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 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears.
Jason Garrett assesses running game
Garrett had to shake off the play-calling cobwebs in Week 1’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Giants recorded 262 passing yards to the Steelers’ 208, the rushing game was an obvious weak spot for New York. The Giants finished with just 29 rushing yards and Saquon Barkley was held to just 6 yards in 15 attempts on the night.
“They came into the game with the idea of not letting us run the football based on what they played and how they played it,” Garrett said. “Having said that, we didn’t run the ball the way we needed to run it. Even when you’re playing against teams that are really concerned and focused on taking the run away, you have to find ways to do it.”
Garrett knows that going forward the Giants need to work on building a more balanced offense.
“I think if you look at the different runs that we had, there were examples of situations where we got beat. Their guy simply beat our guy. There were examples where we didn’t communicate well together and we weren’t on the same page,” Garrett said. “Those are things we simply have to clean up going forward. It starts with run and pass, and we have to do a better job running the football.”
Garrett is not the only one who expressed the need for a more complete all-around offense, though he was much more understated. Tiki Barber made headlines this week for criticizing Barkley’s pass protection and ability to be a third-down back. Garrett expressed respect for Barber but also said that reviews of how guys play will continue to be conducted internally.
“One of the things we love about Saquon is his desire to be a complete back,” Garrett said. “That’s running the football, both inside and outside, as a pass receiver and also as a pass protector.”
As Barkley makes clear in interviews, he is the first person to want to grow in all aspects of his game. So like Barkley himself, Garrett acknowledged that there is always room for improvement.
“There were some examples of him blocking well in the passing game the other night,” Garrett said. “There were some examples of him not blocking as well as he needs to. We’re working on that, we’re trying to get him better in that area. But we love his approach, we love his desire to be a complete back, and that’s going to help him and our team going forward.”
Of course, improvement in the run game is directly linked to the Giants offensive line,which includes fourth round overall pick Andrew Thomas, veteran Cam Fleming at right tackle, guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, and new center Nick Gates.
Barkley was hit behind the line of scrimmage 11 times - making it hard for him to create the explosive plays he is known for. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Daniel Jones was pressured on 43 percent of drop backs. Recognizing a weakness, the Steelers continued to blitz for the majority of the game.
“Obviously, it’s a new mix of players up front,” Garrett said. “We have to do a better job communicating. There are some young players who haven’t played very much before. They have to learn and grow from their experiences. What we love about those guys is their approach is outstanding. They’ve been very coachable right from the start.”
Garrett said that Jones has also been coachable throughout. Jones finished Monday night’s game with 26 completions in 41 attempts for 279 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The two turnovers are an immediate point of concern for Jones who threw 12 interceptions last season, but Garrett praised Jones’ decision making.
“I thought he stood in there and made some really good throws throughout the game,” Garrett said. “Obviously, you want to take that decision he made down at the goal line, you want that one back. He’d be the first to tell you that. Again, he’s a young player and he’s going to learn from these experiences.”
Patrick Graham: Defense “wasn’t good enough”
Graham made his opinion about the defense’s performance against the Steelers loud and clear:
“I’m not living in the past,” he said. “But it wasn’t good enough.”
Graham’s defense allowed 141 rushing yards and 229 receiving yards in the 26-16 loss to the Steelers. He knows that there needs to be improvements made all around in order to help lead the team to a win in future games.
“Guys played hard but we know we have a ways to go,” Graham said. “Week one, and we didn’t do enough to get the win. That’s on me, I have to do a better job, it starts with me.”
Given that Monday night was the first time Graham himself was able to see his players in a real-time game environment, he is continuing to make adjustments based on player’s strengths. Corey Ballentine saw the majority of the snaps at the second cornerback spot, but Graham stressed the importance of continued competition between players.
“I think leading into this week, because of what we’re dealing with with Chicago, with the receivers and to include the tight end, we’re going to still have guys competing at those spots,” Graham said.
Looking ahead to Week 2, Graham is also focused on Chicago’s top receiver, Allen Robinson because he has a demonstrated ability to make big plays down the field.
“I think what makes him special is his catch radius,” Graham explained. “He’s really really competitive. Whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or further down the field, getting open and away from defenders. The finish on the ball, he does a great job of tracking the ball and bringing it away from defenders’ hands and always ending up with the ball.”
Might the Giants shadow Robinson with cornerback James Bradberry?
“We’re always trying to put our guys in the best spots,” Graham said. “You have to think about how it matches up with their skill set. That’s what I take into consideration. Also, you have to think about the other members of the secondary. Is there a ripple effect throughout the secondary? What do you have on the other side, too?”
The Giants special teams received additional attention this past week when Joe Judge premiered the Joe Judge Report in which he broke down film from Monday night’s game.
Watch the premiere episode of the Joe Judge Report!— New York Giants (@Giants) September 16, 2020
Coach Judge takes to the telestrator to break down film each week ⤵️
In part of this film breakdown, Judge discusses a Jabrill Peppers punt return. Like Judge, McGaughey emphasized how close Peppers was to breaking for a touchdown.
“He is dynamic with the ball in his hands,” McGaughey said. “If we could have been a little cleaner with our blocking on the front end of it, we probably would have been a little bit better in the back end of it. Jabrill did an excellent job. Guys are just playing hard. It’s just a lot of things we have to get cleaned up. Moving forward, we’ll make sure we get those things done.”
Of course, Judge brings extensive special teams background to the Giants. McGaughey stressed how much their two philosophies align when it comes to game preparation.
“We haven’t had to change a whole lot,” McGaughey said. “I’ve added a lot of stuff from what Joe’s done in the past. As far as changing anything, we just married our two systems together. The things that work, we keep. The things that are a little bit different, we kind of put to the side. Just trying to get that chemistry as you move forward from game to game and how we mange games. How we want to attack people and having those conversations, it has been really good.”