Giants HC Joe Judge conference call (12.16.20)
Opening Statement: Being Wednesday, today we shifted our focus to Cleveland on everything we’re doing moving forward. Obviously with this team, it’s one of the more historical organizations in the NFL. The great history knowing about Paul Brown and Jim Brown and the great players and coaches to come through that organization. We have a lot of respect for the history of the league and the history of teams, and this one is no different. We started out this morning in terms of talking about the history of Cleveland and the impact they’ve had on the league.
That being said, shifting our gear to what they’re doing now. Obviously, it all starts right now with how they’re putting this team together. They’re very, very talented, they’ve very explosive. I think all three sides of the ball are firing and working with full gas. Kevin (Stefanski) does a tremendous job right now tying together all three phases and playing complementary football. Obviously, the offense goes through Kevin. You see a lot of his influence from previous stops in Minnesota and different coaches he’s worked under. I think he’s doing a really good job right now mixing it up, keeping defenses on their toes, establishing the running game, making big chunk plays down the field off the play action passes. Then obviously, he’s really putting Baker (Mayfield) in a situation that he can go ahead and be an athlete and be explosive making plays down the field, either with his arm or his legs.
Defensively, Joe Woods has done a great job, not too different from a lot of guys we’ve played so far in recent weeks. Defensive back mentality, really secures up the coverage. Then the front is very talented, so it creates a lot of plays and opportunities for tight coverage on the backend. As a result of how they play upfront, tight on the backend with tight coverage, it’s led to a lot of turnovers. This team is a strip and punch team. This team is an opportunistic team off of tips for interceptions. We have to do a good job of creating separation, coming back, protecting leverage at the top of the route. It’ll be a tremendous challenge this week protecting and getting open. They’re very good in both elements right there.
Then the kicking game, look, (Mike) Priefer is one of the best coaches in the league. This guy does a tremendous job. He’s a game plan coach, he knows how to use multiples to go ahead and mismatch what you’re doing. He has a history of gimmicks. We have to be very alert. They really show up on the road. If you look at his history, not only this year, in Baltimore with the opening punt of the year, but you tie it back to when he was in Minnesota. Whether it was in Pittsburgh, in Chicago, he’s going to look to go ahead and have an opportunistic play to give them some momentum and make a big play. Again, it’s going to take a lot of communication from our units across the board. It’s going to take a lot of physical play upfront on both sides of the ball. We have to do a good job in the kicking game of covering, so whether it’s (Donovan) Peoples-Jones back deep or (Jarvis) Landry in a got-to-have situation, they have aggressive, vertical returners who will make the most of their opportunities and make you pay. That being said, I’ll open it up to any questions you guys may have.
Q: How helpful is having Freddie Kitchens this week, just given his familiarity with the Browns’ roster?
A: I don’t think it’s anything unique. Really, any team you play in the National Football League, there’s familiarity with players and coaches. We’re always trying to use everything we have. Freddie’s been a tremendous aid the entire season in the way he helps with game planning and scouting reports. Obviously, the knowledge he has of these players this week has helped a little bit. But then the tape really confirms what he says on the front end. Look, Freddie did a great job with these players, he knows them inside and out, knows them very well. He’s been very direct and honest in terms of what their strengths are and what we really have to prepare for. The tape confirms what he said. But really, it’s going to be not so much the knowledge from previous years but knowing what they’re doing schematically this year and our players playing this Sunday for 60 minutes.
Q: Just wondering with Myles Garrett, will that impact your decision on playing Daniel (Jones), or have you already decided that Daniel is starting in this game?
A: I haven’t decided either way with Daniel. I’ll go ahead and answer that right now. He came out, there’s really nothing worse for the wear with the previous injury. He did come out with some bumps and bruises. There’s another lower leg issue we’re dealing with right now. We’re going to go ahead and move him around in practice today, see where he’s at. I’m going to give him an opportunity this week to work through practice and see how he moves and how he reacts to things. Again, if he can defend himself properly in the pocket as I’ve said before on how I’ll handle it, if he’s not at risk beyond any normal game, then we’ll go ahead and give him the opportunity to play. If we think that’s an issue, that he can’t go out there and defend himself, then we’ll make the best decision for him long-term and the team as well. That being said, look, you can talk about Myles all you want, and this guy is a phenomenal talent. But you can’t just look at one player on their team. Their entire front is very, very talented. Whether it’s Myles on one side or OV (Olivier Vernon) or (Adrian) Clayborn, you can go ahead and pick one. You’ve got the d-tackles inside who do a great job with the pass rush and penetrate on the run game. To me, we have to protect against all of these guys up front. We have to handle the movement, we have to handle the blitzes that come off the edge, and these are very fast-flow linebackers. Again, they all tie together. There’s a tremendous amount of talent on this team. Really no one person that is going to dictate or influence how we pick and choose any one of our players. It ties back into the individual health and the best decision we can make for the team.
Q: Just wondering what your impressions are of Baker Mayfield on some of the tape you’ve looked at of him so far this year?
A: Obviously, I’ve watched this guy for several years. I think the thing that stands out about him above all is this guy is an elite competitor. He really is. He’s a tough dude. You know his story. How he went through college, had to walk on twice, earn two starting jobs. Look, it’s no coincidence this guy is having tremendous success in the National Football League. I love the attitude he plays with, I love the chippiness he plays with. This guy extends plays. One thing he does that’s really fun to watch, and you want to eliminate that fun element when you’re playing him, but when he’s really condensed in the pocket, he finds those small seams. A lot of quarterbacks who you say are mobile quarterbacks rely on really just losing ground and gaining the edge and really using their speed. I think this guy does a great job of playing freeze tag in a phone booth and coming out the winner. He really squeaks his way out, extends the play, and he can either run the ball vertically or throw it down the field. Look, this guy is a tremendous competitor. He has a strong arm, that’s not a question. He can make every throw. He really ties into the bootlegs and the play actions off the run game they have. Look, with (Nick) Chubb and (Kareem) Hunt, these are two of the elite backs in the league right there. You put those three together, Chubb, Hunt and then Baker, the three of them really complement each other across the board. They have a very good offensive line, and they have a great receiving corps. This is a very talented group.
Q: With Daniel (Jones), we saw him limping a little bit on his other leg. Is that the other lower leg issue you’re talking about?
A: It is, it is. That was part of the other thing that we noticed at the end of the game last game. To be honest with you, that was part of the communication not through any negligence on our part, but again, I’ve told you about Daniel, he’s a tough, tough competitor. He’s not going to be very early to tell you that he just has a boo-boo. This guy, it takes something serious for him to kind of open up and give information about what’s going on and you’ve got to really see it with your eyes. So, we obviously noticed it the other day, we got [QB] Colt [McCoy] in the game. We’ll see how he moves in practice, we’ll see how this progresses throughout the week. I can tell you that he’s optimistic, but I’m going to tell you right now if his left arm was attached by a rubber band, he’d tell us he’d figure out a way to get it done, so we’ll have to see him through practice this week.
Q: Are you going to have to monitor the snaps with him and Colt, kind of get Colt even more up to speed with snaps?
A: We do that anyway. I think today will tell us a big part of the story, so we’re going to go today in practice, be half of that fundamental drill that we do where it’s about 50 minutes of practice in pads hitting, full speed, moving around, competitive. Then, we’ll drop the pads off and finish with really more of a walk-through install to make sure we get some extra plays and take a little bit off our guys’ legs this time of the year right there, so we’ll kind of get the best of both worlds. We should get a good glimpse of Daniel today in terms of how he’s progressed and then tomorrow will be a big day for him as well.
Q: Every team’s offense has clear top players you’re trying to get the ball to. Think of like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, everybody knows he’s throwing to him, but they still make it happen. As a coach, what’s the key to getting the ball to your best weapons on offense even when the other team knows that it’s coming?
A: Well, it’s a lot easier said than done. I think there are some different ways you can do it based on who those players are – it’s obviously easier to get it to a running back where you can just turn and hand it, but when you’re talking about receivers in space, it’s going to have a lot to do with making the best decision. If they’re double-covering somebody, normally that’s not the best avenue to go to and that’s why you have to have trust in your other players. Depending on the coverages that they’re playing or how they’re matching that game, you’ve got to go ahead and make sure you can adjust your game plan and get the ball spread out. One thing I think we’ve done a very good job of this year is Daniel has always spread the ball accordingly throughout the game. We’ve had a lot of guys with production, it hasn’t been really top-heavy with one guy or another, and that’s something that we really want to be as an offense. You talk about balance, balance to me is being able to run the ball and pass when you have to and when you want to. Then also, balance in the pass game to me is mixing around the receivers and not letting someone key in on one focal guy. Look, obviously everyone wants to get the ball to certain guys by certain play calls, but if they go out there and they do something to take them away, then you’ve got to go ahead and go to your next option and make sure they can make a play as well.
Q: Obviously you weren’t with either of these teams a couple years ago, but what was your perspective on the big trade that sent [Browns Wide Receiver] Odell [Beckham Jr.] there and brought (Jabrill) Peppers here and Kevin (Zeitler), too, a couple of draft picks. What did you think of it at that time? Probably created quite a few waves throughout the league, I would think.
A: Look, it’s tough to really make an assessment when you’re not inside the building at the time of what’s going on. I’d say this, I’m very happy that Peppers is here with us and Zeitler, as well. I mean look, I’m really glad those guys are part of our team, that that was able to happen, that we have them here. Look, I only know Odell through working him out coming out of college and playing against him within the league, that’s all I can talk to you about. I know he’s a fiercely talented guy, very competitive guy, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a player. I don’t know all the inner workings that happened in the building. To be honest with you, since I’ve taken this job, that’s something that’s been in the past, I haven’t dwelled a lot on that part of it. We’ve really looked forward with everything we’ve been doing. I know he’s a tremendous player in this league, he’s a great talent. You don’t want to see anybody hurt, so I hope he does get healthy and goes out there and competes again.
Q: Where’s Blake (Martinez) coming off of his injury last week?
A: I think like everyone, he’s got little bumps and bruises. Coming out of the game, I think it’s all positive. He should be out there with no restrictions today in practice.
Q: I just want to be clear with Daniel now, is the other injury the bigger concern this week? Is it the hamstring or the ankle, how are you evaluating that?
A: Yeah, actually we’re evaluating both, so I want to make sure that the hamstring from last week, see how that came out. Again, we haven’t really moved him around yet since that, want to see if there’s a wear or tear or any kind of fatigue that’s going to set him back. As well as the other one, like anybody else dealing with some things right now, we have to evaluate where he is with that as well. We’re evaluating both equally, I wouldn’t say one is more of a concern than the other right now, but we’ve got to look and see how he moves throughout the week.
Q: One thing you said a couple times since the game that you maybe would’ve played Colt situationally. I don’t know if that’s a game plan or something you can’t share, but what do you mean by that? You don’t usually play a quarterback situationally, so I wasn’t sure what you meant by that.
A: Well, I mean I have no problem with doing that, to be honest with you. If there’s a package that can help us with anybody on this team, I have no problem rolling guys through and doing whatever’s best for the team. In terms of situationally with Colt, we always had a package for him and that goes into whether or not he has to go in by need or just by game plan to have a wrinkle and change it up. Again, I always take the attitude that if you’re at the game, you’re ready to play and if they’re at the game, have something for them to do. So that, to me, is all positions, that includes the quarterbacks. Obviously, you only play one quarterback, but that being said, I’m not shy to go ahead and have a package for another quarterback at the game like Colt if there’s something that we think he can bring a little bit differently that might help us with the game plan.