Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on what Washington WR Terry McLaurin is as a player. In the past, both last year and when he played for the Lions, CB Darius Slay has typically followed him. Will he do that with you as well? (Jimmy Kempski)
JONATHAN GANNON: [Washington WR] Terry [McLaurin], he’s a very explosive player. They do a good job of manufacturing touches for him. He can beat you on all three levels – quick game, intermediate game, he can take the top off, has excellent ball skills, gets in and out of the cut very fast, he’s physical, good catch after the run. This is a top tier player.
So, we’re going to have to have a good plan for him. Not quite sure about what we’re going to do as far as matchups yet, but we’ll get to that as we get going here later in the week.
Q. What’s this week going to be like for you and your staff? What would be kind of your thought process as far as self-scout, as far as more time for Washington? How do you think you’re going to handle it? (John McMullen)
JONATHAN GANNON: Yeah, so what we’re doing right now is we’re actually going to meet this afternoon. We had some different things we wanted to look at as a staff, some with the head coach, some without the head coach. Really just comes down to trying to improve everything that we’re doing and how can we improve a little bit by all the variables that go into improvement?
Then we’ll start looking at Washington here later on in the day and the end of this week and then we’ll start kind of refocus back on Monday and treat it like a true game week, so to speak. But we’ll have a jump on them a little bit.
Q. What happened on the back-to-back goal line plays, where someone snuck through? Were those busted coverages? Was it the same kind of mistake? Or was this just something they were able to execute successfully? (Jeff McLane)
JONATHAN GANNON: The one was a little bit of a trickier route, and I probably could have got us in a better call there. Didn’t really love the call down there. The other one that they hit on was a well-executed play by them.
One of the things we’re looking at is just always keep simplifying our communication, our rules, whatever that is within certain coverages and hopefully do a little bit better job executing in the red zone.
Q. A game specific question, what changed for you guys after that second and third drive? And then from a big picture perspective, what’s the value, in your eyes, of time of possession? (Zach Berman)
JONATHAN GANNON: What changed is the game started a little odd, them being where they were. You’d like to keep them to a field goal there and we didn’t. What they were – kind of how they attacked us early, they did a couple things that I didn’t really, in my mind, thought that they were going to attack us. They attacked us a little bit differently than I thought, honestly.
When we came off there, then we talked about it as a staff. It was, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make some adjustments here. What calls do we need to get to? How do we got to start playing to kind of stop the bleeding?’
What I’m very proud about – we had a meeting yesterday with our players. Even though the game didn’t start the way we wanted it to start, obviously, there was no panic, good resilience by our guys. We said, ‘Okay, what are we going to play? What are we going to run? Let’s start executing at a higher level. J.G., you do a better job, and we’ll do a better job, and we’ll get this thing turned around.
It was good to see us kind of get rolling when we did because we needed to. The time of possession thing, that goes over my head a little bit because, in the game you’re not really thinking about, ‘Man, our offense is out there for a while,’ or vice versa. I do know that, when they went down at the beginning of the second half there, we talked about to our guys, if we could go three and out here, they’re kind of rolling a little bit and time of possession is going to get out of hand in the third quarter because you looked up and it’s whatever that drive was.
We did. We went three and out and got the ball back and we didn’t touch the field until the fourth quarter. The value of that, our guys resting and drinking Gatorade on the sideline and the score’s going up for you, there’s a lot of value to that.
But honestly, we just want to do our part and do a good job with how it helps the team and we’re not really worried about time of possession.
Q. I wanted to ask you about two of the young guys in the secondary. With S Marcus Epps, you talked about getting him more involved at safety and we’ve seen that rotation. Is that something you think will grow over these last four games? And with CB Zech McPhearson, we’ve seen him thrown into the mix as an injury replacement a bunch. How has he handled things? (Bo Wulf)
JONATHAN GANNON: Good question. Yes, with [S] Marcus [Epps], yes to your question. He’s doing a good job for us and like I always say, with different packages and different situations in the game and injuries, everyone that has a jersey on game day, we expect to come in and play well.
With [CB] Zech [McPhearson], he came in and played because [CB] Steven [Nelson] got nicked. I really thought he made a big-time improvement this week, as far as just his eye discipline, his alignments, made a couple plays. The one PI, I’m completely okay with the defensive holding. That was good, tight, sticky coverage, the call didn’t go his way.
I think he did a really good job of the snaps that he played, he did a good job for us. You always hear me talk about, especially for young guys, game reps are the most critical, the most valuable thing for a young guy, even more so than practice reps because, when you do make mistakes in a game, that’s the best form of learning in my opinion.
You don’t want to make a lot of mistakes, but he’s doing a good job of not making the same mistake multiple times and he’s playing well.
Q. If I could ask you to expand on that a little bit, a lot of these guys are getting reps with the playoff chase going on and everything like that. I’m sure over the final four games, guys like you mentioned and also DT Milton Williams and maybe LB Davion Taylor, if he comes back. How valuable for their growth is that to not only get the reps in a game, but get them in kind of a playoff situation? (Martin Frank)
JONATHAN GANNON: Big time. These are obviously meaningful games and they’re playing meaningful football right now, which is always, as a team, you want your games to count for something in December and January. They know what’s at stake from the coaches and from the older players that know how the NFL works later in the year.
It’s good. They’re soaking it in, and they’re all business. They’re going about their business just like they have been, but knowing that – because I always laugh, it’s like, ‘Well, this game’s a huge game. Well, so is San Francisco. So is Atlanta. They all count the same.’ What’s a little bit different that I talked to our guys about is now you see kind of the end of the tunnel, and you can kind of start seeing the ramifications of win and losses.
I told those guys, ‘You have to block that out. They all count as one. So, all you worry about is how do we improve and beat Washington?’ That’s our main objective is. All our focus right now is to beat the Washington Football Team.
Q. On page 1 of most playbooks, there’s usually a slogan or a mantra that teams put in there. What’s the mantra that you guys use on that page 1? Where is the defense currently at today in comparison to that slogan? And how close is the defense to basically being what you envisioned compared to that slogan? (Chris Franklin)
JONATHAN GANNON: I told you guys I’m not a big slogan guy. NFL players are very motivated. It is our job sometimes to get them going a little bit, but the guys that we have in the building, there’s not a lot of need for that, in my opinion.
The thing I put up for the defense – we don’t have a [physical] playbook, but number one was the defense, and number two is you. I told them, as long as you follow that order with how you approach your job, how you handle yourself, how you conduct yourself, as long as you have that order the correct way, we’ll be okay and you can play here.
As far as where the defense is, you’re never a finished product. You’re always trying to improve. That’s what the head coach talks about, that’s what we talk about with our guys. Like I’ve said before, you want to be ascending and getting better each week and be playing good, sound football. You don’t want to be making a bunch of mistakes and you don’t want the performances to go up and down. You want to keep ascending in a positive way.
I think we’re right there. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I feel good about where we’re at.
Q. I know you guys have a developmental period during practice, where some of the younger guys or the guys lower on the depth chart kind of get to play a little bit more. I know there are a lot of instances where guys on special teams can sometimes stand out and you think they’d work on defense. Is there a guy this season who’s really taken advantage of those opportunities to earn some time on defense this year at the bottom of the roster? (Mike Kaye)
JONATHAN GANNON: Not that anyone stands out, I think they all do a really good job. Just what we talk about, reps are huge. So, any time we can practice in our scheme, that’s offense versus defense, those are very valuable reps to our guys. I think some of the younger DBs we have in here, some of the younger linebackers, the back seven guys, those are big time reps because we play our stuff and it’s unscouted and you’ve got to go out there and get aligned right and get the communication right, get your eyes right and function within our scheme. There’s a lot of teaching and correction off of that.
And on top of that, the ones and twos are juicing them pretty good if the offense is whupping them. There’s a little bit of pressure. There’s not some, ‘Let’s just throw the ball out and play six reps.’ We tally that, we compete at that and they take that to heart.
Q. When the Jets scored on their first three drives and they’re staring at third and short, and DE Josh Sweat makes that big sack, how big is that for momentum to kind of turn the momentum? And how was he able to make that play, Josh Sweat? (Ed Kracz)
JONATHAN GANNON: It was good because that was our three and out there. They went down the field, went down the field, went down the field, and it was like, ‘All right. We kind of adjusted some calls, this is how we’re going to go.’
I think on first down, it was a quick game concept. We had a good match. They ran the ball on second down, Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] made an excellent play. We get it to third down and went to one of our staples. What you saw is that was one of the plays the head coach showed to the team.
When you stop the tape when [Jets QB] Zach [Wilson] hits his back foot, Grave [DT Javon Hargrave] won – they singled Grave and he pushed the guard right into the guy’s lap and kind of bumped him out of the pocket. And Sweaty [DE Josh Sweat], with a second effort rush, turned the corner and sacked him and did a really good job, if you see guys – go back and watch that play where he hit Zach pretty flush and he braces himself so he doesn’t get the penalty because you’ve seen that show up a couple times where we have really good violent, clean contact where the flag comes out because we land on a guy. That was a violent, clean hit. He lowered his target, which was good, and then you saw him brace to not get a penalty.
The other part of that is – what I was going to say is, when he hit his back foot, he got bumped out of the pocket, all our coverage players are connected with the right leverage and the right position with their eyes right and there’s no air. That’s what typically it is, guys. It’s rush and cover, cover and rush. A shorter third down like that, you need to be tight, and all of our coverage players were tight, playing with the right leverage, with the right technique.
That’s what it takes in this league. All 11 have got to be humming to have those type of plays. To your point, I feel like that kind of probably settled our guys down a little bit. ‘All right, let’s get back to what we need to do to win this game.’ And from then on, we executed at a pretty high level.
The challenge to our guys is let’s execute from the jump a little bit better and me call it a little bit better and go from there.