Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: What does Isaiah Simmons bring to the kicking game?
A: Athleticism, speed. He's very talented. Very, very talented. He's come in and he's assimilated pretty fast. Smart. Like I said, athletic, can do a lot of different things, versatility, position flex with him. So, I look forward to seeing him grow in our system.
Q: Given the change in the kickoff rules as we're getting into the regular season now, do you have a different directive of saying, 'Oh, don't catch it here, let it go there?' Is there any directive for kickoffs now that's different than before?
A: I'm sure different teams are going to have different philosophies. Some teams are going to be more aggressive; some teams probably won't be as aggressive. So, I'm sure it'll be just from club to club philosophically, how they want to approach it. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
Q: What did you take away from the rule this summer?
A: As far as, when you say take away?
Q: In general, what were your impressions of it?
A: The rules are the rules. Whatever. My opinion doesn't matter. I mean, it is what it is, so you just make adjustments for whatever the rules are. You just make adjustments to the rules.
Q: Has it become an analytic study?
A: Yeah, I'm sure it does (laughs). And it has.
Q: Is entrusting a rookie with punts and kickoffs exciting, nerve wracking, scary, all of the above?
A: No. I mean, (running back) Eric Gray has been in the University of Tennessee's stadium, Neyland Stadium, and it fits 110,000 people. He's played in Oklahoma, again, Red River shootout and all that stuff. It's not too big for the kid. He knows what he's doing. He's done it, and we feel comfortable with him.
Q: Why did you put (wide receiver Sterling) Shep(ard) back for that punt return in the preseason game?
A: Preseason's for everybody, you know what I mean? Guys (have) got to get reps. He catches punts. He has been catching punts ever since he's been here – ever since I've been here, he's been catching punts. So, we just wanted to throw him in there and just let him catch one in the game.
Q: Could you see alternating who is back there?
A: We'll see.
Q: Teams have sometimes, when they want a return, they put one guy in, and when they literally say, 'We want a fair catch, just catch it,' they put another guy in. Could that be an option?
A: We'll see.
Q: Do you trust Sterling?
A: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q: Do you have different guys you trust, though? Do you have options?
A: Yeah, we've got a bunch of guys that have caught punts. We've got guys staying after practice every day. (Wide receiver) Darius Slayton, (cornerback) Darnay (Holmes). I mean, we've got guys that have caught them for years here. So, we've got a bunch of different options.
Q: This team seems to be deeper team as far as talent, speed and all that. Does that translate into better special teams, or are special teamers kind of a different animal?
A: Like I always say, speed is always—I always want speed. So, hopefully it does translate, guys can play. You can be a little bit more simplistic when it comes schematically when you've got more speed. So, they're not thinking; they're out there just playing fast and being who they are.
Q: We're focusing on Eric Gray catching the ball, but does he also have some big-play ability? It seems like for the last couple of years, it's been guys who can catch the ball and not make the catastrophic mistake, but does he also have some home-run ability?
A: Yeah, I mean, he's a strong runner. He has really good vision. Again, just look forward to seeing him make plays. He's a young kid growing up in the system, and we'll see what happens, but Eric has plenty of ability.
Q: Can (wide receiver) Cam Sims step in quickly if you need him to help at gunner?
A: Cam has played in this division for the last four or five years. So, obviously, he can do it. We've been going against him. I hit him the other day in the chest and called him the archenemy, because he was one of their core guys, and he's a great kid. He's coming in and working, and he's a pro. So, when his name is called, he'll be ready to go.
Q: What about (running back) Taiwan Jones? What does he bring?
A: Same thing. I mean, Taiwan is a pro. It's his 13th year in the league. Any time that you call his name, he's ready to go. And that's why he's here.
Q: Is it unusual for a guy like that for 13 years in the league to basically almost entirely play special teams?
A: Yeah, I mean, that's what he is. He's a professional special teams player. And he knows that. He knows his role. He knows exactly who he is. There's nothing wrong with that. Obviously, he's been doing it for 13 years.
Q: You've been here a while. Is game week still game week with different emotions or feelings?
A: Oh, absolutely. When you start to lose that, that feeling, and you don't get the butterflies and the little anxiety of a Cowboys week, you probably need to find something else to do. It's always fun, especially for years we opened up with the Cowboys, but we used to be on the road. Now it's here at home. So, it's fun. And again, I told the guys other day, 'We ain't sticking our toe in the water,' right? We're diving in headfirst. So, let's be ready to rock.
Q: The Cowboys have a rookie kicker. Do you do anything different to make his life miserable?
A: We try to treat them all the same: rough. Our field goal block team, we focus on what we do. We try and affect every kicker in a negative way, try and make them feel pressure and this kid is not going to be any different than the other kickers.
Q: You talked about the Cowboys and sticking your toe in. You've been here a while. They've won 11-of-12 against you guys. Does it feel that way to you? Do you sense that like, 'Man, it's been a while since we've had success against these guys?'
A: You know what, I never go into a game with doubts. Ever. I always feel like we have a chance. This week will be no different. Our job to focus on us, and what we do and how we do it, executing the fundamentals and techniques, and all of those different things that come along with our own individual jobs to make sure collectively we're doing the right thing at the right time and making plays under pressure. That's our job. I don't ever, as a coach, walk into a game thinking, 'We don't have a chance.'
Q: With (kicker Graham) Gano, do you ever get to the point where you take it for granted because of how consistent he is?
A: Never. Never.
Q: What is it about his makeup? It's such a transient part of rosters. That's kind of a rarity to have somebody that stays that consistent that long.
A: Graham is a pro. Graham is, obviously, talented. He does a great job of managing himself outside of the building and in the offseason. He knows what it takes for him to get ready. If he's feeling a certain way, he might take a day off. If he feels really good, he might do a little extra. So, he does a really good job of managing his body and taking care of himself. Putting the right things in his body, modality, all of that stuff that they do in there and in the weight room and in the training room, the prehab, all of that stuff. He does a really good job of taking care of himself.
Q: You've talked in the past about that you're very aware of your 'gumbo,' but also when you see guys start getting roles on defense or even on offense, not that it's a matter of time, but you may lose them. I'm thinking of a guy like (safety Jason) Pinnock. With (cornerback Nick) McCloud and Pinnock, it looks like you have some gamechangers at gunner. Are you prepared knowing that his role is increasing on defense?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. That's just part of my job, you know what I mean? I tell the guys all the time, 'We hope you graduate.' So, I mean, that's just part of the job as a special teams coach. You try and get the guys prepared to play really, really well, and eventually, if they're doing what they're supposed to do, they're going to move on. The next guy will step up and take his role.
So, no, I'm happy for J-Pin (safety Jason Pinnock). He's done a great job since he's been here. He's a heck of an athlete and a great man.
Q: Who has stepped into that spot across from McCloud as a gunner?
A: We're still working through that. We've got a bunch of different options, but we're still working through it. It's a work in progress, but we'll cross that road when we get there. We've got a couple of days, so we'll figure it out.