**Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
By a way of clarification, and in light of Jacoby's [Jones] success in the return game, how come the job was Deonte Thompson's earlier in the year? (Joe Platania)"You're going back a long ways. Deonte had a very good preseason. We liked Jacoby's return abilities, too, obviously. And at that point in time, we weren't real sure how we were going to parcel out the reps. It's a division of workload, as you've heard me say many, many times, and that's really what led to that decision."
Jerry, how big of a challenge is it – we always talk about injuries and how it impacts the defense and the offense – but how big of a challenge is it on the special teams when you have guys like Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, stepping up into bigger roles with their position? (Luke Jones)"It's a challenge to the players probably as much as it is to the coaches, or more so. As I've mentioned previously, our practices are designed to get everybody ready to play. You'll see us practice out there today with guys in the kickoff return team – the show team, so to speak – that may be playing on Sunday on our kickoff return team. And it's designed so that we have competitive practice, [which] makes for better play, and also it's designed where we're always developing all of our players, not just the guys that are going to be playing on Sunday. So, when it gets to be this time of the year, when new players have to assume a new role, they've been practicing competitively and they've been developing their skills to where we hope they don't miss a beat. Now, obviously, when you take a Corey Graham out of the mix, you've got an All-Pro special teams player, and he's no longer playing special teams, it has an effect. But, he continues to help us in so many ways. He's in every meeting, he's coaching the guys that replaced him, and everyone in the National Football League goes through this. We're no different. All teams have injuries, all teams have roster adjustments, and if we can handle them better than our opponents, then we're going to be better on Sundays. That's what we're trying to do."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
What is your take on their secondary? I know they have given up a lot of yards this, but I know they have some talented players. (Ryan Mink)"The Dallas game – Dallas was throwing it every down. Earlier in the year, I think they were trying to adjust to all the injuries they had. You look at the last four weeks, actually that defense is looking pretty good. I have tremendous respect for their scheme, their coaching staff. Obviously, just look at the game the other night against New York. They played extremely well. Obviously, they have to make some adjustments. We will find out what they are probably in warm-ups or early in the game. We'll expect them to play well."
Out of all the qualities that make a good receiver – field vision, hands, speed – what makes Jacoby [Jones] stand out? What one of the qualities makes him … (Joe Platania) "First, in my mind, is just his work ethic. I joke because here is a guy who never misses any practice. Even if he's nicked up, he just goes, plays, does whatever he needs. Great preparation guy – that's the first thing. But obviously, he's just tremendously fast. He loves football. He has big-play potential on every down. A lot of things that Jacoby does for us don't show up on his stat sheet. Other guys benefit from that, and you need guys like that. What a great move getting him here."
It seems like every week one of your starting wide receivers is producing, coming up with big plays, getting into the end zone. It kind of has been dictated on the matchup or however the game goes. Is it nice to kind of have a one-two-punch like that in Anquan [Boldin] and Torrey [Smith] who can step up and make plays in different ways? (Matt Vensel) "No doubt, and every week is a little bit different. We move our guys around a little bit. [Wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler and our offensive coaching staff – we don't put guys in the same spot every week, so we get a chance to free guys up. Putting 'Q' [Anquan Boldin] inside and out, Torrey [Smith] inside and outside … [we] keep people guessing, so they can't zero in on a guy. That's a quarterback's and coordinator's ideal scenario where you can just call a play, let the defense almost determine where the ball is going to go and wherever the ball goes you have confidence in those guys. We are getting better. We still have a lot of room for improvement, as we all saw this past week. There are some opportunities there that we have to take advantage of in the passing game, and I'm confident we will get that done this week."
Obviously, can you talk a little bit about what goes into how much you use the no-huddle in different aspects? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It can vary a little bit from the team you are playing. It can be the things that you have in the game plan. I really don't want to get too specific on that. Some game plans it fits better than others, and sometimes it's just a feel thing. Sometimes Joe [Flacco] and I will be talking, and we've been going up-tempo and we'll say, 'Hey, let's huddle here a little bit and catch our breath,' or 'Hey, now let's crank it up.' We've done it enough now and over time that we kind of have some instinctively – we have a feel for when we like it. It's not something that you are going to do every down. I think that we know. A lot communication goes into that."
Cam, I would think sometimes that – not being privy to the meetings of course – but some of the greatest challenges for a coordinator would come in-house – matching with the other coordinators. Is there anything [defensive coordinator] Dean [Pees] dose unique that maybe you haven't seen anywhere else you've been? (Joe Platania) "Absolutely. He really knows how to look at what an offense is doing, dissect what they are doing, and like all the great defensive coordinators put guys in position to be successful. That's why it's good for us in the spring. If there is anything that we are tipping, then he is going to attack it. He's going to expose any weakness that we have on our offense. That makes us adjust. When we went against each other at other places, you knew you always had to be ready to make adjustments when going against Dean. I think he's really unique [with] his ability to adjust."
Joe's [Flacco] body language is probably, not probably, but is over scrutinized. Obviously, it's been like that for years, but it does seem like the last couple of games he's been a little more frustrated than usual. Do you sense that? Why do you think that is? Do you think it's because he thinks you guys are real close? Do you think it's some of the inconsistencies? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Maybe frustration is the word, I don't know. He's a competitor. It's interesting for those of us that are around him to sit back and see sometimes the perception of him, but when you are around him, you know the other part of Joe [Flacco]. You know the fire that burns inside. You know the competitor that he is. He walks into this building … He doesn't like to lose at anything. Maybe he doesn't show it like everyone wants him to, but we know it's in there. That's the important thing. My trust, our staff's trust, our offense's trust, our team's trust in Joe is unwavering, because we know him. Then you start to realize that everybody wants Joe to be somebody other than who he is, and then you respect him even more. In today's world, to just have the confidence to be who he is … There is no chance that Joe is going to try to be somebody he isn't, because everybody would see right through that. Everybody has tremendous respect for him. There's a lot of strength in that man; there's no doubt in my mind."
You ran eight offensive plays in the fourth quarter and Ray Rice didn't touch the ball … (Matt Vensel) "That's our own fault. It's our job on offense to convert on third down. If we convert on third down, we are out there for, hopefully, another three downs. When you don't convert on third down, you aren't going to be out there. Our guys know we need to do a better job of converting on third down. Then you get more opportunities. For us to be at the lowest we've have been in five years in terms of time of possession is strictly on our offense. We need to convert on third down better, and we need to stay on the field longer. We can't keep putting our defense back out there in critical situations. We had an opportunity to extend the lead. Our guys know it. You have to extend the lead in this business. Otherwise, you just open the door for the other team to get back in the ballgame. How do you do that? You make plays, No. 1, or execute plays. Making plays probably isn't a great way [of wording it]. Execute plays and convert [is saying it better]. If we get our third-down percentage up, we will have more time of possession. We are going to have more opportunities. But percentage-wise, Ray has had the ball more this year than other years, but we haven't had as many opportunities. And right now, that's our own undoing. That's something that we have to get fixed right here in December, and I'm confident that we will."
What does that say about him [Ray Rice], too? He was up at the podium yesterday, and people gave him an opportunity to be critical. If he's frustrated, he's keeping it in house … (Matt Vensel) "The only way that I can look at that is you would have to not know Ray Rice; you have to not know the guy to be surprised by that. He's a team guy. He understands what we are trying to do. If there's nine or 10 guys in there, there isn't a running back in this league that wants the ball, and he knows when he's being doubled- and triple-covered in the passing game. For him to still be one of the top yardage guys in this league, considering he has been double- and triple-teamed in this league has its challenges. Believe me, it has its challenges. The key for us is making sure when we don't give the ball to him we are executing with other guys. You see Bernard [Pierce] getting the ball a little bit more. The one thing that we know on offense is there is only one football, and only one guy is going to get it. Getting Bernard – getting all our guys involved … The key is getting more snaps. How do you get more snaps? Convert more on third down. Then not only are we going to continue to win, but then it's going to look the way and feel the way that everybody wants it to look and feel. That's the bottom line. It's time for us to get that done."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, it's been about four or five weeks since you've moved upstairs. Can you remember any specific instance where that made a difference – as far as speed of the play and vision of the field – that helped the team? (Joe Platania)"I think the very first game that we went up there [I] really noticed a difference. I think I was talking a week ago or two weeks ago, and I was asked a similar question. The thing that helps you a little bit is that a lot of calls on defense are based on whether the ball is on the hash or in the middle of the field, what yard line it's on – all that kind of stuff. Well, that stuff all has to be information that is given to you on the sideline through the headset before you can make a call, so you're waiting for that info – or even their personnel that's coming in the game – and a specific call might be for three wide [receivers] or for two-wides or for two tight ends or whatever. So, you have to wait for that information down on the sideline to come to you before you make the call. So, that's eight or 10 seconds, whatever the heck it is. When you're in the box, the one thing that is easier is you can see as soon as the play is down – even if it's across the field – I can tell it's on the 18-yard line and it's a hash call. That fast. Rather than somebody telling me the ball is on the 18, it's a hash call and it's registering, then I have to think. I see it. [It's] the same thing. I can also sometimes see the personnel coming in the game along with the guy upstairs who that is identifying it because that's a hard job. That is the toughest job in football is trying to identify other team's personnel, because people substitute so much and they can go no-huddle and numbers. It's a hard job. I've been around a lot of good coaches that couldn't do it. It's a hard job, so sometimes that's a hesitation. When he hesitates, then I hesitate as the call on the sideline, which hesitates getting in. So, I think even the first week it helped. Being in the booth, if you've never been in the booth, sometimes you can't see everything and if you try to look at everything, you get nothing. You have to have your eyes focused on what you think where maybe the problem might be in this defense – where the vulnerable spot might be. When you call defense or as a coordinator, you kind of know that maybe more than a position coach. He is more concerned with his position. A lot of guys have a tendency to just watch their position when they're up in the booth. If I call a stunt, I know where the stunt might be a problem vs. that offensive formation, so I'm kind of looking for that right there, and I think you can get it corrected a little quicker. So, there are things like that that kind of make a difference, if that makes sense to you."
It does. Most of the coordinators that have been here have been on the field. Even though going upstairs may have helped, isn't there something to be said for looking your guys in the eyes as they are coming off the field and talking to them? (Joe Platania)"Sure, but I think there are two things to that, too. There are positives on both sides, because if it was one, all 32 [defensive coordinators] would do it if it was the best way. But, it can be either/or. I think, though, also the more veteran team you have, the easier it is to be on the sideline sometimes because those guys can come off and tell you and give you information that even the guy in the box might not give you. The younger the team, sometimes it's a little hard because those guys come off and tell you three guys blocked him: 'I got triple-teamed.' No, you didn't, but they all think they did. They don't know. It's not their fault; they don't know. Veteran players have always been able to come off the field and tell me, 'Hey, here's what they're doing to us.' They kind of almost know how to fix it before I tell them how to fix it. This team, I didn't feel like we were quite at that position at the time that we made the move because I thought sometimes when we came off the field, I didn't always get information that was … 'I am trying to figure this out; tell me what he did.' I am getting a little bit of a stare like, 'I'm not positive that he did this.' Well, I need to see it. So, I think it's just the dynamics of the team. Whether the coordinators did it before me, whether they didn't … I was in the booth in New England, and I was down at New England – same coordinator and same system. So, I think it's just a determination you have to make based on your team, and we have enough coaches that I think we do a good job on the sideline in conveying all that information. A lot of times it depends on who you have in the booth. I remember even at New England at one time – I won't give a name – but I had a guy in the booth who had been a head coach, a very, very successful head coach and been a coordinator in this league, and [he] could not get personnel right. He couldn't do it. He just hadn't done it. It was always given to him before. Never had to do it, then all of the sudden you are asking a guy to do it as a position coach, and he just couldn't do it. So, we had to make a move. There are so many little factors involved in it."
How tough is it now that Jimmy Smith is back on the practice field with how well Corey Graham has been playing in that starting role? How tough is it for you to decide who is going to start? (Ryan Mink)"I don't think it will be hard. It will be based on how they practice. I think I told you, you can't have enough good players. I hope the worst problem I ever have is trying to figure out who is the best player out of two good players to play. That's always a good problem to have, and I hope I continue to have it."
Just how well has Corey played in your estimation? (Ryan Mink)"He's played well. He has had his moments like they all have. Everybody has. I think for what we've asked him to do and the role that he has expanded throughout the season, I am very proud of what he has done."
What have you seen from Alfred Morris and that scheme that they run there? How impressive has he been against some of the good competition that they've played? (Jason Butt)"The guy runs angry. That's the way I explained it to our guys. That's a good thing for them. He runs hard, he runs behind his pads. He's been a force. I think the scheme has helped him, not only the zone scheme, but the dive scheme off the option and stuff – a little emphasis on No. 10 [Robert Griffin III] there. I think all those things add into that. Even aside from all that, the guy has really been a good back, and he runs hard."
Are those option principles a little tougher since you guys don't see that on a regular basis? (Jason Butt)"I think it's tough on everybody. If you watch all the teams that they've played, they've played some darn good defenses. It's just really a different scheme that you don't see every week. It's not something that you really spend a lot of time in the offseason like you do in college. You know you're probably going to see four or five of them during the year, so you're going to spend a week in spring ball or training camp or whatever getting ready for that. So, you have a couple of days to prepare for it, and you just have to do it within your system. I've seen guys try to reinvent the wheel on option football. I've coached as a defensive coordinator for eight years in college on a team that ran nothing but option football on offense. I've seen some defenses try to reinvent ways to stop the option, and usually I was very happy as a defensive coordinator playing with a big lead."
So what do you emphasize? (Mike Preston)"Going all the way back – even though it's not the same thing – but one of the emphasis this week has been going back to the Philadelphia game: Have your eyes on what your responsibility is. If it's a dive, if it's the quarterback, if it's the pitch in the option, whatever it is, having your eyes on what you have. You have a responsibility, you have a technique, and you have to perform that thing. This is not one of those that you can spin out of a block. You can't do a bunch of things that you might do against a pass team, a lot of counters and all that stuff. You have to be very disciplined, and the biggest thing is know your responsibility and have your eyes on it. The biggest thing with this guy, which we didn't do well in the second game against [Michael] Vick is all of the sudden, he starts moving around back there and everybody is watching him instead of watching or playing the zone that you need to be in. We did a terrible job of that in Week 2. Hopefully, we'll do a lot better this time around."
How much does it help to have Tyrod Taylor running the scout team? (Ryan Mink)"Dennis Dixon. Tyrod is good. Dennis Dixon is great. The guy ran it at Oregon. He is good. I was shocked. I was sitting down there the other day talking to Tyrod about, 'Here is what I need you to do.' Dennis is looking at me like, 'What am I?' So, I said, 'Yeah, you can jump in there.' He gets in there yesterday and started riding that thing down, and I am going, 'Holy smokes! You're doing a great job for us. Tyrod, move over. Dennis is up.' *(laughter) *I told you, two good players – play the best one."
Does that legitimately help the defense? (Ryan Mink)"It looks pretty good to me. That's a blessing. I can remember when we played [former Titans QB] Vince Young. I think we took [former Patriots WR] Troy Brown and made him the quarterback. It didn't look quite the same. I think I heard the Giants say they used a receiver or somebody. It's really hard, because those guys just don't know the timing of it, how to write it, how to read it. You can draw it on the card, but then do you draw on the card 'give it' or do you tell him to keep it if you draw it on the card. If you tell him to keep it, and then you smack him, 'Oh yeah, that'll look great. We have that down.' Well, in the game he might have given it. The good thing about Dennis is I don't write anything on there. I tell him if it's double-option or triple-option. Double-option means either keep it or give it. Triple-option means give it, keep it or pitch, and he knows what to do. So, we'll see."
Dean, the Steelers had success late in the game with screen passes, and that's something the Redskins have had success with as well. Are you just trying to hammer that home with your players to not try to do too much or be too aggressive with those plays and kind of contain them? (Matt Vensel)"Yeah, a little bit. Not a little bit – a lot. The reason I said a little bit is because there is also a little different structure defensively than we did against the Steelers. The thing that really hurt us versus the Steelers is the same thing a little bit with eyes, but it was man [coverage] eyes. On the one tight end, [Heath] Miller, down late in the game down the middle, they set up a screen, everybody jumps that thing, and they hit him on the wide-high pass down the middle. Good play. I hadn't seen them run it all year. Good time to bring it out, but that's one of those things where you have to have your eyes on your guy and not go play somebody else, and we got caught, and it hurt us. So, it's the same thing. You have to rally to those things. You can't sit there and play screens all day, or they're just going to run the ball right down your throat because you're going to be playing soft. You have to react to them, you have to be smart. The biggest thing is you just have to read your keys, and hopefully it will take us to the screen."
Dean, every week you always hear about wanting to pressure the quarterback. When you have a guy like Robert Griffin III, who is so mobile and won't hesitate to leave the pocket, how does that change – as far as a mentality of your front four or whoever is rushing the passer – to play under a little more control as far as what you do? (Luke Jones)"That's a very good question. We kind of discussed it today. The thing about it is that … I'm trying to word it kind of how we worded it this morning. You have to be aggressive and not cautious. You need to still rush the passer. You can't go in there thinking this guy is going scramble. You have to come in with the right leverage, the right spot. He may still get out of it because he is such a great athlete. I can't coach [against] athleticism – you really can't. If you do that, then you are always going to be tentative, and you're always going to be cautious, and you're always going to be guarded, and you're never going to get there. Now, the offensive lineman just stands there and holds you out all day because you're not doing anything, you're too worried about this guy scrambling. You have to go. You just have to use sense in that I have to have good leverage on this, good pass discipline. I have to do things discipline-wise. If you don't do that, you might as well not pressure, you might as well not even pass rush because you are just going to sit on the line all day and then he has all day to throw. So, we're going to try to tee it up like we always do, but also not be crazy. Not be cautious, not be afraid to be aggressive, but at the same time you just can't go in there and, 'OK, I'm going to spin on this guy and know that he is going to go outside.' There are just certain things like that [where] you have to use common sense."