Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: What day are you working on fourth down defense?
A: Fourth down, oh, it started on Monday (laughs). Shoot, it started on the plane ride for a little bit, then I fell asleep.
Q: These guys seem to go for it quite a bit.
A: Well actually, I started on the plane ride. So I watched our game on the bus and then on the plane ride, I pulled up the Chargers and I think it's the third play I saw (Chargers Quarterback Justin) Herbert drop back and threw like a ball like 25 yards down on a rope and I said, 'I'll get to this tomorrow.'
Q: What do you think about them going for it on fourth down so much now?
A: I'm assuming it's some strategy the head coach is working. I mean, I like it, being aggressive. Defensive-minded head coach, I'm sure it has something to do with the analytics part of it. Each situation is different. It might be analytics. It might be a feel in the game. You look at some of the stuff that happened in the Baltimore game. Baltimore had a good lead and maybe they felt like they needed to go ahead and take their chances there. It presents a challenge. The one thing we've got to practice no matter what play we make on third down to get a stop, guys have got to be alert on the sidelines, stay in the white, be ready. I've got to make sure I'm alert because sometimes you get so used to on third down, again, to get into fourth down, you're like it's a good play, but you might be going through the series in your mind, but you've got to stay alert. They might stay out there, so it's a challenge. It's definitely a challenge.
Q: With a guy like Herbert, there's a lot of good quarterbacks, but how challenging and unique is it to defend a guy who really there's no part of the field he can't put the ball in? How different is that game planning for you?
A: It's hard because you try to bring the awareness to the guys in terms of – just take for example, they're plus-50 when they get past the 50-yard line. He can do it from drop back. He can do it from the gun, in terms of from under center. He can roll one way and throw it back to the other endzone. It's a challenge. He's a big guy. I would say size-wise probably in terms of height and stuff, it's like (Steelers Quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) when you're dealing with Ben. In terms of arm talent, probably like him, (Chiefs Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, those guys that can just throw the ball a mile and he throws it on a rope and pretty accurate. It's a challenge, but you just go through it with the guys. I know we spent a lot of time going through the plus-50. We get more into the red area and the fringe tomorrow. We call that, I'd say from the 40 to 21, we call that the fringe, but like where he's throwing those shots and stuff where they happen, he can get it there. It's definitely a challenge and then they've got the receivers that can go up and get it. (Chargers Wide Receiver Mike) Williams, this guy – I know he's on some list or whatever, but we're preparing for him to play. It's a challenge. It's a big receiver that goes up and gets the ball. It's a good combination. But it's funny, again, ownership, people in the front office, that's been the Chargers for at least the 13 years I've been in the league. They always had those big receivers – (Former Chargers Wide Receiver) Vincent Jackson, all those guys in the past. They always had those big receivers. You had (Former Chargers Quarterback) Philip Rivers, who had an arm. It's giving me flashbacks to the first time I went out there to play the Chargers, I think it was – oh man, it might've been 2010 or 2011 and they just had so many weapons. They had (Former Chargers Running Back Mike) Tolbert. They had (Former Chargers Running Back) LaDainian Tomlinson as the back. They had Rivers. They had (Former Charger Tight End Antonio) Gates. They had the two receivers then the third receiver, I think it was Naanee (?) come in. Just all these big bodies and it's obviously a formula they like there with the Chargers.
Q: I think it goes back to (Former Chargers Quarterback) Dan Fouts.
A: Oh yeah. See, that's before my time. No offense Dan (laughs). Or (Former Chargers Tight End) Kellen Winslow because I'm friends with his niece. So no offense to those guys.
Q: Going back to the fourth down stuff, we know you're a defense that likes to substitute a lot and bring in different packages. Does it make you hesitant between the third and fourth? Do you know what you're putting out there already?
A: You have to be mindful. You have to be mindful. You have to be mindful on second down too because you don't know when they're going to sprinkle in the tempo. I would say there's a few situations where they like it the most. They get a big play first-and-10 within a series and boom, tempo. Sometimes to keep you out of your exotics on third down, they'll go from second to third down, which is a good strategy right there. You've got to prepare for that, so whether it's from third to fourth down, the key is for me as the coordinator, us as coaches, is to have calls that fit the situation. Potentially, you might have a longer list of calls, but really all the same calls, but like you've got to do it out of different groupings. You've just got to be aware of that. The key is, and I think a lot of defensive coaches think like this, an example being Flo (Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores) last week with Miami – keep pressure on them the whole game. That's just another way to keep pressure on them. Normally, you make a play on third down, OK, ready to get off the field. Fourth down, what are they going to do? It just causes you to practice it. You've got to deal with it. It's a good strategy. It's a good strategy.
Q: What do you think when you hear (Chargers Wide Receiver) Keenan Allen might not play, Mike Williams might not play?
A: I think my luck over the last 13 years in the league, they're probably going to play (laughs). That's what I think. We prepare for all the scenarios. Obviously, we'll have to be ready to adjust. It's no different than what happened as recently as last week with (Dolphins Wide Receiver DeVante) Parker. He got activated on Saturday, but you have to have a contingency plan and to be ready for that stuff. I talk to you guys all the time about that, just you've got to be ready. We've got to be ready and whatever scenarios come up, that's part of our job.
Q: Was your defense frustrated at all coming off of last game where you played very well for most of the game, but the offense isn't scoring enough points to give you guys a chance?
A: I think our defense is upset that we lost the game. Our guys, they go out there and play every down. Really, our job description, and I say 'our' because I'm part of the defense, is to hold them to less points. We've got to hold them to less points. I think we're more frustrated – we're frustrated with that, that we lost the game. The offense coming to play, those guys play hard. They go out there to do their job. Miami was good. It's our job to keep the points down and we've got to do a better job of that.
Q: You've had situations each of the last two weeks where in a key spot, (Defensive Back) Steven Parker is covering (Eagles Tight End) Dallas Goedert and gets a pass breakup, and then last week (Cornerback) Jarren Williams is all of a sudden logging as many snaps as he did. What does it say to you about those guys in the secondary, the fact that you're calling their numbers, some out of necessity, and they're actually stepping up and making plays?
A: That we have good coaches on our staff. That's what it says to me. Those guys – (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson) in terms of with the defensive backs. (He's) relentless in terms of preparation and getting those guys ready even when they're not even on the active roster. What you've got to understand is the way we look at the game is we're dealing with a collision sport, right? So there's going to be injuries somehow, some way. Part of our job requirement is to have guys prepared and the extra meetings they do – whether it's Jerome, (Senior Defensive Assistant) Jeremy (Pruitt), (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier). When guys are on practice squad – when we do periods in practice and we call the plays that are going to come up in the game plan, it's all about preparation in terms of that and being able to see ahead and getting those guys prepared, so when these moments come up because it's not unique to the Giants. It's not unique to the Giants. It's not unique to this year. Every year those young guys are going to have to play at some point during the season and it's our job to be able to have them prepared and ready to go. It just tells me we've got the right coaches on the staff. They do a good job, where something happens, 'OK, can we still call this?' 'Yes, Pat, he's ready.' I think they do a great job at that. I'm proud to have these guys on the staff. They do a good job. They help me out a ton. We've just got good coaches. We've got good coaches on the staff.
Q: What makes (Chargers Tackle) Rashawn Slater a special offensive lineman?
A: Athletic ability, a combination of that and the strength. As a young player, it seems like I don't see a lot of mental errors out there. Sometimes you try to ID those young guys and say, 'alright, this guy's going to make a mistake, let's do this. Let's mug up over him. Let's do something to him to affect him.' You're not really seeing that. Again, he went to Northwestern, correct? I'm not saying – college doesn't matter, plus Northwestern is a safety school anyway (laughs). I'm joking, I'm joking. But that stuff doesn't come into play, but like he seems like a smart player. I was real impressed with what he's doing on the field. His toughness, athletic ability and he's playing strong right now and playing smart.
Q: What did you attribute the red zone coverage breakdowns to last week?
A: Again, for me, I'm second-guessing a few of the calls for myself. That happens all the time, sometimes I've got to remind myself stop doing that and it's about execution. I just think they had the right play call for when we called it. They did a good job. (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach) George (Godsey) and those guys, and Flo, and (Dolphins Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach) Eric (Studesville), they do a good job over there. They made the throws. (Dolphins Quarterback) Tua (Tagovailoa) made some good throws. That ball in the corner, (Dolphins Wide Receiver Mack) Hollins was playing around with the ball a little bit. You hope sometimes that ball bounces out of there, he doesn't get his feet down. And then the play when I think who was it, (Dolphins Wide Receiver Isaiah) Ford that came back through. 87, right? You try to pull up the quarterback, he makes a good play on the sideline. We got it to third down on that one, the second down play before the two minute. We've just got to hope that if it comes up this week, a little better execution, have the right call called and just play it again. But the thing is, like when we're trying to make them play left-handed, take away their targets and see if those other guys can make plays, the difference this week is you've got like a lot of weapons. You go down in the red area for the Chargers – the quarterback's a problem scrambling, or he could run if they decide to do that. You've got the back who's getting the ball at a high rate, especially down there in the high red. (He's) getting the ball at a high rate. You've got all those targets in the passing game, whether it's the tight ends. You can throw 82 in there when they get him in the high red and go through the middle of the defense and go on verticals. You try to make them play left-handed. Sometimes they make the plays. There's a whole bunch of stuff that goes in the play. That's part of being a coach. You start thinking about all the different scenarios. What could you have called better there? The bottom line is we've got to execute – and I'm talking about we, me as a coach, I've got make sure I'm executing the right call and it'll be challenging this week. We're talking about a good red area offense that has good weapons, so it'll be interesting this week. Hopefully, we do a better job.
Q: Real quick follow-up, on that touchdown where Hollins was juggling. Would you rather see (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) finish that play there?
A: There's a whole bunch of stuff that goes in the play with that. It was a tough catch, good throw. Honestly, I probably put more of it on me. I'm like, 'ah, we could've maybe been in this other call.' That's what I end up doing. Our guys, they play hard. They try to execute what we're asking them to do and obviously we've all got to do a better job to get the W, so thank God we've got another opportunity this week, and we've got good weather while we're out here.