Head Coach Joe Judge -- August 19, 2020
Q: When you invest so highly in a kid like Andrew Thomas, do you ever walk up to him and say ‘Look, you’re going to be my left tackle. just prove it to me’?
A: Look, everyone in our program understands they’re on the same footing right now. Everyone has a chance every day to compete and earn a job. There is no one player that’s different from everybody else. We’re not just saying that. It’s what we believe in, it’s how we run this program. Everyone comes to work every day knowing that if they produce, they will play.
Q: I know it’s still a couple of days away, but have you given any thought to how you’re going to structure Friday’s scrimmage, intrasquad scrimmage, whatever you’re calling it?
A: Yeah, we are. The biggest question right now, and we’re going to decide this as we get a little bit closer tomorrow night, is the ultimate play count we want to get for each player individually. What we’re going to do is we’re going to split the squad in terms of just offense vs. defense. We’ll structure the first part almost like a normal practice with individual periods to get them loosened up, get the pads up, a little bit of 7 v. 7 to get the blood flowing. We’ll do some offense vs. defense with the pass rush. Then we’ll just go ahead and turn it over to some situational things. We’re going to make sure we get plenty of work in the field on early downs, some third down work, some red area work, some short yardage work. We got the goal line yesterday. If it comes up naturally in the scrimmage, we’ll work it again. We’re not going to look to recreate that situation on Friday. Then we’re going to go ahead and put the ball down and just let them play it out. First and 10 on the 25 (yard-line), let Jason (Garrett) call plays, let Pat (Graham) call the defense, have T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) bring the special teams units, and just play it out. We’ll make sure each unit gets a certain amount of plays. We’ll go ahead and have certain drives that start at certain yard lines, and we’ll just make sure we get the play count that we’re looking for. We’re going to check physically to make sure we know where our players are at before we throw them out there on Friday. We’re looking to go ahead and give everyone a chance to compete and put on tape their resume.
Q: I’m wondering what you’ve seen from Daniel Jones on the field. Obviously, this has kind of been the first time you’ve been able to see him the last three days now in 11 on 11, live kind of drills. What’s your impression been?
A: I see improvement every day. I see a command within the huddle where he’s aware of not only what we’re calling, but he knows the situation we’re calling it in. I see someone who’s understanding why Jason’s calling the play he is at that time and how the pieces fit. I see a lot of confidence in his eyes when he goes to the line of scrimmage. Now how that plays out, he still has a lot more ways to go to really reach his potential. But he’s working every day to get there and it’s enjoyable to watch.
Q: Having coached receivers last year, what do you think about the trio of (Darius) Slayton, (Sterling) Shepard and (Golden) Tate in terms of maybe complementing each other, or the idea that each guy is maybe not a true number one but each guy can beat you any day?
A: First, I like all of our receivers. What I like about all of our guys is how they’re willing to get in there and do the dirty work. I like the fact that our receivers, they block aggressively in the run game, they run every route, whether it’s a clear route or a decoy, they run it with the intent that they’re getting the ball every play. I like the attention to detail that Tyke (Tolbert) teaches his position group with. Him and Nick Williams are doing a really good job with that. Obviously, Derek Dooley brings a lot of knowledge of the system from his time in Dallas. I like the way the group is coming together right now. It’s a joy to work with those guys every day. Listen, I’ve played against those guys before. Golden’s a really good competitor, he’s a tough dude. I’m glad to have him on our team. Sterling brings a lot of athleticism, he brings a lot of juice to practice. It’s fun watching these guys open up. Just watching how Darius has developed from his rookie year and the advancement he’s making this year with playing a little bit faster in decision-making, that’s really the enjoyable part right there. But I’m pleased with all of our receivers and how they work every day.
Q: Now that it’s official with Graham Gano, what did you guys like? How healthy do you believe he is? What does he bring to the table for you guys now going forward?
A: Well, our doctors believe he’s healthy enough that we went through with it, so I’m confident in their knowledge and ability. But I’d just say, look, we’ve known about Graham for a long time. Obviously, T-Mac and Dave (Gettleman) have experience with him personally from back in Carolina. That goes a long way. He’s someone who wasn’t available early on in this process. Then when he became available, we obviously had him on our radar. It was fortunate that it worked out the way it is. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a talented guy. He obviously missed a little bit of time due to injury. I’m anxious to get him on the field and see him get going. He’s a big leg guy who has experience. He hits a consistent, straight line ball with solid flight, the ball gets good lift. He’s made improvement throughout his career. I think with any specialist, kicker, punter, snapper, you really see their best ball as they get towards their 30’s. They’ve had their time to really develop, to understand the league, to really understand how their body works, to structure it for the duration of a season. They understand situationally how they have to stay fresh and in the moment. Young guys may have a little bit more pop in their legs at times. Young guys may have a little bit more raw ability. But when it comes to NFL specialists, they really start peaking around those 30’s ages right there. That’s why a lot of them have the ability to play even in their early 40’s.
Q: First, just a quick injury cleanup. How big of a blow is Cody Core’s injury? Then also, what did the trainers end up saying about (Corey) Ballentine? I know we saw him out there today.
A: They told us he was cleared to practice today and go through all of the team drills. We check with all of our players as far as where they are on a day to day basis. But from what they told me today with Corey, obviously, he finished practice. He didn’t really miss much yesterday, he was a full go out there with us today, even though it was a little bit of a lighter practice for all of our players. Wanted to tone it down. Now I will say this about Cody. Look, I hate it for him. I hate it for him. You watch a guy work his butt off. You know what kind of competitor he is, what kind of player he is, how much he’s invested in us and what he’s done. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done 100 percent. He was great during the virtual program in the spring. He was much better, obviously, in person. You can really get a feel for the guy when you’re in the same room a lot more and watching him work on the field. He made a great deal of improvement as a receiver. He’s one of the top special teams players in the league. Listen, you hate seeing this happen to any player. That’s why we have to practice the way we practice because we have to put guys in positions to play safely and keep them on the field. It’s unfortunate the way it happened. Hopefully, his injury is something he can come back from full speed. I look forward to seeing this guy in the future. His personality, the way he competes, his physical ability, he’s definitely the kind of guy we want to work with. Everyone on the team takes a blow when anyone has any kind of an injury. That’s just the way it is. We care about each other in the locker room, we want to see everybody succeed. We’ll have to go ahead and look to replace positions at all spots, but we hate it for Cody Core. We wish him well in his recovery.
Q: I wanted to ask you to, switching gears, about Devante Downs at linebacker. What has he shown you as a young player?
A: He has good movement skills. I like the way he works. He’s starting to communicate a lot better with his command in the system and really understanding. That just comes with time. That’s every player in our system. Everyone gets more comfortable and communicates better. But he’s a guy that comes in, you can see his eyes in meetings, he’s very engaged and focused on you when you’re talking. Whether you’re talking directly to him or somebody else, he’s taking the same coaching point. He comes on the field every day, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’ goes to work, does whatever you ask him to do to the best of his ability. I’m enjoying working with him a whole lot.
Q: Obviously, the first two days of practice were pretty intense in pads and the drills that you ran last night kicked it up a notch. How much of that is a byproduct of not having preseason games and trying to get these guys into “hitting shape”?
A: To be honest with you, there’s a greater emphasis on not having preseason games this year that we have to put them in game situations in practice. However, the way we’ve structured practice is really the same way we’d structure practice either way. We treated last Friday as our first day on the field, that would have replicated the first day of training camp as well. In shells, moving around, shorter practice, getting moving, working red area for short space so we don’t put our guys in risk as far as the first day. We came back on Sunday, that’s really kind of day two installs, still stay in the red area. Now we’re starting to progress towards pads on Monday. Your first two days in pads, that’s the biggest shock your guys get to their body. Their legs get a little shocked initially moving around. You put the pads on, the intensity jumps up. They haven’t hit anybody in eight months, at least not on the field with us. You put them out there, they have to get used to the collisions and the tempo. After that, they’re used to carrying the pads and it settles down for them.