Head Coach Joe Judge
August 31, 2020
Q: Is it a different dynamic because the roster size is reduced and you are allowed to carry 16 on the practice squad? You are only cutting, after signing your practice “squaders”, about 11 players. Does that help you because most of the guys who are here, you are building something with all of them and a lot of them are staying in the building? Is it tougher because not as many guys have the specter of being cut hanging over their heads?
A: I think what you’re asking is true. I think there is a slightly different dynamic with that because you have the expanded practice squad roster as well as the ability to keep veterans who previously would not have been eligible for the practice squad. Keeping them alive this year, that’s a whole different dynamic that I’m sure everyone in the league is discussing in their own buildings, I know we are. This time of year, it’s tough for the players, it’s tough for the coaches as well. This is a time of year, look you have a lot of players wondering where they’re at. As coaches, we try to assure them, worry about what they can control. That’s coming out every day, doing a good job in meetings absorbing information, practice well, compete. We’re in the business of trying to keep as many good football players as we can. As coaches right now, it’s a tough transitional phase in terms of we’re going through our own roster. We’re going through training camp making sure that we do the best job of evaluating our own roster. At the same time, we have to start our own preparations for the first game of the year. Obviously, we start on Monday night so it’s a shorter week getting ready for Chicago in Week 2. This is a time of year we are preparing for a lot of different scenarios game wise, roster wise. The one thing I would say is, the unfortunate thing is you don’t have control over a lot of your players once you have to cut to 53. By rule, they are exposed to waivers. There’s a lot of movement throughout the NFL. People are looking at our roster. They are evaluating our players based on what they had on college tape or previous NFL tape. We don’t have complete control over that. In a perfect world you keep as many players as you can every year. That’s just not the reality of it. I do agree with the first part that you asked. I do think there is a certain different dynamic based on the size of the practice squad.
Q: You have never had to cut anybody before this year. Coaches often call that the toughest part of the job. What’s that been like for you? You have had to do it a couple times so far this summer.
A: That’s the unfortunate part of the business and that’s the reality for every coach and player in the NFL. It’s a not an easy thing to do. No one likes to sit there and tell a player that they are going have to move on from them on the roster at that point in time. It’s not a fun part of the job, it’s not something you enjoy. You try to give the player as much information as they can use going forward. Something they can improve on in their own game, something you felt was a strength of theirs that they can really make sure they keep strong and highlight going forward. As well, you remind the player it’s important to stay in shape, they have been in our system. We have familiarity with them. There is going to be a lot of movement in the early part of the year as well as throughout the year with both the 53 roster and the practice squad itself. You try to encourage the player on what they can do to improve themselves professionally as well as stay in shape and stay ready. Because when those phone calls happen, they happen fast.
Q: How do you feel about your secondary depth? Obviously, you lost Xavier McKinney, it was a position where you’ve had guys opt out, you’ve had the DeAndre Baker situation, you’ve lost a bunch of guys there. How do you feel about that with where you stand right now?
A: I think those guys as whole have done really good job of improving on a day by day basis. Jerome (Henderson) and Blev (Anthony Blevins) and Mike Treier have done a phenomenal job getting those guys ready for our system. We have one more week to really look at these guys and evaluate them and see what kind of progress they can make. I think when you put it all in a scope, we have to make some fast gains and fast evaluations. In terms of we are two weeks into practices, this is really the start of the third week. This is typically when we are getting ready to play our first preseason game. The evaluations that we would make on these guys at all positions starting in the first preseason game this week, we’re really tying up and ending training camp in that time period. It’s something that we are being really critical of our own methods as coaches to make sure we are giving the best opportunity to demonstrate what they can do and not make any mistakes with how we develop our final 53 and our practice squad. I would say when referring specifically to the defensive backs, we have a number of guys out there working and working hard. They have shown improvement. Talking about the rate of that training camp, as it relates to where they would normally be, I think we have to just go ahead with these young guys and look at the progress they are making relative to previous years. Because it’s not really about where anyone is right now, it’s about where they will be long term and that’s what we have to look for.
Q: Speaking about how everything is tightly crunched together, and this would be the first preseason game. The reality is the regular season is right around the corner. When do you start preparing for that and trying to balance that?
A: In time. Obviously, this time of year you start mixing in different schemes that maybe you don’t see from your own team and that you are going to see in your early opponents. Not every defense we play is going to play like our defense. Jason (Garrett) needs to go ahead and have certain things he asks our defense to show or maybe card up in a certain period. It’s the same for our offense, they don’t run everything our other opponents are going to run. We have to work together cooperatively. This week we will do a good bit of that. Not just on the opponents we are going to see but just basic schemes that maybe we don’t run on offense or defense or haven’t shown yet. We have to make sure we have exposure to that. We started this week as an organization, we put the players on more of a regular season weekly schedule so they can start getting ready to the flow of the day. Coming in, morning meeting, building up to practice around lunch time. When practice is over coming in and watching the tape. Letting them get a feel for when they are going to lift weights throughout the day, when they are going to build in their meals. How they are going to handle their treatment, how they are going to handle their massages and the extra therapy that they have to get to get their bodies ready. This for us is an important week for our players to get that experience of the flow of the week. Typically, we would do this in that preseason game 3 week, to handle it as much as we can as a regular season week. Not having that opportunity this year, this is when we decided to build it in, so it flows nicely into the next week when we have to get into the regular season.
Q: You mentioned the projection and you try to think of these things as long term. What kind of challenge is that when you are trying to put these guys out there to be successful and compete? But also you have to make decisions based on where a guy will be in a week, in a month, in three months. Is that just a product of having a young team? Is that how you would build the roster regardless?
A: I think it’s both, I think it’s a combination of both. I’ve learned from several guys that I have worked for, you can’t survive with pacifiers. You can’t have a guy out there just because he knows what to do right now and may have a general edge on somebody just based on experience. Ultimately, you have to see the upside of somebody and what you can develop them into. It’s important to not go ahead and build your entire roster based on where it is right now. It’s important to look long term. Where are they going to be Week 6, Week 8, Week 10? How is each individual going to progress and what do we think our unit is going to look like by the end of the year? Dealing with young players is something you always have to take into consideration. I think it’s a combination of a little bit of both in what you are saying because of the time crunch.
Q: You guys are pretty young in the secondary, especially at cornerback. There are some veteran cornerbacks that have shaken loose in the last couple of days or in the case of Logan Ryan, for a while. How do you balance wanting to get those young guys reps and develop them versus bringing in somebody from the outside this close to the regular season?
A: Our focus is developing guys on the roster. It’s just a natural part of the National Football League, you have to be aware of the waiver wire and who is available on the street. That is just our jobs, to know who is available so by need we can fill those spots. Our priority is the guys that we work with on a daily basis and making sure we put them in the right position to make plays and then can evaluate them properly.
Q: In the scrimmage, Dexter Lawrence had the early tipped pass, Lorenzo Carter obviously had a great day. How confident are you that players who predated you and your staff here can be better players under you and your staff than we have seen in previous seasons?
A: I think all of our players have an opportunity to make improvements whether they were here before or new to the organization. It’s our jobs as coaches to keep working on a daily basis and improve them in their techniques and the understanding of our schemes.
Q: In terms of your personal preparation, how challenging is it for you not even having the benefit of a preseason game. We talk about players not having a preseason but you as a head coach, you are going to go in cold. How do you replicate things to get yourself personally ready to be the head coach of the Giants in your first year?
A: Just like the players, practice is practice for the coaches as well. I don’t care how many years you have at any position, coordinator, head coach, it doesn’t matter. There hasn’t been football played in the league since February. No one has called a game, no one in the league has had to execute a game plan since February. For all of us, it’s getting our own minds ready for the situations that are going to come up. We build in scenarios in practice for the coordinators to call plays without it being scripted so they can get used to thinking on the fly. I build in situations for myself that I tell certain guys on our staff who are responsible for setting up the situations, I don’t want to know what this two-minute is going to be, I don’t want to know what this four-minute is going to be. You go create the situation and we just play it out. I walk alongside Pat (Graham) or Jason (Garrett) based on what the situation is, and we call it accordingly, I call it the way I’m going to call it in a game. The adjustments we build in to simulate, the unscripted periods, that’s big for coaches. We have to make sure we give our own selves’ time to prepare just like the players prepare as well.
Q: How do you balance the decision to cut a guy loose versus continue sticking with him? What do you have to see? What drives that decision when you just say, you know what we have to move on at this point?
A: Everything is very unique based on the current roster situation at that time, the player we’re talking about, where he is in his career, where we are maybe health wise, depth wise or anything else that could come up. There’s no blanket answer for that. We just try to make sure we make the best calculated decisions to help our team. We have to understand that on the surface it doesn’t look like every decision necessarily is the one everyone would expect. We are always looking down the road long term for our team and what helps us best.
Q: This is the first time you are going through this as far as being in charge of the health of your team. You lost a couple guys that needed surgery. Overall, it seems to me like the team has progressed pretty well as far as health. Getting guys back, things like that. What is your sense of that and how you guys are handling all of this? The strains, hamstrings, ankles and getting to the season relatively healthy.
A: Communication in the building is huge for that. From the training and strength staff, we talk on a daily basis on where our team is. We get a lot of feedback from the players themselves. We have to make sure we push the players to build our conditioning and get them game ready. At the same time, we have to be calculated and careful about how we do things. As you have seen in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had hard scrimmages. We have come back with a day off and then more of a jog thru/walk thru type of pace to get their bodies (right). That’s similar to what it will be like in the regular season. You play on Sunday, between Monday and Tuesday you are having a day off and kind of a lighter day for recovery and then you have to ramp them back up for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Which is what we try to simulate with their bodies. We try to do things to make the best decision. There’s a natural part of you have to push them through being comfortable. You can’t make gains if it’s easy. At the same time as coaches, we have to be smart and keep our eyes open and make sure we are not putting our players at unnecessary risks.