Q. What prompted you guys to make the change at kick returner during the game to WR John Hightower? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just in the ebb and flow of the game. You saw [WR] Quez [Watkins] was out there a lot at wide receiver and he just needed a quick blow right there.
And [WR] John [Hightower] had worked on it all through Wednesday. And that’s also a reason you didn’t see [WR] Jalen [Reagor] out there. With his ankle and everything, he wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday.
I never want to put a player out there that hasn’t practiced in a situation. Granted, it is kickoff return and he’s been doing it for a while, but, still, the player’s safety, obviously, comes into play.
It’s just one of those things where Quez had to – he was playing a lot of offense right there. And John stepped in there and he just made a poor decision that I have to do a better job of just explaining, like, ‘Hey, if you’re running sideways, let’s just take the touchback and let’s just be smart here.’
Because one, when they do kick it in the corner right there, you put yourself in a bad predicament because they cut off 80 percent of the field right there.
So, it was on me just in terms of telling him, ‘Hey, if you’re running sideways, let it go. We’ll take the touchback at the 25.’
Luckily, the offense did a heck of job of bailing us out. They scored on that 85-yard play right there. That’s more on myself just being – and, you know, John got called up for that game. He’s probably amped up and everything.
So, it’s more on me, slowing him down, ‘Hey, you’ll get your opportunity. If you’re running sideways, let’s just take the touchback right there.’
Q. Do you have to worry about that when you have a young player who doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to make plays that they might try to be more aggressive than you want them to be? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: You, obviously, kind of know that going in. It never worries you. You always want to explain to him, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to go.’ We never want to put anybody in a bad predicament, whether offense or defense.
These guys want to make plays – it was nothing out of malicious intent. It’s not like he went out there thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to hurt this team right now,’ in terms of ourselves.
But it’s just one of those things, he made a bad decision trying to be competitive. And, you know, he’ll learn from it.
Q. I know TE Tyree Jackson got to play that one preseason game before he got injured, but this was his first time ever playing on special teams where it mattered. How do you think he performed? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: Well, he did a great job on the field goal protection from a special teams side. We tried to get him on the punt return. Obviously, we didn’t have any opportunities for that.
I didn’t get to watch much of the offense. I know he was on there for that long drive that he looked like he was really getting after it.
But we’re really excited about [TE] Tyree [Jackson]. And once again, just getting his feet wet. Like you said, this last game was his first real time playing.
You get preseason, yes, but it’s a little different in the regular season. But we’re excited to keep him growing and give him a bigger role in the following weeks.
Q. You said WR Quez Watkins played a lot of wide receiver and needed a break. How does that work? Is it something that Head Coach Nick Sirianni says, ‘Hey, maybe Quez needs a breather?’ Does Quez say something, or do you say something? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: No, it just comes with the communication. Like I alluded to in Kansas City when Quez [Watkins] got dinged up a little bit, him and Jalen [Reagor] came to talk to me and said, ‘Hey, let me just take this guy.’
And you saw Quez was back out there after that one with [John] Hightower. He just needed a break more than anything else. But as long as the communication is there and we’re all on the same page, it’s nothing too worrisome.
They all get the work, especially on Wednesdays when we do our kickoff returns. It was just one of those things that he needed a little break and was right back out there.
Q. And no WR Jalen Reagor because of coming off the injury? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, I just didn’t want to – he didn’t do it on Wednesday. He was rehabbing. I just didn’t want to put him in that bad predicament right there.
If we would’ve have had a punt returner, he would have been out there because he was out there on practice on Thursday. It’s just one of those things where I don’t want to put the player or the person in a bad predicament with them coming off an injury.
Q. How do you approach those end-of-game desperation situations? Can you justify spending that much time on them? How does that work? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s just one of those things that it may – you may never get it in your career, you may get it twice in your career. It’s just one of those things where you always want to have something up.
But it’s almost, like – I would say even worse than the onside kick. Your probability is not much. And especially with all these new rules and these coordinators so smart, different kinds of tactics right there.
It’s just one of those things where sometimes you get lucky and you can pull off a Music City Miracle or something of that nature.
Q. To this point of the season, how would you say your three featured specialists, LS Rick Lovato, P Arryn Siposs, and K Jake Elliott have progressed? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think they’ve done a really good job so far this year. Obviously, with [P] Arryn [Siposs], he started off so hot in Atlanta. And we saw what he could do, especially in that plus-50 area. And you saw last week getting it downed at the one.
And you could even probably ask him, he probably wants to be a little more consistent in the open field. But I think he’s done a very good job in terms of this is almost like his rookie year in terms of coming in, getting the job, and helping the team. He’s flipped the field a couple times for us right there.
And [K] Jake [Elliott], he’s been steady. He’s been steady right there. The one thing – he pushed the one against Tampa Bay to the right a little bit. But everything else, he’s been smooth, compact with everything. And he’s showing off why he’s still a very good kicker in this league.
And [LS] Rick [Lovato] is as steady as they come. When you don’t hear about a long snapper, usually, you’re doing a pretty good job.
So, we’ve been very pleased with those three and they’re just kind of a calming factor for the whole special teams room.
Q. In a few games elsewhere, including last night, we’ve seen teams try long field goals in end-of-game situations. What’s the longest you’ve ever seen Jake Elliott kick? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s all the determining factors of where you’re at. If it’s in a dome – shoot, here at Lincoln Financial Field, he hit a 61-yarder against the Giants.
But we don’t like – because it a lot of pressure on their legs. And, you know, in training camp, we’ll go in and try a couple things here and there.
But I’ve seen him hit 60 plus-yarders before. And for a small guy, he does have a very strong leg. Obviously, you saw in Carolina, he hit that 58-yarder, which is the longest in the NFC right now.
So, given the opportunity, say, a tie game, three seconds left, if we want to trot him out there, let’s trot him out there. He has a strong enough leg. And then we have our little coverage for our field goal unit right there just in case they do want to put someone back there.
Q. So you don’t practice those long field goals? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: No. Maybe on the side when no one’s looking, we’ll hit a couple just here and there. But for the most part, we want to keep it as game realistic as possible, with those in the 40 to 49 range.
And you get a lot more of those 20 to 39 rangers now. So, we want to be really good at that. And given our opportunities at the 50 yards and longer, then we’ll take our chances with those.
Q. So along those lines, have you been to Denver before and how much does that usually change things? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: I have been to Denver once for a preseason game. Obviously, it’s a little bit different. The weather in August compared to November is going to be different. But haven’t played a regular season there.
So, I really can’t say in terms of how the ball is going to travel. I’m going to assume, just looking at the weather, it’s going to be a nice, fall day in Denver.
So, hopefully we still get a little help from the altitude. So, we’ll see come game day once we’re out there on the field how these guys are feeling.
Q. We’ve seen Arryn Siposs kind of drop a few of those punts real close to the goal line. Is that something he came here with or is that something you guys have worked on him with? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think a lot it comes from his Australian Rules Football background, and you can see a lot of these guys, they’re almost like sharpshooters in there in the plus-50 area. Especially all these punters.
But he does excel at it and we work hard at it on Thursdays. We give the gunners some work for game-type situations, and we give our returners some work in that plus-50 area. And Arryn [Siposs] has done a fantastic job so far.
I think he’s only had one touchback, and that was more user error with [CB] Zech [McPhearson] just being a little amped up right there. And as much as we want to kind of grow as a team, Zech had the same opportunity this past weekend. He kept calm, downed it at the one.
But Arryn’s been doing a great job helping those gunners get down there, pinning it back and helping our defense give long fields for them to defend.