Michael Clay

Q. What was it about P Braden Mann that made him so effective despite the conditions? (Jeff McLane)

MICHAEL CLAY: Braden, he just works extremely hard just like [LS] Rick [Lovato] does, just like [K] Jake [Elliott] does, just like everybody on this team. He’s out there. We don’t have to save him from himself, but he works so hard to be in the right position. He just kind of sunk down to his level of fundamentals and he did a heck of a job for us to give our opportunity to go cover and flip the field, especially in that first half.

So, Braden, he strives to get better every day in this building. He’s in here late, getting his body right. Very proud of what Braden did, and we’re going to keep that going for the remainder of the year.

Q. K Jake Elliott said that the 59-yarder was a little bit out of the range that you discussed pregame. What was the actual range and what went into the decision to have him kick it? (Tim McManus)

MICHAEL CLAY: The range is usually when [Head] Coach [Nick] Sirianni says, ‘you think you can get it?’ and we have full confidence in Jake getting it done for the most part.

Obviously in that situation, things always change. Special teams is never black and white. It’s always a gray area. You always try to play within the game, and a 59-yarder in those conditions, there’s not much — not like we had an option to do on fourth-and-whatever in that situation.

But Jake, he’s talked about it since the end of the game. Does an unbelievable job preparing himself. Y’all heard, he thrives in that situation. He wants that last kick, which you can’t ask more for a kicker to go out there and do.

It was a really good job on the operations, it all starts with Rick. In wet, sloppy conditions like that, he gave Braden a good ball where he could handle. Braden put that ball down on the spot, and when Jake kicks it — and you could hear it on the sideline — he put a good effort on that one. He played it correctly and it went through and it gave us an opportunity to play another 10 minutes of football.

And for us, fortunately, the defense held it to three and [QB] Jalen [Hurts] does what Jalen does and got in the end zone. Very fortunate of that. But it all sinks down to all our fundamentals we go through OTAs all the way up to this point.

Q. K Jake Elliott talked about the degree of difficulty on that kick. What impressed you the most about it? (Dave Zangaro)

MICHAEL CLAY: The kick just in general really impressed you more than anything else. But, no, Lincoln Financial [Field], it’s a tough stadium to kick in regardless of if it’s raining.

Fortunate for us, I think the wind kind of shifted halfway through the third quarter and he kind of felt that on his face on one of those kicks. He was like, ‘man, this wind’ — it was a northeast wind for the majority of the game. It kind of flipped on us. Fortunate for us that helped get us a little more wind.

There are certain keys in Lincoln Financial [Field] that will tell you what the wind is doing more than what the flags on the post are doing. So that’s kind of a home field advantage. And it was just an opportunity for us to say, ‘hey, all right, you’ve got a little wind, don’t overcompensate for it, let it travel where it’s going to go.’

He did a great job. He understood where he wanted to go. They hit that timeout. He went into the net. He never changed his process from what he does regardless of if it’s a 42-yarder or 59-yarder. So being able to be comfortable in those settings really kind of helps ease the jitters or the adrenaline going into that kick.

Q. What are some of those keys for the wind? (Jeff McLane)

MICHAEL CLAY: I can’t let you guys know that because everybody else will know that.

Q. I just asked Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai this question. S Reed Blankenship played 95 snaps on defense, every rep. He played 21 on special teams. What goes into a guy being able to handle that kind of workload? What did you see from him on his reps on teams? (Reuben Frank)

MICHAEL CLAY: I can’t speak enough great things about Reed Blankenship. Going into the game, we weren’t anticipating him playing all those special teams plays, but talking to him on Saturday night, saying, ‘hey, you may have to play these.’ He didn’t bat an eye, ready to go.

Every time we were getting ready to get on the field, told him what the call was, shook his head, he was ready to go. And that just shows the determination that Reed Blankenship has. It shows the level of endurance he has to play at such a high level, not just on defense but also on punt and on kickoff. He’s our captain of our punt team.

And to go out there, get the calls right, be able to strike in protection and then go out and cover, then get ready to go play downs, it’s just something that you’re in awe of as a coach.

And the amount of respect you have for a guy that’s going to play 120 plays in the NFL, you don’t even hear that in college at times, but him to go out there and play at such a high level, you just have nothing but respect for him. And it will definitely be acknowledged when these guys get back in tomorrow.

It also sets a precedent for the younger guys like that’s the type of sacrifice and want-to you’ve got to have to have to play in this league. It’s shown for Reed and hopefully it pays off for him later down the line in his career.

Q. Circling back to the kick a little bit, K Jake Elliott had mentioned it had to be a little bit lower, more of a line drive. Is there any talk from you to alert the guys, or is that kind of understood that when we’re going this deep it’s the guys up front because he’s got to kick it lower? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: No, I don’t think the flight trajectory really affects what the O-line have to think of. My thought process for the offensive line is totally different from what the specialist is. My thought process for them is we’ve got to be ready for any type of movement.

You never want to be the guy that flinches a little bit and now we’re backed up even further in that situation. So, it’s just them sinking down, ‘hey, we have these set rules. We stay to these rules regardless of what happens. If you feel something, we know what to do in this situation.’

For the O-line, it’s a completely different conversation than what Jake is. I have full trust Jake knows what he’s going to do on that kick. But for the O-line, we have these set rules we’re going to stay on. This is the film we talk about, what they like to do in these long field goal situations. Let’s hone in on this.

And the offensive line has done a great job. I know Jake has talked about it. He never really feels any pressure because those guys do an unbelievable job studying the film, doing it during practice and performing at the game.

Q. Have you ever had a punt returner where you’re more comfortable that he’s going to make the right decision? (Merrill Reese)

MICHAEL CLAY: [Former Eagles RB] Darren Sproles.

Q. He was a great one. (Merrill Reese)

MICHAEL CLAY: [WR] Britain Covey is really good, really good. He takes command of that punt return team. And the best thing about it is the 10 guys in front of him, they know what he can do back there, and they’re going to play as hard as they possibly can for Britain Covey.

I mean, after the game we were talking to O.Z. [WR Olamide Zaccheaus], congratulating him on a great touchdown catch, and the only thing he wanted to talk about was, ‘man, if I could have stayed on my block a little bit longer to spring Covey.’

That’s what this whole organization is all about. Everybody connecting, being for one another out there on the playing field because they know they could change the game with the field position, they can change the energy within the stadium, especially at home.

We have probably the best fans in the world when it comes to a home game to get out there. And everyone feels that energy. You even felt the energy a couple weeks ago in Kansas City when Covey ripped off that 26-yarder, you can just feel it, the offense feels it. It’s really cool to see.

But there’s still a lot of things we can get better at from a punt-return standpoint to keep grinding away and changing the field position for our offense.

Q. Do you have a feeling he’s close to breaking one? (Merrill Reese)

MICHAEL CLAY: The feeling thing for punt return is — I don’t know if you go into these things like, ‘oh, we’re really going to get one right here,’ because the opposing team, they get paid to go stop returners like Britain Covey. It’s one of those things that we’re just going to play one play at a time. Regardless of the call, we’ll play one play at a time. We’re going to try to play as penalty-free as we possibly can to help this team because at the end of the day, my job here is to help the team in any capacity from a special teams’ point.

Q. I’m sure you saw Head Coach Nick Sirianni’s quote yesterday that said WR Britain Covey is the best punt returner in the league, what’s your pitch for that to be the case? (Zach Berman)

COACH CLAY: My pitch for that to be the case? I don’t think I have to make a pitch. For the last, whatever, since week 13 of last year, Covey has been up there, top 3 punt returner in the NFL in terms of yardage. I try not to get involved in all that stuff because my sole focus is getting the game plan ready for these guys to perform against San Francisco.

San Francisco is a very good team. [49ers Special Teams Coordinator] Brian Schneider has always had a really good special teams unit. But, I’m not going to take from what Britain Covey has done over the last year and a half. He’s done some really amazing things in terms of understanding what the punt coverage team is doing, what the punter is doing. And our punt return team, especially on the outside, has done a really good job to allow Covey freedom to get down the field and make some plays.

Q. One thing about WR Britain Covey. We never see him get clobbered like he did last year. I think he called himself the human punching bag last year. We don’t see those shots nearly as much. Is that kind of his vision, his decisiveness, his better understanding of where the defenders are? What accounts for that? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: I never heard himself called the human punching bag. [Jokingly.] That’s a self-deprecating special teams unit out there.

For Covey, it’s funny having these conversations with him because we’re all realists in this room, like he looks like he goes through — he’s a car crash dummy — but at times when he talks about it he’s like, ‘I don’t feel like I get hit very much, I’m just 170 pounds at 5’9″.’ But he’s done a really good job preserving himself, like towards the sideline, ‘alright, I know I can’t get anymore, let me save a hit off myself right here. I understand, if I see two, split two, they can’t hit me full frontal. They hit me on the side, it’s not as impactful.’

And that’s just getting used to the speed in the NFL, getting the speed. So, second year you’re going to get better at anything you do the more time you have into it. But I think Covey has done an unbelievable job regardless of avoiding those big hits, but it also goes down to our punt return team staying on blocks longer where he’s not taking those huge car crash hits.

Q. DT Jalen Carter’s block, how clutch was that for you and is that something you saw from his college tape that he can do that and everything? (Martin Frank)

MICHAEL CLAY: With our field goal block team, it’s been really a tone-setter for the rest of our unit because if you keep watching our field goal block unit, they are a physical bunch. And it has a lot to do with [Defensive Line Coach] Tracy Rocker, who does a great job and shows it to the guys later in the week of, are we really getting off the ball? Are we really making this team pay for points?

It’s an opportunity to, one, keep points off the board or get a little anger off. They just scored or they’re in scoring field position, this is an opportunity to flip the switch and be a game-changer.

And Jalen [Carter] did a heck of a job. If you really watched that first one, the 48-yarder off the left hash, as we face it, he came pretty close to blocking that first one. It’s just that self-confidence, like, ‘all right, I’ve got a good feeling for this.’

And nothing to take away from [DT] Jalen Carter, but [DT] Jordan Davis did a heck of a job splitting the B gap between guard and tackle, and it allows Jalen to get one, two, three, hands up, he’s a true athlete. Like, he windmills from a two-point standing still dunk, but getting out there, putting his hands up there on the lower kick, especially when the weather gets a little colder. Kudos to him.

But it’s the whole field goal block unit, having that mentality of like, ‘alright, we’re going to make them pay for points’ or ‘they’re going to get worried when we get in our three-point stance, they’ve got to be ready for that.’

But, again, it comes from the top. And BG [DE Brandon Graham] did a heck of a job on the field goal block team being the unit leader.

Q. Two high-profile first-round draft picks who have big roles on defense, how much do you appreciate how much they put into being good special teams? (Dave Zangaro)

MICHAEL CLAY: Like I said, I have nothing but respect for all these guys on what they do, especially I’ll take anybody from a first-round pick to an undrafted guy to help out this team any way possible.

But to have them go out there and still give maximum effort after playing so many plays on defenses, I could never have as much respect and feel as much respect as I possibly can for them because this is a job that takes a toll on them physically, but they go out there every week trying to perform at the best they possibly can. So that’s all I could ever ask for them, is to give 100% high energy and I’ll try to take care of them as much as I possibly can.

Q. Circling back to WR Britain Covey, Head Coach Nick Sirianni said yesterday, he’s constantly asking coaches, ‘is this guy First Team All Pro,’ ‘is this guy Pro Bowl?’ I imagine you’re one of the people he’s having those conversations with. What’s Head Coach Nick Sirianni like in those conversations? (Zach Berman)

MICHAEL CLAY: Nick is Nick. Nick is Nick every day. He just asks. He wants to know. He wants to be informed on what’s happening around the league, especially from a special teams unit. He’s so focused on the entire team, on the offense, on the defense. He wants to know as well on the special teams unit, so that’s where we come in.

We try to give him kind of the cliff notes version on what’s happening in the NFL, what’s happening in the NFC, and just giving him the factual information. It’s one of those things where he sees it on the paper, now he can vocalize it in the way he wants to. That’s our job. When he does ask, we have an answer for him and keep pushing forward.

Q. We’ve seen Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead throwing up like the water bottle trying to simulate rain. Someone said spraying P Braden Mann’s hands and LS Rick Lovato’s hands to simulate the rain. Where do you come up with some of these unorthodox, somewhat orthodox methods to try and simulate things, and what’s the most unorthodox thing you’ve done to try to prepare for some things? (Chris Franklin)

MICHAEL CLAY: When it comes to rain, you don’t want to overbear it and dump a ball into a tub of water. You try to make it as realistic as possible.

So, I’ll go around and I’ll throw a few droplets on their hands to make them feel, ‘alright, it’s a little moist, I’ve got to be able to really finish through with my hands as a long snapper, I’ve got to catch it and mold it as a holder.’

So, it’s just one of those things you just learn from guys I learned from – [Lions Special Teams Coordinator] Dave Fipp, [Raiders Assistant Special Teams Coach] Derius Swinton and [Bears Special Teams Coordinator] Richard Hightower — and you try to keep it in your bag of tools. When it does present itself, you’re ready for it. And Nick does an unbelievable job of allowing us as coaches and reminding us as coaches, ‘hey, there may be inclement weather on whatever day we’re playing, let’s get these guys ready and prepared so it’s not the first time it happens in a game;’ they’ve already done it.

We always implement that, whether it’s on the side or in a period, to get these guys ready. And again, they do an unbelievable job preparing themselves for those types of conditions.

Q. Head Coach Nick Sirianni doesn’t watch the field goals, he admitted. Is your signal any more energetic in that type of situation? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: It was a point and a smile. I know there was 20 seconds left, I’ve got to get our kickoff team ready because they’ve got to go down and cover. You never know what’s going to happen. They could line a guy back nine yards and be ready to go.

So as energetic as that stadium was and such a good feeling for Jake, I still have to complete my job as a special teams coordinator, and get those 11 guys ready for kickoff coverage because you never know what’s going to happen.

It’s a smile and a point, then I’ve got to turn my focus on the kickoff coverage because there’s not a lot of time to celebrate. There’s no TV timeout. We’re rolling. Giving the guys the call and making sure they’re ready, staying disciplined regardless of the situation, going down and covering.