If Mike Macdonald is feeling really great before a game, he likes to take a 15-minute nap a couple hours before kickoff. Before his first NFL game as a defensive coordinator, Macdonald doesn't think that will happen Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The even-keeled, studious Macdonald downplayed the emotions heading into his debut, but the NFL's youngest defensive coordinator (37 years old) knows the adrenaline will be surging before this one.
"Every game gets the juices flowing," Macdonald said.
"We're just focused on what we're supposed to do. It's a bigger responsibility, obviously, and we're trying to take advantage of all the extra time we have to make sure we're thorough in all the situations. Right now, I feel like we're in a pretty good spot."
What got Macdonald to show the most emotion was the thought of unveiling his new defensive scheme. It won't be too much different from the construction of years past, but Macdonald has obviously put his stamp on things.
Considering that teams keep their play-calling very vanilla during the preseason, this will be the first true look at what Macdonald has in store for 2022. How excited is he to open things up?
"Excited," Macdonald said with a big grin. "I'll leave it at that, if that's alright."
One of the Ravens' advantages in Sunday's game is the Jets won't know what to expect from Macdonald and his unit. Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh's background is on defense, and he'll certainly be trying to extrapolate any guesses about wrinkles that may be coming. Saleh said the Jets have watched college tape of Macdonald's defense at Michigan last year.
"You watch whatever you can. Obviously, there's Michigan tape, there's the preseason, there's the system he was raised in," Saleh said. "You just try to gather as much information as you can to get a good idea of what his principles are going to be."
Macdonald treated offseason practices and preseason games as one big lab experiment. He put players in a bunch of different spots and asked them to try new things.
A former coaching intern and defensive assistant first at his alma mater of Georgia and then with the Ravens, Macdonald has an analytical mind. He's all about mixing and matching his players to utilize each one's strengths.
"What I learned was by situation, we have guys that can do different things that really help us," Macdonald said. "I think we're in the process still of narrowing down who's doing what given the situation. That will be a process all the way throughout the season, but I think we're in a good spot right now understanding what we're asking our guys to do, and I believe it's the things they do well so they can go play the right way, and you're asking them to do things they do well."
Ravens players have bought in.
"Everybody has their different influence on it, and Mike has definitely come in and put his influence on it. He's a great coach. I love what he's done so far," said Calais Campbell, who is one year older than his coordinator. "He has a great gameplan, he's going to mix it up and keep it interesting, and it's going to be fun."
Veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston is entering his 12th NFL season and said if you talked to Macdonald you "definitely can't tell this is his first year as a defensive coordinator in this league."
"He's very experienced. Even though he may not have [had] that title, he's definitely got the knowledge and mindset of a veteran defensive coordinator," Houston said. "I think he's unbelievable. The way he demands from us, the way he puts stuff together, the way he thinks, and the way he sees things, it also helps us. He's simplified it for us, and I think it's going to be a big help for us as a whole."
Macdonald has also shown he wants input from his players. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey said during a walk-through practice this week, Macdonald asked the players if they had that specific play-call down or not. If not, he would throw it out.
"A coach that's understanding like that, that's willing to switch things up to get us in the right thing, it's just really exciting to have that," Humphrey said. "And I just really like the energy he brings."