THURSDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 6 VS. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. It's good to see everyone. Just a quick little recap of the Monday Night Football game; I just thought our guys came out, [and] they played hard. I said earlier in the week we were going to go up against a really good special teams unit, and just at the end of the game, we found a way to make a play and give our team a chance to win the game. So, we're just going to keep working, and we're going to continue to get better. [We're] looking forward to the Chargers. Again, coming off of a short week, we know we have a good challenge out in front of us. We're just going to come out here, keep preparing and get our guys ready to go play, hopefully, the best game to date on special teams. Questions?"
Take us through the blocked kick. I know DT Broderick Washington had said during the week he thinks this would work. Did he talk to you before that play? Did he call it in the huddle? How did that all come about? (Jeff Zrebiec) (laughter) "It's funny how these things come about. I think earlier in the week, [special teams coach] Randy [Brown], [special teams coach] TJ [Weist] and I were sitting in the office, we were game-planning, and we just thought, 'You know what? It'd be a good week for us to kind of change our personnel around and put 'Broddy' [Broderick Washington] on there.' We knew if we executed it perfectly, we would get the results that we wanted. It really happened just like we drew it up right after the [Broncos] game – right after we thought about putting him on that phase. He was a huge part of really getting Calais [Campbell] free on that play."
Is it something you saw from them and the way they blocked on that? Or is it you just wanted to shake it up and keep things fresh and give teams different looks? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think throughout the course of the game, one of the things when you do gameplan, you try to find weaknesses. I think that's football – you try to find the weak spots and poke holes in the opponent. I think that was one of the areas that we saw earlier in the week. It wasn't just that. It was that play that made the play, but if you go back and watch all those field goal blocks, those three guys – Brandon [Williams], 'Madubeeks' [Justin Madubuike], Calais [Campbell] – that whole unit, they were coming off the ball. Those guys understand that we don't take those plays off, because we know at any moment, those plays can be game-changing plays for us, and it was."
It also looked like just before that block that K Justin Tucker ran down the sideline to you, almost like, 'Oh, I remember. Are you going to?' Was there something that he reminded you about? Or was that totally unrelated and I just saw it in the press box? (Pete Gilbert) "You probably just saw that from the press box. It was totally unrelated to that. I think we had a plan. We were going to make a call in that situation. I think we do a pretty good job of identifying weaknesses and just allowing our guys to go out and play."
When DE Calais Campbell came in last year, did you immediately look at him and say, "Yes, that guy is going to block a field goal for me?"(Ryan Mink) (laughter) "When he came in … I mean, he's a guy that you notice from across the league. On every team he was on, he was blocking kicks. So, with our effort and our guys and the attention to detail that they give on that unit, adding another piece to that phase, you just know it's a timebomb that's waiting to happen for us. It's going to explode at some point if they just keep giving that kind of effort."
Was it nice to finally get a look at your kick return team actually get a shot at some returns? (Luke Jones) (laughter) "It really was. It's one of those things that we talked about – five weeks. It took five weeks for us to get a return in, and we have something to coach off of. Was it perfect? No, but when we go back and watch that return, the one from the overtime when we started the ball on the 33-yard line, real honestly, that's more like us. We have to figure out a way from the first kickoff return to get to that on that last kickoff return. I just think our guys are going to continue to work hard, and we're going to continue … When we get opportunities, we'll do what we need to do."
We saw WR Miles Boykin flying down the field as a gunner. How nice is it to have him back in your personnel groups? (Jonas Shaffer) "I said last week, whenever we get the opportunity to get Miles [Boykin] back out there and play for us, he was going to have an impact. He played hard. He played physical. He played fast. He's sharp when he's out there. So, it's good to have him back out there. I think as the weeks go on … He missed a lot of football, so he's going to continue to get better."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "[It's] almost the afternoon. [We] had a busy morning today working on situational football, and guys are really plugged in. It's a really good defense we're about to face. Obviously, it starts with [Joey] Bosa up front. This guy is a potential game wrecker, and if you treat him like an average player, bad things are going to happen to you – there's plenty of evidence of that. The nose guard, [Linval] Joseph, has been doing it at a high level for a long time in this league. When you look at [Drue] Tranquill and [Kyzir] White at the middle linebacker position, these guys are all over the field [and are] really doing a nice job in space. The other outside linebackers, mainly [Uchenna] Nwosu and [Kyler] Fackrell, these guys have been real factors as well. The secondary, they're doing a really good job. Obviously, Derwin James [Jr.] and [Nasir] Adderley are two guys that we have to know where they are on every snap. So, we're excited about the challenge, [and] we're looking forward to a one o'clock game at M&T Bank [Stadium]. Any questions?"
You guys haven't scored any points in the first quarter over the past three games. QB Lamar Jackson said defenses are giving a different look. Is that just a matter of making adjustments as the game goes on? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, I think we definitely have to make adjustments as they go on. We still want to start faster, and that's something … It's never a finished product, and there are certain things that we're really working hard on [and] trying to imporve. Every game is different. Every game plays out differently, and that's something that we really want to improve on. At the same time, it really matters how you play over the course of four quarters that determines the winner. But there are plenty of things that we need to work on, and I think everybody is aware of them. We're really focused on it."
What have you seen from WR Rashod Bateman in practice the past two and a half weeks? (Ryan Mink) "He obviously hadn't played football for a while [since] he got that procedure done. He's looking good. He's looking good. I think as he ramps in, he should do nothing but get better. His temperament, his attitude [and] everything has been A-plus. I don't think we're going to throw him into the fire for every play; I think we're going to build him into the plan on a week-to-week basis. Rashod [Bateman] is going to have a long and fruitful career, and this is just the first step. So, we will integrate him into the plan when the time is right."
Do you feel like WR Rashod Bateman is game-ready now? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, I think he's getting there. I think he's getting there. I think there's a chance he could play this week. If not this week, I think next week."
I know you always talk about how many plays you have at your disposal. It's not often that you have as many two-point conversions and plays kind of inside the 5-yard line as you did. Are those things that you had practiced during the week at all? Did you have those ready to go in those situations? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, we generally walk-through those plays during the week. Not all of them get run live out on the practice field. When we do our walk-throughs inside, we definitely hit those situational-type plays. But once you run a few plays like that, I think we ran three two-pointers [two-point conversions], now you have to refill the refrigerator for the two-point plays. You open the door, and there's nothing in the fridge. We already … Those plays were eaten. So, every week, you're trying to build situational plays, because they loom big in the game."
On a night where the run game was … They bottled it up pretty well, and yet QB Lamar Jackson was able to, from the pocket by and large, take down the defense with an epic performance. That's something in that scale that we haven't seen before. How excited are you that everyone has seen it? They know that if, "You are just going to stop this, we will beat you like that." The idea of being as versatile and multiple and having it out there, how much fun is it trying to prepare knowing you can go anywhere? (Pete Gilbert) "I mean, that was a great performance. [It was] really good execution by him [Lamar Jackson] and everybody else. Once we got into a rhythm, the execution level was really high. Every game is different. Teams will look at that and try to say, 'OK, well how can we make sure this doesn't happen to us? We're going to play this coverage, or this, or that, or the other.' So, you have to be able to … As I always say, you can't be a one trick pony. You have to be able to do various things, but that was … Obviously, that was an epic performance. We strive for epic, and that was epic. Run game-wise, there are some things we need to work on and get corrected. Generally speaking, it was a guy here and a guy there, and credit to the Colts, too – they did a nice job."
Along those lines, do you feel you could go into a gameplan and say, "Alright, this is going to be a pass-heavy week, and that's the way we're going to do it?" Or "This is going to be a ground and pound week," and then you can adjust kind of in game? Can you make that decision almost mid-week as you're game-planning? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, I think we gameplan for everything; it's a heavy pass game and a heavy run game. I think that's how we do it every single week. As the game unfolds, that's where we make our right and left turns as it goes. With what we get from a defensive standpoint, we get a lot of things people haven't shown before, because they feel like, 'Hey, we have to do this to stop this offense. So, we're going to do something they haven't seen,' and you never know what that is. Or they may not do that. You just don't know what you're going to get, so you better be prepared for everything. Like I said last week, game-planning, as I've always known it, is over for me – it's completely changed. For many, many, many years, it was, 'Hey, here's what their defense does, [and] here's what we're going to do.' But now, really starting mid-last year, it was throw out that whole theory, we have to build a program. This offseason, we were able to build that mindset into the players too of this is what we have. It's a credit to them to work, because we go into a game with a lot."
Obviously, you guys have set the bar really high in terms of your run game. In the past, even if people stacked the box, you were still able to run the ball. Why haven't you been as successful? I know technically that you've gotten it done in other ways, but it seems like you're having more struggles running the ball, particularly in short-yardage situations than you've had in the past. Why do you think that's been an issue? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think you have to look at really every play and examine why that play worked or didn't work. Some of it is on me. I have to maybe run different runs and that kind of thing. Some of it is just we have to get better in certain areas. But the other answer could be I'm just setting the people up to throw it." (laughter)
Along those lines, even though it has been a couple games now without a huge run game, are defenses still fearing the run as much as they have been and that helps set up the play-action game and RPOs [run-pass-option] and all that stuff you guys like to run? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, that's … We're going to run the football. We can change gears. We can change personalities, hopefully, just like that. (snaps his fingers) But we're going to run the football and do things to complement that. But that's something that we just have to keep hammering away at. I think we have a lot of things at our disposal. No matter what we do, it all comes down to the players on the field executing. Like last week for example, it was just marvelous execution. Execution trumps everything. So, really, credit to the players."
Do you know Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley well? I know with the background in college … (Jeff Zrebiec) "I know [head coach] Brandon [Staley]. Yes, I actually went and spoke to my alma mater [John Carroll] five years ago before a playoff game, that they won due to my speech, of course. Brandon was the defensive coordinator there at the time. So, I met him there. Now, five years later, he's the head coach of the Chargers. So, that's about it though. He's a good guy. [He's] doing a nice job."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "Just to open things up about last week: We're 4-1. We're happy, obviously, to be there, and we know there's a lot of work ahead of us. We didn't play to our standard defensively. I think that everybody is well aware of that. But the thing that impresses me about this defense is just their will to win at the end of the game. And their intensity, and how they finish these games – it shouldn't go unrecognized. And it's hard for you guys to see from the press box, but down there on the field, there was never any quit in any individual that was out there. In the end, we're really proud and happy that we got the win. With that, I'll open it up."
Yesterday, Coach Harbaugh said that he had never seen QB Justin Herbert throw in person. I assume it's the same for you. What can you tell us about looking at him on film, if you haven't seen him in person? (Jerry Coleman) "I think he's one of those guys who can throw a strawberry through a battleship. I mean, he's got tremendous arm talent, accuracy. He's the prototypical NFL quarterback, if you will, in looking at him. And he's got a lot of talent that goes with that arm, as far as himself, of reading coverages, and he has great targets to throw to. So, it's going to be a big-time challenge."
Yesterday, DT Brandon Williams said, "Sometimes we just get too crazy and start running around like a chicken with their head cut off," as far as getting guys down. Do you agree with that assessment? (Todd Karpovich) "Well, I think that's a description [from] a nose [tackle]. But do we need to work on our angles? Yes, you can see that. Do we need to finish some tackles? Yes, and we're constantly working on it. Every week is a new challenge, and this is going to be a big one this week."
The Chargers throw to RB Austin Ekeler a lot, and I know your numbers against running backs probably have not been what you want them to be – catching out of the backfield. What needs to get better there? (Childs Walker) "What are the numbers exactly? And I'm not going at you – seriously." (Reporter: "No, I hear you. I think you're like 29thin the league in terms of covering opposing running backs) "Right. Well, in terms of check-downs, maybe seeing them a little bit better, and it goes back to working on angles to the ball, and you've got to change up the picture. So, we've just got to continue to work on it."
Head coach John Harbaugh said yesterday, "We need more," when speaking about the inside linebackers. Asking more directly, what do you need to see better from ILBs Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think it's the full gamut of recognizing different schemes and getting downhill, more than anything else, and reacting faster to different types of schemes. [Inside linebackers coach] Rob [Ryan] has done yeoman's work as far as trying to get them there, but when the ball is snapped, and if they're slow to it, you're going to see the results that you see. So, they just have to react faster, attack, and then once they get there, they need to tackle." (Reporter: "Is that part of [being] a young player?) "I believe so. Yes, I believe so. I think that in PQ's [Patrick Queen's] case, it's a young, fast player that's trying to do everybody else's job, and he needs to do his. He's trying to make every play; just make the plays that he's supposed to make, and we'll be good as a defense. But once again, there's a standard of the defense, and we're not playing up to it right now, so we've got to do some different things and change up pictures for upcoming opponents. All eyes are ahead to the Chargers right now, and it's going to be a tough challenge. Just so you know, it's going to be like a Kansas City-type challenge, when you say that. So, that's one of the things about having a flexible defense like we do – it'll help us out."
DB Brandon Stephens had 11 tackles. He's played a lot the past couple of weeks with S DeShon Elliott out. What are you seeing from him, and how pleased are you with how he has kind of stepped in there and with how active he's been? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We've been really pleased with him. And he's just another chess piece that we can add to our defense, and [we can] move him around and do different things with him. He's been picking it up really well – the different places that we put him – and he's gotten better every day, and that's what you ask of him."
It was really impressive to see OLB Odafe Oweh's get-off on that sack he had in the first quarter on Monday. Is that just a byproduct of him knowing what's coming ahead of time and taking a calculated risk? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, I don't think it's a calculated risk; I think it's a guy that studies the game, listens to the coaching points, and [is] actually able to do them when he gets out on the field. So, I think it's a byproduct of good coaching, good player, and a guy that knows how important a good get-off is in a pass-rushing situation – and they all do. He's just been blessed with a little bit more explosiveness than some of the others in this league. But I give all the credit to him, and [outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins] has done a heck of a job with all those outside 'backers, and especially on third down."
At that position, I know it might take some time for OLB Jaylon Ferguson to ramp up a little bit, but to have him back possibly … (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, that's good. He's another enforcer, like 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee] – I believe that – and you need physical football still in this league. Even though everybody is spreading you out and running all their screens and everything else, you still need physicality – especially the colder it gets."
How different is it to prepare for a daytime game as opposed to a night game? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "We're really excited about it, actually, to get in that one o'clock rhythm. I don't know how you all felt on Tuesday, but I know how I felt – (laughter) and Wednesday. But we're really excited about getting back to some one o'clock games and getting into that rhythm. I call it the normal NFL rhythm, if you will."
Did you get a chance, after looking at the film, to talk with CB Anthony Averett about how it looks like teams are trying to pick on him? I don't know how you build up his confidence, or if you need to. (Jerry Coleman) "No. First of all, you don't need to build up his confidence. These are one-game seasons, every Sunday or Monday night or Thursday night – whenever it comes. There was a series of events that happened with him, and [I] explained that to him, as far as the reaction to it and how you've got to play. With all these guys, I still have the same confidence in them as I had standing up here whatever week you want to pick out. As a defense, you've got to handle a series of events, and as a player, as an individual, you have to handle a series of events – and that's in life and in games and practice and everything else. It's just how you handle that series of events. He obviously had a tough go of it, but I have nothing but confidence in him."
The late penalty aside, how pleased were you with the way CB Tavon Young played, and do you feel he's getting closer and closer to pre-injury form? (Luke Jones) "Yes, I do. I think that was his best game to date. No one is happy with the penalty. We talk about situational football and [all] that, and that was a Don King moment, and that's what we call it in that situation – 'Be Careful of the Don King moment' – because someone is going to try to do that. I don't know if any of you saw the play, [but] they're always going to find the second guy – that's the NFL. But that was one of those Don King moments that … He knew it was bad. He knew it was bad. And there was nobody happier besides me [when] he missed the field goal. Both times [the block and miss], there was nobody happier than me, but Tavon definitely [was] when he missed the field goal."
Where did you get the expression, "Throwing a strawberry through a battleship?" I've never heard that before? (Jonas Shaffer) "Oh yeah, we've used that one … That's old Buddy Ryan." (laughter)
WR Marquise Brown
On flipping the switch and having a strong second half Monday night:"We just knew we had to start operating within ourselves, and that's really what we did. We came out, we started hitting, we started moving ball, getting first downs, and we just kept it going from there."
On how having three wide receivers in a set puts stress on the defense:"It's a lot of stress, because you don't know what you're going to account for. 'LJ' [Lamar Jackson] can throw it to whoever, and he also can run it, so that puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
On how the team can start faster:"Just getting that first, first down and just operating from there. Keep picking up first downs on first and second down and convert on third down, and we should be good."
On how pleased he is with his yards after the catch production:"I'm not pleased with what I've been doing, because I've still been leaving yards out there. But it's been pretty cool to get little stuff after [the catch], but I'm still trying to get more."
On if he worked specifically on some of his moves after the catch in the spring and the summer:"I always told myself, 'Once my foot starts feeling healthy…' Because I could hear people say, 'Oh, why are you always going down?' I never respond back, but I was like, 'As soon as the opportunity comes, I'm going to start showing it.'"
On how the noise at M&T Bank Stadium affects his performance:"I don't think it does, but we feed off the fans. It brings a lot of energy, a lot of fun, and we love having the fans in the stadium."
On if he felt his touchdown grab on a double-move really opened things up for the offense:"Yes, that definitely opened the flood gates, and [we] started making them play a little softer, and we started killing them underneath. So, that was a good thing that we hit on."
On if there is a level of excitement to see WR Rashod Bateman get out there and play:"Very excited for [Rashod] Bateman. I'm really excited to see what he's going to do, and I'm very excited to see, when Sammy [Watkins] comes back, what all of us are going to do together."
On his takeaways from what ESPN's Bart Scott said about him:"Foolishness." (laughter)
On if he was bothered by what ESPN's Bart Scott said about him:"For him to be a former player, it kind of did bother me – yes."
On if he internalized what ESPN's Bart Scott said about him:"No, I don't really care about his opinion."