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Head Coach John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

Posted Sep 23, 2013

Opening statement: “Injury-wise, we got through the game pretty well. Terrence Cody has a sprained knee. It would be a stretch to expect him back this week. We’re going to try, but more likely it will be after this week coming up. We have a chance to get Chris [Canty] back. We have a chance to get Ray [Rice] back. We’ll see as the week goes on how that goes. Anything else from yesterday? Maybe you will have a question on something, but I can’t really think of anything else that was of any significance.”

Isn’t it ironic that today is your 51st birthday and yesterday Daryl Smith, who wears No. 51, had a great game? On a team that is trying to get younger on defense, Daryl Smith has meant a lot to you, hasn’t he? (Joe Platania) “Daryl Smith has meant a lot to us, you’re right. Daryl has just done a great job, and for him to come up [with big plays], it’s not just the interception. He’s played really well consistently from the beginning. He had [10] tackles, he had a few assists, a broken up pass, might have had a sack; he got a quarterback hit in there. He just played exceptionally well – and had a baby. His wife had a baby. I don’t know if you guys are aware of that or not. He had a little girl this morning, about two o’clock in the morning. That tells you about Daryl. Probably nobody knew about that; that’s how quiet he is. And, she does share a birthday with yours truly. (laughter) So, we were really excited about that. At least I was really excited about that. I don’t know if Daryl or his wife [cared]. I don’t think they probably cared, but I was pretty fired up about it. (laughter) It was a glorious day for the Smith family.”

Have you heard about the incident with Jacoby Jones last evening?  Is he injured or is he any worse?  Reports were that he got hit in the head? (Mark Zinno) “Regarding Jacoby, we got reports of that, middle of the morning, this morning some time, I heard about that. As far as him, he’s fine. He went through everything today that he was supposed to go through. He didn’t miss anything. [I’m] not very impressed, personally, with the report. It’s not something we want to be known for. I’d like to think it’s not something those guys would want to be known for. It’s nothing to be proud of. So, I’m disappointed in that sense.”

Without going into detail with us, have you followed up with the players involved individually? (Jerry Coleman) “You’re right, any conversations with those guys [are private]. Of course we’re going to have conversations, and we’ve had conversations about that and other things. We’ll probably keep that between us, address it with the team. What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a football player or do you want to be known for that? I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of.”

Do you know if there will be anything legal that will happen after the fact? (Mark Zinno) “No, I don’t know anything like that.”

Is it fair to assume you will not be celebrating your birthday on a party bus in D.C.? (Gerry Sandusky) (laughter) “Well, I’m going to pretend that question never happened.” (laughter)

You’ve heard the only saying that nothing good ever happens after midnight. Would you consider a curfew for the team? (Aaron Wilson) “Well, my dad, Jack Harbaugh is here, and that was definitely a motto that was enforced in our household: ‘Nothing good happens after midnight,’ and I did reiterate that with the guys today.”

With Ray Rice, we saw him on the sidelines dancing around a little bit. Has he made a lot of progress, and do you feel like he has a good chance to play this week? (Aaron Wilson) “I don’t know about good, or great or whatever, but he was close this week, to a degree. So was Chris [Canty]. With those muscle things, you never know for sure, but they were in the ballpark this week, and we think that will put them really in the ballpark coming up.”

Have you seen the improvements from Week 1 to Week 3 in accordance to what you think would be on schedule? And do you see it getting even better as you go along? (David Ginsburg) “One of the things about this team, I’ve told them, that we’ve been really happy with the fact that … We’ve really made as much progress as we could make. In every area that we’ve really put an emphasis on, we feel like we’ve made great progress there. [It’s] not 100 percent across the board, [but] there’s a process to everything that you do. It’s hard to put a finishing product out there before you’re finished, but we’re on our way. And I really love two things that have gotten us to make the kind of improvement you’re talking about: Our attitude is as good as I’ve ever been around as a football team – and even individually, across the board – and our work ethic is as good as any that I’ve been around. So, I’m just proud of these guys [for] the way they work and the way they approach their job, and you would like to think that that shows up in how they improve.”

John, were you encouraged by the chemistry that was on display between Joe Flacco and Dallas Clark? (Clifton Brown) “There was some good stuff out there, you’re right. In terms of some of the timing and some of the tight throws that were made, big third-down conversions, types of stuff where they’re working on one defender and breaking away at the right time and Joe putting it away from the defender … That’s the kind of stuff that we have been working really hard to get to, not just with Dallas, but with all the guys. But you’re right, it showed up a little bit on Sunday.”

James Ihedigbo seemed like he had a good game yesterday. What have you seen from him through the first three games of the season? (Matt Zenitz) “He had a great game. James had a great game. He made some big tackles for us. Coming down and supporting out of the secondary, a couple times, Arian [Foster] or Ben Tate got out there loose a little bit and looked like they had a chance to make some yards, and James cut them down. I thought he played really well. He was in good position in pass coverage all day. This is a ‘shot’ team, too – this is a play-action pass, throw-the-ball-downfield outfit, where they made a bunch of big plays in the pass. And we felt like holding them to minimal or no big plays was going to be really important for us [and] was going to be a tough job for our secondary. And our secondary played with tremendous discipline – great eyes, great spacing and leverage in the back end. And [the Texans] had no big plays downfield in the passing game. So, that was really important.”

Ihedigbo is one of the new starters at safety this season, and Matt Elam obviously has recently kind of stepped into that role as well. How happy have you been with what you’ve seen from James through the first few games? (Matt Zenitz) “We’ve been really pleased with James, and Matt, too. You talk about both safeties – both of those guys have played really well. And I’d throw Mike [Huff] in the same category. Michael came out and played well yesterday. He played quite a few snaps on defense and had a tackle on the kickoff team. But James, to your question, has been kind of the glue back there. He’s been the guy that’s made all the calls for us. He’s the guy that gets us into the right coverage and that unwinds the formation for us. So, he’s done a great job of that.”

The 2.6-yards-per-carry average is 31st in the league right now. Are you content with that and the run game, or is that more of a by-product of the last two weeks, [where] you’ve committed to the run more, as far as the number of attempts you’re getting per game? (Mark Zinno) “The average? Well, no that’s not going to be OK. That number is not going to be that number, for one thing. That’s going to come up dramatically before the season is over and sooner. We’ve played some very good fronts; I don’t want to minimize the fact that we’ve had to block some good people. A lot of times when you watch the tape, there is really good blocking going on out there. Sometimes, against a really good front where they’ve got seven guys that can make plays … One guy here, one miss there, one bad target in another place, each time that’s what holds you back. Their safeties do a great job of tackling, so they limit you from the big runs. Our run game is not where it needs to be. We’re going to go to work on that – we have been working on it. We’ll continue to do so, and we need to make that important. One thing we’ve seen that, philosophically, we’re going to stick with it. It’s something that we think is important. We’re going to be able to run the ball here; it is a part of our DNA, and it is part of who we are as a football team. It’s going to be important, and we have the people to do it. We’ve got some big, strong, tough offensive lineman, and we have really good backs. Our fullback [Vonta Leach] is the best blocking fullback in the league. The run game is something that has to happen for us.”

With Ray Rice and Shaun Draughn getting banged up yesterday, do you see a need to add another running back, or [will you] wait and see as the week goes on? (Luke Jones) “We’ll see. Right now we’re in a wait-and-see mode. [There is] no imminent move as far as running back goes, because we feel those guys’ injuries are something we can deal with. We’re always looking for a good player or two, though.”

Talk a little bit about Tandon Doss. He was let go, then brought back when Jacoby [Jones] goes down, and then getting the big run in yesterday. (Bill West) “That’s real rewarding isn’t it? To see the kind of day Tandon [Doss] had … Personally, I really have always been a believer in Tandon. I’ve always felt like he had what it takes. I was really interested by his comments yesterday. That was really honest what he described, which is pretty neat for a guy to do that publicly the way he did. To see it pay off for him is a nice lesson for everybody. He’s always had talent; he’s worked extremely hard. He really had a good week of practice the last week of preseason, and then he played well in the last preseason game, too. So, this is not just happening now. It’s good to see.”

Getting back to the run game, this is essentially, with the offensive line and Vonta [Leach], the same group you were able to run the ball with in the playoffs. Can you put your finger on what the difference is in these first three weeks as opposed to the playoffs? (Jamison Hensley) “We can, I believe we have. I think we understand it. [I] don’t really feel an urgency to share it, exactly. We do feel like we understand it and we’re working on it. There’s no doubt in my mind that it can be corrected. We’re not getting the production from the run game that we should, but we also feel like we’re on our way to getting that done. We just have to do it; you just have to go out there and get it done.”

Are the struggles with the running game more of an offensive line issue, running back issue or collective? (Matt Zenitz) “It’s collective. It’s always collective; it’s never one thing. Of course, you could put the tight ends in there, you could put the quarterback in there with the checks or whatever, [and] you could put the receivers in there as far as the downfield blocking. All of our guys take – if you’re looking to point a finger – all of our guys are going to point the finger right back at themselves. That’s the kind of guys we have. I would characterize it more of being in sync, more in terms of working together more efficiently – combination blocks going to the right guy with the right technique at the right time. Those things – it’s not just a matter of just one-on-one knocking somebody off the ball. That’s not the way it works. It’s way more complicated than that up front. And like the passing game, when we talked precision, there’s a precision to the run game, too. It’s something that we don’t quite have ironed out yet against good fronts, and we’ve got to get there. That’s what we’re working on.”

In terms of numbers, is it usually seven or eight, or do you see a lot of crowded boxes? (Aaron Wilson) “We’ve had quite a bit of safeties being involved, there’s no doubt. Yesterday, it was more [that] their really good players made some plays on us. You saw J.J. [Watt] made a couple of plays where he beat some cut-off blocks. There were times where we feel like we had numbers to a side, went to a light side, and a guy would make somebody miss and make a great play. Their linebackers really came downhill really well and did a good job of stuffing the hole. There just wasn’t a whole lot of movement there, but there were also other times where we didn’t work the right angle to the right guy as far as the way we blocked it. They were giving us some challenging fronts, too, so all of that goes together. It’s just a matter of improvement across the board, and it’s an emphasis for us.”

How do you evaluate how the offensive line has been in terms of pass blocking? (Ryan Mink) “I would say the offensive line has been excellent with the pass blocking. That’s a good point, because you chase everything all the time. But when you’ve got a young center in there and you’ve got really a young left guard in there, and you’re working those guys in, you want to make sure you can protect your quarterback. And I would give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done as far as protecting Joe [Flacco]. We haven’t had a lot of hits on the quarterback. It’s gotten better week after week. We’ve gone against some really good pass-rush fronts, and I think Joe [Flacco] feels like he’s had some pretty good opportunities to look downfield and go through his progression. And we’ve gotten a lot of pressure. It wasn’t very often where Houston didn’t bring at least five [defenders] – run and pass – but especially pass. We were really good with assignments in pass protection, [and] we were really good with technique yesterday.”

Every team deals with injuries, but you’ve dealt with some significant ones, like Ray Rice and Chris Canty. How impressed are you with the fact that you’ve been able to overcome those? (Garrett Downing) “We had no healthy scratches yesterday. All seven of the guys that sat were all injured guys. I don’t know if I can remember the last time that’s happened. For those other seven guys to step up and for us to play the way we did and to win a game like that says a lot about our coaches [and] a lot about our players and the ‘Next Man Up’ philosophy. It was important, and those guys really came through.”

The improvement of the secondary – how much do you trace it back to them working more together and getting a chance to eliminate some of the communication issues? You made a lineup change there, too. How much do you attribute it to those factors? (Jeff Zrebiec) “They’re probably all attributable to the fact that those guys – just what you’re saying – those guys have really worked hard back there. It’s not simple. Football – it’s a simple game, philosophically, at the root and the fundamentals and what’s important. Those things are simple, but there’s a complexity to the X’s and O’s. People challenge you with a whole lot of formations and shifts and personnel matchups and route combinations and things like that in the back end. It takes a lot of brain power to figure that stuff out. And not just that, but being on the same page and communicating under fire with crowd noise and all those things, and we’ve gotten better each week with that. I just think those guys in the back end have worked so hard. That was a big concern. That was a point of emphasis in this game – something that we talked to the guys about on Saturday – was being rock-solid back there in terms of how we played together and how we played technique. They did a great job of that. I’m really proud of the way the secondary played in this game.”

There’s not a lot of tape on EJ Manuel at the NFL. Does that mean you will be going back to look at his college film? (Aaron Wilson) “I think our scouts … We have reports on those guys in college. We’re not going to spend any time this week watching his college tape. He’s got plenty of … He’s played every game, so there are plenty of reps for us to watch where he’s at right now as a pro quarterback, and it looks like he’s doing a great job.”

Joe Flacco has been sacked [eight] times in three games, but he’s seemed pretty composed in the pocket. Last year at this time, he might not have had this composure. Are you seeing progress in that, or has he been the same way in that for you? (Mark Zinno) “The word is ‘confidence.’ He’s got confidence in the pass protection right now. He feels very much protected back there. So, some of the sacks have been sacks where he’s taken the ball and held it right through the read progression as much as he can, and then just decided to hold on to the ball and maybe take the sack. When you’re getting sacks like that, where you feel – and I’m not talking about all of them, I’m just talking about maybe a few of them … I don’t have the numbers right now, but my feeling is that Joe [Flacco] has comfort back there to go through his read progression, which has helped him, because he’s run through the read progression plenty of times and found a crossing route. I think it was a Torrey [Smith] crossing route for the big third down on the touchdown drive after half, where he went through his whole progression and found Torrey on the crosser for a big conversion and got us down inside the 10- [yard line]. That’s attributable to pass protection – him having the time to do that, and not just the time to do that, but the room in the pocket to do it, where he feels like he’s got room to see over those guys, and he’s got room to follow through on his throws. It’s been really good for us, you’re right.”

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