New York Giants coordinators James Bettcher (defense), Mike Shula (offense), and Thomas McGaughey (special teams) spoke to reporters on Thursday. Here are a few of the key items and players they addressed.
James Bettcher, defense
Bettcher highlighted the challenges presented by the Redskins offense. Though the team sits at 3-11, the Redskins have won two of their last five. They dropped one to the Green Bay Packers by just five points in Week 14 and then they lost the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles in the final 26 seconds. Their record does not show it, but their offense is starting to click more than it has when these two teams first played each other in September.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has found his stride, finishing 19 of 28 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his best game of the year against the Eagles.
“[He’s] very decisive with the ball, knows where he wants to go,” Bettcher said of Haskins. “I think offensively they’re doing a nice job of handing the ball to 26 and they’ve always done a great job in the run game of being creative. Pulling guys, jet motions and some of those kinds of things that mess with your eyes. They have always done a great job with that. They are doing a nice job in protection trying to keep him clean. He’s being decisive with the ball and the young receivers are getting better.”
Bettcher is hoping that cornerback DeAndre Baker continues to make improvements to help prevent any big plays between Haskins and his receivers on Sunday. He said that the rookie has made continued improvement over recent weeks.
“I think it’s just a combination of a young player starting to understand where his eyes need to be, being square at the right times,” Bettcher said. “About two or three weeks ago, I said it in front of the whole defense. It was a Friday practice and we do some production things during the week and we put it up on the boards every day. He had just a great week, he had a really good week of prep and it showed up on game day. Those kinds of things, stacking one rep in practice, stacking one position meeting and for rookies in this league first, second, third-year players to develop their skill sets, I think he’s progressing in regards to that.”
Mike Shula, offense
With rookie quarterback Daniel Jones officially back as the starter for the Giants against the Redskins on Sunday, Shula is encouraged by the offensive weapons Jones will have at his disposal in fellow rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton and running back Saquon Barkley.
Slayton recorded two receptions for 31 yards and one touchdown grab last week against the Dolphins. The week before in Philadelphia, the former Auburn Tiger totaled five receptions for a career-high 154 yards and two touchdowns - marking the third time in his career that he has scored two TD’s in a single game.
Shula credited Slayton’s off-the-field nature for his on-field performance.
“I think he’s gotten better each week,” Shula said. “He’s quiet, so we didn’t really know what kind of personality, football knowledge, instincts he had. I think all of those were probably more than what we thought. He has a calmness to himself.”
Shula also observed Slayton’s maturity and work ethic from the beginning in the way he took initiative.
“The first thing that kind of caught my eye was just his communication early in the preseason games, during the games with the quarterbacks,” Shula said. “Not a lot of receivers, especially young ones, kind of come up to quarterbacks and say, ‘Hey, what did you think on that? Right away, he was doing that, and I thought that was impressive for a young guy.”
Coming out of the 2019 draft in the fifth round, Slayton was perceived to be a guy who specialized in deep passes because he has a lot of speed, not so much someone who masters complicated routes.
“We saw a lot of big plays, just like everybody did, when he was coming out in the draft,” Shula said. “But he’s really good at really running all of the routes for a young guy. For example, one of the easiest things, you would think it’s easy, but a lot of the time, especially for young guys, just getting the proper depth. He’s probably as good as any rookie as I’ve ever seen, as little as that is, at just getting depth because as we know, the timing is so important. If you’re short, the quarterback is going to be late with the ball.”
Slayton will reunite with Jones when the Giants take the field this Sunday in what will be Jones’ first game back since suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him for two games. Shula hopes the reunion between the two helps lead to the most important thing: winning.
“The number one thing is winning football games,” Shula said. “As the quarterback, you’re at the focal point of that. We, at that position, have to be better. But I think there are signs throughout that, of decision-making, how quick he’s making them, how he recovers from a negative play, how he is with his technique, that are all continuing to improve. Now we just have to, as a quarterback and as a team, just have to see more results on the plus side.”
Shula insists that having the opportunity to learn from veteran Eli Manning can only help Jones as he continues to progress and develop.
“I think you could watch [Manning] every single week and just continue to learn,” Shula said. “On the preparation, from the minute he walks into the building until the end of the game. For the whole week, just the thought process, the gathering of information, and storing it and then applying it on Sunday. How to take information, the volume that’s thrown at you on Wednesday, absorb it and then retain it through study, preparation, and going over it and going over it and going over it, until it becomes natural to you on Sunday.”
Thomas McGaughey, special teams
McGaughey explained the specific challenges Redskins punter Tress Way presents, including his strong leg.
“You get some opportunities to return the ball, but he can also be a weapon because he can flip the field,” McGaughey said. “He had a punt against Carolina, backed up on the minus 21, he hits it 60 yards in the air and it rolls for another 18 yards, a 79-yard punt. So, that can affect the game a little bit.”
McGaughey said that a punter like Way forces the returner to start even farther back than usual, depending on the conditions.
“He has the ability to really, really flip the field,” McGaughey said. “A talented guy, obviously, going to the Pro Bowl.”
Giants punter Riley Dixon was also not far off the Pro Bowl this season. He has been one of the NFL’s most consistent punters since joining the Giants back in April of 2018. Dixon has punted 60 times this season and posted career-best averages in both gross (47) and net yardage (42.8), which is on pace to set a franchise record. He has also placed 24 punts inside the 20-yard line.
“I think he’s turned a corner,” McGaughey said. “He’s enjoying punting. I think today he might have hit 3,000 balls. He’s enjoying it, he’s enjoying his craft. He’s feeling himself turn that corner. Everything is starting to click for him a little bit more now. Last week, it was a little crazy with the conditions and the wind and stuff, but even with the conditions that we had, he did a good job of handling it. So, I think he’s definitely — the arrow is up for him. He’s moving in the right direction.”