All of a sudden, something hardly ever talked about is the buzz of Baltimore.
The defensive headset and the player relaying play-calls became a talking point after linebacker C.J. Mosley went down with knee bone bruise early in Thursday night’s loss in Cincinnati.
At first, third-year inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor took the helmet with the coach-to-player communication and the Bengals scored touchdowns on four straight drives. Veteran safety Eric Weddle took the helmet at halftime and the Ravens defense allowed six points.
On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said safety Eric Weddle is second behind Mosley in the pecking order of who should have the headset.
On Thursday, the day Mosley returned to practice, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said he’s not sure yet who he’ll be calling plays into because he’s not sure who will be on the field. There’s a chance Mosley could play.
So, what’s all the hubbub about? Weddle and Onwuasor explained a little Thursday what goes into wearing the headset, with each saying they welcome the job.
“It’s a lot of responsibility. You’re responsible for the whole defense getting the call,” Weddle said.
“There are a lot of things that factor into it. You’ve got to know what your job is, you’ve got to relay the information you’re getting in the headset to everybody else, get the call out, get any checks out, all within 15-20 seconds.”
Weddle wore the headset for two years while with the San Diego Chargers. He said doing it again was like riding a bicycle.
As Weddle is hearing the call from Martindale, he’s repeating everything to his teammates. It’s listening and speaking at the same time. But it’s hard for everyone to hear him, so Weddle said he often repeats the call three or four times to different parts of the huddle.
“You don’t really understand what it’s like when you’re in the game, when you’re winded, when the offense is lining up and you’re getting yelled at by your players,” Weddle said. “It takes an adjustment just to get comfortable with it. When you do, and you get in a rhythm, you’re fine.”
Once Weddle gets the call out, the linebackers are still responsible for getting the defensive front set while Weddle focuses on the secondary.
“I like the pressure. I like the responsibility,” Weddle said. “I like to put the pressure on myself rather than anybody else. And I always like to know that I have the call before anyone else.”
Weddle isn’t the only one, however, who likes the job that Mosley has held ever since his rookie year. Traditionally, it’s a linebacker who does it because they’re in the middle of the defense.
“I like the responsibility,” Onwuasor said. “It’s taking charge as the MIKE linebacker. That’s usually what the MIKE linebacker does is take charge of the defense. I like it.”
Martindale Compares Von Miller to LeBron James
The Ravens know that blocking Von Miller will be priority No. 1 for the offensive line on Sunday. Harbaugh said the Ravens need to know where he is at all times.
The six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 50 MVP is off to another good start with four sacks in two games. After the trouble the Ravens had with the Bengals’ pass rush last week, they’ll have perhaps an even tougher task this Sunday.
While the Ravens want to shut Miller out, they know simply containing him from wrecking the game may be a success. Great players are going to make plays.
“It’s like playing LeBron [James],” Martindale said. “Every now and then, LeBron is going to clear the lane and go dunk. Those types of players do that.”
The Ravens will likely use a wide assortment of techniques to block Miller, but the bulk of the job falls on right tackle James Hurst and left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
“He’s a game-changing player and you’re going to be in for a long day against him, no doubt,” Hurst said. You’ve just got to trust your technique, watch film, prepare as much as possible and play your game.”
Stanley, the sixth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, said Miller is the kind of pass rusher he was drafted to block. Stanley said the list of talented players he lines up across never ends, but Miller is special.
“You have to know what they’re good at,” Stanley said. “There’s speed guys, there’s power guys, you have to know what their best pass rush is, you have to know what they’re going to go to in crunch time when they really need to get a sack. Knowing those only makes you enhance your technique better.
“There are moves they use, but I’m using my technique while blocking those moves. I can block those moves; I just need to make sure everything is on point, technique-wise. If you look at the best linemen across the league, they look the same every game no matter who they play because they use their technique every play.”
Albert McClellan Welcomed Back With Open Arms
The happiest person to get the news that the Ravens were re-signing veteran inside linebacker Albert McClellan was McClellan’s daughter, who didn’t want to switch schools.
“Once I told her, it was, jump, jump, ‘Hey, hooray! We’re here! We’re home! We get to stay home!’” McClellan said with a smile. “And that was my same feeling. This is where want to be. This is my home. I’m glad that I can stay here and defend my home.”
McClellan, 32, got his start with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has become one of the team’s most respected players and treasured leaders, particularly on special teams.
However, the Ravens released him at the end of training camp to keep a younger, cheaper version in undrafted linebacker Chris Board. McClellan missed all last season because of a torn ACL. Baltimore told him to stay ready just in case they needed to bring him back.
McClellan continued training in Baltimore during his two weeks out of the league, and had a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles, but they didn’t sign him. Just days later, after Mosley’s injury, the Ravens had a need for experienced depth and called.
McClellan still watched the Ravens’ first two game and still called some teammates after games to give them some coaching tips.
“Contacted a few people, still kind of helping out coaching, like, ‘Get off that block, get out, punch and run!’ … You know, letting them know that I’m still watching, I’m still over your shoulder checking up on you,” McClellan said.
McClellan smiled and said he’s back to being called ‘Co-Cap’ of special teams, along with safety/linebacker Anthony Levine. Another person very happy to have him back is Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
“It was a welcome home. I said, ‘Where have you been?’” Rosburg joked. “He didn’t lose anything in his time away because we got back in the meeting room and he started coaching everybody right again.”
Janarion Grant Knows His Job Isn’t Secure
The Ravens picked undrafted rookie Janarion Grant to be their returner, but after putting the ball on the ground twice in two games, Grant knows he may be on thin ice.
“I have to protect the ball with two hands. If I don't, I won't have this job,” Grant said.
After a 51-yard punt return in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, Grant nodded his head when asked if he’s been perhaps thinking too much about trying to break another big return.
“I'm trying to be that guy on special teams that can be a spark, but I also have to stay disciplined when it comes to protecting the ball,” Grant said.