Head Coach Joe Judge
September 8, 2021
Opening Statement: Obviously, today is Wednesday. This is really, officially the start of the Denver week. We've got a preview over the last few days with the players and Denver, but today we kind of kept the normal week schedule, jumping straight in. Our focus today is really early down situations. We'll preview a little bit of third down, and then that moves into tomorrow's progression of third down and dipping into the red area a little bit as we get going right there.
That's said, obviously starting with this team, it starts with the (Broncos) Head Coach, Vic Fangio, and he's obviously been one of the top defensive minds for decades in this league, he’s had a lot of success. I think his team plays with his identity, that's an aggressive downhill mindset. They play very tough, they play very disciplined, they take opportunities to make plays, they're not looking to get through any situation, they’re looking to make home run type plays, I mean, whatever they do.
As you go through the coordinators, obviously (Defensive Coordinator Ed) Donatell and Vic have a history together. Ed does a great job with the back end and tying it together, the aggressive fronts and blitzes that Vic puts together. They work together very well. It's been one of the top defenses in the league for some time now.
You turn over and you look into the offense, look, (Former Giants Head Coach and Broncos Offensive Coordinator) Pat Shurmur is an outstanding coach. He's done a fantastic job. I have a ton of respect for him as a man, a ton of respect for him as a coach, I've have a lot of respect for what he did for this organization as well, as well as some of the other places I have competed against him. The one thing Pat's going to do is Pat's going to look at your history and he's going to expose some things you've put on tape, so we're be very mindful about not only our own past experience against Pat, but also different times that he’s seen this scheme or schemes that are similar to this and things that could be exposed. He does a great job at getting players in matchups, he does a great job of creating explosive plays for players. It starts with the run game with Pat, (he) does a great job of getting this thing downhill, setting up the play action pass game. I think right now, (Broncos Quarterback Teddy) Bridgewater is doing a great job of operating within his offense of making good decisions, facilitating the offense, getting the ball moving consistently going on down, tying in that running back combination they have right there with two talented running backs and obviously they have one of the top, if not the top receiving corps in the entire league. You tie in a bunch of very talented tight ends and right there, they got a skill group who is very tough to match up against for any team in the league. It’ll be a great challenge for us this week.
As you get into (Broncos Special Team Coordinator) Tom (McMahon) with the special teams, one thing I know about Tom is he is very, very aggressive. I have history personally going against him, so does (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) T-Mac and (Assistant Special Teams Coach) Tom Quinn. I think when you know you play against Tom, you got to play against some smoke and mirrors. You’ve got to be very sound in your assignments, you have to communicate across the board, and there’s movement to confuse your blockers on your punt team and your kickoff return. It's about formations to see if they can get you out of whack and make you adjust. He's always setting up the next play, so he'll show you something on one play and he's looking for the fake coming the next time if you don't adjust accordingly.
So, in terms of us playing on the same page in all three phases, that's critical to our success this week. We have to have a good week of practice, this is a very good opponent coming in. This is not a team that dips their toe in the water. It’s a fast start team that's going to come out swinging. We got to make sure we have a good week of practice from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and carry it over into the game on Sunday. With that all being said, I’ll open up to any questions you may have.
Q: Can you get specific on some of the things that you’re looking for that you want to see from (Running Back) Saquon Barkley today and tomorrow?
A: Yeah, a large degree of what I want to see is kind of how he responds to some contact. We're going to be in pads today, bumping some guys around a little bit, some different drills we're going to do. I want to see how he puts together three straight days of work as well. There's a big part in just watching our players bodies respond. He's no different than a lot of other guys we have right now coming off of injury that we're going to have to see if these next three days, in terms of what they can handle by load and how we think their bodies are going to respond going into Sunday. We got to make the best decision for everybody's health going into the game. Saquon’s no different than that, so we're taking that lens of player safety as we go ahead and look at all these guys for the opener.
Q: What have you seen from Saquon in regard to his explosion and his ability to cut?
A: I've seen a lot of improvement. I think when you come off an injury like this, that’s obviously a significant injury, there's a confidence level that a lot of people go through. I was obviously never an explosive athlete myself, but I've had similar injuries that I can tell you that you've got to get over that wall of confidence. I've seen Saquon push through that with how he works and I think the confidence comes from what you demonstrate through your rehab and then build into the team as you get it to go on with them. I've seen him improve his movement skills, I've seen his football conditioning really improve. Obviously, as he got into just playing football with us towards the tail end of training camp and through these last couple of weeks, that's probably been a daily increase and improvement for him and a lot of that's just natural. You're out of football for that length of time, you got to get back into the movements, the execution of plays, there's a lot of things that go into that, but I have seen him progress on a daily basis. I'm very pleased.
Q: In regard to last year, do you see that? You talked about needing to see him in contact. Does that mean in your mind he's there on the speed, explosion and ability to cut areas?
A: Some of that's what we got to see this week, too. We got to put him through a couple of different things with that, just see how he responds to different movements. He's progressed nicely, he's gotten better for us. We want to make sure we make the best decisions for him long-term. I can't stress that enough. As we look at Saquon, he's a young player, he’s a very talented player, he's a guy who's been a leader for this team, he’s been elected captain second straight year for us, and he's been a captain before that as well. Speaking just about Saquon in general is we’ve got to make sure that we do the best thing for him and ultimately the best thing for him will be the best thing for the team.
Q: When you make a decision for this Sunday, how much of a factor is two quick games in a row come into play?
A: We kind of make it game by game, to be honest with you. That's a factor with all of our players. The way we kind of kind of look at it is we just have to prepare the players next week how we prepare them next week, and we’ve got to get to that later. We have a plan we've already scripted. We've got a routine we go through in these short weeks. Everyone's going to have a quick turnaround. Now that may tie into some of what we ask individual players to do game by game leading into it based on their health situation. As I said the other day, when we get the clearance for a guy to go, we have to assume he can go in there and play the game.
Q: Where does (Wide Receiver) Kadarius Toney stand with his status for Sunday and is it realistic, even though he hasn’t been on the field much, for him to have a significant role, whether it be kick returner or on offense?
A: Well, I'd say in terms of significant, I look at that not so much as volume, but production. I'd say it is realistic for him to have a significant role based on how he practices this week. We're seeing his health improve, we've seen him do a lot of things with the team as we’ve kept on moving. He's handled the installs very well. I’d say for a player who hasn't seen obviously pre-season games or a lot of significant time volume wise on the field with the guys through preseason, he's been able to go out there and manage it and execute in practice what we’ve asked him to. I think that's a tribute to how he's worked off the field, I think it’s a tribute to the coaches (Wide Receivers Coach) Tyke (Tolbert) and (Offensive Quality Control) Russ (Callaway) of how they've gotten some extra work with him and meeting work throughout training camp to get him caught up to speed and making sure him and (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) and some other players who were nicked and banged throughout training camp didn't lose that mental installs we went on through physically.
Q: How would you compare (Quarterback) Daniel Jones to where he is right now getting ready for this opener in Week 1 to where he was as a player, quarterback last year at this time before the opener?
A: Well, I think the biggest difference, obviously, is just time in the system. He’s obviously a year further in the league. We didn’t have preseason games last year. We didn’t have any kind of a spring last year. Training camp itself was just tremendously different and limited on time. I think obviously the time he’s had to prepare and be with his teammates has helped him. I’ve seen a lot of growth with him throughout the offseason and it’s carried through spring, training camp and in the regular season right now in terms of being a leader, being a guy who really is vocal with the team and gets the guys going. He's not a cheerleader, which I like. I don't like rah-rah guys running around to be honest with you. I like guys who are just kind of about it and they line up and they do their job and guys respond to it and that's really what Daniel is. So, he's definitely progressed within his craft. He’s a young player in this league. He has a lot of room to grow, but I think he works on a daily basis that he's going to go ahead and take all the necessary steps to put himself in position to maximize his potential.
Q: We’ve asked you obviously a million questions about (Kadarius) Toney and (Kenny) Golladay this camp. I don't know if you've been asked anything about (Wide Receiver) Darius Slayton. He’s just sort of been under the radar. What have you seen from him in terms of the progress from last year? And you talked in your previous answer about not liking necessarily rah-rah guys, do you see that from him too that he's just sort of a ‘steady-Eddie?’
A: I see a lot of – I‘m going to be honest with you, look, I don't think we really have a lot of rah-rah guys in our locker room. We've got guys that have natural juice. We have guys that come out and they practice hard. We have guys that feed off the energy of the guy next to him and get guys going. When I think about cheerleaders, I think about guys who wait until Sunday morning to wake up, turn on some song that gets them all kind of riled up and then OK, you're ready to play. You win the game on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You win the game in the training room getting your body healthy. You win the game in the weight room and you win the game in the offseason doing all the right things. When I see how our guys work, and they're not there just pumping themselves up and whistling by the graveyard, I know they're giving ourselves a chance to have success and improve on a daily basis. But in terms of Slayton directly, he had a good camp for us. I don't think he flew under the radar to us watching the tape every day. The things that he's really improved on to me is his route-running’s really taken a step forward. That's something I look at this year compared to last year is just his efficiency with limiting wasted movements in routes, getting off the ball and playing to his speed. Making tough catches, he's done that throughout camp on a daily basis. We’ve got to keep him moving in that direction. I think his physical conditioning this year compared to last year – but that's true with all of our players who went through our program last year. You kind of look at all these guys and you guys ask me all the time about conditioning and different things. Well, some of the things we look at is when you look at the players who have gone through our program from last year to this year, the difference in where their bodies are and the difference in what they've been able to stay on the field and endure and the limited time they've missed where they’ve had to be in treatment or anything like that. These guys have stayed healthy, and Darius is a guy early last year who dealt with a couple of things early in camp. He pushed through it. He fought through it. He worked really hard and he’s guy that we turn around every day and there he is, 86 just out there. We ain't got to say nothing, you know he's out there. He's catching the ball, he's getting open, he's doing what he’s supposed to do.
Q: Is there anybody who is not going to practice today because of an injury?
A: Let me think real quick. I think we should be just about pretty clear with most guys. We have a couple of guys who are going to check in individual today. I’ve got to do one more fly-by with (Senior Vice President, Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer) Ronnie (Barnes). We have kind of a mid-morning meeting every day. Let me get back to you on that right there. We're expecting most guys to be out here at least doing individual and doing some things progressing. We're going to check a lot of these guys in ‘Indy’ (individuals) and see where they can go later in practice, as well.
Q: Does that include (Tight End) Evan (Engram)?
A: You know what, Evan would be the one guy right now, you're right, that would not be out here at practice today. He's going to do some things separate with the trainers on another field and then we'll take a look and see how he's going to look tomorrow.
Q: What are the points of emphasis for (Tackle) Andrew (Thomas) when he's going against a guy like (Broncos Outside Linebacker) Von Miller who obviously is an accomplished pass rusher?
A: I think the point of emphasis for anyone going against Von Miller, (Outside Linebacker Bradley) Chubb or any of their very talented rushers is just do your job, play your technique and trust what you've been taught to do. That's it. They don't have to do anything outside what they're taught to do. They don’t have to do anything superhuman. Look, these are very, very talented players. These are two of the best edge rushers in the game. Now look, to miss a guy like Von Miller for the season last year, that's a shame to everyone who’s involved in football. You want the best players to be out there playing. You want every player to be out there healthy and playing. As a competitor, you don't want to go out there with anybody not being healthy, not being able to play. You want to put your best out there on the field against someone else's best and see how you stack up. That's really what competition is about. Seeing this guy back in the game, that's good for football. Now, he's a tough competitor and it's a great challenge, but to see him come off the edge, whether he's trying to dip and get the edge on you with that great get-off and speed or it’s that spin-move coming back inside because you overplay the outside because you're worried about him beating you outside and you give up the inside. This guy is a different level of player. I said this earlier a few minutes ago, but when we talk to our scouts going into the draft and they ask, ‘what are you guys looking for in certain roles?’ You almost want to say like, ‘you know the Von Millers of the world? Don't bother looking for that guy because that guy doesn't exist many places. Like if he shows up, we'll find him, don't worry about it.’ So, this guy is just a rare player. He's kind of a unicorn of an edge rusher to be as just explosive and athletic and strong for his size, and instinctive and productive. Look, I've been on the other side from this guy several times and I'm telling you, he can ruin your day in a heartbeat if you try and do something other than your job.
Q: Going off that, so inevitably he's going to beat you on a rep or two or a few. How important is it to drive home like short-term memory and forgetting it?
A: Yeah, he’s got to always play the next play. Guys, whatever happens in a game – good, bad or whatever, you've got to play the next play. The play before doesn't affect anything you have going forward. Look, in terms of momentum, I've said it all before, I'm not a huge believer in momentum because I think every play has a history and a life of its own. You may make the greatest play on first down, you still have to go out and play second down. Second down is completely independent, unless you allow something from the previous down to affect how you play your technique and execution. In terms of Von Miller, like guys, he's a player. He makes plays in every game. They're a talented team. They have a very good defense. They have an explosive offense. They’ve got a special teams capable of making big plays at any point in time. They're going to play with a lot of smoke and mirrors and force us to do a lot of things. We've got to play each play with awareness and execution and whether we make a play, or they make a play, we’ve got play the next play. Defensively, you’ve got to make the offense snap it again. Offensively, we're looking to go ahead and sustain drives and stay on the field and give ourselves the best opportunity to go ahead and be successful.
Q: I know it’s a close-knit group, the coaches, the assistant coaches and things like that, did you have a relationship with Pat (Shurmur) before this? Did you reach out to him when you replaced him?
A: I'd say in terms of a relationship with Pat, I knew Pat through the business. I got to meet him at the Combine a few years back. We actually had some familiar family friends from his time in Philadelphia and obviously my time growing up there. Some people that kind of came in common. I think Pat’s a fine man. We've shared a beer together. We've gone to Mass together. We've gotten ashes on Ash Wednesday together. This is a guy that I've always taken time to sit down and talk with. I think he's one of the great offensive minds in all of football. I think he does a fantastic job. I can't speak highly enough of him as a person. I think he's a fantastic person. He's a great man. I think a lot of players in this building obviously have ties with him. I think that's important. This guy came to work every day and did his best to put these guys in a position to be successful and our guys recognize that. This guy worked hard every day for them. So, it's a small league. You have relationships with a lot of guys. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of their coordinators. Pat would definitely not be an exception to that.
Q: Did you reach out to him after you took the job?
A: I can't remember a specific phone call right away on that, but there's been contact different ways throughout the years.