Q. Let’s start with Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson. I think he’s probably the most unique kickoff returner. A lot of times you just want to kick it out of the end zone. But he’ll take it nine yards deep, at times. Do you have to emphasize him more than most kick returners? (John McMullen)
Michael Clay: No, I mean, you always have to respect a guy with eight career touchdowns like that. I mean, he’s one of the greatest kick returners, at least in my time.
He’s big, fast, he hits it downhill. I mean, like you said, he lines up at nine yards, and when he hits it, he hits it. But regardless of who’s back there, we emphasize the same message. If they want to bring it out, we got to make sure we’re doing a collective effort to tackle. If we get touchbacks, great.
But you never know. He can jump and catch it at 109. We have to make sure we’re down there doing our fits and making sure it’s a collective effort to get him down and help the team in the field position.
Q. What did WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside show you on special teams this summer? (Mike Kaye)
Michael Clay: J.J. did an unbelievable job. I mean, he’s a big wide receiver. He has good athletic ability and he has all the want-to, really, of embracing it.
Just like everyone else on our team, they kind of embraced the special teams role. My job, [Eagles Special Teams Quality Control Coach] Tyler Brown, and [Eagles Assistant Special Teams Coordinator] Joe Pannunzio’s job, is just to keep it transparent with the guys, what we expect of the guys. And they could take it how they want.
But I think everybody has done a great job, especially J.J. showing that, ‘Hey, I can do this and I can help the team.’ And it’s a team game.
You can put everything aside, but if you want to help the team, that’s going to help us get better and better as the weeks go on.
Q. DB Andre Chachere and CB Mac McCain III were just recently acquired by the team. Where do you see them fitting in on special teams? (Chris Franklin)
Michael Clay: Obviously, it’s a whirlwind for them, they just got acquired. But it’s up to us to get them up to speed on everything. Especially the basic concepts. We have a very simple scheme. So it’s not hard to do that. But it’s just getting them to the comfort level. And that happens in the NFL.
It happened with us, with myself last year in San Francisco. So it’s not like something I’m novice to. But just getting their comfort level up to where they can play fast. If they can play fast in this league, they’ll be just fine.
Q. Were you asked to watch film on their performance in the preseason on special teams. And if so, how did they stand out? (Mike Kaye)
Michael Clay: Oh, yeah, I watch film on everyone. There are some guys that stand out, some guys that kind of go under the radar.
But when they ask me to do it, I’m going to do my due diligence and find out what their strengths are and what they can really excel at and help the team at.
So that’s what my job is to do. And I think those guys have taken ahold of the reigns and are ready to go out there.
Q. RB Kenneth Gainwell and WR Jalen Reagor are listed on the unofficial depth chart as your returners. Is that the way you see it going into Week One? And specifically, with Gainwell, what gives you the confidence that he is ready? (Tim McManus)
Michael Clay: Yeah, with both those guys, I mean, we’ve had a plethora of guys be the returners and take a whole bunch of reps.
And they’ve all showed in practice situations, in game situations that they’re ready to go, regardless of where we put them in. Whether that’s a returner or somewhere else, both [WR] Jalen [Reagor] and [RB] Kenny [Gainwell] have done a great job so far.
In terms of who’s going to be out there on the first punt return or kick return, I think we’re going to let that be a guessing game until Sunday about 1:05.
Q. In WR Jalen Reagor’s case, what has he shown you before he starts returning, so in terms of the catch, decision-making and things of that nature? (Zach Berman)
Michael Clay: I think with him, it’s just his comfortability of seeing the ball off the foot. Obviously, last year, he had a little bit of a hand injury and everything. But this year, he’s really excelled at just seeing the ball off the foot. [P] Arryn [Siposs] has done a great job helping him see the ball off the foot.
And I think, once again, it comes back to that confidence level and comfort level of knowing if I get my feet there and see it all the way through — because he has all these explosive intangibles when he does get it.
The first thing is first, catch the ball. Then we will get everything else caught up with him. So he’s done an unbelievable job of embracing it and taking it to a whole new level in terms of catching and mechanics.
Q. Who would you say is your fastest guy on the coverage units? (Bo Wulf)
Michael Clay: Fastest guy? I mean, that’s a good question. If I were a betting man — that’s a good question. You know, I think everyone’s — they get off at a little bit of different speed come game day. Some guys have better adrenaline during game days than in practice, but I think a lot of the guys that do play with speed all end up in the same type of category running down there.
Q. With that said, though, we know you take special pride in gunners. Is there a player that you use as an example from your past at gunner when you break down film or show guys the proper technique? (Mike Kaye)
Michael Clay: Yeah. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good gunners. And it’s not just guys I have experience with. It’s all around the NFL.
If you were to ask me personally, the guy I probably show the most is Raheem Mostert in San Francisco. Obviously, we had him here as an undrafted free agent.
But just showing how — you know, if you just run without any regard, it’s going to come down. I always tell the guys, ‘Hey, the easiest tackle is a fair catch. If you get in a guy’s face, you don’t have to put your body through all that harm.’ So that’s a big coaching point I’ll have for the guys.
And just to get back to Bo’s question, I would probably say [WR] Quez [Watkins]. And I’ve had — Tarvarius Moore, one of Quez’s old teammates at Southern Miss. And those are guys that I do show, but I also want to show our guys.
Showing our guys, them making plays, getting off a release. Just that, because once again, it comes back to the confidence, the comfort level of, ‘All right, I can do this when my name is called, when my number is called and get them down there.’
Q. I know you don’t want to give up the returners because you have the competitive advantage. But if there’s a high leverage situation, how do you handle that with Head Coach Nick Sirianni? Do you have different options? Do you figure that out beforehand? Could it be somebody different? (John McMullen)
Michael Clay: Yeah, we talk about that. You know, we always have game plan going starting from Monday or Tuesday when we start game planning, getting through situations. Like, if it’s a high-level situation, who do we want out there between myself, Nick, and [Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie Roseman, and, like, who do we want to put out there and who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win?
So we do have those conversation in those high risk, high-level areas for who’s going to go out there to field the punt or the kickoff return.
Q. Is there any lingering soreness in K Jake Elliott’s ankle? (Dave Zangaro)
Michael Clay: Not that I know of. I talk to him every day. He seems like he is on the up and up. He’s been kicking the ball great the last week or so. He’s raring to go. I know he’s been chomping at the bits since the end of last year. So, we’re really happy with what [K] Jake [Elliott] has been doing and I think he’s excited to go into Atlanta and show off what he can do.
Q. How about for you personally, what’s the significance for your first game as Special Teams Coordinator? (Zach Berman)
Michael Clay: That’s a very good question. You know, to be honest with you guys, I haven’t really thought about it too much.
My main focus is just getting these guys the game plan, getting them ready. I’m sure Saturday night I’ll get a few texts or calls on from family and friends, like, ‘Hey, how do you feel?’
But for the most part, I’m going to keep my same routine regardless of the title I have. I’m going to go out there and go out there with some sort of cool confidence and, you know, keep that — I’m going to keep it within myself.
I’m not a very loud vocal guy. But if I can keep that on the sideline, I think that’s a cool calming effect for everyone. If we go out there and give our best foot forward, have a good game plan, I think it will be all taken care of and I don’t have to worry about the extra nerves that go through with it.