Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, talk about installing and what you are trying to accomplish before you get into training camp? (Mike Preston)"The biggest thing in OTAs – there are a couple of things: One, you want to try to get the majority of your stuff installed. You probably will never install everything that you are going to do throughout the year, but you get all your basic fronts, coverages, pressures and all that kind of stuff in. You try to cover all the different situations – whether it be two minute, four minute, third-and-short, third-and-long – try to do all the situational football and the calls that kind of go with that. The other thing is, obviously, is evaluate our players as a coaching staff."
How difficult does that become when everyone isn't here and doesn't have to be here? (Jerry Coleman) "It's not as difficult, because the guys who really aren't here are guys who we have already evaluated and the guys that probably know the majority of our package. So, generally speaking, it would be a little harder if guys weren't here that had never been here and were trying to learn the system. I'd say that would be difficult, but that really isn't the case."
Dean, a huge transformation for the defense – you've lost some key guys and you have some new ones in. How you do like the way it shapes up now compared to the Super Bowl defense you had last year? (David Ginsburg) "I think it's going to be different. It's always a different defense – a different defense every year. The difference is we lost some [stalwarts] that have been here for a long, long time. But, whenever somebody leaves … You can go back 50 years, no matter who the linebacker was – whether it was [Dick] Butkus or whether it's Ray Lewis – no matter who it is, someone always ends up stepping up and has to step up to be the next guy in that situation. The thing I like about this group is they're very attentive. They do a great job in the classroom. We have been working hard on the field. I am very, very pleased with the effort. We still have a long ways to go as far as learning everything and knowing all the techniques and stuff like that. It's really a good group to work with. I feel good about the talent that we have."
Despite losing Ray [Lewis] and Ed Reed – some really good guys. Could this defense be better? (David Ginsburg) "I would never compare it. I can tell you that after the 16th game of the season next year. It's really always unfair to say ahead of time what the defense is going to be. We have to be better than we were last year. We were good in the playoffs – good enough – but we weren't good enough during the season for us to be the kind of defense that we want to be. We have to be better than we were a year ago, I'll put it that way. I don't know whether we will be, but we need to be."
Does it look faster even out there in practice? I know you aren't going full speed, but do you see the speed that you have this year? (Ryan Mink) "Yes and no. Sometimes it looks faster in certain situations. Sometimes it looks a little slower, because if a guy doesn't exactly know the defense real well, he might be a little hesitant, because he's trying to think what he is supposed to be doing and sometimes that makes him look slower. I think when everybody is on the same page and really understands it … If it's something that we have been doing here for the whole football school and football OTAs, if it's something that they really know well, yes, it seems like it goes pretty fast. But there are also times when it looks pretty slow to me when guys don't exactly know what to do. Again, it's a great group, a great bunch of guys to work with. They are unbelievable in the classroom, paying attention, doing all the stuff that we want them to do on and off the field. I'm very pleased at this point."
How does coach [Steve] Spagnuolo kind of work into this defense? What kind of role does he have? (Ryan Mink) "Steve is a guy that kind of whatever we ask him to do – whether it's draw cards, whether it's to do a special project, no matter what it is, it's kind of nice to have him here to bounce stuff off of and also it just takes a load off of other guys having to do some of the things that he's doing. He's trying to learn our defense at the same time, and it really kind of helps him if we give him some responsibility, because then he has to dig into it. He's doing a great job. I'm very pleased that he is here."
*Has it been strange this spring to look out there? You talk about the guys who aren't here that have been here for so many years and not see them? Is that kind of odd? *(Les Carpenter) *"Not in OTAs, because I don't know if 52 [Ray Lewis] was ever here during OTAs to begin with. *(laughter) Not OTAs, but it probably will be in the fall. We are certainly going to miss all the guys. We miss every guy you ever lose every year all the way back – Double J [Jarret Johnson] two years ago – you always miss those guys. But somebody will step up. Somebody always does, and they have to. But on the other hand, guys are learning and coaches are coaching their rear ends off to get everybody on the same page. The other point of it is kind of as a coach, you take nothing for granted right now. As a coach, you really have to coach everything, because you are coaching new guys in that position. It's not like, 'Oh yeah, I know Ray [Lewis] knows how to do this. I know Double J knows how to do this. I don't have to spend a lot of time telling them.' Now, we do. We have to be a little more specific and a little bit more detailed as coaches."
What are some of your early impressions of some of your new defensive linemen? (Mike Preston) "I'll tell you what; all of them have been working hard. I don't really want to point anybody out, but you asked me about the new guys. [Chris] Canty is a long guy. He's a big tall guy, and I think those guys – he and Marcus [Spears] and Elvis [Dumervil], all of them – are going to add a lot to us. The good thing is that they can play multiple positions. Sometimes when you get a guy that can only play a three-technique, can only play a nose, can only play a five-technique, you have to kind of lock them into that. These guys have all kind of played all of those positions. I think that's going to be a big benefit to us."
Lardarius Webb, I know isn't here yet, but all expectations are he will be back. How is Jimmy Smith looking, the rest of the secondary group, the cornerbacks looking? (Bo Smolka)"I think they are looking – I think guys are working hard. They are looking good. I think there's some depth out there. There are some guys really competing for jobs. The thing about Lardarius [Webb] is … I know he isn't in practice, but he is in every meeting. To me, he's kind of here. He knows everything that is going on. But, all those guys … Like I've said, I think it's going to be a very, very good competition, especially when you have a young group like this. Again, we don't have that maybe veteran group that you have before, well, guys also see an opportunity now to play, so the competition has kind of ramped up a little bit. It's like if you walk in here as a mike linebacker, you are saying in the last 16 years, you are pretty much saying, 'I'm a backup.' You walk in as a mike linebacker now, you could be a starter. So, it's amped up a little bit as far as in the classroom and all that stuff. Guys feel like they have a chance. It's the same way with corner. There are guys out there really competing at corner. There are guys really competing at safety. There are guys competing at inside 'backer. There are new faces on the D-line. To me, the best thing I like about when I watch film is the competitiveness between the first and second group – even the third group that gets in there – they are all fighting for a spot. They all kind of see, 'I have a chance.' Sometimes that's very rewarding. I will give you an example: One time when I was at Miami of Ohio, we went down and played LSU, and when they were ranked third in the country. We were trying to figure out how little Miami of Ohio, how we're not going to get slaughtered here. They had just beaten Texas A&M 35-7 the week before, and Texas A&M was ranked seventh. We get down there, and what I did was made a red team, a white team and a black team. Those were our school colors. The red team had two starters on the D-line, one starter at linebacker, two starters on the secondary. The next group when I said white that was the other two starters on the D-line, the other linebackers and the other secondary. The black team was our black shirts – that was our starting group. So, I started the game in the first series with the black shirts, then I went to the red team, then I went to the white team, and I always ended the half with the black team. Part of it was because of the heat; I didn't want everybody to get tired. What I found out in doing that is because everybody had a role and everybody felt like they had a part in that defense, they played their ass off. We beat them 21-12. The thing of it is that sometimes the more you get involved in a package and guys aren't just looking and saying, 'I'm a perennial backup,' guys play a little harder and play a little faster and play a little more together. (Kevin Byrne: "Did John Harbaugh get on the field?") That was after coach graduated." (laughter)
**Jameel McCLain, what are your expectations with him? How critical are you guys in getting him back healthy? *(Brett Hyman) *"We definitely want Jameel [McClain] out there. It's very critical from the standpoint of he's our leadership out there. He's the guy that has kind of … He's been in there and run the show when Ray [Lewis] was out for 10 games last year, and four games, I think, the year before or whatever it was. He's kind of the only veteran inside guy that we really have in there. So, we really want to get him back. When he comes back, he will be a starter. It will be his job to lose and we'll go from there."
**You guys, obviously, managed to win a Super Bowl without having Lardarius [Webb] there for the bulk of it. When you start thinking schematically about this new group you have here and how versatile he is, what could his presence mean to you? *(Jason La Canfora) *"You saw it early in the season. We use him a lot when we blitzed him in the slot as our nickel back. He was a good corner. He makes plays. He's a good tackler. It looks like he's a buck 50 out there, but the guy throws his body around. He thinks he's a linebacker. The other part of it is just the way he plays, with the tenacity that he plays with. It just brings an extra spark to that whole secondary. He's another guy where it's critical we get him back, and we want him back."
And in terms of intangibles, as people talk about no Ray Lewis and no Ed Reed; Lardarius has been around here a long time and people do already look up to him as a leader, right? (Jason La Canfora) "Absolutely. I think he, Jameel McClain – all those guys that have been around. But, I will say this, too, about this new group that we have brought in. This is not a group – with Elvis [Dumervil] and Chris Canty and [Marcus] Spears and Michael Huff – these are not rookie, young guys that don't know how to be pros. I spoke at something about a week ago and I said, 'The thing I will miss most about Ray Lewis, besides Sundays, is the fact of how he was in the classroom and what a great example a 17-year veteran was to rookies sitting in the classroom taking notes and paying attention and doing all the things that he did.' None of you guys see that stuff. He was an unbelievable pro. So are these guys. They may not be right now the Ray Lewis name that has always been here, but these guys are very, very good professionals. In the classroom and stuff, they are great examples to these rookies on what you are supposed to be."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
Opening statement: "Good afternoon. Just a quick opening word: Things have been going well for us. The guys have been working extremely hard. We've been trying to work on literally any and everything that we have within our package. We have an opportunity to take a good look at our run game, our passing game. It gets tested every single day because of our defense; they give you a little bit of everything, and they do it well. Our guys have had a great time competing. We have had a couple of really good solid weeks and I'm looking forward to those to come. I'll open it up for any questions."
Does it have a different feel for you now having a full offseason knowing you are the offensive coordinator, opposed to last year being thrown into the fire? (Luke Jones) "It's different, because obviously, right at the beginning during the offseason we had a chance to kind of sit down and look at everything that we are doing, make the adjustments that we think we need to make, which really aren't that many for the most part. We are changing a few things here and there, adding a few wrinkles. So, it's been good. This is a little bit different than, obviously, when I took over in December, because we have had an opportunity to kind of think through a lot of things. But, it's been a lot of fun, still real challenging."
**Now that you do have your first full offseason, are there any kinds of specific goals that you are going after this summer? *(Ryan Mink) *"The big thing is that we are just trying to get better in every phase. We averaged a little over four yards a carry in terms of the running game, in certain situations – in first- and second-down – we want to be a little bit better. We want to be more consistent in terms of our passing game. We were able to have a lot of big plays down the field, and we have the big play capability, but we also need to be really precious in terms of our passing game – underneath passing game, etc. So, we are working on a little bit of everything."
Coach I know you have probably addressed this before, but with the departure of Anquan Boldin, what does that mean for a veteran player like Torrey Smith and for a younger guy like Deonte [Thompson]? What do you expect from those guys? (Diane Roberts) "Obviously, there is a void to fill in that regard. But, we have some very, very capable people that can step in and do the job. Torrey [Smith] has been great. Obviously, he played well for us last year. He's probably going to have a few more opportunities, obviously. We try to spread it around quite a bit, but we expect him to keep growing and developing like he has been doing. He's a big play waiting to happen on every snap. Then we have a lot of young guys that are coming along, getting an opportunity to get out there and perform. Within our passing game and the way in which it's structured, we have some weapons almost at every position. Obviously, out of the backfield, and not only out of our backfield, but our two tight ends – Ed [Dickson] and Dennis [Pitta] are really, really fine players. And then on the flanks, we have an opportunity to spread it around to some guys that can run. There will be a number of guys that I think will be able to step up and make a few more plays for us."
Do you feel like you are going to have to bring in a veteran at some point, or do you think the guys you have can do it? (Diane Roberts) "The personnel decisions – [head coach] John [Harbaugh], [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and those guys take care of those. We coach who shows up, and try to get whoever we have better. We have a good group out there right now – a good solid group. So, we are trying to find a way to get those guys a little bit better."
Joe Flacco is regarded as having one of the strongest arms in the league. What is having a quarterback that can throw the ball down the field with that kind of arm strength – what does that do for your offense? What kind of options does that open up for you? (Matt Vensel) "What I think is a great benefit is when you do have a guy with a strong arm and you have guys that can really run; we have a couple of guys that can really stretch the field. Often times you may find guys that can stretch the field, but guys can't get it to them consistently. Joe [Flacco] can. You have to be making certain that your defense has a top on it, for a lack of a better term – make certain that they are deep enough, because of the fact that Torrey [Smith] and Jacoby [Jones] and Deonte [Thompson] and some of those guys can get down and get behind you in a hurry. With a quarterback like Joe who can fire it in very, very tight windows, but he can launch it down the field. He really has every throw, to be honest with you. He has a fine touch and does a great job. And, he's getting better all the time. That's the nice thing about it. We have a chance to see him develop and grow. He's getting better each and every day. Every single day he gets a little bit better. That's exciting."
What have you seen from Jacoby as he gets back into football mode? What are your hopes for him this season? Anquan now gone, what do you expect from him? (Aaron Wilson) "I think you are going to find, obviously, that he is going to get more opportunities. I think across the board you are going to find that it's going to get spread out a little bit more. He's obviously working his way back into the football shape. He's in great condition. Obviously, it was pretty strenuous with what he was doing, and he was talking about the fact of what he had to go through in terms of preparation and those things. It was pretty challenging. I think you guys have probably spoken with him as well. So, it's not just like he is flat out of shape or anything. He is in great shape. He's working at it. He's just, obviously, has to get accustomed to catching the ball and those kinds of things. This week he has had a good week."
In terms of Jacoby [Jones], I know he had a great year last year as a kick returner and contributed to receiver as well. How confident are you guys in having him step into a bigger role now? (Matt Zentiz) "I do think that he has the ability. There's no question about that. He has the ability to do it. He can catch. He can run. Obviously, he is still going to serve our special teams and serve them well in his role that he plays for them. But then obviously, we will use him, certainly, as a big part of our offense as well."
Do you see Ed Dickson as having more of a receiving role this year? And also with Anquan being gone, how do those two tight end sets work? Do you think you will see those a lot? (Ryan Mink) "I think so. We will balance them up. We used them a fair amount last year. I think you will see the same thing this year. We do have a great blend and mix of different personnel groupings and with those two guys, they really give you some balance. Dennis [Pitta] is a very, very fine pass-route runner and he can catch the ball. He blocks well at the line of scrimmage. Ed [Dickson] can also take care of the line, but both guys can stretch the field. Both guys can catch the ball and run. Obviously, we will utilize them in a number of different ways."
After the year that Joe Flacco had, do you notice any differences in him? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "No, that's the great thing about him. He's a very down to earth guy. Joe [Flacco] loves football. [He is] interested in getting better all the time. We have great dialogue just in terms of offensive schemes, schematic ideas that he has. He hasn't changed a bit in that regard – still working just as hard."
Does your coaching style change at all now that you are more established as the offensive coordinator, the play caller? Are there things to be more assertive about certain stuff or things that you do a lot differently now? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Your responsibility changes a little bit, obviously. And, there are certain things that you are responsible for, so you have to take care of those. But in terms of overall change and demeanor and anything of that nature, no. You won't see a whole lot of change there. Just in terms of making certain that we get done what we are supposed to get done, that's my job. When they don't get it done right, guys lose their job. Right? (laughing) So, we have to get it done right."
As far as Anquan's [Boldin] departure, how will that change the defenses that Torrey Smith will see? How will he have to step up and face those? (Josh Paunil)"I'm not real sure how defenses will look at us. I know one thing: They will look at us and see that we have some guys that can still get down the field and go. That can certainly give you some problems in a number of different ways. I think they look at every guy according to his strengths. Our guys with their strengths, they do have speed. They can get across the field. They can get down the field. They can catch and run. They are also very, very good blockers on the perimeter. I'm not quite certain how they will look at us. But, what I do know is the fact that we do have quite a few threats and quite a few people that they will probably be concerned with."
Deonte [Thompson] has been someone that has been brought up in the course of this offseason. What is it about his game that you guys like? (Matt Zenitz) "He's one of those guys … He's a gifted route-runner, and he is getting better. He's young, and he's developing. [Wide receiver] Coach Jim Hostler is working with him, and certainly, getting him refined in all aspects of the game. He understands how to sink his hips. He can do a great job of changing direction. He has speed, can catch the ball, and he's tough. I think that's a pretty good blend. He's a young guy, so we will see. If he keeps improving the way he's going, I think he will be a fine player."
What have you seen from coach Juan Castillo, and how much is he helping the young linemen? (Ryan Mink)"[Run game coordinator] Juan [Castillo] is a veteran with a lot of experience. He's been around the block a bit, and he's coached a lot of good players. From a schematic standpoint, obviously, he has helped us tremendously, not only in our running game, but also with our pass game as well. He's been an integral part of the discussions that went on during the offseason. He's doing a great job. Obviously, the guys listen to him. They gravitate towards him. He's a diligent, hard-working guy, and he knows his craft."
WR/RS Jacoby Jones
On what it's like to get back to football after "Dancing With The Stars": "I'm back in my element, man. If I get frustrated out there, I can't break anything – I can break stuff and hit something around here." (laughter)
On if it's going to take time to get back into the swing of things: "Honestly, I feel like I never left, I never stopped competing. I went from football to dancing and right back to football, so I'm still in that mode, competition mode. So, it's like riding a bike I guess, like you said."
On if his life has changed at all over the last few months: "No, I just take everything in stride. I'm the same old 'G', you know? Walk around here, take everything in stride and treat everybody like family."
On if things are different with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell than when he first took over the offense: "No, I wouldn't say it's really different, because he just rolled right back into it. He's on the same mission, the same role, the same coaching philosophy. So, he makes it easy for us."
On if he expects any huge changes to the offense: "No, everything is the same. It's like they say, 'If it's not broken, don't fix it.'"
On if any of his dancing skills translate onto the football field: "I think it made me more graceful. I can never point my toes, because I'm pigeon-toed; it's not going to happen. (laughter) Len [Goodman, judge from DWTS] if you see this (laughter) … I mean, it helped me with my foot placement though and it made me more patient, so it did help a lot."
On if he feels confident that he can become a full-time wide receiver this season: "You all know how I am, I just play my role. Whatever they want me to do, I'm ready to do it. I think the whole receiving corps as a whole, we've all got to step up and make plays."
On how he feels, football-wise, about being in shape right now:"Usually, I'm the one walking around here half dead, but that dancing got me in shape. The only difference is the sun out here. Inside, you're dancing in the air conditioning. It's totally different."
On what he thinks about the team as it stands right now:"Honestly, I think – yeah, there are guys that are gone, we're going to miss them – but the spirit is the same. The guys they brought in, we all have the same type of personality, the same spirits, so [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] knows what he's doing when he brings those types of guys in."
On if the offense feels like they need to step up as the defense transitions with new players: "As an offense – I don't know about the defensive side … But, we're going to gel together, period, as a team. And that's what we've got to do. The young guys, we're going to groom them and raise them and show them how to become pros."
On if the offense has to work harder while the defense gets acclimated: "We're going to work hard regardless, period. We're going to work hard regardless. Everybody is going to work hard."
On what memories he has from the Divisional Playoff game in Denver: "The silence. I thought they threw a flag at first.* (laughter) *I was nervous as I was running, because usually at home you hear the crowd go loud, but it got silent. But, it's like Ray [Lewis] would always say: 'No weapons formed against us shall prosper.' He's just preaching that on the sideline, and we just kept believing it and we made plays."
On if he's a little bit lighter, or just leaner: "No, I'm still 215 [pounds], I'm just lean. Coach thought I wasn't lifting weights; I'm lifting I just couldn't help it. But if you're dancing six hours a day for seven days a week, you're going to get lean."
On if he took any good natured ribbing from his teammates about the dancing: "No, they're all just trying to get me to teach them how to dance now. (laughter) I'm not about to teach – I'm tired of dancing." (laughter)
On if we can expect to see some of his dance moves in the end zone next season: "Duh! You think I was doing that dancing for nothing? (laughter) I can't wait to get in the end zone. I'm not going to dance until I get in the end zone. Like I said, 10 weeks, seven straight days and six hours a day? Crazy, bro. Crazy."
On what his favorite dance was: "The jive. I like jiving; something quick and fast. But I will say, after you do all that running around for a minute and thirty seconds, you will learn to love the foxtrot and the Vietnamese waltz. *(laughter) *You will learn to love it, because it slows you down."