Q. Who’s your punter and punt returner? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: Punter and punt returner? I think we all kind of know who that is at this point. Only a few people on the roster that can punt and punt return. We obviously know that’s our situation.
Q. Who do you lean on as your core group now with so many changes in the roster? (Reuben Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: It definitely brings an excitement on who is going to unveil themselves as those core guys. You have the [LB] Christian Elliss’s from last year, who played a big part. [LB] Patrick Johnson has been here for a few years.
A lot of these young guys, there’s a lot of excitement around [S] Sydney Brown. He did a lot of good things in training camp. There are a lot of people we were able to throw in there and see what they can do.
You have [CB] Kelee Ringo, [LB] Nolan Smith, those freakish athletes that you want to see out there and perform at a high level. I’m very excited to see who unveils themselves to be those core guys because it’s going to be important for us to lean on those guys.
This group, especially the veterans that play offense and defense, they do a great job in meetings helping these younger guys out, catch them up going forward.
Q. LB Nolan Smith has spoken to us about how much he enjoys special teams, which you might not expect from a first-round pick. What is it about him that you think could fit in that role? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: I mean, I think it’s just his [LB Nolan Smith] love for the game really. He just wants to help the team out any way possible, whether that’s on defense or special teams, the willingness to go out there and perform at a high level, which we all appreciate, especially myself.
We are going to have to lean on him to help us out in the special teams aspect of the game. It’s always great to have young guys that are willing to go out there and do some of the heavy lifting on special teams.
But the great part, like I said, is on our roster you have guys that had done it before, before they made their splash in offense and defense. For example, [LB] Haason Reddick did it in Arizona, [S] Terrell Edmunds, [Brandon Graham] B.G. So, guys that are ahead of them, they’ve kind of paved the way for starting out on special teams and doing offense and defense.
Q. When it comes to punter, how much do you factor in K Jake Elliot’s comfort with the operation? He’s gotten comfortable with P Arryn Siposs as the holder. Not the main part of the job, but it’s part of the job. (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: Correct. Like [Offensive Coordinator] Brian [Johnson] kind of alluded to, getting the input from the guys in terms of some decisions that are made are always taken into consideration.
But after the last couple years, the comfortability from the operation has been pretty good. It showed. We’re obviously trying to put the best, competitive guys out there to make an impact on the game. We all know the kicking game is huge. We’ve been able to get a lot of points out of that operation.
Q. How difficult is it to get everybody in sync early in the season? During the pre-season you have a lot of combinations, a lot of fourth-string guys, third-string guys. Now you have set special teams. (Merrill Reese)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s more just of everyone being in the communication of the whole thing.
Outside of the games, where guys didn’t actually play on special teams, in our practices we kind of molded it with different combinations that may be set for this week. It’s them getting in sync on the communication aspect of the whole thing.
Once again, just keeping it as simple as possible for them so they can play fast, not think too much going forward in the early weeks of the season.
Q. When you bring in the punters for workouts, what are you evaluating in person versus film? (Bo Wulf)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s always good to see guys in person. There are just different aspects that you see that you probably can’t really see on the film.
Obviously, you see on the film a game-like situation. But there’s also different aspects. A guy may be coming from a different area where there’s no wind. Come out here so you can see a little windy on mid-day, you can kind of see how they’re doing into the wind, with the wind. It’s just nice to see guys in real life outside of the film.
Then you get to see their hands up close. We’re doing some holding, molding, things of that nature.
Q. Bill Belichick teams have always had great special teams units. Why is that? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: Shoot, good players and good coaches. I mean, they’ve always been on top of a lot of different situations, trying to find the edge in the special teams. Great respect for [Patriots Head Coach] Bill [Belichick], [Patriots Special Teams Coach Cameron Achord] Cam, [Patriots Assistant Head Coach] Joe Judge out there. They’ve been doing it for a long time at a very high level. Utmost respect for them.
We just got to be able to compete with them in terms of being dialed in on any situation that may occur. [Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni] Coach Sirianni does a great job of putting us in those situations for us to get familiar and be ready for that.
Q. Did the preseason around the league offer any clues on how will the new kickoff rules will affect the way teams approach it? (Zach Berman)
MICHAEL CLAY: I don’t think so. There are so many different aspects. I know a lot of guys are trying to see guys returning, guys can block, if they can cover on kickoffs. I don’t know if the pre-season was much of a preview on what could happen in the regular season.
We always have to be ready for any situation.
Q. Nolan Smith seems to be pretty enthusiastic about his role on special teams. How often do you see that from guys that are drafted as high as he was? (Jimmy Kempski)
MICHAEL CLAY: You know what, it’s tough to say in terms of, because everyone is a different case. I think that’s just who [LB] Nolan [Smith] is. He [Nolan Smith] loves football, regardless of defense, special teams. It’s always nice to have a young guy that’s willing, has all the energy, just wants to learn and get better through the special teams process.
Having him on our side, just asking him to be him, is all we can ask going forward.
Q. When it comes to gunners, you have a big test this week obviously with Patriots DB Marcus Jones? DB Josh Jobe has done it. You mentioned some of the athleticism with S Sydney Brown and CB Kelee Ringo. Does it take more than athleticism, or do you just try to get those guys on the outside? (John McMullen)
MICHAEL CLAY: It helps if you’re a super athlete, obviously. But there are some tools coming from the college game where everyone is kind of lined up, and free releasing. There are some tools that we try to help these guys out, getting off a double vice, guys stacking left and right, how do you play this, that. We help them with the tools getting out there, defeating it.
Some guys are great technicians. [DB] Zech McPhearson was a great technician getting him off the line of scrimmage. Having him around, teaching those young guys, [Special Teams Assistant] Tyler Brown does a great job during practice, after practice, working techniques, watching film from the peers around the league, what are some things that a dominant gunner is doing, how can we implement that, and add it to their toolbox.
A lot of the times, if you got a guy that can run fast and is strong, that’s going to be great to be out there. There are some technicalities that you have to teach these guys get off the line of scrimmage, get off of jams, rules, different things of that nature. Stuff goes into gunner play outside of the height, weight and speed.
Q. A tough finish to last season. What went into the process of having P Arryn Siposs be the week one punter this year? (Tim McManus)
MICHAEL CLAY: Competition is always great. Him [P Arryn Siposs] coming in day in, day out, trying to get better each day. We’re going to feel going into week one, putting him out there, comfortability, making him as comfortable as possible to get out there.
We’re all trying to get the best foot forward to help this team out. Week one, in New England, is going to be a challenge. We’re really looking forward to this.
Q. Both the Patriots kicker and punter are rookies playing in their first NFL game on Sunday, are there things you can do to take advantage of their inexperience? (Merrill Reese)
MICHAEL CLAY: We’re going to try, don’t want to get too much into what our game plan is for those guys. We’re going to put as much effort into our game plan to get everyone on cue to make sure that, without getting too much into the game plan, we’re going to be on our Ps and Qs, get after it a little bit today in practice obviously and then our walk-through tomorrow for special teams.
Q. P Arryn Siposs said one of the main things he struggled with last year was rushing, particularly in pressure situations. How do you help him through that? How does he improve? (Jeff McLane)
MICHAEL CLAY: It’s more of the protection on the inside, making sure we have a clear pocket for [P] Arryn [Siposs] to feel comfortable in that.
For him, just his operation time is a little bit above average, for him knowing that he’s got a fast operation time, not to be too fast, not to over-stride or stuff of that nature when it comes to his drop or mold, to stay within himself in terms of that.
He’s focused on that since the off-season and this training camp thus far, going into week one. So, it’s just one of those things, just sink into to his level of fundamentals.
Q. After working out several punters, what made him the best option? (Dave Zangaro)
MICHAEL CLAY: A lot goes into it. [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] do a great job. Always looking over possibilities in terms of getting this team better.
But there’s a lot of things that go into it. Operation punting, operation time during punts, all that stuff. It’s one of those things where we’re going to feel confident going into week one and keeping it simple.
Q. LB Nakobe Dean was a big part of your special teams last year obviously. Now that he’s going to be an every-down linebacker, how do you manage that? (Martin Frank)
MICHAEL CLAY: [LB] Nakobe [Dean] is great to have, especially in the meeting room. Everyone alludes to [LB] Nolan [Smith] being a rookie. That Georgia connection, him [Nakobe Dean] talking about it, his first year, how it was, what to expect as a rookie.
Nakobe is so cerebral that he’s going to just help out anybody, whether it’s a punt pro, punt return techniques, things of that nature, kickoff coverage. Having Nakobe, glad that he’s getting his opportunity on defense, being able to talk to these young guys on special teams.