THURSDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 11 AT CHICAGO BEARS
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. [It's] good to see everyone. What questions might you have today?"
On K Justin Tucker's one missed kick in Miami, it was hard to see, was it partially deflected? Do you know if it was touched at all? I know it wasn't good and it had some distance, but some people thought it might have been touched or nicked. (Jamison Hensley) "No, not at all. I think there was a little bit of pressure in there, but it was not touched at all."
Have you reviewed the film from the second half kickoff [against Minnesota]? What did you see from that? (Jerry Coleman) "It just came down to execution. It's one of those things that we always talk about. We need all 11 guys, really, just doing [their] part. That's really what it came down to. I still feel pretty good about our kickoff team."
What about with the fake punt [against Minnesota]? (Jerry Coleman) "Same thing. I thought we were in a really good call for that situation, and it just came up. Those things come up. When those things do happen, it's like a 50-50 chance. We had guys in the right spot, and again, we just have to go ahead and execute and maybe just remind the guys a little bit better, 'Hey, this is a possible fake situation.'"
Was DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. aware that that was going on? He was pointing something out; I didn't hear the audio. Did he know that was coming? Or did he have an inkling that something was going there? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's a pretty sharp player, and he's always trying to get the guys lined up and things like that. I think they were just having some back-and-forth communication between him and the [Vikings'] 'PP' [personal protector]. Again, like I said, I thought the play was really defended well. We just have to go ahead and execute and have a guy make a play for us."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Good morning, everybody. [We] just got done with a walk-through. [We're] getting a lot done. It's a really good Chicago Bears defense. I feel like we had really good energy in practice yesterday. Our guys played about 174 plays in four days and got a little break. [They] got a chance to get their bodies back, and then we attack the second half of this season. We're really excited about that. The Bears' defense is really, really good. On the front, they have some really good edge players. Their D-line is very stout, and their linebackers are run and hit players. They're really good [and] impressive on film. So, we have to be at our best this Sunday. I hope everybody is enjoying the weather. Any questions?"
How is QB Lamar Jackson feeling? (Jamison Hensley) "I think he's feeling better. I don't really have a complete update on his status, though."
Cover Zero, what kind of challenges does that pose for you? What kind of adjustments can you make for that? (Todd Karpovich) "Cover Zero, we see it. We've seen it. It forces you to play quick and efficiently. It's one of those things that until you've hurt it consistently or hurt it big, you're going to keep seeing it. So, that's what we have to do. We just have to be more consistent. I'd say overall, we saw a ton of it this last game, and we just weren't sharp. We had a chance to get back in on Friday and really make some corrections, look at things, tweak some things and try to get it right. So, we're getting a lot of full-speed work on it, which is good, because going into that game, we really didn't have the opportunity to do that. To answer your question in general, if people are going to throw the dice out there, you have to make them pay, or you're just going to keep seeing it."
It seemed like quite a few times on Thursday, the huddle would break late, and you'd be snapping it … I think there were two delay of game penalties, but you'd be snapping it very low on the play clock. Is that a concern? Do you want quicken things up? Was it because of play calls coming in late? Were there adjustments being made at the line of scrimmage? How would you sum up that situation? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'd say probably a little bit of all of the above. Lamar [Jackson] is really good at getting that thing snapped and managing the play clock. [There were] probably a couple calls that needed to get in quicker, and we had a substitution issue on one, but that's just our operation. We have to be better with our operation. Overall, really, it was a straight to DVD performance, and we know it. So, you get back in, you make the corrections, you bring the requisite energy to our preparation, and we'll go."
When you look at it though, I know you had to put it in the DVD and all that, but as far as the mental mistakes, is that what it boils down to, just a lot of players just not following assignments? (Jerry Coleman) "There are definitely some things that we had to correct – very uncharacteristic things, which really hadn't shown up this year. But the NFL season is a long season, and when you have games like that, which it seems like everybody does, it's really how you respond to it and what you do from there. I think we had a lot of opportunities in that game that we didn't capitalize on. But that's a great learning experience for all of us, so we can play our best football moving through the rest of this season."
I know a lot of people, because of that game with the blitzes, people focus on pass protection. Do you think pass protection overall is a concern? What do you think needs to improve if it is? (Jamison Hensley) "I think specifically our pass protection, it's something, just like everything else, that we want to constantly get better at it." (Marcus Peters: "G-Ro! What's up G-Ro?") "How's it going? How are you doing, Marcus? Good? (laughter) … But pass pro is obviously something, along with our run blocking, and everything we do, it's a constant chase – we're trying to get better at it all the time. When it comes to protection versus pressures and blitzes, it all depends. It's kind of a math game. Once you solve the math problem, then it becomes a technique and guys blocking guys game. I'd say overall, it was pretty good in that game, really. They had some free runners that we just have to get the ball out."
It looked like they were showing Cover Zero, but sometimes, you'd just have the guy over the A-gap, engage the center and the guard and then drop, which might take away some of the stuff you had over the middle. Obviously, every play would have been different in terms of how they set up and how you called it, but were there areas that in that general kind of structure that you have to attack when you're facing that kind of defense? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, you have to be aware of guys popping once they get engaged. They didn't do anything new. Everything they did, they've shown on film before. So, we have to coach it better [and] execute it better – it's that simple. There's really no mystery to it. Credit to them [Miami], always, but it's all about us and our execution and coaching."
The old cliché is that it's a copycat league. Do you expect teams to play you any differently based on that game? (Garrett Downing) "You have to be ready for anything, and we generally are. We're definitely going to see it again this year. It could be this week. It could be the next week. We could see anything, though – we generally do. We just have to continue working and improving. This league is a race to get better, and things are wide open at the midway point. We're in a good spot, and it's what we do from here that matters. So, that's what we're focused on."
With RB Le'Veon Bell out of the picture now, does that open the door for RB Ty'Son Williams to get more carries? Is RB Nate McCrary an option for you guys? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, all of those things are on the table. Le'Veon [Bell], I thought, did a great job. I loved being around him, his professionalism [and] his energy. He could certainly factor in as the season moves on, as well. I thought he did a great job with the opportunities that he got. But we have a lot of options there, the ones you mentioned, and we'll just see how it goes."
Not talking specifically about Miami, but in general, when you're talking about blitzes, Cover Zeros, simulated pressers, and then even with some of the slow starts in the first quarter, I get the question a lot from fans about going a little more up-tempo and a little more no huddle. What are your thoughts on that? What do you like about no-huddle [offense]? I know you guys don't use it a whole lot. Also, what is the challenge of doing that? (Luke Jones) "There are a lot of challenges that, strategically, I probably won't get into right now, but there are also a lot of good things that can happen when you do that as well. There are times when, for example, you're playing a really good defensive front … Do you really want to get into no huddle and turn it into one of those contests early in the game? Or do you want to wear them down a little bit and then do it? Do you really want to run your best runs against a really good defensive front? Or do you want to wear them down a little bit, then hit them with the good stuff? So, there's a lot that goes into that. Hurry-up offense is something that we can get into at any time, and we have at times. It's something we work on a lot, too."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "Well, if you can't get excited for this one, you don't like football or football in the National Football League. [We're] going to a historic franchise, playing in a historic stadium. They call their division the same way we do ours – 'The Black and Blue Division' – and it's going to be a fun game. It's going to be a fun game to be in. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
What are the kinds of challenges QB Justin Fields presents, as a mobile quarterback? (Jamison Hensley)"I think you're seeing the same thing that we've talked about in the past with these mobile quarterbacks. This is the way of the NFL and the direction it's going. I think the kid [Justin Fields] has tremendous talent. He can throw the football really well, with a lot of velocity, off balance, and make things happen that way in the passing game and extending plays. But like I said, I think this is the way you're seeing the league going, and he's going to be one of those guys we talk about in the playoffs and some Super Bowls. I really feel that way, because he's got everything you need."
It's not for a lack of work, but how do you correct some of these mental mistakes? (Jerry Coleman)"Work. It's not the ones that keep reappearing; there are different ones at different times. At first, we were talking about tackling, and we tackled well in that game. And then there were two mental [mistakes] there that … Going into that last drive, we held Miami to nine points, going into that last drive, and it reared its ugly head. But we've just got to keep working – all of us."
I know you'd rather have DT Brandon Williams out there, but how pleased have you been with DT Justin Ellis stepping up? (Luke Jones)"He's been a stud. He's been that way throughout the year, as well as the others that we've been calling on up front. And I'm really happy for him, too."
How much of a pleasure is it to be able to lean on DE Calais Campbell week after week? (Childs Walker)"I don't want to take anything away from the [Walter Payton] Man of the Year – that award – but I mean, if there's another one for what he's done, by leading and by playing … He's playing at a Pro Bowl level, again, and it's nice to have someone who you can count on day in and day out, as far as [having] someone who is going to stand up and say, 'Here's how we do it. This is what we need to do, guys.' And he's been tremendous for us."
You're one of the top defenses in the league on third downs, in the red zone and in situational scenarios, and then, against the pass, it's been a struggle. When you're talking to these guys, how do you balance the fact that they've really played well at times in certain tough spots, but yet a big play here and there has led to a number of things? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's one of those things … They're not easy conversations, because you're pointing out mistakes of guys, sometimes, who don't usually make them, but you still need to point them out. We're digging our heels in, and we've got these last eight weeks. [If] we catch up first and second down with the rest of our defense, watch out; we're going to be fun to watch."
C/G Bradley Bozeman
On how he's feeling after missing practice with an illness yesterday:"A lot better, a lot better. You can still get just regular sick these days, so it's good." (laughter)
On if his trip to New York could have something to do with him getting sick:"I don't know about that. It was a little too early in the week for it to be the trip. I got it somewhere. I'm good today – ready to go, ready to roll."
On protecting QB Lamar Jackson a little bit better:"Week in and week out, that's our main concern, especially as an offensive line – keep that guy clean. He's special back there. Keeping him clean, letting him be able to do the things that he can do, letting him be 'Lamarvelous.' We're going to continue to work and try to pick up these blitzes, keep guys off of him and do the best we can."
On what an offensive lineman can do when the defensive linemen in the middle drop back into coverage:"It's kind of tough. The scheme is kind of the scheme. You can make your adjustments, you can kind of do some things that we started to do, whether it's popping the center, or just trying to figure out a way to get an extra guy picked up. But there's not a ton you can do once the ball is snapped. If they want to pop the guys in the middle and bring the edges, it's kind of tough if you don't have enough guys over there to block them."
On if he's seeing different blitzes than he's ever seen before this year:"Defenses are definitely trying to adapt to us. We've struggled a little bit with [cover] zero. We're still trying to build and fix those things. Like 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] said earlier, it's a race to get better right now. So, we're just going to continue to build, keep trying to pick those things up and make defenses throw different things at us to try to stop us."
On if he's seeing a different defensive scheme each week more often this season than in past years:"I would say, week to week, teams play us different than they play other teams. Not in a crazy way, but just little, different wrinkles, different things they're doing and adjustments, trying to figure out a way to contain Lamar [Jackson] and trying to keep him in the pocket, not let him do the special things he can [do] with his feet. [Teams] just continue to throw different wrinkles at us, but I think we've done a really good job of picking everything up, for the most part. We've got some things to correct, for sure, but it is what it is right now. We're going to continue to get better."
On sometimes starting slow and wanting to start faster:"That's always our goal – is to start fast and finish strong. That's always been the motto here. We haven't done a great job of that lately. We've got to figure out a way to come out fast and get ready to rock and roll and get going. There are times that we have done it. We've shown that – that we can do it. We've just got to be more consistent in doing that."
On if he thinks defenses are blitzing QB Lamar Jackson in an effort to force the Ravens into boom or bust plays:"Yes, I would say, in a way. I don't know the exact stats on that, but Lamar [Jackson] has done a great job of operating all that, making sure we're in the right protection, making sure the protection is getting flipped. We're trying to make sure to put him in the best situation. Anything that we can pick up, we pick up. So, like I said, we're just going to continue to grow and try to build on what we've done so far."
On how big it will be to get OL Patrick Mekari back when he's ready to return:"Pat [Mekari] is a great player. He's always been a great player. The guy knows the gameplan, he knows the playbook. He's one of those computer chips out there, that just kind of knows everything. It's great to have that guy out there to … When I'm not for sure, I know he has my back [and is able] to help me out a little bit, and we kind of brainstorm and get things fixed on the field. But yes, to get him back, at some point – I don't know exactly when that's going to be – we're excited [about it]."
On how he's been doing in matchups against big nose tackles this season:"I think I've done a pretty good job of matching up with them. I had a game or two there, where I was kind of playing outside of my body, kind of falling a little bit here and there, but I think I've kind of honed that back in and gone back to my play style. But it's been good. It's been good matchups, it's been good battles, so hats off to all the guys we've played so far and we're going to play in the future. They get paid just like we get paid. They're bringing their all, we're going to bring our all, and hopefully, we can come out on top of those battles."
On if there is an increased challenge to stay in-sync when QB Lamar Jackson misses practice a day or two during the week:"I really don't think it's that big of a deal. I know Lamar [Jackson], he's doing his things at home he needs to do. He's watching plays, he's getting everything right at home. When he comes back in, he's not going to miss a step. He's done it week in and week out. He's continued to build on that, continued to step up to the plate when he needs to, so I don't see that being an issue."