SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement:"Good to see everyone. Today was a good day. I thought our guys came out, they practiced hard, they practiced well, and they came out to get better. I was really encouraged about what I saw from those guys today.
Just looking back at the game, I thought our guys played hard and played physical. We knew it was going to be a physical game, and we pretty much did our jobs. We did have one mishap in the game with the 42-yard kickoff return they had against us. It just comes back to our guys; everyone, all 11 guys just doing our jobs and executing that play to the best of our ability. On that play, we just didn't get it done. Other than that, our guys are looking forward to this week, Sunday Night Football, divisional game. We understand what kind of game it's going to be. Questions?"
What happened on the delay of game penalty before a FGA last week, and how pleased were you with Justin Tucker, who went from a 46-yard attempt to a 51-yard attempt with no problems? (Luke Jones) "It comes back to everything. I'm still trying to see what happened on the play with how quickly the ball was spotted and things like that. We just have to be aware of that play clock and make sure we get that ball off. That's all it was. It's an easy fix for us; that shouldn't happen again, but it's good when all things are working together. You have a snapper who's going to snap the ball over the spot, a young holder who's going to put the ball down on the spot and a kicker who's going to finish kicks. Those things won't be a problem."
What value does ILB A.J. Klein bring to special teams? (Kyle Barber) "It was good to see him out here. [I] didn't really have much time working with him, but I'm looking forward to working with him. He's played a lot of football, so once we get him rolling, I think he'll be just fine."
Other than his speed, what makes WR Devin Duvernay a really good returner? (Ryan Mink) "Really, it comes down to decision making. One of the big things about returners is, 'What's your decision making like?' Are you taking chances, are you taking the right returns? He has it all; he's fast, but he's strong. He can break tackles, [and] he has good vision. He's everything you want to see in a returner."
K Justin Tucker has three 50-plus-yard kicks this year, and Cincinnati K Evan McPherson has one. Those used to be very unusual numbers for kickers, but it doesn't seem that way for this generation of kickers. Why do you think that is? (Childs Walker) "I just think that the kickers, the young guys are getting better. Their legs are getting stronger; that's really what it comes down to. It just comes back to guys just fundamentally, are they doing the right things? If your leg is strong enough, I think your coach will give you that opportunity. That kid [Evan McPherson] is doing a great job."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN
Opening statement:"How's everyone doing? [We're] really deep into our preparation against the Bengals. Their defense is … They've evolved over the years from a personnel and scheme standpoint. I think that they're playing at a really high level. They're keeping the points way down, so we know the challenge ahead of us. [We're] looking forward to it. [We] had a great two days of practice so far and looking to have a great one tomorrow and some great meetings in between. Any questions?"
Can you describe what happened from your perspective on the fourth-down play at the end of the Bills game? Did it work the way it was supposed to and pressure sort of rushed it? (Childs Walker) "Yes, we go through all those things in our film meetings and review them. We all have to be better in that situation, but you have to have broad shoulders in this. You learn from it, you move on and try to improve from it."
'Finishing the game' has been a popular phrase this week; in your mind, what does that mean? (Garrett Downing) "You really just have to play the whole game. Obviously, you want to play at a high level the entire game, eliminate mistakes and be productive the entire game. When you win a game, you finish the game. When you don't win the game, you didn't finish the game. It's really that simple. It's about playing really for four quarters, staying locked in for four quarters, staying on the attack, being smart, playing winning football. That's really what it is."
Are you seeing a lot of adjustments by teams during the fourth quarter that are causing you fits? (Kyle Barber) "Not really, no, not really. I just think we as an entire offense – coaches, players, everyone – we have to keep working to get better. We want to get stronger as the game goes on. Every game is a little different, but the reality is, it takes four quarters, and you generally win the game in the fourth quarter in this league. So, that's what we're working towards, and I like the trajectory we're on."
What does the loss of RB Justice Hill do to this running game that seemed like it was picking it up the last two weeks? (Cordell Woodland) "Yes, that was a shame. He was really playing at a high level, but we really feel great about the backs we have, the blockers we have, the schemes, et cetera. So, this group we're about to play – the last group was a really good defense – this group is a really good defense, too. So, we have to be at our best really for the entire game running the ball against these guys. They have multiple personalities too, where they're going to really load the box, or they're going to let their safeties be the clean-up players. Or, they can play really kind of 'soft bend but don't break.' So, they can do it all. So, we have to be great in our preparation this week."
What have you seen from the Bengals' defensive front? (Luke Jones) "They're playing really well. The two edge guys are really difference makers, and the guys inside are doing a really good job. Their nose guard is really big, and both two interior D-linemen are doing a really good job. And, [No.] 55 [Logan Wilson] in the middle is playing really well. So, he plays off the D-line really well, as does [No.] 57 [Germaine Pratt]. So, they're playing really well, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
It's only been two days, but is there a level of excitement having RB Gus Edwards back on the field now with RB J.K. Dobbins? (Rocco DiSangro) "Oh yes, a huge level of excitement. We had a nice round of applause today after Gus [Edwards]'s first practice back yesterday. So, it's great to have him back. The 'bus' is back, and there's going to be trouble. Is that a song? (laughter) No, that's not it. But, it's great to have Gus back. [I] like how he looks too; he looks good."
How much have you missed RB Gus Edwards' value in short yardage situations? (Luke Jones) "Yes. It's kind of like, 'Give it to Gus [Edwards], he'll get it.' That's kind of how it's been. That's one of his strong suits. So, we're excited to see his acclimation and reinvigorating him into the offense, but he's been tremendous when you need a yard or two. So, [we're] excited about it."
With WR Rashod Bateman dealing with a foot issue, how much does that shake things up offensively? (Ryan Mink) "'Bate' [Rashod Bateman] is really valuable to us. He's really coming along as a receiver, so if he's not out there, he's definitely going to be missed, but the flip side of that is we have some other guys who can step in there and make plays for us as well. I like what I'm seeing out at practice this week, so we just have to keep working through it. We have a multitude of tight ends, our receivers are doing a great job, when you look at their production based on what we're asking of them, they're extremely productive. So, I feel really good about it. Some other guys will step up."
What have you seen from how defenses have guarded TE Mark Andrews this year? (Cordell Woodland) "They're going to pay more attention to him. So how do they do that? They can do it a variety of ways. Some people will just lean towards him, take the safety and lean him towards him. Some people will do a tremendous amount at the line of scrimmage to what we call 'butch' him, and really try to disrupt his release from the line of scrimmage. They'll even take a player out of the pass rush to do that; then they'll just kind of rush late. Then, there's the old school, 'We're going to just truly double you.' So, we see all of those. The team we're about to play [Bengals], they'll play zone and man [Mark Andrews]. There's a variety of things that can happen. So, we'll see more as the year goes on. There's four chapters down, there are a lot more chapters in this book, so we just have to keep getting better."
We haven't seen a lot of draw plays during your time as offensive coordinator; why do you think that they were so successful on Sunday? (Jonas Shaffer) "Do I really need to get into that? The less people know how I think, the better. (Reporter: "What impressed you about your under center run game after a slow start the first few weeks?") I think we're getting better. I think I made the comment that it wasn't anything massive in terms of an issue, it was a thing here and a thing there, and we're starting to clean those things up. As far as the draws, we have every run known to man. Studying each defense, we'll run different runs against different teams, and if something is popping, we'll probably come back to it. Whereas earlier in my career, I would probably not do that as much; now more so, I will."
How much dimension does RB J.K. Dobbins elusiveness bring to the run game? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's the big thing. It's like, if there's a hole, and I watch our back run through it, sometimes I'll sit up there in the staff room and say, 'Well, I could have run through that hole.' It's what do they do when they're confronted with a defender, what do they do – can they make a guy miss, can they run them over, can they juke them, hit and spin? Whatever that is, their mechanism to gain extra yards, that's what we're looking for. So, I think he's really coming along day by day in that regard, and he'll just get stronger as the year goes on."
What kind of running back would you be? (Ryan Mink) "If you need a yard, I'll find a way to get it for you. (laughter) That's about it, that's about it."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Opening Statement: "Great to see everybody. Thanks for sticking around. Again, [this is the] first time I've talked to everybody since Sunday, so to recap the game … I think the current status of where we're at defensively [is] we're doing a lot of good things, but the fact of the matter is, it's not there yet. On both of our losses, you can look back and say it's a handful of plays that obviously we want back. But the effort is there, the attitude is there, the focus during the week is definitely there. So, I think we're on the right track, and hopefully – and I'd expect – things to kind of trend upwards as the season goes along."
CB Marlon Humphrey talked yesterday about how he feels like all the defensive play-calls have been what they need to be. I guess, just kind of from a big-picture perspective, as you do your own self-scouting on what you are calling, is that just an educational process for you? Obviously, you have the experience last year with Michigan and now maybe evolving to the NFL. What kind of goes into that and what have you learned? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, after each game, you're always doing a digest of it and a review, and it starts with myself, on one, how we prepared the guys. There are a couple tweaks we've made throughout the weeks on how we're preparing, so that's on our end. Definitely the calls for the situation – what was the thinking going in? What's the information that we used to create those play-calls? And shoot, just like the rest of the defense, there are however many plays per game that you say, 'Shoot, I could have put the guys in a better situation.' And I think the rest of the team has the same type of thought process. We told our guys, 'Hey, we expect everybody to look inward first,' how you're preparing, how you're executing on a play-to-play basis, and I'm no different."
CB Marlon Humphrey also talked about how QB Joe Burrow makes a lot of throws where he's basically trusting his receiver to win a 50-50 ball. Is there any schematic way to punish him for that, or do you just have to trust your individual defenders? (Childs Walker) "To punish him to throw a ball to one-on-one coverage … It's about the attitude when the ball is in the air that it's our right to the ball just as much as it is to the offense. So, there are going to be situations throughout the game where we're going to be in one-on-one situations. And if you look at … I'm thinking of Marcus [Peters] on [Stefon] Diggs on the go-ball on the second-down stop when we were in a three-and-out on the situation where there was a … after the interception … on the three-and-out in the fourth quarter there. So, our guys have made plays in one-on-one situations all year. There are going to be situations where it's going to be one on one, and let's go."
It looks like Cincinnati has incorporated more under center-stuff to their offense the past couple of weeks. How does that change what they were able to do? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, just the position of guys generates different types of plays. So, it's just an awareness of how they operate, and it's no different than any other team in the league. I mean, shoot, when Lamar [Jackson] is under center versus when he is in the pistol or in the gun, you're not getting … There are certain plays you can't run from wherever the back is located. So, it's an awareness thing from our end, and it doesn't really affect how we call it and things like that."
What did you see from OLB Jason Pierre-Paul, and were you expecting him to play that much? (Luke Jones) "Yes, it's kind of impressive. Obviously, [Jason Pierre-Paul] played more plays than we were anticipating, especially [with] a couple of the two-minute drives. And how these games have gone on is ... It turns into a passing game later in games, so your numbers tend to spike when that happens. If you look at New England and the type of game that was, it's a little bit different, in terms of dynamic, and the play counts kind of reflect that. Yes, he probably played a little bit more than we were anticipating, but it was impressive, from not being in camp and … But he's a pro, and he's a great guy, and all of the stuff that we're asking him to do, he's done a million times, just we call it something else than he's used to calling it."
I know ILB A.J. Klein just went out there today, but what do you expect that he can add to this defense? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, it's been quite a 48 hours for [A.J. Klein] just from talking to him. But, shoots, he's got a great track record. He's been in the league a long time, knows how to play. He was in a very similar system the last couple days. Shoot, we were just talking about a couple of the calls, and he's catching right along, during special teams. But he can play all three linebacker spots, so he's going to provide some position flexibility for us. We just needed depth right now, and then we'll see where it goes."
What's your overall message this week when you guys are watching the tape of last year? We know what the numbers and the outcomes were, but you weren't here. So, what's your message to the defense this week in regards to playing this team again? (Luke Jones) "There's not much to be said. We know what we need to do. We know what we need to do."
DE CALAIS CAMPBELL
On playing another top offense this week and what he sees from the Bengals offense:"They're really starting to get it rolling. They're coming off of such a big year last year, [they] started a little slow, and they've really started getting it going the last couple of weeks. You see talent all over the place; they're stacked everywhere – offense, defense, special teams. [They have] probably the best receiving corps in the league, a quarterback can make every throw, the running game – Joe Mixon is one of the best running backs in the game. So, it's a tough challenge. It's exciting because it's big games like this that get the best out of you. So, [I'm] looking forward to it."
On how important it is to get pressure on the quarterback:"It's very important. If you look at when they've won ball games versus when they lost, the pressure was the key, and not just pressure, but getting to [Joe Burrow], getting the ball off of him. That's why the one thing I feel like we have to really do a good job of is taking advantage of turnovers when they're there, especially in the pocket. We have to be really, really great with the pass rush lanes and rush together as a unit and go out there and really wreak havoc."
On if he is going into this game any differently after losing twice to Cincinnati last year:"Every game is its own separate game. I think the biggest thing is that it's a division game, we have some familiarity with our opponent. There are definitely some matchups over the years, but they're a different team. Their offensive line is completely rebuilt, so it's kind of like the matchups that I'm going to be in, it's a whole different squad. So, I think you kind of take it each game has its own individuality. Of course, you want to win. You're always going to remember the toughness and how hard they fight and how good they are. They earned the right last year. They beat us pretty good, so it's definitely something that's naturally on your mind, but sometimes it is its own individual game, and we have to go out there and we have to find a way to win the ball game."
WR DEVIN DUVERNAY
On if he is ready to be wide receiver No. 1 on Sunday if WR Rashod Bateman can't go:"I think yes, I'm prepared; I've been waiting for it. I prepare like it, and I'm always ready for my number to be called and for my opportunity."
On how he developed chemistry with QB Lamar Jackson:"Just reps, I feel like. Just rep after rep in the offseason, OTAs, training camp, days like that [preparing] for moments like this."
On playing in primetime on Sunday Night Football and what it's like being a part of it:"I just look at it as another game. I just have to go out and play my game. I just need to execute, make my plays when the ball comes my way. [I] just [need] do whatever it takes to help the team win."
ILB A.J. KLEIN
On why he decided to join the Ravens:"Well, personally, I think it's a good fit. When I spoke to Coach [John Harbaugh] and to [director of player personnel] George Kokinis up in the front office, he had the clear vision of what they see for me here, and I know a couple of guys that actually I played with – Marcus Williams, who I played with, with the Saints. And I just know this is a talented football team. They've been to the playoffs multiple years in a row. And I'm just here to help them and help this team win."
On what he can bring on defense and special teams:"Personally, I bring experience. I bring experience playing in different systems. I've been around a lot of good coaches, and I've played a lot of ball. So, hopefully, I can bring experience and share that knowledge and help the back seven communicate. And like I said, whatever asset or whatever they see me playing and helping out is what I'll do."
On what this past week has been like after signing with the Giants' practice squad just a few days ago:"Quick turnaround, right? I signed on … Well, I had it all lined up last week – Thursday – didn't sign until Monday, but I flew in [to New York] Sunday night, shipped my car up, then I got a call after our first practice last night that they wanted me to sign here to the 53. So, [after] a couple talks with agents and front offices on both sides, [and] I just thought this was the best fit for me."