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Graham Gano, New York Giants (September 19, 2022)

Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS RE-SIGN JAYLON SMITH…
According to press reports, the Giants have re-signed unrestricted free agent inside linebacker Jaylon Smith to the team’s Practice Squad. Last season, the Giants signed Smith to the Practice Squad and then 53-man roster in December 2021. He ended up playing in the last four games of the season with two starts (60 percent of the defensive snaps in those games), finishing with 18 tackles, one sack, and one pass defense.

Smith was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, who cut him during his fifth season in October 2021. He then spent a month with the Packers before they cut him in early November 2021. Smith has played in 74 regular-season games with 58 starts. He made the Pro Bowl in 2019.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 BRIAN DABOLL PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants Head Coach Brian Daboll addressed the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 19-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers (the VIDEO of the press conference is also available at Giants.com):

Q: I want to ask you about (cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson). When you have a corner playing at the level he’s at, what does that do? How important is that for you guys’ defense?

A: It’s important. He’s really done a good job since we’ve been here. I think he’s bought into what we’re trying to do. I think he’s had a really good camp, and that’s led into a strong start to the season. I have a lot of confidence in him, and I’m glad he’s part of our team.

Q: And just specifically, the way you guys are going to play with so much pressure and so aggressive, you really can’t do that probably if your corners aren’t capable of f playing on an island. Like some systems, you maybe hide a corner; it feels like here you probably can’t.

A: I think (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) does a good job though of mixing up. There’s a variety of way to play to pressure, as I know Wink has talked to you about. You can bring only four guys and consider it a pressure and do different things on the back end in terms of your coverage systems. I think Wink does a good job of mixing that up, and Adoree’s been a very dependable player for us.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the start of the last two weeks. The offense has kind of gotten off to a slow start as compared to the second half of the games. What can you do to maybe expedite things a little bit, get them going on a faster tempo and being more productive as far as scoring opportunities?

A: That’s an important part of the game for us is trying to get off for a fast start. That doesn’t always happen. The last two games are the only two games to go by in terms of the regular season. So, we’ll continue to work at that and put together some good openers. It takes everybody – the coaching, the playing – everybody. And it’s something we’ll work on.

Q: Is it possible that you might consider like an up-tempo or a no huddle offense to kind of jump start things?

A: I think we go into the week and the game trying to put together the best plan we can. And I think the offensive coaches do a really good job. Again, we haven’t had the results that we’re hoping for, but I believe in the process and the preparation that those guys do. We’ll continue to try to do a better job at that.

Q: I know you’ve been talking about competition and that leading into playing time and the way players are used in the games since training camp. A lot of coaches talk about that, not a lot of coaches always follow through on that. It seems like they just throw everybody out there the way things were. A – do you think that players believed you before the season started, that that’s the way you were going to treat things? And two – is it difficult for the players to accept that kind of role?

A: I think those are two good questions; I think they’re best questions for those guys. All we try to do is the very best we can as a coaching staff; we have high standards in terms of going out there, preparing well, practicing well. Each week is a different week. I know we talked about this yesterday. The receivers, Slay (wide receiver Darius Slayton), he was active but had a few reps. Kenny (wide receiver Kenny Golladay) didn’t have a lot. And if you look at the defensive side, sometimes it’s planned. You know, (inside linebacker Austin) Calitro had five. In the previous week, he had 40-plus. So, we’ll try to do what we think is best for our football team. I think that’s the most important. I think you just are open and honest with the players of what their role is, what they need to do to improve and let those guys go out there and compete it off each week. Again, we’re kind of at the introductory stages of our program and what we’re trying to do, and I think competition is the best thing for everybody.

Q: When you make a decision when it pertains one of the highest paid players of the team, do you have to check above you to make that call? I’m talking about Kenny, obviously. Do you have to check with (general manager) Joe (Schoen) or (president and chief executive officer) John (Mara) and make sure that’s okay?

A: Joe and I collaborate on pretty much everything in our building. I bounce ideas off of him; he bounces ideas off of us. I think something we want to create is as competitive of a team as we can. And regardless of where you’re drafted, how you got here, how much money you make, we believe in everybody goes out there and competes, and we play the guys that earn the right to play that week.

Q: Any (defensive lineman) Leonard Williams update?

A: It’s his knee. But it’s better than it could be. So, he’s day-to-day. He said he feels a lot better than he did yesterday. He’s walking around, so we’ll just take it like we normally do with these things each day. So, hopefully he’s a fast healer.

Q: So that day-to-day means?

A: Day-to-day.

Q: Another defensive question for you, I guess two parts. What did you think of the way Dane Belton (safety) played, and how did his play allow you to do some different things defensively with (safety Xavier) McKinney and (safety Julian) Love?

A: It was good to have him out there. I thought he played fast. It was his first NFL play, and he recovered a fumble there on the kickoff. He’s been a guy, as a young player, that’s been right in the back hip of those guys when he was injured. You can tell his preparation paid off. Just like a lot of the guys, there’s certain things he can improve on, like all of us. I thought he played fast. It was good to have him out there in terms of the defensive packages. I think that’s something each week. You go into a game, offensively you look at things. What do you like to do? How do you like to match up? We certainly do that there, and Wink does a great job, along with the defensive staff, of figuring out what we need to do for that particular week. So, for this week, it was good relative to how Carolina played the weapons that they had and the matchups we thought were in favor of us if we played it a certain way.

Q: A bunch of your players in the locker room, and you said it before, they said one of the keys to this team is they’re not afraid of failure. I’m not 100 percent sure what that means, but are there examples of that that you coached in yesterday’s game that show us that you’re not afraid of failure?

A: Well, I think that you can get bogged down in this league pretty quick by making a mistake and letting it affect the next play. The other thing I think for play callers is you put together a plan you prepare during the week. You explain it to the players, and then when you get into that situation, I’ve been there before, (you think), ‘Oh boy, should I really call this?’ I think (offensive coordinator) Mike (Kafka) – I think that was a great example at the end of the game there with the pass play that Mike called and put it in DJ’s (quarterback Daniel Jones) hands. I think we really had good communication from Mike to the quarterback. Again, that was discussed probably a couple plays before. He knew the play he wanted to go to. And then those two plays, back-to-back plays, where (safety) Tony Jefferson made the tackle on (Panthers running back) Christian McCaffrey. That was a great play; one of the plays of the game that allowed us to get to third-down and get that sack with Julian (Love). Pretty aggressive play calls, I’d say both on Mike’s end and on Wink’s end. So, again, I want them to be themselves, play fast, play free, move onto the next play. We all make mistakes. I’m probably the leader of that. Once you make them, don’t let it linger. Move onto the next play. The next step is the most important.

Q: Would an example of that (be) – tell me if I’m on that mark with this or not – about maybe not worrying about consequences and have the conviction. You call for (running back) Gary Brightwell, Mike makes that call. (Running back) Saquon (Barkley) is in the backfield. So, if Gary Brightwell drops the ball or gets stopped for no gain, it’s easy for me to come to you and say, ‘Just give it to Saquon.’ Isn’t that the easiest thing to do? Why do you give it to a guy that has one career rush? So, is that also like, ‘I’m not afraid to fail in that situation because I believe in this play?’

A: Yeah. I think – well again – our job as a coaching staff is to do the very best we can to prepare those guys and put plays in that we think are going to work. You’re never sitting up there at night drawing up a play going, ‘Boy, let’s call this play. We only got probably about a 10 percent chance to hit it.’ You spend a lot of time on it. Do they all work? Absolutely not. There’s been times where – let’s just call it a gadget-y play or a trick play or maybe something’s that a little bit unique that I’ve called – that it hasn’t worked. And you can’t worry about the criticism that you’re going to get with it if you believe in that play and you think that’s the right thing. And that happens quite a bit, but you have to, again, have conviction in it. That’s why you’re putting the play in or the defense in or the special teams play in, and you just don’t pick it out of a hat. You work at it. You evaluate it. You practice it. There’s been times where you think it’s going to work. You go out there and practice it a couple times during the week, and by Friday night or Friday after practice, you’re throwing it away. So, that’s the job of the coaching staff. That’s what we’ll always try to do here. And I’m pleased with how those guys prepare and the preparation that they put in, much like the players.

Q: How difficult is it as a play caller when you’re not having success with the run to stick with it in the second half, and how would you evaluate Saquon’s game yesterday? Obviously, it wasn’t the same numbers as the first game, but in many ways, it was still very effective.

A: That’s always a challenge. And again, I think it just depends on what you’re trying to get accomplished. Obviously, Saquon is a big part of what we do and what we want to do. And when you go into half and there’s eight carries for zero yards, I just put myself in Mike’s shoes. You’re going, ‘Oof. We’ve gotten zero yards on eight plays.’ But Saquon’s one of our best players, and again, the running game in this league is not always pretty. Maybe it’s two, maybe it’s zero, maybe they’re doing different things that they’re getting in the backfield and hitting us for a couple losses. But again, I think kind of how the game’s flowing, that dictates some of the things. We were in a close, contested back-and-forth game. The big thing for us, obviously, how that game was going, was let’s take care of the ball; let’s continue to feed 26 (Saquon Barkley). And a couple of those runs you saw later that got hit for a minus one, squirted around the corner off the edge for a big play. And then he had another one. So, he’s certainly a guy that’s important to our offense. And is it tough at times when you’re not gaining yards? Sure – I’d say particularly as the play-caller. But again, that falls back on your preparation plan and your commitment to the players, particularly your really good ones.

Q: How hard is it when Leo gets hurt? It seems like you just flipped the defense to a more nickel and dime package. I mean, how hard is that to do? You went with two linemen almost the rest of the way.

A: I think that just is a credit to the coaching staff. Again, being prepared for really (anything) – you’ve got to have contingency plans when things come up. Adjust, and communicate it on the sideline. That’s a strength, I’d say, of Wink’s and the defensive staff. I’d like to say that’s a strength of all our coaches. I have a lot of confidence in that regard, and on top of that, it’s the next-man-up mentality. So, every person on our roster is important from the practice squad players to the backups to the starters because you never really know during a game what you’re going to need. And that’s why their preparation throughout the week is really important in terms of being a pro, understanding the gameplan. And when they have an opportunity, like I’d just say say Ox (outside linebacker Oshane Ximines). We talked about him last week. He’s had his opportunities, and he’s made the most of them. He was the backup guy, and he was behind (outside linebacker Kayvon) Thibodeaux and (outside linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari), and all that guy did was work his tail off all offseason. And I think he’s reaping some of the stuff that he’s done. And that’s how you want all your players to be.

Q: I’m just going back to (a previous question) and what he asked about Golladay, the contract and everything. Have you felt the need or has John Mara asked you to ask about playing time for one of the higher-paid players on your roster? I know you did not bring him with you, he was here when you got here, but have you had that conversation with John at all?

A: I’d say this, Joe (Schoen) and I talk about a lot of things. Mr. Mara has been great in terms of Joe and I have handled a lot of the football things. Obviously, you’re going to have communication with your ownership group on a lot of different things, we certainly do. I think we have a good relationship in terms of communication. Again, whether it’s the highest-paid player, the lowest-paid player, the highest draft pick, an undrafted free agent – we’re going to go out there and let the guys compete it out. One week doesn’t necessarily mean this is what’s going to happen the next week. I think everybody understands what we are trying to do as an organization in terms of continuing to get better, competing for spots, working as hard as you can work. Again, I’ll just say (wide receiver) David Sills has done a good job. He’s done a good job and he’s earned some of his playing time and each week is a competition.

Q: I’m just curious, the way offense has evolved in this league – Is there really such a thing as a gimmick or gadget any more in offenses in the NFL? How have you adjusted to that idea of no play is too gimmicky or too cute with the way you guys want to run things?

A: I would say that if there’s a good play out there that we can research, it’s worth our time to research. Calling gadget-type plays, I think there’s a time and a place for them. It makes the defense defend the whole field, and I would say if I was down the street at a high school game and saw a good, cool-looking play, I would research it. There’s a lot of good coaches in this profession starting with little youngsters to high school to college to pros. The minute you think you have all the answers because you’re coaching in the National Football League, that’ll get you real quick. I think be open minded, do as much research as you can and if you think a play is going to give you an advantage regardless of special teams or offense or defense, you owe it to the players to do that research. And if you believe in it and you think it’s going to work, then you call it.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • RB Gary Brightwell (Video)
  • S Julian Love (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
The players are off on Tuesday and there is no media access to the team. The Giants return to practice on Wednesday afternoon (12:45-2:45PM).

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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