Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
October 1, 2020
Q One of the things that’s come up and Logan Ryan talked about it and Joe Judge talked about it as well is how good the Rams are at masking what they’re doing. Everything looks the same and they have a bunch of different plays off of that. What is the challenge of going against an offense like that?
A: First, it starts off with the coaching and the players. Coach McVay and those guys do a great job, O’Connell and Shane Waldron , Kromer, the run game, pass game coordinator, the head coach and the offense, they do a great job. There’s an obvious effort by them to give the defense multiple looks. Okay, this look, here’s a run, here’s a pass, here’s a drop back, here’s a play action. It’s hard, the main thing you’re trying to do is get our defensive players’ eyes in the right place and go through their progression. If you’re too simple and you go, okay, we’re going to play two calls against these guys, by the second series he might have you carved up. As you add multiples to it, you try to attack their weaknesses, it’s about putting the guys’ eyes in the right place.
Q: I know every team game plans for their opponent. Do they, more than some teams, run what they run because they’re so good at it?
A: I won’t say that. I know this, they attack your weaknesses. If you haven’t fixed stuff, they are going to expose it. I wouldn’t say that, I can’t speak for those guys, but they definitely have a scheme that they run. You will find that with most teams. Most teams, they are going to be a stretch run team, they’re a gap scheme run team. They have a definite mode of how they want to operate. There’s definitely some game planning going on. The best thing they do is adjust within the game. You have to make sure you are ready for that.
Q: I’m curious about Markus Golden. His snaps have gone way down since last year. Obviously, you guys weren’t here last year. He was playing about 80 percent of the snaps, now he’s playing about 30 percent. Is it because he was late to training camp and fell behind, he didn’t have OTA’s? Is he not in shape, is he not the right fit for what you’re trying to run? Why are his snaps so way down from what Giants fans are used to seeing?
A: Training camp starting, not a good fit, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Each player, whether it’s Markus, whether it’s Blake Martinez, what we’re trying to do is put the best players for the situations out there. Again, the thing is, Markus does a great job, he works really hard at practice and he’s been productive for us for the plays he’s been out there. It’s just all based on game plan how we use guys. We have a long season here to go. I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened in the spring or what have you like that. I don’t want to jump the gun, it’s three games in and we have a long way to go. Markus has been a very productive player in this league. He’s a smart football player, has some savviness to him and has been productive and has a skillset. I have to find ways to use him more. We’ll get going as the season goes on. Jump the gun on that one, if that makes sense. I’m real bad at sayings so if I’m using the wrong saying, bear with me.
Q: Statistically your defense is not bad in certain areas across the board, not great but not bad even though the team is 0-3. When you look at them, how much do you analyze those numbers. What do you like about what you’re doing? Conversely, what are you looking at statistically and say, no good, this has got to get much better?
A: I keep it real simple. The first thing I look at is the record. Obviously, it’s not good enough. To give more detail, I look at the situational stuff and the stuff we want to be defined by. Stopping the run, stopping the run, I’ve told you that before. Stopping the run when you know they’re going to run the ball. I’m not living in the past, but we have to do a better job of that, period, point blank. It starts with me. Then you go to situational football. In this league, games are won on third down, red area and two-minute. I would say this, statistically from the naked eye, that’s the stuff we’re working on today. We have to do a better job. I have to do a better job of coaching that. I don’t know if I’m looking at a stat book per se, but I know I have to do a better job of coaching that stuff and that’s what we’re going to work on today. In terms of what I look at, it’s our win-loss record, that’s first and foremost and how we could have affected that. Especially myself, and how I can coach better and make sure I’m putting them in the right spot. It goes down to how we want to be defined by our toughness, stopping the run and stopping the run when we know they want to run the ball. Then situational football because that’s how games are won in this league. The last part of it is turnovers, we need more turnovers. Again, we’re going to work on it today in practice. That’s the only way I know how to attack it. Identify the weaknesses, work on the weaknesses and try to be better tomorrow than we are today at those things. Right now, at the beginning of the season, it’s a lot to work out. I’m hard on myself, the players are hard on themselves, the coaches are hard on themselves. Joe is hard on us, but that’s how you want it, it’s the NFL. There’s only 32 of these jobs, you have to figure it out.
Q: Sean McVay said yesterday this is a hard defense to prepare for because they do so much stuff. You think that’s just a coach being nice midweek, or do you think you are a hard defense to play against?
A: I can’t speak for coach McVay, but we have good players. Any time you’re dealing with good players, whether you’re dealing with James Bradberry, you’re dealing with Julian Love, Logan Ryan, you have Blake Martinez, you have Dalvin Tomlinson, you have Dexter Lawrence. We have good players on the field. If I were in an offensive coach’s shoes, yeah, it’s hard to deal with. It’s hard to deal with those good players. I don’t know exactly what he meant, I can’t speak for him. There’s a lot of good players on the field, we have to find a way to string it together and finish and see what we can do there. We’re working on that for today.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Darnay Holmes. The mindset coming into this week. Watching the game last week, it seemed pretty obvious that the 49ers identified who they wanted to go after. I would imagine that as a rookie, you’re going to see that, expect that as a coaching staff. Coming into this week, have you taken some time to talk to Darnay about where he’s at mentally, what you’re expecting, maybe what mistakes, how he’s going about correcting some of the mistakes he’s had? Obviously the penalty stands out from last week. I’m just curious of your thoughts on that.
A: Any rookie that we have in a position playing…let me not even say rookie, young player, inexperienced player. The league is about people. It’s not a surprise who they go attack or what have you. Again, you try to bring that to people’s attention. In terms of how Darnay handles it, you have to speak to him. What I’ve seen as a coach, he comes in with this great energy in the morning and at practice ready to go and improve. The questions he’s asking, you can see the maturity as he’s maturing through the process right now and learning how to be an NFL football player. Great at college football, but learning to be a NFL football player, the right questions he’s asking. Today is a third down, two-minute day. He’s asking the right questions where maybe three weeks ago we weren’t getting those questions, ‘speak up Pat, go over that again.’ I like that because there’s some interaction we need in there, we’re co-workers. I need that interaction. I can’t speak for college, I haven’t been there in so long but I can see him growing there. Have I seen a change? He’s a young player, he’s learning and we’re there to support him. I told these guys and it’s no different if it’s an older player, there are 11 guys out there playing defense. It’s not just you, just so they understand that. Whether it’s a run game or passing, it’s not just you. I try to tell those guys ‘listen, we’re here to help you.’ The coverage is here to help everybody. Play our leverage, make sure we take away their targets. It’s not just him, it’s not just anybody else. We have to play better together as a group to finish if that makes sense. His energy level, his demeanor, I love the kid. He works hard, does everything we’re asking him to do and he’s just tying to get better every day.
Q: You haven’t seen any evidence that his confidence has waned at all the last couple of weeks?
A: Have you met him? I have no worries that his confidence (is gone). He’s a defensive back. How many defensive backs have you seen (without confidence)? He’s a starting defensive back at this level. If he didn’t have confidence, we would have trouble. They get paid to play too, he’s fine. My confidence isn’t swaying in him. I know he’s a playmaker. I’m excited to see him practice today and I’m excited to see him get ready Friday and we’ll see what happens on Sunday.
Q: Assuming Jabrill can’t play, Julian Love, Logan Ryan are both converted cornerbacks. I know you like interchangeable safeties but their more natural probably free safeties right. What does that change for you as a coach? Are you alright with that pairing of those two guys?
A: The good thing about those guys is they both can tackle. There’s a willingness to be involved in the run game. They can still be interchangeable to a certain degree. The great benefit of it is the man to man coverage skills. Now you’re working with something right there. You’re dealing with the Rams where these guys are all over the place. Their shift motioning here goes the missile motion and stuff like that. Now you have guys, oh he can play this coverage, he can play that coverage. You feel a little bit more comfortable if you’re going with all the man stuff. It gives you so more flexibility with stuff like that. Not saying we couldn’t have done that with Pep or other guys. You’re talking about true cornerback skills, that’s a positive right there.
Q: What is going wrong consistently in your opinion with these end of first half touchdown drives? Including the fact that they’re getting in from 10, 13, 15 yards out.
A: The first thing, it’s not cliché, it’s a hard looks at myself. I’m the one out there calling the defense. Deploying these guys, I’m supposed to be putting them in the right spot. I have to do a better job of making calls and I have to do a better job of coaching during the week to get them to understand what’s going to be happening to them. We have to get that done. Until last week, it wasn’t run game that got us. We were at least forcing them to third down. So last week they ran the ball in. I honestly believe it starts with me doing a better job of calling it, better job of explaining the situations to the fellas. I’m not the guy to put the blame on them. I don’t think it’s on them. We’re playing good defense and then all of the sudden they run the ball in. We’re forcing the third down and then they score on third down like the other week. I have to do better job; I have to do a better job. Took a hard look at it and we’re studying it and we’re going to work on it today and work on it tomorrow and try to get it better. The number one culprit, I’ll put it on me. Put it right on me, that’s how I see it. I have to be better, have to be better. Week 4 of the season, I have to be better.
Q: With as dominant as James Bradberry has been. What are you guys missing from that other outside cornerback spot? What do some of the younger guys need to show to kind of step up and solidify it there?
A: When you’re dealing with young players and this is my experience over 11 or 12 years whatever it’s been, when you’re dealing with young players, hey let’s play for this. In this situation let’s play for this. When they get out there on the field and all of the sudden it’s something else and they’re not sure, or they think it’s something else, I’m like if I tell you to play for something, if it’s something else then it’s on me. When you’re a young player and you don’t have as many years of experience or plays in this league, I’m asking them to trust me. Obviously, you go through not having a spring, a shortened training camp or no games. It’s a process to learn that trust. I’m not saying the guys are out there like I don’t trust Pat. Just as a young player it’s natural that you’re thinking about all the variables. I’m saying listen, I’m anticipating this variable right here, you play for that. If something else happens, it’s on me. I think as young players when they start believing in that and again, I have to be right or they have to be right and we have to have some success with it. They ask Jerome [Henderson], they ask Blev [Anthony Blevins] or Mike Treier, how did you get to that conclusion. Once they figure that out, then they start looking for it then they start trusting themselves to identify that stuff. It works out pretty well.