Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: How tough is it to play man against a team that has as many talented receivers as they have?
A: Tough, tough. (Buccaneers Quarterback) Tom (Brady) does a great job in terms of just the coverage part of it and just getting the ball out to the skill players. I think that's probably one of the biggest assets, one of the best characteristics about Tom, how quickly he gets the ball out, recognizing matchups, getting the ball to the skill players and getting the ball to the young people. He does a good job of that, so it's tough. They do a lot of good stuff with their scheme in terms of getting guys free and open, whether it's picks, rubs or just concepts whether they bunch them up or stack them up, forcing communication. Anytime you play man coverage and you're dealing with a team that is in condensed splits, it forces us to communicate. And it's not like they're just stationary out there and they're just lined up five across, and you're like, 'Okay, I've got this guy. He's going to run this.' They're usually bunched up somehow, some way, so that makes it hard.
Q: Just looking at the numbers PFF-wise about why you guys have been better defensively, your coverage grades, according to them at least, have been better. When you watch the film, why in particular is that? Why are you guys playing better coverage?
A: I think part of it is getting comfortable with one another. I think a big part of coverage is communication, I think that's a big part of it. Obviously, I had to do better, improving and hopefully keep improving in terms of putting guys in the right spot to help them do their job, but I think a lot of it is communication. Also, awareness and then just in general – when you just think about it, what is it Week 9 or Week 10 of the season? There's more film on tape. There's more film on tape, so you start to recognize what they're doing. The first four weeks, you think you know, but you might not really know. Then, you have injuries and people in different spots, but once you start to collect that tape – again, guys don't really vary too far from what they're going to do, so you kind of have an idea and the guys have some more awareness. I think in the zone coverage part of it, I think a big part of it – and you can even see when you watch Tampa's defense – in zone, if you know you get your depth, you've taken away the deep route, so you can anticipate breaking up some of the lower routes. I think understanding that and getting that, that's a big part of it, as well.
Q: How has (Cornerback) Aaron Robinson progressed now that he's finally gotten some practice and game snaps under his belt?
A: He's been good. Mentally, (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier) and (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) did a great job of working with him when he was injured. You can see the growth, whether it's the walkthroughs or just him with the extra meetings, but you can see the skillset on the field easily. I mean, the guy can run, he can tackle, he's fast – run, fast, same thing (laughs) – he's got quickness and he's smart, so you're starting to see that. Again, he had to get comfortable. It's hard, your first game you're going against the best offense in the league the last four years of NFL seasons. So it's hard, but I think he's getting more and more comfortable. Again, that whole idea of getting comfortable with each other, once you insert another piece in there then everybody's got to figure that out, too. He's fitting in pretty good.
Q: How much did you rely on last year's tape when you're going back and saying, 'Okay, this is what we need to do to be successful?' You were very successful in the first half and then it seemed like Tom kind of figured it out there in the second half.
A: Tom's going to figure it out (laughs). Tom's going to figure it out. I mean, you look back at the tape to try to have a reference point because, again, most of their offense is the same offense. They're the only team in the league to come back with all 22 starters. There are some different pieces, so you look back to have a reference point there, but each game is so different and Tom, (Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians) BA, (Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Byron) Leftwich, they're all treating it as it's a different game. But you do look back to see what worked, what didn't work, maybe incorporate some of that in the game plan or what would they be anticipating. Because I assume for them, they're like, 'Okay, we played this okay' – they won the game – but, 'They played this okay. What're they going to pull from this game plan? Is it drastically different from what they've been doing the last nine games?' So, there's definitely a point where you look back at it. I don't know if you rely on it completely because each week is different, but you definitely look back on it.
Q: Because you said, 'He figures it out,' do you have to sort of keep mixing it up even in-game more against him than you would against other quarterbacks or do you have to be careful not to do too much?
A: You look back, (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, who's a young player, (Raiders Quarterback Derek) Carr, who's relatively young, they're good players. They're elite players at their position. You've got to mix it up on those guys. It's just Tom's been around for so long he's seen everything, every changeup, every spin of the safeties, whatever you're doing, the front changeups. It's just, I assume, at a higher level because of the experience, no different than whether it's coaching at a higher level. With more experience, you're at a higher level in terms of deciphering and being able to figure out what teams do, (and) adjust. He makes it hard because he's pretty much seen everything. He's seen everything.
Q: (Cornerback) Adoree' Jackson, has he been showing you in the last few games what you expected of him coming into the season and why has he been showing that now?
A: I've always thought Adoree's energy is always great. I think he's a confident player. I think he has an outstanding skillset, and you can definitely see, the last month this guy is playing at a pretty good level in terms of whether it's man coverage, zone coverage, his tackling is improving. I think part of it – and, again, I say this to all the players – you've got to make a decision. When you get better, you've got to make a decision, like 'Okay, I'm going to get better at this.' Again, whether it's been the coaching or guys talking to him, ultimately it comes down to him making the decision, 'I'm going to get better at this,' and that's when you've got a good group of guys. When you start to see the improvement, there's been a point where they're like, 'I'm going to get this fixed. I'm going to play better doing this,' and he's definitely done that for us.
Q: You've been around a lot of good defensive players and you've seen (Buccaneers Outside Linebacker) JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) in the last five years play with a mitten on one hand that's missing fingers, and a ton of injuries. Are you surprised he's still going strong?
A: No. I mean, the crossover tape, you see it. The skillset, it's elite. There are not too many human beings walking around on this planet that can do what he does and do it when he's got injuries. I don't know exactly what's going on with him, but in terms of whether it's the shoulder – whatever, you read this stuff or see it on ESPN or whatever – but he's a different human being. He's just different. He's just different. I'm not surprised because he's a good player, he's an elite-level player and I'm happy for him. I just hope on Monday that it doesn't go too well (laughs).
Q: Was part of you hoping that the Bucs would beat the Washington Football Team handily, that Brady would have a five-touchdown game so that he wouldn't be coming off of two straight losses at home on Monday night?
A: Again, I was around him for seven years, every week is different for him. I don't know anybody that's more competitive, more serious about the game and on top of that he's a great person. I mean, if they won by 20 touchdowns or if they lost, it doesn't matter. If he's playing the New York Giants on Monday night, that's where his focus is and it's laser focus. If you had a chance to be around him, it's laser focus, truly. To be around one of the best to ever play the game and just see that focus – I mean, I remember practicing against him – it just makes you have to raise your level as a coach because he'll take advantage. If you don't have it fixed, he's going to take advantage of it. I don't think that will play into it at all really, not with him at all I don't think so.
Q: Did you have to change the way you verbally call plays when you went from talking into (Linebacker) Blake's (Martinez) helmet to talking into (Linebacker Tae) Crowder's helmet?
A: No, because in practice we practice it with everybody, so they get used to it. I'm not one to do a whole bunch of talking between the play. I give the call out and I'm not like, 'Alert this, alert that.' I don't do that per se as much. So not really, didn't have to change it too much, no.
Q: What have you thought about Crowder's play? He hasn't come off the field since Blake got hurt.
A: I have a lot of faith in Tae, and I would say Blake pointed it out first last year before I even saw it. I remember Blake came up to me one day and he said, 'I like this dude.' It was after the Rams game, he said, 'I like this dude.' I've been around Blake in different tandems of 'backers and it's not a knock on anybody else, but he said, 'I like this guy. He helps me out there.' So, to hear Blake and the relationship I have with Blake, for him to say that that's when I was like, 'Okay,' and you start paying attention more. Tae is really attentive, he's smart, he has leadership skills. I don't know if he's the most boisterous or vocal guy, but his leadership skills remind me (and are) similar to guys I've coached before. Like (Patriots Linebacker) Jamie Collins might not say anything, but he was one of the leaders of the team because everybody follows suit with him. Like when I coached that guy, they've just got a different style of game, you know?
Q: The 'Pat Graham, Head Coach' buzz is starting again. Do you hear that? Are you flattered by that?
A: The 'Pat Graham, get fired' buzz was starting, too. I don't even think about. Again, I'm a New York Giant, I love being a New York Giant. This is my dream job to be here representing this organization for the people. I've told you, some of my best friends, the head coach is one of my best friends, the ownership, the fact that the people I learned football from are New York Giants – I couldn't ask for a better situation. I could care less about that stuff.
Q: Were you by any chance with the Patriots when they lost on Monday night against Kansas City?
A: Oh, yeah. You're trying to bring back nightmares (laughs). We rolled into the game, I was like, 'I remember this trip.' Absolutely I remember that.
Q: So, you saw Brady and the team recover from that? And I think that was two-straight losses.
A: We lost to Miami – we were up by 17, we lost to Miami – then, we came back, and we beat Minnesota, then we beat Oakland, so we were 2-1. Then, we lost to Kansas City, we were 2-2 and we were the worst team ever to play football and somehow, we figured it out.
Q: So, you've seen him respond to those kinds of situations?
A: Yeah. Tom's going to respond. To give you insight in practice, I've been on the other hand of it in practice when he might've gone 27 for 28 in practice and he'll let you know about it, and you didn't even come close to touching the ball and the only incompletion was a drop. With Tom, you don't have to worry about that. Laser focus.
Q: Did he like to let you know about it?
A: Let you know about it? He just walks off the field. He just lets you know about it – 27 of 28, I mean that lets you know. Tom is a great person, great competitor, great leader. I consider myself lucky to have been around a guy like that, to learn football from him because, again, whether it's directly or not you're learning ball from him because you're witnessing one of the best to ever do it. It's a privilege to compete against him, to be honest with you. It's a privilege to compete against him. One day, my grandkids, when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, like, 'Yeah, I coached against that guy. Coached with him.' It's cool, it's cool. It's Tom Brady.