Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey -- September 5, 2019
Opening Statement: Good group this week, obviously we are playing the Dallas Cowboys on the road, and they are in our division. They have a great group of specialists, starting with their returners. When you look at Tavon Austin, and what heís been able to do in this league for years, heís always scary. Tony Pollard, who is a young returner they have that they drafted last year, I would fully expect to see him back there returning kickoffs. He had seven kickoff returns for touchdowns in college. Heís very explosive in the return game. Chris Jones is a left footed punter, (heís) an excellent hang for distance guy. Heís really good in that stadium. Heís always a pain in the butt to get a good return on him because heís really good with his hanging distance. Obviously, their kicker (Brett) Maher has a strong leg, heís really good inside that stadium and has the ability to kick a long field goal. Good group, we have a big challenge ahead of us, and we look forward to going out there and executing and playing on Sunday in Jerryís world.
Q: Where do you stand with your returners?
A: You know how we do it. Itís always kind of a hodge-podge. Jabrill (Peppers) will probably be back there returning punts, and Antonio Hamilton, (so) weíll have those guys to work with. Kickoff and return wise it will be the same guys youíve seen in the preseasonó Cody (Latimer) and Corey (Ballentine). Weíll go from there and rock with it. Those guys are talented. Jabrill has been doing it his whole life, itís like riding a bike for him. (Weíve been) Putting him back there, heís practicing every day, getting him back into the flow of the game, (so) heíll be fine.
Q: You guys gave so much to TJ Jones in the preseason, but now heís not here. Do you feel like you could have gotten an opportunity for the guys who are here, or they donít need it?
A: Preseason is an evaluation process. You have to be able to see what youíve got. Like I said, we know who Jabrill is as a returner. Iíve watched the kid since he was 16 years old catch punts and kicks. I kind of have a strong inkling about him, what he can do and how he can do it. He just needs to knock the rust off, thatís all.
Q: What about the coverage teams? Obviously, youíre running guys in and out, and some guys arenít here anymore. Do you see them starting to settle down a little bit more?
A: Itís always hard in the preseason because you donít cover a ton of kicks. You just donít know how many opportunities youíre going to get. Some games you might punt three times, some games you might punt 13 timesó you just donít know. I think as we move forward, as the speed of the game progresses, especially with some of these young guys as they figure out whatís going on and how to attack blockers and all those different things. Once we start to figure their game speed out, I think weíll be fine.
Q: Does Antonio Hamiltonís defensive work impact your ability to use him?
A: Obviously, yeah. We have a lot of different options there. Bringing in Cody Core and other guys, we can roll in the young guys. The Julian Loveís of the world, just being able to roll those guys in, weíll be fine. Obviously heís going to be playing corner, so it will definitely affect his role on (special) teams.
Q: Iím not going to pretend like I went back and watched all of Jabrillís punt returns in Cleveland, but you just look at the numbers and you see he didnít have a ton of success returning punts in the NFL. Obviously, you guys think heíll have a lot more success here, why is that?
A: I think more than anything, itís not like heís been a touchdown machine. What weíre looking to do is a get a first down, with the punt return. If we break one, we break one. The first thing we want to do is get the first first down. Jabrill has the ability to take it to the house. It is our job, as coaches, to put him in a position where he can succeed. He has the talent to take it to the house, and if he doesnít take one to the house, Iím going to put it on me, not on him.
Q: On kickoffs, is the number one goal to kick it through the end zone or is it to kick it shorter and try to make tackles?
A: It depends on your philosophy. Some people want to kick it out the back of the end zone, some people just want to hang it up. You watch New England and how they cover kickoffs, they hang every one of them up because the percentages, obviously, the deeper that your opponent starts in their territory, the harder it is to score a touchdown. It just depends on your philosophy and how you go about it.
Q: Your preference is?
A: It just depends on the week. It really does. It depends who youíre going against, and how you feel you match-up against the other team.
Q: When this roster was coming together last weekend and a couple days after, were you just sitting there pumping your fists keeping special teams guys and bringing special teams guys in?
A: The one thing that I know about Dave Gettleman is, everybody likes to save special teams guys, but if you donít have any defensive value or offensive value, you wonít be on the roster. So, for us to basically say we are keeping special teams guys I think is doing a disservice to some of those other guys that we have, or the guys who are being labeled or just put in a special teams bucket, because those guys are good football players. I promise you, if they didnít have offensive or defensive value they wouldnít be here.
Q: You guys brought in Johnny Townsend and then decided to stick with Riley (Dixon). Take us through what the thinking was there and why:
A: Anytime you bring a guy in, you want to create competition, and competition makes us all better at every spot. We had Joey Slye here with Aldrick (Rosas), and Aldrick just came off a Pro Bowl season. Taybor Pepper, (it was) the same thing. Anytime you bring a guy in, you just want to create that competition because it helps everybody become better.
Q: Does (David) Mayo have a better grip on your schemes than some of the guys who have been here all year?
A: Yeah, David Mayo has a good grip of the scheme. Being in Carolina with us for two years, or with me for two years, and then going to San Francisco, which my assistant when I was in San Francisco was Richard Hightower, who was the special teams coordinator out there. He basically runs the same systemó so heís been in the same system for the last 2 to 2 Ĺ years.
Q: When it comes to setting the 46 (man roster) on Sunday, how involved are you in those discussions? Do you have to wait to see how the defense shakes out?
A: Itís always a fluid conversation. Obviously, Coach Shurmur and Mr. Gettleman are going to make those decisions. Iím a special teams coach, I make due with what we got, however we shake it up, however we put the pieces together, weíre going to roll with it.
Q: You donít bang the table and say, Ďbut I like this guyí:
A: I mean you always want to fight for your guy, but at the end of the day theyíre going to make the decision. Once they make the decision itís done, and weíre going to play football. Itís not a big deal.
Q: Maybe one of the biggest unknowns on this team a year ago, is now probably one of the givens, at least from an outside in, is Aldrick (Rosas). What have you seen from Aldrick a year after seemingly everything went right for him, as opposed to last year?
A: Heís just getting better. Heís getting more confident. I think the battery as a whole, you see the guys working together, the chemistry is outstanding. I can only see him getting better from here. Trying to be more consistent, trying to be better on and off the field, and just trying to grow up and mature as a young man. Sometimes people forget, these guys are 23 and 24-year-old kids. They are trying to figure out life and trying to get better every day, and that, more than anything, is just learning how to be a pro. That thing, especially for kickers, punters, and specialists, if you want to go into the double digits, and if youíre blessed enough to get into that 20-year range, and he has the talent to do it, you just have to learn to take care of yourself on and off the field.
Q: When youíre scouting a guy like Pollard, does watching the college tape give you a good enough understanding of how he runs and how to cover him?
A: Absolutely. A guy on tape is who he is. Most of the time when theyíre on tape, the stuff you see on game days is the same. They donít change just because they are playing you. They are going to be who they are. He is very, very talented. The guy ran a 4.38, he hits it hard, straight, and fast. He ran through some big holes at Memphis, but he ran all of the way through them and scored. The guy at Memphis, who is at Penn State now, did a great job at coaching him. I promise you, Tony Pollard is a very talented kid.
Q: How much do your players watch the college tape? Or do you watch it?
A: I give them the information, and I might throw a play or two in there on Friday just so they can see him, because he hasnít had any in the preseason. But weíll go from there. Honestly, when we talk to these guys about guys who we are playing, itís every week you have a new dude. Itís nameless, gray faces. Itís a guy who shows up in a uniform, and regardless of who or what his uniform is, itís Ďokay this week weíre playing the Dallas Targetsí it doesnít matter, we have to hit the targetóaim at it and shoot. Thatís it. From week-to-week itís the same thing, because next week itís going to be another dude. Every week in this league you have great returners on every level. We just have to go out there and execute and play hard.