Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
**Jerry, as far as Sam Koch, you said that he probably wasn't on form last year. Have you seen what he's done this year to try to kind of make strides in that area? *(Jamison Hensley) *"We haven't talked at all about last year since we started up again, because there's really no reason to. We've just moved forward. Since Sam has been here, one of the things I think is a strength of Sam Koch is that he's always trying to improve. Even when he plays his best, the next year he comes out and there's always something he has to work on. He has to have a focus on something that gets him out at practice, and he details it so well. Coming into this season, he's doing the same thing, so it's really been a repeat of it. He's had a very good offseason, he's started off very well in camp, and we look for great things from him."
Jerry, which guys are in the mix for punt and kick returning? (Steve Davis)"The line is long at this point in time. We have Jacoby [Jones], obviously; he's been a proven returner for us both in the kicks and the punts – so he'll be in the front of the line to start with. We have a number of guys that we want to look at during the preseason. We want to see Asa Jackson back there a lot, because he's had some opportunities in preseasons past in punt returns, and he's done well with it. And we haven't seen him back there in regular season yet, so we need to find out exactly if he's ready and able to take over that duty – which would take a little load off of Jacoby perhaps. Maybe [he'll] just be a backup – we have to find out. He's also, obviously, working on his role on defense. So, the preseason games are going to be very valuable for him. And as you all know, we drafted Michael Campanaro, so we're going to give him opportunities both in kicks and punts, and we have a lot of other guys that want to do it. Justin Forsett and Fitz Toussaint and guys … We have a lot of guys. And as you know, we play a lot of guys in the preseason. Special teams, in my view, this is the opportunity that guys have been working for all through the offseason, and if they're on our team, they deserve the opportunity to show us what they can do. So, we're going to give as many guys as we possibly can opportunities to play during the preseason. That's both true with our returners and all the other core players."
Is that pretty typical, or are there more guys in the mix at returner than other years? (Steve Davis)"I think it's about the same. I'd be hard pressed to compare the numbers, but I think we usually have a pretty good line at this time of the season. With a 90-man roster, you're going to have guys that want to do it to try to make a difference for themselves and for the team."
You lost an excellent special teams player in Corey Graham to free agency. Which kind of guys do you see stepping into his role? (Ryan Mink)"That's a really good question. Everybody is a little bit different. Corey was in a position where he was such a good defensive player as well as long as special teams skill. He's just a football player. And you put him in positions, and he's able to make plays. So, he started out as a core player, but it didn't take us long to figure out that he could play defense, and then his role grew and grew and grew. Now, somebody like him … I'd be hard pressed to really pick a guy out right at this point in time. I think there are a lot of guys that want that opportunity, to show themselves that they can do it. And there are guys in different points of their careers, there are guys at different points on the roster, whether they [are] starters or backups. That's what these preseason games are for. We get to put them out there and we see how we play. The National Football League is a meritocracy; these guys prove their value by how they play. So, we'll put on the film after the game and we'll find out who the players are."
*Jerry, what is your overall opinion of them moving the extra point back in the first two preseason games? *(Luke Jones) *"It's been a little unusual for us during practice, because our PAT's are deeper than some of the field goals we're taking. *(laughter) So yes, I look forward to it. I think it'll be interesting. We'll see how it plays out, and we'll see what the numbers are in preseason. We all understand that there are different guys kicking and different guys holding. So, I think it will be an interesting study to put the numbers out there, and I'm glad we're doing two games and not just one so we can get a couple of games to look at. [We'll] see what the numbers are, see if it's a valuable thing for us going down the road. As you all know, you've heard me stand up here and say before, I'm so concerned about them taking the kick out of football, taking the 'foot' out of football. We need that play in our game, and if that's what it takes to keep the PAT in the game, I'm all for it."
I noticed you guys got a new JUGS machine on snaps, I guess to give Morgan Cox a rest? But can it mirror your snaps like a simulated person doing it? (Kevin Richardson)"That's a very good observation. Actually, that JUGS machine has been here for a while, but we've never taken it off of its stand and put it on the ground, because we haven't had need to. In the offseason, we've had it in the room inside, but we're using it now for a couple reasons: One is we have two punters, and Richie [Leone] being the guy that's come in and needs snaps, and we don't want to overdo it with Morgan. There's a certain pitch count that we have to pay attention to. So, all those extra snaps, we'd rather have the machine take them than Morgan take them. Now, Morgan is snapping a lot, having said that. And the other part of it is the short snaps. Richie didn't hold in college, because he kicked. He's a great athlete; he was able to kick and punt in college, so he hasn't had a lot of holding experience. So, we're trying to get him 10,000 reps during the course of training camp so he can learn and feel the ball and put it in exactly the right place. So, that's really the idea behind it. Now, with regard to how the ball is [snapped], it's not completely like Morgan Cox, because it's a machine, but it can last a lot longer." *(laughter)
Are you saying Morgan isn't a machine? (Ryan Mink)"We're all human." *(laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
I noticed watching practice, QB Joe Flacco was moving left, right, and then he got stretched, playing with his side a little bit. Did he get tweaked out there? (Bill West) "No, he's fine – just trying to stretch out. It's a long day and tough practice in the first day of pads. Your throwing motion sometimes gets a little different when you put the pads on, so I believe he was getting into a rhythm. But he was fine. He had an excellent practice."
Gary, have you enjoyed calling plays as far as being on the field or being up top? (Clifton Brown)"I plan on being on the field. I know I've done it for the last eight years, and I have [quarterbacks coach] Rick Dennison up in the box with me, so it's a rhythm – something I've been doing. I've done both during my career, but I'll be down there with Joe [Flacco] so that I know I'm there when he comes off the field so we can talk. That's what we're doing right now, building that relationship, and I see that continuing that way."
Just how do you evaluate how far the offense has progressed to this point? (Ryan Mink) "I've been very impressed. I want to say that's maybe 15, 16, 17 practices for us, and if you count all of the offseason and camp, it's kind of about the third time we're going through our system in teaching it. I think they've adjusted very well, but the most important thing is [Joe Flacco] has adjusted extremely well. He has to lead the pack, and he's done that from Day One. He has a total command of what's going on right now and he's trying to figure out the things he's very comfortable with. With the things he's not [comfortable with], I have to get him comfortable with. The leaders on the offensive side of the ball – Joe, Ray [Rice], Marshal [Yanda], those guys – they're ahead of everybody else. That's the way it should be."
With the first full-contact practice, I guess you get a gauge on how the running game is coming along. I know you haven't watched film, but in general, do you sense that guys are up picking it up? (Jamison Hensley) "It's something that we're going to do very well. We're a zone team. We're a rhythmic team trying to do the same thing a lot of different ways. That's the way we teach, and I see our guys responding to it. Our three inside players are working really well together. Ricky [Wagner] is a young player on the outside; he's coming along and hasn't missed a day yet. Eugene [Monroe] – he has to be the rock on the left side. The most important thing is that we get all five of those guys every day for every rep, for all John [Harbaugh] has scripted for us so that we can get to opening day. The more reps we get, the better we'll be. They've responded to what we're doing, and how our depth comes along will probably have a lot to do with how good we are. That's extremely important."
Can you talk a little bit about the use of a fullback and your history with athletic ones such as FB Vonta Leach? (Steve Davis)"It kind of started with Vonta [Leach]. Vonta was really the big banger, iso-type player. He played really well for me and he played extremely well for [Baltimore]. Kyle [Juszczyk] is a little bit different. I've had a couple of athletic guys [at fullback] in the past, and Kyle fits that mold, so it gives me the ability to move him around and do some things. But I've been impressed with Kyle. He's had an excellent offseason. He's very athletic, he has good hands and he's a threat catching the ball. He's responded also to the dirty work, which is something he's going to have to do. What we end up being percentage-wise – two backs, one back ... When we're in one back, we have O.D. [Owen Daniels] and Dennis [Pitta] on the field. I have some nice problems to work with right now. [It's a matter of] trying to bring them along the right way."
Gary, defensive coordinator Dean Pees talked his working relationship with you. Could you talk about the importance of both coordinators being on the same page? (Chris Miller)"It's extremely important in our business. You're not battling each other every day … Well, you are – you're competing against each other – but we're able to just talk football. If John [Harbaugh] gives us a period and Dean [Pees] says, 'This is what I want to see,' then I'll go run that with our offense. Or I'll say, 'Dean, I'd like to work against this coverage today. Would you give me that?' It's very easy from that standpoint. I have great respect for Dean and the whole staff. It's a tremendous staff [with] a lot of veteran football coaches. For us new guys [such as] me, Rick [Dennison], Brian [Pariani] – the two young coaches I have on my side of the ball – to come in here, [the team] has really embraced us. It's a hell of a group John has put together. It's an impressive group."
RB Bernard Pierce walked off the field during practice. Do you know what happened? (Jamison Hensley) "I have no idea. No."
Can you talk about WR Steve Smith, Sr. and bringing him as a veteran with a lot of the younger guys? (Bill West)"The first thing that jumps at you with Steve is that in [his 14th season], it's amazing to play that long. It just tells you how the guy takes care of himself. The juice he has as a player right now at this stage in his career is so impressive. You all saw him today. He practiced extremely well. Steve is a confident, energizing person on the field – very competitive, 'Give me the ball, coach'-type of guy, which is what you want. You want guys like that and I've really enjoyed it. Really, it's been good for me because I've been trying to teach Steve a whole new system, but Steve does have a background in some West Coast stuff a few years back. We try to cross those things and get him up to speed as quickly as we can."
What's the situation at right tackle, and is OL Ryan Jensen out of the picture now? (Steve Davis) "[Ryan] Jensen kind of got moved out there by need during OTAs. We wanted to take a look, but we moved him back inside for good now that Jah [Reid] is back. Jah looks better – he's lost some weight. I wasn't here with him last year, but he's lost some weight. To me, he's moving better. The young kid [James Hurst] that we have on the left side that we picked up as a free agent has been impressive as a free agent rookie. That's something you're always concerned about as a coach – the depth of your football team – especially as you go through camp and you're going through a lot of reps. We're going to have to have some young players really come through for us. It'd be nice to see Jah stay healthy and really compete at a high level."
So it looks like it is G/T Jah Reid and G/T Rick Wagner right now? (Steve Davis)"Yes, for right now, but you never know. We'll see. We'll keep going and see what happens."
QB Joe Flacco looks like he has some good command of the long ball. How would you evaluate him in the short game so far? (Kevin Richardson)"His ability to go through progressions, to me, is exceptional. He's bought into the boom-boom-boom stuff we teach as far as your feet [go]. We teach guys to read with their feet and get the ball going. Obviously, we have to cut the sacks down a great deal this year. That's a big point of emphasis, and the best way to do that is with your quarterback getting rid of the ball. We'll work up front, but he needs to get rid of the ball. He's responded to that and there's not a play Joe can't make. It's fun for me to work with. I've had a chance to work with some really good ones, and this has been a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to him doing big things this year."
How have you enjoyed just going back to being an offensive coordinator now? (Ryan Mink) "I've enjoyed it. I'm back in the classroom from a teaching standpoint, so that's really energized me, to be honest with you, from the get-go, and I have a big challenge on my hands because I'm trying to totally teach a new system. It just wakes you up every day, ready to go. I know we can get there, and I like the way the guys are working. All I can do as a coach is ask them to give me everything they've got, and they're doing that. We, as a group, as coaches, trying to put it all together … These guys trying to get it all … And we get to do it against a great defense every day, which is even a bigger challenge. It's been good. It's been a lot of fun for me. I appreciate John [Harbaugh] and the organization giving me the opportunity."
What have you seen in TE Owen Daniels and how valuable is he from a teaching standpoint? (Aaron Wilson)"He obviously knows what we do, easily, so that's not a problem. He's also able to talk to Dennis [Pitta]. We're in there coaching something, he walks out there with Dennis and he says, 'This is what we want.' That's been a big help. Jacoby [Jones] has been the same help from that standpoint, and Justin [Forsett] has helped Ray [Rice] and those guys. [Having] those few guys being familiar with what we're doing [gives] us a few more coaches on the field. It's been a good thing."
What does WR Steve Smith, Sr. do to help you, even though he's not as quite familiar with your system? (Kris Jones)"Steve just loves to play. He just loves to compete, and I think when you get to that stage in your career, you see a few young guys that say, 'Hey, this guy has a chance to be a pretty good player,' and that's what I see from Steve. I see him responding. We have some really young, good-looking receivers out there. It's going to be a very competitive situation. [Jeremy] Butler and [Jace] Davis have done some good things. [Michael] Campanaro is healthy now out there competing. Steve sees that they have a chance to help our team, and he's just trying to help them all."
Is all zone-blocking the same, or is it a different playing a zone block in your system? (Steve Davis) "Hopefully it's good. (laughter) But we run a gap scheme, too. We do both. Everybody says we're a zone scheme, which we are – that is our base teaching – but we're going to run gap schemes. And we have big, physical guards in K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] and Marshal [Yanda], so we'll do what we have to do. Whatever we have to do to move the football, but that's our base teaching, and that's where we start."
But is it quite a bit different from what they had last year? (Steve Davis)"I couldn't really tell you. We've moved on. We tried to just start fresh and move on. I know [offensive line coach] Juan [Castillo] has taught everything, and remember [quarterbacks coach] Rick Dennison was a line coach for me, so it was easy for me to take Rick and have he and Juan work together on the run game. It's been very beneficial."
You carried three quarterbacks when you were in Houston. Is that something that could be a possibility this year? (Jon Meoli)"That's up to [John Harbaugh]. I'm sure that gets down to the next player there that would take that spot. How valuable they are to your football team? We'll see what happens, but Ty [Tyrod Taylor] has been doing a good job working extremely hard. I'm impressed with Ty. He's throwing the ball well out of the pocket and he can move around. And Keith [Wenning] has come a long way. Keith is very talented. It's a huge system change for Keith – verbiage-wise, that's been the toughest part – but the talent's there, so we're trying to catch him up."*
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, can you tell us about the first three days and how your defense looks? (Mike Preston) "Well, today being the first pad practice … You know when you're not in pads you always kind of wonder, you think you're doing OK, but you really don't know. I thought today we played the run pretty well. I was not happy with the way we played on third down, we were a little better in two minute, which is a big point of attention this year because I didn't think we were very good in two minute last year – not good enough. There's good and there's bad, but I mean I really, really like the way the guys are working right now. I feel like we got a faster defensive football team, we're trying to be physical; we need to be more physical. We've got to juice it up a little bit. I thought the first three days, I've been pleased."* *
So when you say physical, you're talking more on the front end or the back end? (Mike Preston) "All the way across, Mike. I think all the way across. You know when you play zone, [the offense] may complete some balls, but that doesn't mean the guy has to keep the ball. We got to knock it off of them. We had one out there today at the end of practice where [the offense] completed a ball, and I can't remember I think one of the safeties knocked it off a guy in the flat. So that's the kind of stuff that we need, but the same things up front, we've got to be dominate up front in the run game. We had games last year where we were, we had games where we weren't, and we've just got to be consistent all the time and I think we've got the talent to do it. We've just got to do it."* *
How is Chykie Brown coming along? (Aaron Wilson) "[Chykie] is coming along. He's fighting for a job in there with the corners. I mean, they have their good days and their bad days. Right now, one of the things we've got to take care of is we can't give up big plays. Starting in the first game last year, we kind of really … That year didn't start out real good statistically for us, but we gave up way too many big plays last year. I think we've given up too many so far even in camp in the first three days. Joe [Flacco] is a hell of a quarterback, we've got a hell of a group of receivers, [the defense is] is going to see that all year though, we're going to see a great group of receivers all year, who doesn't have them? [The offense is] going to throw some balls underneath on you. What we can't do is get balls up over the top, and I'm a little disappointed in the first three days. We've got to do better than what we're doing."* *
Dean, your thoughts on C.J. Mosley with pads on for the first time? (Bill West) "Pleased with him. Again, it's really good competition in there. I'll know better as [I] assess it after I'll go up and watch the film. You always kind of have opinions, sometimes when you come off the field and it doesn't look as bad as you think and it's never as good as you think, kind of like games, but I've really been pleased with his progress. He's really come along mentally. I think he knows what to do, he's a very fluid athlete, and so there's great competition in there at inside backer. One of the things I think about the front seven right now, one of the things I like about camp is I think there's a lot of competition. There's a little bit of depth, which I don't know that we've always had, but I think there's a little depth and that depth is also competition. It's not just 'OK, you're first team, second team.' There [are] guys fighting for starting roles."* *
So, can you get Haloti [Ngata] and [Terrell] Suggs a little bit more rest and maybe have more kick down the stretch? (Mike Preston) "I think so. We're trying to do a good job of monitoring those reps. As you guys know, this is not an easy practice. We don't fluff off. It's not because of lack of reps in our practices, so most of the time with those guys we're going to try to monitor them as best that we can."* *
What have you seen from the defensive ends and defensive tackles? Some of those guys like [Timmy] Jernigan and Brandon Williams and some of these inside guys like [DeAngelo] Tyson? Who do you kind of see emerging there, what do you see from them? (Ryan Mink) "I told Jernigan the other night he can be one of those guys I'm going to yell 'Tim! Nice play!' (laughter) You know he's going to … He's just active as heck. It isn't always right, but it's like you watch him on film and [say] 'You can't do that.' He goes, 'Coach, I made the play two yards in the backfield.' 'Well, OK, well maybe you can do it.' He's got to be one of those guys … I love the guy. I tell you, the [Brent] Urban kid too is a big man out there, and he's playing with some power. I like all those young guys. I think as a whole this may be one of the best groups of even the free agents, just young guys in there playing, that we've had since I've been here anyhow. I don't know before that, but even when I was in New England I think that group up there is as good as I've been around for a total group working hard."* *
With the limited time you have with pads, do you have to say you only have a limited time? (Chris Miller) "Yes, but I really think … I know it's a limited time. Really we have more meeting time the way this thing turns out, so we do spend a lot of time watching the film and going through stuff. But I don't really think when we sit back and look at it, I would be willing to bet with the number of plays that we ran in today's practice and with our walk through practice tonight, we still wound up at the same number or more plays than what we had when we used to have the old two-a-days. And in some ways it may be better, because I think sometimes in the old two-a-days guys used to pace themselves because they knew, 'I've got to come back and do this same thing again this afternoon.' OK, tonight is going to be a walkthrough, so it's a good mental day, but you're still getting rep after rep after rep mentally and not wearing them down. So, I'm not sure that it's a bad thing, it doesn't make any difference to coaches, we're here the same number of hours, old school or new school, but I really don't think it's a bad deal. I don't think we're getting any less time with the players and reps than we had in the past."* *
What is your opinion of Coach Kubiak now that you've coached opposite him for a few weeks? (Ryan Mink) "Look, I've coached against him when [offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak] was at Denver, Houston, going against him 10 years, now I'm glad he's on our side. Same thing with that little 89 [Steve Smith, Sr.] out there, I'm kind of glad he's on our side, too. But Gary has got a great offense; he's showing us so much stuff. One of the things, he's great to work with because we sit up there and we talk about, he and I, about what we need to see. And he's very willing to give me what I want and I'm willing to give him what he wants to make him better, and he gives us tremendous amount of looks, and like he said to us, we give him a lot of looks. We're not a vanilla defense. I think it's been great both ways, I love working with the guy."* *
Dean, going back to bigger plays, does it come back to communication? (Jamison Hensley) "It's usually your eyes. Taking your eyes and not putting your eyes where they don't need to be. If you're in man coverage, your eyes are on your man until he's running down the sideline, then you can turn and look for the ball. If you're playing zone, you've got to read your quarterback and feel the guy in your vision, it's not communication. Guys, we're not making mental mistakes, our guys are really good. I've been really happy with camp. I think we had a couple today, but for the most part in camp our guys aren't making mental mistakes. When we get beat deep, generally it's your eyes, just like even when you're backpedaling, I don't care whether you're in man coverage or zone coverage – 20 yards down the field everything is man. And if you're playing three deep, or even if you're playing quarters and a guy runs a go-route, it ends up being man coverage, right? I mean it does, 20 yards down the field, whatever you want to say. And usually it's how your eyes are if you let him close the cushion too far and don't get transitioned out of there fast enough. Or you're looking over here and the guy gets in your blind spot. It's generally speaking, it's usually your eyes."* *
How about your pass rush from last year? What are you doing to improve it? (Mike Preston) "I think it was good early on, not as good at the end of the season, and I think we're going to really hone that thing back up. I think the other thing is, I can help them a little bit with some of the schemes and stuff that we do to maybe free those guys up a little more than what I've done. And sometimes the best thing is not always just a pressure – thinking pressure is going to get you the sacks – sometimes the best way to sack them is just to rush forward. But get guys, try to do some things to maybe free up … Beat the protection and get some of our best pass rushers one-on-one. I thought at the end of the season we didn't get enough of those one-on-one battles, and when we did, some of them we didn't win. So, we've got to gear that up."