Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
November 27, 2020
Q: The Bengals losing Joe Burrow is a devastating loss for them. In terms of their offense, does much change because they lose him and now, they are going with maybe a lesser experienced quarterback? Is it pretty much you go back and look at the tendencies and you expect everything to kind of be the same?
A: I felt bad for Joe to lose his season like that. He’s a good player, good kid. I’m sure he’s going to fight back and get back to it next year. When you look at the scheme, I’m looking at what Zac (Taylor) is calling. You see how they evolve during the season. We had the bye week, so we had a chance to go back through all the tape. You could see elements of some of the pass plays he’s put in. Mixed in with some new stuff from what they’re doing in Cincinnati. We played them last year when I was at Miami. You’re seeing a little sprinkle in of a bunch of different, not a bunch of different systems, it’s what they do. I’m not sure what they’re doing to do. That’s the fun part of it. We have to prepare for all of it. What’s (Brandon) Allen do? We have to make sure we know what the quarterbacks do and see how it’s going to play into the system. To be honest with you, I don’t know what he’s going to do. We have to prepare for everything. I know this, they’ve been pretty successful doing some of the stuff they’ve been doing. You think about the weapons they have and the blockers they have for those guys. You have elite receivers all over the field. I heard somebody at some point referred to (Gio) Bernard as a backup back (running back). I’m like, ‘backup, what are you talking about?’ Again, we’ll see if he is ready for the game or not. All those backs have been successful in the league. It’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge on Sunday.
Q: Obviously, Bret (Bielema) has a history with (Brandon) Allen. I’m just wondering how much can that help you with possibly having to prepare for him?
A: You have to remember how we look at the league and how we look at when we’re looking at the opposing team. It is a people game and we want to know about the person, too. I’m not saying we have to know who his girlfriend was in high school, I could care less. Any insight you have on the person, it does help. That’s one thing we gather information where guys have been different places. The film is the film and you have to really go off of that. It’s useful if somebody struggled with a certain thing in their past, it might play into it. It’s really based off of the film and us adjusting on Sunday.
Q: Joe (Judge) was talking earlier about what Logan (Ryan) has brought to the table in terms of his leadership with the young guys and what he allows you to do with his versatility and stuff. What has it been like coaching Logan? What have you learned spending all this time around him?
A: I was with Logan earlier in my career; the diligence, the smarts, and the consistency, I think that’s a big part of it. The thing that stands out to me, the questions. Thankfully, our whole staff, we’re comfortable with our players asking questions. That’s a part of it. Here’s the thing, we try to teach the fundamentals that Joe wants us to teach. We practice for them to get better at the fundamentals of what we want to do. We implement game plans to take away what the other teams do and try to win situationals. When it comes down to it, it’s the players’ defense, it’s their defense. They take ownership of it. Now does it happen at the beginning? No, but at some point, they take ownership of it. As they take ownership and they feel that ownership of the defense, here come the better questions. ‘Pat, why are we doing this, what are we thinking here? What if they did this? I might have forgot that, let me go over that.’ Logan has no problem doing that. It’s a great thing. When you’re dealing with some of the younger players, they are a little hesitant sometimes to ask those questions. I’m like, ‘hey, let’s talk about what if they did this. If they lined up in this bunch, if they lined up in this stack.’ That’s one of the best things about Logan to me. He’s not afraid to ask those questions and get the answer. He might already know the answer. He’s trying to get it for the guys that wouldn’t ask. I think that’s a huge thing for a young team. Also, in a new system with a new coordinator, new coaches, that helps.
Q: Logan was talking to us the other day about disguising coverages. He made a point that there are times when you disguise so much that sometimes you need to remember to play it straight. Whatever you’re lined up in, maybe you have to show that to the quarterback, to lose the scent of what you’re trying to do. How important of a component is that when you’re trying to disguise? The idea of making sure you do play it straight sometimes.
A: Each game is different. I’m not trying to get philosophical or smart or anything. Each series is different, each situation is different, each play is different. You look at all that. Sometimes the smart way to go, if you’re going to play split safeties, show split safety and let them see split safety. That’s what you have to do sometimes. If it’s single high, show it to him. If you’re always disguising, what’s going to happen, you get into a pattern. Single high, oh every time it’s single high, it’s going to split safety. If it’s split safety, it’s going to single high. We combat that by going through it. Above all else, any coach will tell you this, it’s nothing unique to us, when we talk about that ownership and giving players ownership of the defense, as we go through the disguises, don’t let a disguise screw up you doing your job, period. Don’t let a disguise screw up you doing your job. I can’t speak for Logan, but to me, the whole disguise deal where you are just trying to go through it as a coordinator, as a position coach, it’s playing that delicate game there. How much do we disguise? I don’t know. I can tell when we’re doing stuff, they’re not that good at it.
Q: I know third down defense was kind of a sore subject earlier in the season. Why has it gotten so much better in the last handful of weeks and obviously against Philly?
A: It starts with the players. The players have taken ownership of it and doing a good job. After that, it goes to the coaches. Jerome Henderson, he does a great job of laying out exactly what those guys are going to do. Giving that to the players. Before it gets to the players, Jerome does a good job with the other coaches presenting it. Jerome presents it to the coaches. In turn, we all look it. All the other coaches watch it, too. Bret (Bielema) and (Sean) Spencer involved with the rush. Kevin (Sherrer) is kind of in between the two, involved with the rush and the coverage. We take the input there. I’m just sitting back. I’ve got my opinions of what I saw on tape. I’m taking the input and feedback from those guys, then we draw up the plan. It’s really because of what the assistant coaches do in terms of presenting the information. Then we go out there as a group and we give it to the players. Tell them what they’re doing. Tell them what we need to do, and they take ownership. It’s been better. Does that mean anything for this week? Absolutely not. This week is about executing against a team who has all types of weapons around the field. Whether it’s the backs, tight ends, now you have the receivers. It’s all about execution. To answer your questions, it starts with Jerome giving it to us, the coaches giving it to me. Developing the plan, giving it to the players, them taking ownership.
Q: What would Xavier McKinney bring to this defense if he comes back?
A: The thing that we saw in training camp and what we saw on tape, good athlete, smart player, situationally aware. The thing is, he’s been grinding this whole time. Unfortunately for him, it’s been in the classroom. I feel bad for him. Now with the chance to possibly play, the thing he brings, he’s a good football player out there. That’s the simple way to put it, with some position flex. This guy can play in the deep part of the field. He can play down low. He can play all over the field. It’s always good to have those pieces. On top of that, the thing is this, he’s still young. We can’t put too much on him. If he plays and whatever snaps he plays, he’s going to earn those snaps. He’s got a ways to go right now. I’m glad to have him back in the fold in terms of practicing and stuff.
Q: You’re basically saying you intend to bring him along slowly?
A: Whatever snaps they get, they earn. Let’s not expect, okay, we’re going to throw the kitchen sink at him. I’m not going to do that because he hasn’t played yet.