Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Good morning. It's good to see everyone. I appreciate you guys all being out this morning. As we return back from this Bye Week, our job is we're just trying to figure out ways to continue to get better and get ready to go play against a good Minnesota team. Questions?"
Last week in the Browns-Steelers game, the Steelers faked a field goal and K Chris Boswell got absolutely destroyed. Could you picture a scenario where K Justin Tucker attempts to throw the ball in the end zone? (Todd Karpovich) "As a special teams coach, you can always picture these things happening. [If] and when you call them, I think if it's not there, you make sure you get rid of the ball quick enough, that way your kicker doesn't take those kinds of shots. Obviously, we never want to see that. I think coaches are always trying to find ways to create plays to change the game, and I think that's what they were trying to do. But obviously, that's something that we will look into, because I know later in the game, they didn't have a kicker. Their punter was kicking off for them, and on the first one, it kind of cost them a little bit. I mean, those are the things that we'll always be thinking about if we forever think about doing something like that."
In the unlikely event that K Justin Tucker would get hurt, how confident would you feel in your emergency kicker to be able to kick an extra point? (Jonas Shaffer) "Again, if we put ourselves in that situation, I think you have to be willing to deal with the consequences of something like that happening. But we'll just continue to work our guys the way we do and put different guys in different situations. So, anything could happen. It doesn't have to be on a fake; it could be just a normal routine play in the game. We see those guys get hurt in pregame warmups. You have to be ready and be prepared for those situations."
Collectively, this is the first time you have a break and can re-evaluate. It seems … From the outside in, I would assume you're very pleased with all you've seen collectively on special teams. Obviously, the kicking game has been great, P Sam Koch is P Sam Koch, and coverages both ways have been good. How do you assess it? How do you evaluate where you guys are? (Pete Gilbert) "Where we are after seven weeks, I think we continue to set ourselves up to continue to be a really good special teams unit. But with that being said, our guys understand our standards are very high, and we like to play our style and play our way. So, we just want to continue to keep coming out and getting better every week. We never want to take any weeks off, and we never want to take anything for granted. Our guys, we demand a lot out of them, and then we come out here and we work. We just want to execute at a high level."
When it gets colder and the air is heavier, do you almost anticipate more return opportunities when the weather gets colder, the ball is not traveling as far and maybe footing isn't as good for kickers? Do you expect to kind of get more opportunities going forward for your returners? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think that's a fair assessment. You'll see there will be times where you just can't get the ball in the end zone, and that's OK, because there are guys out there that are responsible for covering kickoffs. That's what special teams is all about, and our guys love to cover. Our guys want to go out there and be able to get an opportunity to cover. So, you will see a lot more balls in play, but if we can hit a ball in the end zone, we'll definitely do that to try to save those guys for the later you get in the year, because there will be a lot more returnable balls."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "How's everybody doing? Everybody good? It's a little chilly out here. I see you guys sporting some of your Christmas gifts from last year. (laughter) But I'm really looking forward to the challenge this week. The Vikings have an excellent defense. [They're] really well-coached. It really starts with their front. They've had an amazing start to their year with their defensive front. Their linebackers are very instinctive. [They're] really fast to key and diagnose. They have some really, really experienced heady safeties, and the corners are playing really well. Our guys understand the challenge. Over the Bye Week, we were able to really take a hard look at ourselves, which was a good chance to look at the introspect a little bit. We have to keep pushing the envelope to get better every week. So, that's where our focus is. Any questions?"
I know they've lost DE Danielle Hunter out there, but their pass rush, how formidable is it? How much do they rely on their front? How much do they do other things to get pressure on the quarterback? (Jamison Hensley) "They can do it all. Historically, [head coach] Coach [Mike] Zimmer, he can rush four, five, six, seven [or] eight – whatever. He has it all. They've been doing a great job with the four-man rush, and [Danielle] Hunter is an excellent player. He was playing at a high level. The thing about it is, though, the guy they have coming in, I've seen him; he's pretty good. He's pretty good, too. [No.] 97 [Everson Griffen] is playing at a super high level – [it's] the fountain of youth for him. We know Mike Pierce; I think he's going to play. He's been outstanding against the run and pass. So, it's going to be a tough, physical football game, but their front has really been creating opportunities for their defense."
Their defense just had some difficulties against Dallas and their second- or third-string quarterback. Is there anything you can take away from that film? (Jerry Coleman) "I think Dallas finished the game well. I think there were some good things, for sure, but it was a pretty low-scoring affair, and they pulled it out at the end. … I mean, really, the takeaways, you really have to look at the whole body of work. That game specifically, if you really look at the situations, it was pretty consistent with what we've seen from their defense all year. They've done a nice job of keeping people out of the end zone, so that's going to be a big challenge for us."
We talked about self-scouting last week. Where did your guys' performance on third down factor in? What do you feel like has kind of prevented you from being as good of a third-down offense as you've been the past couple of years? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think there are a lot of factors with that, and we just have to keep chasing it. It's not where we want it right now, for sure, but we're just chasing it. We're really diving into it. I think everybody understands the importance of it. I don't think there's any one thing that you can pinpoint; we just have to execute better on third-down situations – run and pass."
With the run game, is there any tweaks you can make as far as to improve what the running backs are doing, not so much QB Lamar Jackson? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, there are a lot of tweaks we can do. We're constantly tweaking things. I think we have our core base philosophy, and there are a lot of different things we can do off of those core basic principles and concepts. So, we will definitely mix it up [and] change it up a little bit here and there based on who we're playing and how they're playing us. But that's just something, just like third down, we have to keep chasing. Once you get those fixed, there's something else … You have to put your finger in this hole, and then this hole, right? You have to keep chasing everything, and that's what we're doing. The players are doing a great job of that."
When you went through the self-scouting process, was there anything from a big picture level that stood out to you? (Garrett Downing) "There are a lot of things that stood out. We're pretty much aware of them on a week-to-week basis though, so nothing really said, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't realize that.' But I think some guys are playing really well. Offensively, we're doing some really good things, and we're just constantly trying to play better and better every week and get better. The focus is on us, our improvement, week-in and week-out, in everything that we do. I really like the players' attitudes and where their heads are."
Now that we've entered the cold weather months, how important will it become to run the football knowing the elements are about to change? (Jerry Coleman) "I think any team that can run the football has an advantage. It basically creates opportunities for everybody. This time of year, we really need to get our run game going. It opens up the play-action opportunities, keeps the defense honest [and] helps you control football games – that will never change. Especially when you start getting into some of these inclement weather games, you have to be able to control the game on the ground. So, our guys are working hard at that. Knowing these guys, I really feel like we're going to keep improving in that area."
As the pass game has grown and grown and grown, and QB Lamar Jackson has had more and more success with it, is part of the continued growth in that how long to hold the ball? Because it seems like in terms of sacks against the Bengals, a lot of times it was how long he held it versus pass rush or pass protection breakdown. Is that just part of the continued evolution and the bad part of all the success? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I mean … Really, watch any team play a game; there's going to be good things, and there's going to be things where you're like, 'Well, I think they're going to have to address that.' (laughter) That goes for everybody; that's the NFL. So, yes; there are a few plays where we can get the ball out quicker and in more of a timely fashion. There's also some times where he held it a little bit too long, made a guy miss and 40 yards later, right? … So, it's a double-edged sword. We're always trying to play winning football. When is the quarterback right? When it's right – that's the job of the quarterback, and it's a thankless job in many ways. But that's just something, along with everything else, we're constantly trying to get better and more consistent with."
You haven't had TE Nick Boyle this year. Not to put too much pressure on him, but can you just talk about hopefully getting him back soon? Particularly with your offense, how valuable is it to have a player like that back? (Cliff Brown) "Nick [Boyle], obviously, has been a really good player for us. It was a big loss for us last year, but he's been really working to get back. I mean, Nick is a guy with a unique skillset that keeps getting better. We're just going to have to bring him into the fold gradually and get him to where he's feeling really comfortable out there so he can be Nick Boyle. So, that's really the focus day to day with him, but he's sneaky good in the passing game, too. He's a pretty complete player. We're looking forward to him getting healthy again, really, for him. He's such a hard, diligent worker who really lays it on the line [and] wants to be perfect in everything. He's always chasing it. So, he's a guy that you want to have on your side."
The right tackle you guys signed last week, T Cedric Ogbuehi, do you think he can help you right away? (Childs Walker) "Cedric [Ogbuehi]? Cedric is a very talented guy, and he just got here. He has a lot to catch up on, but he's working around the clock on it. He went back, got some things and flew right back across the country and got back to work to really try to catch up and learn what we do and how we call things. There's a lot to learn. It's pretty … There's a lot there. So, just like all the new guys, [offensive line coach] 'Joe D' [Joe D'Alessandris] has been really … [Running backs coach] Craig Ver Steeg was doing that in the beginning of the year with the running backs, and now Joe D'Alessandris is really in sprint mode – he and [assistant offensive line coach] Rich [Angulo] – with the new offensive linemen."
When you look at WR Marquise Brown and his ability to continuously stretch the field down there, how much of an asset is that? Have you seen defenses with his success start respecting it and change the way they maybe have defended him at all? (Jamison Hensley) "There are times when teams will do some things like that. Marquise [Brown] is doing a really good job. Everybody plays us a little different. So, we kind of have to get into the game and see how they're playing us. Hopefully, they don't pay any respect to him and don't know notice him at all – I encourage them to not. (laughter) But no, he's doing good. He's improving. He's coming on, and he's out there practicing every day, which has been really the key for him – being able to get out and practice every day and build that rapport and work on his craft."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "We had a good Bye Week. [We] studied ourselves, studied our opponent. [We're] glad to be 5-2, in first place. The focus is one week at a time, but it's these next 10 weeks. If we clean up some things in some areas that we know we need to work on, I think it's going to be an exciting 10 weeks. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
Is that kind of the biggest thing? You've got the personnel, and you know they've done it in the past. Now that it's a matter of cleaning up some things, is that kind of what makes you most optimistic going forward? (Pete Gilbert)"Yes. Now we're just going to talk 'coach speak.' It's really easy to say, 'Clean up some things' and not get really specific. And this next one is going to be … You hear it all the time … We just have to play better. You spend all weekend thinking about it, talking about it, and that's the answers. We just have to play better on first and second down, because [in] our situational football, we've been excellent. That involves tackling, execution and communication. So, we're looking forward to it. We've had three good days of practice before we left for the break, and yesterday I thought we had a really good practice. So, we're getting excited for Sunday."
We go through Halloween, and I know it's a frightening time, but when you had to look at that Bengals tape, was that kind of frightening? (Jerry Coleman)"I like how you tied all that together. (laughter) No, it wasn't a fun tape to watch. But I'm one of those guys that, [on] Halloween, I close my doors, turn off all the lights [and] just growl at people. (laughter) We saw the mistakes, and we just have to play better, like I said."
Head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman both spoke about self-scouting and how the Bye Week process allows you to kind of go through that process. When you watch it, is it always better than you thought, in a way? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, it is. And then you also have to look at 'this front, this coverage,' and it might be a higher number. Then, you sit there and say, 'Well, if you take out this one play, where there's this one bust, it's been pretty good to us.' So, all that's interesting to do. And what I like is it sets up our counter punches to all of our stuff that we do that we've already put on tape, too. So, you look at that. That's what's exciting to look at for the next 10 weeks."
QB Kirk Cousins has only taken 10 sacks this year, and he gets rid of the ball quick. What kind of challenges does he pose for you guys? (Todd Karpovich)"We've talked about sacks before; I think there are different ways you can affect the quarterback. Before the Dallas game, he [Kirk Cousins] was [producing] like MVP stats. They struggled a little bit against Dallas, but this guy is getting the ball to people on time and getting it to the right people on time. This is a talented, very talented offense."
With OLB Odafe Oweh making an impact, I'm sure teams are probably game-planning against him a little bit more than they were earlier in the season. What's kind of the next step for him, as I'm sure he's not catching people by surprise anymore? (Garrett Downing)"I think that he just needs to keep growing as a player. Every day we have different things for him to do, [and] every game we have different things for him to do and different assignments, and he keeps just knocking them out and doing a great job of it. The guys like Justin Houston are talking to him about using his hands more in pass rush, and the little, technical stuff like that. [Outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins] is constantly working with him – he and Daelin [Hayes]. So, it's a challenge for him, and I think that he has … Out of rookies, for rush wins, I think he's No. 1 or No. 2 – I think he's No. 1 – as far as just winning in one-on-one rush situations."
When we got the chance to talk with ILB Patrick Queen last week, we talked about how he feels like the game is slowing down for him a little bit. I know it might be tough to distinguish if that's moving to the WILL or just getting used to the speed of the game in Year Two. What have you seen from him these past couple of weeks? (Jonas Shaffer)"The first thing that jumps out when you ask that question is he's practicing better. He's had some really good [practices]. Like, I'm excited for this game for him. And we move him around. He's not going to be locked-in just at WILL and everything else. There are things that we do in our defense where we move guys around. But he's really come a long way just practicing football, and in the game, you're starting to see some of the success. I'm really looking forward to seeing him play Sunday."
I know there have been questions to head coach John Harbaugh and you about the tackling. When it comes to it, and you're not able to get out there and do it on a regular basis in the middle of the season, does it become a mentality for the guys, where you just explain to them on film, "This is what you need to do?" (Jerry Coleman)"Yes, [with] the mentality, I think it helped us, yesterday, practicing in pads, and just the emphasis on angles and feet and eyes. Some of our missed tackles are coming where we're just trying to blow somebody up, where it's OK to just get them down – that's the biggest thing. So, we're going to continue to work on that and attack that every day. And if we get this defense tackling, watch out, because then you've got everything working, everything clicking."
When we talked to the players right after the Bengals game, they were very business-like, and they said, "We've got to feel the pain of this, but we also can't dwell on it." Is that also the same tone that you've heard from them internally? (Childs Walker)"Oh, yes, because we always have this philosophy: You can never let one game beat you twice. If you feel sorry for yourself, this league will slap you around for as long as you feel sorry for yourself, until you stand back up [and] get ready to go play. And we'll be ready to go play come Sunday."
RB Dalvin Cook … (Martindale: "Beast. Beast!") What specifically, style-wise, is it that makes him so challenging? (Pete Gilbert)"I think he's got great balance, and vision, and speed and power. You want me to keep going? (laughter) With the 'Kubiak system,' and [Vikings offensive coordinator] Klint [Kubiak] has his own little change-up to it … There's not a guy I respected more as an offensive coach than Gary [Kubiak], and you can see [that] he raised his son right [in] all the different ways, because I know him, talked to him personally, and then you watch what he puts on tape. It's impressive. They've done it with, really, no-name [running] backs that they've put a name on them, made into Pro Bowlers and everything else in that system. This guy [Dalvin Cook] was a known commodity coming out. They've done a great job building the roster there, offensively."
Knowing CB Marlon Humphrey as well as you do, how much confidence do you have in him bouncing back? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I have all the confidence in the world in Marlon [Humphrey]. He's the first one to tell you he didn't play well. That happens, and he'll bounce back."
How does your knowledge of [former Ravens offensive coordinator] Gary Kubiak and that system impact things in this game? (Garrett Downing)"It's just the knowledge of playing against that 'Kubiak, Shanahan system' itself. It's old-school football, which I love, and obviously, they do too. It's smash-mouth football. They're going to try to run it, throw shots and throw boots. It's a fun game to coach in."
We talked to head coach John Harbaugh a little bit yesterday about that 2013 game against the Vikings, and that crazy finish where there were 36 points in the last two minutes. Do you have a clear memory of that game? Did you live and die multiple times in that last two minutes? (Childs Walker)"The thing that stands out the most about that … That's pretty good – that you asked me that one. You really saw how much everybody cares in this building, the organization, because there were people from marketing [that were] grabbing shovels. (laughter) You know what I mean? You're like, 'What are you doing?' (laughter) They needed to shovel [the snow] … But it was all the people that just volunteered, because they're just as vested as we are in winning a football game. And I remember sitting in the locker room next to [former Ravens assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg; he looked up at me, and he said, 'I'm just ready to go home.' (laughter) And I said, 'Me too, bud.' That was a crazy game, though."
WR Marquise Brown
On his Bye Week:"It was good. I got some time [much]-needed with the fam."
On if he went anywhere during the Bye Week:"I was down in Florida with my family."
On if he celebrated Halloween:"No, not really. I was in the house, just relaxing."
On why he believes he's had such a strong start to the season:"I'm just working to be consistent. [I'm] working every day. Credit to the coaches [for] putting me in situations to make plays."
On if he agrees with offensive coordinator Greg Roman saying that it's been a big deal for him to be able to practice so consistently this year:"Yes. Before, in years past, I haven't been able to practice, get better or just continue to build and work on myself. So, this year, I've been able to be out there with my teammates, just learning different things each and every day."
On his chemistry with WR Rashod Bateman:"It's pretty good. I think [it's good] with the whole receiving corps. But with [Rashod] Bateman, he's two games in, and he's ready to have that [big] game, and we're all behind him. We push each other like no other. We push each other in the room to – however many catches you get – see who can have the most yards, see who can make the most impact. So, we're big in the room."
On if WR Rashod Bateman has performed how he expected he would through two games:"Yes. Everything, the opportunities he's getting, he's made the most of them, so that's all you can do. Whatever you're given, you've got to make the most of it, make the most of your opportunities, and I think he's doing a good job of that."
On if the Bye Week gave the offense the opportunity to reflect on what they're doing well or not so well, and if he spent time thinking about that:"Definitely. You look back on how you've been playing, games we won, games we lost. What have we been doing well? What have we been doing bad? And you just go to work on those things. The things you do well, can you do better? The things you do bad, how can we improve on it, and how can we improve on it as soon as possible?"
On what stuck out during the Bye Week, regarding things the offense has done well and things the offense didn't do so well:"I think just making the plays. If you watch the games, there might be a missed catch, a missed block, or a missed throw, a missed timing. So, it's just erasing all that, and when the opportunity presents itself, everybody does their job and make the play."
On what he's seen out of QB Lamar Jackson, in terms of throwing the ball, and if there's something he's noticed that factored into his improvement as a passer:"It just comes with growth, getting better. He's out here working every day, improving, seeing the field. I think just growth."
On wearing a Baltimore Ravens Gaming League hoodie, and if there's anyone on the team who can challenge him in video games:"I don't think so, but I'm always open to challengers." (laughter)