Head Coach Joe Judge
August 2, 2021
Opening Statement: Hope everyone enjoyed the day off somewhat. Players are a little bit refreshed and getting back to work. The progress this week will be shells today as we get back into the acclimation period. We’ll be in pads for tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ll ramp up the team a little bit more. The emphasis still remains on getting our football conditioning right away, improving on fundamentals and then we’re going to keep advancing with the install and the situations that come up. Today will be more focused on early downs, just a little bit of goal line walkthrough and then get a review on the red area almost on a daily basis, so we’ll have that today.
Q: Any chance we get to see more of (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) or is it still kind of a gradual build up?
A: He’s still building up, but we will start seeing a little bit more of him day by day as the trainers keep allowing us to have him more. Look, these guys do a really good job as far as knowing our players and looking out for their health. We trust what they say, we trust our medical team, but the focus is to get this guy involved as much as we can with football and keep building him up through training camp. It’ll be limited for the time being., We’ll get him day by day a little more.
Q: Joe, what’s (Linebacker) Elerson (Smith) dealing with and how close is he to getting on the field with the team?
A: He’s day by day right now. He’s made a lot of progress the last few days. He had a small setback early in training camp. We don’t think it’s something that’s going to long-term limit him, but I don’t want to put a timetable on him in terms of when he’ll be back absolutely. We feel confident in the direction he’s moving, the trainers feel good about where he’s at right now and he’s working hard with the strength staff. So very similar to the other players. As soon as we can kind of get him back with the team, we will and it’ll be more of a ramp-up, gradual process when he gets back to practice.
Q: When (Offensive Lineman) Shane (Lemieux) went down, you guys put (Offensive Lineman) Kenny Wiggins in there. Just curious what you’ve seen from him to put him in that position.
A: Well, Kenny is a guy we’ve known for some time now, he was with us last year. Kenny is a good vet, he’s solid, he’s very smart, he’s got position flexibility, he’s played all five spots on the line. He’s played in different systems with different coaches. He’s a guy that just has a really good, cool demeanor about him, he adjusts very easily, there’s no panic. He’s a guy that’s got good size and strength to anchor, and he plays ahead and faster because of his experience on the line, so Kenny’s done a nice job working for us.
Q: Is Shane close?
A: Shane’s still day by day. I think if you asked Shane, like I said the other day, he’s going to always tells us what we want to hear. He’s with the medical team now and they’re continuing to do more and more with him each day. We’ll see where he is. Hopefully, we’ll get him as soon as possible, but I would say it’s more day by day than week by week.
Q: Joe, do you normally start camp with such an emphasis on the red zone or is that a reflection of what the team did last season?
A: No, we always start that way. We start that way in the spring and training camp, and there’s more than one reason for that. But I’d say the overall health of the team, it’s important to start them and ramp them up from that low red area, where it’s reduced space, to the red area before they’re really, truly ready to open up. So we go low red area to high red area to fringe to early downs. We kind of expand the space to build them up over time. Now, there’s another emphasis we’ve made with the team as well in terms of that’s the most important area of the field. It’s about finishing down there offensively and defensively. The kicking game is a big part of the field position that sets up the opportunities offensively or defensively with field position at hand, so we place that emphasis for our team so they understand why we’re working the emphasis. However, it’s truly a physical reason more than mental.
Q: (Offensive Lineman) Joe Looney, what did you like about him?
A: Well, he’s a vet with a lot of experience. He’s got experience with (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) before, so there’s some familiarity with the system, although it’s not a carbon copy from before. He’ll have to get on the same page with some of the new terms and verbiage we have with our line coaches and some of the new system adjustments we made. I would say aside from that, he’s a good vet, he’s got good experience, he gives us a lot of versatility. At center and guard, he’s a guy that gives us a decent piece in there. We’re going to let him compete at all three spots like everybody else, make sure we build on our versatility. That’s always a strength for us. He was out there for the walkthrough the other night for us. Obviously, this is his first day of training camp, so we’ll have to build him up over time. That’s not a reflection on what we think of him as a player, it’s a reflection on anyone in their first day of camp. We want to make sure we don’t put him out there in a position not ready to go out and execute and maybe have an injury or something. We’ll do the same thing with (RB) Alfred Morris, as well.
Q: Joe, what did you learn about (Defensive Lineman) Dexter Lawrence last year and what are your expectations for him this year?
A: Well, he’s a tremendous teammate, number one, and he’s obviously very physically talented. He’s a big, athletic man, but when you’re with him in the locker room, when you’re with him in the cafeteria, traveling, he’s a guy that can really lighten the room. He’s got that ability to flip the switch on the field and go from being that big, jolly guy to locked in and playing intense on the field. That room as a whole really does a great job. There’s great personalities, there’s a lot of ability in there and they practice and play the right way. In terms of what we expect from him right now, it’s like everyone else. We expect him to take daily steps going forward with daily improvement in the system on defense.
Q: How much of a help can he be in the pass rush?
A: Well, all those guys can be a help. That ties together with how the backend plays as well to buy the time to get to the passer up front, but we’ve got to stop the run first, put them in passing situations.
Q: But he does have some passing ability, correct?
A: Yeah, absolutely.
Q: Joe, what have you seen from (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) in terms of progress?
A: You know what, he’s making a lot of strides for us and I don’t want to go ahead and make any predictions or anything on Saquon, but I will say that this guy’s showing progress, tangible progress every day with our medical staff, with our strength staff. He comes out here and works. Right now, we’ve really mirrored his rehab to what our players are doing on the field practice-wise to make sure that he’s building up that same volume, that same intensity. We can kind of go apples to apples with what he’s done on a daily basis compared to the players that are in practice to give us a better picture in terms of where he is physically.
Q: So would you consider that like a simulated practice for Saquon at this point or is it not quite to that level?
A: I wouldn’t say simulated practice because there’s no one across from him at this point. There’s differences in that, but in terms of the volume with what he’s working on, whether it’s simulating the routes any of our receivers and backs are running, whether it’s simulating just the overall loads we have in practice. But as you watch him, I know you guys are looking at him, period by period, his rehab is structured to mirror what the other players on the field are doing as much as possible.
Q: How close do you consider him to getting ready for a real practice?
A: I couldn’t give you an answer on that. That’s not being coy right there. Look, with this injury right here, we’re going to make sure we do the right thing by Saquon and what’s better for the team and we’ve got to take a long-term vision of this right here. The doctors know a lot more about the knee, about where he is medically. I know where his spirit is. I know where his work ethic is. I know he wants to be out there with the team. As I’ve said to him time and time again, when you’re ready, we’ll let you go. I know he wants to be out there, but we’ve got to make sure we help our players make the right decision. The goal is to get him out there and keep him out there. We know he can make a great impact for this team. We know what kind of player he can be, so we want to make sure we put him in the opportunity to go ahead and play full-speed, aggressive and confident when he gets out there.
Q: Joe, does (Linebacker) Blake (Martinez) have to catch up to get back on the field or is he ready to go?
A: I would say, the good thing with Blake is he’s been engaged through all the meetings, so he’s heard the practice corrections and the install. So mentally, he’s gotten all of that. Now, there’s always an adjustment from hearing it in a meeting to actually doing it on the field. Physically, he hasn’t been with our team yet, so he’s got to ramp up and physically catch up to where the team is right now and that’s just how all these guys come off this COVID list.
Q: With (Running Back) Alfred Morris, is that a sign that you are concerned about Saquon being ready or is that just more depth?
A: No, this is just overall an opportunity to, number one, have depth to go ahead and practice the way we want to practice and also have the opportunity to bring a quality player back in. Alfred, last year – look, I can’t tell you how much I feel on a personal level about Alfred and what he did for our team last year, about how he carries himself, about how he is as a teammate, how he is in the team meeting. Look, I walked by him when I was coming in the building and he was waiting outside for his clearance from his test, and we got to have a conversation sitting outside and it’s just refreshing seeing his face. He’s always smiling and good, great energy out there. Again, like anyone else, he has an opportunity to come in here and compete for a spot on this team. We had an opportunity to bring him back and he helps our competition within that spot.
Q: About Looney, was that something that was precipitated by what happened with (Guard) Shane (Lemieux) early in the week or did you guys always have a focus on the interior line and looking to bring in someone else?
A : Well, at this point in the year, to be honest with you, we’re looking all across the board at different players at different positions. So you’ll see us throughout the next week, two weeks, three weeks work out all types of guys at different positions and we’re trying to see who’s out there and how ready they are. If there’s someone that we feel can help us basically with the numbers, a need or just a competition at that spot at any point in training camp and they’re available, we’ll look to go ahead and bring them in and get them with the team and be able to get them moving and compete.
Q: Tae Crowder, what do you think about his development as he begins year two?
A: Yeah, I think Tae is doing a great job. Last year he had a little bit of a setback with some physical ailments from training camp. This year, being healthy at the jump gives him a better start on the season. He’s a guy that showed a lot of growth mentally, maturity-wise from the season last year and he’s got to just go and keep building on that on the field this year. Again, we all start back over, so like everybody else, the fundamentals and conditioning, the schemes, communication, that’s what you have to do every day.
Q: How has (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) done on the mental part of picking up the defense? Because it looks like he’s earned some quality reps early on at least.
A: The real test will be when the pads come on, but I’d say in terms of his mental understanding of the system and schemes, he’s made progress in that. There’s some similarities to the defense with what he played in college. It’s not the same, but there’s similarities and I think that gives him a little bit of a jump verbiage-wise or scheme understanding-wise. It’s something that he can relate to, something he’s done in the past. The biggest thing for Azeez right now is he’s really shown us a lot of jumps in how he came in in shape in training camp. When we saw him in the spring, like all rookies, I tell you all the time, they come in, they’re not ready to go. That was evident with the way some of those guys handled the conditioning throughout practice in the spring. You watch him out there throughout the duration of practice of maintaining his conditioning level, conditioning at the end of practice, where he is in the pack as far as running. He’s not towards the back, he’s getting up there towards the front, so the demonstration of how he’s working and got himself in physical shape to come in has helped him to this point.