Coach Joe Judge, GM Dave Gettleman preview 2021 NFL Draft, free agency

Karen

Opening Statement: Good to see everybody, it’s been a while. Hope everybody’s gotten a little bit of rest time and, again, I hope everyone’s families are safe and well right now. Just to recap and kind of bring you up to speed on what we’ve been doing since the end of the season, immediately after the season we took the next week, we did all of our self-scout evaluations on our personnel, on the team. We looked through our roster and each position coach breaks up all the players, the coordinators kind of establish the needs going forward, I meet with the coaches and the coordinators before we break on a vacation. And then we break on the vacation, we came back several weeks later after guys kind of caught their breath a little bit. We recapped our roster – we did that as an entire organization with our personnel departments, management and the coaches. We made sure everybody was on the same page in terms of how we played this year, what we have to do to improve the team, what needs we may need to address personnel-wise, and then we shifted our gear coaching-wise into scheme and we did a self-scout solely based on scheme and what we’d done the last year that was successful and what we can do better. That shifts into not only what we do, but then also studying the league, studying some college and seeing what’s productive out there that we can apply into our systems and use to give our players a better advantage. From there, we’ve carried over, our coaches have been working these last couple of weeks on league studies and presenting to each other right now in terms of finding better ways to incorporate into our own playbook and expand our offense, defense and kicking game schemes that will help going forward. All the while, we’ve been doing free agent evaluations and our coaches are currently working on the draft. Along with the personnel department, we’re trying to replicate as best we can the interviews we have at the Combine with prospects through Zoom. We’ve been doing that over a week now with several players a day. It’s been very productive. I think the difference this year is we’re all used to using Zoom, so it doesn’t take as long to get on the same page.

In addition, to update you on some staff moves we’ve made since the end of the season, we’ve added several coaches to our staff. Rob Sale has joined us as our Offensive Line Coach. I’ve known Rob for some time now, I’ve worked with him, I’ve stayed in very close contact with Rob over the years. He’s someone who’s always impressed me as a very thorough teacher, as a very detailed and energetic on-the-field coach and he’s someone who has a very strong relationship with his players. I thought he was a good fit. We made sure to do our due diligence – I talked to probably over 25 coaches personally, our staff researched an additional probably 15-20, we had several interviews in person and countless interviews over Zoom. I would say that they all did a good job and there were a lot of qualified candidates. At the end of the day, the best move for the New York Giants was adding Rob and I’m excited to add him to our staff.

In addition to that, Jeremy Pruitt, we’ve added him as our Senior Defensive Assistant. Jeremy’s going to work with all levels of the defense, the back end, the linebackers and the front. Jeremy’s another guy that I’ve worked with in the past, I’ve kept in very close contact. Jeremy’s a guy that’s coached on all levels, high school, college and now the NFL, and he’s always impressed me as somebody who’s been able to connect with every player on the field regardless of how they came up, where they’re from geographically – doesn’t matter, Jeremy just has a good knack of connecting with everyone. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around and it’s been fun to have him in the building and talking ball. I think he’s going to help our staff as far as bringing some new ideas and different ways of running our current schemes. One thing you’re seeing in the league right now is there are a lot of college schemes that are trickling up to the NFL based on the players and their skillsets and what they’re accustomed to doing. Having guys like Jeremy, [Inside Linebackers Coach] Kevin Sherrer and [Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer] give you a little bit of an avenue of looking into ways they’ve handled similar things in the college game and being able to do it within our own schemes, so it’s something that should help us right there.

We’ve added Pat Flaherty, he’s going to work in a consultant role with both the offensive and defensive staffs. He’s going to have responsibilities on both ends. Obviously, Pat’s specialty, being an offensive line coach in this league for a long time, a tight ends coach, is really dealing specifically with the front. I’m excited to have Pat here. Part of the strength is we’ve got two young offensive line coaches with Rob Sale and [Assistant Offensive Line Coach] Ben Wilkerson, and Pat’s a good sounding board for those guys to have. He’s also someone who can do some extra leg work for us and really break down opponents of what they’re doing, as well as share with our defensive staff maybe how some different offenses are running and give [Defensive Coordinator] Patrick Graham a different perspective on what he’s seeing on tape.

Offensively, we’ve had some different assignment changes and, again, Derek Dooley did a great job for us last year as a Senior Offensive Assistant. Really did a nice job as far as preparing for opponents, running our scout teams and breaking down what we’re doing. I thought he was a guy that we wanted to get him into a room, get him some guys – we’ve moved him to Tight Ends Coach at this point. Derek’s a guy who’s got coordinating experience, he has coached multiple positions, he’s been a head coach, he sees things through a big lens and really sees a big picture at the end of the tunnel, which is important for us, so he’ll be our Tight Ends Coach.

Freddie Kitchens is going to be our Senior Offensive Assistant. His primary responsibility is going to be working with the front. Freddie has coached quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, has worked hand in hand with the offensive line. Again, tying into having two young offensive line coaches with Rob and Ben, I think Freddie is going to be an asset up front working directly with them and helping bring together the game planning, like all of our coaches will, but working directly with [Offensive Coordinator] Jason [Garrett] with some of the things that are going to happen up front. All that being said, I’ll open up to any questions you may have that I can answer at this point.

Q: Year 1 was about the process and about progress. It was about improvement and development. What is the overall mantra as you get set and look ahead to year 2?

A: Yeah, that doesn’t really change. It’s still about being committed to the process, that’s really the biggest thing right there. Like 31 other teams, we have to start over this year. In terms of the commitment to the team, the development of depth on the roster, continuing to develop our players that are here, the identification of the right fits of players through free agency and the draft to add to our program, the theme remains the same. The process is to build a team internally and then add necessary pieces that can add to your team. So, the mantra for us is to come to work every day, do your job, work hard, be attentive and put the team first. That’s going to be the job for every player walking through the door and that’s going to be the job for every coach in this building, as well.

Q: Hey Joe, as all these colleges are having these pro days and there’s no Combine, how are you handling this? Are you sending people to every site? Is everything being done virtually? Are the guys who are traveling being given kits to stay healthy so they can test themselves?

A: So, in terms of traveling from site to site, I’ll let [Senior Vice President and General Manager] Dave [Gettleman] talk about the personnel department and how they’re handling that. We will look to put scouts in the right positions to watch these pro days. I would say that the thing to consider with the pro days going on around the country is the protocols or regulations are a little bit different state by state and school by school. The one thing that we’ve been told that hasn’t changed yet is our interaction with players at these pro days will be almost nonexistent. In terms of what school you’re at, you may be in the stands in the stadium watching a player operate on the field. Now, we’re going to get video tape of all these pro days, so very similar to the Combine, all 32 teams are going to get the same tape of all the players. Really your best view will be the up-close views of the tape that you’re given. Now, ideally leading into the Draft, you want to get out there, you want to meet in person with these players, you want to look them in the eye, you want to get on the field with them, you want to put them through drills and you want to really get a feel for these guys on the field – how they respond to your coaching, what they can and can’t do on the field and really get a feel for their skillset up close. You know, video tape is good, but there’s really no replacing in-person workouts. That being said, because of the travel around the country right now and then also some of the restrictions at the campus, we’re going to be selective about where we send coaches as far as being out to work guys out because, again, you’re more going there as an observer than you are to actually work out the players. It’s definitely different than in the past. I’d say it’s not too dissimilar than the Combine itself where you’d sit in the stands in Indy or in a suite and watch the players work out, but to be honest with you, I’d say 90 percent of the coaches and personnel that are in the booths or in the suites are looking at the guy on the field and then they’re looking at the replay on the screen on TV to get an up-close look at it. It’s not the most ideal view as it is anyway, so, long-winded answer, will there be people out there? There will. Is it going to be as much traveling as in the past or as much interaction? No, it won’t. However, I’d say we have a lot of confidence in going through the draft last year without pro days at all, dealing solely with talking to players after the Combine on Zoom and I think we did a good job working as an organization to evaluate them through that process based on their game tape, to get together and make sure that we agreed in how we saw the player and what the best decision for the team going forward was.

Q: Joe, this offseason seems a little bit different in terms of some of the top quarterbacks in the league and their potential to move around. I’m wondering if your stance has changed at all because of the potential availabilities of those players regarding [Quarterback] Daniel [Jones] and why or why not?

A: No, it hasn’t at all. It hasn’t at all. Again, we have confidence in Daniel, he’s a player that we want to work with going forward with this team. He’s shown us a lot of improvement, there’s a lot of things. I can go on and on about how we respect him and like him and how the locker room responds to him, but the simple answer to that is no.

Q: Last year was obviously about evaluating him and coming to that decision. What do you need to see from him moving forward and what can you do in the next couple of weeks here or the next couple of months as we head toward the draft to help him get there?

A: Well, we’re limited on the interaction we can have with the players anyway. We touch base with our players – texts and phone calls. A lot of these guys come through the building, we sit down and have conversations, but it’s really not football at this point. It’s more just catching up, checking on these guys, making sure that they’re good, that their families are healthy, that if there’s anything they need from us that we can assist them with, but it’s not football at this point. In terms of anything we can do leading up to the draft, until we get clearance to start the offseason program and have the players here and really not get on the field with the players until phase two, that’s the first time we’re really going to get the chance to work with them on the field. Other than that, it’ll be meetings in phase one and some meetings in phase two, and then ideally if we have OTAs again, that’s really where they can make the most gains and improvement as a player. And that’s for all of our players. In terms of Daniel, like every other player and every coach, we all have things we have to improve on and take strides forward in this year. That’s no different for any player on our roster or any player in the league really. But our focus is internally coach some players, we all have to improve, we communicate that directly, I do with all of the coaches, we communicate directly with all of our players in things that we have to improve on both short-term and then long-term throughout their career, and then we put together a system and plan for them to attack that and go forward.

Q: Hey Joe, this offseason, how do you balance trying to plug some holes on your roster to win in 2021 with continuing to rebuild the roster and looking at the long-term picture, like when you’re evaluating free agent decisions and that kind of thing?

A: Look, I’m always a long-term picture guy. I think you have success by continuously building your team through the draft, by developing your players, by adding the right players in free agency that not only fits you schematically but fits you personality and culture-wise in the locker room. I think the one thing to keep in mind as we go through this free agency point of the year – and, look, it’s very exciting, and there’s a lot of press and media and it’s all over TV, but the reality is it’s not fantasy football. You can’t just grab a player, put him on your team and think everything’s going to work out. It has to be the right fit for your team going forward and that’s a fit culturally and a fit schematically, and it’s got to go both ways. There’s things that we do here that, look, we don’t make it easy on our players and coaches, that’s by design. The guys we have in this locker room have bought in, we have a lot of fun here through doing that, but we have a way of doing things. That’s not for everyone, to be honest with you. You have to make sure you bring someone in who’s going to fit the culture and that’s going to buy into what you’re doing, and that shares the same principles and values and team goals that you have. In terms of balancing that, to me it’s just about continuously adding good players to your roster and then it’s our job internally to help those players promote their career through developing and getting better on the field.

Q: You said you evaluated your own team and what you kind of need in regards to personnel, so obviously you’re not going to tell me exactly who you want to get or whatever. From a big picture, what are your goals personnel-wise for this offseason?

A: I’m going to give an answer and this is actually as clear and transparent as I can be – and it’s going to seem very generic and washed out, but this is as simple as I can put it – the priority is really just to add as many good players to this team that we see helping us down the stretch and building with this. That’s the goal. Add good players who fit what we’re looking to do, who can add to the skillsets we need as a team and at the same time fit the culture in the locker room that we’re building here. I know that sounds very generic, there’s guys at all positions that are available throughout the league. Ultimately, what it’s going to come down to is making sure that whatever position we bring guys in that they fit us and that we fit them.

Q: Being specific on one position at least, how important is it for you to add a top playmaker in regards to a receiver this offseason?

A: I think we’ve got to do things to help our players on our roster. We have to make sure we keep putting these guys in position to be successful and part of that is by adding talent and improving the competition on the roster. That can be through the draft, that can be through free agency, that can be a lot of different ways. In terms of adding specifically a receiver, look, if the right situation is up with a guy in free agency, then we’ll pursue it. If the right situation is up with a guy in the draft, then we’ll pursue it. My focus as a coach is when we get whoever we have in the building to continue to put them in the right position to be successful and use their skillsets.

Q: Hey Joe, you guys obviously added a lot of young offensive linemen last year and I know you made it a point to work them into the rotation throughout the year and get them some experience. I’m curious, how much do those guys play into your decision-making in terms of adding offensive linemen this offseason and how do you feel generally about that group coming out of last year?

A: Well, I think because you play five guys at a time at that position, you’re always looking for good offensive linemen to bring into your program and develop. You can never have too many good offensive linemen, nobody’s ever upset that they have a good offensive line. So, I’m very pleased with the development our young guys got last year, I’m pleased with the continuity they built in not really being just five guys working together, but really it was seven or eight guys working together through different stretches of the season and really getting a feel for each other. That being said, again, we’re always looking to add good players that can add to our roster and every player has to compete for what they get here. Specifically to the offensive line, I’m pleased with the progress those guys made last year and if there’s someone at some point to add to the team that’s going to be the best move for the team, we’ll always consider that.

Q: Where are you on [Defensive Lineman] Dalvin Tomlinson? How would you evaluate a guy who doesn’t have the biggest stats because of the position he plays, but certainly seemed to be really important to what your defense was able to do last year?

A: Specific to our players who are free agents, I said it after the season and I’ll say it again, I’d love to have all of our guys back, I really would. I’m not going to comment on anything specifically to contracts and obviously we have a lot of love for Dalvin as a person and as a player. To me, I don’t think stats are always the overlying factor. You have to understand how you use him in your scheme and the overall production he has sometimes by allowing other people to be productive. Look, in terms of Dalvin, I can’t say enough good things about him. I love him as a person, he’s a fun guy to coach. All that being said, we’d love to have all of our guys back. There’s a process every team has to go through this time of year through free agency and all that stuff will be addressed when the time comes.

Q: Hey Joe, have you talked to [Offensive Tackle] Nate Solder and do you expect him to play this season? Did he give you that indication? And do you need either him or [Guard] Kevin Zeitler around, if not both, to mentor your young offensive linemen?

A: I’d say both those players are players that are under contract and currently on our roster. Look, I’m not going to speak for Nate. The answer is yes, I have talked to Nate. To be honest with you, the majority of our conversations have actually had nothing to do with football. I’ve talked a good bit with Nate since the end of the season and just checked up on him in terms of how the year off went, how his family is doing, how his son is doing and how he’s doing personally. There have been a lot of conversations. We have talked some football. There are other areas of our building as well that are in conversations with Nate, but when the time comes to address all that, we’ll know. Obviously, these things don’t all happen in one day and we’ll see where everything goes, but these are players we’d love to have back, they’re guys on our roster.

Q: Hey Joe, this year in particular with the cap being lower, I’m just curious when you look at two positions like pass rusher and wide receiver, how you weigh what’s happening in the draft. It’s obviously a very deep receiver class, so does that kind of shift your way of thinking about that position and maybe the same goes for pass rusher where it might not be so deep and you might have to dip into free agency?

A: I mean, it’s our job to know everybody who’s in the draft as well as everybody throughout the league that’s a free agent. It’s our job to know everyone throughout the league and on rosters, as well. That’s just part of the job, knowing the people in the NFL. Speaking specifically on those positions, you’re always doing your homework based on what’s available in different avenues to add to your team, whether that’s in free agency or the draft. Sometimes they do well off each other, other times they may not. I think the decision always comes down to who’s available at what times and is it the best decision for the organization.

Q: Hi Joe, just following up on wide receivers. When evaluating them, especially because so much is not in person, what characteristics are you looking for on film or intangibles besides fitting into the culture?

A: For all our players, we’re really looking for smart, tough and fundamentally sound. Now, you can evaluate a good bit of that on tape, you can evaluate the smarts or the instincts that you see them play with on tape. You can evaluate the tough through how they play with a physical mentality and how they respond to the tough situations in the game. And fundamentally sound, you have to see on the tape how they play within a positional execution. All that being said, you’re evaluating critical factors not to what they’ve done, but what you think they can do projecting going forward. So, in terms of evaluating anybody simply on tape, you’ve got to do your best work in terms of really evaluating how they play. Ultimately, the most important evaluation is the game tape. With draft prospects, it’s important for us to do our homework on these guys, it’s important for us to have good interaction in person and be very intentional in the questions we ask them to find out the information we need.

Q: Coach, just to follow up on something you said in the beginning, you went through an offseason last year like none other. It looks like it’s going to be the same kind of parameters in terms of virtual. What kind of improvements have you identified that maybe you want to change going forward into this offseason to get better results?

A: I’d say the first thing is in terms of the makeup of this offseason, nothing’s been done officially that we’ve been communicated to about. I’d say our hope is still to have the players in person, whether that’s in intense protocols or whatever it may be. Obviously, it’s a voluntary program, so it’s on the players and what they want to do with their offseason. I could tell you this, easily over 90 percent of our players talking at the end of the season voiced to me their desire to be here this spring and the importance they know on working here. I think we have a young team who understands that we have to work to improve, but that being said, it’s a voluntary program. We want to do everything we can do to help the players when we’re allocated the time. Now, I’d say specifically into the virtual part of it, actually we had a long talk about that after the season when we evaluated everything we do as a process. We had a long talk about the virtual element of the program, whether it was spring or in-season, and that’s something based on whether or not we have to do it because we’re mandated to in the future, whether that’s spring or the season. Also, we looked at some of the benefits of using it as a change up like we did some times this year throughout the season. We saw benefits of doing it at different times possibly virtually. Now, that’s got to be the right makeup of the team, the right time of the year and the right situation to use it. One thing I thought our staff got very good at and our players as well was being very interactive at the end of the year through Zoom. It wasn’t so much just tune in and listen, but it was really the interaction and we were able to really simulate those in-person meetings. The more interactive the meetings got, the more benefit we saw on the back end of the year. I would say that just seeing what we did last year that was beneficial, that would be the main focus to carry into the spring. The other thing too is, we reached out to a lot of people and we tried to find out what they do differently. I’m talking about talking to college programs, what are they doing differently with a younger generation of players? Talking to high school coaches, how do they have to interact with their players? Talking to teachers at high schools and professors in college, what are the things that they found beneficial as far as teaching? What are the tools that are out there that we’re not using that can keep players stimulated and engaged throughout meetings? We’re always looking to go ahead and do it. To me, the number one thing is interaction.

Q: Hey Coach, I wanted to follow up on Rob Sale. You guys have obviously put so much thought and effort into offensive line with Freddie’s new role, with bringing in Pat Flaherty. If you can just expand on why you think Rob Sale is the right guy to come help this young offensive line.

A: Like I said earlier, Rob is an excellent teacher. He’s a great, high energy coach and very detailed on the field. His guys respond to him. I’ve watched him develop a number of players at different places, whether he was at Georgia, Arizona State, Louisiana, I’ve watched him develop a number of offensive linemen that have been successful. I think the biggest thing is when you look at some of these programs, they start out with these higher recruits and their ceiling is high, but the room to get to the ceiling isn’t always as high. What I’ve seen with Rob is some of the guys he’s developed in the programs he’s been in where he’s truly had to mold them and bring them along both from their physical development as well as their mental understanding and their on-field performance. Look, I’m very pleased with what him and Ben have been doing the last few weeks working together, but tied directly into Rob, his ability to teach, his ability to establish relationships with his players and the response he gets from his guys and how they play on the field. That, to me, they all just line up to be the best fit for us.

Q: Joe, as you self-scouted your pass rush last year, what did you think of it? And now that [Defensive Lineman] Leonard Williams will be back with you guys, how does that impact how you view that area and entering free agency and the draft?

A: Well, look, it’s a passing league, truly it is. You have to be able to stop the run to be effective on defense, but when you look at the guys getting paid the most money, it’s obviously the quarterbacks. It’s a passing league. When you talk about the pass rush, it can never be just one player, you have to have depth at those positions and it has to come from multiple areas. To me, the improvement of the pass rush as the year went on last year was a combination of the improvement made up front with the defensive line and the outside linebackers in our pass rush schemes and then also on the back end with the way our defensive backs improved in the coverage on the back end to give them more time to get to the quarterback. Nothing really happens independently of each other. If the coverage isn’t sound, you can’t have a pass rush. If the pass rush isn’t sound, they have to cover for a long time and then all of a sudden that ends up not being really in your favor. Really, I saw improvement from the defense as a whole. That’s what we have to really go ahead and keep emphasizing is making sure all three levels, the defensive backs, the linebackers and the defensive line, continue to improve within our schemes. And then we have to make sure that we use guys in the best situations and matchups to be successful.

Q: In terms of Leonard Williams and him coming back, how does that impact how you view things going into free agency and the draft with your pass rush?

A: Like I said about all of our players, I’d love to have Leonard back. He’s a guy that obviously we really value in this building and we’d love to have him around here. When we talk specifically about how that helps the pass rush, I think good players help you play good and it’s no secret that he’s a very good player.

Q: Hey Coach, you talked about going over schemes and making some adjustments. I’m curious, at the tight end position, you and Jason (Garrett), do you feel that you fully utilized [Tight End] Evan Engram and even a guy like [Tight End] Levine Toilolo in the offense the way you attack defenses? And after looking at every play – I’m sure you looked at every play, how do you feel about Evan Engram still? Do you feel this guy is the future here?

A: I love Evan. I have a ton of confidence in Evan. He’s fun to coach, the guys have fun playing with him, he gives everyone in the locker room a ton of confidence. This guy goes out there every day and this guy works tirelessly, I mean tirelessly. This guy is a tank every day, so in terms of confidence within the program, absolutely we have confidence in him, 100 percent. He’s a guy that obviously we have to keep continuing to feature in the offense along with [Tight End] Kaden Smith and Levine and all the other tight ends that will be in our program because these are guys with skillsets and we’ve just got to keep on doing things to use their versatility and skillsets to put them in a position of strength.

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