*THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 9 at Titans
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
WR/RS Michael Campanaro has missed the last game, and DB/RS Lardarius Webb has been on the injury report. Has it been challenging at the punt returner spot, or are you comfortable with what you have moving forward? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Well, we'd like to have everybody available. The good news is we have some guys that are very versatile players – including Griff Whalen, who did a yeoman's job for us last time. We've got guys who can do a number of different things, and you have some flexibility when guys get nicked. So, we'll see who's available this weekend when we get there. We'll have somebody back there when the return game starts."
Which of the rookies have taken best to special teams? Who have you been most impressed with? (Childs Walker) "That's a really good question. I haven't really ranked them in my mind, because they have different roles that are going on along with their other respective roles. That'd be hard for me to rank anybody at this point. I'm encouraged by their development. We have some guys who haven't played a lot yet, that are still improving as well. So, hopefully we can see them out there and see what they can do in real games as we get down the road. I really don't think it's a wise thing to do, to rank my players that are playing currently. I know this: We all need to get better. We have a number of things that we're working on during practice. We watch the tape, and we try to improve every week, and this week is exactly the same way."
*Watching the Titans, how impressed have you been with their two kickers: K Ryan Succop and P Brett Kern? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"They've done a great job. I know both of these guys from when they were in college. So, I've followed them a long time – including their snapper, Beau Brinkley. So, all three guys, when I watched them in college, I was very interested in as prospective NFL players from their various college careers. I think what they've done is they've really taken their talent to the NFL level. You have to improve in this game; you can't stand still. I think all three of those guys are performing at a really high level right now. I'm very impressed with them."
Are you allowing too much pressure on the kicks and punts? Are you a little concerned about how many guys are getting through? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, I'm concerned about that. There are a number of things I'm concerned about, but I am certainly concerned about the amount of pressure that we're allowing both on punts and field goals. We need to improve in that regard, which has been an ongoing process throughout the year. The thing about it is, you don't really know where it's going pop up until the game starts. You think you have one problem fixed, and then something else comes up. So, it's an ongoing thing. If there's anything that keeps special teams coaches awake at night, it's protection, because the first thing in being a really good special teams unit is being able to protect the punter and being able to protect the kicker. We need to be improving that."
On the blocked kick against Miami, from my eye, it didn't look like a lot of penetration. Was it just a guy getting lucky putting his hand up, or a ball that might not have been kicked well? (Jamison Hensley) "You'll have to ask Justin [Tucker] about how he kicked the ball. They did a good job of rushing. They're an excellent rush team; they timed it up well. The kick was part of that whole situation. The whole operation wasn't as good as we needed it to be. Hopefully, we'll get that fixed before this week."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement: "Alright, let's wrap the last ball game up. It was a good ball game, good to get a couple guys back. We're still getting some guys back, [but] still have a couple guys nicked up. The guys played hard, they played physical and really consistent. Now, let's get to this ball game. We're, sort of, in the mix here going on the road, fine Tennessee football team, excellent defense, well-coached, talented. They can pass rush, they've got some pretty good cover guys – a couple of them are young – but they have some pretty good players back there. So, we have some great opportunity, great challenge. We have to handle the noise and all the things that go along with going on the road. So, let's open it up to questions."
Do you have specific plays that are designed where WR Breshad Perriman as the initial read? When you have those, what has stopped that from that initial connection? (Jamison Hensley)"Breshad has great speed, a lot of great positives. He has sort of been in and out, as far as the health thing. Really, our whole receiving group has sort of been like that. So yes, to answer your question. Yes, and hopefully that'll start coming. We're working on that."
How pleased are you, being in the Top 10 with the run game right now? (Garrett Downing) "The fellows have done a great job with the run game up to date. Every week is a new deal. [Offensive line coach] Joe 'D' [D'Alessandris], Greg [Roman, senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach], Thomas [Hammock, running backs coach], all those guys, have done just an outstanding job with the run game. The line has done a good job, our tight ends are involved with that, and certainly our backs and receivers, and even Joe [Flacco] to a big extent. So yes, fairly pleased with that."
When you first saw RB Alex Collins on the practice squad, did you think that he could be a feature back right away?* (Pete Gilbert)*"He initially showed great quickness and speed. You really never know until they've been given an opportunity in a league game; then you really find out a lot. I'll tell you about Alex: He's getting better every day, as well – with little things, all the details. It was a heck of a job by our personnel department, heck of a job by Thomas [Hammock] for getting him prepared, and a heck of a job by Alex [for] getting himself prepared to play at a high level."
What has impressed you the most about G Matt Skura as he's taken on a greater role? (Childs Walker) "We found out about his toughness, because he had a pretty good injury there and then got himself ready to go within a couple weeks. He's a consistent player, he's smart, and he's tough. Those are good qualities to have as an offensive lineman."
How excited are you to get your wide receiving corps back, assuming that WR Mike Wallace can play this week? How will that be for QB Joe Flacco? (Ryan Mink) "We need everybody. I mean, we *need *everybody, and Mike's a huge part of that. Jeremy [Maclin], getting him back, along with [Matt] Skura, so we're kind of in the mix there as far as getting them back, getting them healthy. We still have a couple other guys who are getting a little closer. We need everybody to function at the level we want to function at."
QB Joe Flacco said a few times yesterday about how aggressive the offense was on Thursday. Is that a template that you'd like to continue going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) "If you look at the four ball games we've won, we've been very good offensively in the first half and shut it down in the second half for some pretty good reasons. Last week, Joe [Flacco] was out, Ryan [Mallett] came in and did a really nice job managing the thing. In the four games we've lost, we've just been horrible on offense. So, you mix those together, man alive! It doesn't look very good. It's been an unusual year that way. All four games that we've played really good in and won … We go in at halftime, I believe, in all four, we were up by three scores – there might have been one where we were up by two. So, the second half is a quite a different deal. Anyway, yes, in the four games, we've played the thing similarly. The four games where we didn't get it done – man alive! We had the game plan bumped, and didn't get a couple things, and then all of a sudden, we're behind and out of the game plan. That's what has occurred."
Is the toughness that QB Joe Flacco has something that you've seen in a lot of quarterbacks over the years? (Pete Gilbert) "He's a tough dude. It's just that simple. Most of the really good quarterbacks, they have that toughness – both mentally and physically. He has that mental toughness; he's also very, very tough physically. He's been through a major knee [injury] and his back this year, and then this hit. I told him, 'Geez, you have to pull that ear out Tuesday night on Halloween. That's a good one, man!' Have you seen it? Man alive! I asked him if he did, and he said they were over somewhere else and didn't have a chance. But, that'd scare a bunch of kids. *(laughter) *But, anyway – tough, tough, tough. You have to be tough to play in this league at quarterback. Toughness goes a long way. I've aged a little bit this year … I wasn't going there, but just a little bit. I've done this for a while, and as I've gotten more and more experience, the toughness and the character of really any player goes a long, long way. So, those things are important, and Joe has all of that."
What does it mean to have RB Danny Woodhead back? (Ed Lee) "Yes, he's back! He looked pretty good. Geez, we got half a series with him in Cincinnati. What, did he catch three balls or something? He probably would've caught the other one if he didn't pull [his hamstring], I would think. He's a unique player. He certainly has a different skill set to him. So, we're happy to have him back on the field. We'll see. He's one of the ones that I was talking about that we'll see when he's going to be available."
*Are you seeing signs that WR Breshad Perriman will have a breakout soon? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"We'll see. Look, he hasn't had all that many opportunities, as well. We don't make excuses or deflect or anything. However, he has some excellent qualities, and we'll see. We'll see as this goes." *(Reporter: "Do you worry about a young player's confidence?") "That's a good question. I typically don't, because our players … There is no lack of confidence. He gets going just a little bit, and then things tend to rock and roll for players. Some players haven't been through it; it may click seamlessly as they come out of college. He was hurt his whole first year, and sometimes it might be that third year. A little patience is not a bad thing in this situation."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
We have talked every week about rush defense. Was it just you guys played better and won your individual matchups this game vs. Miami? How many adjustments did you make?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*"The only adjustments we have really kind of made were right after the Pittsburgh game, we had to make some adjustments based on some things they did to us, and [we made adjustments] on certain sets, which really didn't even show up last week. It was just a matter of guys playing better – just doing the things that we do from Day 1 – just fundamentally playing better. Really, other than the very first play … That first rattle out of the box didn't get me started real good. After that … I think that was a 21-yard run, and he [Jay Ajayi] ended up with 23 yards for the game. Even on that one, we just didn't play it fundamentally well. But once we kind of got settled in on that and we started really playing … Then, what happens is all of a sudden things start going your way a little bit, and it builds a little confidence, so now [players think], 'I am playing well!' So, they aren't pressing and they are just playing. Once we got kind of in that mode and they felt good about themselves, I could tell on the sidelines, I thought, 'We are really going to have a good day.'"
CB Jimmy Smith has been playing well for a long time, but it seems he has taken even another step this season. From your perspective, where has he improved? (Ryan Mink)"He has improved in terms of understanding defense and understanding the guys he is playing against, which I guess is just in a nutshell saying that he has just become a better pro. Guys that are pros … It is called pro for a reason; it is my profession. So, I have to study, I have to study the other players, I have to study their schemes, their splits, their stance, their get-off, how they release – all of these little things. Sometimes when you are young – and not that [Smith] is not young – but when you are a rookie and early in your career, a lot of the time you kind of take that stuff for granted. [Players think], 'My talent is going to get me where I need to get and I used it in college. I don't really study it like that.' I think that is where he has become better and better, as all the guys do as they mature that way. I think that is really where he has become a lot better."
How impressive has it been since CB Jimmy Smith is basically doing this with one healthy Achilles? (Jamison Hensley)"The good thing is, I think our training staff does a great job, and I think he does a great job, along with [secondary] coach [Chris] Hewitt and [defensive backs] coach [Mike] Macdonald just of getting him through the week. Sometimes, I had that in the past with Ray [Lewis] and with other guys. Sometimes, it is a matter of getting them through the week and getting them to the game. You can also go out there and waste it all in practice and come game time, they aren't ready to play. I think all those guys … You take all those guys into consideration, and John [Harbaugh], everything always goes through John on all that stuff, whether a guy practices a lot or not. I think when you take in John and [vice president and head certified athletic trainer] Mark [Smith] and all these guys getting Jimmy through the week, I think is important as anything."
With CB Jimmy Smith being able to play so many snaps over the past few weeks, you have been able to slide CB Brandon Carr inside some and bring CB Marlon Humphrey on the field. Do you like that look? I know CB Brandon Carr has typically been an outside corner in his career, but do you like having that versatility? (Luke Jones)"What I like is the look of guys in different spots and saying you can't count on this guy being there this week. Tony Jefferson played linebacker a little bit last week. I think we have some versatile players, and when you can move them around like that, hopefully that is a little tougher on the offense, because they can't really say, 'Well '23' [Jefferson] is a safety.' [They say], 'Well, is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? Is he a nickel? What is he? Is Brandon Carr going to be a nickel? Now if they blitz him off the edge … ' Because, we actually brought him as a nickel one time and we brought him as a corner one time. Now, what is he? I think the more you can do that with different guys and more packages, as long as everybody is OK and can understand it and can understand their role in what they do in that, I think that is harder on an offense. At least I hope it is, anyhow."
Was it harder last year when you wanted to be more versatile and creative because of injuries and personnel? Since they are covering so well, have you enjoyed being almost as creative as you want, I imagine? (Pete Gilbert) "It has been … That is absolutely right, because last year, like you said, I did not know who was going to line up at corner. Now the thing that I think Marlon [Humphrey] has given us the luxury of feeling like, 'OK, if we put Marlon in, there is no drop-off' between Jimmy [Smith] and Brandon [Carr]. If we want to move Brandon somewhere else, that is great, and if we want to move somebody because Brandon is taking his place to somewhere else, that is great because 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb] has played safety, 'Webby' has played nickel. Tony [Jefferson] plays well down in the box. Eric [Weddle] plays well down in the box, so you are absolutely right. We do not feel like we are dropping off in coverage somewhere where we have to hide somebody or we have to do something else. The other part of it is, I think – it is like anything in any profession – if you are part of a group or part of an organization and you feel like a vital part and you have a vested interest in that, you work a whole lot harder because it is really even more important to you. If you feel like you are one of our 21 or 22 guys that is going to dress on Sunday, [you think] 'I'm going to play. I have a role on this defense somewhere.' [If you think that], you are much more vested in everything. It is not like, 'I am going to be on special teams, and I know I am a backup and I will probably never get in.' Yes, you study, but you don't study like you know you are going to get in. I think it helps everybody. I think everybody feels really involved. I have always liked doing that as much as I could as long as I could."
CB Maurice Canady, we have seen him play both inside and outside. What do you expect out of him when he does get moved?* (Garrett Downing)*"That is a good one. I think he is a very versatile guy. The guy has played nickel for us, he has played corner for us, he has played safety for us. Once we kind of get him back in the groove, I think we can find some places where we can plug him in and move him around. Maybe even on certain calls, move certain guys to different places and play him in different places. Again, if you look out there and '26' [Canady] is a safety one time and he is a nickel one time and he is a linebacker one time, it is kind of hard in protections and things like that. The other thing is maybe we can also get … If they have a good tight end or a good slot, we can try and match up our talent to their talent a little better. If you have a little quicker slot, one kind of guy … If you have a little bigger type of guy that is in the slot, maybe a different type of nickel … If you have a tight end that is much more of a pass receiver or downfield kind of guy … It just helps if we have that many guys that can do that many different things. Hopefully we can plug them in and match up as well as we can."
You mention there is no drop-off when you bring in CB Marlon Humphrey. How long did it take you to realize that? Did you know right away? (Bo Smolka)"OTAs. Really, we felt like it was just going to be a matter of … When we watched him on film and we watched him in OTAs moving around, the way he could run and the way he could cover and the way he could get his hands on people, all we really needed to see was when the bullets started flying in live action, would he respond? There was no reason [with him] coming from Alabama that you wouldn't think that this guy has been in a lot of big games. He has been in two national championship games; that is as big as it gets. So, there was no reason to think that he wasn't going to respond that well. Also, just the demeanor that he has. He is a very no-nonsense work guy. I don't think he is a typical rookie in my opinion. All we had to do was really see once the season started if there would be a drop-off, and I don't think there has been. He is a guy that can … If a ball is completed on him, it is not 'sulk and go in the tank' like some rookies can do. Every defensive back that is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has gotten beat – every one of them. It is just a matter of the ones that are really in there are the ones that could forget that and go play the next play. I'm not certainly putting him in that category yet, but he has that quality."
Has LB C.J. Mosley been everything you thought he would be when he was drafted? (Ed Lee)"Absolutely. I was lucky enough to go down there to Alabama to actually work him out. It was Pro Day, but I also went back down again and looked at him and I think HaHa Clinton-Dix was in that same class, too, the safety. I looked at both of those guys. [Clinton-Dix] still plays for Green Bay, right? I took those guys into a classroom, just the two of them, and put them on the board and walked out of there [thinking], 'We need this guy!' He is everything advertised. He has been everything I thought, and I think he is the best linebacker in ball."