Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Today we'll begin our preparation for Atlanta. We touched on them a little bit earlier in the week, but the main focus on Monday was really on the New York Giants, touching base with things we did earlier in the season, some schemes going forward, some personnel looks. Today will be a padded day for us getting after it, some up-tempo, really get working together as a team. Touching base on Atlanta, first off, it's a very well-coached team. Have a lot of respect for (Falcons Head Coach) Arthur (Smith) and how he puts his team together, how they approach the game. There's obviously a lot of influence from different places he's been.
Starting it off in terms of the offense, (he) does a great job of working with (Offensive Coordinator) Dave (Ragone) in terms of putting a personal stamp on it. When you look at this offense, the first thing you want to think about are his days in Tennessee with (Titans Running Back) Derrick Henry – obviously, that's a rare player, but I think he's doing a great job piecing a lot of things together and he's really using his weapons effectively. When you trace the stamp of this offense, it really goes back to the L.A. Rams days before bringing it over from L.A. to Tennessee. Obviously, some personnel decisions in Tennessee changed a little bit of that footprint but watching as it changed and adjusted and as it continues to evolve right now in Atlanta, it's been very interesting to watch. Offensively, you start with their explosive players. It starts with the quarterback. Obviously, (Falcons Quarterback) Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the last decade or so in this league. You go with the explosive receivers on the outside – (Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin) Ridley is as good as they come. He's very savvy, runs great routes, has good hands, he's very quick going up the field, he has very good agility in open space to make you miss if you're not a good, sound tackler. Fundamentals in open space will be key against this guy and then also playing with good fundamentals in pass defense to not give him opportunities for open receptions. You go to the tight ends, I think obviously they have several good options there. I think (Falcons Tight end Kyle) Pitts, the young guy, stands out. There's a reason they took this guy so high in the draft, a reason why people liked him coming out. You can talk about this guy being a big receiver, but this is a guy who's very capable of blocking and running their offense as a tight end. You see him in the last couple of games as the packages start to unfold and really develop with this guy, he's definitely a threat down the field. You saw against Tampa him taking a slant and extending that thing and getting vertical with it, some of those pop passes over the seam. This guy is really a threat with the ball in his hands, he's definitely a weapon. They can line him up out wide matched up on corners and run all the receiver routes as well, so this guy is a versatile piece. Then, between the running backs, I think the one guy who's a little bit of a unique piece that goes in that stamp of Tennessee is (Falcons Running Back Cordarrelle) Patterson. One thing about CP is he's a big, strong man whether you're talking about him in the return game or in the offensive game. This guy really runs that wide zone scheme that they're bringing from the L.A. days, the Tennessee days, the footprint of this offense. (He) does a great job of really stretching and running. When you watch this guy with the ball in his hands – I don't care if it's kickoff return or offense – the one thing this guy does is really build speed, put stress on your defense, sticks his foot in the ground and he gets vertical. The thing about this guy, you let him get going and he's very hard to take down, he's very big, he's very strong, he's very powerful. Without trying to group guys in the same category, I think there's a lot of things they did with Henry in Tennessee that really apply directly over to how they're using CP right now. Obviously, he's a different piece in the pass game with how they use him. You can see him really starting to evolve with his role in the offense, had an explosive game against Tampa Bay. This guy is definitely someone you have to account for every time he's on the field, whether he's playing gunner covering kicks, whether he's a kickoff returner, whether he's on offense as a runner or a pass catcher. This guy has really gone ahead and developed his game throughout his career and built a lot of versatility on it. I think Ragone does a great job in terms of using the pieces with him and working with Arthur. It's going to obviously be a lot of elements you see from his days in Chicago under that tree of (Bears Head Coach Matt) Nagy, that West Coast tree that kind of stems from (Chiefs Head Coach) Andy Reid. Does a great job of using things that really hurt you in the past. They package them a little bit differently, so we have to be very aware of things that came up in previous games as well as past games and last year with our team. They're going to look to expose personnel and systematic deals. They do a great job offensively.
Defensively, I've got a ton of respect for (Falcons Defensive Coordinator) Dean Pees. This guy has been around for a long time for a reason. You could say on the surface that the defense comes from a similar tree, that there's a lot of similarities between what we do and they do. I think the thing he does a great job of is really using the personnel he has available. You see a lot of guys that were in (Cowboys Defensive Coordinator) Dan Quinn's defense last year that he's turning and kind of using in a little bit of a different scheme, the way he's using them up front and in coverage. He's really doing an effective job right now. I think there are some things that you can look at on the stat sheet that are very misleading. This is a very aggressive defense. They've got speed off the edge to rush the passer, you saw that with the strip-sack (Falcons Outside Linebacker Dante) Fowler (Jr.) had on (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom (Brady) late in the game the other day. Obviously, they can get after you with the blitzes and the packages inside, that's definitely something they do very well. They play that aggressive zone defense where they can disguise the looks. They can play three-deep or two-deep, really shade it. It really breaks down to giving you something short, breaking on you and then punching the ball out. This team is third in the league for forced fumbles for a reason. They're very aggressive. You can see great eye control with these guys in open space, looking for bad fundamentals on ball security and they really look to attack it. There was the one they punched out on (Buccaneers Running Back Leonard) Fournette the other day. It was a great teaching clip for our team in terms of how they're structured and taught to attack that ball. There's going to be multiples in that defense. We've got to play very sound. It's got to start up front with protection, giving ourselves a chance to throw the ball and get it out, and then the run game, getting a chance to get this thing vertical and get it moving up the field or hit the edge, whatever ends up coming up within the game plan.
Special teams-wise, (Special Teams Coordinator) Marquice (Williams) does a great job. He's been around a lot of aggressive coordinators as he's worked throughout his years in the league. He's taken some things from each one of those guys, but he's definitely putting his own personal stamp on it. The thing that really sticks out to me when you watch his tape is (they're) aggressive. They're aggressive in the return game with explosive returns to get this thing going. They're definitely a home run threat every time they have the ball in their hands. They're aggressive to block kicks, whether it's the field goal rush or the punt rush. They're very big on using their size players or defensive players to create mismatches on your long snapper, your wings on the punt team, trying to collapse your edges on field goal protection. They do a great job of really getting after you and using their size players. They also have a very talented and very fast young core. They're covering kicks right now very well, really limiting other teams' return games from getting going. I think this team plays with a lot of multiples, as well. When we talk about their special teams – we talk to our team about them being aggressive, being aggressive within the multiples and then also we have to play aware for the fakes, the gimmicks, the formation shifts, things that are going to come up throughout the game.
This is a good team, they've got a lot of good players. They definitely improved from Week 1 to Week 2. We expect to see the best football they have to play. We expect to see an up-tempo type of game with these guys looking to take shots and be explosive. We have to have a good week of prep as a team and take that step forward. Our focus is on improving as a team. That being said, I'll open up to any questions you have.
Q: What makes Ridley such a dangerous receiver?
A: It ain't one thing. It's not just one thing. I think this guy has got a lot of experience, number one. He's very savvy. He has great awareness in space when he's playing against zone of really finding the open spot. He doesn't tip his routes at the top, that's the other thing, too. He doesn't get high in his pad level and his feet get out in front of his body – this guy can really run in press chest over knees over toes and make sudden cuts. He's got very good agility, he's very good athletically, he has very good hands and then that quickness to get going vertical. A lot of times you've got fast receivers, but when they get the ball in their hands, if you get them going – it's kind of like that train going up the hill that's got to get going to get the momentum. He's one of those where he sticks his foot in the ground and he's going. He hits top speed very quickly, so that separation of hitting that top speed fast overrides a top speed of someone maybe straight-line fast or they can't get going as fast.
Q: What are your medical people telling you about what (Tight End) Evan (Engram) can do today and what are you expecting from him this week?
A: We're going to start him out early with the trainers, see where he's at. He had a decent day the other day. He's still progressing, moving in the right direction. We were hopeful early coming out of camp – obviously, we didn't put him on IR – we were hopeful to get him to this point. We're going to have to see these next couple of days how he can string it together. Again, I talk all the time about (how) the point is to get guys on the field and keep them on the field, so we want to make sure (with) guys coming off of certain injuries that you don't press them too early and risk getting those guys out there playing fast and then losing them. We're going to have to see him at practice today, see what he does, see if he can stay out there with us.
Q: You said he had a 'decent' day the other day?
A: He did. Decent day the other day.
Q: 'Decent' is not great, right?
A: I mean, you can go ahead and paraphrase it and try to structure it, whatever it is. For me, decent is decent.
Q: Do you view (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) getting that 41-yard run as a positive sign that he's getting close to the Saquon that you need him to be?
A: I don't think sitting here trying to compare someone to what they were in the past is really ever the objective of us as a coaching staff. I think it's a positive for the team knowing that he can make explosive runs for us. I see him going out there every day, he practices hard, he plays with confidence. Obviously, there are some things coming off an injury like that that you've got to have certain stepping stones, but like I've said all along, when the medical team says he's greenlighted to go, we've got to go and start playing with him. He's done a good job preparing for us. he's done a good job in performance for us and we're going to keep on going with him.
Q: I think you said (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) played pretty well.
Q: He wound up losing the game anyway. Is there a danger there that he's going to go back to trying to do too much? I mean, that's always been the pitfall for him is he tries to do too much and that's when the turnovers come.
A: I think our focus with any player is to make sure that they understand there's 11 people on the field and we need each player to do their job, and Daniel's done a really good job of that for us. Just do your job. We have to rely on the other guys to take care of their job and their responsibility, and when that happens and we play complementary football, we have success. I thought Daniel did a lot of positive things the other night, a lot of positive things for us. He put us in a position to be successful. There's other things as a team we have to do to eliminate mistakes that cost us the opportunity to be successful. That's really the lesson we have to learn and go forward with.
Q: Do you have to hammer that into him and say –
A: I hammer that with every single player. I hammer that with every player on our team every day. They probably get sick of hearing it, but every day they hear the same thing. Daniel's no different than any player. I try to make that point every day in terms of doing our job, working hard, putting the team first, but making sure that we rely and communicate with the people next to us every day. Daniel's done a great job of really playing within the role and understanding that he can't – I think everyone at some point is a competitor and wants to do something to change the game. To me, the important thing is for every player to understand that you'll change the game by doing your job with good fundamentals and execution, and you change the game when everyone else does their job, as well. You can't press it and try to force it. That's really when you start seeing mistakes from around the league. You see guys in different situations, you say, 'Hey, they're close, they're pressing,' they make an errant throw, they make a bad mistake as a runner, reaching out for the ball and getting the touchback when it goes through the end zone, things like that. You've just got to make sure you keep pressing these guys on fundamentals. Our guys are very competitive. Our guys come out here obviously every week, we practice, we play, we prepare to have success. That's always the focus, that's always the goal. The goal is to improve as a team and put ourselves in a position for that. Daniel does a great job every day coming out and working his hardest. We all have confidence in him and how he does that. In terms of him pressing too far, my message to him is always the same, just play within the system, play within your role, facilitate the offense and good things will happen.
Q: You've said in the past the idea that when a guy puts mistakes on film, teams will drill down and go after it. With a guy like Daniel who puts together the kind of game that he put down the other night – and I'm not saying it was perfect, but obviously it was pretty good – do you have to walk a line of, 'Okay, just go out and do the same thing,' or do you think that teams will now attack what he did well the other night? It's almost like a different way of attacking what he was successful at.
A: I can't speak for everybody, but I believe everyone always tries to neutralize your strengths and take advantage of your weaknesses. The message I always have to the team that I believe is until you get something off tape, teams are going to attack it. When I say get it off tape, I mean you've got to watch at least four games in this league of seeing a scheme, a system, a personnel situation, that it's no longer an issue. You've got to see someone prove over the course of time that they can handle whatever you're going to throw at them. So, to me, we have to be very conscious of if you have a breakdown in protection, if you have one on special teams, if you have something with a personnel mismatch on defense, offense or whatever it may be – you have to understand that everybody's watching that tape.
It's a small league, everyone watches everybody's tape all the time. Everybody is looking to steal, copycat, borrow, whatever you want to call it. So, until you get that off tape – I'd say it's at least a four- game stretch – teams are coming after you. I think in different phases of the game that may hold up for a longer period of time. To me, if it's in special teams, it's almost the entire season. If you have a breakdown in protection, they're going to test it every week. In situational football, maybe it's third down or two-minute, you don't get those situations – you get third down every week – but you don't always get a true two-minute or end of game type of situation every week. Once you show something (and) until you show that it's no longer an issue as a team, teams are going to attack it.
Q: You talked about Ridley and what makes him so tough. How do you think (Cornerback James) Bradberry has played so far this season?
A: I'm pleased with the way James is progressing. There's obviously things that every player on this team (has) to keep doing better and keep getting better. We're far from a finished product, but I like the way he comes out, works and competes. I've seen a lot of production obviously in games. He's competing for us. I think James is off to a good start for us.
Q: How does having (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) affect your philosophy and how much you want James to go follow other teams' top receivers?
A: I don't think it affects anything directly with what we want to do with James. Certain game plans we play more matchup based. Some game plans we may think it's the best thing based on what the opponent does to play right and left, field-boundary, whatever we do. Every week we come in on Wednesday, like we did today, and we explain the game plan to the players. We make sure through training camp we build on a lot of that versatility, so when guys hear different adjustments or what may be different each week they understand that this isn't really new to us. I think Adoree' gives us flexibility within matchups. I don't think it limits James in anything he's going to do. I don't know if that answered your question or not. It's not going to restrict us with anything we want to do with James.
Q: When you look around the league, it seems like there are a lot of high-scoring games. Is that because it's harder to disrupt the quarterback's rhythm these days and what offenses are doing?
A: I think you watch the trends of the league, what you just said is very true in a lot of ways. I think the structure and rules of the league lead to higher scoring at times – the inability to really disrupt receivers down the field the way you used to, some of the restrictions on quarterbacks – not that you want to make them a target, but the reality is the rules are little bit different than they were called 10, 12, 15 years ago. I think it leads to higher scoring the way it's structured. That's just part of the game. You can't panic or overreact. You have to go into games and understand these guys get paid to play offense. These guys get paid to coach offense. They're going to have a scheme or a system that's going to work at some point. It's how do we adjust? How do we fix it? How do we move on within the game to make sure we limit that opportunity again? Offensively, we've got to make sure we take advantage of our opportunities to finish drives, that's something we have to do. And defensively, we have to take advantage of the opportunities to get teams off the field, that's something we've got to work on this week.
Q: I apologize if the timing is off here, but it's a little awkward. We got here Monday and after you talked, (Wide Receiver) Kenny Golladay said that he was yelling at (Offensive Coordinator) Jason Garrett on the sideline. Is there a difference there? Do you have to address that? Do you have to make sure that there is none of that fighting on the sidelines between a player and a coach?
A: I'd like to clarify. I said the same thing the other day – to me, speaking with emotion and fighting are two completely different things. Maybe it's because of where I grew up and how it is. Maybe I talk with my hands a lot and maybe I raise my voice a lot, I don't know. Maybe I don't overreact sometimes to volume. Look, I've got to apologize to certain people on the sidelines. Sometimes we have support staff out there or people that help us, and I've got to tell them on the front end like, 'Whatever I say today, don't take it personal.' In the heat of the moment, things happen, things get going. Like I said the other day, when there's something that has to be disciplined, I'll discipline it. I talk to all the players all the time. We're very transparent and open with our team. Look, if there was an issue, it would be handled. I love the way Kenny competes. The one thing I really love about this guy is he's got a lot of fire. He's got a lot of fire and he wants to go out there and he wants to be successful. The conversation the other day wasn't anything in terms of an attack on a coach or a player specific to 'You have to do something,' but it was just simply put, of, 'Hey, I can do this. Give me a chance on this type of route,' or whatever it may be. Those things happen a lot. They happen a lot. Me and (Defensive Back) Nate Ebner may talk like an old married couple. He normally comes to the sideline and our volume doesn't really get restricted too much. He may come over and give me or T-Mac (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) what's on his mind and at the time he's coming off the field, you're playing with a lot of adrenaline and a lot of emotion. Things happen right there. Now, there's a fine line between disrespect, fighting and communicating with volume and intensity. We know the difference right there. We know the difference.