Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
September 17, 2020
Q: A lot of ex-NFL players have pointed out on video that you had a lot of trouble with pick plays over the middle. How do you guys go about addressing that?
A: We corrected the film when they came back in on Wednesday. I have to do a better job obviously. I didn’t do a good enough job of preparing for that. We are going to get presented with the same problems and issues this week with Chicago. They have a bunch of good receivers. They do a great job down in the red area. They have so many targets down there. How they disguise their looks in terms of the proximity of receivers close to one another. We have to do a better job of coaching that. The best thing to do to address it is go through practice. You go off the tape and then you get to practice. I’m looking forward to today to get the opportunity.
Q: Sometimes those get flagged, sometimes they don’t, rub routes or pick plays. Do you have to play it like you assume it’s not going to be a penalty?
A: They’re doing it within the rules. They have the rule book, too. I don’t think anybody is purposely going out there trying to break rules on rub routes or they will get flagged. The officials do a great job, I think. Everything within the rules, we have ways to combat that. Every week you are going to have to deal with that. This week, we’re dealing with Chicago. I’m sure they have some in their arsenal. Going back on the tape, whether it’s the Detroit game or last season, we just have to prepare to handle those better. I have to do a better job of coaching it obviously.
Q: Curious what you saw out of that second cornerback spot? Obviously, Corey Ballentine played the majority of the game there. Also, what you saw from the snaps Ike (Isaac Yiadom) got?
A: I think leading into this week, because of what we’re dealing with with Chicago, with the receivers and to include the tight end, we’re going to still have guys competing at those spots. I thought everybody competed pretty hard on Monday night, Joe pointed that out. No offense, it’s Thursday, my focus is now on third down, red area for Chicago. I know this, the guys are ready to go work today in practice and the competition is still there. I like this group. They were competing today in the meeting room just in terms of who’s on top of what. It’s a good situation for all those guys and the guys we have in the room.
Q: What makes Allen Robinson such a tough matchup? Do you have to give consideration to maybe giving extra help over the top because of his ability to make big plays down the field?
A: I think what makes him special is his catch radius. That’s one of those, I remember when I first heard that, I was like, ‘what in the world does that mean?’ His catch radius is pretty good. I think he’s competitive, he’s really really competitive. Whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or further down the field, getting open and away from defenders. The finish on the ball, he does a great job of tracking the ball and bringing it away from defenders’ hands and always ending up with the ball. Of course, when you have go-to guy like that, and obviously he’s a heavy target for the quarterback in terms of going to him. We have to adjust, whether it’s a matchup thing or just an awareness in coverage. You always have to adjust for those great players. Any time it’s a great player, I don’t know when you wouldn’t adjust or have some awareness of those guys. Sometimes the plan works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Any time you have a good player, one of those great players, you have to do something to adjust to it. Hopefully the plan works out.
Q: What goes into the decision to have somebody travel or not against a receiver like him? Down the line, somebody like Chris Godwin or Mike Evans or one of these big receivers. What goes into the decision to stick to what you’re doing or you say, ‘okay, this is a guy that I need to isolate my best cornerback against’?
A: It’s based on the matchup really. This league is so people driven, it’s all about the matchup. Your best cover guy, is he best suited to cover their best player? Say you have a perimeter corner who is your best player, but their best player is a slot, shifty guy. Is that what you want to do? I don’t know. You have to think through that. We’re always trying to put our guys in the best spots. You have to think about how it matches up with their skill set. That’s what I take into consideration. Also, you have to think about the other members of the secondary. Is there a ripple effect throughout the secondary? What do you have on the other side, too?
Q: Is Blake Martinez everything you wanted him to be at the middle of your defense? James Bradberry strips the ball, would you like to see your guys come up with that with so many bodies there? Is that just a good play by JuJu?
A: I thought James did a great job getting the ball. That’s something we practice every day. We are going to continue practicing it throughout the year. Whether it’s about ball disruption periods, just trying to get the ball off guys. I was happy about that. Pittsburgh did a good job of protecting the ball. Chicago does, as well. We have to earn those opportunities to get the ball so when it’s out on the ground, we would love to get it. As for Blake, Blake’s been doing everything we have asked him to do so far. Except for I asked him for ten dollars, but he didn’t want to do that. He was being a little cheap there, I guess. Blake knows he has stuff to work on. The beauty about Blake and having known him for a while, he wants to be the best he can be. He knows that we are going to push him to do that. And he appreciates that. He loves to be coached. That’s the one thing I know about that man. He loves to be coached. Is it everything we want right now? Absolutely not. He wouldn’t say that either. He knows we have a ways to go and the beauty about it is he wants to improve. That’s the good thing.
Q: You talked about perimeter corners and whether or not you want to move them inside. The Steelers like to move Juju inside. If you watch the Bears last year, I’m sure they did it plenty when they played the Giants. Is Bradberry, do you consider him a perimeter corner? Would you like him to go inside? How do you view that?
A: The label, I think James is just a very good defensive back. James has been able to play inside, outside, He’s been able to do anything we’ve asked him to do. I was really just putting that out there in terms of the generic labels. To me, a corner is a corner. I’m looking for guys hopefully that are tough, that can tackle and that can get their hands on people and can run. Do we label the positions perimeters, inside corner? Yeah. It’s about the matchup, who do you want to put this guy on or near. Then, what’s the ripple effect throughout the secondary. It’s not always based on the one person. It can be a domino effect or a ripple effect, whichever one is right, in terms of how the secondary would have to adjust if we put somebody on a certain guy. Early in the season, who knows? Where we’re at now, hopefully that’s not where we are going to be at. Where we were at last week, hopefully, like Joe talked about, we’ll be improved Sunday. Three weeks from now, hopefully we’re way more improved than that.
Q: What did you think of the overall defense? What do you want to see this week get better?
A: I’m not living in the past, but it wasn’t good enough. Guys played hard but we know we have a ways to go. Week one, and we didn’t do enough to get the win. That’s on me, I have to do a better job, it starts with me. This week, I know this, we had some good film sessions, we had good walk throughs. Getting to practice today, the thing we have to get better at is the stuff we talk about all the time. We have to improve our football position in terms of our eyes, hands and our feet. We have to improve our tackling, we have to work on that today, in terms of our entry and be ready to handle these space players. When it gets down to the run game, playing with good pad level, playing with our hands, getting extension, getting off blocks. Passing game, affecting the quarterback, playing our leverage, defending the deep part of the field. It seems like a lot, but that’s our daily checklist in terms of what we want to do to be a good defense. Then just improving upon the situations. That’s on me to get that better and do a better job coaching it. That’s what we’re going to work on today.