Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: When you guys play a first half like you did the other day but the result is what it is in the end, what do you say to your unit? Do you say, 'we're there'?
A: No. The whole goal is to win the game. You could play great defense for a whole half, you could play great defense for a quarter, you could play great defense for 59 minutes. The thing is, we've got to finish better, whether it's me as a coach, the players in terms of technique and stuff. I'm not big into consolation prizes or stuff like that, pats on the back. It was frustrating, but we've got to find a way to win the game. We've got to find a way to finish better. The thing is, again, we've got two more opportunities, the first one being this week against Chicago and hopefully it's a better result. That's really what we've been preaching, really about the finish, to be honest with you.
Q: How do you sell the guys on how they have to win the game if the offense isn't scoring? You guys essentially had three points until late.
A: It goes back from when we first started coaching or playing. I think it's been instilled in me since Coach (Bob) Arciero when I was at Crosby High School, Coach (Jack) Siedlecki, Coach (Duane) Brooks at Yale. The thing is, you've got to worry about what you can worry about, so that's what we talk to the guys about. In terms of defense, our job is to keep them from scoring more points than the offense, period, point blank. That's our job. Unfortunately for 11 or 12 games we haven't been able to do that. There's no selling it, I don't think. It's just that's the job description and everyone knows what we signed up for. If you're a defensive player, your goal is to keep them from scoring more points than the offense and that's as simply put as we can put it. Our guys do a great job. It's next snap, go out there and play regardless of what's going on. We've just got to keep minimizing the points, but I don't have to sell too much to these guys because these guys love playing football. They value being out here on this field, they value being out there in that stadium. The thing about football – it's the beautiful thing and it's also the sad thing – it's limited. At some point, somebody is going to take away your cleats and you're not going to be able to play. You can't go play pickup football. That's why we always talk to these guys about valuing their time playing ball and anytime you get an opportunity out there on that field. I've been fortunate. Every time I've been a coordinator or when I've been coaching, I've got guys that love the game and understand how to value it, so I don't have to sell them. Anytime they put that helmet on and get out there on that field, they know it's competitive and they're fighting their butts off.
Q: Do you like how (Linebacker) Jaylon Smith has fit in here?
A: Absolutely. I think the thing I talked about last week, the thing that you see right away is the pace and how he plays in terms of how fast he's playing. I think leadership is showing definitely, leadership in terms of I'm not afraid to ask the question in front of the group. We've got a relatively young group and there are some guys that aren't used to playing as much, but he's not afraid to ask those questions, 'Pat, go back over that.' I think that's a positive. I think that's a positive. I think his energy, he has great energy. One thing about leaders and that's one thing I appreciate about (Head Coach) Joe (Judge), that's one thing I appreciate about Flo (Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores), I appreciated it about (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) – consistency. He might have a whole bunch of stuff going on in his life. It's holiday season, got COVID going on, he's had to move three different places, but when he's come in the building, he's consistent. Consistent energy, good pace about him in terms of his attitude the whole day all the way through. I could probably learn something from him because I'm about as moody as they come (laughs). I'm working on it though, I'm working on it. It's been infectious. It's similar to Leo (Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams). I don't know how many speeches Leo is going to do, but I know his energy when he comes in the building is always consistent and he probably has stuff going on in his life. I don't know exactly everything, but that's what good leaders do, they come in, they're consistent, they keep preaching the message, whatever their message may be as a player. A lot of times it's, 'Okay, just follow me. I'm doing the right thing, just follow me.' That's one thing I appreciate about Jaylon so far that I've seen.
Q: With the numbers you have with (Defensive Lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II) and (Defensive Lineman) Danny (Shelton), does Leo have to move inside?
A: He's played enough inside. We'll move him around. The thing about Leo, he's one of those guys that's a matchup guy, so sometimes on third down we put him outside, we put him inside. Leo will move around, he's embraced that. I think that's part of the success he's had aside from the hard work he put in in the offseason, during the season to improve, the fact that we're able to move him up and down the line. When I talk to guys throughout the league, they're like, 'You guys move him up and down the line.' I'm like, 'Yeah, we don't want you all to know where he's going to be all the time,' so that's one of the benefits of having him. He's a smart player and he's embraced the role. Some guys are like, 'Let me just play on the left side.' No, he doesn't mind doing that.
Q: How much is he limited, if at all, with the arm?
A: You've got to think, when you're superhuman like he is his limited might be normal for everybody else. To me, he had some great plays out there last week. We'll practice today. Yesterday was more of a walkthrough tempo. If he's limited – I don't know how much it showed in the game, whether it was the pressure he had on the one where (Eagles Quarterback) Jalen (Hurts) threw the ball into the ground. He beat that guy pretty clean. He had some good knockback in terms of the run game. I'll take his limited, let's put it that way. Whatever the percentage is, I'll take it.
Q: How did (Cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) look coming back?
A: Adoree' looked good. He's bouncing around, energy, talkative – you know, he likes to talk – so that's a good thing. I missed his juice in the room. You could tell. Just from the first time I talked about him to you guys during training camp, his energy you can feel when he's out on the field and it's because everything he does, he does fast. He does it fast, so I appreciate that, especially as a defensive coach. And then the fact that he spends time talking to the younger players, going through scenarios. I love hearing him talk about football. That's one of the things as a coach you spend all this time on especially at this time of the year. We're going through situations and you hope over the weeks it's accumulated to where they understand when it comes up. The other week he came in and he said, 'Pat, did you see this blah, blah, blah, situation at the end of the game. They were backed up in the end zone and they were wrong there.' As a coach, I don't get happy about too much stuff, but I was smiling. That's a good thing from him, that's a good thing.
Q: That was some other game you mean?
A: Yeah, he was watching a game on TV. He came up to me. You've got to understand, when we talk about situations as much as we do and we try to get the situational awareness and stuff, and they come up and they say, 'I was watching the Minnesota game, they were in blah, blah, blah, call and the situation didn't play out right for them,' and he understood exactly what the situation was and where the miscue was – as a teacher, it's no different than if all of a sudden somebody gets whatever, the laws of thermodynamics or something, and they figure it out or they understand that E = mc2. It makes you feel good, you know?
Q: Look at you with those analogies there…
A: Well, I was chem e (chemical engineering) for two years. Not very good, but other than that— (laughs).
Q: At the same time at corner, has (Cornerback) Jarren (Williams) done anything to warrant taking him off the field?
A: I think Jarren has done exactly what we asked him to do. His physicality showed up. Even the penalty that he drew against Philly last week, it was because he shed the block. He was shedding the block and the guy was grabbing him, that's why they called the penalty. If he wasn't physical, if he wasn't using his hands there, we don't get that call and it's a touchdown. I think that's what I wanted to see from him, and I think it has improved from week to week. In terms of, again, he's doing what we asked him to do, he's tackling, he's covering. He has room for improvement too and Adoree', if he's available this week, it's going to be great to see him, too. Again, I can't stress enough, especially with the skill group that they have, whether it's the tight ends, the receivers there with Chicago, the more the merrier I am in terms of having players available.
Q: How has (Linebacker) Elerson (Smith) developed?
A: It's funny, we talked about it as a group. I like that early, that rookie year get him some work inside in terms of the pass rush to develop some toughness. The thing that ends up happening I think – again, I have experience with it with (Cardinals Outside Linebacker) Chandler Jones. I coached him as a rookie, and you learn how to use your length in there. That's one thing, he's a guy that's getting better at in terms of once you learn how to use your length as a pass rusher. Because you're a little bit of a lighter build right there, if you don't use your length, they're thinking about grabbing you. I think as he's gotten more and more reps – and I think there were a few clips from last week where he actually used his length, he's getting used to using his arms. What happens with these pass rushers coming from college to the pros, they're so much better than everybody and they don't understand how important the extension is. Just the blocking style it is in the league, they're clamping you. It's not going to get called, so you've got to be able to play with extensions. I like the fact that he's developing that toughness inside, developing the understanding that if you don't use your hand inside it's going to be really bad. You can get away with it some on the edge, but I like that development process in terms of getting him better for the future.
Q: Two-part question: how do you replace (Safety) Julian (Love)? And the other part is, there was a play last week where it was a deep pass down the middle and when it left Jalen's hand, they said it was going to be picked. Did the official distract him?
A: You have to ask Love on that one in terms of that one. I don't know. It might have been a distraction. You have to ask Julian on that one. But you can't replace Julian. You can't replace Julian. Julian brings so much to our team. He's really a jack of all trades in terms of he can play corner, he can play safety, he can play 'backer, so to me there's no replacing him. Again, we've always got to talk about next man up whatever the circumstances are – COVID, injury whatever. Guys have got to be able to come in and fill in roles no different than if we're missing a coach. Guys have got to be able to step up. It's all part of the training process.
Q: Is it multiple guys though replacing him?
A: A lot of times when you lose a critical piece like that, it's going to have to be multiple people – one takes this role, the other takes this role, because maybe you don't want to overload somebody. But we take all that into consideration.