Q. Last year on punt returns, WR Greg Ward did it just when they wanted them to secure the punt and they used WR Jalen Reagor for when they really needed an explosive play, maybe a little bit of an adventure sometimes in fielding it. I know he hasn’t been out here much early in camp here, but how is Jalen coming along in terms of fielding punts and giving you confidence that he’s not going to have many muffs? (Jimmy Kempski)
MICHAEL CLAY: Looking back at Jalen’s college film, he’s a dynamic athlete. It’s just him getting more comfortable. Even out here, we’ve been able to shoot some jugs to him, let him just get comfortable in his short area. The big thing for him is just seeing the ball really. We’re trying to give him as much live from [P] Arryn [Siposs]. I thought so far, Jalen’s done a really good job. All the returners have done a good job — Greg, [WR] DeVonta [Smith], [WR] Michael Walker, [RB] Kenny Gainwell, [RB] Boston [Scott]. They’ve done really an unbelievable job so far in practice catching the balls off of the jugs [machine] and off of live legs. We’re really happy with that right now.
Q. Are they going to let you use DeVonta in real games or is he going to be more… (Jimmy Kempski)
MICHAEL CLAY: That’s up to a conversation between myself and [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] and [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman]. For right now, we’re trying to get everybody comfortable because you never know what’s going to happen.
Q. Outside of returners, what special teams players have stood out to you so far in practice? (Eliot Shorr-Parks)
MICHAEL CLAY: Only being three days in, I think everyone has really taken special teams up another level in terms of embracing it. You can’t really put someone on a pedestal three days in, but we’ll see. So far, the whole group has been great. They’re out there, they’re attentive, they have energy. That’s all we really want. Once we get the pads on and get some actual rushes and schematic types of things, then we will, but for right now, I think the whole group has done a great job.
Q. Skill and performance aside, is there anyone who’s stepped up as a leader in the room in meetings? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: In the meetings, everyone right now is trying to get all the information that’s possible. No one’s really had to come up and… kudos to them as a whole group, no one’s really had to get on anybody. Everyone sees the energy, but a lot of the second-year guys, they finally have a year under their belt. The third- and fourth-year guys – [LB] Eric Wilson, who was great in Minnesota – they feel his presence from film out there.
So, I think everyone is just trying to compete with each other and get each other better, which has made my job a lot easier, not really having to lean on anyone. But I think we’re going to lean on everyone throughout the season.
Q. Getting back to punt returns, Michael, do you have a personal philosophy as opposed to when they’re trying to back you up inside the 10, do you want a ball security guy whereas if you have a chance for a return, do you like a mixture or do you want one guy to handle everything? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think the more options, the better because you never know what’s going to happen in terms of a game. But if we feel good we have two or three guys that can catch, field, punt and in the plus-50 and secure it, I think that’s what we’re trying to strive for out here in practice. Get everyone as comfortable as possible catching both the open field punt and in the plus-50.
So, the more work we can get — going back to even having Arryn, he can do stuff with the ball that helps the returners out a lot. So, it’s not just the returners or certain players, just all of us getting familiar and getting everyone comfortable with catching the ball.
Q. As you studied K Jake Elliott this off-season and met with him, what sense do you have of why his production dropped last season? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know what, off the production and everything, you can go throughout the history, everyone has a bad year. Jake is still a very, very good kicker in this league and just being around him, he’s got a live leg. He’s able to hit a lot of plus-50 balls, but we’re really consistently hitting the 49 and under is where we want to make our money at. Jake’s been, over his career, has been really good at it. Obviously, you guys have seen it before. So, it’s just really getting him back to where he knows he can be at more than anything else.
Q. Are there any changes with him from a technique standpoint or anything like that from last year? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: No. I’ve never kicked in the NFL, I’m not going to go out there and tell Tiger Woods, ‘Hey, you should probably do this.’ He’s a great golfer. I’m not going to tell Jake, who’s a really good kicker, ‘Hey, schematically, do this.’ I might have some points, ‘Hey, maybe you left your foot open here, and that’s why it kind of fluttered out right.’
He’s so locked in on his technique so far. The first few days, he’s been great. All spring he was great, so I think he’s really getting right back to his technique stuff and it’s really worked out so far.
Q. Is Special Teams Quality Control Coach Tyler Brown working with him a little? I know his dad is obviously a kicking coach. Is he in that same vein? Is he working with Jake? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: Tyler works with everyone. Tyler is the reigning coach of the day so far. Tyler’s been a great asset, his father, being in Baltimore so long, he’s learned a lot, and he really loves what he does. So, he helps out, especially within the whole operation, it’s not just Jake. It’s got to start with [LS] Rick [Lovato], with Arryn holding. Then, when we get all three of us gelling, that’s how we get a really good unit going.
Q. Arryn is a new holder, so you have to build chemistry with him and Jake and timing. How is that going so far? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s been outstanding. From the spring to when they were gone to now, they’re working really well together so far. We can always get better, don’t get me wrong. We can always get better, but so far, they’ve been really good working together.
Q. Michael, most of your punt return options are players that could be every down players on offense. Do you and the coaching staff have — some coaches are more sensitive to that than others and are reluctant to put a guy out there who’s just — you know, that dictates things. How do you handle it? (Paul Domowitch)
MICHAEL CLAY: As a special teams coach and working with special teams so far, you kind of just roll with the punches. At times, he may not be available. We’re not going to really dwell on it too far. That’s why we’ve got to have another guy up, a third guy up, just in case of all that situationally. But when it comes down to that, that’s between personnel, Coach Sirianni, and myself talking together.
For right now, we’re going to get these guys ready for preseason 1, and week 1, whoever we throw out there.
Q. Yesterday you guys signed two guys. I know one of them, WR Andre Patton, at least has special teams experience and I was kind of wondering what you know about him on special teams and what it takes to incorporate him into what you guys are doing? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, obviously, Andre played with the Chargers. He has some stats. When you have a guy like that, it becomes universal. So, you’re not really teaching him a whole new scheme. A big guy that can run like that is an added bonus for us, especially leg-wise, but just a couple terminology things here and there. But on the outside, everything is fairly universal so it’s nice to have him and [S] Obi [Melifonwu] in here because big, strong, athletic guys like that, we’re always inclined for.
Q. You guys were kicking the soccer ball around at the beginning of practice. Who’s the best soccer player? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: The best soccer player? I think the jury’s still out. We call it a tie right now. I would say Rick is probably on the bottom just for now, but we’ll get him up to speed. But that was more just us getting warmed up, kind of a lighter day for us, get these guys loosened up a little bit more than anything else.
Q. We didn’t get to see a lot of RB Jason Huntley last year as a kick returner, but he had a really strong career in college. What’s he shown you so far? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: Like you said, his college tape was really good. He’s got blazing speed, so when we get our kickoff return ready, there’s a lot of guys out there. We have a lot of speed as a kick returner. But I’m excited to see him with the ball in his hands, going against a little bit of a look team and everything. But once he hits the hole, he hits the hole.
There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for him in practice, for other guys in practice, to really showcase their talents as a kick returner.
Q. If you think back to when you were here ’14 and ’15, and you had a lot of good special teams, there was a lot of veteran guys you brought in to fill those roles. How do you balance that, when putting your group together, between those bottom of the roster rookie contract players and players on second and third contracts? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: Having those veteran guys, when I was first here with [former Eagles special teams coordinator and current Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp] Fipper, it was a blessing. You had [former Eagles S Chris] Maragos, [former Eagles LB] Bryan Braman, [former Eagles LB] Najee Goode, and all that. Regardless of your years, you’re going to contribute. It could be a rookie, it could be an eighth-year guy, you never know. It’s kind of just meshing all these guys around and just holding everyone to the same standard.
I can’t say to hold a rookie to a lesser standard than the eighth-year pro. I can’t hold the eighth-year pro a little bit less to a rookie. As long as everyone knows and there’s transparency we’re holding each other to a very high level, I think it takes care of itself, regardless of what year you’re in the NFL.
Q. CB Craig James was really effective as a gunner when he was healthy last season. What makes a good punt gunner? What makes guys really excel on the outside? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: You can say there’s a whole way to say it, but I think it’s just ‘Want to.’ You know, you’re going to be out there, you may have two guys out there, but I try to explain to the guys, ‘If you have two guys, you’re never beating two guys. You’re only beating one.’ There’s enough speed out there, and enough toolbox that Tyler’s teaching them to use, and it’s just more ‘Want to’ than anything else. It’s the mindset you have as a gunner. No one can stop me. We know where we’re going. They’re on a back pedal.
If I get off the line to make a play, I keep telling them the easiest tackle in football is a fair catch. They can’t return it if you make them fair catch it. It’s just a mindset on the outside. Craig has that mindset. I’ve been around a lot of guys that do have that mindset, so it’s just more than anything else what they want to do when they do line up like, ‘Hey, I’m going to make this play or cause this fair catch.’
Q. Is Kenny Gainwell in the running for any of the return jobs? What have you seen out of him so far? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: Kenny out of Memphis, Memphis has a nice long lineage of really good returners, and Kenny has been very, very good so far. We’re getting him ready to do everything – punt, kick return, play a little on the inside. We’re getting him ready for anything. Kenny has been very good so far when he’s out there catching it. Very soft hands out there.
So, we’re really excited about Kenny, but once again, we’re excited about everyone really. Three days in, can’t say enough about this group so far, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and keep it going until our first preseason game.
Q. We spoke to you in the spring about not having a second punter here for competition. To follow up on that, are you viewing it like the rest of the league is competition, or is this Siposs’ job regardless? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know, the personnel department does a great job giving us names and looking into it, but so far, these three have been competing with each other and trying to get each other better. So, it’s more so for Arryn, keep stacking really good days. He’s had three really good day, and we’re going to keep that going so far. If something comes up, something comes up, but so far, they’ve done an awesome job, all three of them. So, we’re just going to keep it rolling so far.