Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: Did you think (kicker) Graham (Gano) had a real chance there from 58 (yards), or was that because you had no choice?
A: I think we really had no other choice in that situation. The wind was pretty (strong). It didn't look like it in the stadium, but it was constant going in that direction. If you look at the kickoffs that were going that way, they were coming up short. Obviously, (Washington Commanders kicker) Joey (Slye) missed one early in the game from 52 or 53 (yards) – whatever it was. It was more of a desperation kick. Probably five more yards, we might've been alright.
Q: You had a low kickoff going the other way for a touchback. Was that intentional?
A: Just mis-hit it. He just mis-hit it. It was a squirreled touchback. It was not a great – it was not one of his best efforts. He'll be the first one to tell you that, too.
Q: We saw (wide receiver) Marcus Johnson last week returning kicks in practice. How much of that was something you were thinking about, or was that just with (running back) Gary (Brightwell) being under the weather at that point?
A: Exactly – Gary being under the weather, always having a contingency plan. He's (Marcus Johnson) done it before. We've worked him throughout the year a little bit. He wanted to do it. You've always got to be prepared just in case. He'll do it again this week just in case – you just never know. We'll continue to work him back there. But you're exactly right.
Q: We've talked a lot about (punter) Jamie's (Gillan) inconsistencies. The last two weeks, is this about as good as he's put together back-to-back?
A: It's the act of continuous improvement. A word that we use in our room is 'kaizen.' That's something that – he's a young player. His maturation process is coming along. We've just got to start stacking those days and then stacking the games. He's doing a really good job of just taking care of the little small details of his job. And he's getting better.
Q: What do you have to be wary of in the Eagles' return game?
A: When you look at them and how they're built, they've always done a good job – (Eagles special teams coordinator) Michael Clay has always done a good job. (Eagles wide receiver Britain) Covey's an issue – the little guy. (He) has really good short-area quickness. You just always have to be alert for those guys. They can get you all kinds of ways. We've got to make sure we're doing our job of leveraging the ball, keeping the ball inside and front, not letting them break the perimeter. But they're an issue. You've just got to make sure that we focus on what we do as opposed to with them, because if we do what we're supposed to, we should be okay. We've been doing a pretty good job in our coverage the last couple weeks.
Q: In your own return game, I know you probably aren't getting as much as you would like to get. You talked about it earlier in the year, but is it still a matter of blocking of the opportunity of creating lanes for these guys?
A: A lot of it has been, punt return-wise, we're in the plus area a lot. It's a lot of what we call gray team, to where it's you don't get a lot of return opportunities. Then some of the other situations have been you're up in the game, you're guarding for a fake, you're not as aggressive as doubling both gunners, so you have to manage the game as it comes along. So, when that happens, the gunners are singled on the outside. Now, that's a hard block for the corners on the outside. It's been kind of just a lot of that stuff. It might be, over the last two games, maybe one or two legit return opportunities where you can vice a guy up on the outside and you can maximize your blocking – if that makes sense.
Q: And kickoff return?
A: Kickoff return, it's getting better. We had one, I thought, that probably could have got out. But again, it was timing, spacing, the ball being caught at the 10-yard line and that kind of being off a little bit. But it's coming along. It's not exactly what you want for sure, but it's trending in the right direction.
Q: When (safety) Julian (Love) plays as many snaps as he played last week, I know the gumbo theory – whoever they tell you, you got. Do you almost have to go to Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll) and be like, 'Look, you can take some of the other guys, but we need Julian as our core guy in some of these packages that we have'?
A: That's something we always talk about. It's always a fine line. Julian has really blossomed this year and taken off. Last year, the last two years, he's been a bell cow for us. He's a core guy for us, and he's really taken off as a defensive player. We're extremely happy for him. But he's also the quarterback of the punt team, and there are some other positions that he's really, really, good at that we don't have him do because obviously, he's our starting free safety. It's something we always try and manage. When we can give him a break, we're going to give him a break so we can maximize his performance. But you're right, he brings a lot of value to our football team, and he does a lot of jobs for us.
Q: Where have you seen Julian grow the most? You mentioned him blossoming this year. Where has he grown?
A: I think more than anything, just in his leadership. He's always been a very mature young man, but you see him more now as a leader. I think that's really helped his game. He's playing with more confidence because he knows that people are looking to him, and he's always done a great job of preparing. He's always done a great job of being a really good teammate. As a man, he's starting to grow up. As a leader, he's starting to take control of the locker room.