HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What are your thoughts on Dion Lewis being placed on injured reserve?
BB:It's obviously a tough break for Dion. Dion has worked really hard and he's had a really productive spring, camp and helped our football team a lot – great attitude, great worker, great kid. Hopefully he'll have a good recovery and we'll get him back.
Q: What are your thoughts on some of the guys on your roster that can step up and fill the void?
BB:Yeah, we have confidence in everybody on our roster, however those roles fall, that's why we have those guys. I'm sure they'll be prepared and step up and give us their best and do a good job for us.
Q: Are the Giants running more of a West Coast offense this year?
BB:I think they've definitely adopted kind of a West Coast element to their passing game, but they do a good job offensively. They have some balance in their running game with big people – tight ends, fullbacks, or tight end in the backfield, that type of thing. They move the tight end a lot. They change formations. They run out of the gun. They run under center. They do run a lot of the quick passing game that we're familiar with in that type of offense, but they also get the ball down the field and have a lot of vertical routes and back shoulder type routes to their perimeter receivers. I wouldn't say all those things that I mentioned were characteristics of that type of offense. Some are, maybe some aren't, but it looks like there is probably an element of it. Coach [Tom] Coughlin has a long offensive background. There are things that he likes that I'm sure they've retained from previous successful years and offensive systems that they've been in. I'm not sure exactly how it all breaks down, but they do a number of different things.
Q: Prior to Sunday's game, Jonathan Kraft said on the radio that the league is looking into expanding rosters. Is that something you'd be in support of?
BB:What are you talking about now? There is a game day roster of 46, there is a regular season roster of 53, and there is training camp roster of 90. So I'm just saying. And there are obviously the rules like the IR designation and things like that that are auxiliaries to those rules, so I'm not sure exactly which part of the roster you're referring to here. I'm just saying there are a number of different elements.
Q: I don't think he was specific as to where the roster expansion would occur, but as a coach, where would it benefit you the most – the 46-man, the 53-man or the 90-man roster?
BB:Those questions, and look, they're good questions, they come up every year, and I know that the league meetings, those get talked about in one version or another. We'll start with the game day roster. The issue with the game day roster is if you allow all the players to play, let's say you allow all 53 players to play, then you get into some competitive situations due to injuries where I have 53 players but you only have 48 because you have guys that are hurt and that type of thing. So there is a competitive aspect to that versus the argument of, 'Well they're all on the team, they're all being paid, so why can't we use them?' It kind of goes back and forth on that one. I think one of the issues with the extra players if you will, like going from 46 to some higher number on game day, it gets into the over-specialization. Do you have a long field goal kicker, a short field goal kicker, a kickoff guy, a field goal kicker, extra specialty-type players that therefore just require other extra specialty-type players? So if you carry four tight ends or you carry a lot of receivers or a lot of backs and use formations and personnel groups … So you have a Wildcat quarterback, you've got a regular quarterback, you've got a backup quarterback, you've got some other type of quarterback, that just forces a similar specialization on defense to match up with that. I don't know if that's really where we want the game to go. There was a time in the National Football League, not that long ago, when the same 11 players played on offense on every play and the same 11 defensive players played on defense on every play. The fans knew all the players. Now it's hard for me, and I'm full time at this, to keep up with all the players, even on the teams that we play, like the Giants, or I'm sure the Giants are looking at us. There is a lot of roster movement and guys on and off and injuries and practice squad guys and all that, so when you add the practice squad players on the roster potentially because they could be added all the way up to the day before the game, that's other depth that you have on your roster that you can get up to your 46 if you need to. So, you're talking about training camp numbers – I'm not sure in the overall big picture of the league how many of the players of those extra 320 players, the guys from 80-90, from 81-90, that let's say five years ago wouldn't have been on a roster in training camp, although you had the Europe exemption guys and all that. I'd say the 85-90 number, somewhere in there, was what the training camp numbers have been for a while. You get into that whole how much higher do you need to go than 90 for training camp and what impact do those players really have on the overall quality of the league, although I think without doing a total study on it, certainly my impression is that the injures in the early part of the season – training camp to the early part of the season – is definitely on the incline, so maybe that's something that would warrant further study. And again, I'm sure that the league will take a look at that every year. But in the end, it comes down to the players that are playing, and I think as you get into the second half of the season, what you usually see at this point is players going on injured reserve that are going to be out for the season because the season is shorter, they have less time to recover, players going on injured reserve, teams bringing in emergency players, whether they bring them in from outside the organization or they bring them up from the practice squad, and in a lot of cases those players that get added to the team or even to the 46-man roster don't play a tremendous amount I'd say overall as a group, although there are some notable exceptions. But overall you don't see those guys getting a lot of playing time. So when you lose a player and replace him with an emergency player or a practice squad player on your roster, I'd say probably the general tendency of most teams and most coaches would be to take their other better players who are already on the team and use them more rather than take another body that hasn't been with the team and give those snaps to the player that is now out of the lineup. I think usually you try to find a way to take what you have and just do more with it rather than take somebody that is a lot further away and isn't as familiar with what you're doing and what your system is and think you're going to get them up to the same speed that the guy that you just got hurt was at. Another long answer to a short question, but there are a lot of different aspects to it and obviously there are a lot of other factors involved, like the CBA and the Player's Association and salary cap implications and benefits and a thousand other things, most of which I'm not even familiar with. But it does impact the competitiveness of the game.
Q: Thanks, Bill.
BB:Yeah, sorry to take so long on that.
Q: How would you characterize how Joe Cardona has performed this season, and how do you think he's balanced his responsibilities to both the team and the Naval Academy?
BB:I don't think Joe has really had … He's serving in the Navy. He's not, like not doing a job there. He has responsibilities in the Navy. He's not at the Naval Academy, and so he does what he's assigned to do, and within that, we've been able to work with that schedule. We've worked with the schedule that he has to be able to keep him participating on our team. So he's balanced them. It's hard enough to be a rookie in this league when this is your only job. He has two jobs, so that's more challenging, but that's something that people like Joe who have been in the Naval Academy have experience with – time management and multitasking and doing different things and handling different levels of responsibility, both physically, mentally and emotionally. I'd say he's overall done a good job of balancing that. He's improved a lot. He's a young player. He still has a long way to go and a lot of things he can do better, but he's improved a considerable amount since we first started working with him in the spring and he continues to work hard and improve and as you said, he's balancing other responsibilities in his life as well, which we all do, but his are a little more job-related.
Q: You had eight safeties active for the game against Washington.
BB:Is that a league record?
Q: I know a lot of those guys contribute in the kicking game, but is there something about the guys in that position that you're able to use them in various positions? What is the reasoning for having so many active safeties?
BB:I think if you take a look at those payers and what their roles were in the game, there were several of the safeties that you're referring to that I don't believe they played on defense. So what their role in the game really ended up being was playing in the kicking game. And as we've talked about, you have those 66 spots that you have to cover on special teams, and when we look at it, we don't look at it as offensive players or defensive players on special teams. We look at it as who's going to play those positions, and then independently we look at the offensive and defensive depth and personnel groupings and then we try to match them up. In the end, it's really trying to balance all those things and again at this time of the year – well it could be any time of the year really – but when you have injuries involved, when you look at your roster and say, 'Ok these X number of players are out of the game, physically they can't play, then they're out. It's a non-consideration, there's nothing else to talk about.' Now you take the players that are left that are at your disposal and from a coaching standpoint you make those decisions as to which 46 players give us the best chance in this particular game, and those are the ones that you select, and again to balance out offense, defense and special teams. I'd say one of the considerations would come down to if you could take a player that would have a role in the kicking game that would alleviate another player's role on offense or defense, then there would be some benefit to that even though he doesn't give you depth maybe at that position offensively or defensively, it would help you manage the player that does have that offensive or defensive role in terms of him not having to take on an additional special teams role, if that makes any sense.
Q: The stats say that Eli Manning has been especially accurate when throwing to his wide receivers, when usually throws out wide have a lower percentage. Why do you think he's been so accurate throwing to his receivers, particularly Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr.?
BB:Well probably because all the players you're taking about are pretty good – good quarterback, good receivers. Those guys really catch the ball well. Obviously we all know that. They do a good job of making catches when the ball is around them and the ball is usually thrown pretty accurately. It's a very good skill group, the backs are good, they have good players at tight end and their receivers are very good, with a lot of depth, especially when you include [Victor] Cruz in there, who we have to be ready for in our preparations as well. [Dwayne] Harris has made a lot of big plays for them and he's a productive layer, Cruz, and as you said, Randle and Beckham, they've got a lot of talented people and a very good quarterback.
Q: Chandler Jones leads the league in sacks, but often it seems like he's not the only guy getting pressure on the quarterback. Can you speak to how important it is to have a good pass rush from the entire front?
BB:Again, that's really important. There is going to be a handful of plays that you can probably identify and say well that was a great pass rush by a certain player and that basically dominated the play, but there are far more plays that are collective – they're done on a collective basis, whether it's coverage that forces the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer or people in the throwing lane or, as you mentioned, a player that's providing a little bit of pressure initially on the quarterback but he slides to get away from him and that puts him closer to other rushers, that type of thing. It's usually more of that situation that's more common to have guys that their production in the play is a function of what somebody else is doing in the play and really team defense. Now that being said, the closer you are to the ball more often, the more chances you're going to have of making plays, and I'd say Chandler has definitely done that. He's put himself close to the quarterback on a number of occasions and sometimes he makes the play, sometimes he forces to somebody else, but he's around there quite a bit, so he certainly is getting a high level of production there because of that. He's been really active and productive, but probably one of the best things Chandler has done this year is play the run, and a lot of times he's playing it from the edge but there are certainly other times when he's played it from a three technique and much closer to the ball and he's done a good job of that, too. I'd say his whole game has been good and he's performed well on a consistent basis all year and that's been great to see him play that way and have that kind of production and consistency.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS CONFERENCE CALL
Q: How do you have to prepare differently with Jason Pierre-Paul expected to be back in the mix this week?
JM:He's a unique player. He's got great length, burst. He's got a variety of different pass-rush moves. I know he hasn't played a lot of games this year, but we've seen him in the past. We've played against him in the past. [He's] a very difficult player to block on a consistent basis, and add that to the mix of guys they have on the front. They rotate a lot of different guys in there and usually have a fresh group rushing and or playing the run up there. They've got a lot of different style of players, and he just adds another dimension to that unit that we have to prepare for. We're going to have to go back and study some things from the past, study what we saw last week and really be conscious of him along with a lot of the other things they challenge you with on their defense.
Q: Is he a guy they've moved all along the defensive front in the past?
JM:He's definitely played at a couple of spots. We always try to do a good job of making sure that our players are looking at different players along the front just in case they end up matched up on them so that they understand the strengths and weaknesses of those players. So this week will be no different. We'll make sure that we try to educate them on some of the things that we feel are very important if they end up blocking them, and they do a great job of studying and working on their own to make sure that they watch those guys and familiarize themselves with the defense, the personnel and the scheme that we're playing.
Q: What have you seen from Josh Kline so far this season?
JM:Josh has given us consistent play. He's played at both guard spots this year, so he's had to be in tandem with a lot of different people, certainly the center, David Andrews, but also both tackles, or all the tackle combinations that he's played alongside. I know he's an intelligent guy. He's tough. He plays very hard, and he always gives us everything he has, so he's a guy who's been in our system, he's learned how to play in our offense, and he's a valuable piece to what we do. We count on him to provide veteran leadership and help the communication process up front along with the other guys. And he's done a very good job of [being] accountable to his job, accountable to his preparation every week and comes out and plays a full 60 minutes every week.
Q: What did you learn about Steve Spagnuolo's defenses during your time in St. Louis? What can you take from that experience that might apply to Sunday?
JM:It was a valuable part of my learning experiences that I've had in the past. I got a chance to see a different way to do some things in general, and then to compete against Coach Spags in training camp and in practice – very difficult to prepare for, give you a lot of different looks, very well-coached, disciplined, an attacking style if you will, try to really put the offense on their heels a lot of different ways. Players have fun playing for him, I know that. The system gives a lot of different people a lot of different responsibilities, and I think players enjoy that. And you don't see anything different on film now. They do a lot of different things that create disruptive plays for their defense. They take the ball away better than every team in the league. So the number one thing that you talk about each week is taking care of the ball, and this will be our greatest challenge to date because of how they do it. And they do it in a variety of different ways. So I've got a tremendous amount of respect for Steve and what he does. Certainly, I know he has their defense doing a lot of different things that they pride themselves on. Like I said, they take the ball away, they create negative plays, play tough in the red area. They don't give the offense the ball in good field position, and then their offense usually does a good job of capitalizing on it. So [I] learned a lot when I was with him. It was always difficult to practice against what he had cooked up for us each day, and this week will be no different as we prepare for the Giants.
Q: Do you think that Brandon LaFell is back up to full speed? If so, did it happen quicker than you anticipated?
JM:Jo [Brandon LaFell] works extremely hard, and he always demands the most out of what he can give us. And we count on him to do a lot of different things. I think we'll see a guy who just continues to get better each week. Certainly, if you miss all that time in the offseason and training camp, you need a little time to make up for that, but as you saw last week, there are a lot of things that he does well and can help us with on offense. And Jo always does a great job of preparing each week, being ready to handle the role that he has in the game plan and then has been productive with his opportunities so far. I think each week is another opportunity to improve and get better. That's what we talk about with all our players, and I think he's in the same boat as everybody else.
Q: What have you see from James White in terms of his development from last year to this year? How have you seen him handle himself when his role hasn't been as significant in some games?
JM:James is a very consistent guy. He comes to work. He's got a great attitude and approach, is always prepared to go in and fulfill any of the roles that we have for our backs. He's a dependable guy. He can handle a lot of different assignments, and then when we've needed him to play this season, he's certainly been a guy who has done a decent job in blitz pickup. He's caught the football well out of the backfield, and then he's made yards with it when he's had it in his hands. So James is a guy who continues to get better. Hopefully his best football is in front of him. You know, he's still a young player, has only been in our system for a year and a half here I think. And going forward, whatever his role is, I'm sure James will be prepared, and will give our team everything he has. So I really like his approach and his mentality, and he's got a maturity about him that I really feel good about. He'll have an opportunity now to step in there and play a little bit more with Dion's situation.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA CONFERENCE CALL
Q: What have you seen from your players on A-gap blitzing?
MP:I mean, obviously we've got guys in a lot of different positions, we have a good chance to bring some guys inside, we have a good chance to bring some guys from the outside. Execution is the biggest thing for those. When you see them work well then we've executed properly and there are probably a lot plays in there where you didn't see them work, and then we didn't execute properly. I think that as part of the week-in, week-out preparation, we're just trying to find different ways to utilize everybody and put everybody in a position to make a play.
Q: What has allowed the run defense to be so successful?
MP:I think every game is different; every situation is different in the game. There might be games where there are more opportunities for an opponent to run the ball and games where there is less of an opportunity for opponents to run the ball. The run game is something we certainly try to spend a lot of time on, we've tried to improve since the beginning of the season and we're working on it every single day. It's obviously critical in the game of football to be able to play stout in the run game, so we're just looking at every week to try to get better in that particular area, along with multiple areas on defense and that's a big focus for us week-in, week-out. Certainly we have a big challenge ahead of us with the Giants. They have a lot of different running backs, guys that all carry the ball, guys that are all a little bit different, so I think this is a team that will challenge us in the run game and they will continue to try to run it and keep the offense balanced. If you look at the backs, we know [Shane] Vereen; we've been familiar with him. He brings a different element from a running style and some quickness and some ability to make guys miss and operate in space, and then [Rashad] Jennings being that downhill, really hard running guy who can get the tough yardage. [Andre] Williams will come in and be able to do the same thing. These are big backs who can really come downhill hard and at the defense and attack the defense right in the middle, so it will be a big challenge for us. The run game will be critical for us and we have to try to contain these guys when they do go to the running game.
Q: Is Odell Beckham Jr. the focal point of their passing game? What problems does he present?
MP:He is a great player and he's certainly a guy that has made some phenomenal plays for them. One of the things Eli Manning is doing right now though is he is distributing the ball and he's getting it out fast, he's getting it out to a lot of different receivers. You can see them all making plays, whether its [Reuben] Randle or Beckham or [Dwayne] Harris, we obviously know [Victor] Cruz can make plays. The tight ends, he's getting the ball to all of these guys, the backs out of the backfield, but they certainly have a lot of weapons, and they have an offense they are running right now which allows them to distribute the ball. Coach [Ben] McAdoo is doing a great job of making sure the ball comes out fast and they have a lot of different options for the quarterback and those decisions are quick for him. He's able to see the defense, read the defense and know where to go with the ball fairly quickly, which has resulted in them not taking a lot of sacks, not turning the ball over and just being able to control the game from that standpoint. They score a lot of points on offense and I think having all of those weapons available to him makes it difficult for a defense to try to defend all of those players and then certainly if they see a matchup or particular area that they think they can go to and have success then they will be able to do that. They really have a good combination of a short passing game mixed in with the vertical passing game where they create big plays either by the plays downfield or the throws downfield or just the ability for them to get the ball out quick and allow those guys to catch and run and make plays with the ball in their hand. Certainly tackling is very difficult with this team. They have a lot of guys that operate very well in space and can make defenders miss in those one-on-one opportunities. They really have a balanced offense between the run and pass and then they really have a balanced offense between the guys they can get the ball to. They have great players, but they're actually really distributing the ball well to everyone.