New York Giants coordinators Jason Garrett (offense), Patrick Graham (defense) and Thomas McGaughey (special teams) spoke to reporters on Thursday. Here are a few of the key items and players they addressed heading into the team’s Week 4 matchup against the 2-1 Los Angeles Rams.
Jason Garrett: Looking for explosive plays
After scoring just nine points against a second-string San Francisco 49ers team, the Giants offense checks in at 12.7 points per game after three weeks of play. That is good for second-to-last in the league in front of the New York Jets.
For Garrett, this statistic has multiple explanations ranging from too many turnovers, a lack of balance between the run game and passing game and an inability to make explosive plays.
“At different times, we’ve done a good job sustaining drives,” Garrett said. “We’ve had some long drives in each of the games. We have to do that more consistently, but we have to make some explosive plays. Across the board, we just have to do a better job.”
Let’s start with the turnovers and the man often responsible for them - Daniel Jones. The sophomore QB has thrown four interceptions this season and threw 12 the season before. Jones recorded six fumbles last season (three of which were lost) and he has two lost fumbles in 2020.
Garrett began by stressing the fact that it is every player’s job to protect the football.
“It starts with coaches, but the guys up front, tight ends, receivers, running backs, and certainly the quarterback when he has the ball in his hand,” Garrett said. “We just have to continue to focus on protecting it better, continue to focus on our decision-making, continue to focus on putting the players in a good environment where they can protect the football, and understanding the place that the ball has in the game.”
Garrett said that in both coaching against Jones and coaching him directly, he has learned that each of the turnovers is slightly unique. After coaching a young Dak Prescott, Garrett understands that new players in the league are going to make mistakes and he also knows how to develop players both athletically and intellectually.
“Sometimes it’s been a sack in the pocket, it’s been a pitch on an around play, it might be a fumble here, an interception there for different reasons,” Garrett said. “You just keep emphasizing it and you keep trying to put them in an environment where the ball is not at risk. Having said that, when you play that position, you have to make plays in this league, too. I’ve seen it done where you can make plays and also take care of the football. That’s what we’re striving for with him and for everybody on our team.”
For now, as Jones continues to work on his ball protection skills, Garrett focused on the former Blue Devil’s resilience.
“He just has that mindset mentality of a competitor,” Garrett said. “Whether he has success or failure or adversity on a previous play, he’s going to keep coming back. He’s demonstrated that over the course of the first three weeks.”
One facet of the game in which Jones is leading the team though is in rushing. With the injury to Saquon Barkley, Jones leads the team with 92 rushing yards. The next leading rusher is Barkley himself with 34 yards and Dion Lewis trails behind with 21. The Giants also signed Devonta Freeman and he recorded 10 yards in five attempts against the 49ers.
Once again for Garrett, the entire offense is responsible for creating a successful running game.
“It starts with the guys up front, but everybody is a part of the running game,” Garrett said. “The offensive linemen, the tight ends, the receivers, the backs, us as coaches putting them in a great position, calling the right stuff at the right time. We just haven’t consistently blocked them well enough and run well enough across the board.”
Garrett said that creating a balance between the passing game and running game will help the offense to be successful overall.
“Sometimes you get into those numbers where you throw it a ton in a game because you throw it the last 12, 14 snaps of the game because the game is a little bit out of hand,” Garrett said. “The biggest thing we have to do is when we get opportunities, take advantage of it to keep drives alive, to break through the fringe part of the field and get down to the red zone, give us some opportunities to score some touchdowns.”
Patrick Graham: “Put it on me”
Despite the 0-3 record, the Giants defense is statistically not ranked too low across the board. Heading into Week 4, they are 13th in the league in yards per game with 357.7 and total yards with 1,073. As far as passing yards allowed specifically, New York is No. 10 in the league with 704 total yards.
For Graham though, the most important stat is the team’s record.
“The first thing I look at is the record,” Graham said. “Obviously, it’s not good enough. To give more detail, I look at the situational stuff and the stuff we want to be defined by. Stopping the run when you know they’re going to run the ball. Then you go to situational football. In this league, games are won on third down, red area and two-minute. I would say this, statistically from the naked eye, that’s the stuff we’re working on today.”
Graham said that he wants the defense to be defined by its toughness and that toughness comes from self-discipline.
“I’m hard on myself, the players are hard on themselves, the coaches are hard on themselves,” Graham said. “Joe is hard on us, but that’s how you want it, it’s the NFL. There’s only 32 of these jobs, you have to figure it out.”
Because of this mindset, Graham takes full responsibility for the weaknesses on defense. When it comes to the touchdown drives at the end of the first half that have popped up over the first three weeks, Graham said that he has to take a hard look at himself and his play calling.
“I have to do a better job of making calls and I have to do a better job of coaching during the week to get them to understand what’s going to be happening to them,” Graham said. “I honestly believe it starts with me doing a better job of calling it, better job of explaining the situations to the fellas. I’m not the guy to put the blame on them. I don’t think it’s on them. The number one culprit, I’ll put it on me.”
Graham also provided some insight into the decision making process that results in some players seeing more game time action than others. Linebacker Markus Golden is a player who saw about 80 percent of snaps last season, but is now seeing about 30 percent. Graham said that the decrease in Golden’s playing time is not related to him being late for training camp.
“Each player, whether it’s Markus, whether it’s Blake Martinez, what we’re trying to do is put the best players for the situations out there,” Graham said. “It’s three games in and we have a long way to go,” Graham said. “Markus has been a very productive player in this league. He’s a smart football player, has some savviness to him and has been productive and has a skillset. I have to find ways to use him more.”
Meanwhile, rookie Darnay Holmes has played in about half of the team’s overall defensive snaps but has been routinely picked on beginning in Week 1 against JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Pittsburgh Steelers and continuing against the 49ers last week.
Graham said that despite the learning curve, Holmes’ confidence has not wavered.
“Have you met him?” Graham said. “I have no worries that his confidence (is gone). He’s a defensive back. How many defensive backs have you seen (without confidence)? He’s a starting defensive back at this level. If he didn’t have confidence, we would have trouble. I know he’s a playmaker.”
Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Rams, Graham said that he is excited to see what Holmes is able to do. Overall, Graham knows that the Rams offense will pose a challenge because they are skilled at concealing what they are doing, making it more difficult to predict what is coming.
“Know this, they attack your weaknesses,” Graham said. “If you haven’t fixed stuff, they are going to expose it. I can’t speak for those guys, but they definitely have a scheme that they run. You will find that with most teams. Most teams, they are going to be a stretch run team, they’re a gap scheme run team. The best thing they do is adjust within the game. You have to make sure you are ready for that.”
Thomas McGaughey: Who will replace Jabrill Peppers?
The biggest question for McGaughey’s special teams unit this week has been the status of Jabrill Peppers. Peppers sat out his third straight day of practice Friday after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. It has not been confirmed, but it’s safe to assume that Peppers will not be playing Sunday against the Rams.
McGaughey said that he did not see anything notable with Peppers’ injury, calling it a “freak deal.” McGaughey added that if Peppers is unable to play, it will fall on multiple guys to step up in his absence.
“Any time you have a player of Jabrill’s caliber that you have to replace, obviously it’s going to take a few guys to replace him because he did a bunch of different jobs,” McGaughey said. “He means a lot to our football team that’s why he has a C on his chest. It’s hard to replace that guy but you just do the best you can, and the guys are going to step up.”
Though McGaughey would not say exactly who could replace Peppers as a punt returner, but he did mention Golden Tate, C.J. Board and Darius Slayton.
“We have a bunch of other options,” McGaughey said. “Guys that have been out there that’s been catching punts every day since training camp. We have full confidence in those guys and whoever we put in the game; they will do a good job.”
Regardless of who is on the field, McGaughey’s unit came close to blocking a couple of kicks against the 49ers and he wants to carry that same energy into Sunday’s matchup against the Rams.
“We have a lot of confidence in our guys. Leonard [Williams], Dex [Dexter Lawrence II] and Dalvin [Tomlinson] and Lorenzo [Carter] and Corey,” McGaughey said. “They play hard from start to finish. They’re the right kind of people. We’re just playing football; we’re out there trying to make a play for our team. They rushed hard from the very first one to the very last. It really tells you a lot about who they are as people and as competitors.”
The special teams group will have the challenging task of facing Rams Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker this week.
“Obviously, Johnny Hekker is a heck of a player and an outstanding athlete,” McGaughey said. “It’s just the way he plays the game. You always have to be alert for that, that’s our job as coaches. To make sure we put our players in the best position to where they can succeed.”