Head Coach Joe Judge
October 1, 2020
Q: With regard to Daniel (Jones) and the turnovers, I know he’s gone to great lengths in the offseason to try to improve that, yet it’s still kind of rearing its head this year. Are you seeing any common denominators there in what’s going on? What kind of things can you do to prevent it?
A: We have to do a better job as coaches putting our players in situations to really be successful on the field. Every player right now just has to do a better job elevating our level of play in the game and executing. Specific to any one player, there are always reasons. It’s never just one guy. We have to string some things together. We have a lot of confidence in Daniel and excited to get him on the grass going forward.
Q: How do you plan to handle the west coast travel? Anything different? I know you talked about the hydration for Chicago. This is an even longer flight now.
A: To be honest with you, we’re going to kind of take a page out of a couple different teams’ books, along with the place I was. We’re going to go out there early Saturday. A lot of teams travel on Friday, kind of reset that circadian rhythm. We’re going to go out there Saturday. We’re going to get out there early, get our guys in the sunlight for a little bit, kind of get them in the UV rays, which should help reset their body clocks a little bit. Being as though it’s not a primetime game at night, it’s less than 24 hours of a trip for us. It shouldn’t affect us overly in terms of that window we’re going in there. We’re going to go ahead and stay in east coast time as much as we can, and wake up the next day ready to play. The one thing I think that stands out that we’re going to do a little bit differently, like several teams have done lately, is we’re going to stay out there after the game on Sunday. Instead of returning back immediately afterwards, we’re going to stay out and make sure the guys get a good night’s sleep. We’ll get the film graded that night, watch with the players the next morning and get that all cleaned up. We’ll fly back, give us an opportunity as coaches to work on the next opponent going forward, give the players a good amount of time between Monday night getting home and Tuesday as the off day. We’re really looking to avoid some of that jetlag time coming back and trying to keep the players as fresh as possible. This is something we talked about in the offseason when the schedule came out with a lot of coaches around the league and things they’ve done in the past. It was something that we thought could really help our players, not just for this week, but also with next week’s trip back to Texas.
Q: So you’re flying back Monday afternoon or are you going to leave Monday morning?
A: We’re going to leave Monday around lunch time west coast time. Should get us back here to the Quest building somewhere around 8-8:30 p.m.
Q: With the Rams, obviously, they have to make game plan adjustments to attack what you guys do on defense. But their offense, is it something with them that they’re just able to run what they run because they run it so well, more than other teams? Or do they change a lot week to week?
A: I think it’s a combination of both. Their identity is really a strong identity, and they do it extremely well. They run that zone run game. They can change it up and run the gap, runs inside with the pulls and all. But they’re very effective in their run game. (Aaron) Kromer does a great job of stringing that together. In the pass game, they really set you up off the run, whether it’s the play actions, the boots or the third down passing game where they’re dropping back and (Jared) Goff can sit back there and pick you apart. They do a great job of that. That being said, Sean (McVay) doesn’t just hammer in the same playbook over and over. He’s going to find things that showed up on tape that you leave as a weakness, and he’s going to find a way to put that in the game plan and look to expose you.
Q: Now that it’s official, can you talk a little bit about what you liked from Madre Harper and how that process went for you guys?
A: He’s a guy we’ve known about for some time now, to be honest with you. Obviously, there’s no preseason games, so the exposure early on at the 53 cut was a little bit limited. He ended up staying in Las Vegas being a part of the practice squad. But he’s a guy we’ve had our eye on. He’s a good athlete. He’s a long, rangy guy with good speed. He’s definitely a developing player. I like the competitiveness he plays with. He’s definitely somebody that we’re anxious to get on the grass and start moving forward with him. Because of protocols, we just got him in the building today and got everything official. We’ll see where he goes in terms of his involvement for this week. Getting someone on Thursday, we’ll see how much we can kind of get him going and get him caught up on, and if there’s a role or not in this week’s game plan. But we’ll probably take that up to the wire and decide what we’re going to do with him this week. But we’re excited to have him in the building and get working with him.
Q: How does that process work just in terms of, is it a heavy scouting thing? We just happened to be talking to Jerome (Henderson) when I guess you had just told him that you guys were signing Harper. How does that process work? Is it really a heavy scouting thing?
A: Yeah, it really is. It’s our job to know everybody coming out of college into the draft. It’s our job to know everybody in the league of who’s where, and that’s who’s on certain practice squads, who’s been getting tried out at different clubs, who’s been elevated and protected with these new practice squad rules. We’re looking around the league all the time trying to learn who’s out there. We have college grades on people. Obviously, we haven’t been able to put a pro grade on this guy yet because he didn’t play any preseason games, so you’re really, with all these rookies, relying on your college evaluation of him. But you just have to have a good feeling of what you’re looking at right there and the skillset to develop. But between the personnel department, Dave (Gettleman), myself, we’ve gone through a number of players. He’s obviously one of them. We thought this was a good opportunity to get him in here and get working with him.
Q: Sean McVay said yesterday that it’s a real pain to prepare to play your defense. Is that just blowing smoke? What do you think he means by that? Also, Patrick Graham just said, he says often, he said it a lot today about it’s on him, ‘it’s on me, I have to take a hard look at myself.’ What’s the balance with a coach between saying ‘look, it’s on me’ or saying ‘look, it’s on me but it’s also on them. I give them the plan, they have to do it’?
A: I think as coaches, we have to be very self-critical. When I watch the tape, there are things that players have to correct. But I always look at myself in the mirror first. As coaches, I think that’s how you have to be. Am I doing everything possible to teach these guys the best way? Am I doing everything possible to paint that mental image that they can go out there and execute on the grass? Am I putting them in the ideal situations to play to their strengths? As a coaching staff, we have to ask ourselves that on a daily basis through practice, on a weekly basis through the games. If you’re not self-critical as a coach, I don’t think you’re a very good coach. If you’re someone who wants to simply look at players and say ‘well, he has to play better. He has to do this,’ what did you do to put him in that position? To me, for our staff, we have to be a group of guys that watch the tape and we see ourselves in the performance of the players, and we have to make sure we’re doing everything possible to help elevate their level of play.
Q: Do you think your defense is a pain to play against?
A: I think we bring a lot of elements teams have to prepare for. That being said right now, that offense we’re going to see this week is tremendous. You talk about them on early downs running the ball, their play action pass, talking about on third down with the efficiency of extending drives. You talk about Goff’s completion percentage, their success in the red zone. This team right here, they’re more than a pain. This is really one of the top teams in the league. Definitely one of the top offenses in the league. Sean does a great job of identifying what the defense is doing, making adjustments not only within the specific play through the quarterback communication, but throughout the game in terms of seeing what you’re doing and making any adjustments. You can’t be stagnant in your game plan. You have to go through the game and understand the chess pieces that are moving around and anticipate what you have to do next as well.
Q: In the first three weeks, do you see any common thread in what’s going wrong in these end of first half drives for your defense, maybe just not finishing a half?
A: You know what, they’ve all been unique situations. But the emphasis is we have to finish better. That’s something we’re working on as a team. That’s something we’ve been working on as a team. We have to do a better job of setting up the practice scenarios as coaches. We made some adjustments in practice in things we’re doing. I have to do a better job as the head coach emphasizing that aspect of the game and putting our players in a position to practice that and have the success in practice that carries over to the game. On that end, we’ve given up touchdowns at the end of each half. That’s not acceptable. That can’t happen. But we have to do a better job right now in making sure that we’re preparing for that the absolute best way.