Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Today we'll begin our preparation for Dallas. I'd say just off the bat, this is an extremely talented team. They're playing at a very, very high level. Getting ready for this team is really going to take everything we have on all three sides of the ball.
Offensively, obviously (Cowboys Head Coach) Mike's (McCarthy) background is offense. You see a large influence of his this year. It's still (Cowboys Offensive Coordinator) Kellen (Moore) calling the plays. There's a large design for Kellen's offense and that stretches back even going through his experience with (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett). But you see a lot of the influence in terms of how they're playing. The run game is extremely efficient and effective on early downs staying ahead of the sticks. They're doing a great job on early downs with the short controlled passing game, ties a lot back into that West Coast offense with Mike and how he's used it in the past. And, of course, they know how to really tie in shot plays down the field and create matchups for their players. Doing a really good job with (Cowboys Running Back) Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott), (Cowboys Wide Receiver) CeeDee Lamb, (Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari) Coop (Cooper) and those guys, really getting them involved. (Cowboys Tight End Dalton) Schultz has really shown up big in key situations, been a very productive player. I think their offensive line this year is playing at an extremely high level. I think we all know about how talented that line has been over the course of the last decade-plus and they just keep on rolling with those guys. That's really helping their run game and their pass game. I think you talk about No. 4, (Cowboys Quarterback) Dak (Prescott) is one of the top guys in the league, one of the most productive players. He's still a threat with his legs, he's not afraid to run it, but this guy really keeps his eyes downfield, looks to extend plays really more for the pass than anything else. I think when you talk about their offense, you can go ahead and just spin a wheel, there's a weapon at every turn, so you can't focus on one guy. You've got to play good, sound defense as a team and work hard to get them off the field, and that's easier said than done.
Defensively, you can see (Cowboys Defensive Coordinator) Dan's (Quinn) influence right away. This team plays fast, they play aggressive, they're very high-effort and they're having a lot of results with turnovers. It's a turnover-driven defenses, they're having a lot of production and that really stems from up front with the pass rush and the disruption they're getting there. They're able to pin their ears back and really get you if they get you behind the sticks. When you reference across the board what they're doing, you can see some of the influence from Dan schematically, but they're doing a lot of different things schematically than what they did when he was in Atlanta or his years through that Seattle system. They've got defensive backs who are very talented, they'll match up very sticky on you, whether that's playing man or match up zone. Creates a lot of problems for you with the receivers in terms of having to fight to get open and then while you're struggling to get open, they go ahead with the rush. It's a very high stunt percentage, a lot of games up front. They know how to use the movement and get after you. That's something they do very, very well. Right now, they're leading the league I believe when they're stunting in terms of pressures on the quarterback and the results, so that's something we have to be prepared for this week in terms of how they use their front.
In the kicking game, known (Cowboys Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) Bones for a long time. Lot of respect for this guy. When you talk about Bones, it's about being sound, communicating, knowing how aggressive he's going to call it, how talented they are in the kicking game. They have a very good core. They have extremely talented specialists, talking about (Cowboys Punter Bryan) Anger and (Cowboys Kicker Greg) Zuerlein, the big-leg kicker and punter who can flip the field position, who can score far field goals. You talk about the guys with the ball in their hands in the return game, (Cowboys Running Back Tony) Pollard and CeeDee Lamb. Obviously, these are two of their top offensive players. They're looking for more opportunities to get the ball in their hands and they can make explosive plays at any point.
On all three sides of the ball, we've got to come prepared, we have to have a good week of preparation, that starts today, and we've got to make sure we translate it over in 60 minutes on Sunday. That being said, I'll open it up for any questions.
Q: Has (Cowboys Cornerback Trevon) Diggs on their backend become a player where you have to identify where he is or are they kind of playing him off to one side?
A: I think you've got to know where this guy is. He's extremely aggressive, he's been very productive. You don't have the results that he's had by accident. This guy has obviously really taken a step forward as a player this year, learned from some things in the past. He's very, very aggressive, he's got great ball skills, he's got great instincts on when to break on the ball and when to undercut the receiver going across the middle. You see that interception he had against the Chargers, that was an outstanding play. To play from behind, catch up to this guy as he's running away from his leverage to undercut him and then lay out and make that interception, that just shows you in terms of the instincts, the awareness, playing within the scheme and just the playmaking ability this guy has.
Q: The way the offense operated on Sunday, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime, is that the way you guys can function going forward being more aggressive and pushing the ball downfield?
A: As far as our offensive approach, really it's the same on all three sides of the ball. Whatever it's going to take to win a matchup with that opponent and whatever the flow of the game dictates, that's how we're going to have to play. Obviously, we made some plays pushing the ball down the field the other day, that was something we saw from their defense that we were able to make plays on. (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) did a good job getting the ball out to receivers. They did a good job protecting up front to give us the time to get the ball downfield.
Q: You obviously don't call the plays, but what is your role in kind of determining what the offense is going to be big-picture and just week to week?
A: We talk through it continuously starting on Monday, going through Monday and Tuesday. Today, we start the prep, it goes into the install of what's going in, it goes into what's being run on the field and making sure that we're sound in everything we're doing and then talking collectively in terms of what we're practicing. You always start out with more in practice than you end up with in the game. You've got to throw some things against the wall sometimes and say, 'Okay, that one doesn't make the cut. Maybe we'll come back to that next week if it fits the scheme and what we're looking for.' Then, within the game, controlling the flow of the game, how we're doing it, making sure that we're playing what we planned or as things are being done in the game, we adjust accordingly.
Q: You talked about using the early part of the season to kind of figure out what you do well, what your identity is. When you look at your offense now, what do you view as the identity of that group?
A: I think the identity of the group right now is I think we're doing a good job protecting up front, we're doing a good job getting the ball to playmakers in space and letting them make plays with their legs. We've been able to be productive in some elements of the run game. I think it's something we've got to keep on improving on. In terms of the pass game, I like the way we're setting things up on early downs. We've become more efficient on some third downs and we're executing better situationally. So in terms of our identity, I like the way our guys are taking what's given to them. We don't have to go out there and force plays. Go out there and understand what's presented in front of us, what's the defense giving us, what matchup can we create, what zone or man matchup works better for us, and Daniel is doing a good job identifying that pre-snap and making decisions post-snap.
Q: During the draft, how did you evaluate (Cowboys Linebacker) Micah Parsons as a player and why did you ultimately decide not to go in that direction?
A: Our decisions for our team were big-picture (and) what we thought was best for our team. Him as a player, he's an elite player. This guy is explosive. I think the one thing that I picked up on him when I went to the pro day at Penn State and you stand next to him, he's a big man. That's the one thing I told the team today is this guy on tape sometimes doesn't look as big as he is. He's a big guy, he's strong and he's explosive. You watch this guy play, he's very athletic, he has really, really good instincts. Obviously, they use him on the edge in the pass rush, he's got the green dot, he's playing in the stack right now, makes plays in both spots. This is a guy that coming out looking at his college tape, he actually had a lot of production on the edge that we looked at and talked collectively about (how) this guy really gives you dual value – stack backer to edge backer, he can cover, he can blitz, he can do a lot of things. I think this guy is going to be one of the elite players in the league for a long time. Our decision had nothing to do with his impact as a player, we just make the best decision for the team.
Q: I know you're cognizant of trusting the process and this is a gradual thing, but this is a game against a division rival and if you win this game, all of a sudden, this race looks different, a lot different than it did when we talked a couple of weeks ago. Are you mindful of that?
A: Well, this race goes the entire length of 17 weeks, so we're going to make sure that every week we keep taking a step forward and we want to be consistent in how we prepare and make sure we're a better team each week. That's our focus. All the big-picture stuff, that'll take care of itself. We can take care of how we prepare today on early downs and third down. Tomorrow, we'll show up and work early down, third down and some of the red area. That's our focus right there. We're going to keep it small and keep it focused.
Q: In your experience with a young player who's not really 100-percent proven – let's say Daniel in this case. When they win a national award, a Player of the Week kind of thing, can that help a player, his psyche, his confidence, things like that, outside influences helping him?
A: I don't think we need outside confirmation to tell us what we're doing and that's kind of as a team. When someone gets an award like that, that's a team award. Any time a quarterback gets an award, that starts with the protection. That starts with the skill players being able to make plays with the ball in their hands. It starts with the defense and the kicking game giving field position and opportunities to get the ball back and make plays. Obviously, what he's done is he's capitalized on the opportunities and that's what we preach to all of our players. You can't force when the opportunity comes your way, but you have to handle it the right way when it does. He obviously has done that. He's put our team in a position to have success. I see him improving every day. In terms of just national awards improving someone's psyche, I've seen this guy weather a lot of storms already. In our short time together, I've seen him weather a lot of storms. In terms of anything on the outside influencing him, if he's going to go ahead and have this make him feel good, what's it going to be when it crashes down the other way? This guy does a good job of just making sure he stays focused on what the task at hand is and move forward every week.
Q: It can feel good though, right? I mean, a player is allowed to feel good about getting something, you know? It's human nature – you get an award, 'Oh great.' I'm not saying it's life-changing, but it's better than –
A: Can he feel good about it? Yeah, absolutely. Enjoy it. Can it affect how you work, prepare and perform this week? Absolutely not.
Q: When you look at Lamb and Cooper, some teams have one really good receiver (and) they have two. How much of a challenge is that? Also, schematically, what do you notice about how they're using them and what sort of challenges do they pose scheme-wise?
A: I'd say first off, just talking about the skill players there, you even go beyond those two. I mean, (Wide Receiver Michael) Gallup's obviously injured right now, I don't know where he's going to be exactly this week. Schultz has really done a good job at the tight end position, the two backs and these guys, so it's all across the board. In terms of schematically, what they're doing a really good job of right now with all their guys is they're finding creative ways within their base plays of dressing it up and getting the ball out, so every time the ball hits Dak's hands it looks the same way. The other thing they're doing is you watch a lot of tape, there's obviously a lot of thought put into how they're using 88, Lamb. Whether he's in the backfield on the short-yardage stuff or breaking the huddle fast, getting lined up and using him as a running back. You see him in the Tampa game, they kind of bluff that quick screen to the side and he kind of bluffs and goes. So, these are obviously things they put a lot of thought into in terms of a game plan (and) preparation of how do we get him involved? How do we create explosive plays with CeeDee Lamb? And I'd say this, this guy's extremely talented. Ball in his hand, I don't care if it's punt return, handoff, receiving, whatever it is, this guy is a weapon every time he touches it.
Q: You said Daniel has weathered a lot of storms. Can you share an example of what you consider a storm that he's weathered?
A: I'm not going to go into the specific details, but this kid's pretty mentally tough. In terms of handling any outside influence, positive or negative, I've seen this guy already just go ahead, come in and be unfazed and unaffected, and make sure he influences the team the right way internally.
Q: When you play a team that's aggressive, especially Dallas on defense, how much can you use that against them?
A: I think every team tries to play aggressive. I think there's different ways you can kind of pose and say, 'What matchup can we get on a certain player? How do they play? Can we find something to use them?' I think it still comes back to the base fundamentals of you can scheme everything up to say we have to isolate this one guy in this one specific coverage or how they're going to play something, but then you've got to go back to the whole sound board of, look, it's the protection upfront, it's how we get the guys out. If they take that away on that guy, what's the rest of the pattern look like? What's the rest of the run look like? So, can you try to find a way to scheme guys up? Yeah, we all do that every week. Can you rely solely on that one scheme up or that one play? Absolutely not.
Q: You said they have a high stunt percentage – this potentially could be, from what we see, that you have your entire offensive line play back-to-back weeks. Is that an advantage for you guys to have that, not having to keep moving guys around? I know you have confidence in all the guys, but starting the same five presumably would be better than not?
A: It's always nice to have some continuity with the guys at the game. The last few weeks, we had new guys come in every week as far as getting them acclimated to our systems, (getting) on the same language and then trying to get them ready for a game at the same time. That's a challenge, but (Offensive Lineman) Wes (Martin) has done a good job of that. (Guard) Ben (Bredeson) did that early in the season. (Offensive Lineman Matt) Skura did that early in the season as far as getting ready. (Offensive Lineman) Jonotthan Harrison, coming back the last few weeks getting ready. I'd say in terms of just an advantage on it, the advantage is going to go to whoever performs better on Sunday, so we've got to do a good job preparing for these guys and accounting for everything they can do and things we've seen from other games as well that are going to show up in this game.
Q: You had a different speed element at receiver with (Wide Receiver John) Ross (III) and (Wide Receiver) Kadarius (Toney) playing as much as he did. I'm wondering if you saw on tape looking back or if you expect going forward, does that help clear the box and give (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) more space when safeties have to be really worried about Ross and Toney going deep?
A: I'd say just a general football answer to that is, yeah, if you've got speed that can take the top off, they've got to decide on how they want to cover you. Do they trust a guy to lock up man the entire game, the entire field? Do they have to have safety help over the top? Is it one safety, two safeties based on however they see your guys as a threat and the situation of it? Does it help you as far as kind of lightening up the box? It can. It can. Now, some teams will just turn around and just tell their corners, have a nice day and we're going to load the box anyway, so we'll see how they approach it.
Q: On Sunday night, (Patriots Head Coach) Bill Belichick went into the Bucs locker room to talk to (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom (Brady) for like 20 minutes after the game and a lot of people view that as out of character for him. What did you make of that?
A: I think when you know the guy, I don't think you see anything like that as out of character. There's a lot of things you kind of see publicly and lot of things you kind of see privately. I've worked for a lot of guys whose maybe public perception doesn't come off great, but privately you know them as some of the best human beings you've ever met.
Q: Anything on (Wide Receiver) Sterling (Shepard) and (Wide Receiver) Darius (Slayton)? Do we expect to see them out there?
A: We'll see them move around a little bit today. We'll see where they're at. I know both guys are kind of pushing to get back as fast as they can, but we'll have to see them today. Really, we'll have to see them tomorrow when the pace comes up a little bit in practice.
Q: Do you expect them to be in practice to some degree the next few days?
A: I'm optimistic.
Q: Are (Safety) Jabrill (Peppers) and (Wide Receiver C.J.) Board in the same thing?
A: (Jabrill is) actually in the same exact thing. C.J. will be out here full today. He's going to be good to go.