Q. DE Brandon Graham is having, at least statistically, his best season as far as sacks go, and he is 32. Have you seen anything like that before, and do you think he is having his best season? Obviously, you’ve said in the past that you really can’t measure guys by statistics sometimes. Is he having his greatest season or best season and how much of that have you seen before in your experience? (Nick Fierro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think throughout the NFL you’ve seen a lot of situations where you’ve seen older pass rushers continue to be effective. You can look at a lot of defensive ends, and you see that a lot.
As far as having his best season, I don’t know if I really judge it that way. I didn’t really follow him a ton before we got here four or five years ago. We always judge our D-Line play not as individual statistics but as a group. I think that he has made an impact on that group, not just in the pass rush game which everybody seems to focus on, but in the run game, also, has made some big tackles in the run game, created some pressures and has been able to finish with sacks and created turnovers which have been huge for us. Like that last week or our offense had turned the ball over and we went back on the field on a short field and success there is probably give up a field goal, but not only not allow a field goal but getting the ball out.
BG is having an outstanding year. We’ll just wait till the end of the year before we compare it to any other season. We still have a long way to go.
Q. I wanted to ask you about CB Michael Jacquet and what you saw from him in that Dallas game for a kid that had not played before? He got a lot of work in that game. He is still on the practice squad obviously, but where might he fit in moving forward if he can get on the 53-man roster? (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That’s the way the league has gone this year. You have the taxi squad of the practice squad, and whether it’s COVID-related or injury-related, you get a lot of those guys that are Sunday-morning call-ups or Saturday call-ups, and it just shows how much work they need to put in preparation-wise, because they could get called up at any second.
[CB] Cre’Von [LeBlanc] wasn’t able to play, and MJ [Michael Jacquet] stepped in to play. We didn’t anticipate him having to play, but Slay [CB Darius Slay] got nicked up and he had to go in. I think probably the best way to put it is you really didn’t notice he was out there, and if you’re a corner, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’d probably like his one play back, probably should have had an interception on one play, but he was there when the team needed him. Maybe on Wednesday or Thursday of that week, he wasn’t even in the ballpark of if he was going to play.
But we’ve had a lot of guys step up that way this year and make plays for us and we’re going to need to continue over the next half of the season.
Q. We obviously didn’t get a chance to talk to you after the Dallas game, but I wanted to ask you about the game LB T.J. Edwards had, just the way he stepped up and made some huge plays. How important was that for you guys, and where do you see him as far as going forward and everything with his play? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I thought he was playing well before he got injured. I thought he was playing really well against San Francisco on that Sunday night game that he was playing before he hurt his hamstring. He’s a strong player. He can fill those interior gaps. He’s probably our best linebacker when it comes to being physical at the line of scrimmage and taking on guards and tackles and taking offensive linemen off of double teams and things like that and he’s a reliable tackler. Made a big play when it counted the way we run that blitz is we generally have three guys and they should have two blockers for him.
They chose not to block him, and they blocked [S] Rodney [McLeod] instead, and he was able to not just get the sack, but get the strip and we were able to get the score off of it. That game was in the balance right there. They are down less than a touchdown. They are driving into our territory. Not only we come up with a stop — again, a success in that situation is probably getting a sack and forcing a field goal range, but not only to get the sack, but get the strip and we got fortunate with the bounce and picked the ball and up and go score. It really changed — sealed the game and made it a two-score game. We were going to have to really screw something up to lose the game at that point.
Q. LB Nate Gerry obviously is injured and didn’t play. There was never really a play that he got hurt on, or at least that we could tell that he was removed from the game. How much of the injury had been bothering him prior to you guys finally deciding to shut him down? Was that something that was affecting him for weeks? Can you give a little more information on that? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I really can’t. That’s really not my realm to talk about injuries. That’s a question for either Coach Pederson [Head Coach Doug Pederson] or for Nate himself. A lot of guys play with a lot of different things that nick them up and they are still able to go play. Some things get to where you can’t play, and we just deal with all those things as they come up.
Q. A little off the beaten path here, but you mentioned over the weekend to Peter King, that Alex Trebek helped train you as a football coach. Obviously, people are upset losing a legend like that, but was that tongue-in-cheek or were you serious about that? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Obviously I didn’t think he was training me as a football coach when it was going on. I was a sophomore and junior in college. I didn’t even know I was going to go into coaching. We were just playing for fun and it was an ultra-competitive environment, but you look back and see lessons learned from stuff like that and you see the carryovers to football. It’s not just getting the right answer. It’s getting the right answer quicker than everybody else. I’ve always talked to football players about this. It’s like, hey, what’s two plus two; four. And somebody else says two plus two and they go [pausing, counting on fingers] four. Well, both of them got the right answer, but the other one, the ball was snapped and the running back just ran right past you. There’s that, and when you’re a defensive coach in particular, you’re reacting when you make your play calls. You guys see, I very rarely have a play sheet or a call, I might have some notes written down on one small page but that’s about it. The reason is, you have to react to what personnel group you’re getting, the down and distance, all those different things. You can’t pick a play the way offensive coaches do.
I think just looking back, that had a lot to do, and then just Alex Trebek in general his command over the game. I thought it was always interesting, you never knew if he really knew the answer or it was just he sold it because it was written on his card. You know, oh, no, Henry the VIII, Henry the VI, that kind of thing, just having command over the game and the players. I think the other thing, he did it for so long, he had such consistency and it didn’t happen by mistake. He was such a professional. He never flubbed a word. He never flubbed a syntax. So you knew that every question he had read probably 20 times, and that’s a lot of questions on the board. He prepared himself, and it showed in his performance.
So I think there’s some carry overs, practice is important. Big news flash there. Command is important. Thinking quick is important. Competitiveness is important. Those are the lessons that I learned from just watching a silly game show on TV.
Q. You’ve had the situation a few times the past few years where you play a team in such a confined period. In these situations, do you find that you need to alter the scheme at all, or I guess not the scheme, the game plan, or is the familiarity such that you just go out there and play? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think there is that. I mean, that’s generally a short week, kind of thing. You know, hey, you are what you are. They are what they are. We’ll have a little bit of wrinkles and I’m sure they will have some wrinkles off of some of the stuff. Both teams will try to play to some of the things that they were successful and see if the other team made the adjustments to shore in that kind of stuff. Hopefully you won’t see us give up any 90-yard runs to quarterback this week, but I’m sure they are going to test us on that, so we have to be up to that challenge. Division opponents generally know each other, so it’s not a huge thing playing on a short span with only two games in between. I think a lot of that stuff goes out the window. They are familiar with us. We are familiar with them. It’s going to come down to who plays with the most spirit, who plays with the most toughness, who executes the best and who plays the best fundamentals. Those things will probably have a lot more to do with a win or a good performance than coming up with a new wrinkle or something the team hasn’t seen or expected.
Q. Following up on T.J. Edwards, I think one of the big knocks on him earlier in his career has been the lack of great athleticism. How do you view him? Is he a limited player because of that or can he be a three-down linebacker? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I’ll let you guys ask him that question. That’s a tough question to ask somebody.
I think he was a very productive player at Wisconsin. Had a lot of production and things like that and he didn’t run a great 40 time. The times he played — he played fairly sparingly as a rookie, but he was out there, and when he’s been healthy this year, he’s been a contributor for this year. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to limit my calls with him in the game. I’ve had some other guys that way when I was in — when I was in Buffalo, we had a very similar guy, a guy named Preston Brown, we drafted him third or fourth round, very productive player at Louisville and just didn’t run a good 40 time. He led the NFL in tackles a couple years and he went out there as a rookie, and you didn’t even call the game as if you were trying to cover him up and that’s the way I feel about T.J. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s been able to do, and there’s a difference between a guy that tests well and a guy that plays football well.
I think that T.J. is a guy that plays football well. Our scouts really did a great job with him getting him as a free agent. A lot of our scouts had him marked as one of their red star players which means that’s one of their favorite players in the draft and we made a strong effort to get him after the Draft. I’m very thankful for that, being able to get a guy like that without having to spend a draft pick was a great addition for us.
Q. You’ve given up more rushing yards than you have in the past as you pointed out before the Dallas game, it hasn’t been a case of team’s methodically driving down the field on you, you held running backs to 3.3 yards per carry. Most of it is misdirection plays or quarterback runs but still 40 percent of the other team’s rushing yards. How do you address that during the bye week? How have you addressed it? (Paul Domowitch)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, we actually address it after every series. After every series, after the half, after the game, weekly, bye week, you name it. Bye week was more of a study thing. We practiced on Wednesday, but the rest of the time was more evaluation and film study and things like that.
All those plays were a little bit different, like the long run we gave up to the quarterback. We miss-fit that. Other ones have been a physical mistake, a guy missed a tackle. Some of them have been tough plays for plays based on the scheme. So just like anything else, it’s just a battle. A team has success with something, so you’re going to see more of it. For us to be a good run defense, we have to put that fire out, and it’s going to take a lot of work over the next eight games to do that.
Q. Brandon Graham seems like he’s been an important energy source for you guys, talking on and off the field, uplifting guys. How important has that been for your group and is there any example that comes to mind of Brandon Graham on game day and his persona? (Tim McManus)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think the biggest thing is he always keeps his energy up on the field, on the sideline, during practice, during the breakfast line. He’s just a guy that embraces every part of this thing. He’s always talking about football. He’s always excited about the next challenge. Enjoys practice. Enjoys meetings.
So it’s not just what you’re seeing on Sunday from him. It’s what you see — it’s just him and his daily life, how you do something is how you do everything. That’s the way BG handles it. He’s an important leader for us. He’s got a lot of experience and he’s seen a lot of things. He knows how to persevere through hard times and that’s a great example to a lot of the younger players. Just looking back, just the climate of the NFL in general now, people are so quick to judge players, whether they are successful or not. I know BG was tagged early as not being a successful draft pick and things like that. He was able to persevere through that and has gone on to have a very successful career, maybe having the best season in his career at age 32.
All that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because he has a passion for the game and he’s enthusiastic, and he has the experience of seeing tough times and has that perspective. I think that’s an important lesson for all our guys.
Q. The Giants game a few weeks ago, other than the 80-yard quarterback run, what did you see they did that you need to be concerned about this week? What did you think they did effectively against you? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, they have a lot of play-makers. They had just got [Giants WR] Sterling Shephard back and he’s become obviously a bigger part of their game plan over the last couple weeks and even gotten some snaps in the slot which is sort of his homeland in there. Their tight end is a good player, makes a lot of plays on jet sweeps and trying to scheme ways to get the ball to him, and their run game has become — lose a guy like [Giants RB] Saquon Barkley, it’s hard to replace him with just one person. So they have introduced a whole lot more zone read concepts. I think all of those are challenges for us. [Giants WR Darius] Slayton is a guy that can break the game open. He’s a guy that can make big plays. We did a good job against him last time, keeping him from having a big impact in the game. We have to do the same thing. It’s an experienced offensive line. I think that there’s a lot of things that have our attention this week.
Q. Just to follow up on that, and maybe you’ve already answered this a little bit, but how different does this Giants offense look from just three weeks ago? Does this offense look any different? Has it evolved? Is it picking up on what Giants Head Coach Joe Judge is teaching in his first year? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I do think it’s evolving. They struggled early in the season mainly because of turnovers. They have done a little better job of taking care of the ball the last few weeks. And those, I mean, turnovers are such a huge thing in the game, so they have done a little better job of taking care of the ball. They have changed their run game a little bit. It’s easy to just hand the ball to Saquon Barkley deep and let him pick his hole, but you have to manufacture some runs and they have done a good job of manufacturing some runs, and got some guys back from injury. There’s a news flash; get some good players back on the field and you’ll be a little bit more effective.
I think a lot of it, also, they did miss [Giants G Will] Hernandez the last week because of COVID, but they got a rookie playing left tackle who is a high draft pick and they have some experience, a guy like [Giants G Kevin] Zeitler. They have a good, solid offensive line. It’s going to be a great challenge. NFC East games always are. Throw the records out, all those clichés. We’re an eight-game season right now and even though we have a slight edge in the NFC East, it’s not a huge edge. How the season goes will be dependent on how these last eight games go, particularly the division games.