Q. What should have WR Greg Ward and WR Jalen Reagor done on those punts that went over their heads? Should they have fielded them? (Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: That was unfortunate. Obviously, we got to catch the football. We got two good returners back there, those guys need to do a better job of fielding the ball. Obviously, in that situation there was some wind and weather and all that stuff factors into it. That being said, that’s their job and that’s why those guys were back there, to catch the ball. I still got a lot of confidence in those guys. I know they can do that, and we’ll keep working on it in practice and we’ll get better at it. We definitely gave up some field position there and put our offense back further on the field then it should have been and that didn’t help our football team out.
Q. The average drive starts Sunday was the worst this season. Those two punts were a contributing factor but so were those two penalties on RB Corey Clement and LB Shaun Bradley. Are you having more of those than you’d like this year from your teams?(Paul Domowitch)
COACH FIPP: I would say this, unfortunately it seems like every time we have a decent return, we also have a penalty to go along with it. I thought there was a lot of good blocking on both those kickoff returns, and we had about nine guys doing a great job and then unfortunately we had a couple blocks that obviously are decisions that we just can’t do. I got to do a better job of putting these guys in better situations in practice and what-not, but at the end of the day that definitely hurts us.
I know you talked about drive start, obviously I’ve always said that drive starts all three phases working together as one. At the end of the day, there’s three ways that a drive can start. A drive can start on a kickoff or a kickoff return, obviously on that special teams affects that 100%. Then there can be a turnover, you can get the ball on a turnover, whether it’s a fumble or interception or obviously a turnover on downs. If you’re doing that, you are negating the punt, so obviously some real negative drives start that way. Then the third way is on punt or punt return. And then obviously on punt, punt return that depends on where you punt with the football. If we’re punting from our 10, then obviously they’re going to have a better drive start then if we’re punting on our 50. But at the end of the day in that game we didn’t do a good enough job on special teams and our phase and our areas of creating field position for our football team and that did not help our offense at all.
Q. Overall it looked like to me the punt return yardage was like 47 to nothing or something. That’s a big deal. I mean, how — you’re not practicing that much outdoors now, I guess. How do you get things better? You said you have confidence in Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward, but you know we’re nine games into the season, how do you get to the point where you can really make some progress here?(Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: I mean, at the end of the day, you talked about return yardage. I think I’ve said before, the biggest thing for us is net, but their net was way better than our net was in that game. I think that’s what I was alluding to when I say that we didn’t do a good enough job of giving our offense field position in that game in our phase. Obviously, they had the 71-yard punt where the ball went over our head which we referred to in the very first question. The ball going over our heads, I mean you just can’t do that. You just can’t give good football teams or any football team in this league that much field position. So, certainly we’ve got to catch the football, it starts with that.
Why do I have confidence in these guys? We do practice, we practiced outdoors last week. We were able to do that, we’re able to get out there and hit these guys balls. I mean I’ve seen him catch balls in practice, they caught the ball well in warmups, in the pregame, all that stuff. I will say that the opponent punted the ball four times. On those four times some of it was situational plays we had to have our defense — well two of them were in the plus 50 area of the field so you’re not going to get a lot of return yards on those punts anyway if you do get any. So, field position affects, where they’re punting the ball, affects the return. You refer to the 40 something yards of return yards, that they had. We, on the other hand, punted a couple times backed up, real deep. Not only did we punt backed up deep, but it was also fourth and really long situations. So, you’re looking at fourth and 11 plus. So it’s a little bit more advantageous for them to put a return unit on the field.
On the flip side of that, they punted four times, two of them from the 50, the other two were fourth and short, fourth and 2, fourth and 6. So now you’re not able to play for the return game quite as much. So, I would say every phase factors into every single play. And at the end of the day, for me and my job, we got to do a better job on special teams of helping our offense and our defense out with field position on the plays that we are responsible for.
Q. More of a big picture question on the kickoff returns. Now that we got a pretty large sample size since they changed the rules a couple years back, how much more difficult has it made it in general for teams to return kicks? Besides the numbers coming down, other than if you saw Bears WR Cordarrelle Patterson last night with Chicago, he’s great, but just in general, how much more difficult is it to return kicks, since that time? (John McMullen)
COACH FIPP: I think there’s a bunch of factors that are contributing to all that. I’ll say at the end of the day, they’re difficult plays. There’s a lot of teams that are doing a lot of twisting with their coverage units they didn’t do in the past. Kickers are doing a better job placing the ball. I think everybody, the whole league, has a better understanding of what’s successful on those plays and what makes those plays difficult on the flip side of them. But I would say at the end of the day, a lot of it is like a boom or bust, right? You have a bunch of 20 something yard returns and then you’re hoping to pop the big one and the teams that pop the big one have the best average drive starts and the best average return yardage. But I thought our guys did a good job. Like I said, I thought we had a lot of really good blocks. I thought we went into the thing with a pretty good plan and we executed most of it well. Unfortunately, we just had two penalties that you can’t have in a return game.
Q. Just to follow up on an earlier question, Giants S Jabrill Peppers did have some pretty good returns. What were some of the issues in the coverage game on the punt? (Ed Kracz)
COACH FIPP: I would say it was a combination of both punt and coverage. We just didn’t execute well enough as a group at the end of the day.
Q. Jalen Reagor returned punts in college obviously and Greg Ward has done a little bit of it, but is there anything to be said for maybe just relative inexperience in terms of you know situational when to catch the ball and when not to?(Ed Kracz)
COACH FIPP: No, I think Greg’s was a little bit different than Jalen’s. I mean they’re two different plays. One of them the ball was near midfield, that’s Greg’s and he was standing roughly around the 10-yard line and I think the ball bounced on the 11. I think it got caught up in a gust of wind and he didn’t feel comfortable catching the ball and so he didn’t. Obviously, we’d rather have him catch that ball. That being said, I’d rather also have him let it go than muff a catch if he doesn’t feel comfortable with it. Now that being said, we get paid to catch the football back there and we got to do a better job of that.
I think Jalen’s was a little bit different factor. Obviously, the guy hit a bomb, went over his head, I think 61 yards in the air, and then another 10 yards on the roll. We had a little bit more time, anytime you kick it that far you got a little bit more time to get back there and catch the thing. You don’t have gunners in your face because it’s a further punt, but yeah, he did it in college. I think he is a developing player. By no means am I saying he shouldn’t be able to handle that. I know he knows he can do it. We know he can do it. I believe in him. I think he’s going to be a really good player back there. I think experience helps everybody in this league at every position. I’m certain that over time that’ll help him and he’ll get better and better. We believe in practice and experience. But at the end of the day, we also are not making excuses. We have to do a better job for our football team. In that game right there we did not do well enough in our phase certainly and that’s really ultimately my responsibility.
Q. It seems just based on the way the linebacker depth chart is this year that your top three linebackers on Sunday were also your top three players in terms of snaps and special teams and that’s somewhat rare from what it’s been in the past with you. How did those guys hold up and is kind of the difference between LB T.J. Edwards, LB Alex Singleton and then LB Duke Riley, and then the two rookies so much that you had to keep them on the field?(Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: No. At the end of the day, we try to play the best 11 players based obviously on their role on offense, defense and special teams of the guys that are available to us on game day. Those guys are all obviously really good players. I think some of the numbers overall on defense probably get skewed depending on are they a 12 personnel team, are they 11, how much are they playing of what. I think you’d have to talk to [Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim] Schwartz but I’m pretty sure they played a lot of 12, so that put all those linebackers on the field. I think last year though our linebackers’ rep count was pretty high also, so I don’t think that’s way different. I think if you go further back maybe it was a little bit more different. But at the end of the day, I mean, that’s really not a factor. I mean I don’t see that being a factor. I think all those guys have good energy. They’re young players so they got a little bit more energy. They’ve done a good job for us throughout the year.
Q. One thing I kind of forgot earlier, you mentioned that every time you seem to have a good return, there has been a flag, which is certainly something we have all noticed. Is this a discipline issue? Are they calling things closer this year? What’s going on there? If it is discipline what — I’m assuming you’re emphasizing this to guys. Are they just not listening or what’s going on?(Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: No. These guys work really hard and they do a great job listening, they got a lot of attention to detail. I think it’s well documented actually the opposite there haven’t been a lot of penalties called. I mean, I think it’s been fewer penalties in all phases, certainly on special teams. At the end of the day, I would say more than anything, it comes down to technique. Technique and execution. On the [RB] Corey’s [Clement] block, that guy’s pads were under ours probably just a little bit and got caught off to the edge of us, we didn’t have our feet underneath us maybe quite as well as we could. Nine times out of ten he is probably in good enough position and that one on that play, it wasn’t good enough to get the job done. When you play good football teams that’s what they do to you. We just got to do a better job of being a little bit better really in our execution and our technique.
Then I would say on the [LB] Shaun Bradley one, I mean he pushes a guy in the back. The guy really had already slid off the play. I think the ball was out to the 28. The guy who made the tackle was the guy who the penalty was on, so it wasn’t like it kept him from making the tackle. Just was probably a poor decision right at the end of the play. He just put his right hand on the guy’s back just a little bit too much. In this league I mean, these officials do a great job seeing everything and so they caught it for us. With Shaun, he is a young player. I think he’s learning and growing and developing. I think he’ll continue to do that. I got confidence in both of those guys. I think they’re disciplined. They’re detailed. They’re dialed in. They’re trying to execute right. It’s just unfortunate, obviously it’s not acceptable. We got to do better. I got to do better job with them, but I think we’ll improve going forward.