Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
September 10, 2020
Q: I just wanted to ask what you saw at the beginning of training camp from Devante Downs, a guy who had three career NFL tackles, that made you put him where you did? What have you seen in the weeks since that have made you keep him seemingly where he is?
A: The one thing about him that showed up with him that I would say stuck out was just even looking back at the tape, his athletic ability. His ability to play on his feet and not be on the ground. He has some good speed, good burst. What we were looking for was like okay, then you got a chance to meet him. He had the right demeanor that you are looking for at the linebacker position. It was all about building his confidence. I’m not saying he didn’t have confidence. To be at this level, you have to have some confidence. Building his confidence in terms of, I think he can do this. Do you know you can do this, let’s do it together. I’ll say this, this guy has worked his tail off this camp and leading into this first week of the regular season. I’m talking about everything we have asked him to improve upon, he’s really worked hard at. He still has a ways to go, we all do. There’s been steady improvement, especially with the things on the checklist. You try to give these guys reachable goals within the week or the month of training camp. He’s trying to hit those points on the checklist and he’s doing a pretty solid job. We just have to see how it plays out when we get to the real deal out here.
Q: Joe judge had mentioned at the opposite outside corner spot that there is a chance you guys could have a rotation and maybe even ride the hot hand is the way he described it in certain games early on. Does Corey Ballentine get a chance to try and lock that down? Do he and Isaac Yiadom end up in a rotation? Will you end up putting Logan Ryan over there if need be? How are you approaching that?
A: I can’t speak for Joe. I think we have a pretty good competitive situation at the outside corner spot. Overall, just the defensive back spot. I know this, Corey has been here every day working hard. Showing physicality in the run game, showing the ability to play press coverage or play off coverage in the passing game. I really like where he’s gone as a young player, he’s really growing knowing he spent a lot of time in the slot last year. For Ike, he just got here, Isaac sorry, his nickname is Ike. He just got here, the thing that stands out about him, he’s long, he’s physical, he can run. We have a pretty competitive situation. To be honest with you, the way the league is, especially leading into this game, we’re talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers coming into town. Ben Roethlisberger, he has a bunch of wide receivers, think about how many defensive backs we are going to need out on that field. I don’t know if there is one spot. We can’t think about the traditional two corner deal. They have speed all over that field, all those guys. A matchup against these guys is hard because of all the speed they have on the field. All the wide receivers potentially, the backs are fast who play like receivers. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be a competitive situation. We’ll do what we think is best that week, without giving away anything, I can’t do that. We have some guys from Logan to those guys that we feel confident in their ability. We have to practice today, we’re working through that, they are still competing.
Q: Can Isaac contribute right away even though he got here so late?
A: If you’re long, you’re fast and you get your hands on the receivers, for me, I vote yes. We’ll see how it plays out. The competition starts, but based on the skill set, yes. We just have to see how everything plays out.
Q: You’ve spent a whole summer with Joe Judge through training camp and now getting ready for the regular season. Is there anything that’s surprised you about him in terms of how he prepares to be a head coach and just tackling this new challenge?
A: In the summer, I spent a lot of time with him. Our offices were near each other when we worked together. Here’s what I know about Joe, he’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever been around. I used to sit in meetings at times and be amazed. Special teams coordinators have a short period of time and they have to get a lot of info in and just amazed at how quickly and how effectively he could get the information to the guys. In terms of surprised, no. He’s organized, he’s smart, he’s tough on his players, demanding, he knows football, to me, I’m not surprised. He has good leadership skills. No real big surprises from me so far. He’ll be the first one to tell you, we all are, we’re trying to get better every day. No real surprises for me.
Q: There’s this perception on the outside that because he has a special teams background and spent time talking in front of the entire team before, never really called plays on either side of the ball before, that he’s kind of a CEO as a head coach. What’s his role like in the defensive meetings and defensive game plans. We didn’t really get to see any of that.
A: I believe this wholeheartedly, when Joe did the opening press conference and expressed how he wanted the New York Giants to look, it’s the vision of the head coach. Whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, anything we call that’s out on that field is a reflection of the vision of the head coach. That’s my job. His input is priceless. Whether it’s specifically making a play call or not, I don’t know. His input is priceless because I want it to be reflective of what he wants. That toughness that we talk about in the area. Especially when you are talking about dealing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a tough football team. They’re fast, they’re tough, they’re smart. We have to be ready to match that. Being the visionary that he is, Joe has probably outlined that from the jump, knowing where we had to get to for this game. I know this, he’s the head coach of the New York Giants. He laid out the vision pretty clear and now we’re trying to work to make the vision come to fruition for him. His input on the defense, I can’t speak for offense or special teams, is priceless. We talk about the scheme all the time.
Q: How do you envision that dynamic going between you and Joe on Monday night? With you calling the plays and him being the coach. How has your relationship grown since this is a different relationship now that he’s the head coach and you’re the defensive coordinator than when you were working together in New England?
A: We’ll see how it plays out for the game. There is a flow of communication between us because we know each other and it’s my job. I’m the defensive coordinator, but like I said before, it has to be a reflection of what the head coach wants. I don’t think any assistant coach would tell you otherwise. How has the relationship grown? We’ve always talked football, whether we were QC’s and we were eating breakfast, we were talking football. Football and our families, that’s what we were doing. Again, this week is much more football. I think we’ve caught up on the family thing over the last month. We’re worried about Pittsburgh right now. It’s about how we’re going to cover the receivers, how we’re going to defeat blocks up front against this talented offensive line even though they have some guys injured. How we’re going to tackle their running backs and tackle everybody else in space. The relationship grows any time we’re around each other because we’re talking more ball and we’re talking less about the family right now, but more ball right now.
Q: How do you feel about having a top corner travel with an opponent’s top receiver?
A: When you think about that, game plan wise, over the history of the defensive schemes I’ve been in, I think it’s a week to week basis what you want to do. I think it’s my job to put our guys in the right spots to be successful. The years we’ve done that, it was because we thought it was the best thing for the game plan. What you will find from me, I’m willing to do whatever the head coach tells us and what we think is best for the game plan for that week. That’s probably as clear as I could define it. If it involves me staying up a little bit later and the coaches working a little bit harder to get the guys to understand it, we’ll do that. I know this, these players are smart men. They don’t get here being dumb, they are smart men. If we put in a little wrinkle here and there, these guys can learn it. You give them six days to learn it, they will learn it. Especially if it’s putting them in the right spot. Especially if it’s going to help them be successful on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. It’s really game to game to me, if that answers your question.
Q: With a guy like Ju-Ju Smith Schuster, who is their number one receiver and spends a lot of time in the slot, does that change that dynamic? Maybe some of your corners don’t want to go inside?
A: The good thing about our guys, we talk about it all the time, we want guys to put the team first. We’ve been lucky to have all the guys on the roster from Darnay to JB (James Bradberry) to Ike that’s new, Corey, B-Wil-slim, all the guys here, they are selfless guys. I can’t speak for them but whatever we think is best for the team, I think they are willing to do that. Luckily, for my career, I’ve been around guys like that. It might be uncomfortable, but you know what, they got here being uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable to be the best in the world. The work you have to put in, I just think about the strain that you have to go through for that. They are used to it. At such a young age, that’s why it’s such a pleasure to be around them.
Q: You rattled off some names, who is slim?
A: (Brandon) Williams, sorry. I keep using the nicknames. I’m right before practice, I’m ready to go.
Q: I wanted to ask you about facing Ben Roethlisberger coming off a year where he really didn’t play and coming off that major surgery. Are you kind of curious as to what you are going to see? What might you expect from him on Monday?
A: I tried to shave so you guys wouldn’t see all the gray hair this week is causing. I’m curious and we will have to figure it out. We’ll have to adjust. I know this, he is one of the best to ever do it. He can throw the ball anywhere, he’s tough. That’s the thing that stands out. He is one of the toughest players to ever play in this league. For a young team that we have, we try to explain to them, listen, no play is over. He can get the ball anywhere. He’ll make the right decisions in the run game. When you are dealing with these veteran quarterbacks, I wish there was a stat or somehow (track), the decisions they make in the run game, the yards there. Take all the 50,000 or whatever many yards passing, how many yards do they contribute in the run game by getting you into the right check? I’ve been hit real bad by this guy over the years several times. They have the backs and the people to block and the receivers willing to block to do it. There’s so much he brings to the table and we’re just going to keep studying. It’s Thursday now, we have until Monday. We are going to use all that time to keep studying. Going back on tape and seeing what they are doing. The beauty of it and also the hard thing about it, once the game comes, we have to adjust. Then they are going to adjust, and we have to adjust again. That’s what we get paid to do and it’s fun.