SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening Statement:"Good to see everyone today; [I] hope everyone is doing well. Looking back, I think the last time I was up here was probably two weeks ago. For us, [and] where we're going right now, we have our eyes set on Denver. That's really all we're focusing on right now. We have our guys out there; we're practicing hard, and really focusing on just doing our job. [We're] trying to go out there and compete and put our best foot forward. What do we have; questions?"
How much are you looking forward to catching up with Broncos senior assistant and former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg? How much have you kept in touch with him? _(Luke Jones) _"Jerry and I have a great relationship outside of football. [He's] a huge family man, so we've spent a lot of time [and] we do spend a lot of time talking. Jerry is family, so I look forward to seeing him. I haven't seen him in a while. We'll speak, obviously, we'll speak before the game, but our relationship goes a lot deeper than football. It's very important to me, and Jerry is very important in my life because he's helped me in this game."
You have carried on the tradition of top-ranked special teams units here that Broncos senior assistant and former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg started. How much pride do you take in that? _(Ryan Mink) _"When I came here, this place had a foundation; it was set. I think one of the things that you learn when you're in this building, you learn what the Ravens are all about. [Broncos senior assistant and former Ravens special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] did a great job of carrying that through special teams, and when I came up – even when he left – with 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh], that thing remained the same. It was my job to go out there. Really, my goal is – like always – I want to be the best special teams coordinator in this league. Every day we go out there, and I hold myself accountable, and so I hold that same responsibility to our players. So, it's been great just to go out there and just watch these guys work. Those guys play the game, and I just try to put them in great position with the other coaches so they can go out, play fast and play well."
WR Devin Duvernay had an uncharacteristically short kickoff return on Sunday. After speaking with him and watching the film, what do you see happened on that play? _(Kyle Barber) _"For us, these plays when they come up, you take the whole course of the game. You don't get a lot of plays in the game, so when you finally get a kick ... You have to give credit to Jacksonville's kicker; that ball was up there for probably 4.6 [seconds]. For us, we just have to catch that ball. With 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay], it's one of those things. He's still a fairly young returner in this league, and that's a ball that he returned. For us, it's just, 'Go vertical.' He understands that; it's something that we talked about. Those things shouldn't happen. There's always going to be learning curves as we continue to go through this process with our returners, with our young guys because they haven't done a lot of returning in this league, and we haven't gotten a lot of balls."
What was the decision-making process on kicking a 67-yard field goal attempt to try to win the game? _(Kyle Barber) _"I think it's one of those opportunities. We went out there. When you have a kicker like Justin Tucker, you have a chance. I think we all saw how close that was. So, there was an opportunity for him to go out there and take a swing at it, and we did just that. We came up short, but I think nine times out of 10, we'll be on the other side of that one."
We know that K Justin Tucker is a perfectionist. Asking him to make a 67-yard field goal is a big request, but what was he like after the game? _(Melissa Kim) _"He was Justin [Tucker] because he expects to make every kick. When he goes out there, he doesn't care how far, how short. [When] he gets an opportunity, he wants to make the kick. Again – I've said it before – he loves to be in that moment. He has the right mentality; he's not going to shy away from that opportunity to go out there and, really, try to set the record again. So again, [we] just came up short."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Opening statement:"Good to see everyone. It's always funky talking to everyone on a Thursday because you're so much forward with the next week, but to go back to last week, obviously [it was] disappointing coming up short, especially at the end. Obviously in those situations, we need to execute better, and we need to be able to make those plays when they come to us. I'm confident we will. It's definitely frustrating losing games at the end in the way that we have, but we've also had some games where we've closed out with takeaways as well. So, we're going to try to build on those moving forward. I believe we have the right guys to do it, so on to Denver, and let's roll."
When you look back on the final drive, what stands out to you the most that needs to be cleaned up? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I think it's really every situation that there's the spirit of the call and the technique that goes along with it. So, we just need to do a better job of pairing those things together. It was just too inconsistent in those times. We had a couple of opportunities to win the game on that drive, and we didn't make it. That happens sometimes in football, and obviously we're disappointed that it shook out that way."
What are you seeing from OLB Odafe Oweh? The outside linebacker rotation is more robust than it was earlier in the year, but his snap count has been down a little bit more. _(Luke Jones) _"His production – stat wise – isn't exactly where you want it, but he's doing the things that we're asking him to do. Right now, we're happy with where he's at. Snap counts, I wouldn't take too much out of it. I think it's more of a, 'Kudos to 'J.P.P.' [Jason Pierre-Paul]' and how well he's playing the run on early downs, but when 'Dafe' [Odafe Oweh] has been in there, he's setting a good edge right now, and when we're calling his number to rush, you can feel his fast ball out there. The rushes haven't really gone his way at the end of the day, so we're pleased with where he's at though."
What do you say to a young player like OLB Odafe Oweh who had big expectations coming into this year and it hasn't really panned out the way he anticipated. Do you stay in his ear a little bit? _(Ryan Mink) _"I wouldn't say stay in his ear, but it's really the same message with everyone else. We're focusing on process, so don't get discouraged with the lack of stats. He's being very unselfish in a lot of things we're asking him to do, so that's definitely a positive. So, we're just trying to build on that and just focusing on the process. We have a long way to go. The sacks will come, the pressure numbers will come – I'm not sure what they are right now with where he stands – but he's doing what he's supposed to do to help us to get off the field on third down in those passing situations."
As a team, you have a lot more sacks than you did last year. What things do you attribute that to? _(Ryan Mink) _"To compare it to last year, it's tough because I'm not sure the inputs going into last year. So, I can speak for this year. Sacks, it's a great stat. It's great to get sacks; obviously you want to affect the quarterback, but I think it's misleading at times as well. When we're rushing the passer the best, are the sack numbers going to be there? I don't know; I can't tell you that. I think it's a play-by-play basis, so are we pleased with where our pass rush is at right now? Yes, I'd say so, but you watch the last game's tape, and there were situations where we made the quarterback hold the ball, and we didn't get home. There were situations where we won clean, and the ball was out. So, the thing that we're trying to do is marry that together so we're a little bit more consistent working together in that aspect."
What does OLB David Ojabo have to do to get on the field? _(Childs Walker) _"I think what 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] said earlier in the week kind of hits it on the head. He's in a good spot, but it's also a tough spot because of the numbers that we have. Then, whoever grabs their helmet, it's always a numbers game going into that week, too. So, it's a week-by-week basis, but what I say to him, and what we say to him to encourage him is just, 'Go out, practice really fast. Almost make it impossible for us not to dress you.' He's in a great spot. He's positive, we're working with him. You feel like he does get better every week. That jump is probably more for him right now than anyone else on the team, so it will come; it will come."
CB Marcus Peters has said before that when he's struggled this season, it's a matter of second guessing himself. Is there anything that you can do to help smooth over issues like that? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Marcus [Peters] knows exactly what ... He's one of the smartest players I've ever been around. We're always ... He knows what to do – I can assure you – and then some. He can probably tell you everything the offense is going to do, too. Anytime you're coming off an injury, it's not easy. So, the confidence thing is probably going to be a bit more of an up and down road as you go through that journey. I think what you see with Marcus' play is that it's trending upwards throughout the whole season. So, we expect big things from him for the rest of the year, and we're confident that he's going to be able to get the job done. It's a tough spot, especially at DB when it's such a change of direction-oriented deal. Obviously, you need your knee for that."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN
Opening Statement:"Hello everybody. I hope everybody is doing well, staying warm. [We're] getting ready to face this [No. 3]-ranked Denver defense. They do a lot of things well. They're good at all three levels. There's really no … You can't pick out anybody and say, 'Hey, we're going to attack this guy over this other guy,' et cetera. They're pretty balanced. They do a great job with their front technique. Statistically, they're No. 1 in the league in third downs, statistically, No. 1 in the league in the red zone. So, we have our work cut out for us, and everybody has a singular focus on facing this top defense."
When head coach John Harbaugh talked about some of the difficulties converting in the red zone on Monday, he said you do have to look at scheme(Roman: "Absolutely.") and see if there is anything you're leaving on the table in that way. As you guys have reviewed that, what have you seen? (Childs Walker)"That's a good question. As you go through the year … Earlier in the year, it was, what, 'Oh, the run game is no good.' Then you address it – scheme, personnel, coaching, teaching – and then you move on, and something else pops up; 'Hey, [you need to improve] in the fringe area' recently. Then you address that, and we bring focus to that, and you try to improve that. And then recently it's been the red zone. So, we go through that normal process that we always got through. We evaluate it, kind of take a cold-blooded look at it, and look at the scheme – 'What are we doing? When are we doing it?' – and then we try to evaluate how we can execute it better and we can teach it better. So, really, it comes down to coaching better, coaching a little better, playing a little better and just being excited about it – everybody kind of jumping in on, 'Hey, we've got to get this fixed.' So, I like where we're going with it."
Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned that there has been communication between you and Stanford for their head-coaching opening. Where does that stand right now? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes, all the rumors and whatnot aside … We've got a great group of players and coaches here. Our singular focus is on this week's game against Denver and [its] top-ranked defense. So, that's really where it's at."
What was the difference with the play clock and the pace of the offense(Roman: "Absolutely.") in the first half and the second half? And what can you do to avoid that going forward, because it is something we've asked about before? Different things happen over the course of the year. What needs to be more consistent to avoid those types of issues? (Luke Jones)"I could give you this really short answer, or I could get into a good answer. I'm going to try to give you the good one. Really, what we're talking about is a race to be in control. So, it's not, 'Hey, how fast can we get to the line and snap it?' It's, 'How can we do what we want to do and be in control of the situation?' So, if we snap the ball an average of four seconds later than other teams, over the course of a 70-play game, now you're talking, what, four-and-a-half, five minutes where their offense can't touch the ball. Those are treasures. When you are having operational issues, and now you're not in control, and you're rushing and whatnot, and things are hectic, that's not what you're looking for. So, specifically, last week, we had some headset issues, communication issues, technical difficulties, if you will. We've got a protocol in place to handle that; we have to make sure we're on top of that, starting with me – making sure that gets communicated. But that's certainly not something that we want to do – is not be in control."
Is there a time by which you'd like to have the call communicated in? (Jonas Shaffer)"Yes, I think as soon as the best call is available, in a timely fashion. But I don't know if you look at the play clock and say, 'Hey it's got to be in by this point.' Obviously, we all know the coach to quarterback communicator runs out at 15 seconds on the play clock, so it's usually getting in somewhere between 25 and 22 [seconds]. And then, it's got to be a fast operation, especially when you're substituting, and that's something you have to consider, too – after big plays, do you want to substitute or do you want to stay in the same personnel group [and] all those types of things. But it's just on us, starting with me, the coaches, all of us, the players – being on point and really emphasizing being great at that."
How nice was it to hit on the explosive play with WR DeSean Jackson, especially in that moment? (Luke Jones)"Yes, that was a great play by the players – DeSean [Jackson], specifically. I think he was clocked at almost 22 miles per hour there. When I was his age, I used to drive 22 miles per hour. (laughter) But [it was] a big play, really well executed [with] Lamar [Jackson] buying time, the O-line. [We] really needed it at that point. I was probably going to save that … I was saving that for a little bit further down the field, but we got the penalty [and] were at second-and-20. I felt like we'd get the coverage we wanted – all that good stuff. But the bottom line is, the guys on the field made a huge play and then converted it to points, so that was really, really good, and we'll see where that goes. It's exciting."
Have you noticed that there is a relationship between the lack of big plays that you have struggled with at times and how well teams have been able to defend you?(Roman: "Are you talking about how they're fitting the run – their concept?")The need to have those explosives to maybe push those safeties back. (Jonas Shaffer)"Oh, without question, without question. We want big plays intermingled with … We're setting the hook constantly. You're always constantly setting the hook. The better you can run it, the better you should be able to throw it, the better looks you should get. That's part of it. That's part and parcel. I don't even look … I look at certain play-action things we do [as] just extensions of the run game, [and] the run game is an extension of them; they all fit together. When they work in concert, you have a chance to be really good."
When you look at the big picture of the Jacksonville game, do you sort of say, "Well, the plan worked more than it didn't; we just have to be more precise at the high leverage moments?" What's your big-picture takeaway from that game? (Childs Walker)"That game, specifically, [we] moved the ball really well, controlled the game, third down was outstanding. [We] really ran it decently. I think we could run it more efficiently. I thought we threw it fairly efficiently, and Lamar [Jackson] did a great job of managing certain situations. [With] rush lanes, people getting out of rush lanes, [he took] advantage of those things. So, what it comes down to is finishing drives – finishing – and specifically, in that game, the red zone. I thought we did a great job in the plus territory [of] getting down to the red zone, which, quite frankly, wasn't up to our snuff the week before. We put a great emphasis on it, [and] we did well. But you've just got to finish those drives with touchdowns. You're not going to get a touchdown all the time, but by gosh, we're going to try. And I think I can help with certain things; execution-wise, I think we can do a little better. So, it's all of us – coach a little better and play a little better down there."
Is there an easy answer for moving past some of the issues with drops that you guys have had, beyond just telling guys to put in the extra work when they can? (Jonas Shaffer)"Yes, it's extra work, it's focus, it's that mentality that, that's your ball, and you're not going to let your team down; you're going to make those plays. That's just part of the game, and we certainly … I think we went quite a while there where we were pretty much catching everything, and then we had a few drops. I really see that turning around quickly."
In terms of receptions, as you're figuring our targets without WR Rashod Bateman do you like it when you never know who is going to be the guy each week? (Ryan Mink)"Yes, I think that's a good point. We stress that. Really, the first day of training camp, that's part of kind of what we talk about with who we're going to be. It's, 'You might get eight targets one game, you might get two the next, but whatever you're doing, you're carrying coverage out for somebody else.' So, it's not really so much who gets it, it's that we get it. It doesn't really matter. It's all about the team. If they're not going to cover somebody that well, then they're going to get the ball. We want to throw the ball to the open guy and mitigate risk; we don't want to throw the ball into coverage. So, I think we've been doing a decent job of that. But spreading that ball around is a good thing. The teams that generally try to focus on throwing it to one guy – I don't know; you'd have to look – I don't think they make it far into the playoffs a lot. We're trying to be the best, winningest offense. That's what our goal is – the winningest offense."
Early in the season, you said that you thought you were close to having a stronger run game, and it became so. Do you feel similarly about the red zone – that you're just a few things away from getting there? (Kyle Barber)"I definitely do, I definitely do. We're so close on some things. It's really just … We've all got to batten down the hatches and really bring focus to it. It's not that complicated when you really look at it – what's going on down there – and I think it's the same kind of thing [and] something that's easily fixed. [It's] easily fixed with hard work and focus."