S Michael Thomas -- July 24, 2019
Q: Will you be carrying the brand this year since Odell (Beckham) is gone?
A: No, I donít think I will be carrying the brand. Iím out here working.
Q: This is the coaching staffís second year here. Can you feel that they have more of a comfortability with what the players can do?
A: I think so. Itís year two, so I think everyone is feeling a bit more comfortable. There is more trust, and everybody has a better understanding. The players too. I know for myself, being the second year under (Defensive Coordinator James) Bettcherís defense I understand the why. Why we are calling certain defenses, when we would like to call certain defenses, what the goals are and what we are trying to accomplish. I think that helps everyone. It definitely helps out the organization and the coaches as well.
Q: I see you have a phrase on the back of your shirt, is that this yearís training campís motto?
A: To be completely honest, I walked in the locker room and it was in my locker. Itís new swag, itís Christmas in July and Christmas at training camp so I put it on. Weíll figure all of that out in a second.
Q: Do you even know what it says?
A: I saw (the phrase ďAll BallĒ), but itís just new swag for now.
Q: There are a lot of expectations coming from inside the building, and a lot of expectations coming from outside the building that are very eager about how this team will do. I am sure you are on social media and get the sense, but especially on defense. People look at this team and say ďthey can score but the defense is holding them back.Ē What is your attitude going into this season?
A: I will say this as someone who went undrafted in this league, Iím blessed to see year eight. I embrace that, I love that. Being counted out, not everybody had a high expectation (for me). Everyone in this organization, and everyone in this building, we are ready to work. We are going to go out there and put it on tape. I love having something to prove. In this game, you have to prove something to yourself every day, week in and week out. I love it and I embrace it.
Q: People on the outside, looking in, they see Landon Collins is not here, Olivier Vernon is not here, and Snacks (Damon Harrison) is not here. How can this defense come back?
A: In this league, people change and uniforms change every year. It is a new challenge for us and a new challenge for the 2019 New York Football Giants organization. We embrace it and we accept it. Iím going out here with the guys that we have and putting in work.
Q: Does it require teaching the younger guys more fundamentals?
A: No, we are going to execute and accomplish what Coach Bettcher wants us to do with the guys we got. It is a great mix of vets and a great mix of young guys. At the same time, we expect everybody to go out there and play at a high level.
Q: How are you able to even gauge what you have on the defensive backfield considering the younger guys?
A: You know if guys can play. That is not my job, we have scouts and coaches, but you can still tell when guys can play. Weíll get the opportunity during training camp to go against each other Ė iron sharpening iron. Going against the offense, can they score, or can the defense stop them? Weíll get a chance to see that real quick. We have the preseason and then weíll be ready for the season. Thatís it.
Q: You were such a vital part of the special teams improvement last year, and you also got a taste of the defense. How do you balance that? Iíd imagine a part of you wanting to be a big part of this Giants defense.
A: For me, (special teams) has always been a role in my career until I can break through and become a fulltime starter. Iím ready whenever my number is called. Wherever Coach Bettcher needs me on defense, whatever my role may be for that week, and it alters week by week, I am going to go out there and execute and do it at a high level. Last year was probably one of my best years on defense, and that was year one of the Bettcher defense. I am looking forward to what I can in my second year. But at the same timeóhow do I balance knowing exactly why they brought me here to sign as special teams and help to improve the special teams unit? You canít slack off with that, you have to be the same guy and be the same leader to produce on special teams. You have to make sure all units are running well and that we are actually a factor to help this team win, and not be a detriment. There is much required of you, but you just have to do it, and that is my role. You just have to do it and do it at a high level.
Q: For the better part of the past few years, this team has pretty much been finished by the beginning of the season. How do you guys get off to a better start?
A: You have to start faster. You have to finish games and focus on that finish and have it in your mind from the jump. Understanding that there have been games where itís the fourth quarter and we might let it slip away. Coach (Shurmur) has been preaching that in the offseason. Having that end in mind from the start. Every drill that we do is about finishing. Just having that end in mind is what it is going to take. Understanding that every game we play, it doesnít matter what quarter, but especially the fourth quarter, we need to make sure we finish.
Q: With the veteran guys, you are all DBs. But you, Jabrill (Peppers), (Antoine) Bethea, are safeties. So, communication wise, do the safeties have to take on more? It seems like all of the youth is in one place and all of the vets are in another.
A: I think they put a premium on the position of safety because we do communicate a lot. We need to make sure we line up and do our job, but we need to make sure a lot of other guys are lined up. We communicate the calls and checks, so you want guys who are better field tested. I have said it before in the offseason, it is great and refreshing for me to see Antoine Bethea, somebody who is going on year 14. It has been a while since I have been around a vet who has that many more years of experience than me. To see him, and see how he prepares for practice and communicates, I have been able to step my game up in regard to that with seeing how he does it. With Pep (Jabrill Peppers), itís his energy, heís going on year four. To see how he prepares and to see how communicates is great. Obviously, what I bring to the table as well with leadership, you can see that there has been a premium put on the position and we want to improve our game with that to make sure everybody is lined up and on the same page to execute.
Q: You have a lot of young defensive backs. Like you said, Peppers is going into his fourth year, but you have (Corey) Ballentine, (DeAndre) Baker, and then (Sean) Chandler. Whatís the vibe like in that room?
A: You need a mix. We have young talent but you can tell very quickly who can play in this game. With those young guys, they are hungry and ready to play. We are hungry as well, as vets, but to have that great mix where sometimes they are just going out there and playing ball, thatís refreshing and you love to see that. Then you mix that with the vets who can give them some tips, that maybe even the coaches might not be able to say with the experience of us playing. You mix that together and it proves to be a great mix and a great combination. A couple of the guys, like (Sean) Chandler and Grant Haley, those guys played a lot last year. They played a lot and that experience, going from year one to year two they say is the biggest jump NFL players make. You canít buy that type of experience that those guys got being in those games and being in those close games. Some where we pulled it out and some where we didnít finish. That type of experience is going to help us.
Q: Do you think people underrate the fact that the secondary, in terms of communication, is just as important as it is on the offensive line?
A: Definitely. Thatís the thing with the offensive line, obviously, they have to protect the quarterback, and yeah, thatís impressive. You have to protect the quarterback and make sure that everyone is communicating and is on the same page in guarding the run pass and who they are blocking. If they make a mistake it can kind of get covered up. With us, on the secondary, if we make a mistake that is six (points) on the board. It is crucial that we communicate. I think we are going to put a premium on that and are going to do a great job to continue to work on that.
Q: Do you think that this defense will be better? What does it take to be better?
A: I know for a fact we are going to work. I love the group that we have. It is going to take us communicating at a high level to be better than we were last year. It is going to take us executing and knowing exactly what Coach Bettcher wants from us, and Coach Withers, our defensive backs coach, want from us on a day in day out basis, and on a week to week basis depending on the game plan. Just going out there and being able to make plays. I think we have the playmakers in the room to go out there and make plays and finish.
Q: Do you think youíll be better?
A: Yes, definitely.
Q: Sterling said that this group, as he described it, has a chip on their shoulder after last season. Why?
A: For sure. We are all competitors, just like you all said. You donít want to be in close games and let them slip away. Even though we donít pay attention to the media, you donít want to hear or read about things, or even see things said about you that might not even be true, and also that donít sound good. We have a chip on our shoulder and we want to go out there, and not necessarily prove everyone wrong, but prove ourselves right. Weíll go out there and get the job done.