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Coordinator Corner: Patrick Graham and Thomas McGaughey give insight on Sunday’s matchup vs. Dallas

Graham and McGaughey highlight Logan Ryan, Tae Crowder and Jabrill Peppers in their weekly pressers

New York Giants v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

New York Giants coordinators Patrick Graham (defense) and Thomas McGaughey (special teams) spoke to reporters Thursday. Here are a few of the key items and players they addressed.

Patrick Graham enjoys the chess match

Patrick Graham is known for adapting his defense each week to fit the opponent. When preparing each game plan though, Graham does not focus on outsmarting the opposing team. Instead, he leans into the competitive nature of the job.

“These guys are a lot smarter than me,” Graham said.The thing I enjoy the most in my job is figuring out ways to put our players in the best position to really try to highlight their talents and what they do well. That and the relationships you build with the players. Again, it’s not me outwitting anybody, it’s our guys outplaying the other team. If anything, I can screw it up as opposed to having anything to do with it being successful.”

Graham’s modesty allows him to develop a strong relationship with players based on trust and mutual respect as he understands that he has as much to learn from his athletes as they do from him.

Just as he learned from coaches throughout his career, such as Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy, Graham said that the most he has learned in the league has been from former players like Pepper Johnson, Carl Banks, and Jerod Mayo. Defensive back Logan Ryan is another one of those players who Graham says makes him a better coach because he asks the right questions.

“He wants to know about the situations and sometimes he makes you think about it and you’re like, ‘you know what, I might have forgotten that and I need to hit that point.’” Graham said. “It’s our responsibility to be on top of everything. He makes you better as a coach because of his insight. I get the championships, but Logan is a day to day guy. I can’t speak for him, but that’s how he appears to me.”

For this reason, Graham said that the younger players gravitate toward Ryan not just because of his championship experience, but because of his work ethic and attitude.

“This guy has a wealth of knowledge and he’s been in big games,” Graham said. “He’s been in the system before, he’s been in multiple systems. Here I am, I’m a coach, I have a remote in my hand, I have a whistle out there on the field. The guys that have played, the guys that are playing, those are the guys that provide the insight for the players.”

One player who Ryan serves as a role model to is seventh-round pick Tae Crowder. Graham said that he has been impressed by Crowder’s work ethic on and off the football field.

“I go to get breakfast and he was here when I was here this morning,” Graham said. “I’m sitting here like, what are you doing here? You start seeing stuff like that, that means he’s dialed in, locked in, trying to get his body right, his mind right to practice. I think the thing that shows up with him, he’s instinctual, good football player, comes from a good background of football.”

Though the Giants defense had its best showing against the Rams last week, holding them to just three points in the second and third quarters, Graham knows that players like Crowder and Ryan are going to have to step up if the team is going to be successful against the Cowboys Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

“Dallas, we’re dealing with another top notch offense,” Graham said. “They score ten billion points a game I think or something like that and about 30 billion yards a game. We have a challenge right there and then they have great players. From the O-line to the skill players, starting with the quarterback.”

Because of the Cowboy’s offensive prowess, Graham said that the defense needs to adjust its approach.

“Whatever blueprint we had the last three weeks, we have to have a different blueprint right now,” Graham said. “We’re going to go out there and practice today and try to convey to the guys what we need to do and what we need to take away from them. Highlight what we do well and see how it goes on Sunday.”

Giants offensive coordinator and former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has helped provide Graham with valuable perspective ahead of Sunday’s key division matchup.

“You have some insight there, that’s what I’m more interested in,” Graham said. “What affects this receiver, what affects this offensive lineman? What are his weaknesses? Mentally, what’s his makeup? If we press right here, is that going to affect him? Those are the questions I want to get answers to. They know the people intimately, so we’re able to get some information right there.”

Thomas McGaughey: Peppers could return punts

Safety and punt returner Jabrill Peppers missed last week’s game against the Rams with an ankle injury but he did participate in Thursday’s practice. In Peppers’ absence, wide receiver Golden Tate stepped up as the punt returner last week. Thomas McGaughey explained how he plans to reintegrate Peppers into the system.

“It’s a feel thing and it’s more on Jabrill and how he feels,” McGaughey said. “You just never know with these things. Whenever he’s ready to go, he’ll hop in and, I promise you, he’ll let me know.”

McGaughey said that when Peppers is ready to return, he will not be the permanent punt returner as that will depend on the given situation.

“Like the last two years, Golden and Jabrill have been our punt returners,” McGaughey said. “It’s just a feel thing. If he feels fresh and he can go back there, he’s good. If not, he’ll come off and Golden will go back there. Get a fresh pair of legs back there, fresh mind to make a good decision. Those two guys will handle it.”

As the special teams unit prepares to face Dallas Sunday, the Cowboys’ crazy onside kick against the Atlanta Falcons certainly comes up in conversation. McGaughey said that the players have probably already seen the play 100 times between all of the different outlets.

“We’re always trying to be on top of that stuff and don’t get caught off guard,” McGaughey said. “Everybody has options, we can go crazy, we can get as plain as you want. Graham Gano is a pretty good kicker. We have some stuff up our sleeve.”

Because the Giants prepared for Pro Bowl kicker Johnny Hekker last week, McGaughey said that there is a lot of carryover as the team readies to face John (Bones) Fassel’s unit as he served as the special teams coordinator for the Rams from 2016-19.

“A lot of the same stuff, a lot of the same schemes,” McGaughey said. “Bones does a heck of a job. He has for the last eight or nine years he’s been a coordinator. He’s very aggressive in his approach to the game. He tries to put people on their heels and that’s what he does because of all the stuff that they do. You just have to be disciplined, you have to be prepared. You have to be sound in how you play them.”