Q. At what point during the week did you have a pretty good sense about K Cameron Dicker that he would be okay? (Reuben Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: He went through that whole tryout process on Tuesday we had right there. Then obviously getting him comfortable with the whole operation and everything. So, it was just a weekly process.
He was out there Thursday with the field goal unit. He was calm, cool, collected. Regardless of the situation, I thought [K Cameron] Cam [Dicker] did an excellent job throughout the week of practice getting prepared for it.
Then come Saturday and Sunday, you talk to him, and he’s just very cool, like he doesn’t go high or low. So, it was actually really cool to see him go out there and perform like he did.
It’s kudos to him, kudos to the field goal unit, the operation. [Special Teams Quality Control coach] Tyler Brown working with him and just getting him comfortable. You see after all those PATs and field goals, the guys on kickoff all dapping him up, which was really cool to see. A guy that people had known for three days gets the help from everybody else, which was really cool to see.
Q. As far as picking K Cameron Dicker, after the game, Head Coach Nick Sirianni made a point of mentioning you guys went with what you thought was the best kicker as opposed to an experienced option, which might have been the conventional route. Why were you comfortable going that route as opposed to someone who’s kicked in games before? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: The comfortability, we all have that short list, like we talked about last week, in terms of Tyler Brown, the front office, who they feel comfortable with. The coaches and the players in this room make it more comfortable.
Tyler Brown does an unbelievable job. Obviously, his dad [Baltimore Ravens Special Teams Coach] Randy [Brown] up in Baltimore. But Tyler, when we signed Cameron – Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, whatever it is, spent time with him just to get to know him and work little things out.
So, a lot of the coaching from Tyler, [Assistant Special Teams Coordinator] Joe P. [Pannunzio] on the confidence and everything, so having a new guy in, yeah, he’s going to be hungry to prove a point.
You could say the same happened to [K] Jake Elliott when he was drafted in the late rounds… Cincinnati, then comes in here, and he wants to prove something, which you want people that are out there ready to prove something.
So, it was all kudos to everybody that was involved in the whole thing.
Q. Did you get a sense what K Cameron Dicker’s range was either pregame or during the week, like how far he could make a field goal? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, it all depends. It was nice, you’re in a controlled environment being in a dome and everything like that. But it all goes through that whole communication with myself, [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni], Tyler, Cameron himself, like what he feels comfortable doing. We’re just trying to make it as comfortable an environment as possible for him.
I thought the communication was great. The offense helped out immensely, having those short fields right there to give him a 23-yarder. A 42-yarder, that’s big time regardless of anything right there. He came in through the clutch and he struck the ball well.
Q. It was fourth and two. Were you telling the guys when they went out that short yardage, watch for the fake or anything like that? (Les Bowen)
MICHAEL CLAY: It was fourth and four at the 28. We’re always talking about D-JO, don’t jump offsides, alert something. Going against [Cardinals Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator] Jeff [Rodgers] so much in the NFC West, when I was in San Francisco, we knew he had that in the repertoire and everything. Hats off to them.
It was a gutsy call, and they executed right there. We wish we could have that back and give our offense a short field going into that two-minute drill. Fortunately enough, the defense held, only to three points instead of seven right there.
We can’t give them an extra drive, but hats off to Arizona getting that thing done.
Q. What was the take-away? What was supposed to happen on your side? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: We felt comfortable with the call, the communication with everybody. We had the two-minute warning. We understood what could happen right there. We had eight in the box. Hats off to them again. They just out executed.
They had to work hard for those six yards, though. Again, we don’t want to give up that up regardless of the situation. Going into it, we knew they had that in the back pocket. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our Ps and Qs again. A stop the next time and give our offense a short field. The ball would have been at the 30-yard line.
How we’ve been doing on offense in terms of turning the situation from the two minute and then getting the ball back in the second half, we would like to keep that going.
Hat’s off to Arizona football, they made a good play right there. We’ve got to get better from it.
Q. Did DT Milton Williams effect that 43-yard missed field goal? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: I don’t know about him by himself, but I thought the field goal block was really rushing really hard the entire game, even before that. [DT] Jordan Davis, [DE] Brandon Graham, they were getting good push on the guards right there.
People do feel that. When there’s offensive line kind of backed up right there, guys on the ground. So I don’t know if he really effected that last kick, but those three kicks previous, the guards were getting pushed back by Jordan, Milton, B.G. So, we try to make, from a field goal block standpoint, make them pay for points.
You have a full two seconds to try to get these guys back after scoring or try to get points on right there. So I thought the rush game was really good the entire game, prior to that last kick.
Q. The punt that WR Britain Covey muffed, what’s the coaching point there? Should he have called for a fair catch, do you think? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: There’s pros and cons to everything. In hindsight, do you want him to fair catch it and not risk getting muffed? Sure. Why not? But a lot of the times you’ll see a lot of big punt returns happening when there’s rushing and you make one guy miss right there
So just feeling what type of ball did the punter hit? Is it high hang ball? Yeah, probably fair catch it. Is it a rocket to you and there’s nobody around within ten yards, yes, take it.
There’s pros and cons for everything. You try to learn from it. [WR] Britain [Covey]’s trying to learn from everything, being a rookie and everything. You live with it. You wish you didn’t put a ball on the ground. We’ve got to keep getting better at that. It happens, but we can’t let that happen again.
Q. Did Britain Covey have any kind of cushion there at all? (Les Bowen)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, again, you could put it in the ref’s eyes. You could put it not on the ref’s eyes. They’ve got a tough job. Not getting right into it, we’ve just got to keep the ball off the ground.
Q. The Cowboys got a blocked punt last week against the Rams. What have you seen from their punt rush and how do you think you guys can step that up? (Chris Franklin)
MICHAEL CLAY: [Dallas Cowboys Special Teams Coordinator John “Bones” Fassel] Bonesy, even going back to him, again, I’m very fortunate enough that we went against him a lot in San Francisco when he was in L.A. He’s got really good rushing there. Obviously 92, [Dallas Cowboys DE Dorance] Armstrong, he’s playing well on defense and as a punt rusher. He blocked one last year against Atlanta coming around on the long snapper right there.
If we sink down to our technique with our guards and our long snapper, and [LS] Rick [Lovato]’s done an unbelievable job in terms of A gap. The guy that really helps us throughout the week is [DE] Matt Leo. You don’t get a lot of guys on your practice squad that are 6’7″, 270, 280, that can rush you and give you the same look.
It all comes down to the guys who are helping the guys play on Sunday. Matt’s done an unbelievable job that makes it hard for us in practice, but in the game, it slows everything down, and we’re able to sink to our level of fundamentals and be able to stop that.
Again, very much respect towards Bonesy and that punt block unit. He’s had a few in the last few years. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us to make sure that nobody gets around the block spot for [P] Arryn [Siposs].
Q. It seems each week up here you mention Tyler Brown. What’s his role specifically, and what’s his value to that room? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: Tyler does an unbelievable job. He works with everyone, just like any good special teams coach would. He’s able to speak the same language as a lot of kickers and punters that make it at ease for everyone.
He’s done an unbelievable job on the outside with gunners. You can see [CB] Zech McPhearson is making a lot of plays on the outside. He’s done a really good job in terms of interacting with those guys and getting those guys comfortable and ready to play.
So I think Tyler, Joe P., as guys helping me out, get ready for the week, they’ve done an unbelievable job.
I was told a long time ago, by [Detroit Lions Special Teams Coordinator Dave] Fipp and [Chicago Bears Special Teams Coordinator Richard] Hightower, you want to help other guys build and grow and be a special teams coordinator if that’s what he wants. So, him having the opportunity to talk in front of other guys and everything like that, it’s really special to see.
Even seeing his growth from last year, being the first time in an NFL building to now, the sense of confidence he has with the guys, the guys have the confidence in him to get them right. It’s really cool seeing him.
You could ask him, I don’t know how he feels about me, but I’m just trying to help him be the best coach he possibly can be because he pushes me to be the best coach I possibly can be.
Q. S Reed Blankenship and CB Zech McPhearson, they combined for the tackle on the opening kickoff. Specifically for Reed, what’s it been like coaching him up after he didn’t play much special teams at all in college? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: Very similar to [LB] Nakobe [Dean]. It’s easy to coach special teams when you’ve got a football player out there. [S] Reed [Blankenship] is funny. I always mess with Reed a little bit. I always ask him what he;s going to mess up in practice. He never messes up anything in practice.
He comes in ready to work. He asks the right questions and comes in to see us for extra work right there. Whenever his number was called, he was ready to go, which is the cool thing with special teams. You never know what’s going to happen, you never know with injuries and everything like that, who’s going to be called on next.
That’s my job to get everybody prepared from the top down. Seeing Reed on the first kickoff, he was rolling down there, came in with some good force. Him and Zech making a really good tackle against [Arizona Cardinals RB] Eno Benjamin right there, that was really cool to see. Just to see the emotion, to see the little kid come out of him.
Everyone, this is a job. This is a production-based business, but it’s also football. You’re supposed to have fun. So to see that emotion from him, to get out there and make a play, it was really cool to see.
Q. How would you assess how the special teams has done for five weeks overall? How would you assess the performance level? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: Overall, it’s been solid. It’s been okay. There are some things we could get better at, no doubt. There are a lot of things we could get better at. If you ask anybody in this building, no one is ever satisfied where you’re at through five weeks, but I think our coverages have been doing a really good job in terms of punt, kickoff coverage. Punt return, we squeezed some 15, some 12 yards, we like to be a little bit more in terms of that. Kickoff return, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities the last couple weeks with Washington then with Arizona, with all the touchbacks and everything.
We’ve still got to get better in all phases to help this team reach the goal that we want to reach.
Q. What would get the return game really going? What is missing there? (Les Bowen)
MICHAEL CLAY: You could look around the NFL, everyone’s — these punters are really good now. They can hang it up there. They can throw different rotations on the ball out there. It all comes down — especially on punt return, do you get the right situation? Is it a rocket ball where you’ve got some time right there? Can we hold up the guys on the outside?
So, there’s a lot of variables with punt returns to get our return game going. So, we’re just going to keep working, keep grinding at it. It’s just no different than a Major League Baseball hitter, man. You’re going to swing and swing, but one time you’re going to hit that sweet spot and he’s going to go long.
We’ve just got to keep working at it, keep playing penalty free, which I think the guys have done a good job through five weeks. I think we’ve only had two in the Washington game. In my eyes, that’s two too many. But we’ve still got to work at that.
We’re going to keep grinding it and hopefully get one loose on a couple of them.