Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Alright, let's just address the 700-pound gorilla in the room, right? We all know Dabs (Head Coach Brian Daboll) is intense and on game day, that's just him. It's not a big deal, it's happened before. That's just part of the game. He's an intense guy, we have no issues. That's just part of football, it's an intense game.
Q: How about the 400-pound gorilla, why were there only 10 men on the field?
A: Well, I mean, this is the process of the preseason, this happens in every game around the league. This is not new; this is something that just happens. When you have guys, say for example, a guy that was a starting running back in college, alright? He's used to on every down, he's running the football, he's catching, he's running the football and then on third down or fourth down, he comes off the field. He's not on the punt team. So, a lot of times when these kids, these young guys, when they get into these competitive environments, muscle memory kicks in. He's used to on third down, if they don't make the first down, what does he do? He's used to going to the bench. Well, it's not like that anymore. Okay, you are on the punt team now. Now you have to go out there and go cover a punt and protect it. That's just part of the maturation process of all these young guys, they have to understand that they are not in college anymore, they are not starters, a lot of them are not starters anymore so when there is a fourth-down play, you don't run off the field, you stay on the field and that's just the reality.
Q: Was that (safety Xavier McKinney) X who came running on the field?
A: No, no it wasn't.
Q: On the (running back Eric) Gray return, a nice return, when you got back and looked at the film, did you see a penalty?
A: Yeah, and it was probably 20 yards away from the ball and it wasn't necessary. Again, another young guy who is used to; if you go back and you look at college football, they don't call holding on returns. It's a free for all. I've never seen anything like it in my life, but they are used to playing that way, so they think it's normal. When you get to this level, even though you might have a guy in a dominating position and you are in a good spot, you can't take them to the ground. Anytime in our league, on any return, you take a guy to the ground, they are throwing a flag. In college football, it's not like that. Again, that's just part of the maturation process, these guys learning how the game is played on this level and it's a little bit different.
Q: Did Daboll approach you either after the game or on the bus ride home about that because obviously it was seen on TV, like on the sideline?
A: As far as?
Q: Was it something you guys talked about or no?
A: No, it's football (laughs). I mean, it happens. It is what it is. It's an intense game, it's not that big of a deal. I promise you if you look at my face sometimes during the course of a game, you are going to see some crazy stuff too. That's just what it is. You will see some stares and glares because that's just the game.
Q: (Punter) Jamie (Gillan) hit that punt 67 yards. Now in golf, when you hit a lag putt, you are trying to hit a target area like three feet from the hole or whatever that is. Is there a target area for a punt and what kind of problems does it cause if you don't hit it?
A: Mainly, we want the hang to match the distance. What does that mean? So, if we have a 48-yard punt, we want at least 4.6, 4.7 or more hang time. So, what happens is when the hang to distance doesn't match, that's when you get in trouble. If we have a 70-yard punt and a 4.5 hang, the hang to distance doesn't match. So, when that guy catches the ball and the coverage is 30 yards away from him, we are going to have some issues. You let the guy get a full head of steam running at guys in space and it's tough. So, we always want the hang to distance to match up.
Q: Is that compounded by guys who are probably on the punt coverage team for the first time at this level and the idea now that now all of the sudden, they are at a coverage disadvantage and is that what you saw from that return?
A: Absolutely and you can't miss tackles. I mean you look at (Lions wide receiver) Maurice Alexander, he's a pretty good little returner. Obviously, you saw the actual talent and skill. You have got to be able to make plays in space and make tackles in space, but it is compounded by the distance. If it's a little closer and the guy doesn't have time to build up the speed, then it's a little easier but when he gets a chance to build up that speed and he can make his cuts at full speed and he already has really good short area quickness, it's tough.
Q: Do you think (wide receiver) Jamison Crowder can still be an effective returner, he's gone through a lot, but he returned it a lot last year in a short amount of time he was healthy.
A: Yeah, I mean I think Jamison is very capable. I think we have about three or four guys on our roster that are very capable. When you look at all of them, most of them have all done it in this league. (Wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton) Pimp's a young guy that has an opportunity. (Wide receiver) Jaydon (Mickens) has done it in this league for a long time, Jamison, (wide receiver) Cole (Beasley). We have a bunch of different guys with a bunch of different options, but we want to see what Eric can do right now and he's done a pretty good job and he's very diligent.
Q: What did you see from Eric on Friday night?
A: He did a good job of fielding the ball. He's a typical young returner, they have to understand situational football, as far as being able to protect himself with a fair catch like that last punt as he is running laterally. He probably should have just fair caught the ball, as opposed to trying to catch it and just trying to make a play. You have just got to be smart because the most important thing is the ball. Eric has great power, quickness, really good short area quickness and he runs tough and he's a good kid.
Q: How much do you rely on veterans who have special teams experience to kind of lead some of the younger players?
A: You have to have that veteran leadership in your room. It is paramount to our success as a unit and as a group because I can't answer all the questions. (Assistant Special Teams Coach Mike Adams) Pops can't answer all the questions, (Assistant Special Teams Coach Stephen Thomas) Steve can't answer all the questions, but if you have a veteran guy that's done it before and they are sitting in the locker room and a lot of times these younger guys don't want to ask us because they don't want to feel like they don't know what they are doing but they will ask a veteran guy about a technique or a scheme or whatever it is and they can do it right in the comfort of the locker room or they are sitting at the lunch table or they are in the players' lounge. Whatever it is, they can ask but that's extremely important to our success.
Q: You mentioned Pimpleton, can he be a returner in this league and how hard is it for a kid like that to make it as primarily a returner the way the rules are?
A: Yeah, it's tough, it really is. It's tough but you know most of the guys that make it in this league, it's tough for them but Pimp has the ability. He's a tough little player, he's very diligent in what he does, he has really good short area quickness. He has all the tools that you really want in a good returner, he just needs an opportunity. Hopefully he will get that in the next couple of weeks to where he can show everybody what he can do.
Q: You talk about experience with Eric Gray, how much does that make you want to give him most of the reps going forward here, this week and again next week, is that sort of where he is headed?
A: You have got to ramp him up quick and the unfortunate part is, there is not a ton of opportunity to go around, especially if you get into a game to where you don't get a lot of punt opportunities or the opportunities that you get are plus-area punts where the ball is going to be fair caught inside the 10. It's tough. We are going to ramp him up quickly, but again what we do out here is important. What we did in Detroit was important as far as the practices are concerned. Those things have to take care of themselves, but you are right, it's something that we all have got to work to ensure that we understand what we are getting and those guys get their opportunities at the same time.
Q: With the shape that (kicker) Graham (Gano) is in and the way he kicks the ball, can he kick as long as he wants?
A: I was just talking about this with Stephen. We try our best…Graham does a great job of managing himself. He understands his in-game and his offseason work is extremely important to his in-season work. What I mean by that is, he takes care of himself in the offseason. He doesn't do a ton of kicking, he will take some time off to be with his kids and he will start to ramp it up around April, May. He doesn't do a ton of kicking in the offseason but once he starts getting into camp, he starts to ramp it up a little bit and he does a phenomenal job of keeping himself in shape as far as just the prehab stuff, the rolling out and then just managing himself during the course of the week. He can kick as long as he wants, as long as he keeps making them, he will be able to kick as long as he wants.