HENDERSON, Nev.--The Las Vegas Raiders have gotten off to a disappointing 0-2 start, but while you can't ignore the implications of that, you also need to be careful to make it bigger than it is.
Over a 17-game season, each team will face adversity. The Silver and Black are no different.
DC Patrick Graham reflected on the collapse versus the Arizona Cardinals and looked ahead to the Tennessee Titans this weekend.
You can watch his entire press conference below, and read the transcript.
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: Obviously, you guys were on the field for a lot of plays in the second half on Sunday. How much do you think maybe that played a role in the Cardinals finding some success down the stretch?
Coach Graham: “[The] reason why they found success is their players performed. They did a good job. Guys made plays for them. So, I mean, again, whether we're out there for whatever many plays it doesn't really matter. We all have a job to do. It always comes down to performance and they did a good job and made plays when they needed it, and they won the game.”
Q: When we're talking to Josh McDaniels, he said Chandler Jones was asked to rush a certain way last game. It probably takes some unselfishness to do that because your numbers might not reflect what you're out there doing. Was that a plan to kind of have him rush the way he did?
Coach Graham: “Well, I can't speak for Josh, but just talking about the plan – when you're dealing with someone like [Kyler] Murray, you can't rush him the same way you're going to rush everybody else. I don't think that's a recipe for success in my opinion. So, what we do is we try to fit the game plan for the opponent, and I thought Chan [Chandler] has some great rushes during the game in terms of keeping him in the pocket. The unselfishness, like you said, in terms of forcing it to other guys, and we made some plays in there in the pocket and unfortunately they made a few more plays than we made and that's why they won the game. But you have to change the plan based on the quarterback. Each quarterback is different just like this week with Tennessee, it's going to be different. You got another more mobile quarterback back there and we're going to have to figure out the best plan to take care of him as well.”
Q: When you got a guy like Luke Masterson that played so well in the preseason, do you have to create ways to get him more reps?
Coach Graham: “The thing that we do is we look at a game plan and what we think is going to be best. Again, I can't speak for Tom [McMahon] in terms of the special teams part of it, but I know Luke is preparing during the week and Luke is working hard to improve and get the concepts of the defense, and he performed well in the in the preseason. And when his opportunity comes up, the one thing I could bank on, he'll be ready. He'll be ready. I mean, he's a student of the game. He studies hard, in practice he's working hard and when his time comes, he'll be ready to rock and roll.”
Q: Is it along the same lines with Tashawn Bower and Malcolm Koonce in terms of game reps?
Coach Graham: “Same thing, I mean, we have a 53-man roster and it's real limited on how many players you have out there. It's not like college and guys have to be ready when their name is called. And those guys work hard every day. They work hard. They study hard. They're young players that are continuing to grow and when their opportunity comes up, I'm sure it'll be ready.”
Q: Throughout the first two weeks of the season what have you seen from Jayon Brown that you liked? And what element does he add to this defense?
Coach Graham: “The versatility, you got a linebacker who can cover. You got linebacker who could blitz. You got linebacker who could also serve as a signal caller in terms of the communicator out there on the field. And his veteran leadership, both on the field and off the field are two things that really stand out right there for me. So, for me, he's done everything we've asked him to do. He's been physical in the run game. He's been able to cover guys when we asked him to, so a lot of good things from Jayon right now.”
Q: How optimistic are you about stopping the run with your prior success going against Derrick Henry?
Coach Graham: “Well, I've never gone against [Derrick] Henry before, so this is interesting. I've admired from afar because as a defensive coach, there's not too many things we like about offense but when you see a guy that could run the ball and the way he runs the ball and the physicality, I wish he would have switched over to defensive end or linebacker at some point. I'm excited about the challenge. You hear so much about him throughout the league and over the years and really haven't had a chance to face him. The only time I faced him was in 2018 in the preseason and he was only out there for one drive when I was at Green Bay. This is going to be fun because he challenges you, the combination of him and the offensive line. I think the toughness of that whole team, that whole organization, starting with [Mike] Vrabel, J-Rob [Jon Robinson], those guys, they've built a tough football team. They built a real tough football team. You know, guys with good size and it's going to be football, like it's going to be fun to be a part of. I'm looking forward to it and I heard the atmosphere down there is really good.”
Q: Is the toughness a mentality that has to be matched from your guys?
Coach Graham: “Well, you see it when you watch the tape, their toughness jumps off the tape. The little bit I know about Mike [Vrabel] and the little bit I know about J-Rob [Jon Robinson], those are two tough guys. I mean, it’s in the image of the leadership of the organization. We want to have a tough football team. Coach [McDaniels] talked about in his opening press conference – a tough, smart football team that performs well under pressure. So, it is going to be a challenge. I'm looking forward to it.”
Q: What have you seen from Treylon Burks?
Coach Graham: “Some explosion there. Explosiveness. When they've gone to him, he's been ready to go. So, you see that, and you always expect young players…you wonder how that's going work out early on, but the speed is the one thing that shows up. And going down the field, that's one thing that shows up definitely when you watch the tape.”
Q: What’s the biggest challenge when facing Derrick Henry?
Coach Graham: “Tackling. Tackling is going to be a tough deal. I mean, this is a big man. Like I said, I only saw him one time live and in person. He is a big man. There's not there's not a lot of people on the planet that look like him. So, the tackling is the number one thing and then the relentlessness. I mean, this is a back that could get the ball 25-30 times in the game if you let him. So, I mean, it's going to be relentless. He's going to keep coming at you. I'm not comparing him to Marshawn Lynch, but I just remember Marshawn is the best I ever went against in terms of coaching and just how it would build throughout the game. That third quarter was tough, man. It was tough because Marshawn was still going and you see some of that, some of the playoff games I've seen in the past with [Derrick] Henry. They just keep building, and they start wearing on you, so you got to be ready to tackle them for four quarters and understand it's not going to be a one man show. It’s going to be a whole bunch of guys that got to get to him. Plus, they do a good job blocking, so, you know, it's going to be tough.”
Q: Do you approach tackling him differently? Or is it just doubling down it on the fundamentals?
Coach Graham: “It's funny, the league is about the people, and you got to know who you're going against. No different than the question that was asked about the quarterbacks. I know you have to adjust your plan, whether it's tackling a quarterback, tackling a receiver, tackling a back. The plan has to be suited for that person because each person is unique, so you definitely got to look at it differently. But it comes back down to the fundamentals of tackling like, ‘Okay, you got to ID how are we going to get this person down.’”
Q: Through two weeks, are you happy with your pass rush? What are the things that you think are going well and things you want to see improved on?
Coach Graham: “We're 0-2 right now. There's been improvement, I will say that. Am I happy? No. Because we haven't won. When we win, that's when I'm happy, and even then, I'm slightly happy. We have some things to work on. I got to do a better job coaching and we'll keep working on as it as we keep going through this process.”
Q: On the two-point conversion play where Kyler Murray ran the ball in for the score, was there something that you wanted to be done differently?
Coach Graham: “A failed version, that would have helped. Some things there, I mean, the guys did a great job in coverage. They did a great job in coverage and the guys that were rushing, the effort was there. It just came down to executing and they executed better. Their player made a play, and we just go back to the drawing board and be ready to go next time because it's not going to be the last time we have a two point play this season. So, we’ll ready to go.”
Q: What have you seen from Johnathan Abram? What's he brought to the table as far as what you thought coming in? And what have you seen firsthand from him?
Coach Graham: “Intelligent player. Knew that from the time I met him when he we interviewed him at Mississippi State when I think I was at Miami (Dolphins) I believe. Intelligent player, understands football, understands concepts, versatility that shows up. You can see moving him around a little bit in different spots. And he loves football. So those are those are some positives right there in terms of things to work with. Any football player that has some football intelligence, loves the game, has some versatility, those are usually guys that we like to have around.”
The Raiders (0-2) will kickoff next Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT in Nashville, Tenn., against the Tennessee Titans. You can watch the game on FOX.
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