Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Pat Graham
September 30, 2021
Q: When you’re watching the film on the Saints, from what I understand that even though (Saints
Head Coach) Sean Payton still has that aggressiveness to him, they have been playing a little bit more
conservative funneling everything through (Saints Running Back Alvin) Kamara. Is that what you see
on film and are you almost waiting for the game where he’s just going to start launching bombs down
A: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s conservative. I think because Coach Payton is such a good offensive mind –
and a great head coach and a great offensive mind, he’s really playing to his strengths. I mean, he has
one of the best players in the league back there. So, to me, whether he’s running the ball or catching
passes – if I were him, I would funnel it through him, too. This guy is pretty good. I’ve been in the league
for 13 years now and he has a unique skill set. He’s challenging to prepare for because of the pass game
and the run game because even when you think you’ve got him bottled up, he gets the leaky yards. All
of a sudden, you watch the New England game last week, the first two, three runs, negative run, gain of
nothing, gain of nothing and then all of a sudden you just figure he’s getting hit at two yards, but he falls
forward for five. It’s a big challenge and then he catches the ball, and then the first touchdown he
caught was out of the backfield, so I think he’s just funneling through the top guy, in my opinion. That’s
how we’re looking at it. He’s the guy we’ve got to try to stop. We’ve got to try to stop him.
Q: Talking about him as a receiver, obviously (Linebacker) Blake (Martinez) played every snap and I
can remember Blake making a great play down the middle in the preseason on an interception, and
then I remember (Linebacker) Tae (Crowder) struggling giving up a big play against Washington to a
running back. So how do you cover a running back without Blake?
A: Everything we do is collective, so it’s the full 11. One, it starts with what calls we’re going to make in
terms of when those guys are in the game and then utilizing different linebackers, safeties, DBs. I would
say for him, we’ve got to be mindful of we’re going to have to use different people. It might be a backer
one time. It might be a combination of a backer with a safety helping or something like that. It might be
a defensive back. It might be a corner. But we’re going to have to move it around because he’s such a
challenging guy to prepare for.
Q: What were your emotions right after the Atlanta game ended where coming off Washington, you
had a lot you saw you needed to fix? There were stretches in Atlanta where you guys played well, but
then the same stuff happens at the end. Just what were your emotions as a DC?
A: Well, the funny thing and again, it’s just when you’re in this role, in a leadership role, your mind tends
to go right into the next opponent. As upsetting as a loss is, my focus right then at the end of the game
was like, ‘what do we have to do better?’ And again, what do we have to do better in order to prepare
for the Saints? That’s really where it goes to. The emotion part of it, I don’t know how much emotion
comes into play for me in that case. But in terms of how I think, I’m just thinking about, ‘OK, what do we
have to do?’ Because at that point, I’m thinking about New Orleans, the next game, because you have
to. You have to and just what can we do better? How can we put these guys in better spots? And we’ve
just got to try to figure out a way to win. But really my mind went to New Orleans and all the guys we’ve
got to prepare for with them and so that’s where it really went to. I don’t know if emotion came into
Q: Seven drives so far this year began or ended within two minutes of the half. On five of them, you
guys have allowed some sort of score. What do you think when I say that to you?
A: I think we’ve got to work two-minute today at practice (laughs), and that’s what we’re going to do.
Again, I’m not trying to make light of it. That’s not good enough. But again, in terms of how I’ve
approached it all the time, we’ve got to practice it. Obviously, we went back in the lab and tried to figure
out better ways collectively, talking as a group, as a staff and just trying to put players in the best spot
possible to be successful. Thankfully, we’ve got another opportunity and it first starts with today. Today
we’ve got a big day. Today’s a big day, two-minute, third down, finish up some early down stuff, but it
starts with practice.
Q: But in order to correct it, can you put your finger on what’s going wrong in those situations? If you
look at it, you didn’t let up anything against Atlanta until those situations. When you try to put your
finger on it, what do you see? What are you looking at?
A: Like any situation, for me, just like in looking forward for this week because we’re dealing with a
team, Coach Payton over time in terms of two-minute has been one of the most effective coaches in the
league. So to me, it starts with, ‘OK, what unit are we going to put out there and what call we’re going to
make in terms of the situation.’ So that’s where it starts and just trying to put the guys in the right spot,
so like, whatever happened in the past – was it good enough? Was it not good enough? And then we’ve
just got to figure out what’s going to be better for this week. That’s really how I approach it, if that
Q: On the pass rush, do you have to start bringing more pressure, like blitzes off the edge, corners, if
the front four is not getting there? Or are you going to just count on those guys to start getting there?
Or do you need another pass rusher?
A: What do we need? We need, as a group -- I’m talking about coaches, players, everybody – we’ve got
to execute the scheme and we’ve got to execute the scheme at a high level. Again, pass rush, whether it
means getting to the quarterback for the sack or just affecting the quarterback, it just varies based on
the situation in the game. But like who we’re going to bring, this game might be different than the last
game. If you look over the first three games, stuff is a little different. But for this game in particular this
week, I don’t want to divulge anything that we’re going to be doing. I think one thing you know is
pressure’s a good thing. You’ve got to go down there and be aggressive when you’re going down there
to New Orleans. But again, pressure can be four guys coming, it’s just how we configure them.
Q: What have you noticed about (Saints Quarterback) Jameis Winston?
A: Well, I noticed this is a big guy. He’s a big man that is looking to push the ball down the field. I think
he does a good job of doing that. I think he’s making better decisions as of late in terms of the last time I
went against him. The thing is, when he’s hot, he’s hot. He can really torch you. So, we’ve got to be
mindful of that. This guy has a big arm. He’s athletic in the pocket. He’s not the most – like, he’s elusive
in the pocket and he can make plays with his feet. I think he’s making good decisions in their check-withme game. You see him make checks into runs. I think he’s grown as a player. I think he’s grown as a
player and I think that time with Coach Payton, that time with (Former Saints Quarterback Drew) Brees
has really helped him develop. It’s good to see that development. You like to see young players develop
over the time in the league. But it’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a challenge. This guy has a
big arm. He has a big arm.
Q: Is Crowder going to wear the radio?
A: We’ll see, but he’s the one that did it for the game the last game. You’ve got to ask (Head Coach) Joe
(Judge) all of that stuff. But we have no reservations with Tae wearing the green dot. He’s a good
Q: Obviously, you’re going to be without Blake. You have some linebackers that can step in, can you
get creative with other people at that position?
A: The funny thing about the league is these guys all prepare to play. So, whether they play 10 snaps the
week before or 55 snaps, they’re all in tune to the game plan and I trust (Linebackers Coach) Kevin
(Sherrer) to get that stuff to them just like I trust the other coaches to get that stuff to them. So, for us,
really, we’re going to put the plan together of what we think is best to beat New Orleans or to limit
them and see how it goes on Sunday. From there, I really don’t get too concerned because it’s a contact
sport. It’s a collision sport, actually. So, you’re going to have guys have to step in and play, so we
prepare all the guys to get ready to rock and roll.
Q: You have four safeties who have played quite a bit, can you use one of them as an inside linebacker
or is that getting too small on defense?
A: We do that already. We use that. It’s going to be different people, backer, safeties, different people,
defensive backs, in terms of corners. So, we’ve already done that, so that’s already a part of the scheme.
Q: It seems to be something coaches say a lot, not just here but everywhere, pressure – it’s not about
sacks, it’s about pressure. Maybe I’m oversimplifying it, but if it’s 2nd-and-two and you get pressure
and he throws an incompletion, it’s 3rd-and-two, but if you get a sack it’s 3rd-and-nine and that’s a lot
harder to convert. So in a way, isn’t bringing the quarterback down extra important more than just
A: I think it’s a culmination of the different factors, whether you’re batting a pass, you have people by
his feet in terms of getting push in the middle, you sack him. I think it’s all important. I mean, all
important. The best teams that I’ve been a part of in terms of the pass rush, I don’t know if we were
ever in the top-10 in sacks, but in terms of the effect on the quarterback and it’s also the coverage and
the disguise. It all plays a factor in it and I understand. I get your job. Like sacks, that’s what everybody
talks about. I got that, but it’s hard. Just think about this. Just think about this. The league right now is
crazy, everybody’s throwing the ball 50 times a game. But let’s just think, OK, there’s 50 times in a game
they’re throwing it. Let’s just go normal, 40 plays in a game they’re throwing the ball, all right? Of those,
let’s say five are boots, so that’s run action, whatever. Then you say another 10 are play action, so now
you’re already down to whatever the number is there. Then you’ve got in terms of, OK, what situation is
it? Third-and-two, I might be playing run game, so am I really teeing off for pass rush right now. So let’s
take those situations – 2nd-and-two, 2nd-and-four, like you say, now that’s another 10 plays where you
might be playing run. You’re two-gapping and the guy transitions and now you’re down to maybe 10
plays where you know it’s pass, and you might not even be in the game. It’s hard and then for me to tell
the guys, you have to get a sack on those 10 plays, those guys get paid to. How can we affect the
quarterback? It’s an incentive too for the players.
Q: How would you compare how (Safety) Julian (Love) and (Cornerback) Rodarius (Williams) did in
their increased action last game with (Cornerback) Darnay (Holmes) not playing?
A: I think they did a good job in terms of they knew what to do, played hard and everybody has room for
improvement moving forward.
Q: Why did you go that route? What was your decision-making process when you decided to go that
A: Just like for the Saints this week, it’s always what we think is best in terms of the game plan. Any
decision we make in terms of that, that’s the reason why.