Q. What’s your confidence level with K Jake Elliott after he misses another short kick and are you planning to bring in any other kickers to try out?(Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: Oh no, I got a ton of confidence in Jake. I was bummed for him missing that PAT, shoot I think he’s 100%, well I know he was 100% on PATs going into that game. I think he was one of only a handful of kickers in this league, who were in that situation there and obviously came up short. We obviously expect him to make that kick. I thought he did a great job coming back and making that 40-plus yard kick there for us in the game and I got no worries with him at all.
Q. On draft night when WR Jalen Reagor was picked, there was such excitement about him as a punt returner. Why is he not the full-time punt returner at this point? (Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: We’re excited about Jalen. We actually had him up and ready to go on a couple of those and then the situation changed. Some of that depends on the third-down play and the situation, the fourth-down play, yard-line, down and distance, all that stuff. But we had him up and ready to go. He’s done a nice job. He works hard in practice at it. I think he’s gotten better and better and more comfortable. He’s obviously got a lot on his plate right now. He is playing a lot of offensive football. He was obviously out for a long time, missed, came back, and then he’s catching up. He’s catching up on the offensive side of the ball. He’s got a lot on his plate, I think on that side of the ball too. We’re not trying to give him too much, but I got confidence in him to do that. We’ll try to continue to work him in. I thought we were going to have a chance to get him in there in a couple of situations in the last game, it just didn’t quite work out. But I’m sure we’ll see him back there at some point here. Like I said, I think [WR] Greg’s [Ward] done a nice job. I thought he did a nice job in that game. I think he averaged just under ten yards a return and put our team in good position there.
Q. P Cameron Johnston started out the year looking like he was really booming the ball, very consistently. Had some games lately where there’s been some less than booming punts in there in situations where maybe you wanted a booming punt. There was one early in the game, I think against Seattle. What do you see there? What’s going on with Cam? Is it a weather thing? What have you been telling him? (Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: He’s probably like every punter in this league after every game they’d like to have a handful of balls back. I know it’s well documented the last couple of weeks, he was a little bit more inconsistent than we would like for sure, I know than he would like. I thought he started to get his game back in this last game. He did have the punt from the eight-yard line that probably wasn’t his best punt, did have a lot of hang time on it, there was no return, it was a fair catch. But sure, we’d like to hit that one a little bit better than that. Other than that, I think he came out of the game with a pretty good net, 43-plus yards and had some really good punts in the game. He obviously had the 60-plus yard punt with the 50-plus yard net there on that one, that was obviously a great play, great coverage.
I mean, I think all those guys, it never comes down to one guy. It’s not just the punter by himself, there’s 11 guys out there on the field so it’s him and the other guys around him, all doing their job. I thought we executed in coverage in that game a little bit better than we had the last couple. So, it’s a collective effort but I got no concerns with Cam, I think he’s on track. I’m not saying he’s played every game perfect and wouldn’t like to have punts back. But I think overall I’m really pleased with where he’s at in his game right now.
Q. I noticed you backed off LB Alex Singleton’s snaps a little bit, obviously playing all the defensive snaps that he is, but how did you fill those snaps without Alex having to play 15 to 20 snaps? How were you able to fill those snaps?(Ed Kracz)
COACH FIPP: I think we talk about that every week. I know you guys have asked about those linebackers and how much they’ve been playing, and we talked about that last week in the press conference. At the end of the day, we just kind of take what we have to work with and find a way to get the job done the best that we can. Now Alex was a little bit different in this last game because not only the last couple games he’s been kind of the one linebacker who stayed on the field most of the game, but he also was nicked up going into the game, so we want to make sure we get him back because we’re going to need him going forward here. So hopefully we’ll get him back on the field playing a little bit more for us this week.
But at the end of the day, yeah, we just try to manage everybody the best we can. We’re cognizant of where they are physically, and also how many snaps they are playing on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, but it’s a balancing act for sure.
Exactly who we were able to fill his role with, went with a lot of different players. [TE] Caleb Wilson was up this week. So, this past week he was up, and then we got him on the field a little bit there and then [DE] Genard Avery was up so he ended up taking a couple snaps for him there. Genard wasn’t up the last couple of weeks obviously. Caleb was up the week before. But yeah so we just kind of passed it around and did the best we could.
Q. Your kickoff return game, I know you had the one big return in this game but for the most part now it seems like when the punt is kicked short, do you think it’s by design because it seems like they are getting you stopped inside the 25? (Nick Fierro)
COACH FIPP: I would say it’s kind of like what we did when they returned the ball, we stopped them inside the 25. I think that’s going around the league. I think I said a couple weeks ago that that’s kind of how those plays go, you kind of chop a guy down inside the 25 on a couple plays but then all of a sudden, you give up one that goes out past the 40. That’s kind of what’s going on I think around the league. I don’t think what we’re doing is totally different than anyone else there. That being said, we’d like to bring the ball out further every single time if you’re asking me that, yeah, no question about it.
But I was really proud with how those guys fought in that game. The first two didn’t go great, the first one was our worst one. We made a little bit of an adjustment on the backside of the return. Those guys handled that well. I probably didn’t put them in a good enough spot on the first one. We had a safety matched up on a linebacker, and that guy ended up sliding off and making a play. Then I thought through the course of the game, those guys really improved and, really, to me that’s how those plays go down. They just kept on fighting. They got a little better the next one, a little bit better the next one and then by the last one they kind of got the thing figured out and we ended up cracking through on it. A lot of players end up giving up in those situations or playing a little bit less. I was proud of the way they fought in that thing and then to have the really solid return there at the end of the game.
Q. I can’t remember what the longest return is this year, whether it’s a kickoff, or whether it’s a punt and I don’t know if you try to do things differently during the season to try to generate more yardage out of those things. Is there anything that you can do?(Howard Eskin)
COACH FIPP: Yeah, I think we swing the bat as hard as we can swing. We’ve tried a bunch of different things. I don’t think if you look at every game, you’ll see the exact same return going on. We try the best we can to put in the best gameplay we can going into any given week. Obviously, it depends on who our players are, who their players are. It’s also returner dependent, you are trying to put that guy in a situation where he’s doing the things he does best. So, there’s a lot of variables that go into it, but it’s certainly not a lack of effort on the players behalf, on our behalf, but definitely we’d like to continue to improve. I think over the course of the season, we’ve gotten better and better. Our worst game on kickoff return was that Pittsburgh game that we talked about with you guys in the press conference there. I think since that game we’ve improved steadily. So, I’m excited about the way these guys keep on working and fighting and we’ll just keep swinging at it.
Q. On the kickoff returns, are there like steadfast rules on when to take it out of the end-zone or is that more of a feel thing for the returner? (Bo Wulf)
COACH FIPP: We have a lot of rules. It depends on who the kicker is, hang time, distance, location, what the return is on any given place. So, there are a lot of factors that go into that thing. I’m not going to go over all of them specifically in any given game probably ever with you guys, but our players have a pretty good feel for that, I think. I feel like those guys have done a really good job of making a lot of really good decisions. I don’t think it’s any different than that punt returner. I know everyone likes to focus on why did he or why didn’t he take it out, or why did he or why didn’t he fair catch it or how come he didn’t get to the ball. Those guys have a large responsibility on their shoulders there. There’s a lot that goes into it, and I think, overall, those guys have done a really good job back there handling that stuff for us.
Q. We’ve seen Jake Elliott have a chance at some onside kicks late in the last two games. They’re obviously low percentage plays, but what would you like to see differently on those? Is there anything you’d like to see differently?(Dave Zangaro)
COACH FIPP: Yeah, just us getting the ball at the end of it.
Q. Is the execution there? I mean, what’s the plan when he goes to kick one of those? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH FIPP: The plan is to get the ball back at the end of the play there. I think we’re no different than everybody in the league. I’m not trying to make light of it, I mean that in all honestly. What would we like different? To get the ball back. How could it happen? I think when you look at the plays that teams have gotten the ball back on those things it happens from a number of different reasons. A lot of times it’s just an unforced error by the opponent. Some people could argue that was because the kick made him do that. But there’s a lot of things that go into that. At the end of the day, we’re trying to get the ball back the best we can. We try to come up with a different way. I think the whole league is working on trying to do that. I don’t think anyone’s done that very well. Unfortunately, the decks really stacked against us on the play. We’re not going to have any lack of effort. We’re going to do our best we can to get it back, but they are difficult plays. Obviously, it’s well documented just by statistics alone. But we’ll keep fighting on that thing, we’ll keep giving it our best shot and hopefully we come up with the ball.