Q. With K Jake Elliott, it looks like he’s going through maybe a little bit of a tough time right now, he missed another extra point this game. How do you work with kickers? It seems like everybody goes through a phase like that, every kicker at some point in his career. How do you work with kickers like that and can you tell when it’s a confidence issue, maybe as opposed to something else, mechanical? (Nick Fierro)
COACH FIPP: Obviously there’s a lot of questions about that. We expect to make every single kick that we go out there and have the opportunity to make. I know I feel that way, I know Jake feels the same way. Obviously, we don’t expect to miss PATs, it is two in the last two weeks. That being said, I think he’s still playing really well for us, overall. He had a nice 52-yard field goal in the beginning of the game was really good, hit a great ball on that. I thought that was a tough kick going that direction, in that stadium on that day, so I was proud of that.
But I would say at the end of the day, I think when we evaluate him, I look at it in a much bigger sense than any one kick or any one game or any two weeks put together. Throughout the course of this season, he had the 52-yarder there, he’s made every field goal but one underneath 52 yards and he does have the two missed PATs there, but I think overall he’s still in a good spot. Obviously, we’re always working to improve, so I think this week we’ll continue to do what we do. Just work on our rhythm and striking the ball, making good contact with that thing, making sure we get that PAT cleaned up, but I got a lot of confidence in him still and I feel good about where he’s at.
Q. On WR Jalen Reagor’s punt return touchdown, what did you see specifically from him and what can that do for a rookie’s confidence having that big play?(Dave Zangaro)
COACH FIPP: I was really excited for him to have that opportunity there in the game and then obviously take advantage of it. I mean, there was a lot of parts to that play obviously. Anytime you have a big return like that you got to have a lot of really good blocking. I think on the left side of the screen or the field [DB] Grayland Arnold and [CB] Avonte Maddox dominated the double team and that gunner on the outside, which gave him a chance to catch that ball out in space right there. He did put it on the ground, I thought his eyes came off the catch a little bit right there at the finish. He started looking at the return a little early, what we call running before catching, but he obviously picked the ball back up.
Then on the right side of the field on that right gunner over there [CB Michael] Jacquet and [S] K’Von Wallace did a good job getting him washed down inside and [LB] Duke Riley came in and finished him off there. Then K’von actually came back around and had another big block for us, it really helped start the thing. It was a good play too because there’s a lot of things that went into it. [LB Alex] Singleton was out on the field, he was playing because [LB] Davion Taylor went down. Then we had [TE] Richard Rogers on the field, who was out there, and he was playing because [LB] T.J. Edwards had gone down in the game right there. So, we had a bunch of guys out there that were still competing, I think it was seven minutes left in the game.
The offense had the big score on the fourth down play to [WR] Greg Ward in the corner of the end zone, we kicked off I think we tackled him on the 23. Our defense did a great job going three and out. Then we had the opportunity to have them punt backed up off the 21-yard line there where we could be a little bit more aggressive. We were able to get Jalen in the game which was big. Then I think the last couple blocks on that side [LB] Shaun Bradley and [RB] Corey Clement finished those last couple blocks and then Jalen made those couple guys miss. So obviously, a great play, fun to be a part of.
The most important thing for us is winning the football game, so we’re disappointed we didn’t get that done, but I was definitely happy for those guys on that play. Those guys have worked really hard all year long. I know there was a question last week about scoring touchdowns in the return game and I said we’re going to just keep swinging the bat. I think those guys have done that. They’re a resilient group. They work really hard. They compete every play no matter what the score is on the scoreboard. I’m proud of them and happy for them that they were able to make that play.
Q. Jalen Reagor obviously missed a chunk of the season, but I mean you brought him along slowly as a return guy. You haven’t put him in a lot of negative situations where he’s up against his own goal-line. What’s your confidence level in his catching ability right now as far as using him anytime, anywhere? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH FIPP: I got a lot of confidence in him. I mean I still see us using a combination of both [WR] Greg Ward and Jalen. I think Jalen’s done a great job. Obviously, he’s got to continue to work on catching the football. He’s put two on the ground now this season for us, so he’s got to continue to work on that, there’s no question about that. You know he was out for five weeks there. During that five weeks he had that thumb injury, so he wasn’t able to catch balls. Wasn’t able to catch a pass much less a punt during those five weeks and then we brought him back in and we got him going.
Then when he came back, he was also playing, I think the last five weeks that we’ve been playing, or he’s been playing again, I think he’s played 77% of the offensive snaps or something like that. So, he’s definitely got a lot on his plate, then obviously the punt return role. So I think we’ll just try to manage him the best we can and keep trying to take advantage of his skill set and his ability to make big plays for us. At the same time, just manage his load, and I still see Greg being a part of that and going back there and helping us. He’s done a great job making a lot of really good decisions and getting positive yards for us also. So, I feel good about both those guys being a part of this thing and helping each other out.
Q. Getting back to the PAT thing and not just Jake Elliott, around the league there were a number of missed PATs this week. Now that there’s pretty large sample size since it got moved back, have you noticed, have you studied, is it more difficult to make a PAT than a 33-yard field goal? It’s not a ton of 33-yard field goals.(John McMullen)
COACH FIPP: I would say that’s probably the same number, if you added them all together. I mean, kicks are just so different individually, kick to kick. Like I think I’ve said before, whether it’s inside or outside, early in the season, late in the season, there’s weather, there’s no weather, it’s on grass or it’s on field turf, I would say that there’s a lot of variables to that. I mean I think like when you look at Jake specifically, which is really the guy obviously you spend the most time watching, I think his first year he might have been like high 93% on PATs. Obviously, we had a bunch of them that year, that was 2017. Then I think the next couple years I want to say he was right in that 94% range. So maybe it will come up but if you throw in one more miss or one more make it’s obviously going to skew those numbers.
Then I think right now obviously sitting just a little bit below that with two misses, but if you project him making the rest of those things throughout the rest of the year, I think his numbers would be pretty much the same. I think that’s pretty close to what the league averages right there that 93/94 percentile and I think its kind of held fairly steady there over the last couple of years. I could be wrong on that, but that’s kind of where I see the PAT numbers.
Q. LB Davion Taylor obviously left the game with a knee injury, but you got to see him for 12 games, he’s a high draft pick and we haven’t really seen him a lot on defense. What did he bring to the special teams group this year? (Mike Kaye)
COACH FIPP: I really admire him and got a lot of respect for him. He came in here, I think there was a lot of expectations on him and he wasn’t playing a ton on the defensive side of the football, but he really embraced his role as a special team’s player. He had a lot to learn even in that phase of the game and since the day he got here, he’s done really nothing but work extremely hard. I wish everybody could see how hard he works. He comes in for extra time when the protocols allowed him to come. He’d come in meet one-on-one. He’s one of the first guys, now we have to do a lot of it virtually, but he’s one of the first guys to get online and go through the game with me virtually. He’ll call me every evening after practice, and he has a couple questions for me.
As the season has gone along, he ended up making more and more plays for us. I thought he could see the fruits of his labor really. But I think he’s a really good story. He’s a really good person who works really hard at it. This game is really important to him. I think it’s well documented that he’s behind the curve a little bit just in terms of number of reps playing football, but he’s got a great skill set and a lot of ability. I really think he’s got a tremendous amount of potential and his future is going to be really bright. Obviously, I was disappointed for him more than anybody that he got hurt and had the injury, but I look forward to what he’ll do. I’m really excited about him.
Q. You cited Jalen Reagor’s offensive workload there, but WR Greg Ward has taken more snaps than him these past two weeks. What is holding you back at this point from making Jalen the full-time punt returner? (Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: I’ll just stay with the same answer I said, we’re going to balance those guys out the best we can. I don’t think you’d find too many punt returners who the primary punt returner is with that big of an offensive role. I could be wrong in that, but I think it’s really difficult to do. My decision making is to put our football team in the best possible position that we can put them in on any given play. So, we’ll continue to balance the rep load. I think some of it has to do with the amount of opportunity that you’re going to have on any given return. Not all returns are the same. I think I’ve talked about that in the last handful of weeks with you guys in these meetings here. When we think we have an opportunity for him to make an impact in a game, we’ll try to get him in there as much as we can, but I think that’s ultimately what it goes down to.
Q. You mentioned that Jalen Reagor initially dropping the ball on the 73 yarder, which of course isn’t optimal, but I know you look at these things very closely. It just seems to me, I know a lot of people mentioned this on Twitter, the great WR DeSean Jackson punt return started with him dropping the ball and picking it up. Does that mess up the coverage at all? It seems like I’ve seen a lot of those, where the punt is initially muffed, and the guy picks it up and suddenly there’s a lot of room there? (Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: I wasn’t here for that D-Jack play, but I certainly saw it and when I saw the ball go on the ground and after he picked it up, to be honest with you, I thought the exact same thing, that play came into my mind. But yeah, I wouldn’t disagree with what you’re saying. I think there is a tendency sometimes when the ball goes on the ground to kind of just think that the play is almost over, or now if you’re in coverage, now you can just crowd the football and some of those guys lose sight of their responsibility maybe just a little bit. I think that’s probably the case. So, I don’t know if that helped us or not. I think we still had a bunch of really good blocks and all that stuff.
I will say just a handful of coaches and I were talking about really the same topic you’re asking about. I think even some of the defensive guys feels like that can happen when [the] running back fumbles the ball back in the backfield, or a snap goes awry and then all of a sudden, a guy picks it up and then he ends up, a quarterback picks it back up and ends up getting somebody open deep, maybe some of those defenders let their guard down. So, I think what you’re saying is probably — yeah there’s some degree of truth to that. Whether or not that it affected the play, I can’t really tell. But we’re happy with the result, but not every part of the play. There’s still a lot of room for improvement for us.
Q. What goes into deciding which side of the hash you want to kick the PAT on and not taking it from right down the middle? (Bo Wulf)
COACH FIPP: That’s a good question. I think [K] Jake [Elliott] feels just maybe a little bit more comfortable on the left hash, if he had to pick. That being said, we also look at all the numbers. I got a large book of all his kicks, not only from games, but also practice. I would say it’s slightly higher from the left hash, it’s like 1% higher from the left hash. That being said, I think if you look closely, there’s times in games where we have actually kicked some of those kicks from the right hash so some of it also has to do with the weather, and the conditions, whether it’s a left to right wind or right to left wind. But the wind and weather has something to do with it, but obviously if everything’s neutral or close to neutral, then we’d pick the left hash.