Head Coach Joe Judge
October 7, 2020
Opening Statement: We’ve turned the page as an organization today from the Rams. We’re fully on to the Cowboys right now going forward. Obviously, with divisional play starting, it’s a big week for us as a team. This rivalry, with that being said, obviously carries a lot of intensity to it. This is definitely a challenging opponent. This offense is very explosive. The quarterback does a great job extending plays. He’s very accurate, he has a big arm, has the ability to stick the ball into tight windows. They have multiple explosive receivers. Their run game is extremely good with Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) back there and the combination of (Tony) Pollard for a change of pace. Both backs are capable of really having explosive plays and going the distance. I think Kellen’s (Moore) done a great job of taking this offense and really adding his own spin to it, mixing in a large combination of misdirection, RPOs and things that really help the quarterback. Obviously, with Mike’s (McCarthy) influence, they’ve put enough changes on it from previous years that it keeps you on your toes.
In terms of the defense, it all starts with the edge rushers right there up front. They’ve done a good job of really putting pressure on opponents. It starts with really trying to make you one dimensional and let the pass rushers go at your quarterback and try to put pressure on your passing game right there. We have to do a good job of protecting up front and buying time for our quarterback.
Then the kicking game, ‘Bones’ (John Fassel) does a tremendous job of really creating multiples and running those fakes. Very similar to what we talked about last week with the Rams and Johnny Hekker. Obviously, ‘Bones’ was the one who started that whole deal out there, and he’s carried it over to Dallas. They’re not afraid to roll the dice. They really do a great job of keeping you on your toes in terms of playing alert at all times for gimmicks. They have a punter who can throw the ball, they have a kicker who can do onside kicks at any time, and they have athletes on the field in terms of PP (personal protector) sweeps, PP dives, a lot of things to go ahead and extend their drives. Obviously, this will be a challenge for us this week. We’re getting after it today in terms of going over the Cowboys. All that being said, I’ll open it up to any questions you may have.
Q: Update on the injuries please, and the progress of Sterling Shepard?
A: Sterling’s working hard every day right now. I just saw him in the weight room a minute ago. He’s with the trainers for the large part. Obviously, he’s in the meetings with us and staying on the game plans, staying mentally involved. We hope to get Sterling back as soon as possible. We’ll see what that time table is, but he’s progressing at a good rate for us every day.
Q: Any other injuries? X (Oshane Ximines) and a few other ones?
A: We’re going to check on X today, see where he’s at right now. We have a walkthrough practice for our team today, so there’s not going to be a ton of exposure in terms of what guys are going to be doing banging around and hitting. We’re giving the guys a little bit of time to recover from the west coast trip. This was planned weeks in advance. We’ll kind of take a look at a lot of the guys who are banged up from the game the other day and see where they are going into tomorrow when we put pads on.
Q: You see what’s going on around the league. What’s your message to the players about COVID-19?
A: Listen, our message to the players now is the same as it’s been since day one of training camp. There are protocols in place, there are things that we have to respect and follow. We’ve been diligent as an organization. The players have been very receptive, they’ve been very obedient to everything going on. As coaches, we have a responsibility to make sure that we kind of keep these guys aware of what’s going on around them. They are very aware of what’s going on, but we’ve done a pretty good job as an organization. I’m happy with the progress our players have made.
Q: You guys are averaging like 11.7 points per game. Their defense has given up more points than anybody in the league. It looked like you guys kind of got some balance going into the second half on Sunday. What gives you confidence that this might be the week you guys break out of this?
A: I think just as a team, we have to keep improving in all three phases right now. We saw some progress from our offense. There was definitely some more balance last week. This game plan will be different from the Rams game plan. We’re playing against a different team. Their defense is very capable. They have a lot of athletes. One thing about this team is they have a ton of talent, they have a lot of speed, they have explosive players. We have to do a good job of really counting for those guys and giving our skill players a chance to get to the ball and make plays with it in their hands. Our offensive line has to do a good job. They’re making progress for us right there. We have to carry over some of the things we did last week and continue making progress.
Q: Someone like Evan Engram, who had a big second half against the Bears a couple weeks ago when you moved him around the line, is he somebody who you think could be a focal point against the Cowboys?
A: Evan is always a guy we try to get involved. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Obviously, all the guys in the game we’re trying to get involved. Evan in his skill roles or whether it’s in-line with some of the blocking, he always is a big part of the game plan for us.
Q: Going back to when you were putting your staff together, what was it about Patrick Graham that you thought of when you were picking who your defensive coordinator was going to be? What has it been like seeing him sort of get the guys playing the way they have, especially this last week?
A: I’ve known Patrick for some time. My experience of working with him gave me a lot of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I know the way he works. He’s a very intelligent person, he has a great rapport with his players. His players play very hard for him. He does a great job of really playing with multiples and really game planning to fit each opponent specifically. That’s something that’s important to us as a team, for everyone to be multiple in what we do and make sure we give our players the best chance to be successful. Pat’s a great dude. He’s very, very smart, he’s a heck of a football coach. I’m excited still that we were able to add him to our staff.
Q: The leader in this division has just one win. Do you focus on that at all? Do you talk to your team about that at all, where one win makes a big difference in everything?
A: I think one win makes a difference every week, and right now, everyone in our division is 0-0 this week. Our focus every week is win one game at a time. We play this game like it’s its own season. We play each play like it has a history and a life of its own. That’s our only focus this week is the Cowboys.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on the COVID-19 question. Are you thinking of asking players to isolate instead of going home?
A: No. I think the league has already established protocols and rules, and it’s just our duty to follow those. I’m not a doctor, although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But just right now, make sure we follow what they put in place.
Q: I know the Rams are in the rearview, but you made the decision to bring Saquon (Barkley), Shep and Jabrill (Peppers) out to the west coast. I’m just curious what was behind that thinking? Was there a message presented to the team? Why was it important to have them out there, even though you knew they weren’t going to play?
A: Yeah, I’d say it’s real simple. Everybody on our team that’s in any kind of injury protocols are in a different position. With where Shep was, we thought it would be good for him to kind of stay with the rehab in that multi-day trip. Being the fact that it was more than one day kind of added a little bit of a different curve to it. Saquon and Pep are captains on our team, so that’s the reason right there that they were on the trip. We count on those guys for leadership and being involved, and that was it right there.
Q: Just the other thing I wanted to ask you about, when you have Jason (Garrett) running the offense going against his former team, I’m just curious, I know every game is in and of itself. Guys know tendencies, you change the verbiage and stuff like that. But how conscious are you guys of the fact that your bringing an offense that Jason is running into a place that is pretty familiar with what he’s run in the past?
A: I think you have to be conscious this year above all. Just the fact that there are no fans with the TV broadcast, you can hear a lot of communication anyway. I think on both sides of the ball, that draws awareness into what you bring in to each stadium. That being said, there are a lot of similarities and crossovers, team to team. Everyone has worked in different places. Players have played in different places, everyone has a lot of shared experiences. The NFL, you can say it’s a copycat league, you can say it’s a transient league in terms of guys crossing over and carrying over experience from different places. It’s no different this week with having guys that were on a previous staff. But it’s still a new week. The Cowboys are not the same team they were last year. There are different styles of their offense, there are different curves in what they’re doing offensively and defensively. There are similarities with some of our staff experiences in the past, but it’s a different and new opponent.
Q: On the flip side of that, how much did you talk to Jason about the Cowboys’ offense? You know he knows that personnel backwards and forward. Also, what’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned from him since he’s joined your staff?
A: The second part of that question first. I could go into a long dissertation about the conversations I’ve had with Jason, with Pat, with T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) and all the coordinators and things that we’ve learned, and things I’ve gotten from Bret Bielema and Derek Dooley and their experiences before as well. I try to make sure I gain as much information and knowledge from everybody on our staff. Jason has definitely added a lot and shed a lot of light perspective on things I’ve had to go through in my first year. That being said, we try to use every resource we have in every single week. Obviously, with Jason’s knowledge of personnel within the building, we’ve talked and discussed different things offensively and defensively with him. He’s not the only coach who came from that team as well. We try to use everyone we can in every situation.
Q: You mentioned before that you haven’t played in front of fans. You will this weekend. Is that something you have to sort of brace for and re-acclimate to?
A: No. To be honest with you, it’s exciting. I think there’s a part of football that obviously we all want fans there. There’s a different kind of energy home and away, but I think both energies really add to the atmosphere and add to the environment. I’m looking forward to playing Dallas this week. It’s a bonus that there are going to be fans there as well. That’s just added incentive to it.
Q: Does it bother you that some teams do have fans and some don’t? Obviously, the fans that are there aren’t going to be rooting for you.
A: No, I don’t think we need any pats on the back to be motivated to go out there. But look, there are obviously rules state by state. We respect those rules, and whatever atmosphere we’re allowed to play in, we’re going to embrace that.
Q: You’re a team that’s been bringing in a lot of new guys and turning the roster over. What do you think of the NFL’s new regulation on taking six days to bring in a free agent just for a tryout?
A: Yeah, obviously, there are reasons put in place for that. I think we just have to respect that. Does it make things a little bit more challenging in terms of planning ahead on the front end? Absolutely. But I would say that with the added practice squad spots this year going up to 16, different from the 10 in the past, that gives you a little bit more flexibility in who you can bring in and out of your program and kind of see players on an extended basis. In terms of the tryouts, we have to be smart in how we do things with players. Number one, six days at a hotel. We have to be realistic about what you’re going to ask a guy to do on the field after sitting in a hotel for six days. To me, it’s a lot about what you’ve seen on tape leading up to that and calculating the investment you want to make with the player, and what you’re really looking for specifically when you bring him in for a tryout. I don’t think it would just be a generic tryout, bring him out there, run him through drills, see how he moves because to be honest, you have to be fair to all the players. Six days sitting in a hotel, you’re not going to hit the grass on day one and really wow anyone. Everyone has some rust to knock off. To me, I think you have to make it as much of a mental tryout as you do a physical tryout in how you approach it.
Q: One last thing. Have you communicated with people in the Patriots organization and Titans maybe and just kind of pick their brain about what’s going wrong or how they’re handling an outbreak? You guys obviously have done a great job so far, but are you reaching out to these people and kind of gaging how these processes are going, or do you just think everything is different?
A: I would say this just in general. It’s a small league, so I think everybody uses their own resources and kind of their own network to communicate and get different ideas on how you can handle things. I’d say I have had communication with those teams, although I haven’t had communication with them in the last I’d say week or so. Anything specifically that’s going on right now in the news, I don’t have any light to shed on that. But we have talked continuously throughout in terms of different situations that may have come up, or different things to anticipate, and ask them kind of how maybe they’re structuring different things and vice versa, kind of get an influence for what we’re doing as well. But we try to use everybody’s experiences and learn from them. In a year like this, it’s important to make sure you communicate and kind of just find out what’s going on around the league so you can anticipate and avoid problems.