Michael Clay

Q. When you got P Braden Mann, did you think he could play as well as he’s been playing so far? (Dave Zangaro)

MICHAEL CLAY: I think Braden’s done a really good job since he has gotten here. He’s continually got better as we’ve moved forward; he’s just being a lot more comfortable within himself. We’re never going to ask somebody to be who they’re not. I think Braden has done a great job for us when his number is called upon. The communication we have throughout the game has been really crystal clear. He’s going out there, playing really confident, and allowing our guys to go down there and make some plays in coverage.

Just like anything else, we’re always going to strive to get better each and every week, and I think Braden does a good job of that. He does a great job preparing himself throughout the week.

I never question that he’s not going to be ready, but he’s doing a great job, and we are going to have to continue to do that as we move forward in the season.

Q. P Braden Mann is averaging something like 10 yards per punt more over the last seven games than in his first three. Did anything specific change, any specific coaching point, or he’s just hitting it better? (Reuben Frank)

MICHAEL CLAY: I think a lot of it has to do some of those numbers get skewed at points depending on the field position. Tampa Bay, he had that one in the plus 50. He had a couple in the plus 50 against Washington when he first got here. Those numbers are obviously going to skew in terms of the average distance.

But when he’s been called upon, when we’ve been backed up a little bit, he’s done a really good job of flipping the field and allowing our guys at least an opportunity to help out our defense and create a long field.

Q. Those two returns by San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel were his only two of the season. Was that a bit of a curveball? (Tim McManus)

MICHAEL CLAY: Obviously we get ready for everything. He [Deebo Samuel] lined up as a kickoff returner against Jacksonville after their bye. He lined up as a kick returner in our game against them last year. Obviously, you saw that [49ers WR] Ray-Ray McCloud was down for them. So, we’re always ready for whoever’s going to be out there.

We talked about it in our meetings getting prepared. You kind of have to contrast Ray-Ray McCloud and Deebo into two different categories in terms of returners. So, it’s not something we were shocked at. We always try to prepare from a coaching staff-wise who could be back there. You never know who they’re going to throw out back there.

Having Deebo back there, understanding what his running style is and what we have to do to corral him to get him down obviously starts on us as a coaching staff game planning for them.

Q. What’s the thought behind splitting the kickoff returners, WR Olamide Zaccheaus — having the dual returners, Olamide Zaccheaus and RB Boston Scott? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: It’s something different. Nothing really changes with what we’re trying to do, but you never know if, weather-wise, if guys are trying to pop it up, you’re not left out that way.

It’s just something that other teams do. You can always go back to a one returner, which we’ve done in the past. It’s just something to change it up. We’re not trying to fool anybody or anything like that. We’re just trying to give a different look. Maybe they cover in a different way with two returners. It’s just something that we have in our toolbox that we can use. We can obviously go back to something we’ve done in the past.

It’s just something to give somebody another thought on.

Q. When a guy like LB Christian Elliss has to play a lot at linebacker and everything, how does that effect how you use him on special teams? How do you adjust when something like that happens and maybe he’s not as available as he used to be? (Martin Frank)

MICHAEL CLAY: We’ve been doing this since training camp. You always try to get everybody ready regardless. You’re always happy when a guy gets to play offense and defense, but you also have to get the guys that may not play as much prepared throughout the week.

The communication from [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman], [Eagles Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni], to myself, to everybody else has been really good. We always kind of know and understand what’s going to be the best for the team, limiting some of his reps in some points or allowing him to play some special teams. It really is just getting everybody prepared for their number to be called.

Q. At what point this summer did you think LB Ben VanSumeren could have a role for you? (Zach Berman)

MICHAEL CLAY: Ben coming in, he shows the height, weight, speed trait that, as a special teams coach, you always enjoy. But credit to Ben, he’s always been locked in. He wants to help the team in any capacity he can. You can see his athleticism down the field running and being able to make a play.

He got in on that punt coverage with the assisted tackle and tried to strip the ball, which was great. Having Ben out there has been nice to have him. Credit to him being ready for his number to be called and very, very happy for him. Not a lot of people from the practice squad get put onto a 53-man roster. It’s all credit to him being ready and showing us, ‘hey, if we put you out there, we’re not going to fall or slip or anything like that.’

He’s done an unbelievable job thus far. We’re going to keep striving to get him better as we keep going.

Q. Since they changed the rules for onside kicks, those numbers are down considerably. How tough is it as a special teams coordinator to come up with different plays? How tough is it to come up with stuff to try to get the ball back in that situation? (Chris Franklin)

MICHAEL CLAY: Just how the game has been kind of molded, but it’s actually pretty cool. Braden and [K] Jake [Eliott], they come up with a lot of ideas because they’re the ones out there. They’re thinking from their perspective how do we get numbers? The communication between the players and myself, I allow them to have input. It’s not just me out there. They’re the ones playing for 60 minutes. I’m going to try to help them out.

So, they have a lot of input on what they think they could get off the kick. We tried it against our hands team in terms of what’s going to put the biggest stressor on the opposing team hands team. A lot of it goes into the communication with our two kickers, with Jake, what he sees, what the flavor of the year is around the NFL. It is tough, but we always strive to get the best ideas out there to get the ball back to our offense any way we can.

Q. When it comes to fourth down decisions, I’m assuming it’s Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni’s ultimate call, but are there things throughout the week leading up to the game where you have input on what the special teams would be able to do in certain situations? Or is that a conversation that you’re involved in at all? (Brooks Kubena)

MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, like I said, the communication from the top-down is always great. Regardless of the fourth, third down, whatever it is, Nick does an unbelievable job of allowing us our input on different situations and things of that nature. So as long as we’re on the same page communicating between myself and Nick, we always feel great going into those situations.

Q. Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni was talking — obviously it’s a disappointing game. He was talking about things he had to fix on the defense and offense, and then he said special teams is doing a pretty good job in all phases. What do you think has clicked this year for you guys just as a whole? (John McMullen)

MICHAEL CLAY: The players are doing an unbelievable job of buying into what we’re trying to sell them in terms of what we want our special teams to do, in terms of how can we help this team out when our number is called? It’s always great when you have leaders like Jake Elliott, [LS] Rick Lovato out there, and the work ethic they put in is never unnoticed.

Then [CB] Josh Jobe has done a really good job from year 1 to year 2 understanding what his role is. I think I alluded to this maybe a month ago, when Nick had that role talk, I think it just sets the stage for everyone. If you can buy into this role and help the team out, we’re going to be okay.

I think they’ve done an unbelievable job in terms of embracing the role. I know [WR Britain] Covey had that piece where he embraced his role as the fifth, sixth wide receiver and being the punt returner. They’ve done from the top-down a really good job of embracing that and having some sense of urgency and confidence.

These players, they come in starting on Wednesday every day, and they work their tails off and have nothing but respect for them, but we’re just trying to do the best we possibly can week in and week out.

I think I may have said this to somebody, like one week you could be in the penthouse, the other week you’ll be in the outhouse. We take every day as a challenge to get better each day. On Sunday or Monday or Thursday, whenever that game is, we’re going to try to go out there and put our best foot forward and help this team out any way we can.

Q. You played two years with QB Marcus Mariota. What are your memories of 18-year-old, 19-year-old Marcus Mariota? (Zach Berman)

MICHAEL CLAY: Marcus, coming from Hawaii, he redshirted his freshman year. He actually didn’t do any scout team, which is great because that made my job a lot easier. As a redshirt freshman, his first starting moment against Arkansas State, and he throws up a 50 burger in the first half, this guy is pretty special.

Marcus [Mariota] is an unbelievable human being, first and foremost. And to be able to coach him and call him a friend is very special. What he does is everything selfless. Marcus, regardless of the role he’s in, he’s always going to go 100 percent, do what’s best for the team. Can’t say enough nice things about Marcus Mariota.

Q. You’ve seen Cowboys WR KaVontae Turpin twice, does that help having the kind of background already and the work on him already? (Dave Zangaro)

MICHAEL CLAY: There’s always something that KaVontae Turpin keeps you up at night with. We did a fairly good job in terms of the punt coverage against him. The kickoff coverage, we got a little loose with it, and he got a big return on that. So, we’ve also got to clean that up.

KaVontae Turpin is one of those guys where you have to stay up and be able to be on your detail and keep him contained. Just like everybody else in this league, these returners are really good. We’ve got to get a star on him, rally around him, and get him down before he gets going. He is a very special returner.

Being familiar with him obviously last year playing him twice and already this year, you’ve always got to be ready for him to do something you haven’t seen before.