Excerpt: "The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin
Q: You were asked Monday about how you prioritize the issues you need to address and you first mentioned the run defense – so we’ll start there. In the last six weeks, the opposing teams’ rushing totals have been 191, 84, 80, 248, 19 and 158. Why are you seeing these inconsistencies?
Coughlin: “You have to recognize who the opponent is and what their conviction is. Sometimes people are not inclined to stick with the run. The teams that obviously are committed to the run, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to throw. There are many times they throw and then run and other times the run comes later in the game. So you have different types of strategic concepts in terms of run and pass. “I just say (the run defense is a priority) for a multitude of reasons. The first thing is that when you state you have to stop the run, you’re also declaring a physical mentality and that mentality is ‘I don’t care whether there are six men in the box seven, eight - stop the run.’ It’s so critical to every other thing that you want to accomplish in terms of being able to force the pass or force the pass rush and have more opportunities to turn the ball over and that type of thing. You’re making a statement about who you are. There’s too much evidence of being able to mush it in there. Now the thing that I did disagree with is people kept saying that this kid (Pittsburgh’s Isaac Redman) that ran the ball against us the other day was the third-string back. He was a starter coming out of camp, so he’s a good player. They have some good runners and two or three of them are exactly the same. They’re stocky. They’re thick and then they come at you with the real quick hit. From a mentality standpoint, you have to be a team that committed to stop the run, because it’s also an indication of your physicality.
Q: You said yesterday Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard are working their way back into shape, but you also didn’t have your middle linebacker Chase Blackburn last week. Was that a factor?
Coughlin: “Sure, it was. The run fits were critical. You’re looking at a style of team – in the AFC North they’re all built like this, so you’ve got the same thing. You’ve got big, big offensive linemen and a lot of times it’s not fancy. It’s just mush, come at you and knock you back. The back powers in behind there and all of a sudden it’s four yards. But you can’t get knocked out of there and you have to be able to get off the block. I don’t care who you are or what position you play or what your technique is. If I’m playing a technique and the ball is being run on the opposite side, I have to squeeze it or mush it down in there or separate or get rid of the blocker and make the play. You just don’t stay in that gap and sit there and let the ball go through. You can’t do that. You’re not going to tackle these good backs with an arm tackle. You may slow them down and allow other people to get engaged, but you have to remember that guy is going to fall forward for three or four yards with an arm tackle. So you have to get there. You’ve got to get the hole plugged. You plug the holes with bodies. Stack it up.”
Q: You mentioned there were 12 missed tackles last week. Was that the first time tackling was an issue?
Coughlin: “It’s always an issue. It’s just a number. A number like that jumps out at you and you can easily say how critical it is, but once again it’s professional football. You’re a long way from training camp. You’ve had games where you’ve tackled better and the key is get a bunch of people to the ball and you’ll tackle better. Don’t leave space out there and expect a guy to be all by himself and then make a miraculous play. You visualize a 230-pound, six-foot runner and there’s a lot of mass to try to get down.”
Q: When things go well for Eli, he’s very good at putting it aside and focusing on the next task. Is he also that way when things don’t go so well for him?
Coughlin: “I think so. I think he is. It’s the great thing about our game. You get a chance to line up again and go. So let’s go fix it and move on. He’s mentally tough.”
Q: Do great players sometimes need a pat on the back?
Coughlin: “Sure, everybody does. Everybody needs to know that everyone is totally behind them and that we believe completely it can be resolved. I always told Eli when he was just a young player, ‘Look, understand this - the head coach and the quarterback are going to receive way too much praise and way too much criticism. So if things are going well, you’re the greatest thing that ever walked the face of the earth. It’s not going well, where else are people going to look to place the blame? Right at the same spot, so you’ve got to learn how to deal with that.’ Then when you couple that with John Wooden and the way he felt about it, it makes it very simple. He said, ‘You’re going to be praised. Some of it is warranted and some not. You’re going to like it. You’re going to get criticism. Some of it is warranted and some not. You’re not going to like that. But if you let that affect you in any way in terms of your preparation, then you’re wrong. It’s a mistake. You can’t fall into that trap.’”
Q: You did some one-on-one drills with Eli and the receivers in practice yesterday. When you’re not doing as well as you want in an area is it good sometimes to go back to the fundamentals?
Coughlin: “Sure. It’s all about fundamentals. We always associate certain drills with certain things. As you get into the season and you make your adjustments according to health issues, for example, practice opportunities, sometimes you have to adjust that. So in this regard in discussing this with Eli, I already knew what he was going to say, because that’s something that he looks forward to on a full-time basis. He has the ability to do some one-on-one work with the receivers, so we were able to get back to that yesterday and everybody looked forward to it and looked at it as a positive.”
Q: Victor Cruz said teams are being more physical with him in coverage. Are you seeing that?
Coughlin: “Yes, everybody knocks you around. It would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t. They’re not going to let you go where you want to go within that concept and also the rules. You have five yards to do it.”
Q: How much confidence do you have in Lawrence Tynes ?
Coughlin: “Outstanding, and he deserves it. Do I wish he would have made the 51-yarder the other day? Of course. But he’s been tremendous. The operation has been tremendous.”
Q: You brought up the lack of first downs (the Giants have 24 in the last two games). How much of that is a third-down conversion problem?
Coughlin: “Big time, it’s a part of it. You get 11 drives normally. What you do with those drives is critical. You don’t make third downs, you’re not going to have any first downs, and so you have to convert. We haven’t done that. We have four in the last 20. That’s ridiculous. We’ve got to get going.”
Q: You often talk about your 8 a.m. Wednesday meeting with the players when you begin the work week and introduce the upcoming opponent. How important to you is that meeting and how much time do you spend preparing for the meeting?
Coughlin: “I spend a lot of time on that. I spend a lot of my Monday night and Tuesday just researching the opponent and digging and, admittedly, I spend a lot more time at it than we did 20 years ago. But that’s the message that starts the week off. “You have to have a theme, and I usually give them early keys, in addition to all the information we give them. We do a video. We do a highlights video and late in the week we do lowlights, so we introduce them - here’s Joe Shmoe with a 57-yard touchdown run and then late in the week we’re showing them fumbling or something like that. In the meantime, we throw all the information at them, the players, the injuries, the statistical basis of their offense, defense and special teams, who is playing very well. All that and anything else we come up with and then we always have three or four keys for each spot that they can focus on, what they have to do and have to get done. And we follow it up the next day and we analyze the games so that all three sides can understand how special teams contributes - like Denver with the 105-yard kickoff return (last week against this week’s opponent, Cincinnati). And then the end of the week we finish up with, in conjunction with short yardage, goal line, red and green zone, two-minute, all the statistical stuff and things that we really believe in - the penalties, the turnovers, where we rank in our division and who our division is playing that weekend.”
Q: A.J. Green stands out when you look at Cincinnati’s offense. Is he a top shelf receiver in your mind?
Coughlin: “No question. He’s gotten so much better. He’s targeted on 30 percent of their passes. He’s fast, physical, has outstanding hands. Can go over the top of people, makes big plays. They opened the Washington game with a gadget big play to him and it was a 73-yard touchdown.”
Q: Defensively, (tackle) Geno Atkins is a guy that stands out.
Coughlin: “I think (Michael) Johnson is pretty good, too. He’s 6-7. Atkins is good. The entire front is. They’re physical. They don’t give up much.”
Q: What do you think of their return specialists, Brandon Tate and Adam Jones?
Coughlin: “Both of them are very dangerous. One guy (Jones) is really physical and Tate is very quick on change of direction. Tate is back there on kickoffs. It’s a big-time challenge.”