Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: What do you continue to see from Ryan Lewis? Has he done enough to solidify his spot? He played I think it was pretty much all the snaps at that CB2 spot. Has he done enough to solidify his role there?
A: I couldn’t be prouder of how Ry Lew played last weekend. I’m looking forward to this week of practice. He had a pretty good, extensive day yesterday, he was grinding it out. I thought Ry Lew did a good job for us. We always say it’s day to day with the competition, but Ryan did a good job on Sunday for us. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Today will be the first real competitive day, to be honest with you. We’ll see how it plays out. I want everybody on edge a little bit to have (them) competing for their spot. I think Ryan did a good job on Sunday.
Q: How do you look at the two catches late that obviously Michael Gallup made? He was the guy in coverage. Pretty good catches, do you grade that against him? How do you look at it?
A: They get paid, too. They have good players. I put it more on me than anything. As the days go by, I’m on to Washington now and really the challenge they present with their players. They have great receivers. I always look at it like this, I could have done a better job putting him in a better spot. I don’t hold it against him if you’re asking me that. It’s just a competitive situation. He’s a great player and he’s got to get ready for this next one. McLaurin, that guy is pretty good, he’s a pretty good player. We have to figure out ways to cover that guy along with the other receivers. (We’re) moving forward, but I wouldn’t hold it against him. They get paid to play as well.
Q: What have you seen from Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin in terms of their progress and in terms of how ready you think they are to contribute?
A: I think I’ve said before, with rookies and the whole process of how these guys mature, the first step you really see I think is when they start their study habits and you can see that. They’re asking different questions, most of their contribution is on special teams. You can see the transition there. I think part of it is they learn from some of the veterans, which is a good thing. We have a good group of veterans here that help those guys out. The second part of it is that’s a little subtle, but you can see it when they start taking care of their bodies. They understand the importance of the commodity of their body, that’s how they make their money. It takes a while for those rookies to understand because they were better than (everyone) the whole time. In high school, they were better than (everyone). In college, they were better than (everyone). Now it’s like, ‘oh no, this guy is just as good as me or more talented. How can I make sure my body is performing at its peak performance on Sunday? How do I get my body right?’ Whether it’s the nutrition, whether it’s the extra stuff in the weight room, whether it’s the extra conditioning out there. In terms of the football part of it, the thing that stands out for me is how they’re playing like, I don’t know the proper term, but just the aggressiveness on special teams. Cam stands out to me in terms of kickoff. We talk about all the time, kickoff, punt coverage, that’s really the first play of a defensive possession. The contribution there, I’ve seen him split double teams making a tackle. You know that tackle counts for defense, alright thanks, you just saved us a first down. That’s a big part of it, so I’m happy with those guys and how they are out there competing. Understanding that the coverage units are an extension of the defense. It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with T-Mac and Tom and those guys getting that right and Joe, obviously. I’ll take the ball at the 17 any time.
Q: Markus Golden was down to seven or ten defensive snaps a couple weeks ago against the Rams. Now here he is after the Ximines injury and the Carter injury, back in a heavy workload. What did you see from a veteran during that time? Was he still as motivated as ever, more motivated now that he has his shot again? Did he hang his head at all when his playing time was cut like that? Where did you see him then and where do you see him now?
A: I think I said it a few weeks ago, give it time, the process will play out and the reps will come. Right now, he has a great opportunity. It was going to come regardless because he’s a good player. I think just getting used to the system. I can’t speak for him but getting used to the system, different terminology, getting comfortable with what we ask those guys to do. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s worked his tail off to get the stuff down that we’re asking him to do. You see some of the production coming. The half sack last week, the play on the back side of the run against the Rams. You starting to see, okay here we go. I even said to him before the game, stop playing and let’s go. He gives you that look. In terms of being down, I’m sure there is some internal frustration that’s setting in, but he doesn’t show to me. He comes to work every day and he gives me that look, ‘Pat, I’m ready to go.’ You guys have met him, I know you can’t meet anybody now, but when he gives you that look that he’s ready to go, he’s looking through your soul, I like that. That let’s me know we have a defensive player. Let’s roll now, we have to get rolling for this week. We need that.
Q: You knew what Blake Martinez when you brought him here. How valuable has he been to this particular defense? What stands out through the first five weeks?
Q: First five weeks, I think I attribute it to Blake and him maturing. I attribute it to Kevin Sherrer, his coach. Blake is playing the best football I’ve seen him play. That’s just my opinion, he might disagree, Kevin might disagree. I think the way he’s approached it this year and really grabbing the scheme of being our signal caller, being the leader of our defense. I think he’s really taken hold to that. I think that stands out to me, the fundamentals are showing up. The tackling, the foot work, how he’s affecting the pass game, both in the rush and in coverage. I really think he’s playing at a high level. It’s what we wanted. I’ve always loved Blake. What I know, Blake is never satisfied. I prefer players like that. Whether you’re making every tackle or you make two tackles, you’re never satisfied. He’s a smart player, you can put a lot on his plate. The thing I have to be careful of is putting too much on his plate because I’ve got to let him play. He doesn’t have to put everything on his shoulders. I have to let him play. So he doesn’t have to press, let him play. I have to get that right for him. I love the guy. I love him, I love his wife, I love his kid. I love that guy because of the way he goes about it. I have to do a better job of not putting too much on him, let him play. He’s done everything we’ve asked and I think a lot of the improvement is from Kevin. I always tell Kevin, ‘you’re a way better coach than I was. I thought I was coaching him but no, not really. Playing a lot better with you than with me.’
Q: With respect to James Bradberry, when he’s playing at the level he’s played in five weeks, what does that allow you to do as a play caller, as someone who’s scheming up game plans week to week? I know the obvious, if you could take (us) behind the scenes a little bit. What does it allow you to do with Bradberry?
A: I like this narrative of me scheming up stuff week to week. It’s collective, whatever we do. If you take a look at the tape, I’m telling you, what we’re trying to do is tackle, get off of blocks, defend the deep part of the field and communicate. It’s not going to change, that’s the core of what we do. I don’t know if that’s scheming it up. In terms of James and what he allows us to do, James is a perimeter corner that is held in high regard throughout the league. People respect him because of his play. He allows us to, whether you want to isolate him on a particular receiver or it also might free up for us to helps guys in different places. That’s how you have to kind of look at it. It goes into the game plan part. You get suggestions from Joe, suggestions from Jerome, myself, we have input to figure out how we’re going to do that. From there, I guess that’s where the scheme comes up of how you’re going to deploy the guys. For James’ unique set of skills, the ball skills are there, the way he breaks up passes. His reaction and his anticipation are there, that helps us in terms of when we’re in our zone coverages. In man coverage, his ability to sink his hips and stay with his man and have good eye control. It makes it (so) you’re not worried about this side of the field or that guy. Not all the time, but you know you can say, ‘we’re taking care of that, we can help over here.’ That’s one thing that comes into play with it. I have to mention this, too, Bradberry tackles, too, that’s another thing. People talk about the coverage part, but he’s playing cloud corner, crack replace off of four under, three deep. When the guy catches the ball, that play down against Dallas on the bubble screen they threw out there, he got off the block, defeated the block and made a tackle. That’s what I appreciate about him. I appreciate that plus his work in the classroom. He’s a guy that tackles, I love that about him, too.
Q: Do you think that your pass rush is making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable enough?
A: You would have to ask them. I know this, what I look for is how we’re affecting the pass. Whether it’s quarterback hits, pressures, sacks, stuff like that. If I had to guess, I think they feel us. Five weeks, has it been enough? Probably not, because we haven’t won a game. It comes down to what’s going to happen this week. The O-line for Washington, they’re pretty good. They have Moses over there, pretty solid anchor over there on the right side. We have to figure out ways to affect the quarterback, whoever is playing quarterback this week. What I mean by affect, what I would prefer, whether it’s sacks, I want to win a game, first and foremost. I want to make sure after the game, did the quarterback feel us? That’s what I want to understand, did he feel our presence? Does his body feel us, does he have a hard time picking up his kids the next d? That’s how I would feel good. You have to ask those guys. I think we have guys that do a good job putting pressure on the quarterback. Obviously, we have to do some more, along with stopping the run more. I think they feel us, we’ll see. You know how it is with the NFL, it’s what did you do for me lately. We have to see what we do against Washington at home and give our fans something to cheer about with that. We have to affect these guys because they are going to pass the ball.
Q: End of half, end of game defense shows up in Dallas. Anything that you’re drawing from those situations about why it’s still an issue?
A: I have to get better. I have to call it better, I have to put the guys in a better spot. Is it keeping me up at night? Yeah, it keeps me up a night, I have to figure it out. It’s Week 5 going to Week 6, I have to figure it out. It’s no different than when we talk to players, no different than when we talk to kids. I have to figure it out. I have to figure it out, that’s the plan.
Q: How much do you have to change the game plan? With Haskins not playing quarterback, does that take a dimension out of their game? In terms of running.
A: The thing is, you talk about Allen and Smith, we all know how he used to run. We’ll see, I don’t know, he might running this week, who knows. I think you still have to prepare because their offense, it seems like they have an element of it whoever is in there. Where there is a possibility for them to take the ball. They’re all different quarterbacks if that answers your question. They’re all different quarterbacks, so you have to take into account what you’re thinking with Allen, what you’re thinking with Haskins, what would you be thinking with Smith. I would say to a certain degree, yes. I don’t know if the running part of it, I think they are all capable of pulling it. Allen, he scored a touchdown down in the red zone, it was a scramble, I got it, but he scored a touchdown, he has some athleticism. Even the one sack he had against the Rams, he pump faked on the boot, the guy beat him to the edge, beat another guy and then the ran him out of bounds for the sack. He can move a little bit. As I say, he can boogie a little bit, we have to be ready for him.
Q: Can you talk about Tae Crowder and the evolution he’s made during his rookie season. I know you talked a little bit about Cam. Can he be the guy that takes a little bit of that off of Blake Martinez that you were talking about earlier?
A: You know, I don’t speak for Blake, but Tae is a smart football player. He’s young, so he has a lot to learn but he’s very aware. I do appreciate that, it wasn’t too big for him, I think I said that the other week. Even this week, you can see he’s building in confidence. The question is coming out, ‘hey’ go over that again?’ It’s not like he wasn’t paying attention, he’s trying to register if the back does this, the tight end does this, he’s trying to figure it out. He’s definitely someone that can handle information. He handled it at Georgia, that’s one of the things that drew us to him as a potential prospect. I think he can help, but he’s still young, he has to learn. He has some awareness out there, to answer your question, he definitely has some awareness.
Q: What did Blake say about him?
A; You have to ask Blake. I know Blake appreciates the guys in his room. Tae does a good job of talking out there and it’s pretty solid.