Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Pat Graham
September 2, 2021
Q: So how do you feel about where the defense is now that the roster is cut down and after training camp?
A: We’ve got to get better every day. So, where we're at, I think where we're at right now, we need to improve and today's going to be an important day before the guys have their days off. We’ve still got a lot to improve. Like to me, even the early part of the season’s really an extension of training camp as you're trying to find your way and see who’s playing more fundamentally sound. Again, figure out the things with the roster and all that stuff like that. So, I just hope this – from, what is it September 2nd or 3rd? I just hope we're a lot better come January 9th. That's what I'm hoping. So, hopefully we're not where we need to be.
Q: What was that night like after the first practice in New England? We talked to (Defensive Back) Logan (Ryan) and (Linebacker) Blake (Martinez) a little bit about it, but how did you handle that with the group? Did you let the players take the lead? Did you read them the riot act?
A: I think for me as a – and again, I've said this to you guys before, I think of myself as a teacher. I think all of our coaches on our staff think of ourselves as teachers. So, I think it's important to be consistent. For me, I'm trying not to get too up, trying not to get too down and just correct the mistakes. So, like whether it was the first day at New England or the second day at Cleveland, just try to correct the mistakes. Now, can it get animated at times or can our voices change in terms of the tone? Absolutely. But that's how it goes sometimes. Really what we did is just correct the mistakes and said we’ve got to play better the next day and that's what they worked to do. We did in some cases, some cases we didn’t, but it was more competitive. That was encouraging.
Q: So as a teacher, are you harder on students who last year kind of had a built-in excuse or are you harder on the students this year that believe that everything is kind of coming together a lot quicker than what last year was?
A: Just my personality – again, you guys don't get a chance to really – I'm just hard and miserable all the time. I don't know. That’s just who I am. Doom and gloom, they probably would say that. This is probably the most I’ve smiled all day, doing this stuff. So, I can't differentiate between the two. But yeah, I'm probably hard. I mean, you have to ask them. It's usually probably the same.
Q: Well, it seemed from talking to Logan and Blake that they were hard on themselves?
A: I mean, the players – that's the thing. It's a players’ game. I talk about it all the time. What happens between the white lines, that's them. It's my job to teach them and get them prepared for situations and stuff, and really, to put them in the right spot and try not to screw it up. The benefit of having veteran leadership like we have, they're able to self-police in terms of, OK, sometimes the effort. Not saying we won't coach the effort, we'll do that, but they're able to get on each other. I think that's one of the best things that (Head Coach) Joe (Judge) does in terms of building the camaraderie amongst the team. Whether it's the functions we do together, the Team of Teams stuff, we get more and more comfortable with one another where you can have those uncomfortable conversations. It’s no different than your brother or sister. I could have a conversation; my brother could tell me shut up and it doesn't come to blows because there's a reason why. We shared a room for 18 years. He's my best friend. We're able to do stuff like that because we have that relationship. It's no different than what Joe's building here with the guys. With the relationships, you're able to have those tough conversations. ‘We did not perform well. Let's get this fixed.’ That's the benefit of having veterans on your team.
Q: Last year, that number two corner position was kind of a revolving door for you guys opposite (Cornerback) James (Bradberry). For as long as (Cornerback) Adoree’ (Jackson) is sidelined with his ankle, how do you feel about that position and who you have?
A: The injury stuff, I don't really talk about it. The thing is, we’ve got a lot of good players on that back end right there and Adoree’ is one of them. Joe will really address any of the injury stuff, but like –
Q: I’m sorry. I’m saying while he's out, everybody else, how do you feel about those guys?
A: Oh, the beauty of it is like in terms of the people we evaluate, we’ve brought in, I feel good because we have a lot of guys that can cover. We’ve got a lot of guys that can cover. We’ve got a lot of guys that can tackle and they're improving every day. (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) does a great job. Jerome, (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier) and (Senior Defensive Assistant) Jeremy (Pruitt), they do a great job of teaching the fundamentals with these guys. You’ve seen improvement over the five weeks that we've been here. I have confidence because I know this, whoever's down in whatever part of the season, the other team doesn't care. We have to prepare, and we have to get those guys ready, so that's just more preparation for the season, in my opinion. Because again, Denver’s not going to care if whoever's not playing, they don't care. They’re just going to play who they play.
Q: Speaking of cornerback, what did (Cornerback) Sam Beal show you in training camp? I know he was a guy that wasn't with the team last year, so he kind of had a fresh face for you.
A: Just the improvement every day. I mean, just trying to get better every day. That's what you're looking for. Now, is he where he needs to be? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Just like I'm not where I need to be. But improvement every day, small steps, that's what you're looking for. Now, the next thing you’ve got to work on is consistency. Can you be consistent? Again, you don't have to be a world-beater, but can you improve every day and be consistent? Now, you build trust with the teammates and with the coaches. That's what we're looking for with a lot of our young players because remember, he didn't play football last year, so it's no different. I don't know how much he played his rookie year, but it's like he's just starting all over again. You’ve got to get better every day, start to perform with some consistency, so you can build that trust amongst your teammates and coaches.
Q: Are you going to play (Defensive Back) Keion (Crossen) on defense at all?
A: I can't predict – I mean, he played some in the preseason.
Q: I think he only played two snaps?
A: That counts. You said played (laughs). You didn’t say how much. Pretty much most players on defense on the roster, they're going to play defense. You know what Joe says, if they’re at the game, we're going to play them. I don't know exactly how many plays or what role. I don't know if he's going to be active – who knows? I don't know how to predict the future, but we're not afraid to play our players. I know that and I know Joe says that. So, that might be a specific question for Joe, but if they're at the game, they're ready to play. If they’re on defense, they're ready to play. I mean, we’ve got guys on the offense playing defense in the preseason. I've had a regular season game where that happened. I’ve had an AFC Championship game where that happened. If you're at the game, you’re ready to play.
Q: How do you feel about what you've seen from (Linebacker) Lorenzo (Carter) and (Linebacker) Oshane (Ximines), two of your edge rushers who kind of need to step up this year? But they're both coming back from pretty serious injuries.
A: Lorenzo – again, I'm not going to get emotional or anything, but like I'm very proud of his progress, to be honest with you. Very proud of his progress. I think he looks like a different football player on the field. Now, we'll see how it comes through –
Q: Why does it get to you so much?
A: Because you see a guy who – the stress of the, OK, potential this, potential that, all the time. Having a good season last year. I think he had, what, three sacks? Not that sacks are the end all be all, but like he was doing well and then he gets hurt. He works his way through. He's in the building all the time. We see him every day and then for him to come out on that field and he looks like a different football player to me than anything I saw in his previous three years. I'm just happy for him. I'm happy for him. Again, as a teacher, that's what we do. I get it's a business, but just like a teacher getting somebody to understand math or calculus the first time or algebra or go back to just basic arithmetic. You're happy for that. Like, I'm very happy for these guys. They're all still young dudes, very happy for him. X (Oshane Ximines), same thing, he's improving. I would say the last few weeks, really this last week, he started to take some steps in terms of the improvement. I'm just happy for these guys. That's what I mean. That’s why I do this. That's why I do this. I don't know where else I would get fulfillment, like I do with this coaching thing, to be able to watch these young men fulfill a childhood dream. Just again, I might be being a little dramatic right now, but that's how I am.
Q: You don’t sound like doom and gloom though?
A: Yeah, I know. I'm happy for them. I didn't say for myself, so yeah.
Q: What is it about (Safety) Julian Love’s game that allows him to essentially play every position in secondary?
A: Well, the thing is he's smart, he's tough and he can tackle, and then he has a skillset of a defensive back. Again, he can cover. He can play the deep part of the field. He can back pedal. He can come downhill. So, with all those skills right there, and he can handle it mentally, like it's a coach's dream. It's a coach’s dream because now you’ve got a piece that you could move around in terms of on the chess board. He helps us there and he's very selfless. So okay, you tell him before one game, ‘oh, you're playing corner.’ He doesn't complain. He's like, okay. I haven't heard him complain about anything. You're playing safety this day. You’re playing corner, star – he doesn't complain. So being selfless like that, that's part of who we are, team-first. Joe talks about that. We talk about it in the defensive room. Again, that's because of him, his personality and his skillset, that's why we're able to do that.
Q: (Linebacker) Quincy Roche, what do you see in him?
A: I'll tell you this, I'd never met him before. I've seen him on tape with our coaches. He almost broke my hand when he shook my hand. I said, ‘hey, that's good, you know? (laughs)’ So, I don't know. Maybe I'm weak? But hey, I’ve been working out, so he definitely almost broke my hand, so that was a good thing. He looks big. He looks big, he looks physical because he almost broke my hand. So, I’ll take that and then hopefully everything comes into play on the football field. I liked the tape and glad to have him here. Our personnel department, they do a great job looking over the waiver wire, figuring out guys that can help us and I'm looking forward to working with him.