Giants DE Leonard Williams got his big contract, and now it’s time to focus on football.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a three-year deal worth $63 million that includes $45 million fully guaranteed.
Earlier this month, the Giants placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old Williams for the second consecutive year, but ultimately, the two sides agreed on a new contract.
On Thursday, Williams met with the media, and according to the six-year player, he has a lot to give going forward.
“I’m 26-years-old still,” Williams said. “I think I’m still in the middle of my prime, and I think I have a lot of game left in this league, obviously. I have a lot of personal goals. I’m not trying to reach any specific stat line or anything like that, but I want to just give it my best and keep playing like the player I am and just keep bringing my best to the table.”
One of the reasons Williams got paid was because of his play in 2020. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks for the Giants, and he led a defense that played very well at times last season.
Williams explained why he played so well for the Giants in 2020.
“Honestly, something that me and Coach Judge, me and Coach Spencer have talked about is there was something about this year that just felt like I was back in college, back in those high school times when you’re not thinking about what the media is saying,” Williams said. “You’re not thinking about money; you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re just thinking about the reason why we play this game is the love for the game. I’m not saying that ever left me. But this year, it was just a lot of fun playing in this system, playing with my teammates, playing with this staff. When I’m out there having fun, I just play my best.”
The Bakersfield, California native started his career in New York City after being drafted by the Jets in 2015. After this new contract with the Giants, he will continue to play in the Big Apple, which according to him, is now home.
“I never would have thought about New York being like a home to me or anything like that before,” he said. “But after being here this long and going into another three years, I definitely feel like New York is like a part of home to me. It’s a part of me, for sure. I’m glad to still be able to keep playing at MetLife and keep playing for this area. It’s been going well.”
The New York Giants have the 11th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, and what they do at that spot should be interesting. Do they continue to build around their QB Daniel Jones and grab a wide receiver, or if they drop, does New York select one of the quarterback prospects like Justin Fields or a Trey Lance?
We’ll see, but according to Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who drafted the 23-year-old Jones with the sixth overall pick in 2019, New York has their quarterback.
“Well, you do your evaluations,” Gettleman said on Tuesday. “We’ve had Daniel(Jones) for two years; we’ve done the evaluation on him, and we really believe he’s the guy. No reason to go look. What we’re doing isn’t fantasy football, we’re not playing, we’re not doing that. We’ve got a conviction on him; he’s everything we want, he’s got all the physical skills, and again, I say this all the time, the kid just finished his second year of NFL football.
“How many of us after two years at our new job were great? No, we all start at point A, and we hopefully get to point Z, but the one common denominator is it takes time. Everybody has to understand that. We believe in Daniel, and that’s where it is.”
Entering his third season, the pressure is on Jones to show he’s the guy for New York. Jones has shown flashes, but he still turns the ball over a little too often. In 21 games, Jones has 36 turnovers(21 picks, 15 fumbles lost), so he still has to clean that part of his game up. While it might be intriguing to take one of the top QB prospects if they drop, it’s probably in New York’s best interest to build around Jones. However, if the Giants have any doubts and have a chance to grab a QB they like, New York will have a tough decision.
As of now, it appears that Jones is the guy for the Giants.
The Giants announced on Monday that they had placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the standout defensive tackle. It is the second consecutive year Williams has received the franchise. He is the first player the Giants have ever tagged twice.
In 2020, Williams made $19.3 million.
The 26-year-old Williams was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent a week from tomorrow, the start of the NFL’s new business year. A franchise tag is basically a one-year deal that grants a window to negotiate a long-term contract. If there is no contract agreement before July 15, Williams will play the 2021 season under the one-year deal, which is what he did last season.
The move gives the two sides time to negotiate a long-term contract, and according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, both sides will continue to work towards a long-term deal.
However, the six-year veteran is free to negotiate with any team, but if Williams signs a contract with another team, the Giants will receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.
‘Like I said about all of our players, I’d love to have Leonard back,” Giants head coach Joe Judge said via a zoom call on Tuesday. “He’s a guy that obviously we really value in this building, and we’d love to have him around here. When we talk specifically about how that helps the pass rush, I think good players help you play good, and it’s no secret that he’s a very good player.”
Williams’ team-leading 11.5 sacks were the most by a Giants’ player since Jason Pierre-Paul’s 14.5 in 2014 and were 7.5 more than any of his teammates, 4.5 more than his previous best total (in 2016), and 11.0 more than he had in 2019. He was third in the NFL with 30 quarterback hits and tied for sixth with 14 tackles for loss. Williams was fifth on the Giants with 57 tackles (29 solo).
Expect the Giants and Williams to get a deal done sooner than later.
The Giants have released wide receiver Golden Tate III and linebacker David Mayo, the team announced on Thursday.
Tate, 32, played the past two of his 11 NFL seasons with the Giants. He joined the team as a free agent back in 2019 after signing a four-year, $36 million deal. Before joining the Giants, Tate played for the Seahawks, Lions, and Eagles.
In 23 games(14 starts) with the Giants, Tate caught 84 passes for 1,064 yards (12.7-yard avg.) and eight touchdowns.
Last season, Tate played in 12 games with four starts. He was inactive for the season opener vs. Pittsburgh (hamstring) at Washington on Nov. 8 (coach’s decision) and the season’s final two games (calf injury). Tate caught 35 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
Mayo, 27, joined the Giants six days before the start of the 2019 season and played in 27 games with 15 starts in two seasons. His totals included 100 tackles (62 solo), including 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
In 2020, the six-year veteran tore the meniscus in his left knee, underwent surgery, and spent the season’s first five weeks on injured reserve. He played in each of the final 11 games, starting two, and led the Giants with nine special teams tackles (six solo). He had 20 tackles (12 solo) on defense, including two for loss and forced one fumble.
Mayo debuted with the Giants the previous season, when he played in all 16 games, including starts in each of the last 13. He tied for second on the team with a career-best 80 tackles (50 solo), including his first two career sacks.
Before joining the Giants, Mayo played four seasons for the Carolina Panthers and was in training camp in 2019 with the San Francisco 49ers.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley was looking to have a big season in 2020. The third-year back has been over one-thousand yards in each of his first two seasons, and he was hoping to be better this season. Before the start of the season, in 29 games, Barkley rushed for over 2300 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. In addition, Barkley has over 1200 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
However, in Week 2 against the Bears, Barkley’s season ended after he tore his ACL. As Barkley works his way back from the injury, he is in line for an extension.
The two running backs that got paid recently were the Saints’ Alvin Kamara(15 million per season) and the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey(16 million per season).
Will Barkley get paid like those guys?
It should be interesting to see what the Giants will do with Barkley. If New York does not extend Barkley, he can become a free agent after the 2021 season. However, if the team picks up his fifth-year option, Barkley would be under contract for the 2022 season. After that, they can use the franchise tag to keep him in New York through 2023.
Coming off an ACL injury, Giants co-owner John Mara expects Barkley to return to form and be a big part of the team for a long time.
“It was brutal to watch him go down in Week 2,” Mara said about Barkley on Wednesday. “He’s such an important part of this team, not only for what he does on the field but the leadership and all of the intangibles he brings to us off the field. That was really a gut-punch. Listen, I’m still happy that we have him. I think knowing him, he’s going to come back stronger than ever and be a big part of this team next year. In terms of what the time table is, it’s hard to predict that right now. I know our medical people are very pleased with the progress he’s made. I certainly expect him to be a Giant for a very long time.”
If Barkley had stayed healthy and put up big numbers in 2020, he would have most definitely gotten paid, but now things are uncertain. However, if Barkley comes back the same guy, he’s probably going to get paid. It just might happen a year later than he thought.
Dave Gettleman believes in Daniel Jones as strongly as ever and is excited about the prospects for the Giants’ offensive line. He is also dissatisfied the team averaged only 17.5 points a game in 2020.
Because of that, the general manager today had no reason to be coy regarding the franchise’s objectives as it enters a critical offseason.
“At the end of the day, we need to find playmakers,” Gettleman said during his annual postseason news conference on Zoom. “That’s all there is to it. I’m not sugarcoating it. If you talk about philosophically doing roster building, it’s the Q (quarterback), it’s the big men who allow you to compete. On offense, it’s playmakers. We have to be very conscious of it. We’re going to find the right guys to help Daniel get us over that hump.
“We’ve got great leadership. We’ve got a young club, a new, young team. I understand that. At the end of the day, this is an important offseason, roster building offseason, for us. We’ve got some solid pieces. We’ve built up the lines. We’ve done some things. We have to continue to get good players and part of it is getting playmakers, because that’s what you’re referring to. This is a goal of ours, obviously, for the offseason.”
On his own Zoom call with reporters, team president and chief executive officer John Mara expressed a similar sentiment.
“I think we certainly need to help our offense a little bit this offseason, be it free agency and the draft,” Mara said. “I think we need some more pieces there. Part of the problem that we had is we had a brand new offensive line with new guys playing new positions. They had never played together before, we had no offseason, we had no preseason games for them to get to know each other and get the feel for playing with one another, and they struggled, particularly early in the year, no question about it. I thought they started to play better in the second half of the season. But there’s no question that we need to help our offense going forward and add some more pieces. That will be a priority for us.”
The Giants were 6-10 and NFC East second-place finishers in 2020. Despite the record, they would be preparing for a postseason game as division champions had Washington lost to Philadelphia Sunday night.
Gettleman acknowledges the roster must be upgraded before the 2021 season begins. But he strongly believes the Giants have the two elements most critical to any improvement with Joe Judge as coach and Jones at quarterback.
“The bottom line is, with Joe, is his big picture view and then the follow up on the attention to detail,” Gettleman said. “That’s what’s really critical. He starts at A and gets to Z. That is huge, that is really huge. Obviously, he is a very bright guy. That’s what really sticks out in my mind. Just the big picture and the attention to detail. No detail is too small, the old saying, ‘The devil is in the details.’ He and his staff, he is really tuned into that.”
Gettleman selected Jones sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and he’s more convinced than ever that it was the correct decision.
“Obviously, he flashed last year,” Gettleman said of Jones’ rookie season. “He had some big games and played well. Then he had games that weren’t so great. This year, early in the season he was struggling with his ball protection. We all know that. The second half of the year unfortunately he had that blip with the hamstring (and missed two games). He finished the season very strong. He played well against Baltimore despite getting chased all over the place to a degree. Made some big-time throws.”
In the season-ending 23-19 victory against Dallas on Sunday, Jones completed 17 of 25 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a season-best 106.9 passer rating. That would have put the Giants into the postseason had the Philadelphia Eagles defeated Washington that night.
“Really and truly, it may sound trite, but obviously the last game of the year was a playoff game for us, it really was,” Gettleman said. “We have to win that game to force Washington to win their game. Daniel played very well. He made a couple of big-time throws. Protected the ball for the most part. The one pick was off of Evan’s (Engram) hands. He’s done a lot of really good stuff. He’s made of the right stuff mentally and physically. Again, we’re talking about a young quarterback who has had two different offensive coordinators in the NFL. Two different systems. Obviously, he had a different one at Duke, so he got three different systems in three years. I thought he got beyond the hamstring the last two games and he played well. We have complete confidence in him moving forward.”
Upgrading the offensive line has been one of Gettleman’s priorities since he arrived. This year, the group had three new starters in left tackle Andrew Thomas (the team’s 2020 first-round draft choice) left guard Shane Lemieux (a fifth-round selection) and center Nick Gates, a third-year pro who had never before played the position. Communication and continuity are considered critical for an O-line and as Mara noted, this group (which early in the season had Will Hernandez at left guard) had to develop a rapport via virtual meetings and training camp practices.
“We’ve got some really nice, young pieces,” Gettleman said. “Nick Gates stepped in there. He’d never played offensive center before. We drafted Will (Hernandez) and Shane Lemieux. You have (Kevin) Zeitler and Andrew Thomas who acquitted himself very well when he had that rough patch and then he got himself rolling again. I think this offensive line can compete. You can cherry pick here, cherry pick there, in terms of which game you want to pick and how the offense did. The offensive line showed very good progress. They’re big, they’re young, they’re strong and they’re tough and smart. This O-Line has a chance to be pretty damn good.”
The defensive line already is, most notably Leonard Williams. Gettleman was roundly criticized at midseason in 2019 when he sent three and fifth-round draft choices to the Jets for Williams, a first-round draft choice in 2015. Williams was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice following two of the final five games, including after his career-high three-sack performance against Dallas. He finished the season with a team-high and career-best 11.5 sacks.
“Leonard deserves a lot of credit for how he prepared this year,” Gettleman said. “Sean Spencer working with him as the D-line coach, the scheme that (defensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) had for him.. There was a reason that (Williams was the sixth overall selection in the draft). Leonard did a great job. He did a great job of working his fanny off. Again, the atmosphere for our players – one of hard work, you can have fun, you can enjoy yourself and Leonard did a heck of a job and his position coach, Sean Spencer, Pat Graham and Joe. The bottom line is he thrived in our atmosphere. I’m ecstatic. It’s like I tell players all the time, ‘I only want you to be successful and I want you to make me cry when it comes to negotiations.’”
While the Giants have numerous promising pieces on offense and defense, growing pains are always difficult to endure. Aside from perhaps Mara, no one has felt them more acutely than Gettleman.
“Of course, it’s disappointing,” Gettleman said. “It’s disappointing not just for me personally, but I’m disappointed for the organization. I’m disappointed for the players and the fans. Sure, it’s disappointing. Listen, last time I double checked, it’s about winning. I’m very disappointed. I guess the best thing I can say is – John said in 2018 we didn’t have a stellar year, didn’t have a stellar roster building season, it’s affected us. We’re on the right track right now. We’ve done some really good stuff the last two years. We’re going to fix this. We are going to fix this.”
Gettleman is a cancer survivor who turns 70 next month. But he is determined and motivated to lead the fix.
“I feel good, I feel strong. I had my 24-month review with my lymphoma doctor. He says you’re as healthy as a horse. Let’s just keep moving, so I’m ready to rock.
“It really is dependent upon the Lord how long I stick around for. We’re all day to day, by the way, in case anybody missed that point. I feel fine, I feel good, I’m excited. I just want to keep going. I don’t know where this retirement stuff came from. I have no idea what that’s all about. There are probably some people that… at the end of the day, I feel great. So, let’s keep going.”
The flexibility and multiple skills Julian Love contributes to the Giants’ secondary is perhaps best exemplified by his positioning and performance in the team’s first and final games of the 2020 season.
In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Love started and played all 64 defensive snaps and had three solo tackles at safety. Sixteen weeks later, he started at cornerback, missed just one of the 82 defensive plays and had seven tackles (five solo) in the season-ending victory against Dallas.
So, where will Love play in 2021, when he will be a third-year pro in a defensive backfield that is arguably the Giants’ deepest position group? Anywhere the team wants him.
“After talking to the coaches, the versatility role for me is kind of what will happen going forward as well,” Love said on a Zoom call today. “Kind of being able to play a lot of positions, and then we’ll see how the offseason goes. I’m going to keep working and try to really establish myself in a role. But right now, my role is the guy who can get it anywhere for us.
“I think that’s kind of what I’ve always done before college, high school ball and growing up. It’s kind of a fun aspect of playing the game.”
The drawback to not having a set position is that Love spends more time in some games on the sideline than on the field. He played no more than 50% of the defensive snaps in six games and played only on special teams at Dallas on Oct. 11. In the season’s penultimate game, he participated in only 11 defensive plays (16.2%) in Baltimore.
“They told us that’s kind of how things might operate,” Love said. “One week you might not play at all, one week you might play every snap. I thought it was kind of a joke, like, ‘Oh okay, yeah you need to be ready, you have to be flexible,’ all that stuff. But for me, it was pretty real. It requires some patience at times. But I knew there was always a plan. That kept me motivated, it kept me going. I was always really on the game plan and really ready to go. The ending, a lot of snaps played, I played the last game, it sent me into the offseason ready to keep working and keep growing.”
Love did play in all 16 games, starting six, and was on the field enough to finish fourth on the team with 61 tackles (45 solo). He picked up his second career interception – both in Chicago – and had three passes defensed.
Love made his first pro start at cornerback against Cleveland on Dec. 20, after James Bradberry was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He played little against the Ravens but replaced Isaac Yiadom at the corner opposite Bradberry on Sunday vs. the Cowboys.
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of versatility to us,” coach Joe Judge said. “He’s just a steady, even-keeled guy. (Against Cleveland), we had a situation come up with the corner position. When we went to Julian and said, ‘Hey, you have to play corner this week,’ he didn’t blink. He said, ‘Whatever you need,’ and went out there and worked it. I thought he played a solid game for us right there. That just kind of shows his overall value to the defense, his ability to play nickel corner, perimeter corner, or deep field safety. He does a lot of things for us and that’s a strength.”
Love played cornerback at Notre Dame where, as a junior in 2018, he started all 13 games and was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the nation’s best defensive back. The Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and after playing as a reserve early in his rookie season, Love started the season’s last five games at strong safety, after Jabrill Peppers suffered a season-ending back injury.
This year, Love started the season’s first two games at free safety before veteran Logan Ryan replaced him. He started two games at midseason as an extra safety. When Love next appeared as a starter, against the Browns, it was at corner. He played there against Dallas and helped limited the Cowboys’ talented trio of wideouts – Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb – to 133 yards and no touchdowns on 15 catches.
“It was pretty fun,” Love said of returning to corner. “Kind of going back to some of the roots I established in college. I enjoyed it.
“Julian Love had to be prepared,” Ryan said. “He looked like he was up for the Thorpe Award again, like he was at Notre Dame. It was like his old Notre Dame days again. There was a lot of him.”
Ryan is a role model for Love. Prior to joining the Giants, Ryan played seven seasons for New England and Tennessee and started 95 regular-season and postseason games. Every one of them was at cornerback or as an unspecified defensive back. Ryan made his first career start at safety on Sept. 27 against San Francisco.
“Logan Ryan, having him on the team really helps me, football wise and just off the field wise,” Love said. “He’s a true pro in all he does. It’s easy to look at him and say, ‘Alright, this is kind of what I want to be. This is the type of player and person I’m striving to get toward, the type of career I’m trying to have.’ He was a guy I could always ask any question about, whether it was technical or not. He always had an answer for me. Him and Nate Ebner have really just helped me grow. Those guys, their careers are something you only dream of. Hopefully, I can learn from them going forward.”
The Giants have a talented group of returning defensive backs, including Bradberry, Ryan, Peppers, 2020 rookies Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes, and Love.
“We have some very talented pieces, and it does nothing but excite us going forward,” Love said. “We have a lot of players who have that just base of being ballplayers, and guys who are versatile, guys who can play different types of schemes. I know we’re going to use that to the best of our ability. We’re going to max out everything we have in the back end because when you look at it, we have kind of a young core. Logan Ryan and James Bradberry are experienced players. We’re young but we’re very talented. We feel the sky is really the limit for us. I think it’s perfect Xavier McKinney finishing the game (with an interception), finishing the season for us. That just shows kind of where our trajectory is, really.”
Many around the NFL are not happy with the way the Philadelphia Eagles handled their season-finale against the Washington Football Team on Sunday night. There was a lot at stake in this game. If Washington wins, they win the NFC East. If they lose, the Giants, who beat Dallas earlier in the day, win the division.
Here is what got a lot of people upset. First, with the Eagles down 17-14 in the third quarter, Philadelphia had an opportunity to tie the game with a short field goal, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it on fourth down, and ultimately, Washington would stop them.
Finally, Philadelphia decided to remove their starting QB Jalen Hurts, who ran for two touchdowns on Sunday, and replaced him with Nate Sudfeld, who had not thrown a pass since 2018. Well, Sudfeld proceeded to commit two turnovers(fumble, interception) and finished the game 5/12 for 32 yards. Philadelphia would not score again and would fall to Washington 20-14.
With the loss, the Eagles secured the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Washington won the NFC East, and the Giants were eliminated.
On Monday, Giants head coach Joe Judge addressed the situation, and he was not very happy.
“I’ll let Philadelphia speak for themselves on that in terms of how they approached the game,” Judge said. “Really simply, I was in my office last night. I watched our film from the game yesterday, and then I was actually watching our first Tampa game with the Philly-Washington game on in the background. There’s been a lot made of that game internal or from the outside. Let me just be very clear on this; we had sixteen opportunities this year, that’s it. It’s our responsibility to take care of our opportunities and perform better and execute the situations when they’re on our plate. We don’t ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else. We’re not going to make excuses as an organization. Not now, not ever. We had our opportunities. We need to learn from the lessons we have from this year and carry them forward. That’s the experience you truly gain. That’s really the most important thing right there, our opportunities.
“That being said, obviously, players have asked me throughout the day. The one thing to keep in mind with this season is we had a lot of people opt into this season. We had a lot of people opt-in. Coaches, players, that includes family members as well. To look at a group of grown men who I ask to give me effort on a day in day out basis and to empty the tank. I can look them in the eye and assure them that I’m always going to do everything I can to put them in a competitive advantage and play them in a position of strength. To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort and disrespect the game. The sacrifices that they made to come in to work every and test before coming in. To sit in meetings spaced out, to wear masks, to have shields over those masks, to go through extensive protocols, to travel in unconventional ways, and to get text messages at 6:30 in the morning telling them practice was going to be canceled we have to do a virtual day. To tell them to please don’t have your family over for Thanksgiving, please avoid Christmas gatherings, we know it’s your wife’s birthday; let’s make sure we put that one off to the offseason. There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well for the family members of the people connected to them. To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win. We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants.”
In life and in football, you never let anyone control your destiny, and in the end, New York did not do enough to control their destiny, and because of that, the Washington Football Team are NFC East champions. It’s that simple.
However, one thing for sure, when the Giants and Eagles play next season, it should be a lot of fun!
Watch Judge below:
The Giants were riding their train on the way home from Baltimore yesterday evening when they learned the results of the late afternoon games involving NFC East teams that left them with an opportunity to win the division title on the final weekend of the regular season.
But Joe Judge would prefer his players not think about the possibility of playing in the postseason but instead concentrate on their Week 17 opponents, the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s the same approach the first-year coach has taken all year.
“I actually met with the team last night when we got back to make sure we were set on what the plan for the week was,” Judge said on a Zoom call today. “Our focus still needs to remain on the Cowboys. That’s the priority this week. We remain focused on improving as a team. We have a division rival coming up ahead, it’s a big game for us. Obviously, there are implications. As I’ve said all along, those games right now don’t exist. Until I can talk about any kind of opponent coming up beyond who we’re playing, there’s not a conversation to be had. Our focus remains on the Cowboys.”
Dallas has won three consecutive games to improve to 6-9. On Oct. 11, the Cowboys defeated the Giants in AT&T Stadium, 37-34, on Greg Zuerlein’s 34-yard field goal as time expired. Dallas has won the last seven games between the teams.
The Giants are alive in the division race despite a three-game losing streak that has dropped their record to 5-10. The winner of their game against Dallas in MetLife Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday must then wait for the result of the Washington Football Team vs. Eagles game that night in Philadelphia. A Washington victory will give it the division crown at 7-9. Should Dallas win and Washington lose, the Cowboys will stand alone at 7-9 and the Giants will finish third at 5-11. But if the Giants and the Eagles – who are eliminated – each win, all three contenders will be 6-10. The Giants would claim the championship based on their 3-1 head-to-head record vs. Dallas and Washington.
Yesterday, the Giants lost to the Ravens in the 1 o’clock window, 27-13. Dallas and Washington each played late in the afternoon, giving Judge and the Giants an opportunity to monitor their games as they returned to New Jersey. The Cowboys crushed the Eagles, 37-17, while Washington lost to the Carolina Panthers, 20-13.
“Being on the train, actually we had the game streaming in the background,” Judge said. “We had kind of a little conference room in the front car that I was in. Me and (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham sat in there. We went through the defensive tape together and watched like we do, we did the same thing coming back from Washington and talked some ball. We were kind of checking scores throughout the league with a lot of games going. That’s kind of normal custom right there. Everyone’s kind of checking scores around the league. Last night was no different. Obviously, there were some division games going on that we were conscious of. We checked those, we streamed those and watched the end of those games.”
Judge was asked what the team’s reaction was after learning their Week 17 games would potentially have a division championship at stake.
“To be honest with you, I was actually separate from the rest of the players,” Judge said. “They had us very spaced out in the cars. The front car was kind of more coaches than it was players. I saw the players on the back end when we got back to the facility. I called a quick meeting in the bubble just to address how we’re going to handle the week going forward, and kind of clear up any questions that may have come up. To be honest with you, look, the questions about the playoffs, these are things the players obviously have as well.
“We’re going to keep our focus on Dallas. We’re not getting focused on the playoffs. I truly believe what I said earlier. This is a hypothetical game. The only thing we can control is what we do against Dallas. At the same time, there’s a human nature that they’re very conscious of what’s going on around the league. It would be naïve or ignorant to pretend that they’re not paying attention as well. When we got back, I grabbed the team and just kind of let them know what the situation is, but really, reaffirm the importance of staying focused on Dallas. That’s all we can control.”
The players, no doubt following a directive from Judge, have virtually abstained from discussing the division race and postseason permutations.
“I’m just focused on Dallas,” center Nick Gates said. “We have to beat Dallas first to be able to even think about the playoffs. After we beat them, we have to see if Washington wins. I’m just focused on Dallas and trying to give ourselves the best opportunity.”
“Our coaches hit it best,” said middle linebacker and defensive captain Blake Martinez. “They said, you always want to have meaningful December football games. Obviously, this game will be in January, so meaningful January games. To be able to have that, every competitor, especially in the NFL, wants to have that opportunity.”
And what are Martinez’s thoughts about the Giants’ playoff chances?
“You just go about each and every week the same that we have been doing since the start of the season,” Martinez said. “Just making sure we get better. Going to work Monday, making improvements that we need to from the previous game. Just focus on what we can do as a team to be better than we were last week. Be better than we were to start the season. As long as we’re doing that and showing it the following Sunday, whatever ends up happening, happens. We’re ready to go and we’ll do the same thing if we get another chance to re-focus in and get back to work the following Monday after that.”
Martinez is one captain clearly following the orders of his general.