In talking about Los Angeles Rams’ star defensive tackle Aaron Donald on Wednesday, New York Giants head coach Joe Judge sent everyone scurrying to double-check when the coach’s 39th birthday will be.
“This guy will really ruin your birthday party in a hurry,” Judge said of Donald.
For the record, Judge’s birthday is New Year’s Eve.
The Giants’ coach had a lot more to say about Donald.
“The thing they’re doing differently this year with him is they’re really moving him around and they use him on all three downs. That’s a little bit different from how he’s played in the past. They’re going to find matchups and create ways, so there’s no one player that we can say on our offensive line, ‘he has a tough day ahead of him.’ Everyone has to be alert. We have to make sure we know where 99 is on every snap,” Judge said of the five-time All-Pro. “The thing that makes this guy so unique, I know this is going to sound very generic, but the effort he plays with is just truly relentless. This guy does things, you watch and think ‘wow.’ He really will show up and ruin your day.
“You watch the Buffalo game, the fourth quarter especially as they were climbing back in the game and playing competitive, this guy almost singlehandedly ended the game for Buffalo with the way he got after the quarterback and the way he played. He’s explosive on runs, explosive in the pass game, he has great instincts. You watch this guy on the goal line. Buffalo tried to cut him. He just jumped up over the center trying to cut in front of the runner, and then just completely made a stand by himself. These are plays you don’t see every guy in the league being able to do.”
Judge called the 6-foot-1, 280-pound Donald “a unique guy.”
“You look at him when he came out of college, the knocks on him. Maybe he’s not long enough, maybe he’s not truly big enough to play on the inside. I think he’s shown everybody who said that to be completely wrong,” Judge said. “This guy is one of the most dominant players in the league. Everybody has to plan for him. This guy, it’s nothing unique for him. He knows going in everybody has something in mind for him. But look, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Here are more takeaways from Judge’s Wednesday media availability.
“A quarterback who can punt”
This was Judge’s description for Ram’s All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, who is 13 of 22 passing for his career.
“This guy is really a weapon. Throughout his years in the league, this guy really keeps you on the defensive as a punt return unit. He makes teams adjust their game plans. He’s always a threat with the pass,” Judge said. “As we explained to our team, you have to picture this guy really as a quarterback who can punt. He’s not a punter who throws the ball. I’ve known Johnny for some time, a lot of respect for him and his game. Anyone who really studies the NFL, he’s really changed the punting position in a lot of ways.”
Expecting the curveball
Judge knows you might not get what you think you are about to get from the Los Angeles offense.
“Sean (McVay) does a tremendous job, along with Kevin (O’Connell) and Aaron Kromer, in forming this offense and really creating matchups. It all starts in the run game with Sean and Aaron. They do a tremendous job of staying committed to their plan and what they do. They’re a very balanced team. They’re very effective in what they do,” Judge said. “They find creative ways of creating the same looks, that they can operate on familiar and give you a couple of curveballs that you have to react to. In terms of motions and movements, the shifts, Sean is always looking for an edge to create a matchup. He does a tremendous job right there.”
Nick Gates at center “not an experiment”
Gates is playing center for the first time. Some have considered that an experiment. Judge said Wednesday it’s “absolutely not an experiment.”
“I think he’s making improvement game by game. This guy has made a lot of progress for us on a daily basis in his communication and understanding of the position, his studying of opponents. It was a different move at first for Nick going outside to the inside. He’s had to learn that both from a technique standpoint and also just a different way you look at it,” Judge said. “When you’re the tackle on the edge, you see everything truly inside out. When you’re the center inside, you have to see both sides peripherally. You have to be tuned into more things, where the linebackers are located, what’s the secondary doing? You’re more involved with identifying who the MIKE linebacker is. More involved with making all the calls inside that affect everybody’s blocks and everybody’s combinations. The mental aspect of playing center is very large and he’s handled that very well for us. He’s making improvement on a weekly basis and that’s all we can ask of Nick right now.”