Q. Obviously you guys got CB Darius Slay, how big a match-up is this for him Sunday against the Cowboys with their three wide receivers and obviously without telling us the whole game plan, how do you plan to use him? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, yeah we are going to use him, I guess we will find out Sunday and so will the Cowboys. So don’t want to delve too much into that. I will say this, they do have multiple playmakers on the outside. It is not just about taking one guy away. Particularly when their quarterback was healthy, that was a very, very lethal combination and not just [Dallas WR Michael] Gallup and [Dallas WR CeeDee] Lamb and [Dallas WR] Amari [Cooper], but even the other guys, all those guys were productive when they got in there, 85 [Dallas WR Noah Brown], 11 [Dallas WR Cedrick Wilson], Wilson and Noah, those guys all made plays. And it’s going to be a group effort getting those guys stopped. It’s not a game where you just take one guy away and you’re going to limit them.
So I think that is an important part of it. They are explosive, they are productive at all those positions, and it’s going to take a group effort.
Q. You guys used LB Alex Singleton in a blitzing role a couple of times against the Giants. How does he do in that role and how is he doing just in general? (E.J. Smith)
JIM SCHWARTZ: He’s continued to make plays for us. It started with that 49ers game where he was able to get some playing time and he’s gotten a little bit more in each game.
I mean, I don’t know that we actually called blitzes for him. It was just sort of when he was in the game, we were sort of rotating our guys through and the situation called for it, and he made the most of it. That was a big play in the game, pressuring the quarterback, getting that holding penalty.
It’s one thing just to get a hit on the quarterback. It’s another thing to cause an incomplete pass. It’s not quite as good as a sack, but a forced holding penalty is big and Alex has made a lot of plays. Hasn’t played perfect, but has contributed and has made some big plays for our defense.
Q. The 80-yard run by Giants QB Daniel Jones the other night, this is the sort of thing we’ve seen a few times. Again, the running backs didn’t kill you, but the quarterback ran 80 yards. What has to happen to stop that sort of thing or limit it more than you’ve been doing? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: You’re right on that. It’s been rare that people have methodically driven the ball on us. It’s been more perimeter oriented. It’s been more reverse, a quarterback loose play, maybe even a quarterback scramble in some of those, a zone read-type play. Those are plays that just stretch your whole defense, whether it’s a reverse or a quarterback play like that.
And every single person along the front needs to be right, and one person out of their gap, it can really, really look bad. Where a lot of inside runs, one guy out of his gap, you’ve got a linebacker that overlaps it or a safety that overlaps it and it’s a gain of five and you guys don’t even really notice.
Just puts more emphasis on just being stone cold on the outside part of the field. It’s just the way offenses are now. That’s been a layer to the run game that ten years ago, five years ago, wasn’t as big. You might get a reverse in a game, but you didn’t have all those different things. And I would even include outlet passes like the RPO outlet passes. That’s basically a run, also. It forces you to defend the entire width of the field, and that play wasn’t our best. I mean, we didn’t come back on the quarterback the way that we should have on that. Then the defense I was in, we were half-field on the other side and sort of wasted our middle of the field safety that can get that ball down because he wasn’t a middle of the field safety. Robey [CB Nickell Robey-Coleman] was trying his best to hold guys off just to buy us some time to get there but there was nobody there to get there. That certainly wasn’t our best play, but I think it remains — if we can eliminate those plays, we can make it hard for people to drive the ball.
I thought the only team that really consistently drove the ball on us was the Rams. I guess the Steelers, also. But those two games, the other games, it’s been big plays, whether it’s been run or pass that have put them in scoring range. I think this Giants game, they really had one series that they drove and scored on. The other one was a one-play drive and the other one was set up by an 80-yard run by the quarterback.
Q. In your history as a defensive coordinator when you come into a game where they are having issues at the quarterback position, they could be down to No. 3, they have a lot of issues on the offensive line, just from a human nature standpoint, do you have to do anything different to make sure your guys are staying, just, you know, 100 percent rivalry game, that kind of thing, do you have to do more to motivate them? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: No, I mean, we are always up for the Cowboys, really doesn’t matter who is out there at quarterback. We’ll be ready to go. They have enough play-makers without the quarterback, even considering a quarterback, that’s going to keep our full attention. When you’re talking about those receivers we just talked about, they have got a good tight end group, obviously [Cowboys RB Ezekiel] Elliot back there, even [Cowboys RB Tony] Pollard, those guys can all make plays. They are not going to change their offensive game plan, whether it’s [Cowboys QB Andy] Dalton or [Cowboys QB] Ben [DiNucci] in there at quarterback.
Q. You had a ton of injuries at defensive tackle last year and a couple there already this season. What’s the plan? Do you have enough players to fill out that rotation right now? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We’ll see where [DT] Malik [Jackson] gets to bouncing back. It’s just too early to tell, but we’re disappointed to lose Ridge [DT Hassan Ridgeway]. Ridgeway was having a very good season. Wasn’t playing a ton of snaps because of the other guys we had there, but he was a very productive player. He was a little different style than some of the other guys and he was hard to handle in there.
So we’re going to have to have some other guys step up into those roles. [DT] T.Y. [McGill] has played a couple games for us this year and has given us some quality snaps. We’ll just see where we get to on Sunday with the rest of those guys, but obviously it’s an important position for us. It will probably put more snaps on guys like Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] or [DT Javon] Hargrave or Malik when he gets back healthy.
But you know us, we like to spread those reps around and keep guys as fresh as we can. It will definitely be something we’ll be looking at and trying to find the best way forward with that.
Q. We saw some pretty good moves out of DE Derek Barnett this past week and quite frankly for most of the season and one of the big talking points with him early on was getting more than just that outside speed rush. What have you seen out of him in terms of those second and third moves? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, well, the inside spin was obviously effective for him in this game. Got a sack on it and got some pressures, also. And it’s just a good complimentary move. We have talked a lot about [DE Josh] Sweat and his repeatable motion and things like that. I think one of the things with Derek that [Run game coordinator/defensive line coach] Matt [Burke] and Wash [Director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn] have done a really good job with is his repertoire is sort of down a little bit, down in numbers. He doesn’t need a whole lot. He’s got an edge move. He’s got a speed to power move, and he’s strong with his speed to power. Derek is not the biggest guy in the world, but he does have good speed to power and he sets that up with an inside move.
You really don’t need a whole lot else, and he’s been closing ground. He hasn’t been wasting a lot of time in his pass rush. He’s been closing ground where in the past he was probably foot-faking a little too much, and not putting the pressure on those guys. I think, also, Derek’s success has a lot to do with the other guys. We are getting good rotation in there. They are all productive when they are in there, whether it’s Sweat, whether it’s BG [DE Brandon Graham], him, Vinny [DE Vinny Curry], G [DE Genard Avery], all those guys have been productive in those roles and we always look at our guys as what’s the production of the group, not an individual production. But I agree with your assessment.
I think Derek, he really has taken — he missed most of training camp with an injury and sort of started slow but we’re seeing the player that we expect with him and he’s been productive for us on the field. Always plays hard. Always plays tough. That’s a given. But I think that move and limiting some of his other moves has been productive for him.
Q. Regarding the quarterback situation, there is a good body of work you can look at with veteran Cowboys QB Andy Dalton being a veteran but how do you prepare for a rookie like Cowboys QB Ben DiNucci who does not have that body of work? Do you go back and look at his tape from JMU? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Yeah, we were on that tape yesterday watching some of his college film, just getting a feel for him more as an athlete and some of the throws that he made and things like that. Anybody that makes an NFL team is good enough to play, so I think you start there. That’s going to get your respect right away. You’re good enough to make a 53-man roster, that deserves our respect, just watching him run some zone read stuff when he was at JMU, our scouting staff has really helped us that way. Our scout, [Midwest area scout] Jim Ward, has watched him since he was at Pitt. Actually, saw him when he was a high school player. Just those kind of inputs and that kind of perspective helps us. You’re right, Dalton does have a good body of work, but we’ll be ready, whoever is out there at quarterback.
Q. DT Fletcher Cox has one and a half sacks so far this year, on pace for about three and a half. What are you seeing on tape out of him? What do you need from him for this defense to be at its optimal? (Tim McManus)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Sacks, obviously, are the thing that everybody’s judged on, but again, we judge our guys on what the group’s doing. A lot of times, you can have a great rush and it gets somebody else’s sack, or it gets a pressure, they throw incomplete. I think of the screen play that Fletch and [LB] Duke [Riley] sniffed out and we got a tackle for like minus five or something. Well, you know, when you’re playing the game as a play caller, what’s the difference between five-yard loss when it comes to a screen or five-yard loss when it comes to a sack. Or even a TFL. They all count the same. It’s all lost yardage play for the offense and they lost a down. We’ll keep our eyes on things like that. I think that obviously he caused a fumble in that game. That was a huge play. We didn’t score off it, but I thought that was a huge play in that two-minute drive, we were able to get the ball back. Looked like they might have a chance to score before the half and Fletch was able to get that ball back.
I think it’s always — you can never look at any one stat and say whether a guy is productive or not. I think it’s the whole body of work and the way we play our guys up front, it’s the body of work of all the guys not just one.
Q. What was the plan for CB Avonte Maddox in this past week’s game and going forward is the job still his if he’s healthy? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Oh, yeah, he’s our starting corner outside when he is healthy. He was just coming back. It was a difficult week. We started his return to play and we didn’t have any practice, so it was really hard to gauge where he was. He wasn’t 100 percent sure. We weren’t 100 percent sure.
He was active sort of as an emergency player. He got pressed into service on some punt return stuff, and he was doing a good job staying warm in case we needed him. Because of some of the zones that we were playing at the end of the game we put him in at corner. We knew he wasn’t going to have to run 80 yards down the field to cover somebody, but we wanted him in there and he had felt good enough on those special teams snaps and kept himself warm.
He was trending the right way. Looks like he’s definitely trending to being able to get back in there. I thought Robey did a good job subbing in there, but Avonte is an outside corner for us and it will be good to get him back out there.
Q. What does an NFL Sunday look like for you when you have the day off? Were you watching the Cowboys game and if so, what do you watch when you watch a game live? (Bo Wulf)
JIM SCHWARTZ: There are never days off for us. We were in here at work getting ready for the Cowboys. I did have the game on. We have multiple screens in our office, so one game was on the live game and then I was watching cut-ups on the other one. So every time there was a commercial, somebody else might be going out to get a snack or hit the restroom or grab a beer. That’s when we flipped over and looked at plays from the previous game.
I think we do look at a lot of game tape and things like that, but sometimes a live game copy gives you a different perspective. You can just sort of feel the flow of the game a little bit more. I thought that was obvious when you were watching that Washington-Dallas game. Yeah, days off aren’t exactly on our calendar.