Q. I guess we’ll start with kickoff returns. WR Quez Watkins had some issues. You went to WR Jalen Reagor. What was your thought process behind that? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: The thought process was just how the game was going. You saw Quez kind of went down late in the first half. And it was actually a cool experience between those two receivers.
I mean, like I’ve been telling you guys, we keep all the returners ready for whatever happens. He got banged up and Jalen came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I see Quez is kind of banged up, I’ll take this. Just take a load off his plate.’
And, you know, when you have guys like that that want to help each other out for the betterment of the team, it’s awesome. Jalen saw his moment and 44 yards later, he took it.
So, it was a cool moment to see two young guys, not a veteran, two young guys having each other’s back for the betterment of the team. And it helped us get closer in that game.
We set up a nice little scoring drive. Easy for an offense that’s kind of gelling, to go 56 yards with a big return like that. Hopefully, we can keep that thing going for the rest of the year.
And now, opposing teams have to wonder who’s back there, which is great for us. But they both have been doing phenomenal jobs for us. And once again, it takes – in that instance, it took all 10 for Jalen to get that big return.
There were great blocks on the front side by two young guys, [LB] Patrick [Johnson] and [CB] Zech [McPhearson]. The backside with veteran guys. They communicated, ‘Hey, I’m going to take this guy, you take that guy,’ with [LB] TJ [Edwards] and [LB] Alex [Singleton] and [DB] Andre [Chachere]. It was just a lane that hit, and he hit it, and 44 yards later, it was really good for us.
Q. Any consideration of getting Jalen Reagor involved more in the kickoff returns at some point? (Geoff Mosher)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know, just as the game went, obviously, we didn’t get any punt returns where he gets his touches. So, it wasn’t, like, going into the game plan, ‘Hey, we’re going to get 18 in there.’ It just happened organically like that and it helped out the team.
Once again, it goes back to getting these guys ready through training camp. They get their reps in the regular season, during walk-through, ones, and twos and stuff like that.
Whoever’s number is called, they’re going to be ready for it and that’s my job to do, is to have them ready for it at the drop of a hat. We know injuries are part of the game and Quez got banged up a little bit at the end of the first half. Jalen stepped up and he had a really good return for us.
Q. Have you ever been a part of a game where there was never a punt? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: No. I think there’s only been five in the history of the game. So, I guess it’s nice to be part of that history. [Jokingly] But [P] Arryn [Siposs] is very sore from doing absolutely nothing besides holding.
Q. Not on any level? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: No, not on any level. Maybe high school. But definitely not college. Definitely not the NFL.
So, it’s one of those things that as you get through the motion of the game, you’re, like, ‘Wow, we really haven’t punted.’ Which is kind of weird. But I’ll take it.
Q. What does Arryn Siposs do, I guess, today during film review? (Josh Tolentino)
MICHAEL CLAY: [Jokingly] We ask Arryn all the questions. No, Arryn – I mean, for the specialists, they’re always in every meeting, so they know the whole game plan. They’re into what we’re doing, whether it’s kickoff return, punt return, punt, kickoff. He does have to watch his holds, which is a big game for him. Getting those down.
And we got 12 points from our field goal unit, which was huge to keep us in the game. Arryn, we didn’t give him a pillow or a blanket for him to take a nap during that session, he’s always into what we’re talking about.
Q. With Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor, when you put them in their roles as kick returner/punt returner before the season, why did you like each of them in those roles? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just going back to what their college tape. They didn’t have a lot of opportunities last year with different situations.
But Quez, at Southern Miss, was a very good kick returner. And you see that speed he has. It’s a 4.3 speed and for a guy to hit a lane at 4.3, it’s going to be tough for a kicker or the backside safety to make a play.
And Jalen at TCU, he was dynamic. You give him some lanes to get downhill – you guys saw it. When he catches a screen, he can make people miss, he can get downhill. That’s what a punt return really is.
But Jalen also is a dual threat returner, which kudos for him, he’s ready for that. So, they both have their own upside in each phase.
But they both – more so Jalen can do both compared to Quez. Punt returning is a little bit different than kickoff returning with how the ball comes off the foot.
And it takes some guts and skills to be a punt returner and a kick returner. Obviously, we’ve had some success back in the past with [former Eagles RB Darren] Sproles being a dual threat returner.
But for Jalen, it’s just another confidence booster for him. He’s done a heck of a job for us getting some big returns. So, we’re really excited about the rest of the season going forward having those two options, really.
Q. S Rodney McLeod has had a pretty big role on special teams, even as a starter in the past. I know you guys are kind of easing him back in, but will he have a role moving forward? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: When that time comes that Rodney does have to be, he’ll be ready. We have enough depth at least at safety right there where [CB] Josiah Scott was able to come back. We have [S] Marcus [Epps], who is a really good player.
So, still having him ease his way back. But when the time comes that Rodney has to come out there, we know he’ll be ready for it.
Q. It would seem, based on traits, that LB Davion Taylor could be a special teams contributor. He only took seven snaps. Is that because you’re easing him back from injury or is that performance related? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know what, for Davion, once again, he’s coming back also from an injury. He was out there on kickoff coverage.
And the first one, you saw what he could do. He made a tackle inside the 25-yard line. And it’s one of those things going into the game plan, we’re trying to put the guys in their best possible position right there.
So, we’re trying to spread the wealth. But for Davion, he’s getting back into it. He came up this morning, we were getting into the game plan for Carolina, so it was really just easing him back in.
Davion has been awesome. He wants to help in any capacity, whether it’s defense or special teams. So, getting those guys out there and putting them in the best spot for them is what I’m trying to do with me, [Eagles Assistant Special Teams Coordinator] Joe [Pannunzio] and [Eagles Special Teams Quality Control Coach] Tyler [Brown] are trying to do.
Q. Is it fair to say that DB Andre Chachere has been an impact player for you? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: Yeah, I think he’s done a great job. He’s got some versatility where we can do some game plan stuff moving him around. He’s been nails as a gunner.
He made a huge tackle on [Chiefs WR Byron] Pringle on that kickoff. I mean, a one-on-one tackle against Pringle, who is a pretty good returner, strong returner. I mean, he came up, shot his gun and made a heck of a play.
So, Andre has done a great job and he keeps on getting better. Him and Zech [McPhearson] are up in the office before the game plan’s out there, trying to learn, trying to get ahead.
And that’s just professionals be professionals and getting better and getting more familiar with our coaching style and our game plan. They want to be ahead of the curve and they’re doing a great job with it.
Q. You guys have had a lot of penalties as a team, but on special teams, only one or two. What’s been the feedback from Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni about your work as far as discipline on that end of the ball? (Mike Kaye)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, that’s one of – when I first took this job, I really wanted to have a mantra of no penalties. I mean, that hurts the team, especially if you only get so many plays.
And a penalty really hurts the hitting yards, which Nick talks about a lot. So, we’re really conscious of that – not just myself and the coaches, I mean, the players, they hear us harping on it.
It all just comes down to the fundamentals and technique, that’s what we do all through training camp. Regardless of who you’re going against, when you’re able to do that and help the team out not hurting us with those penalties, we’re going to take pride in that.
And that’s what we took pride at when I was in San Francisco, I think we had maybe three or four the entire year. So, we’re going to keep harping that.
It’s only going to help the team more than anything else, is to keep the penalties off us and help the team.
A penalty on that 44-yard return really could have deflated us, but guys had their hands inside, running their feet, doing what they’re taught to do and it helps us.
So, we’re going to keep trying to do that, not just on special teams, but also on offense and defense, we’re going to become a better team with the penalties.
Q. It seemed like last year, K Jake Elliott struggled, especially on the shorter field goals and he’s been pretty automatic with that this year. I know you weren’t here last year, but what are you seeing from him as far as that’s concerned? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think just him getting back to the basics. I know during the offseason, he went back to doing what he did prior to last year.
You know, just staying fluid with everything, not rushing anything. Just staying within himself and I think he’s done an absolutely great job. But, also, it starts with [LS] Rick [Lovato], with the snap. It starts with Arryn, with the hold.
So, the more familiarity they had – and they’ve been awesome working with each other and working with them. And so just, you know, keeping Jake in that mindset that he is. And he’s in a great spot.
He works his tail off. From Wednesday to Sunday, he’s ready to go. And it’s starting to pay off for him. And, again, like I said, those 12 points really helped our team stay in that game against a very high-powered offense.
Q. What stands out about Carolina’s special teams to you? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: They’re a physical bunch. They got some guys – they got [Panthers DE] Darryl Johnson from Buffalo, who I remember playing against last year. He’s a big 6’6 that can run. [Panthers LB] Julian Stanford, [Panthers LB] Frankie Luvu, there’s some skilled players that can run and they’re physical.
And I think they kind of take after [Panthers Special Teams Coordinator] Chase [Blackburn]. I mean, Chase was a very good special teams player in his career with the Giants and everything.
And so, they’ve been doing a really good job in terms of creating mismatches with their physicality and their speed. So, it’s another test. I mean, week in and week out, it is going to be a test because all these special teams are good.
They provide different things to work on. But I think our guys are going to be willing to go down there, stand up to the test and hopefully help our team out again with the field position and bring a spark for this team.