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Coordinator Corner: Keeping the momentum going

Garrett talks running game, Graham highlights defensive strength, and McGaughey preaches resilience

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The New York Giants coordinators Jason Garrett (offense), Patrick Graham (defense), and Thomas McGaughey (special teams) addressed the media Thursday. Here are some of the key items and players they addressed.

Jason Garrett: Pounding the rock

When it became clear that Daniel Jones would not be healthy enough to start against the Seattle Seahawks last week, it made sense that Jason Garrett would focus on the running game. Backup QB Colt McCoy had just seven starts in the last eight seasons and running back Wayne Gallman had been successful over the course of the Giants’ three-game winning streak.

But the extent of the success on the ground was perhaps surprising. The Giants out-rushed the Seahawks, 190-111. Gallman surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, racking up 135 yards on the day, with a long of 60.

The Giants used 13 personnel packages last week, but the power packages were the difference-maker.

“We’ve run the ball a lot better here the last six or seven weeks,” Garrett said. “I think that’s helped our team. It’s helped our offense. Then really throughout the team as well, instilling that mentality of toughness, time of possession is a big part of it. You’re always trying to do whatever you can do to help the team win. I think running the football allows you to do that.”

Of course, after the loss of star back Saquon Barkley, the Giants had to make some adjustments. Garrett stressed the importance of attacking different ways.

“You can’t just do one thing,” Garrett said. “Nobody is that dominant. We try to have some variety. We’ve done some zone, we’ve done gap stuff. You try to get the perimeter and misdirection game going in your run game. It has to do with the respect we have for the guys on the other side, the players and the coaches.”

The Giants maintain variety on their offensive line as well as they rotate linemen on and off the field throughout the game. Garrett clarified though that the o-line personnel groupings are not dependent on running backs.

“Obviously, Wayne has gotten a bulk of the work,” Garrett said. “But Alfred has done a really good job coming into his role, as has Dion. Those guys are playing some different roles for us. In regards to how that pairs up with the offensive line rotation, we haven’t necessarily tied that together. Sometimes we’ll play guys by series, how many plays they get, and sometimes the linemen and the running backs’ substitution will overlap in some way.”

A strong running game can also have a positive residual effect on the passing game, leading to a more balanced and explosive offense overall.

“Down in the red zone, the touchdown pass that Colt (McCoy) threw to Alfred (Morris) I think was a result of them really trying to defend the run,” Garrett said. “Some of the other play-action stuff we used throughout the game I thought really was a result of them committing people to the line of scrimmage to defend the run. It does work together.”

While Jones’ status for Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals remains unclear, Garrett knows the strength of the running game gives the Giants an advantage regardless of who is under center.

“We just have to continue to evaluate [Daniel’s] situation as the week goes on, not unlike any other position you have,” Garrett said. “We feel like Colt is capable of doing whatever we ask our quarterbacks to do. I don’t think the game plan changes dramatically from a mental standpoint or a physical standpoint. Again, you try to play to your players’ strengths and limit their weaknesses. But in terms of capability, we feel like each of those guys is capable to do whatever we ask them to do.”

Patrick Graham trying to get better

After holding the Seahawks to a season-low 12 points, Graham has been at the center of the praise pouring in. Together, Graham and head coach Joe Judge have worked as a team off the field to produce an ever-improving on-field product.

“I’m drawn to people that are better than me,” Graham said. “No different than Matt Patricia, Brian Flores. I know in my mind they are better than me and I’m drawn to them because I can learn from those guys. B Flo (Flores) in terms of how smart he is and how good of a leader he is. I’m drawn to that. Matty P, how smart he is, how tough he is, how good of a teacher he is. You talk about Joe Judge in terms of how he can teach. I’m drawn to people like that because I know it’s going to make me better.”

Graham’s strategy has worked and his name is being thrown around more often in head coach conversations. Despite the whispers, Graham said that his focus is on the Cardinals.

“I’m not smart enough to think ahead of today,” Graham said. “I’m trying to get better today. I need to get ready for third-down versus Arizona on Sunday. Third down and two-minute today. Finish up early downs and get ready for the red area. Right before here, I was going through red area meetings. I can’t think about that stuff, to be honest.”

After game-planning to face a strong quarterback last week in Russell Wilson, Graham’s attention has since shifted to the speedy Kyler Murray.

“Not fast, not quick, we’re dealing with true speed,” Graham said. “Any mistake, it can be a touchdown at any given moment. Whether it’s the run game or the passing game, he can get away from you and then get the ball down the field. He’s pretty dynamic. We have a big challenge ahead of us.”

Rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes and fourth-year tackle Dalvin Tomlinson in particular have found success this season.

Graham has known Dalvin Tomlinson since he was a rookie and therefore feels particularly humbled by his success. Tomlinson was nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Thursday.

“He’s one of those people that you become a better person, better player, being around him,” Graham said. “Where that D-line is going right as they go through this process is a direct correlation to his leadership and what he does on that field, regardless of what statistics or what have you. You can see the maturation process occur and it’s a beautiful thing to see. It’s one of the things why we coach. You have to go back to us being teachers. You see one of your students doing well and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’”

Thomas McGaughey

Just as every team goes through ups and downs, each unit has highs and lows. During the Giants’ four-game winning streak, the special teams has been a point of weakness.

For example, the Seahawks blocked a Giants punt that barely made it out of the end zone for a safety. McGaughey said that the unit failed to execute its fundamentals and techniques on the play.

“It was just an execution thing as far as us not getting depth,” McGaughey said. “We have to be better as a group. I have to coach it better. We have to play the play better and we will. We’ve put some things in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We can’t have any lapses, especially in that part of the field.”

Special teams has made mistakes over the course of the last few games, but McGaughey believes that the unit has continued to grow.

“Our mantra in our room is “kaizen” and that’s the act of continuous improvement,” McGaughey said. “We’re not making excuses, we’re just going to make adjustments. That’s the thing, it’s all about trying to get better. It’s all about fine-tuning the little details and that’s the same thing I told the players. It ain’t what you’re going through, it’s what you’re growing through.”

McGaughey sees this moment as a test of the unit’s mental strength.

“When you hit hard times, you hit some rough times, how are you going to bounce back?” McGaughey said. “I use the phrase that I used when I was growing up, are you going to box or throw rocks? That’s what we’re finding out right now as a group and as a unit. We’ve been rocking right along pretty solid and all of the sudden you get hit with a right hook under your chin. Are you going to fall and hit the ground and tap out, or get up and keep fighting?”