Q. When a kicker is struggling, what can you personally do, like just you personally to help him improve his performance or improve his consistency? (Mike Kaye)
COACH FIPP: Obviously, the last three weeks he’s had some short misses there. It’s unacceptable for us. He knows that, I know that. I would say at the end of the day your question is a really good one. I mean, I have to do a better job with him just working our fundamentals, our techniques, our drills. We had a good snap, a good hold. I think the operation has been really good for him. He’s obviously made a bunch of longer kicks, so some of it is hard to fathom. At the end of the day, I’m not going to get into all the techniques and detail, but it comes down to just striking the ball more consistently. We got to get him in a little bit better rhythm and make sure he’s striking the ball a little bit more consistently there.
I think just like any player in any times like this, you go back to fundamentals and your routine and your process and you stay the course. He’s a talented player, he’s got a lot of tools, he’s a really talented player, he works really hard at it. It’s really important to him, it’s not a lack of effort, or of a want to, so we’ll just stay the course. I think any player in that position in this league or most players in that position in this league have had to fight through something. This will be a good opportunity for him to fight thought a little adversity here. He’s been a really consistent player for us the last handful of years, so I look forward to the opportunity to get him back on track here.
Q. Just kind of sticking with that, I noticed that you kind of stopped yourself, you said ‘he’s got a lot of confidence’, well you almost said that. How do you get him to have that confidence back? (Nick Fierro)
COACH FIPP: I misspoke there, I don’t know if he has a lot of confidence. I’m sure he does have a lot of confidence in himself. I’m also not naïve to the fact that he has struggled a little here the last three weeks, so I’m sure that takes a toll on you.
I think you get it back by going out there and practicing and developing confidence by executing in practice and then by getting it done in the games. He’s got a lot to draw on. He’s had a lot of success. He’s made a lot of big kicks. All those things give you confidence. I’m sure at some point in his career, I haven’t really seen it or been a part of it, but I’m sure at some point in his career he’s struggled a little bit and had to fight though that, so I’m sure he can draw on those experiences as well.
Q. What have you learned about LB Shaun Bradley this year? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH FIPP: Shaun’s done a nice job for us. He had two tackles, well technically he got credited for two tackles. One guy ran out of bounds on the punt on one of them, and then he got off the block and made the tackle on the first kickoff of the game. He’s done a great job of just continuing to develop. He came into this league obviously in a weird year, didn’t get the preseason games. For us, he was actually – him and [LB] Davion [Taylor] were the two rookie linebackers and he started for us in the opening game on all four special teams’ units. I would say as the season’s gone on, he’s gotten better and better and he’s made more plays. He still got a lot of room for development and improvement. I talked to him yesterday online and went through the game with him. He’s really conscientious, and I look forward to continuing to work with him. He’s a talented player. I think the future’s really bright for him.
Q. With K Jake Elliott and then in reference to WR Greg Ward, it seemed like there was another punt there with Greg that he should’ve fielded. When do the results or lack thereof, actually start to outweigh — when you keep talking about potential and what someone has done for you in the past, when do they start to factor more when you’re making decisions on whether these guys should still continue to play?(Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: I think with Jake, obviously the guy has a pretty strong track record. This is the first blip on the radar, I would say. We’re a ways away from being in that position with him. So, hopefully that answers your question there.
Q. Greg, it seemed like he didn’t field another punt that should have been fielded. You guys got away with it, it went into the end zone, but tell me what you thought he should’ve done there? (Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: The one that went into the end zone I thought was a good decision by him. You thought he should have fielded that?
Q. I’m asking you if you thought so? (Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: No, I thought that was a great decision by him. He did a great job stepping underneath the ball. He sold like he was going to catch it and didn’t throw up the fair catch signal. He drew the coverage on the two gunners, held those guys for a little bit. Then the ball dropped down inside the 10-yard line there, actually inside the eight and he let that thing go and he got the touchback out of it. I thought that was a good decision there.
Q. I think there was a decision though at the 20-yard line where he let it bounce, he didn’t field it and it bounced down to the 10-yard line. It looked like he could’ve caught it but that’s really not my question. In terms of WR Jalen Reagor, what goes into the decision when to use him? He had the long punt return last week but he didn’t get used this week. How do you decide on when to put him back there? (Ed Kracz)
COACH FIPP: I hear you on the other punt. I thought he was referring to the one that was the touchback from what he said. There was one that they punted from their 48, it was 4th and 1. We had our punt safe unit on the field, the ball bounced on the 20-yard line on the right sideline. I would say on that one with Greg, we would like to catch every ball back there deep. That being said, goal number one for us on that unit is to give the ball back to the offense. That entails a lot of things. Number one, if it’s fourth and less than five you can’t have a pre-snap penalty or be offsides. Number two, you’ve got to catch the ball back there deep or you got defend the fake second. Next, if the ball is kicked back there, you’re trying to catch it or if you don’t catch it you got to make sure your players don’t touch the football. After you catch it, if you do catch it, whether it be off the ground or in the air, then you have to make sure you secure it after the catch and hold on to the ball.
I think for Greg Ward back there, one of the things he does the best and really, truly he’s the best on the football team at it, is making all those decisions back there. There’s a lot to it and I think sometimes one of the things he does really well is he takes his ego out of that play. I’m sure he would like to try to go catch every single football, but if he doesn’t feel comfortable catching it then the last thing we want him to do is to try to go put himself at risk of putting that ball down on the ground, especially on that part of the field, 20-yard line, 15-yard line. A turnover there is obviously points and potentially six points or seven.
[On the decision when to use Jalen Reagor] there’s a lot of different things that go into that. I’d say every game is just a little bit different there. I totally get your question, I understand what you’re looking at. I know I told you I’m not going to go through all of it in detail, but I will say in that particular game, it was a little bit different. Some of the scenarios, I’ll just go through a little bit of it. Obviously, we were in the first quarter, they punted early, truth be told I made a bad call personally on the return call that I went with there and I put those guys in a little bit of a bad spot. We could have had a better play, that’s on me, but we didn’t have him out there for that one. Then he went down, he got nicked up in the game and he went down for a period of time. I think the trainers were working on him. All I know is they come to me and said, ‘He’s out for right now’. Then in that second quarter there he came back up, and then there are some situations we feel like Greg just handles better and that we try to take some of the load off Jalen and not put every punt on him. Then what happened is, we planned on getting him in the second half. We planned on getting him up there and try to get him going, but they didn’t punt the ball in the second half, so we weren’t able to do that.
Q. You were asked earlier about Shaun Bradley, obviously you’re coaching him on special teams, but I wanted to ask you about a defensive play he made Sunday. When he picked up that receiver deep on DE Josh Sweat’s important strip sack, what does that tell you about his development? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH FIPP: Honestly, I can’t speak on the defensive play there, I really don’t know.
Q. Not to belabor Jake’s 22-yard kick, but it looked like to me watching it again, that his foot was entirely on the right side of the ball when he struck it. Is that what you saw as well? (Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: I would say you could ask him that. He may go into more detail on that. I’m not going to go into all the detail and what I think mechanically but in general, obviously, he’s not striking the ball consistently enough. I’ll just say it that way and he can kind of answer the rest for you.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the on-sides kick that you guys recovered. I mean it seemed a lot more harrowing than it probably should’ve been. What’s the coaching teaching point on that beginning with RB Corey Clement and then just diving on the ball and recovering it? (Martin Frank)
COACH FIPP: At the end of the day, we’d like it to look a little bit cleaner than that. Our goal on that play is to come down with the football. Those guys did a nice job with that. That team’s been out there, that hands teams been out there three times this year. They’re three for three, 100 percent on the season. We’ll probably make some modifications on how we coach it and teach it just a little bit based off of what we’ve seen out there. I felt good with the result.
Q. How difficult is it when you had a punter like Saints P Thomas Morstead out there to try and confuse you guys? Also do you feel that style of on-side kick will become more prevalent given that it almost worked last week, and it worked earlier in the year against the Cowboys? (Chris Franklin)
COACH FIPP: I’m not sure, like they had the kicker and the punter out there on the field at the same time. Truth be told, I’m not sure that having a punter out there really helped them. If you look at the film close, he was the guy that kind of circled over the top and he kind of had a chance to maybe get in the pile. You could see some hesitation on him on that play, so I don’t know if that really helped them.
I would say the on-side kick, they did a great job hitting it. [Saints K Wil] Lutz hit a nice ball on that, and I thought it was a really good play by them, well executed. Like I said, at the end of the play they didn’t get the ball back, so I’m sure they’re sitting there on their side saying it wasn’t good enough. I would say that it’s a difficult play to defend especially how they hit it. The ball is way short of 10 yards, there’s a lot of traffic up there and I think it’s definitely intriguing. I’m sure more people will look at it going forward.
Q. Following up on the Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward discussion. You said that Greg’s the best out there making decisions with the punt team, is that why he’s getting the returns he is and how do you know how Jalen can handle those situations until you expose him to those situations? (Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: I think like any young player, I think there’s a lot of development that goes on at that position. People I think take some of that for granted. I think a lot of people think it’s as easy as just going back there and catching the ball. There’s a lot more to it than that: where their players are, where our players are, what return we have called, which direction the ball is kicked, the wind, where you are on the field. There’s a lot that goes into it. All of those guys who go back there take time to develop and not only that but also just catching the ball. When you look back in history, I think [former NFL WR Devin] Hester put like five to eight of them on the ground his rookie year. So, there’s some of that with those guys. Like I said before — and I definitely get your questioning and concern, and obviously the guy is the most explosive player with the ball in his hands back there. So why don’t we get him back there more? But the same time we’re trying to balance not only getting the ball in his hands, but getting the ball in his hands when he can really make an impact in the game.
All returns aren’t the same, for example 4th and 1 we have our safe team on the field. Their gunners are singled up on the outside, they’re punting right near midfield. The chance for a return in that situation is not necessarily great anyways. So, for us it makes sense to put Greg back there and let him handle a lot of that. That takes a lot of load off of Jalen’s plate when he’s got a lot of other things that are going on.
I hope that kind of helps a little bit. I would say this, and I definitely get your line of questioning. We want the ball in Jalen’s hand when we think he can make an impact in the game. When we can set up a play that’s going to take advantage of his skill set. Unfortunately, that’s not every punt. Now every punt entails a returner back there catching the ball, but every punt return is not the same. So, we try to put him in those situations where he can make the biggest impact for our football team, but also not give him all the load and stress of all the other stuff that goes along with the position because right now, he’s got a lot on his plate. I think as he develops, and the game slows down for him in the National Football League – I think when you come into this league, just like when you go into college for the first time coming from high school, it’s like drinking out of a firehose. I mean everything is happening really fast. I think what happens is over time the game starts to slow down for you. So, you’re not thinking about so many other things and you have more time to focus on maybe [things like], okay now let me think a little bit more about this punt return and catching the ball and returning the ball and the situation of the game. What’s the score on the scoreboard? How aggressive do I need to be? There’s just so many variables to it. Really what we’re trying to do, or certainly what I’m trying to do, is number one put the team first. Put our team in the best situation we can to win the football game. Put the individual players in the best situation they can be in to play or perform at their peak level with the mindset of continuing to grow and develop those players so that they can reach their full potential when the opportunity is right.