New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spoke to the media on Friday. Here are some of the key items and players they addressed ahead of the team’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
Jason Garrett shuts down Marc Colombo questions
Over the bye week, the Giants announced they had fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo and replaced him with long-time NFL offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. In his first media availability since the announcement, Garrett refused to talk about the firing.
“The other thing I just wanted to touch on is the situation with Marc Colombo,” Garrett said in his opening statement. “I know Coach Judge has talked about that and addressed that, so I don’t see any reason for me to talk about it much further. Joe took care of all that, and we’re focused on what we have to do this weekend against Cincinnati.”
When pressed, Garrett remained steadfast in his response, focusing on the growth of the offensive line and the excitement he feels to play the Bengals Sunday.
As far as a report that Joe Judge and some of his former assistants from the New England Patriots are acting arrogantly in the building, Garrett said that he did not know anything about it.
Both Colombo and DeGuglielmo were considered for the offensive line job in January after Judge became head coach. Judge ultimately chose Colombo, whose only experience as an NFL offensive line coach had been with the Dallas Cowboys. DeGuglielmo meanwhile, took his first job as an assistant offensive line and quality control coach for the Giants in 2004. Since leaving New York, he has been the offensive line coach with the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. Judge and DeGuglielmo overlapped in New England in 2014 and 2015.
Though Judge fired one of Garrett’s friends in Colombo, Garrett had nothing but positive things to say about the pair’s relationship.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, like I said, from afar when he was coaching in New England,” Garrett said. “All the people that I know that have been around him have great respect for him. My time with him in New York has been a really positive experience for me. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him. I like the program that we’re trying to build here with our team and how we go about it.”
The timing of the Colombo firing was particularly strange because of the improvement in the offensive line over the past few weeks. Garrett said that because the line is made up of a lot of young players, including former first-round pick Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, and Nick gates, the opportunity for growth is high.
“I think the biggest thing that we try to do is create an environment for those guys to improve individually and collectively,” Garrett said. “Sometimes you grow when you have positive experiences that you can build on, and sometimes you learn from negative experiences or adversity. If you have the right kind of guys on your team who love ball and want to work at it and want to learn, you have a chance to get better. We certainly have a team made up of those kinds of guys.”
Though the offensive line is made up of such young players, Garrett said that he is not worried about them making the adjustment to a new coach in the middle of the season.
“Anybody who’s watched us play has seen the progression with those guys upfront blocking much better in the running game, the protection has improved as the year has gone on, and we’ve played better as an offense as a result,” Garrett said. “That’s just going to continue. Dave (DeGuglielmo) has coached in this league for a long time, Ben Wilkerson has been around this league for a long time. Those guys are in good hands, and they hit the ground running this week.”
Patrick Graham: Bengals have “elite receivers”
Graham’s preparation for the Giants’ game against the Bengals changed dramatically when Joe Burrow went down against the Washington Football Team in Week 11. This week, Brandon Allen will get the start under center. Allen has spent the entire season on the Bengals’ practice squad and will make his fourth NFL start on Sunday.
“We have to make sure we know what the quarterbacks do and see how it’s going to play into the system,” Graham said. “To be honest with you, I don’t know what he’s going to do. We have to prepare for everything. I know this, they’ve been pretty successful doing some of the stuff they’ve been doing. You think about the weapons they have and the blockers they have for those guys. You have elite receivers all over the field. I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge on Sunday.”
In preparing to face Allen, the Giants will turn to their outside linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant Bret Bielema. Allen was a three-year starter for Bielema at the University of Arkansas.
“It is a people game and we want to know about the person, too,” Graham said. “Any insight you have on the person, it does help. That’s one thing we gather information where guys have been different places. The film is the film and you have to really go off of that. It’s useful if somebody struggled with a certain thing in their past, it might play into it.”
Another potential new addition to the field, but on the Giants side of the ball, is rookie safety Xavier McKinney. The Giants drafted McKinney in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Alabama, but he broke a bone in his left foot during training camp and has yet to take the field. He is expected to make his long-awaited NFL debut Sunday.
“The thing that we saw in training camp and what we saw on tape, good athlete, smart player, situationally aware,” Graham said. “The thing is, he’s been grinding this whole time. This guy can play in the deep part of the field. He can play down low. He can play all over the field. On top of that, the thing is this, he’s still young. We can’t put too much on him. If he plays and whatever snaps he plays, he’s going to earn those snaps.”
McKinney would line up alongside veteran safety Logan Ryan. For Graham, the quality that stands out about Ryan is his willingness to ask questions.
“Here’s the thing, we try to teach the fundamentals that Joe wants us to teach,” Graham said. “As they take ownership and they feel that ownership of the defense, here come the better questions. ‘Pat, why are we doing this, what are we thinking here? What if they did this? I might have forgot that, let me go over that.’ Logan has no problem doing that.
“When you’re dealing with some of the younger players, they are a little hesitant sometimes to ask those questions. That’s one of the best things about Logan to me. He might already know the answer. He’s trying to get it for the guys that wouldn’t ask. I think that’s a huge thing for a young team.”
Thomas McGaughey: Gano should be ready
Things are looking up for McGaughey’s special teams unit. Punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter are off the COVID-19 list and kicker Graham Gano is expected to play Sunday after testing positive for the coronavirus.
“It was good to get him back on the field,” McGaughey said. “He was his normal self, no different. We’ll probably just monitor Graham, see how he feels and just kind of go from there.”
McGaughey said that he welcomes the challenge of juggling returning players.
“Like I talked about before, we just make the gumbo – whatever we have, we use the ingredients and we make it work,” McGaughey said. “It’s always good to have to make those hard decisions which is good for our football team. When you start to get your best players back and guys that can help you, young guys that are ascending, those are things that you want, those are conversations you want to have.”
The Giants have been prepared for injuries from the beginning by having a long snapper, kicker and punter on the practice squad just in case.
“[Judge] had a plan in place and we talked about it from the spring because you don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have the specials, whether it’s a punter or kicker you don’t ever want to be put in that spot,” McGaughey said. “We had the forethought to bring the guys in and have them in, and really it’s been a blessing in disguise.”
One of those backup players that the Giants have kept around is punter Ryan Santoso. The 6-foot-5, 258 pound punter was previously with the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans, but has never attempted a kick in an NFL game. For the Giants though, he has served as important insurance in case of injuries or coronavirus complications.
“We brought him in because he has a ton of talent and he’s gotten better since he’s been here,” McGaughey said. “I would expect Ryan to do the same thing he does in practice, just make kicks. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he inexperienced? Absolutely he is. But this kid has a ton of talent, he will kick in this league one day. Ryan’s a very talented kid, hard worker and we’ll see what happens.”