NOVEMBER 29, 2021 JOE JUDGE PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Joe Judge addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 13-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles:
Q: I’d like to talk to you about (Safety) Xavier McKinney. Could you talk about his progress from last year, where he missed so much time and played a little bit at the end of the season, up to this point? How much of a safety net has this kid become for you and (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) when you guys go into that cover 3 and he’s playing that deep half?
A: I think that’s critical. You’ve got to have someone back there in the deep part of the field, number one, who has the range and ability to go ahead and play the deep part of the field sideline to sideline, but then also someone who has the awareness and instincts to get there and get a good jump on it. The reality is that the arms of the quarterbacks in this league are better than the feet of the guys tracking them down in the deep part of the field, so you’ve got to make sure you get a good jump on it, take the right angles, and have the ball skills to finish. I’d say in terms of the overall development, Zay is a very, very intelligent player. Very intelligent. He’s a guy that when you evaluated him coming out of college, you saw him all over the field making plays, blitzing, playing the deep part of the field, matching up in man. He’s got a really, really, big skill set. For us, we can use him in a lot of different ways. At this point, the most effective thing we can do with him for the betterment of the defense is playing a lot of the deep part of the field. That being said, yesterday, we also moved him down towards the box in different schemes, things of that nature. (Safety) Julian (Love) does a good job in the deep part of the field when Zay’s not back there, as can (Defensive Back) Logan (Ryan), as well. But this guy really has done a good job overall for us working within the scheme of the defense, really developing in his ability as a signal caller. I’d say for the last two weeks with Logan not being available, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to really go ahead and develop his voice within the defense in terms of on the field command and tying things together. He’s a guy that when you put him out there, he’s not afraid to open up and he’s not afraid to play fast. This guy plays aggressive, makes a lot of plays and he plays very confident. I’d say that really ties into how he practices and prepares throughout the week, so really pleased in the way he’s working, really pleased in the development he’s having as a player. I’m really pleased with how he is to the coaches and the teammate he is within the locker room. That’s something you don’t always see on the field or on cameras, but this guy is really a tremendous guy to have in the building.
Q: I’m sure if we asked the guys on defense, they’d say, ‘Give us 10 points and we’ll try and hold them and win every game.’ I’m guessing that you don’t think that that’s a sustainable formula for victories in this league?
A: No. Look, we’ve got to keep trying to score more points. I was pleased with the way the offense came together last week in terms of working together, coming up with a plan. I was pleased with the way our players responded and went out there and were able to get the ball in the hands of a lot of guys. Had some plays to push it down the field – I think we had eight or so plays over 17 yards, so we were able to go ahead and move the sticks and spread the field a little bit. That being said, no one’s ever satisfied. As coaches, you always strive for the perfect game. I’ve never seen one of those that exists, but that doesn’t stop us from preparing every week and demanding execution and perfection in terms of how we go about it. The offensive staff is in here right now already preparing, getting on to Miami and looking for the best ways for us to go ahead and put the players on the field to go out there and make plays. We go very thoroughly through the game from the day before, make sure that we go through everything, not only what we did, but also what the other teams are watching, how they’re going to try to match us up and take advantage of things we put on tape, so we correct those. That being said, to speak directly and answer your question, we’re going to try and score as many points as we can as an offense. Some weeks it may be more than others, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be satisfied with not scoring a lot.
Q: Obviously, we made a big deal about last week being a short week. Now that you have a more traditional week, will there be more of a chance for the guys to put more of a thumbprint on the offense and change even some more things up?
A: I think as we go through the remainder of the season, there’s going to be a little bit of evolution just with the usage of our players and the personalities of some of the coaches within the play calling and the development of the game plan will probably come on out. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s going to be flipped on its head immediately, but over the course of time that will naturally take place. That being said, having a normal week does allow a lot more freedom to kind of get in there and kind of dig into some different things. Yesterday being, obviously, a transition week and the first week of doing this for the coaches as well as the players, you couldn’t go in there and really radically change it too much. There are some little things that you found schematically to make a difference. That all being said, on a short week it’s not realistic that we go in there and just flip everything over.
Q: (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) had that big run the other day that looked pretty good, but his overall numbers obviously don’t really jump off the page the last two weeks. I’m curious how you think he’s looked coming off that ankle injury and if he’s close to being back to himself?
A: I see Saquon doing a lot of things and he looks like an explosive athlete. I’m pleased with the way he’s working and preparing and getting ready for the games. I’m really proud of the way he’s being a leader on the team. For a guy like Saquon, you’ve got to find a lot of ways to get him the ball. For a running back, obviously, naturally you want to hand the ball off to him as much as you can, but also with a guy like him it includes being used in the passing game and also how he can be used in different elements of the game, being an effective blocker, things he does when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. His overall contribution to the team will be significant and that’s obviously a big focal point in terms of getting him involved in the game and letting him get the ball as many times as he can to make an impact.
Q: You and (Dolphins Head Coach) Brian Flores obviously spent some time together in New England. When people say about you and about Brian and about some others in that group, you’re a part of the (Patriots Head Coach Bill) Belichick coaching tree, the whole coaching tree deal. Do you cringe at that? Do you embrace that? Do you say there’s more to it than that? That whole deal, you and Brian coming together here.
A: I think some of the tightest relationships you have in this business are the relationships you have when you’re broke, grinding with somebody. Brian came into this league the same as I did in kind of a bottom of the totem pole type of position. We were given the opportunity to work and had the opportunity to work our way up. He certainly did that and I had the opportunity as well to do that. I think it’s when you’re kind of grinding through those long hours and stressful times and going through some adversity together is when you really form strong bonds with people. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Flo, I really, really do. He’s very, very intelligent, he’s got great command, he’s a great leader, his players play the right way, they respond the right way, he pushes through adversity. I think he does all the right things. In terms of the whole question on the coaching tree, I don’t think we talk too much about that specifically. I think it’s just guys you’ve worked with you learn how they think and you learn what makes them tick. You can see their personality come out in their players. You can see it when they demanded it as a position coach, when they demanded it as a coordinator. You can obviously see it being demanded as a head coach, as well. Tremendous amount of respect for Brian. We worked together for a significant amount of time. When you work with somebody, you go against them at the same time within practices at different points in your career, compete with it, you talk a lot in meetings, you talk philosophy and strategy, you talk personnel leading up to the draft – that’s probably some of the best conversations I’ve had with Flo. He was evaluating linebackers and safeties and I was working heavily with special teams throughout a large part of that, so we have a lot of crossover with a lot of players. To be able to sit down with each other in terms of how you see the players, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, how you see them really kind of fitting and making an impact in the organization or what would limit them from being in a significant role. So, really having those conversations were really beneficial for, I think, both of our developments because you have to hear different perspectives to learn how different people see things and it really kind of opens your eyes to different avenues. In terms of that whole coaching tree question, there are a lot of guys that we worked together that I take a lot of pride in watching them have success. We’re playing the Dolphins this week, but there are a lot of guys, and Flo being one of them, that when we’re not playing them and they’re on the other side of the other conference, I do root for. I do pull for those guys.
Q: When I look at the Dolphins, I see a team that’s really invested in the secondary. When I see you guys, I see a team really invested in the secondary. You guys are both maybe top-6 in defensive back spending on the salary cap. How much of that comes from New England, where you had (Falcons Safety Duron) Harmon and (Former Patriots Safety Patrick) Chung and (Patriots Safety Devin) McCourty? I think a lot of people think you build a defense front to back and it looks like maybe you, New England and Miami build it back to front. I assume that’s not a coincidence.
A: No, that doesn’t happen by accident. That kind of ties into what I said a second ago in terms of philosophy and what you believe in. Ultimately, it’s a passing league and there are different ways of affecting the quarterback. When you talk about building a team and you talk about building a defense, building your defense really builds two-thirds of your team. It’s your defense and your kicking game. The majority of your players in the kicking game are going to be defensive players because by nature that’s what they do, they run, they hit, they play in space. When you look at the structure of the defense, it’s no secret Miami, New England as well, and us, we play a lot of sub defense, so a lot of nickel, dime and things of that nature and that’s a heavy matchup defense in a lot of ways. To be able to be truly fluid through game plans, you have to have a variety of skill sets and body types to go out there and have depth to be able to play it, and really that starts in the secondary. You can use the secondary to supplement different parts of your team, as well. If you’re light on linebackers, how are you using some of your bigger safeties? If your pass rush is an issue, how are you using your secondary to either slow down the release of the quarterback or also be part of the pressure? That just kind of ties into the philosophy and the construction of the team as a whole. Good safeties, good corners – in this league, can’t have too many of them.
Q: And then yesterday you end the game, that last drive you had (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson and (Defensive Back Steven) Parker and rookies and practice squad guys stepping up there on that last drive. What does that say to you in the secondary?
A: It’s all about the development of your players. I talk all the time about how we’re going to have a number of young guys develop and a number of guys who may have started on practice squad and it’s their job to be ready and to develop, so it’s our job to put them in a position and go out there and execute. Look, I’m happy with the way a lot of these young guys are really developing and working. Through the course of the time, it’s a long season, you need everybody on your roster, and that includes your practice squad, to be ready to play because at some point you know they will.
Q: We ask you so much about earning the respect of the fan base. Yesterday it felt like there was an energy in the stadium that I haven’t felt in a while. Did you guys feel it and what did you think of the way the stadium was yesterday?
A: I thought it was awesome, I really did. You wake up and all of a sudden, the cold air is hitting your face. It feels a whole lot more like football season, you know what I mean? You go out there and it’s got a gray overcast, it’s cold, it’s got that damp feeling. You’ve got people in the stands wearing their knit hats and heavy coats and stuff. It kind of looks a whole lot more like football season to me. Great energy, great passion. It should be that way when you play an NFC East home game. That’s the way it should be. We’ve got to give the fans something to cheer about. I say it all the time, we wanted to make sure we went out there yesterday and had the guys fighting for 60 minutes and put the guys in a position to be successful. I’m proud that we were able to go ahead and finish the game the right way and give the fans something to cheer about.
Q: With Julian Love, how rare is it for a guy –I know you love your versatility and your multiples on the backend, but Julian can go from free to strong to play the nickelback. He’s all over the field, but not just week to week, it’s seemingly play to play. What about his game allows him to do that?
A: I think it starts with his intelligence because you can’t have that kind of versatility if you mentally can’t handle it. It’s actually a lot to ask, it really is, for someone to kind of have the flexibility that he brings, and we want to build that in, that versatility. He’s a guy that when we first got here, we hit him with that and what we wanted to do with him as far as the plan and he really embraced it right away. You don’t always know where it’s going to go when you first get a player for the first time and you start going through it. He’s definitely a team-first guy, so whenever you come to him on Wednesday and say, ‘Hey Jules, here’s your plan for the week.’ All he says is, ‘Yes sir,’ and he just gets rolling to it. He goes out there and he practices tirelessly and does everything he can. Then within the game, he has the ability to change matchups, change positions, change schematically. He doesn’t have a lot of hesitation with that. He’s very confident in knowing he’s an intelligent player and he sees the big picture, and then he’s got a skill set. He’s played corner. He’s played the star. He’s played safety in the deep parts. He’s played safety in the box. This guy’s done a lot of stuff defensively, so he’s really prepared to play all those things. He’s good in zone with good vision, understanding where he’s got to be. He’s good in man because he’s got that corner background. So, his versatility, it really is rare, and you try to build on it. Some guys have two-position versatility. Jules is really a guy that you say any position back there, he’s got to be ready and available to play. He’s done a really good job for us stepping in the last couple of weeks and playing and he’s shown a lot of improvement, and because as he keeps improving, he allows other guys to have more flexibility in what they do, as well. That ties into guys like Zay and guys we were talking about earlier. The other thing about Jules is that that guy’s going to be the special teams player of the week or one of the special teams players of the week for us. The guy went down there and had multiple tackles, really covered fast for us. He’s a personal protector on punt team. He’s a signal caller and that’s basically the quarterback, the MIKE linebacker of the special teams. This guy’s got a lot of responsibilities on his plate, so to balance it from defense to the kicking game, there’s a lot of things on his plate. He just comes in on Wednesday, gets the plan, prepares and goes out there on Sunday and he’s one of those guys on a Saturday night you don’t lose any sleep over.
Q: I’m going to ask you real quick, you talked about the offense before. I want to know when you went back and looked at the tape – you mentioned the mini chunk plays, but you didn’t really get the real downfield, big downfield plays and it didn’t correlate to points. So, I’m wondering what you saw that kept you from scoring points? And then I’ll ask if you don’t mind the obligatory injury question to finish.
A: So, I’ll answer the injury one right now. To be honest with you, we’re still waiting on kind of some of the finals from the doctors. Really, with all the guys coming out, there are some little bumps and bruises. A couple guys, obviously, like (Cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson) was removed from the game, (Linebacker) Trent Harris was removed from the game, they didn’t return. Trent came back and then was back out again. For most of those guys, including (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard) Shep, (Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney) KT, (Tight End Kyle) Rudolph, guys that weren’t active for the game, it’s going to tie more into just when we see them Wednesday and Thursday and how they move around. So, we’re going to have to see these guys and can they get on the grass and how they feel. We don’t have anything right now that we would rule anybody out. We’re hopeful for all the players right now. All the guys that weren’t active this week all made progress throughout last week, so it puts us in a position that as we start game planning, they’ll be part of the game plan until we’re told otherwise. In terms of the offense and the points, I was pleased with the way we did push the ball down the field and we got some things going. Some of the bigger ones will come with time, but Philadelphia did a really good job of really playing deep over top on a lot of things and taking that away. I thought Daniel did a good job of hitting some of the underneath things that weren’t necessarily just checkdowns, but some of the underneath routes that were in-cuts with (Wide Receiver Kenny) Golladay or hitting the slant right there when he was lined up as number two in a trips formation to give us an opportunity for a play that could have been a big breakout play. Saquon on the iso, hitting that thing down the sideline for a big chunk run for us, so there are some plays that came here or there. In the red area, there are some opportunities with Kenny in the end zone right there. We’re going to keep on having guys that are going to go ahead and start leaning to Kenny and maybe open up other opportunities for us. We’ll see what the defense presents us with right there, but those things will come in time. We’re not going to be sitting back here on our heels and waiting for them to show up for us, but well look for opportunities to get our players in a position to force it down the field. Not afraid at any point to go ahead and throw that thing down the field, I assure you on that right there. I was pleased with the progress the guys made. Guys are in here working hard right now, so when the players show up on Wednesday, they’ve got the best plan going forward.
Q: Real quick, is Logan coming back this week?
A: He’s in the building today.
THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum:
WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.