Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
How good of a season do you think Sam Koch is having? Obviously, in the first half of last Sunday's game, the offense struggled to move the ball, but field position seemed to keep you guys in a good position with Denver's offense. (Luke Jones)"Sam has done a remarkable job this year adjusting his style to the game plan. We've played some explosive returners this season, and we went into each game with a plan of how to neutralize, or at least, to some effect, slow down the returners that we're facing. It seems like each week he really modified his game in order to do that. I think it speaks to his technique and it speaks to his professionalism that whatever it takes to win a game, he wants to do it. Whether it means punting it high or punting it wide, he does it. He has had a great year, and I think the numbers tell that picture as well."
I know John Harbaugh said that you guys almost popped a couple of returns last week. Do you think teams are doing things a little bit differently just to kind of take Jacoby Jones out of it and kind of just corral him even more? Have they figured out a way … (Matt Vensel)"I hope they haven't figured it out. We prepare for all events every week. We've seen more squibs this year, certainly, than we have in years past. So, it kind of depends on the team you're playing and what their weapons are and what their kicker is capable of doing and how they feel about their own coverage teams. You see some teams that are fine with squibbing the ball and giving it to you on the 35-yard line, and other teams have confidence in their kicker and confidence in their coverage, and they are going to go ahead and kick it. Each week is unique in that regard. We certainly have seen more unusual kicks – wide kicks, squib kicks, high, short kicks – than we have in previous years, and that speaks to Jacoby's productivity and also the blockers that he has in front of him."
There was a substitution issue on one return where some players entered the field of play during the play. Can you talk us through what happened there? (Luke Jones)"That wasn't really a substitution [issue]. What happened there was our offense was taking the field. They thought the ball was down, and it looked like it was down and everybody on the field stopped. But, the ball was lying in behind the blockers, and the whistle didn't blow. Our offense, eager to take the field, took the field for a few strides right in front of the official, and then the ball broke out, so he had to make the call because there were too many men on the field. It wasn't a situation of substitution; it's a problem of guys trying to get on for the next play."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
With the struggles of the offense last week, especially early, is there any more pressure on you this week, personally? (Kevin Cowherd)"In our business, I'm not certain when there is not any pressure on you, no matter what you're doing and whatever phase it might be. But, that's just kind of the nature of the business. You have to perform. It's a performance business, and it's a right-now business. So, we have to certainly get better and straighten some things out and see if we can perform well more consistently. We were up and down last week. Obviously, [we] had some real bad spells, but those are the things that we're practicing for and against to try to make certain that it doesn't happen again."
How did you feel in your first game as a play-caller last week? (Ryan Mink)"I think every ball game has kind of its own personality and your duties and responsibilities are different. They are different from me as a head coach, they are certainly different from me as a quarterbacks coach. They are a little different for me from when I coached some other positions. I think that, basically, you have a job to do, you know what that job is, and you just have to make certain that you're doing things the right way and the way in which you practiced."
Jim, you talked about you personally having to adjust last week, too, being up in booth. Did it go as smoothly as you thought? (Kevin Cowherd)"Obviously, every game is different, but I think our communication was OK. Nothing was great, obviously, because of the fact that we're working through some things. But nevertheless, we didn't have any real problems. Like I said, every week is different. This week, we hope to certainly stay away from delay of games and things of that nature, which sometimes will occur if you don't get that call in quickly enough or a situation changes for you. [Wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler does a great job down [on the field] communicating directly to Joe [Flacco]. Those guys that have been around here awhile kind of helped things run along pretty smoothly."
Why do you think the offensive line has struggled in the past few weeks, and what can you do to kind of tweak that, whether it's scheme or personnel to protect Joe Flacco and get the running game going? (Matt Vensel)"One of the things that I think that you have to certainly be aware of is it's very, very difficult for you to determine that it was just one spot or one group of guys – it wasn't. There were a bevy of things, a number of things that sort of kept us from being consistent and moving the ball well. I'm certainly not going to put the spotlight on that group and that group only. All across the board, every coach, every player has a hand in it. It's our job to get things moving. It's a collective unit; that's how we look at it. Right now, as a collective unit, we're not consistent enough. We've worked hard this week to try to overcome that, and we'll see what we do on Sunday."
How much of that is confidence too? Do you have to have success to build confidence? What can you do as a coaching staff to help instill confidence? (Pete Gilbert)"I think the big thing – all across the board – you have to be able to also look at the things you did well and try to build on those. We did those well within the game, not just simply in practice, but in the game there are some games that we can build upon. The real key is just to make certain we can do those things more consistently. When you are doing things consistently well, that builds confidence. When you look at us now, you are talking about a couple of weeks here. Obviously, we've hit spurts here and there where we just haven't been consistent, but there have been times during the year where we have been pretty explosive, so we're trying to get back there."
Are there any lessons that you take from your first game? I know every game is different, but are there any lessons for you personally that you take from the first game? (Ryan Mink)"In terms of overall reflection, I probably wouldn't have any because I've been just focusing in on what we've got to get done. In terms of lessons learned, I learn something every single day of every minute, regardless of what I am doing in this business. I have been coaching for a little while, but the learning process that goes on in this game is amazing. That's the thing that makes it exciting and challenging, because you are learning something different every day, you are learning a little bit more about the guys with whom you're working. That makes it a real challenge. So yeah, we learn something all the time, maybe a little nuance here and there that we can utilize or something that we better correct."
Could you share one or some things that you've learned (Ryan Mink)"There's too many to even … I don't know where to start, obviously. I think there are a number of situational things that you look at that you say, 'Next time around, we certainly would like to do this a little differently.' If you are worth your salt in this business, you are looking at yourself critically every single outing, so we look at ourselves critically across the board, and we have a lot of work to do."
**Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Can you talk about the challenges of Eli Manning? He's been erratic these last four games, but which Eli Manning are you expecting to see on Sunday? (Ed Lee)"Like every week, you look at the plays that are the best plays. You don't look at turnovers, because who knows if they are going to happen, and it may not be quite the same defense, the same scheme whatever it is. I think whenever you look at an offensive team as a defensive coach, we always look at their best plays and the things that they do best and expect that. That's what you're playing for. You're never going to play that some guy is going to fumble or this guy is not going to get his block. You pay [attention] for everything as the best. [It is the] same thing with him and the passing game. You look at the routes and the balls that he has thrown that are great passes. Those are the things that you really look for, and those are the ones that you kind of expect."
He's only been sacked 15 times, I believe, this year. Is that because of him? Is that because of the offensive line? (Ed Lee) "I think it's a little bit of both – good scheme, good protections. He's a very evasive guy. He gets out of the pocket. He scrambles a little bit. I don't think most people would think of him, necessarily, as a scrambler, per se, like a [Ben] Roethlisberger or guys like that. But he does scramble to throw. You have to be alert. You can't come out of coverage and think that he's going to run like a [Michael] Vick or someone like that's going to do. He's always kind of had that. I remember back to the Super Bowl in '07, the [David] Tyree catch was a scramble. He's always had that ability, and that's part of the reason that he hasn't been sacked."
Terrell Suggs recently said that he thinks center is the most important position on the offensive line as opposed to left tackle just by the way that the defenses attack teams and having to decipher protections and all that. What's your thought on that whole thing? (Matt Vensel) "I would kind of have a tendency to agree with the center thing, because there are an awful lot of centers in this league that do take care of the protection calls, and with all of the different looks that all the defenses give now, that's really important. You'd [have to] be able to identify the front, and identify who the four rushers are to start off with, and then kind of go from there. The other thing about left tackle … When you speak of certain side – it's like on an edge – you can always help those guys. You can always use the backs to chip. You can always move the tight end over to the left side and have him chip before he goes out. You can put the tight end over there and just put him in position to make the rush wider. There's not a whole lot that you can do as a center. You are going to line up at the same spot every time. It's really hard to help him with a back on any kind of a protection. If he gets the protection wrong, it's going to be a bad deal for the offense. I'd have a tendency to say the center … The way things are now and the way the ball's being thrown in the league, that's very, very important."
We know you don't make the call for Sunday, but Ray Lewis has been on the practice field now for a couple of weeks. How has he looked, and given some of the recent struggles with the team in general and knowing what he brings emotionally, how big of lift would that be to have him back? (Luke Jones) "It would be great to have him back. I said that a couple of weeks ago when we first started seeing him come back. I'd love to have him. I think it would be a great emotional lift, but more than that, we could use some bodies in there at linebacker.* (laughing) *We'll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go. We'd love to have him back. As far as what he's looked like during the week, he's looked like Ray. At this time in the year, I don't think there are very many teams out there hitting like you do in training camp. So, you don't necessarily see the physical part, but the mental part, it's not going to leave you after 17 years, missing a couple of weeks. He's there."
In the bigger picture, some of the guys with all of the injuries that have had to come in and play – Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan and Corey Graham – to have such significant roles and have had some success, can you enjoy that at all or is that something that after the season … (Pete Gilbert) "Absolutely. I can't tell you how extremely proud I am of the Josh Byneses, the Corey Grahams and guys like that that have come in … B.A. [Brendon Ayanbadejo] … Brendon has come in and here's a guy that played dime for us last year and hasn't played a lot this year and has all of a sudden come in and actually had to play in our regular package as a will linebacker, and he's a special teams core guy. I'm really proud of all those guys. When you look to the future, you say, 'That's going to give you some depth.' Unfortunately, I'm not really looking that far in the future right now. I'd just like to look to this Sunday and get the job done now and get it over with. You're right. It's enjoyable. It's disheartening that we are losing, but at the same time, you do like seeing those guys have success, and I'm extremely, extremely proud of what they have done."
Can you elaborate on Josh [Bynes], because he had that cracked vertebrae injury, and he couldn't envision himself being at this position. (Ed Lee) "I don't think any of us could. I was asked [about it earlier]. They talked about Josh [Bynes]. I said, 'You have to remember this guy …' Yes, he was a practice squad guy, but he left camp because basically he had a broken back. All of a sudden now he's back, and we didn't even know if he was going to be back to practice squad, let alone being back and starting in our lineup. We didn't envision that. A lot of credit to him, but at the same time, I think there's two things that I would add to that, because it was brought up about him being a free agent – so was Jameel McClain and so was Dannell Ellerbe. There are a couple of things that all of those guys have in common: One, they are tough. No. 2 is that they are smart. When you have those two ingredients – when you are tough and you're smart and you're playing linebacker, you have a chance to play."
**You've used Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown and Chris Johnson at different points in the nickel package on Sunday. Would you like to see that third corner spot a little more solidified, given the fact that you're going up against a talented passer? *(Luke Jones) *"Yes, I would – period – no matter who we are playing. I'd just like to see someone take the bull by the horns and take the job. We are just going to have to make that decision at game time on who that is going to be, and who that's going to be during the course of the game. The good news is that you do have two or three guys there, but yes I would like to see someone step up and take it."
Your thoughts specifically on Jimmy [Smith]? I know John [Harbaugh] said that he thought he didn't look quite as fast as you thought he would be on Sunday? (Luke Jones) "I'm not sure he was as ready as we kind of hoped he would be, or as much as he hoped he would be. I'm not going to use that as an excuse. We just need to play better."
I know you are looking at their offense, obviously. But, what do you think of their defensive line. They look like they have some pretty nasty pass rushers. (Ryan Mink) "Yes, I guess. I look at everybody's offense. I could care less what somebody … The only reason I look at somebody else's defense is when I see them on film going against an offense. Generally speaking, we don't look at the New York Giants very often, because they are a whole different front than we are. I know the names. I'm not naïve. I know they have great guys up front. Jim [Caldwell] can speak to that a whole lot better than me."
**On a different note, their wide receivers … They look like they have a lot of talent at wide receiver. *(Ryan Mink) *"Absolutely. They do. They can go up and get the ball. Very talented – [Victor] Cruz – all of them are quick. Eli [Manning] can get them the ball. It's kind of funny. I say the same thing every week. It sounds like a broken record, but who doesn't have good wide receivers? Name a team that we have had that hadn't had a good quarterback and a good wide receiver. I don't know how many Pro Bowl quarterbacks we've played this year, but it's been a bunch, and there have been a bunch of Pro Bowl wide receivers, too. That's just the league. That's who you play, and it's not going to be any different next year, and it's not going to be any different the year after that. They all have talent. This group is just like the rest of the groups that we've seen. They are a very, very talent group. I don't think there's any place that you can really say, 'That's really a weakness.' They have a good group."
**How much can your past experience game-planning with Eli [Manning] help you this week? *(Ed Lee) *"I hope a lot. We'll see. [We] seemed to play him a lot when I was at New England. We always played them every preseason. Although, sometimes it was the fourth preseason game, and there wasn't a whole lot of game planning going on there. [We played them] in the Super Bowl. We played them a couple of times in regular season. I hope it has some benefit."
*This franchise is not accustomed to a three-game skid in three years, and before you got here, New England the same thing. What has it been like this week dealing with that or is it just so focused on this week with the Giants and that's it, or does it feel like its mounting and how is everyone kind of handling it? (Pete Gilbert) *"No, I think what we've done, and I think coaches have done a good job and players have also done a good job is … What you have to look at and say is, 'Why? Why are we on a three-game skid?' It's not just, 'Don't be anxious. Don't be' … We are. There isn't anybody that goes through a three-game skid that you don't start getting a little, 'What's going on here?' But, the bottom line is to kind of sit back and say, 'Why?' instead of just, 'Oh well, that's just keep doing the same thing?' or 'Are we doing something wrong? How can we fix [this]?' What we need to do is to fix what we aren't doing well and keep doing well the things that we are doing well. You have to identify those things and not just say, 'It's going to get better on its own.' What happened that cost us that game? How can we fix it? Is it by a call? Is it by a technique? Is it by personnel? What is it? It's the same thing that you do in the bye week. You sit back and you examine yourself. You don't have as much time, but you have to get to what is the problem and try to fix it. I think that's what really everybody is focused on this week. I think that's what we've tried to focus on as a coaching staff is, 'Here's why we lost that game. Here's how we can fix that. Let's fix that,' and move on. Not get caught up in a, 'Oh my god. We've lost three games. Oh we've done this. Oh we've done that.' At the end of things, it doesn't matter when you lost them. If we'd lost every other game and been 9-5, it wouldn't make any difference. The bottom line is just fix what's wrong."
**How well did you think Terrell Suggs held up on Sunday? *(Luke Jones) *"He's coming back. He's not back full, but he's back, and he's playing hard. I think if you ask him, I don't think he would tell you that he's playing at 100 percent like he has, but he certainly is giving us a great effort and giving us what we need in there."