WATCH: Head Coach Joe Judge addresses tough week 4 matchup; reacts to Titans’ COVID outbreak

NY Blitz

Head Coach Joe Judge

Opening Statement: Today is Wednesday. We’ve turned the page on from last week’s game. We’re all focused right now on the Rams. We sat down with our players today and explained obviously the opponent we have to face. It’s a great history of this organization. Obviously, the only team in NFL history to win three world championships in three different cities. Starting off with the Cleveland Rams originally when they were named after the Fordham Rams. There’s a lot of history that goes on back to the time in St. Louis, and obviously, back home now in LA, which is really where everyone remembers them from. They have that blue and yellow, really stands out with the greats that came through that program. The Eric Dickerson’s, the Jackie Slater’s, another fine organization. I think Les (Snead) has done a tremendous job of building this team in the draft and also through free agency and trades. He’s obviously built this team with a lot of star power and explosive players who can change the game by themselves at any time.

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. 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.

We’re dealing with (Brandon) Staley on the defensive side. Obviously, he learned a lot from Vic Fangio. They do a great job of going out there and doing what they do. They disguise defenses very well. They start with disruption up front. They have good defensive backs who do a great job in space of tackling and eliminating explosive plays. These guys are really a team that make you click it down the field and turn the sticks over drive by drive. They don’t give up a lot of big plays. Obviously, it all starts with 99, Aaron Donald. This guy will really ruin your birthday party in a hurry.

John Bonamego and the special teams, I’ve known John for some time now. He’s been a very good personal friend to me. You have to know about John, he is aggressive. The saying ‘free herd,’ that’s how he approaches it right there. His teams play aggressive, they play downhill, they’re a physical bunch. They’re aggressive in rushing kicks, punts and field goals. They do a very good job in the return game obviously with Cooper (Kupp) back there returning punts. They put an emphasis on getting their best players involved in the game and looking to make game-changing plays every time. To me, when you talk about the Rams special teams, no matter who’s there, it all starts with Johnny Hekker. 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. 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, and he’s really been a weapon for this team to establish and maintain field position consistently.

That being said, I’ll open it up to any questions right now that I can answer. We have a great deal of respect for this organization. It’s obviously a very tough opponent. We’re going to start today on the field getting ready for them full speed.

Q: The Titans’ COVID outbreak is affecting the NFL schedule for the first time. Is it changing anything that your team is doing? How confident are you in how your team and the league in general has been dealing with this up to this point?

A: Yeah, we have a lot of confidence in the protocols the league came out with. We’ve been very diligent since the beginning of following it. Our team and our coaches have been very committed to following the rules. It’s not changing anything we’re doing. It’s just reaffirming we have to stay diligent in the process of making sure we follow the steps in place.

Q: Kind of an odd one for you. With no crowd and no fans in most stands, and then also broadcast mics picking up so much natural audio from what’s happening down on the field, have you guys taken any extra precaution in terms of the calls at the line of scrimmage? I know the Rams do a lot at the line of scrimmage. Have you guys studied anything differently or on your side taken a little more precaution?

A: I would say there’s just a heightened consciousness this year in terms of what you’re using verbiage wise on the line of scrimmage and how you’re looking at your opponent. In the past, every team in the league has watched broadcast copies. You always try to pick up on anything you can, any kind of call or communication. That’s all 32 teams doing the same thing trying to create an edge for their players. Obviously, this year with it being a little bit different in terms of how much the mics are picking up, you have to be very conscious of what you’re saying, and also what the opponent is saying. I don’t think anyone is doing anything differently. I just think it’s a little bit clearer this year with the noise that you can hear from the quarterbacks.

Q: I’m just wondering as a young head coach yourself if there’s anything you’ve picked up or learned from Sean McVay as far as the way he coaches and kind of runs the Rams, if that’s influenced the way you’ve gone about coaching the Giants and just approaching your first year on the job? Obviously, you got a lot of great experience from working under Coach (Bill) Belichick, but is there anything you maybe learned or gleaned from Sean McVay?
A: Obviously, I’ve had some conversations with Sean early in this process. I have a ton of respect for Sean and what he’s done. Look, every organization is different, every process is different in terms of taking over a team. There’s nothing I’m trying to do in terms of modeling what anyone else has done. What we have here is very unique. We have our own way we have to go about doing things to build our program. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for Sean. Obviously, at a young age, he was very aggressive in how he went about his business. He has a vision, he knows what he wants to do, and he’s been able to see that on the field.

Q: I think probably every coach that goes up against the Rams and talks about Aaron Donald says ‘we need to have a plan for him.’ What makes him so unique that you need to plan against him? Nick Gates this early in his career at center, how do you see that as any kind of a matchup that the Giants can win?

A: I’d say this first off, 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. 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. He’s 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. 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.

Q: With Nick Gates three games in at center, do you still look at it as an experiment? Where do you think he is after three games?

A: 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. 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.

Q: Another one of their stars, Jalen Ramsey. What makes him one of the best at his position, skill set wise? Separately from that, talks a lot of trash. Do you talk to your guys about not getting caught up in that whether it’s him or somebody else who talks a lot of trash like that on the field?

A: We’re looking to go ahead and focus on the next play and move play to play. I’d say this guy is definitely special in the league. He’s long, he’s very athletic, he’s got great make-up speed. He’s very instinctive, this guy has that savvy and awareness. He can lull you to sleep a little bit as a quarterback and then pounce on the ball and really get you when you think he’s not paying attention. He does a great job of forcing turnovers, really attacks the ball on a play by play basis. You have to be alert for this guy because he’s coming after the ball every play. You can say he’s talking trash, but this guy definitely backs it up on the field, he’s a special player.

Q: Did you guys make your call on whether to start the clock on David Mayo?

A: It’s not official yet right now. He’s with the trainers. We still have a couple days to get it. I don’t anticipate seeing him practicing today.

Q: With the corner Harper from the Raiders, what did you like about him? How much of a struggle has it been with that number two corner spot? You have really been kind of searching for an answer?

A: I think the guys are all working hard. We see a level of improvement on a weekly basis. We have to make sure we keep playing good football and take some bad plays off our plate, but that’s up to us as coaches. We have to keep putting guys in the right position and they have to execute on the field when they’re asked to. In terms of the moves on the roster, I’ll talk very lengthy once the process is completed. As of right now, it’s still within the process.

Q: You guys have had Devonta Freeman in the building for a week now. I’m just curious what your impressions have been of him? Just behind the scenes and as a teammate in the locker room? I know it’s still only been a week, but what’s been your impression of him so far?

A: I think he is a ball guy, I said that last week and it definitely holds true. He really loves football. Coming from Liberty City where he grew up, those guys down there love ball. They’re tough dudes (inaudible) in terms of love of the game, passion for the game. I see a guy in the locker room who is a good teammate, I see a guy in the huddle who is very serious. He’s got a great business approach to how he goes about it, but he smiles and enjoys being out there on the field. I’ve seen a lot of progress from him obviously. We needed to get him caught up in our schemes last week. He did a great job working, staying ahead. He’s more familiar this week, making more progress. Looking to get him involved in this game plan as much as we can. Give him a chance going forward.

Q: Is Jabrill Peppers going to practice today?

A: He will not.

Q: You have a Super Bowl ring from beating this team. Does that help at all? They have a lot of the same weapons that you faced about a year and a half ago, two years ago.

A: No, I think every team is very unique. This Rams team is not the same team they were last year or two years ago. This is a different team than I was a part of as well. Every team is unique year by year and club by club. Obviously, there’s some information I gathered, but I’ll tell you right now Sean’s always evolving, he’s always changing, he’s always improving and getting better. What he may have game planned based on another club I was with will have nothing to do with what we do going foward here. He’s looking to match up our players on our roster and we’ve got to be aware to see them find a way to do that.

Q: Daniel Jones obviously has led the team in rushing most of these games. He’s the teams’ leading rusher for the season. How sustainable is that and what are your feelings about that? Do you like that identity? Obviously, you would rather have a running back have more yards. Can he continue at this pace?

A: We’ll look and see when it comes up as a part of the game plan. We’ll take production from anywhere we can.

Q: Sean McVay said the other day that Jared Goff played his best game of the season against Buffalo. Curious from your perspective, watching him the last few years, what have you seen in terms of development from maybe when you first saw him to where he is now?

A: When I first saw him, he was really truly a rookie. It was a different coaching staff, a different step. He’s obviously evolved a lot in his career. Since he has been with Sean, he’s made a lot of huge strides I think as a player. He’s always been a threat because he’s very talented, but you see a confident player out there. He’s completed I think 70 percent of his passes right now. These guys are top of the league on third down, one of the top rushing teams in the league. They are very successful on early downs and they’re the highest scoring team in the league. That all comes from the quarterback. This guy does a great job back there finding the open receiver, delivering an accurate, catchable ball. He finds his guys, he understands the game plan. They communicates well as a unit. They do a great job of using tempo, getting to the line, getting to the perfect play. Obviously, he is the one that has to communicate that, he has great command on the field. This is definitely a guy they have invested a lot in, and you understand why they did.

Q: You got a taste of what Devonta can kind of do throughout last week in practice and in the game. Where do you see him fitting in moving forward?

A: I think like every one of our players on our roster, everyone has a role going into the game. I see him fitting in with this specific game plan in a couple different ways. I’m not going to go into specifics about how we’re going to use him. I think he has a skillset that allows him to contribute in the running and the passing game, both as a protector and as a receiver. I think we have to do a good job of balancing out his roles and everybody’s roles to make sure we get the most out of him.

Q: You still want to rotate all three of the running backs, though?

A: Yeah, we plan on playing every back that’s at the game.

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