Q. What are you seeing out of your kick returners so far and who would you say is trying to emerge as the guy? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: The kick returners, we’ve put in a couple more practices on kickoff return and they’ve caught the ball really well, but the thing throughout the group is that speed that they have. Once they catch and they see a crease they can really hit it, so I was very encouraged by that. And today they got a little bit of the coverage so they saw a little bit of the lanes, so slowly but surely we’re just getting them more confidence seeing the ball, seeing the creases, so I’m really excited about all of them from the top down.
It’s going to be good to see them get some live action in the upcoming weeks, but I’m really pleased with the whole group.
Q. Aside from speed, what else does a kick returner have to have? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s not just the kick returner. A lot of it is the other 10 with the team. We all have to get our blocks. The kick returner helps the blockers out. He can set them up, give them a better angle. It’s really all 11 that have to get it done to have a good kick returner.
Q. What’s your philosophy on gunners? Is it more about speed? Is it more about technique? What do you focus on when you’re figuring out who’s the guy? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: Gunners are like my babies. I love gunner talk. But for the most part it’s the mindset as I talked about earlier. But when it does come to it, you can’t teach speed. If you have speed, use that as much as possible.
We try to give them tools. [Eagles special teams quality control coach] Tyler [Brown] is doing an unbelievable job giving them tools, little things here and there, how to get off a vise, but for the most part it starts between the ears with the gunners.
But for me, really trying to get them to just play fast, not give them a whole lot. There’s a couple rules you have to know, but for the most part just playing fast and having that mindset like, ‘Hey, I’m going to make this tackle or cause a fair catch.
Q. They changed the rules a couple years ago for kickoffs, and it’s really difficult for onside kicks. I saw you try a couple of them. Are there any teaching points for that? How do you get an advantage on that type of play which is so low percentage? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know, you try to find different ways within the rules to space out everyone, but once again it’s tough. Sometimes you’ve got to get a lucky bounce, but we’ll work with [K] Jake [Elliott] and what his best ball is and everything like that, and we’ll try to find little schemes here and there, even going back a couple years, just to find something.
With the onside kick, it’s almost like roulette, — you have a small percentage, but when you hit that small percentage, it is a game-changing play, and it gives everyone that sense of, ‘Alright, we can win it still.’
Q. Being a captain is obviously a big deal. When you’re trying to figure out who’s the special teams captain, what are you looking for the next couple weeks? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think it’ll all play out. That’s something I’m not really looking for. I think everyone feels it from the practice, how people practice, how people play. We’re not really too worried about that because I know when it comes to the games in December, we’re going to have to rely on all 11, everyone on the roster to play special teams. When it comes to that, I’m sure it’ll all play out.
Q. This is not a special teams question, but on the last play there, what was on the line there that made the offense so excited on the field? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: It was a big competition. I know it was 3rd down so I think there were some points on the line. I don’t know if there was an end game, but with Coach Sirianni [Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni], he really brings that competition to the field, and it gets everyone going. Everybody loves to compete. That’s why we’re in this business. You want to compete. You want to put your best foot forward. It’s always good off an off day to see everyone come back and battle it out.
Q. What is the process like for setting the depth chart for the first preseason game? How do you find out who’s going to be available to you? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: That’ll be a conversation we have probably in the next couple days. We’ve still got a big practice tomorrow, still a practice Monday and Tuesday, but in terms of setting it, once we hit that, we’ll cross that bridge, we will, but we’ve still got to get ready for a couple more practices.
Q. What have you seen out of RB Jason Huntley as a returner? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: He has explosiveness just like everybody else. You guys have all seen, he has some dynamic abilities. He did it in college. He’s very good at it. But like I said, the whole group has really done well. Huntley [RB Jason Huntley] has done well. His explosiveness is a trait that’s very — it’s hard to find. But for the most part, we’re really pleased with everyone really.
Q. Can you judge guys now when they’re not going full speed? Or do you have to sort of wait and see how they do in the games? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: I don’t know if you can really judge them right now. It does help in the game when the bullets are really flying right there with guys actually putting a move. We’re trying to keep everyone healthy. We’re not trying to put anybody on the ground, but you can sense a guy that feels a hole, that he’s in the right leverage. Early on in practice, we had a little competition, you know, guys blocking, guys covering right there, so you could kind of get a sense. But we’ll see a little bit more when we get an opposing team going at you full speed.
Q. There have been times where you’ve been fielding some kicks and WR DeVonta Smith is still around the group. What kind of benefit, do you think, is that having him on the sideline having him be around your returners? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, DeVonta, he’s a football player. He’s champing at the bit. I mean, it’s always great. They’re a very tight-knit group, in that returners. From the start, where they’re catching JUGS or off of live play, the more times they can see it, even if they’re out there, it’s going to help them with the perception of where the ball is falling, how the ball is coming off the foot. So DeVonta being out there is great, and he’s getting those mental reps that’s going to make him even better than he is right now.
Q. You kind of said, Michael, that you can get a feel, especially with the coverage players. How quickly can you say, ‘Okay, this guy is kind of a natural at special teams?’ How quickly can you pick that up? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: I don’t know if there’s like a timetable where you can really pick it up, but you can feel a sense when a guy – it clicks. You give him a tidbit here and there, he hits it, and you’re like, ‘Oh, okay. He gets it, he’s going to start using it.’ So, it’s more just the confidence of them picking up little tidbits here and there and feeling it out, and it’s more the repetition stuff. You know, just like anybody – there’s some guys that see it off a drawing and some guys have to feel it out. So, it’s more of who the person is, and can they feel it just watching it or do they have to go through the repetition to really feel confident and comfortable with the special teams.
Q. After coaching under 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and coaching under former Eagles Head Coach and current UCLA Head Coach Chip Kelly, is there anything you’ve seen the past few weeks or past few months that is new or different that, as you put your coaching Rolodex together, has stood out to you? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know, it’s one of those things where you don’t want to compare or anything like that, contrast or anything. The great thing about this whole thing is it’s still football, so you all come together, whoever is coaching, whoever is the head man is, you come together. It’s still, ‘Let’s get our techniques right. Let’s get these guys comfortable with our schemes, our terminology.’
I wouldn’t say it was a big contrasting thing because it does come down to football. But, I will say out of all three of them, everyone loves to compete, and that’s what we want on our football team. Guys that want to go toe-to-toe for 60 minutes, competing with everyone.
Q. We’ve heard about Head Coach Nick Sirianni using videos during meetings to sort of break it up. Is that something you’ve seen before? What’s your impression of that? (EJ Smith)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, it gets a little monotonous when you’re the only guy talking, but you get – there’s so many great athletes and teachers around the world that a two-minute clip from someone else, hearing a different voice, it may click with someone than us, the coaches, telling these guys and everything like that. So, the video clips, I’m a huge proponent of. I think it’s great. You learn stuff down, you write it down and it may click for you down the road.
Q. Is that something you’ve been using in your meetings, too? Or is it just during team meetings? (EJ Smith)
MICHAEL CLAY: At times I will, but I think we have enough – like [Assistant Special Teams Coordinator] Coach [Joe] Pannunzio, he’s got a wealth of knowledge. At times, I’m sick of hearing my own voice. I’ll let him come talk to the group and he has a different message and guys want to hear it. He’s got so many years coaching and has a good pedigree. Hearing just a different voice. I’ll have [Special Teams Quality Control] Tyler Brown talk to the guys. It’s just something different that it’ll perk up for them. Yes, there’s videos but also a lot of wealth within our coaching staff.
Q. Getting back to Zach’s question about comparing, back when you were with Chip, it seemed like you had guys who were special teams specialists, guys like former Eagles LB Bryan Braman and former Eagles DB Chris Maragos. Is that different nowadays? Do you have fewer guys who can just do special teams because of roster space and everything like that? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: I wouldn’t say it’s different. It just all depends on how the roster shakes out. There’s so many components with it that we’re really going to have to rely on everyone. There are guys that do specialize in it, don’t get me wrong. There’s guys that make their money on being a four core special teams player, but yeah, we’re going to find out on this team, it’s going to be a whole collective effort to help us. Some guy may need a break here; we’ve got someone else in the holster to get it going.
It’s not like the Bramans and Maragos and [former Eagles LB] Najee Goode’s are no longer in this league, it’s just more of a team thing to get everyone two to three components down there.
Q. How is P Arryn Siposs coming along? The other day, not today, he looked pretty good in directional kicking. How do you think he’s coming along? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think Arryn is – he’s putting in a lot of good days, and not just punting. Working on operation with [LS] Rick [Lovato] and [K] Jake [Elliott]. They’ve been gelling very well. We’re very happy with what Arryn has been doing, but he’s been doing this in the spring. To get him out here, letting the gunner see the ball where it’s going to land, I think has been fantastic. He’s only going to get better.
Nobody is harder on himself than Arryn really in our whole group. Jake, Rick, they’re all hard on each other, but Arryn, he’ll keep plugging away and he’s been doing a really good job for us lately.