Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Last week, you had (Cornerback) James Bradberry on (Chiefs Tight End Travis) Kelce a good amount of the time – you can tell me how much. What is it about his skillset that you think works there and can it work this week against a guy like (Raiders Tight End Darren) Waller?
A: Last week, that game plan – really, the Kansas City Chiefs, what they would do, they got in a lot of what we call a trey formation, where they're in 11 personnel, they put the three receivers on the field, and they kept Kelce on the backside. A lot of teams do that formation kind of to ID you and see what coverage you're in. So, it worked out for us to have JB back there. The thing for his skillset – I mean, you're dealing with a big tight end like Kelce and then you're able to match him up with a big corner. It's no different than what we used to do back in the day with Aqib Talib. We would do that sometimes. I remember in 2013 against the Saints when (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) and (Patriots Senior Football Advisor) Matty P (Matt Patricia) came up with that game plan and Aqib followed him around and that ended up being good for us that day. When you get a chance to use a big corner on a tight end like that, sometimes the matchup plays out like that, whether we're matching him up or the alignments and we're trying to guess right. That could be advantageous for us as a defense when that happens. So, when you look at Waller this week, we'll probably have two to three people in man situations end up covering this guy, but I'm sure JB will get a chance at him at some point. Anytime you've got a big corner, their skillset working with receivers or going against receivers, and then you add that size element versus a tight end, I think it potentially helps us.
Q: This kind of reminds me of last year when you guys on defense seemed to struggle for the first handful of games, then it almost looked like something clicked midseason. You guys carried it through to the end of last year, it's been that way through the last two games certainly. I'm wondering big picture, what is it that you feel like your defenses click midseason? And moving forward, do you have to change something earlier in the season to make it simpler, so this turnaround happens earlier?
A: To me, I think what ends up happening is we end up playing better and I end up calling the game better. Obviously, you would like that timetable to be a little bit faster. It's obviously not acceptable. Even Monday night was not acceptable – we lost the game, so I obviously could have done more and I'm sure the players felt like they could have done more. Thankfully, we have an opportunity this week against Las Vegas. I think really the thing that happens naturally with defenses is the communication becomes better over time, you get more and more comfortable working with one another. Again, I've got to obviously speed up my process in terms of figuring out where to put guys in the right spot. I think all that comes into play. It'll be interesting to see this week because with Las Vegas and their offense, the quarterback is playing at a pretty high level. Again, we're going through a string right now where we're going to be seeing a lot of good quarterbacks – last week, (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, you've got (Raiders Quarterback Derek) Carr this week, when we get back off the bye we have (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom (Brady). But Carr (went) 31 of 34 the last time they played. After he threw that pick, he was pretty much perfect in terms of his QB rating. He has weapons all over the field, so it's going to be a challenge, but we'll see if it's clicking. Again, we've got two wins on the season. We've got to do everything we've got to do this week to win another game. We've got to play well on defense, and we've got to do what's necessary to keep them off the scoreboard. What we've got to do is make sure they don't score more points than our offense, so we've got to do a better job of that.
Q: Is that hard when the offense isn't scoring like most NFL offenses score? 20 points against the Kansas City Chiefs – I know you're going to be hard on yourself – but 20 points against the Kansas City Chiefs is usually good enough for a win?
A: We operate independently. In terms of defense, that's our job description – stop them from scoring more points than our offense. So, it doesn't really matter what the offense does because then you have games where the offense scores 30 points and we give up 33. To us, it's a team effort and our job description is to make sure they score less points than our offense. So, it doesn't really matter because there are going to be good days and bad days on both sides of the ball. We've got to get that done.
Q: You got (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson on the field the other day for the first time and it looked like maybe there were a couple plays where he was a little bit lost or a little bit confused. How would you assess his debut and what can he give you going forward?
A: In terms of his feelings and everything, you'd have to talk to him about it. I'm sure, Monday Night Football, Kansas City, you're out there, the lights are on, the whole nine yards and you line up and there's (Chiefs Wide Receiver) Tyreek Hill and Kelce. I mean, I don't know, but I assume as a rookie in your first game, I'm sure there are some butterflies. What you saw out there, you saw a young player who can run around. He has good speed. I don't know if he had any tackling opportunities, but he has good speed. I really enjoy working with this guy and I think he's just going to grow from here. In terms of your first game to go up against that offense and be in the slot, and all of a sudden you look across and there's Kelce or (Chiefs Wide Receiver Mecole) Hardman, those guys like that – that's a tough one. We'll see how it plays out this week. We've got another good group of players. You've got (Raiders Wide Receiver Hunter) Renfrow, you've got (Raiders Wide Receiver Bryan) Edwards, you've got (Raiders Wide Receiver) Zay Jones, you've got Waller. Again, as a young player you just get in there and start playing some football. It'll come for him, it'll come for him.
Q: Wanted to ask you about a couple guys who made some plays the other day that we haven't really talked to you about, (Linebacker) Quincy Roche and (Defensive Back) Keion Crossen. Both had a couple nice plays. What have those guys shown you? I know they were guys that kind of came to you late in the process this year, but what have they shown you?
A: Real quick on Q – Q's gotten better every week and he's doing what we ask him to do. Again, not coach speak, I can take you through the progression of what (Linebackers Coach) Kevin (Sherrer) and (Assistant Linebackers/Special Teams Assistant Anthony) Blev (Blevins) do in terms of just the sled work – I'm talking about the sled and what we call 'Big Bertha,' the pad. You just look at the progression over the last seven weeks of how he's been able to improve there with his hands in front of his eyes, playing with better pad level. He's worked really hard to get better and he's listened to the coaching, so that's one thing. We anticipated this guy being able to make plays and we shared that, expressed that with everybody and he went out there and did it, so it's a credit to him working hard. As far as Keion – Keion's been in this league, he's been a productive player in this league primarily on special teams, but he's been a productive player in this league and he always lets us know, 'Hey, I'm ready. I'm ready.' Quite honestly, just late in the week we were trying to think of a way to get him involved in probably going to get Mahomes. There is a text group or exchange between myself, Kevin and (Defensive Line Coach Sean) Spence (Spencer) and we said, 'Hey, we put it together,' and we knew there was going to be a moment where we needed it and he got it done. Kudos to him in terms of he's always ready. He's always ready and he's a professional, so we'll see how that plays out this week.
Q: I assume with all that's gone on the past two days that you have to be wondering who you're going to have on Sunday. How do you approach that?
A: Absolutely. From the unfortunate situation with Las Vegas, you're game planning, you get on the plane after the Monday night game and you're like, 'Okay, here's my plan for this particular player,' then all of a sudden you have the unfortunate incident there. Then, you get to our plan and all the stuff going on, and you're trying to figure stuff out. Thankfully, we're used to a little bit of the chaos, a little bit of the change happening all the time. This league is funny like that, the game is like that, sudden change. So really in terms of being equipped to deal with it, I think we're in that environment already. Does that make sense? You're kind of on the fly making adjustments and thankfully the staff, we've been together for two years, so it's a little bit easier to do that. As soon as we get the players around us, I think because of some of the veteran leadership we have it makes it a little bit easier to adjust on the fly when this stuff happens. We're able to not make any excuses and just keep plugging away.
Q: So, whoever is up is up, and you'll use them?
A: Yeah. Hey, I'm used to that. I like that. We've got to coach everybody. We've got to coach everybody and get them ready to go. Like I always say, I know this, Las Vegas could care less who's up for us or who's down for us. They're going to show up at one o'clock and play the game, and we've just got to be ready to go with whoever's there.