*THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 1 vs. BENGALS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees & CB Marlon Humphrey
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Last week, there was a mutual two trades of long snappers. With that in mind, does that enhance your appreciation of consistency and reliability you see in LS Morgan Cox?* (Ed Lee)* "I don't know if my appreciation for Morgan Cox could possibly be further enhanced. I have a very high opinion of Morgan. We do value him greatly. It's a necessity to have highly-skilled specialists. We have them; we are aware that we have them. We don't take them for granted, by any means. When we're out here practicing, the thing that I enjoy most about working with these men is that they're always trying to improve their game, and they're growing their skills – always. It's a fun part of my job. I'm a fortunate man, in that regard."
Do you feel that K Justin Tucker has added even more distance to his work this offseason? (Ryan Mink)"Well, we haven't really kicked off deep yet, so it's hard to say exactly what his deep kickoffs were. With regard to field goals, he's always had enough leg strength to kick the kicks we need to kick. I really don't know, I mean that sincerely. Warm-up kicks are warm-up kicks; practice kicks are practice kicks. When you get to games, the ones that really matter are all the ones they're trotting out there to kick for three points."
K Justin Tucker has had so much success from field goals 50 yards and above last year, much more than any other kicker. Are you in a situation now where he's going to attempt a 50-yard field goal, do you feel like it's a 30- or 40-yarder for a regular guy? Do you have the utmost confidence that he's going to hit that 50? (Ryan Mink)"I think that every kick, to me, is its own entity. A 50-yard kick is not a kick to be taken for granted – neither is a PAT anymore. So, I watch them all with the same amount of interest. I don't take those things for granted. I've seen how they can affect games in a big way. That's why you practice so hard; that's why your guys work so hard. They try to hone their skills so when the game is on the line, they can perform. This is game week, and it feels different around here. I don't know if you people can recognize that from the side, but it's a whole new feel. It's not preseason anymore. All these plays will count – that one included."
It's going to be a collective effort to replace special teams player LB Albert McClellan. What have you seen from ILB Bam Bradley in the preseason for one, to find a place on this roster, and two, contribute in special teams? (Luke Jones)"That's certainly something we were not planning on having happen. We're going to miss Albert a great deal. The good news is Albert is still here helping us – coaching, even though he's not playing. What Bam showed us in preseason is he's a fine athlete. He's a fast linebacker who is aggressive. He learns well. If you teach him something, he's not a repeat offender from mistakes. We're going into this game with the confidence in him on the 53, and he'll develop into another free agent linebacker – like we have a rich history of in this franchise. I see great promise in Bam. We'll see how it shapes up when we get on the road."
Early in the season, when the ball sails a little bit more, do you ask your kick returner to be a little more cautious bringing it out of the end zone, or do you wait and take it at the 25-yard line? (Garrett Downing)"We have a plan for each game that's specific to the team we're playing, and game plan, so to speak. It'll change as we go on. We don't have a set plan and what yard line it is. This time of the year, earlier in the year, it doesn't really make any difference. The game, the specifics of the plan, will be important to us."
A lot of the core special teams players have turned over for you this year. Is there excitement, anxiousness? There's a lot of new faces you have out there on special teams. (Jamison Hensley)"There's always excitement – this is an exciting occupation. So, that's certainly there. Anxiety? I think more than anything else, I have confidence in our players, because I watch them practice. We had an excellent practice yesterday. That's what I told them in the meeting room afterwards. It gives me a lot of confidence in our players. The job that I have, as a special teams coach, is like all the other guys who do my job around the league, is you're going to turn over players every year. That's just the nature of the business. Players graduate into offensive and defensive starting roles, players move on because they become free agents, and players retire. It's just the nature of the job. In the spring practices that we have, I have a theme that we 'renew;' we make ourselves new all over again. That's really what we've had to do, this year and every year, to a certain extent. This year, [there are] perhaps a few more. But, it's really part of the job every year."
What do you coach K Justin Tucker in regards to fumble recoveries, making tackles, just plays other than kicking? How much do you want him to be a "player" or to just stay away? (Pete Gilbert) "You nailed it. If you're a player, then go be a player. Our guys pride themselves on being football players, and if there's a play needing to be made, and they can make it, we encourage that. We'd love to see Justin score on a scoop and score. We want to make sure after he scores, he's kicking the PAT, also."
With WR/RS Michael Campanaro and WR Chris Moore, having done punt and kick returns last year, how much do you think that experience will translate to this year? (Ed Lee)"Yes, I'm confident that it will. There's nothing like playing in a real NFL football game. I've never done it – I didn't have that kind of skill – but I can imagine that there could be nothing quite like it. I know it's true in coaching, too, when you get out here for the first time. It's unique, and having that experience and catching the ball in live coverage situations, there's nothing like it. I think the other part of it, too, is over time you learn how to study it. You understand the game more, so you watch film in the offseason, you practice more, and you have a better understanding of exactly what's being asked. Until you actually do it, there's really nothing like the real thing."
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"I'll tell you what – a little excitement around here. We have a big game in Cincinnati Sunday. We have some fellas back that really appear to be healthy, and then Joe [Flacco] is back as well. He looks to be healthy. I have never even noticed anything with him. I'm sure the guys are … Well, I know the guys are really excited. The key is not to peak too quick, but let's peak on Sunday. That is about where we are at right there. First ball game, really crazy things tend to happen. So, how do you counter that? With details. The guys are working hard; they are getting their preparation in. That is the one big thing that we have emphasized here recently."
Can you talk about the transition for G/T James Hurst going from tackle to guard? How difficult has it been or how easy has it been? (Ed Lee)"Well, he is a natural football player. He has really worked hard to get himself to this point. This is a man that can play one of any four spots and do a really good job, because he is natural. He is a natural football player. He is smart. He is a hard worker – all of those things. It has been seamless for him. He has been at right tackle, left tackle, left guard. He could play right guard at the drop of a hat. He is a valuable member of our squad."
Where do you feel like the chemistry is with QB Joe Flacco and the wide receivers right now? (Garrett Downing)"Well, we are going to find out real quick here. We have been putting just a little bit of extra time in because of Joe's situation. However, I do not want to overdo that because of Joe, of course. But, yes, we are putting just a little bit of extra time in there for the timing aspect of it. Good point."
Having been a quarterback yourself and having worked with so many quarterbacks, when someone is coming off of a long layoff like this and doesn't have a ton of on field time to prepare, what in your mind is the biggest challenge for QB Joe Flacco? (Luke Jones)"Well, he is a long-time veteran. So, you sort of … I do, anyways, rely on his experience. He is in the middle of detailing this thing up, so we can rely on his experience that way."
Given the injuries and all the time off and the shuffling of the offensive line, does that change the way that you had to game-plan for Cincinnati?* (Ryan Mink)*"Yes. Just a little bit, certainly. Everything we do is important, and everyone we have available is important. Everybody we don't have available [is important]. All of those things go into it. But yes, sure. You try to use the common sense and put the best guys in the best spots possible that we are going to have available."
With the tight end group, can you expect any one of them to replace the production that TE Dennis Pitta had last season? (Ed Lee)"Ah, Dennis! Geez. In fact, I miss him. I thought he would be around here a little bit more, so tell him to get into town one of these days. Dennis is a heck of a player. We have a whole host of tight ends that have worked hard. [Senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach] Greg [Roman] is doing a great job with them, and I would expect them as a group to be quite productive both in the pass and the run as well."
Two of your three reserve offensive linemen [G/C Tony Bergstrom and C Luke Bowanko] have just arrived in the last week. How much of a challenge is it getting them up to speed knowing that you are an injury or two away from them having to play? (Luke Jones)"That is a good point. I told [offensive line coach] Joe 'D' [D'Alessandris] last night that he better get some sleep, because that was about 10 p.m. So, he has been putting extra time in – early mornings and late at night with the fellas trying to get them prepared. I have great confidence that they will be prepared if called upon."
A lot has been made about the running game going into the season. Do you expect all three running backs to get carries in Week 1? (Brett Hollander)"Yes. I would expect us to use all eligible runners and receivers to some extent. Then, you get into philosophy and all of those types of things, and we could talk for hours on end. I would love to do that one of these days, but yes, we will try to use all of the players that are available."
Have you had to limit anything in the playbook because QB Joe Flacco has missed so much practice time? (Jamison Hensley) "Up to today, no. Joe is a pretty natural player. He is really sharp; he is smart. He has all of those great qualities. Now, we will have a discussion tomorrow – we have talked about that – on the game plan and that sort of thing that you are talking about. I want to make sure he is really comfortable with everything that is a possible call there."
You have some new personnel and some returning guys have different roles. Do you feel like the Bengals know less about what you are going to do where sometimes a division rival knows you pretty well? (Pete Gilbert)"That is a good point. You try to keep your opponent off balance throughout the season. I think we can overthink some of those things as well – the 'Oh, we think they know. We know, but they might know …' on and on and on. I think we can overthink that just a little bit."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
*We always talk about the potential and goals for the defense. Do you still think in your mind that defenses are truly measured by points allowed more than yards allowed – even though people typically say the No. 1 defenses are the ones that allow the fewest yards? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Yes. I never really bought in. I know that's what they always gear everything on, whether you're the No.1 defenses on yards allowed, but the truth of it is, is it comes down to points. It's just like at the end of a game: If you're trying to prevent a score to win a game but you play … You know, they need 80 yards to go, and they run some draw play and it goes for 40 yards, or they run one of those laterals that goes for 50 yards – really, who cares? If you can tackle the guy, then you win the game and you go home. So, the bottom line is, really, points allowed and not letting them score. It's the same thing sometimes, too … I remember a couple of years ago, we played Buffalo. We gave up about 180 yards rushing on 50 attempts. Everybody was upset because we gave up 180 yards rushing, but it was averaged 3.4 [yards per carry]. I'm going … *(shakes his head) It's more per carry than it is total yards – same thing in passes. So, there's a lot of statistics that can be kind of misleading."
What's the biggest thing you learned in the preseason from the whole group? (Pete Gilbert)I think we have some cohesiveness with them. I think we've been able, for the most part, to go through the preseason and keep kind of the same group a little bit together. I know we've had a couple injuries here and there, but that's been a big factor, I think. The more they play together, the more confident they play, because you just know the communication and feel comfortable with the guy next to you. I think that's one of the things that we've been able to get through the preseason and come out of it that way. I think that's been a good thing."
How many times have you shown guys WR A.J. Green film this week and over the past several weeks? Just talk about how much of a challenge it'll be to stop him. (Garrett Downing)"I don't need to show them A.J. Green on film. If they don't know what A.J. Green can do by now, they probably shouldn't be in this league. Everybody knows how good he is. Everybody knows how good every player is on everybody's team, who the best players are, who the go-to players are, all that kind of stuff. It's part of their package. Just like when you play Pittsburgh. If you don't know who '84' [Antonio Brown] and '26' [Le'Veon Bell] are, then you've been lost in the world. Every week it's somebody new. We're playing the Cincinnati Bengals; we're not playing A.J. Green. We're playing the Bengals. They have other weapons. They have three good running backs, a heck of a tight end, another good wide receiver, and the quarterback is pretty darn talented. It's never just a one-guy show."
You've mentioned TE Tyler Eifert. Is he similar or different to other tight ends you've had to scheme against? (Ed Lee)"No, he's just good. I don't say that he's different. There have been a lot of good tight ends over the years that are good receiving tight ends and good blocking tight ends. But especially as a receiver, they can flex him out, and [it's] almost like playing with four receivers in a game. There have been a lot of tight ends like him, but all the ones that are like him are all good. A couple years ago, I can't remember the kid, at the Jets, was a really good tight end that they could flex out and was just like a wide receiver. Seems like everyone has one. We had one in [Dennis] Pitta. It was kind of the same thing. The guys are a threat as a receiver, especially when they're flexed out and mismatched for linebackers."
What did you see from CB Marlon Humphrey in his first extensive action in New Orleans, and did he show enough to say, "Alright, this guy is going to have a major role on this defense?"* (Ryan Mink)*"He showed me enough with the hit on the caused fumble, and I liked that. The fact that he … You know, they tried to challenge him a couple times deep, and he was where he needed to be. For the most part of the whole game, I thought he graded out really well. We still have to see him in live action during the season. We'll try to use him accordingly. Everybody that is active for us for a game on defense has a role in this defense. There's nobody that's … Just because they play more special teams … They all have a role on defense, too, and they all know it."
How pleased have you been, seeing in practice and seeing in the preseason, about the pass rush?* (Jamison Hensley)*"So far, it's been good. I think it can be a lot better. But, we're working hard at it. The thing is, we're going to find out a lot about ourselves here now that the season starts. We're opening up against a really talented offensive football team. We're going to find out a lot about us on Sunday and how good the pass rush actually is."
LB Kamalei Correa and ILB Patrick Onwuasor: Is that more of a rotation kind of thing, or is one more ahead of the other? (Pete Gilbert) "They're both very equal. 'K.C.' [Kamalei Correa] is probably the starter, but Patrick is right there with him. Bam [Bradley] is coming along, too. He's kind of a fourth guy that has really shown up here in preseason – especially on special teams. He's shown up a lot, which is good for a linebacker. That's what you want to show up for if you're a backup linebacker. He's done a good job. I feel comfortable even if he ends up getting put in the game."
CB Marlon Humphrey (in locker room)
On how he feels going into his first game:"I am excited. It is the first game, so I'm just getting through the week and getting ready for the game on Sunday."
On how much confidence playing in the final preseason game gives him going into the regular season:"I think it gave me some confidence. I have not been really been out there yet in any type of NFL experience, so it was definitely good to get in some reps that game."
On where he feels he is in terms of knowing the defense: "I think I am pretty good, mentally. There are just some things we need to clean up – kind of new things we are putting in for this game. As far as mentally, I think I am pretty well prepared."
On his thoughts on potentially facing off against WR A.J. Green: "I think it will be an experience. I know he is one of the best in the league, so if I get a chance to get some reps in there against him, it will definitely be good to compare how good he is to what my talent is.
On if he thinks there will be nervousness in his first NFL game: "I guess it is kind of too far [out] to really tell right now. It is game week. [We are] practicing and things like that. Maybe when it gets closer. We will see."
On the importance of getting live reps in New Orleans: "It was important. I didn't really get to play in many of those games in the preseason. Getting those snaps was really important for me. It just made me feel more comfortable within myself – just getting some snaps and knowing that everybody else kind of had played. I seemed to be the only one who had not got in a preseason game at the time, so it was good to get the reps."
On if he thought the speed of the game was faster than college:"Probably a little bit faster, as far as players. But, the tempo in between the plays seemed a little bit slower. [There was] more thinking into things and having more time to process things. I could see how that could benefit the offense and the defense."