Q. Who has stood out so far for you on special teams? (Eliot Shorr-Parks)
MICHAEL CLAY: Everyone. I have to evaluate everyone. There are 90 guys I have to take care of. Everyone is doing a good job so far. I know this is the third installation of the four-day, five day, it is, but I think everyone came in shape, they were ready to go.
It’s been very positive to see everybody come out and go out there every day. They have done everything we’ve asked between myself, [assistant special teams coordinator] Joe P [Pannunzio], and [special teams quality control coach] Tyler [Brown]. They’ve done everything we have asked them to do. We’re excited to start going against somebody else next Friday against the Jets.
Q. How did P Arryn Siposs come back to camp and then what have you seen from him so far? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: I thought Arryn did a great job during the off-season. We gave him some stuff to work on and I thought he’s done an absolutely great job of doing those things we asked him to do.
You guys saw a couple days ago, plus 50, I mean, we all know he’s very good at that, but he’s also improved on his hang time during those plus 50s to give our gunners a rep to get down there.
And the field punt – I know everybody is going to be asking about that – first day out he had a great day. Then we came back after the second installment, and he had another great day. It’s just stringing these good days for him to get his confidence up and work to better himself in basically his second year as an NFL player.
I thought Arryn has done a good job. Even to touch on the specialists, I thought [LS] Rick [Lovato] and [K] Jake [Elliott] have done a great job. We asked them to get better, and I think they have. They’ve all come in, all three ready to work, and excited to see them keep practicing like they have been.
Q. Without having the data that there have been fewer kicking periods for K Jake Elliott this summer. Is that the case? (Zack Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: No. I know we don’t get a lot of the attention on field three over there, but we get our work over there. I know we’re behind the scenes most the time, but Jake, we’ve got a set kicking schedule for him and [P] Arryn [Siposs]. They have been getting their work. I know we’ve only had a couple team reps and everything, but when those team reps out, we’re ready to get our work in.
These guys behind the scenes, quietly they been going hard every day in terms of their kicking schedule.
Q. What about someone like LB Nakobe Dean? I don’t know how much special teams he played at Georgia. Is he somebody that hac play special teams initially, do you think? Would there be a role for him? Is he capable of doing it? (Ed Kracz)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think there is a role for everyone that plays special teams in my eyes. If you’re on the roster, we’re going to coach you as hard as we possibly can to help you [get] better as a player.
Some guys have never played special teams before, but we’re going to take them under our wing and try to teach them and coach them up to the best of our ability.
Nakobe is just a really good football player. When you’ve got really good football players, they tend to pick up things very quickly, regardless if they didn’t play it in college or anything like that.
I think he has done an absolutely great job helping getting these guys better, whether it’s himself or the other guys right there. Nakobe, he’s a hard hat guy. He comes in, doesn’t say much, but he’s ready to go regardless of the task we give him.
Q. As far evaluating returners, particularly a guy like WR Britain Covey who is new to the team, are you pretty much limited to seeing what those guys can do in a pre-season game as opposed to practice? Because there is not like really competitive sessions during punt and kick returns, full team anyway. (Jimmy Kempski)
MICHAEL CLAY: Oh, there is always things to evaluate. We give them drills in terms of where is our eye placement, are they peeking too quick, regardless if there is no gunner in front of them or anything like that. We want to get the best out of these guys. We chart every catch they have, whether it’s off the jugs, off a live leg, kick return, punt return, and we keep that percentage going, stuff I did in San Francisco.
So it’s not like they’re not being evaluated in terms of that. Obviously it’s great to do it — pre-season games you got guys running live down the field right there, but I think you can also tell with his footwork, to critique him in that way.
Britain has done a good job. All the returners are doing a good job. [WR] Jalen [Reagor], [WR John] Hightower on the kick return, [RB Jason] Huntley on the kick return. I think everyone is doing a very good job of catching the ball, they are hitting it, doing things that we want them to do. It will be very exciting to see them in a live situation against the Jets and so forth and so on.
Q. When you have new guys come in who have never played special teams in college, where you do you start with them as far as not technique and stuff, but just as far as conveying what you want out of them in general playing special teams? (Reuben Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think it’s conveyed like everybody else. When you come and you have made it to the NFL and everything, you may not play special teams, like I alluded to. We are going to coach you the best way we can, but it’s more of them just understanding why we do this. I try to correlate some special teams aspects to what they do on offense and defense. Maybe that clicks in and they’re like, oh, I can do this a little bit better.
For example, when I’m doing punt pro I say, hey, we when we are punt pro we want to keep a clean pocket, no different than a quarterback in the clean pocket. It’s just being able to communicate in words they probably are more inclined to listen to if they didn’t do it in college or anything like that.
Once they get that and it clicks, they’re like, okay, I want to learn a little bit more about special teams. Why do we do this? What’s this technique?
No different on defense. When you keep the cup as a corner, you want to keep everything inside. No different than kickoff coverage. You want to keep everything to whether it’s ten other guys right there.
So when you can link up special teams to the offense and defense, stuff they listen to, they’re more familiar with, it correlates. Then you show them the film and they’re like, oh. We show them film from years back, 2015-16, and you get the oos and ahhs. It’s a simple play, but now they want to say, how can I get something better, or how did this happen, something like that.
So it’s just correlating what they’re used to maybe from their senior and junior year to now being new guys on a team, but understanding that.
Q. What were some of the things you asked P Arryn Siposs to work on in the off-season? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: Just being more consistent, especially in everything he does. Whether it’s plus 50, whether it’s working out, whether it’s just being consistent in life. I think he’s done a great job of that when we’ve asked him to go out there.
He’s been working a lot. [Special teams quality control coach] Tyler [Brown] does a great job of helping him out. [K] Jake [Elliott] does a great job, [LS] Rick [Lovato] does a great job in terms of communicating with them. They’ve worked even before leaving in the spring. So I think just him being consistent.
For me personally, just telling him to be confident in what he does. Regardless of what he does every day, just be confident and believe in yourself. You’re here for a reason. Just having that confidence to step on the field and go out there and produce like he did early on in the season I think is just going to help him going forward.
Q. With consistency, how do you build that in a punter? What are the elements? (Les Bowen)
MICHAEL CLAY: I think the consistency is no different than a wide receiver or a running back every day. You build up a good day. You don’t want to go back and say, hey, I missed a couple punts here and there. It’s consistently putting those — if I give you six punts, these are the only six punts I’m charting you. I want them to be as good as six punts as you can. If you hit those six, let’s make it seven. It’s just coming in every day.
Then you get into the situations. Hey, we’re backed up. This is what I want you to do. This is what I want A, then this is B right there. If you can hit those two, we’ll be alright.
It’s the same thing in the plus 50. Hey, give our gunners a chance to make a play. Don’t get too greedy. I want it in between a certain yardage. Let’s do that for five straight plays. If you can do that, now it’s muscle memory. Now you can go out there any time, when it’s a rush, no rush.
To answer your question, be more specific with that in terms of what we’re expecting, just to be consistent.
Q. We think team leaders, we think about C Jason Kelce on offense, DE Brandon Graham on defense. Is there anyone that is a core special teamer for years that has taken on a leadership role on special teams? (Jimmy Kempski)
MICHAEL CLAY: That’s the cool thing. I don’t think I have to tell anybody, hey, you have to be a leader on special teams. I think it’s the guys that have produced over the last couple years. For example, I think [LB] Shaun Bradley has done a good job. Obviously he had a great year last year.
But it’s not just Shaun. It’s guys – [S] Marcus Epps, [LB] T.J. Edwards. It’s a full-on collective effort to be leaders out there, to show these young guys how to practice. You see those guys going just as hard in our drills as the rookies.
It’s more of a collective effort. I wouldn’t just pinpoint it on one guy. The veterans do a really good job of kind of self-policing, being the leaders of the whole special teams unit.
Q. As a follow-up about guys that didn’t play a lot of special teams in college, the guys that did, LB Kyron Johnson, WR Britain Covey as a returner, do they have a slight advantage of all that experience at the college level? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: That’s a very interesting question, because the college level I believe may be a little bit different in terms of like our punt pro. Most guys on the field, they just run down the field. We’ve still got to teach them from the base level of, hey, this is the protection. This is how we want it.
Same with [WR] Britain [Covey]. I mean, guys are just running down the field. Half the time those three guys are offensive linemen. You don’t get offensive linemen, you’ve got guys running 4.2, 4.3, so it’s still implementing our base foundational rules of what we want right there.
When they go out there, there are veteran guys that are savvy, there are guys that know some tricks of the trade and it’s more of just the learning experience with that. So I wouldn’t say they have an advantage. It’s nice that they did play a lot coming in college, but you’ve still got to start from ground one.
Even with the veteran guys. We do the same drill day one of OTAs, we do the same drill day one of training camp. It’s just that muscle memory. Yeah, we may not do it a lot, but as long as we start from there we can build stuff up.
Q. In your experience, what position or body type best translates to the coverage units? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: Everyone comes in different shapes, sizes and forms. We had Raheem Mostert, [former 49ers] running back. Then you’ve got guys that are undersized guys. There are some genetic freaks out there that make a lot of plays.
I don’t think there is a set, perfect prototype special teams player. You do have to have some attributes out there, but sometimes it comes in between the ears. Guys that know where the ball is going, how to play off blocks, so it always comes down to the experience and seeing some things.
There’s obviously guys in the past years. [Former Eagles S Chris] Maragos, he was smart at the end of his years. I had Raheem Mostert and [49ers S] Tarvarius Moore that run 4.2. Some guys don’t run 4.2, but they’ve got to find different ways.
So I wouldn’t say there is a prototype special teams player. Everyone has their different attributes.