Monday Press Conference - 9/26

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

Opening statement: "Welcome, good to see everybody. I saw a few of you guys last night, but, [analysis is] not much different after watching the tape – pretty much the same conclusions. Our guys played very well. Like always, you learn so much from watching the tape. What we will do is to work to build on those things, just like we did last week when we didn't win and we didn't play as well. The goal is to get as much better as we can between today and Sunday and play as well as we possibly can on Sunday.

"From an injury perspective, no new changes, really. Haruki [Nakamura]'s MRI is not back yet, but it looks promising in terms of him being able to come back [in] maybe a month or so. We'll see. And, Dannell [Ellerbe]'s hamstring is just going to be throughout the week to see how it responds. So, we'll probably know by Friday based on how his practice plays out."

After the euphoria of his first start in the NFL, did you have the heart to tell WR Torrey Smith every game may not be like his first?"Well, I hope I don't have to tell him that. But, we'll plan on every week being like that and see how it goes. Every week of practice needs to be like that. That's kind of the point. We talk about transferring practice to the game – play like you practice. Those kinds of things are real. You see guys develop at practice as a football coach all the time. Sometimes, I think, people wonder, 'Why is this guy playing and why is that guy not playing?' Well, a lot of it is what you see in practice. You see a lot of things in practice; it's not like baseball or basketball or hockey where you play all these games and you really get a chance to develop and grow young players in the games. You really don't get a chance to do that in football. There are only 16 opportunities, but we have lots of practices. And, that's where you see guys make the little steps towards those kinds of things. You're right, every quarter is not going to be like that, but we're going to strive to make every practice as good as we can."

Do you feel rookie WR LaQuan Williams made a contribution with his blocking in yesterday's game?"LaQuan is a great story. It's an incredible accomplishment that he has made. Now he's active and he's playing in games. He played well in special teams. He did block well downfield, and one of the little things, he made a blitz adjustment when he had to catch on the left sideline up there, where he site-adjusted that pressure. When we weren't necessarily going to get that picked up, we ended up blocking it. But, Joe [Flacco] and he were on the same page of that site adjustment. So, for a rookie receiver to pick that up in his first-ever outing is pretty impressive. He's doing very well."

What is the likelihood that CB Domonique Foxworth and WR Lee Evans will be active this week for the Jets game?"I have no idea. Probably, totally two different cases. We'll just have to see how it goes this week and see where they are –probably watch and see if they can practice or not. If they go out and practice, how does [the injury] respond the next day? We'll just have to see."

What type of receiving corps do you envision if Evans returns with Smith coming on so strong?"That's right. That's the idea. You've got two downfield-threat-type guys. I'd put the tight ends in the same category. A lot of guys can get downfield in different ways. Anquan [Boldin] gets downfield in different ways, too. But, we'd have a chance to be pretty good."

Did you and your staff do anything different this week in your game-planning after the loss to the Titans?"Nope."

After rebounding from the loss in Tennessee with a big win in St. Louis, does the team feel it has the worst game of the season behind it now?"The Titans game? I sure hope so. I hope that's the worst game, but it's unpredictable. Those are the kinds of things you just really don't think about, to be honest with you. From a coaching perspective or a player's prospective, that's not even something [that occurs to you.] It's a great question to think about, but we just don't even think about it because it doesn't have any bearing on what we're trying to do in a given day. So, I hope so, but that's not really something to think about."

Is there any concern with WR Anquan Boldin dropping passes, particularly the one he missed in the end zone yesterday?"I don't really remember that being a drop, per se, or an easy catch. I'd have to go back and look at it, but… I'm sorry, what's the question about? *(Reporter: "Is it a concern that passes that hit his hands have been dropped?") *With Anquan? No. No, I'm not worried about his hands. He made a strong catch on the sideline there [when] he was contested. He had a nice catch in the corner of the end zone there, where he was out of bounds. He's got strong hands; that's his strength."

What has enabled the rookies to make quick contributions and impact despite not having an offseason to work this year?"Probably necessity as much as anything. A lot of rookies have been thrown into the mix, and I think some of them have responded and had a chance and done real well. They've obviously worked really hard to do that, and others haven't. So, you probably can't make a blanket statement for rookies all across the board, but it's probably an opportunity for the guys that have [contributed]. There are a number of veteran players that aren't in the League right now that probably would have been in the League in a normal-type season."

When do you make the determination to pull starters for backups with a big lead, and do you think, after watching film, you should have given QB Tyrod Taylor some reps?"Well, we did replace as many guys as we could if you noticed. You only get so many guys in pro football. All the guys that went in, went in except for Tyrod. And after thinking about it, I think we did the right thing. I don't know what you gain by a quarterback going in in a situation and handing it off three times, taking a knee twice and facing one third-and-11. To me, there is more to be gained by the guys that did go in – the two offensive linemen, the running back, the wide receiver. Being with the quarterback in the event of injury, they're most likely to be playing within a situation. Hear the snap count… You know, Jah Reid jumped on one of our plays there. He jumped offsides, he flinched, and we took a 5-yard penalty. Well, I don't know how many flinches Jah Reid's got, but if he's playing, maybe that's one out of the way that he won't have when it really counts, perhaps. Tandon Doss was on a route there and Joe Flacco was throwing it to him; that's one bit of game experience that those guys wouldn't have, with Joe, when it really counts. So, that's really the point. The other thing is the argument about getting Joe hurt… Well, I'd like to see the history on quarterbacks getting hurt at the end of games like that. I don't think there is much, but it's always a concern. But all of our players are a concern. We could have… Or not throwing the pass on third down, you know, we could have run the ball and ran the punt team out there, too. We weren't trying to run the score up at all; we were trying to get a first down so our defense and our punt team didn't have to take the field. That's the idea. Then we took a knee. So, we could run our punt team out there, too, and put our punter at risk, and they had just run into our kicker two plays before. So, anybody is at risk in a situation like that, or anytime you're taking snaps."

Did you see anything on tape from the "chippy" actions that were evident after several plays?"Nothing different than you saw, and I didn't try to judge what they were. But they were what they were on tape. I just appreciate nobody got hurt."

How did T Michael Oher do against a good pass rusher in Rams DE Chris Long?"Yeah, I thought he did a good job against Chris Long, run and pass. And like you said, he did a good job of kind of controlling the pass set, slowing it down a little bit. He was still right on time. A couple of times, it was perfect timing, so I kind of held my breath a couple times. But Chris Long is a relentless guy [and] a violent pass rusher, and Michael Oher did a nice job with his punch. I think one time, Chris spun inside and got just a bit of pressure, then Mike flattened him right back out. So, it was a good day for Michael."

What type of pressure does it put on an opposing team when you jump out to a 21-0 lead very early and how does that adjust your play-calling the rest of the game?"Well, on offense, we'll probably try to stay aggressive. I don't think you want to go in a shell, but you want to be smart. You want to run as much clock as you can, and to me, you do that by getting first downs and moving the football – not by handing the ball off every single time. Obviously, as games wore on, you probably run the ball more than you pass it in games like that. That's kind of a proven formula. I think anytime you jump out to a big lead, the chances of winning are a lot better than if you jump out to a big deficit. So, we'll always try to do that. But, the biggest factor probably is what it does for your defense; it forces them into a situation where they've got to drop back and throw the ball a little more, which allows you to be a little more aggressive with your blitz packages. And just like getting them in third-and-long – which we did quite a bit yesterday – it helps with that. So, those are the things that you shoot for."

Anticipating some talk from the Jets this week, have you thought about what your message to the team will be?"We always tell our guys really to be themselves. We don't tell them not to say anything. We encourage them to be their best selves. I think our guys are pretty good guys, and our guys are classy guys. I'm sure our guys will have fun with it. I don't think you will hear too much malicious [words] coming out of our guys. Our guys like those guys, so to speak. It will be good laughs listening to what comes out of New York, and we will be looking forward to it because it is always funny. It's always entertaining. It makes it more fun."

The Jets' run defense is down right now. Is that uncharacteristic of a Rex Ryan defense and can you expect that to change this weekend?"I don't know. I am not really making any historical statement about characteristics. We'll just look at what they are as a team and try to find a way to be our best football team on Sunday and try to be a very good football team. That's all. They are a very good football team – very aggressive, very tough, very determined. They have a lot of playmakers – that's the biggest thing. [They have] playmakers all over the field. I think when you see them win, they can win it in a lot of different ways. They can win by dominating the opponent, they can win by pulling it out at the end. That's the mark of a good team – a winning team. That will be our challenge."

For a guy who is 6-4, 330 and who can scoop up a fumble and score, do you almost take for granted what kind of an athlete DT Haloti Ngata is?"Did you say 6-4, 230? *(Reporter interjects: "330.") *Oh, OK. I was just thinking, 'Who are we talking about?' I guess it's not too tough for Haloti [Ngata]. It would be tough for any of us probably. But, you're right – that's a great play. He is just an unbelievable athlete for his size. Then he had a little limp leg there. He kind of gave [the defender] the limp leg, left leg, and slid away from the tackle, threw the ball in the stands [and] had a nice celebration. Did you see Ray [Lewis] on the celebration? Did anybody catch that? We caught that too in our meeting today. We showed it to the team. It was as hard as Ray went down all day, on the celebration."

Last year, the Rams and Steelers were two of the best teams in terms of sacks. Do you feel more confident going into the Jets game Sunday night having played well against their pass rush?"I do feel more confident. I think we have improved a lot from last year, but I wouldn't base it on… Because [against] the Titans, we didn't do a great job. Joe [Flacco] did a great job of moving around. The quarterback has to be a big part of that, too. I think we are getting better. We have gotten better. You are still working those new guys in, working together. We changed the protection schemes a little bit. I think that has been a plus. Every week is a new challenge, and this blitz scheme we are about to see is very unique."

How pleased have you been with the pass rush of DE Cory Redding and other guys that are playing on the opposite side of OLB Terrell Suggs?"Cory Redding… And you look at all our guys – Paul Kruger, Jarret Johnson, Pernell McPhee, Haloti [Ngata] of course… We are getting quarterback hits and sacks from everybody. That is really the whole key. It's the guy on the other side that kind of gets talked about a lot, but it's also the guys inside – it's the linebackers. Our linebackers have pressured really well. Jameel McClain made a tackle miss on a blitz yesterday so it's beating those guys one-on-one when you pressure. I think our coaches have done a really nice job. [Defensive line coach] Clarence [Brooks], [outside linebackers coach] Ted [Monachino] and [linebackers coach] Dean [Pees] have done a really nice job of teaching guys pass-rush technique and stuff like that. It's always a group effort."

Did you get a sense that the team was going to do what it did yesterday? Did you sense more of a determination?"No. Really , I didn't sense more determination. It's so hard to judge that. I would like to be able to say that you can get a feel for that like before the game and stuff like that. I felt like our guys were very ready to play against Tennessee, and we didn't play well. To me, I go more by the way we practice and even that's not always a perfect determiner, because we practiced well a week before against Tennessee. I think we hit on some things. We did a nice job of catching them in man coverage. It's even like the last throw that Joe made on the sideline that got the interference call. It really wasn't designed to go there. It was designed to go inside, and they got single-high man coverage – press man, and that's where the ball is supposed to go. That was a plus for us in the first quarter, probably more than anything, which didn't happen for us necessarily against Tennessee. So, what's the reason? It's hard to say."

How has CB Lardarius Webb looked so far?"He has looked really good. Lardarius [Webb] has played really well. He is still a young corner because he played safety in college. But, from a technique standpoint, to me, he is really, really growing into a good, solid corner with ability to be really good."

Given the injuries at corner, what do you see from Webb throughout the rest of the season?"I would expect him only to get better. To me, I expect him to be a really good corner in this league. After that, we'll just see where it goes. I'm not going to put any limits on him. There is no ceiling. We'll just have to see what happens for him as a player. He loves to hit people, he loves to practice. He has ball skills, he can jump out of the building, and he can run. He has good feet, he is aggressive on the line of scrimmage punching and jamming people. Those are all good traits for a corner."* *

Are you thinking about adding another safety to the mix?"We'll be talking about that. I think we're OK with the guys we have, because Chris Carr can go back there and swing at safety. Lardarius [Webb] could go back there and swing at safety if we needed him to; those guys are playing the slot. Right now, I don't think we have a plan today to make a move today, but that could change."

How important was it for QB Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense to come out and establish a strong passing game? "I mean, anytime you do something well, it's good. And, you want to be able to stretch the field vertically, which is something that we've really wanted to be able to do coming into this year. To see that happen is a big plus for us, because it opens up the check downs, it opens up the crossing routes, it opens up the run game. They were defending the run, there's no question. I think they expected us to come out running the ball, too. So, they gave us looks that were not great against the run but good against the pass. So, what we had to do was beat those guys out there one-on-one. Those young receivers stepped up and did it. So, you have to prove you can do that. And then, also, just the mindset… I think Joe putting the ball on those guys, and those guys making plays... So, that's what it ends up boiling down to."

What do we make of Flacco's enthusiasm and the success you had with the increased passing? "I mean, I think I like that. I think Joe is right about a lot of things. He's right about the fact that you have to go after people, whatever way you go after them. You have to attack people down the field and outside. Would you want your quarterback not saying that? He probably wants to throw every single time; that is what you expect from your quarterback. He and I talked about that a lot this week. That was stuff that he expressed to me going into the game. We all agree with that; I agree with that. Cam agrees with that. That's true. You have aspirations to win a championship. Obviously, that's the idea. You've got to be able to attack people in every different way. But, that's not to say we aren't going to run the ball too. We pride ourselves in that also. You've got to be able to do everything well."

Is Flacco having an impact on the team with his enthusiasm?"Oh man! Come on… You're going to go write that story now. Joe has an impact. He's our quarterback. Sure he has an impact on how we think. He should. He's a very smart guy, right? He's a hard-working guy. He's very talented, and he wants to win. So, I want him to have an impact, and I think he has."

Did you notice the Rams' defense backing off after WR Torrey Smith made some big plays?"Not really. I think they still played aggressive coverage. We were able to… They made some plays, and we made some plays. The safeties probably got a little deeper, but the corners still played press, pretty much, throughout the game. (Reporter: "Would you expect teams to back off?") Not really. Everyone is kind of confident in what they do. I think teams will do what they do. You're not going to expect the Jets to back off; they've got great corners. I'm sure they're going to challenge us and see what they can make of how we play. And, I'm sure we'll challenge them and see how good they are."

How do you decide what players you are going to dress, and do you think OLB Sergio Kindle will emerge as a key player soon?"There's an element of patience there. I say, 'Work hard and get better.' If you're not dressing, it's because you're not good enough yet. That's a fact. I hate to say it that way, but I think if someone got hurt and he dressed, he'd have the chance to prove himself. But, the fact is, there are better players right now. So, we dress the best players. You can only have so many DBs and so many linebackers and so many defensive linemen. It's a very competitive deal. The better a team, the more depth you have. The more healthy you stay, the tougher it is for guys. OK, that's the harsh reality. The other side of the coin is Sergio is young, he's talented, he works hard and he wants to be a good player. So, his challenge is that, when his opportunity comes, he needs to be ready. That's what he's working for right now. It could be this week. It could be five weeks. It could be 10 weeks. We really don't know."

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