Q. I was wondering, now that you’ve had a chance to digest the film on the blocked field goal, if you could assess what happened there and I guess what was the teaching point to that unit to assure, I guess, that doesn’t happen again? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just watching it a couple times over, it almost turned into kind of the perfect storm, really, in terms of what happened.
[49ers DT Javon] Kinlaw made a heck of a play. Just looking at it and seeing things being really critical, like, he jumped up, timed it perfectly. There was a little wind right there that [K] Jake [Elliott] had to get through. Obviously, we’d love to get all of our points, especially inside 50 yards.
But once again, credit to Kinlaw. He got up there, he timed it perfectly. He got his big paw up there, he’s a first round draft pick for a reason. He did that in South Carolina. It’s not like we didn’t know they had a good rush team for the most part.
It’s just one of those things where you hate for it to happen, but it happened. And we don’t want that to happen again.
But once, again, it was just one of those things. Kinlaw got his big mitt up there and made a heck of a play. [TE] Dallas [Goedert] almost saved that play by almost getting the first down.
It was just one of those things where it’s football. You know, hopefully we get a couple of those on field goal blocks, but they got on us on that one.
Obviously, we want to get points on the board, especially inside the 50. You look at it, you want to learn from it, then move forward.
Q. Just to follow-up on that. When you say it was the perfect storm, was it pressure upfront or, you know, just Kinlaw jumping up? Was there any pressure up the middle and did Jake hit it a little lower than he probably would have liked? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: There really wasn’t any pressure more than anything else. It was a nice pocket, it was good operation. A little headwind for 48 yards, you have to hit it a little bit lower to get it through there.
It’s no different than you golf aficionados trying to get it through a headwind, you have to hit it a little thinner, a little bit lower to get it under that wind. Once again, credit to Kinlaw. He got his big mitt up there, blocked it. We have to move forward from it.
But once again, it was one of those things where it’s like, ‘They get paid to make plays and we get paid to make kicks.’ So, it was just one of those things, give and take. We still want to get all our points, especially inside 50 yards.
Q. It seemed like there was that one play where CB Zech McPhearson almost downed it right before the end zone and then it went inside. It seemed like P Arryn Siposs has done a good job getting those balls, like, in savable positions. How often does he work on that? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, [P] Arryn [Siposs] has done a phenomenal job in the first couple weeks. It’s one of the things we’ve been working on since training camp and rookie minicamp in terms of – Thursdays are – or I guess the second day is when we really work with the gunners.
And, you know, it’s just good work for everyone. [CB] Zech [McPhearson] was probably – you know, the good thing about that play was Zech was so emotional and upset at himself that it gives us that confidence. Like, he cares and he just wants to do everything good. Especially a young guy like that, trying to make that play. He made two of those plays in Atlanta, he just has to slow down.
You know, a young guy, first home game, he’s amped up and he’s going and everything like that and he just rolled into the ball right there and it went in the end zone.
But Arryn’s done a phenomenal job, working that, working with the gunners, working with our returners to give them the look and how to play it. If he keeps doing that, he’s going to help us out.
He came back and pinned them inside the 10 – inside the 40. Which is actually one of the harder ones because you just don’t know how much to gauge it. He’s been doing a phenomenal job of giving our defense a long field in terms of those plus-50 punts.
Q. One of those positive notes, the average starting field position for the opponent’s been pretty good from your perspective through the first two games. What do you think is working there and sort of to that gunner thing, DB Andre Chachere was a late addition to this team, how much has he meant for your units? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, to answer your first part, you know, the whole field position thing, that’s what we really want to thrive on in our coverages, obviously, to help the whole team out.
If you can give your defense a long field, it helps flip the field for the offense, as well. So, it’s not just a one part, it’s a whole type of recipe, really.
So, I’ve been very happy with how our coverage team has been going down, especially punt and kickoff, to give our defense some long fields, especially with those guys upfront that can rush. So, we just want to keep that going and we have a tough task ahead of us with Dallas.
As for the second part with [CB] Andre [Chachere], he’s been phenomenal. It’s not like a rookie coming off the practice squad. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s extremely smart. Comes in and wants to get better. He’s hard on himself.
[Eagles Special Teams Quality Control Coach] Tyler Brown has been working with him a lot behind the scenes just to get him caught up again, missing that whole month with training camp. But Andre has been very good for us and we’re going to keep that up with him and Zech and everybody else on the special teams aspect of the game. So, Andre has been great and he’s just going to keep getting better and better as the season goes on.
Q. The way the league views kind of extra point and two-point situations has evolved over the past few years. We saw that, you know, when you score a touchdown down 14. As a special teams coordinator, how attuned are you to those situations? Are you just ready to send your extra point guys out no matter what or are you more attuned to those situations, as well? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: It goes into the whole football awareness and IQ that we talk about so much around here.
For a special teams, it’s not just an automatic, ‘All right, go kick a field goal.’ There are many situations that run through your head that you prepare yourself from January on.
I mean, you go through almost, like, a checklist for yourself, ‘Hey, we’re down so many points, how do we, you know, get closer?’
If it’s a 16-point game, obviously, you want two. But, you know, vice versa, if you got the lead, ‘Hey, it’s 15 points, why not go for two and make it a threescore game?’
So there is always a checklist that you have running through your mind. But, obviously, we talk with [Eagles head coach] Nick [Sirianni] and everything about that like, ‘Hey, he wants to go for two, that’s fine. Let’s watch this two-point conversion, let’s get the kickoff coverage ready to make another long field for our defense.’
So, there is a checklist personally myself I go through. I’m, like, ‘All right, this is a situation where, hey, we are going to hold the field goal team back or extra point team back if they want to go for two.’
But it’s a whole communication with everyone upstairs and with Nick on what we want to do in that situation.
Q. I just want to ask, I know the game’s changed as far as kickoff returns goes, just not a lot of them. But how much freedom do you give WR Quez Watkins to make the decision whether he’s going to come out or not on a kickoff? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: I usually give [WR] Quez [Watkins] a starting point. Obviously, with a guy with that type of speed, you do want him to flash it.
But there’s also that whole, ‘Let’s help out the team, as well.’ If the team is moving the ball well and we get that field position to the 25, let’s take it. Let’s not be greedy.
But if there is an opportunity where he does get it or if it’s a short kick, we got to do — the other 10 got to block and they got to know, ‘Hey, in any situation this ball doesn’t go through the end zone, we have to make sure we’re on our blocks and give Quez the best opportunity to return it.’
So, it comes to what the environment is, what the situation is, how we want to play it. So, there are a lot of variables. But I do give Quez, ‘Hey, be at this depth or whatever and if it goes over your head, it goes over your head. We’ll get it the next time, we’ll get our shot.’ You’re not going to hit a home run every time.
You just got to pick and choose, and you just got to be patient. The return game has a lot to do with being patient. Because when you do get your opportunity, we got to hit that opportunity.
Because you don’t get many. Especially with these kickers that hit the ball 10 yards deep. There is a lot of give and take with it.
Q. What have you seen so far this year from Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb when it comes to the punt return game? (Chris Franklin)
MICHAEL CLAY: I’ve always been a fan of [Cowboys WR] CeeDee Lamb, even with his time at Oklahoma in terms of his punt return ability.
We played against him last year when I was in San Francisco. He’s a very fluid athlete. He catches the ball well. He’s going to take some chances, but these are all calculated chances.
Not like he goes off the reservation or goes rogue or something like that. He’s a strong runner and very elusive. So, it has to take a full team effort.
One, it starts with our protection. Bonesy runs some very good games. Knowing Bonesy the past four and a half, five years, with him being in LA and playing them last year, we got to get that ball off, be stout in protection. Then once [Eagles P] Arryn [Siposs] gives us a good ball to go cover, there’s got to be 10 other guys going down there trying to corral him.
It’s got to be a full team effort to get him down. You’re not going to expect one-on-one tackles a lot with an athlete like CeeDee Lamb.
So it all starts with, one, the protection, two, Arryn giving us a good ball for us to cover, and then everybody else getting off the blocks and making a good team effort to get CeeDee down because he is a very good punt returner.
Q. I’m curious, in your career as an NFL coach, working with some of the coaches you’ve worked with in the front offices, the way the game is changing, have you ever heard of any discussions about teams specifically targeting whether it’s NBA players or taller or lengthier type of athletes for field goal block scenarios? Kind of gauging the value of someone who can do that? (Geoff Mosher)
MICHAEL CLAY: Personally, no, I haven’t thought about, you know, having an NBA-type player or a 6’10 player. Just because our numbers are so limited, and you have to have a specific role to help the team in other capacities.
Like, you really don’t want to use one guy for one thing. But if someone comes later down the line or this year and they’re, like, ‘Hey, they recruited a 6’10 former basketball player just for field goal blocks,’ kudos to them, maybe they’re going to be trend setters. But I haven’t thought about that or had a conversation about that in any capacity. But, you know, crazier things have happened.
Q. The onside kick, No. 1, how difficult is that in today’s world the way the rules are to recover an onside kick? And in last Sunday’s game, did you talk to Nick Sirianni at all about that possibility at the end of the game and was that a discussion? (Howard Eskin)
MICHAEL CLAY: The onside kick, it’s very difficult. It’s not, like, something you can scheme up and you’re, like, ‘I know he’s going to get hit and everything.’ It has a lot to do with the ball coming off the ground. You know, it hits differently off grass then off turf. It’s more of a game of chance.
You try to get a good game plan from what the opposing coordinator has done in terms of his configuring of his hands team. But it’s one of those things where you spin the wheel and see what happens. Which is exciting to everyone else.
You never know what’s going to happen. And in terms of our conversation we have this little — we do have a conversation in terms of, ‘Hey, do we want to kick it deep, short, try our onside kick?’ And me and Nick have that conversation prior to the kickoff team going out there. And we made that decision that we thought kicking it deep for a long field would’ve been the best opportunity.
And [K] Jake [Elliott] did a heck of a job putting the pressure on their hands team, not letting it go back for a touch back. They had to return it. And you saw, we kept them inside the 15 and gave us a chance. And you never know what can happen, a fumbled snap, a couple big tackle for losses, now we get the ball back with a certain amount of time on a short field, that could help out our offense.
So, there is a certain conversation that myself and Nick have and the people upstairs in terms of our clock management.