Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
December 24, 2020
Q: Xavier McKinney has been progressively getting more playing time the last few weeks. What have you seen from him? How have you liked his progress as you have given him more to work with?
A: Zay is working really hard to improve. I think the thing that has shown up the most is his angles to the ball in terms of tackling. He’s working that being a safety, star, or whatever it’s been. He’s really working on that. Until you do it live, you don’t really get a chance to really practice, it’s a little different out there. I’m real happy with that. Not have a lot of ME’s (mental errors) or anything like that. He’s doing a good job. It’s been good.
Q: Julian Love, it was the first time he played exclusively on the outside. What did you think of him last week?
A: Julian Love is growing on me day by day, week by week. This guy, his toughness is showing up. The tackling, his versatility, he was competitive on a bunch of balls. They did a good job of catching the ball, they have good receivers. I was pleased with his effort on Sunday. I know he’s working hard. Yesterday he had a good day of practice. I know he’s geared up this week to get ready for Baltimore. Julian, he just keeps growing on me more and more as a smart football player, as a versatile player. I really like that guy.
Q: I don’t think it’s a secret you guys sold out to stop the run against the Browns. At least that’s how Logan Ryan put it. Can that carry over now that you’re facing the number one rushing attack? Are there some similarities in the game plan? Does Lamar Jackson make that impossible with his legs?
A: I can’t speak about selling out, that was Logan and what he said. Are there similarities? I think the fundamental part comes into play. Getting off of blocks, setting the edge. You’re dealing with such a dynamic player back there with Jackson. You can have the edge, he’ll test the edge. I talked about it the other day, having a proper edge. Outside arm and leg free, making contact with your near leg, controlling it with your near hand. The problem is you can do all that stuff right and this guy will test it. Because you’re dealing with true speed out there, it can be an issue. It’s going to be tough sledding, but the fundamentals part of the run game is there. Get off blocks, set the edge, play with power inside. We have to tackle these guys. There’s definitely carry over to a certain degree.
Q: How much were you guys limited the other day? For you as a play caller, for what you wanted to call, did you have to narrow the playbook?
A: What we do, we try to do what’s best for that week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough on my part and I have to do a better job. Thankfully, we have an opportunity this weekend to get that bad taste out of our mouth. Baltimore presents a bunch of challenges both in the run game and in the passing game. Everybody is going to talk about Lamar, but you have to talk about the offensive line, who’s solid. The backs are good. The tight end (Mark) Andrews, who’s dynamic. You got the receivers, too. Including the young kid in his second year, good player, number 15. You have Dez (Bryant) coming back. Limited, no, we try to do what’s best that week. It wasn’t good enough and that’s on me. I have to do a better job calling it. I have to do a better job with the game plan. Thankfully, we have another week to try to right those wrongs.
Q: With Lamar, is he even comparable to anyone else you’ve faced? Is he such a different quarterback that it’s his own beast kind of deal?
A: He’s different, he’s very different. We talked about (Kyler) Murray and true speed. I don’t know if there is truer speed, I don’t know if I want to coin that term. This guy is so fast, he’s so big, he’s so dynamic with the ball. When you sell out for the run game, he will throw the ball over your head and it will be a touchdown with the targets they have. With Hollywood (Marquise Brown) and Andrews. It’s a unique challenge. I’m looking forward to it. The guys are geared up for it. We have another day of practice today. See what the scout team quarterbacks (can do), hopefully we won’t be hitting him up too much. Guys have to get ready for it. It’s going to be fun. We just have to see if we can execute.
Q: Is the best way to contain Jackson to turn him into a pocket passer somehow?
A: You can try. You can try to turn him into a pocket passer. He’s faster than everybody else on the field. You have to start there. He’s faster than everybody else on the field. You want to take away what he does best, that’s what we’re going to try to do. Whether it’s keeping him in the pocket, making him roll to the right, left, whatever it may be. We have to take away what he does best. If he is going to beat us, have him beat us left-handed. He’s so dynamic, if I say okay let’s keep him in the pocket, if he decides he wants to go back 20 yards and get around our pocket, he can do that. You’ve seen it on tape. We just have to try and make him play left-handed and figure out the best way to do that. Whether it’s contain him in the pocket, force him one way or another, have somebody spy mirror him. We’re still working through that. Third down is a big day there. That’s where you get some of the passing game showing up a little bit more consistently. We’re working through that today. Unfortunately for you guys, I’ll have a better idea tonight than now. We’re going to try our best to limit what he does best. That’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q: Kyler Fackrell, how ready is he? How badly do you guys need a veteran presence like him on the edge? Especially in a game like this?
A: Joe (Judge) handles all the injury stuff. Kyler got his clock started, I believe. He’s out there practicing, we’ll see. He’ll work through it. He’s working hard. He’ll be ready when he’s ready, that’s the best way I can say it. I’ll defer that to Joe. Veteran presence? Here’s the thing, we’re in Week 15 now. It’s about execution. We need rookies to execute, we need vets to execute. To me, if you have a rookie that’s executing better than a veteran, then he’s a better player to have there. I can’t sum it up by saying we need veteran leadership or veteran presence right there. I just want guys that are going to come out there on Sunday and execute. Play a physical brand of football the way the Giants play, not to be cliché or anything, but that’s what we need. We need this to be the most physical game of the year. We need to set the edge in the run game, we need to play with power inside. We have to play our leverage and defend the deep part of the field in the passing game. That’s what we need. If it’s a rookie, if it’s a second-year, if it’s a vet, I don’t care. I have to call a good game on Sunday. We have to do our contribution on special teams on the coverage units. That’s what has to happen. I could care less who’s out there in terms or veteran or rookie. It’s got to be that type of game. That’s how Baltimore wants it. That’s what you want to have happen when you go down to Baltimore. I’ve been there. It’s a fun place to play. I know we don’t have fans and all that stuff, but that’s how you want it to be. Let’s go get physical. Let’s see who can win. Everybody is going to come out a little bumped and bruised. Let’s go see who is standing at the end, that’s what you want. That’s how they play the game, that’s why I respect coach (John) Harbaugh. I respect their whole organization. I respect (Greg) Roman. He is one of the best coordinators in the league. Just the way he schemes up the run game and capitalizes off the pass game. It’s going to be fun. We just have to play physical and see if we can match their physicality.
Q: Last game against the Browns, when they came out and were picking apart those holes in the back end of the zone because Mayfield had time to throw, how much do you debate on the sideline whether to change the game plan immediately versus this will work but we need to get to the quarterback more. How do you gauge that in your mind? When is the cutoff point between sticking with what you planned for versus we’re not getting to him, so we have to switch it up?
A; Every week is different. Like this week, do we want to get to the quarterback? We want to affect the quarterback. It depends on what you’re trying to do. It’s my job to adjust throughout the game and my adjustments have to happen immediately. Sometimes unfortunately, you don’t make the right adjustments and you lose the game. That’s what happens. I don’t sit here waiting for a time like, ‘okay, let’s wait until the second quarter.’ The discussions constantly evolve and constantly adjust throughout the game. That’s what we’ll have to do on Sunday. I guess that answers your question. It’s always a discussion about adjusting. From play to play, series to series. That’s what you have to do in this league because they will figure you out. The biggest thing for me is affect the quarterback. Whether that’s pressure, sacks, I don’t know. Bring more people, who knows. Obviously, I have to do a better job this week.