Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
For guys looking to make the team through their special teams play, is this fourth preseason game where the spotlight is really on them? (Joe Platania)"The spotlight is on them, perhaps more from the outside, but the spotlight has been on them inside since Day One. There is a lot more attention paid on the outside of how special teams are going to do in this game, because we all understand that that's going to be an important aspect when we look at the back end of the roster – the last spots that are selected. And our guys know that, but they knew that in April. So, it's really not any different of a focus on the inside. Probably the biggest difference for our guys is they're going to be playing a lot more on offense and defense and on special teams. So, it'll also be a conditioning test."
So, when you guys get in the room to make those final cuts, is your voice heard a little more often when you say, "OK, 'X' performed well the other night, and this guy didn't do as much.'?" (Joe Platania)"One of the things I've enjoyed about working for the Ravens is that everyone's voice is heard. My voice is heard, John's [Harbaugh] voice is heard, [defensive line coach] Clarence's [Brooks] voice is heard, [assistant special teams coach] Chris' [Hewitt] voice is heard. And so during the selection process for the draft, people listen to us and they make the decisions, and I like to think that the same thing will hold true this coming week. We're all watching the same tape, we're all watching the same practices, so often times you come to the same conclusions."
How hard is it to get your weapons set with the personnel on the special teams unit constantly changing? (Bo Smolka)"It is [hard]. That is one of the reasons why during the course of the offseason we work on a number of different combinations. Guys very rarely play one position. They very rarely play next to the same guy from week to week. It's important for them to be able to play multiple positions on the same phase, and it's also important for the guy next to them, because even during the course of the season you may think that you're the left slot, but if something happens where the slot on the other side is not there particularly, you might have to go over there and play. And I think a real good example of that was last season when you look at the Washington game, which comes to mind, when we played down there. We had guys playing different positions, and they're also playing on defense almost full-time. So, that's really part of the training process, and this game will be the same way, because we'll have guys that haven't been playing next to each one another necessarily in the first preseason games that will be doing that this week."
I know you don't want it to ever happen, but how can you use Panthers Ted Ginn Jr.'s punt return touchdown as kind of a teaching moment? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Those opportunities are certainly taken advantage of to try to teach off of that, but we'd certainly prefer it not be to that extreme. It was really a classic example where we had won at the line of scrimmage, but we didn't sit well together. We didn't play good team defense, so to speak. And that's a part of growing up, and it's also a part of the learning process for players playing next to one another. And that's going to happen again this week; we're going to have different guys, and knowing how to communicate downfield and knowing how our fits are downfield is an important aspect. We can't give up touchdowns, and I don't care if it's in the preseason or regular season – it can't happen. So, we need to get better at that."
Jerry, part of the nature of the coverage group – you've got 11 guys to a unit – and with the turnover, do you feel that you're kind of rebuilding every year? Does that happen? (John Eisenberg)"The nature of our league, I think you build a team every year, and that is a part of that team. Our offense and defense have new elements in them as well, and our special teams have new elements in them, and then guys' roles change from year to year. They may be more involved on offense or defense in their third year than they were their first two years. So, it's ever-evolving. The NFL is a league of change, and the rosters change, coaching staffs change, it's just change. So, when you go about it as a coach, what you're trying to do is to teach as many guys as many things as you possibly can and get good, and then you'll fit the parts together when you see the roster at the end."
Any new guys that have surprised you in training camp or have really stood out? (Bill West)"I don't know if anyone has really surprised me. I think that what we've had is a pretty balanced contribution from all guys. What we try to do as much as we can in the preseason is get everyone involved in the games and get everyone an opportunity to play and show us what they can do. I think we've done that. There are some guys that I would have liked to have played more, that didn't work out because they got in on offense or defense at the end of the game, and we don't really want to play them on all phases all the time. This week, we're going to probably see some guys with more reps on special teams than we have."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
[Are you] concerned about your depth along the offensive line? (Mike Preston)"I think our depth is coming along. I think we have some young guys that are certainly getting better. Obviously, our older guys are hanging in there and doing a pretty nice job. You always are trying to improve in every single facet, but it takes a lot of work, and I think our guys are making progress."* *
Talk about what problems you had the other night. It looked like they were coming inside hard on you guys. Was that more physical or stunting, or something that, during the regular season, you would game-plan for a little bit more? (Mike Preston)"Those things shouldn't happen to us. Obviously, we were just very, very inconsistent. There were some times [on] that first drive of the game [when] we moved the ball extremely well. [We] didn't have any problems with leakage – not in the pass protection nor in the run game – and then we started to sputter. And we sputtered all the way up until the start of the second half, when we came out and had two good drives. But, the things that we saw inside were things that are correctable. They were basic things that we just have to do better technique-wise and also scheme-wise."* *
Could you see seven wide receivers possibly making this roster? I know that's more than usual, but you've got guys like Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown, who are making some statements. (Ryan Mink)"I'm not quite certain of what the numbers will be. That's John [Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] – they take care of that. They look at it and determine – look at the entire team … Our job is to try to get the guys that are out there as good as they can possibly be. And we do have some guys that are obviously performing well, so it's great competition. Some of those young guys, [like Aaron] Mellette and [Marlon] Brown, are doing a tremendous job. They're making good progress, and we'll see what happens."* *
Tandon [Doss] in particular – I know he's had his moments over the course of the spring, and throughout the summer, has shown flashes of potential. What is your assessment of him as a whole throughout the course of this summer? (Matt Zenitz)"He's been doing well. When you look at him this week, he's had an unbelievable week this week in terms of just preparation. He looks good. He's probably running as well as he's run since I've been here, at least. I think he feels good about himself. He's healthy, which he hasn't been for a while in previous years. I think Tandon [Doss] is working, he's competing and doing a nice job."* *
Do you see wide receiver as where the toughest decisions will be made because you have so much depth there? (Ryan Mink)"Anytime this time of year, it's always tough a decision. There are a lot of guys that … These are jobs. These are men who have dreams, hopes and aspirations of playing in this league at the top of the game, and some of them, obviously, don't quite make it. So, there's a lot of competition all the way across the board. There are going to be tough decisions, not only at the wide receiver position, but when you look at our team as a whole, John and Ozzie will take a look and see what fits, see how the makeup of the team will develop, and we'll go from there."* *
With Joe [Flacco] going into his sixth season, what's your comfort level with him in terms of his ability to get you out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage into better ones and all that stuff before the snap? (Matt Vensel)"I think every single day he's actually getting a little bit better and better. We've been doing that for quite some time now, just in terms of checks. He was doing that before I got here. But he's developing. We're giving him a little bit more to deal with, we're putting a little bit more on his plate, and he's handling it well."* *
Generally, does it all start with a box count at the line of scrimmage and then you go on from there? (Matt Vensel)"I can't give you all of our trade secrets. (laughter) *There are some things that aren't any secrets, but there's a lot more to it than just box counts and checks. There are certain things that you're looking at, depending on the play. You're trying to get in the best play and trying to get out of bad ones. We do a little bit of both. We do try to make certain we maximize our ability to block certain looks, and we also make certain that we don't run into bad plays by running into bad looks. So, we do a little bit of everything in that regard."* **
For the last couple running back spots, is that coming down to more of what they can provide on special teams, or are you looking specifically at what those guys can do for you on the offensive side? (Garrett Downing) *"I think anybody who is in any kind of backup role throughout our team – they have to be able to participate and certainly contribute on special teams. I think that's huge. And, that's what we look at when we look at it from an offensive standpoint, doing our job. [Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg], John and the rest of the guys in personnel will look at it from that vantage point and make decisions based upon that. But, we do have a lot of competition in that regard. We would anticipate that those guys – anybody in a backup role all across the board – helps us on special teams." *
Specifically with the running backs, what are you hoping to see from one of the guys, whether it's Anthony [Allen] or Bobby [Rainey] or Delone [Carter] now in the mix this week? (Garrett Downing)"We hope we can get them enough reps to make certain that we get a really good evaluation of him, just to kind of see what they do. Delone [Carter] is new, obviously, so he's learning the system, and hopefully, he'll have enough under his belt to be able to get in there and show us what he can do."* *
**Do you have an update on how Ed Dickson has looked, and in light of [Visanthe] Shiancoe being gone, an update on the tight end picture? *(Bo Smolka) *"Ed [Dickson] has looked good. He's running well. He's catching the ball well. He looks just as explosive as he did a few weeks ago before he was injured, so that's coming along well. He [and] Dallas Clark within that group … [Visanthe] Shiancoe is gone now, but with the group that we have, we think we have a group who can not only handle things at the line of scrimmage, but can also get down the field and stretch it a little bit as well."
**Is Dallas Clark somebody who is going to get a lot of reps this week, which is normally something he wouldn't, with Week 4? *(Bo Smolka) *"It depends. John will look at all of those situations and see what best suits us, and then we'll make a determination from there."
**John had some positive things to say about Gino [Gradkowski], but emphasized that it was right after the game and he didn't have a chance to see the film at that point. Now that you guys have had a chance to see the film, what was your assessment of Gino from the game? *(Matt Zenitz) *"One statement you made was in regards to what John thought, so you better ask him, first of all, how he felt after he saw on film. *(laughter) *But, I can tell you, from my vantage point, he played tough [and] played hard. They [A.Q. Shipley] both did. It's still a very, very competitive situation. Nothing has been determined at this point, so there's still a battle going on. Both guys are quality guys that do what we ask them to do [and] can handle what we do in all phases, from an intellectual standpoint, from making calls and making certain we're in the right looks from a protection standpoint. And they can also hold their own in terms of one-on-one blocking and things of that nature that have to be done. It's a great problem to have. It's a really tight race."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Going into the last game, there's a lot of guys on the bubble. Who has stood out through training camp? (Bill West)"I wouldn't tell you. I have no idea who won't make it. The biggest thing about this game is [that] it's a great opportunity for the guys to get a lot of playing time that maybe didn't in the first three games. Some of them got some significant [time] in the first game. The biggest thing here is not only [to] get a great look [at them] and play a great game to have an opportunity to play for us, but also to be on film and maybe play for somebody else if for some reason they don't play for us. This is an important game for the guys that are playing in this game. I never feel really bad about whether a bunch of starters play or don't play. That's always up to the head coach [and] how he wants to run it. That's never up to us. Whoever is going to play in it usually is going to be some guys who are going to be bubble guys. It's a great opportunity for them – that's the best way I can put it."* *
It looks like Omar Brown is probably one of those bubble guys. What's your evaluation of him? (Ryan Mink) "The biggest thing on Omar [Brown] is … As a backup, one of the things – [assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] can probably allude to it better than I can – if you're a backup, especially on defense at any point in time, you've really got to be a good special teams player, because that's going to be your major contribution to the team, and then as a backup on defense. I feel good about Omar as a safety. I can't speak to the special teams part of it – Jerry would have to do that – but that's always going to be a consideration when it comes down to the final situation. [We'll say], 'This guy is a backup, but where can he contribute?' It's hard to ever have on any team in the NFL, with the limited number of guys at 53, a backup in any kind of skill position that can't contribute on special teams. It rarely, rarely happens, if ever. You might have a linebacker, maybe like a Junior Seau, when we had him at New England. You think of all the linebackers that we had here even with Ray [Lewis]. Ray was a starter, and every backup was a core special teams player. That's where they have to learn how to contribute. Like I said, I can't speak to that. Only Jerry can speak to that."* *
Do you view the defense as still having starting jobs to be won or are you pretty set with where you are at? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, I wouldn't say that we are set. We're set with some starters – you know that. That's a given. The thing is, there are so many different packages that you play, and different guys can be a starter in a different package. What we still have yet to determine, in some ways, [is] we know what the packages are, it's just who are we going to plug into those. To me, it's like last week, when we introduced three corners as starters [and] we introduced three outside linebackers as starters. That's the truth. I don't know. It depends on what we play in that game. We might start the game in nickel defense, which might be two outside linebackers. We might start in 'Raven' [base] defense with two other outside linebackers. We might start in 'sub' [package], where there are five DBs, and all three DBs that got introduced are all playing. We have an idea of the top guys for the most part. How they fit into all those packages is still yet to be determined, and that's always a week-to-week thing anyhow."* *
What has been your assessment of the pass rush so far this preseason? (Matt Zenitz) "It's been good. We can be better. When you get four guys, and we got probably a mixture of six [or] seven guys that can rush in there, it's [about] getting all that coordinated together. Sometimes, we've had some pass rush … In the last game, we really weren't as concerned going against [Cam] Newton. If we were playing Newton in a [regular season] game, we would say, 'Never let him outside.' You can't do that. That's what he's going to do. If you remember the first pass rush that we had that he scrambled out of the end zone, we really didn't care. I wanted to see us just collapse the whole thing, which we did, and he got out. That one didn't concern me as much as right before the half [when] we had one where he stepped up and had a free open lane. We can't let those kinds of things happen. It's been good at times, but it needs to get better. We need to be more consistent. We need to know the quarterback that we are playing against, how we are going to attack him, how we are going to pass-rush him, and then those four guys really melt together to give us a good pass rush. [It's the] same thing with the run defense. I know the weekend before in Atlanta, it wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad when we watched it and evaluated it on film. It was things that we could certainly correct, and I felt like we corrected them last week. Now the key is, don't go on last week. That's got to continue for the whole the year, not for one game. If you're going to be a good run defense, [it] can't be one game you're good and one game you're bad. It's got to be good all the time. What we just have to learn to do is be consistent in all that."
Does the [game] film through three preseason games validate the fact that you believe you have multiple players you can rely on to rush the passer? (Matt Zenitz) "I do. I think we've got more than what we sometimes have had since I've been here. I can't tell before that. I think we've got a number of different guys that can play in different spots and contribute in the pass rush – whether they are outside rushers or inside rushers. There have been times we've had to use outside rushers inside just to get them on the field. I don't think that's the case right now. I think we've got some pretty good inside rushers that are bigger guys, and hopefully, we can rotate some guys. I think we've got a little depth there that we don't have to just wear everybody out."