Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
August 17, 2021
Q: A guy like (Cornerback) Rodarius (Williams) when he goes out there and gets targeted that much in the first game, how much do you evaluate that critically and hard as a coach and how much do you say it's the first time out there?
A: I love it, get experience with it. You know, first NFL game, they throw the ball at you, you get a chance to see them cover, win some, lose some, see his confidence grow, see if he could recover from a bad play. I think it's a positive anytime you get a chance to practice your craft at the highest level and you get a chance to fail and win some. That's how we all learn, so I'm happy it happened.
Q: This time last year, when you guys lost (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) for most of the season. Curious with your thoughts on where he is as a player right now.
A: I call him Zay, but I think Zay, the thing is, how many games does he actually have under his belt right now? It was about four, I think, about four games. He's still young and in the process of learning the NFL game, but I would say this in terms of his study, his preparation right now for 2021 season, has been top notch. He's hanging out with the older vets, getting knowledge from those guys. He's making plays out here on the field, all the stuff we're asking him to do. So, in terms of his progress, it's moving along. He knows he has more to improve upon just like all of us do, but it's moving along pretty good and you're looking forward to seeing them play and practice today and practice against Cleveland later this week.
Q: What did you see in (Linebacker) Carter Coughlin on Saturday? I know that was his first game playing inside (linebacker).
A: I think the thing you saw was a guy being explosive, running to the ball and really being a reflection of what (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) wants this team to look like. Fast, tough, smart, being physical, working on special teams as well. So again, as the team starts to take shape and take shape of the direction of the head coach, a lot of stuff Joe talks about, I thought was reflected in his play.
Q: Going to Cleveland, knowing your guys, I would imagine there’s some ‘Come on coach let’s game plan.’ How much do you have to push back against that or do you like the idea that maybe you will match up a little bit against what Cleveland is showing you?
A: I think the challenge with Cleveland, they have a lot of good players. The first thing I'm going to do when we start to talk about Cleveland is ID the players, before we even get to the game plan. You’ve got to know who the backs are, the tight ends, the o-line, the quarterback, the receivers. They're all going to present different challenges. So, we start there just like most weeks, because again, whether we play cover three or cover two, in this league, everybody knows how to play a curl flat, everybody knows how to play a flat, so we get to take care of that first. Then from there, the big thing is, okay, how much defense do we want to put in? Are we going to stay with our normal progression for training camp? It's kind of a mix. I'm sure they want to put in a bunch of calls, but we got to eliminate our mental errors first before we do that.
Q: (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and how well he performed the other night.
A: For his first game, he had some good plays, he had some bad plays. There were plays against (New York Jets Tackle Mekhi) Becton and the fullback a few plays that I saw there, but it was okay. He has a lot of room to grow, I'm encouraged by the fact that he played hard, his conditioning's coming along, he's playing with his hands being physical, but he still has a ways to go just like most of us. It was encouraging that he got out there and came away, no penalties, no injuries, so that was encouraging.
Q: Did Saturday night help you shape a lot of the defensive personnel?
A: I don't know if we're there yet in terms of solidifying who's the top half and who was the bottom half, so no, I know this, guys that came in the last quarter, we had a bunch of situational football come up, four minute, a couple of thirds and shorts where guys made plays and third downs we got off the field. That was encouraging that the younger guys were the guys playing in the later part of the game, they were in tune to the situations, we took away some of the repeat plays that were run. So that was encouraging, so if anything, I don't know if it solidifies or it marks where the bottom half is, but it was encouraging that they were paying attention and that's some of the coaching that's going on, just really coming to fruition out there.
Q: The box score doesn't say how valuable (Former Defensive Line Dalvin) Tomlinson was. Can you get that out of (Defensive Tackle) Austin Johnson and others? Or do you have to compensate somehow not having that kind of star presence in that spot?
A: I'm not going to comment about guys who aren't here. Dalvin was a good player here for the Giants, I was here when he got drafted, we all loved Dalvin, he's a good football player in this league and we’re not going to do any comparisons with our guys. To defend the run, it takes more than one person, I know that. There are 11 guys out there, we got to defend all those gaps, get off those blocks. One person, two people, we just talk about this, whether it's Austin, (Defensive Lineman Dexter) Dex (Lawrence), (Defensive End Leonard) Leo (Williams) (Linebacker) Blake (Martinez), (Cornerback James Bradberry) JB, (Defensive Back) Adoree' (Jackson), we can't give a one for one in the run game. That's the big part about that, no matter what position you play, we don't go one for one, that's what we're trying to build, that type of play style out there. So, that's my answer on that.
Q: You have a lot of veterans upfront on the defensive line. One of the guys as a rookie from the small school really is (Defensive End Raymond) Randy Johnson (III). What have you seen from him and has he assimilated himself enough where it's not just the older guys and one guy over here and that he's part of that?
A: He’s here because he played well at the school where he was at down there and he could play football. He's explosive, he has some twitch in terms of quickness, in terms of the pass rush, he has grit and toughness about him whether he's inside or outside. He has great demeanor when you get a chance to meet and I'm not sure if you guys have spoken to him yet, but he has a great demeanor about him he's very humble. He set himself up to have a good chance to compete, to see if he could play in this league and I'm excited about seeing what he could do. But he still has a long way to go especially that position, nothing in the spring really mattered, you hit some sleds and all that stuff, none of that stuff matters. Now he has pads on and he's trying to see if he could play ball and he's learning as he goes, but luckily, he has (Defensive Line Coach Sean Spencer) Spence, he has (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer), myself, (Head Coach) Joe (Judge). Joe wants to be a D-line coach too. Sometimes y'all probably got for four or five D-line coaches over there, you know? So, he'll be good.
Q: Is it important for a guy like that to get reps this week in Cleveland?
A: It’s important for all of them to get reps. But yeah, I don't want to differentiate because however you got here, you get here, and you get here and play ball because you were obviously you were successful somewhere else. So, all the reps are important for everybody to be honest with you.
Q: First team reps from Azeez in the last couple of weeks, what is his progress?
A: I think Azeez has come along nicely just like a lot of the guys whether it's Azeez, Raymond, we talked about him, you know, (Rodarius) Ro (Williams), I'm encouraged with what's going on with Ro, but they don't really know NFL football, what do you have a quarter underneath his belt? Again, he's got a long way to go, he'll figure it out at some point. I'm in my 13th year, I'm still trying to figure it out, you know. I would say this, like I said last week, he's physical, he plays with his hands, he's learning from his mistakes, so that's all encouraging.
Q: How much will you learn over the next two days going against Cleveland.
A: I don't know, but I know this. Cleveland's O-line's pretty good, (running) backs are pretty good, quarterbacks good, receivers are good. Am I missing anybody? Tight ends are good. We're going to learn a lot.
Q: You have Blake Martinez, that next linebacker playing alongside him behind it, what are the qualities you're looking for in the guy grabs that spot.
A: Team first, football position. All the stuff we talk about, that's how we evaluate these guys, value the process and then in terms of the football part of it, football position, I'm looking for someone that plays with his hands, plays with good knee bend, knows where to be and you want something that complements, it all depends on what the call is, what the personnel grouping is. We mix and match so much you never know. It might be a coverage guy, it might be another run guy, it might be a blitzer. We just mix it up and just see how it plays out based on what the plan is for that game, if that makes sense.