or one-on-ones or anything of that nature. I can’t give you a solid answer there, but I would just refer back to the first part in terms of making an impact for the team. Look, it all comes down to how that player plays that specific week. There’s a lot of guys going through spring, training camp, played multiple preseason games, but if they don’t execute on Sunday in the regular season, it’s not going to matter.
Q: Do you think it would be realistic for him to come back a week before the season as a full participant and would you feel comfortable using him?
A: That would all come down to physically if he’s able to do that and then we put him on the practice field and how he performs in practice would give me a comfort level of what I can expect in a game. These are all a lot of hypotheticals. I know it sounds like I’m trying to avoid something, but I’m going to give you an honest answer right there. Until we see him physically when he’s fully back and 100 percent and then see him execute within the game plan for the week of how he operates, that’s the best view I can really get to see what we can expect in the game.
Q: What are you expecting from (Wide Receiver) Kenny Golladay this week and then next week as you progress towards Week One? And are you still optimistic that he’ll be on the field Week One?
A: I have to go off the information that the trainers and medical team give to us. They keep telling me how he’s progressing very well in his rehab, he’s really building up and doing much better on a weekly basis. I don’t think you’re going to expect to see him in 11-on-11s this week. Going to be very similar to what we said about Toney a second ago, how much more he can do? Can we build him in with the team early in practice and will that be reflected in anything we do against the Patriots? I would not expect him in 11-on-11 right now at this point based on the information that I have. That being said, as we progress to the regular season, we’ve got just about three weeks call it, ballpark, until the first game. We’ll see where he goes physically and, again, anybody we put on the field we want to make sure they get on the field and stay on the field by playing healthy and playing effectively at 100 percent. I don’t have an answer for you long-term on that, but I am very pleased with how he’s working. He’s doing everything we ask him to do and he’s making progress on a daily basis.
WHAT’S UP NEXT…
With the New York Giants traveling to New England, there is no media access to the team on Tuesday. The Giants will hold joint practices with the Patriots on Wednesday and Thursday.