DAVID CULLEY – ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/PASS COORDINATOR/WIDE RECEIVERS COACH
Since I don't believe we are talking to Coach Harbaugh today, I wanted to ask if you could comment on the absence of S Earl Thomas III and QB Lamar Jackson at practice? (Aaron Kasinitz) "With Earl [Thomas III], that's an organizational decision that [head coach] John [Harbaugh] will address. With Lamar [Jackson], during training camp, what he's getting right now is a day that he normally gets. He's been throwing the ball beautifully all training camp, and the arm gets a little tired every now and then. So, this is just part of the rest that he gets – as he has gotten in previous training camps."
I wanted to get your thoughts on WR Marquise Brown. He's talked a lot about the work he did with his body and getting a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger. What have you seen from him in the early weeks of camp? (Luke Jones) "He's definitely gotten stronger. The big thing about camp is that he's come back in, and all the speed and quickness that we saw when we drafted him from Oklahoma – prior to him getting injured – you see those things now. As you know, last year he played with that injury all year long; it wasn't quite 100%. Not only during the offseason did he get a little stronger and a little bigger … He was always an explosive guy prior to that, and we're starting to see that now, because of the health, because of his strength, and the stuff that he's done during this offseason. I like where he's at right now."
How would you evaluate WR Devin Duvernay and WR James Proche II so far? (Childs Walker) "It's been so good just to finally get them [Duvernay and Proche] on the field, and we Zoomed with those guys for like three months, and we basically [got] Zoomed-out. I knew with those two guys, with the programs that they come from … They're very good football players, [and] they're very eager. Obviously, they're two different types [of] guys, but they both are what we call … They're 'Ravens.' They have the great work ethic, they're both tough, they both understand that winning is more important than numbers, and they've fit right in well with this group that we've had here – both of those guys. I like where they're at also."
WR Miles Boykin talked a lot about playing faster. What are the keys to getting young receivers specifically, to play fast and not think as much? As a coach, how do you address that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The big thing with him [Miles Boykin], as a rookie last year, there were things that he really wasn't quite sure about at times, and it basically shows up. And it shows up with all rookies. Now that he's a year into [being] with us, he's playing faster, because he knows what he's doing. He's not thinking, just like you just mentioned. He's just reacting to things right now. He's a 6'3", 225-pound guy who's very strong and powerful and can run. And basically, I'm starting to see right now – we as a franchise are starting to see on offense – that he's starting show his 6'3", 225, because he's comfortable in our system, he knows what we're doing right now, he's playing much faster, and he's playing stronger."
Wide receiver is notoriously a difficult position to transfer from, from the college game. So, what kind of challenges have been there with WR James Proche II and WR Devin Duvernay so far in camp? (Andrew Gillis) "They came from offenses that basically threw the ball all the time. So, from a passing-game standpoint, those guys have had a lot of reps at a lot different routes [and] a lot of different techniques that they teach with doing a lot of the no-huddle offense they do there; and we do some of that here also. I think they have both come in and adjusted very well, simply because … We're a little different than what they came from, from the standpoint of, they know we're going to run the ball, [and] they know that when we throw the ball, we throw the ball down the field. And those guys have adapted very well to what we're doing. And I say that simply because, these two guys right here, I look at those guys just the same way as I looked at Marquise [Brown] and Miles [Boykin] when we brought them in. These guys are football players first, not just receivers. And the point I'm making there is that whatever we need them to do in our offense – whether it's run-blocking, whether its passing or whatnot – those guys have bought in to our way, and they've adjusted very well to it."
JOE D'ALESSANDRIS – OFFENSIVE LINE COACH
I know you obviously have a history with G D.J. Fluker, but just in general, how would you assess the competition there at right guard and on the interior of the offensive line? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Right now going through this phase … This is our what, fourth day in pads? We're just breaking the ice right now. Each guy is just getting a little bit more familiar with his position and the technique and the fundamentals involved. So, right now we're in the growth pattern. It's encouraging though, because we see good growth in all of the guys."
What is the major difference between this scheme and some others that you've been involved in? And why does it work? (Mike Preston) "I started off my career many, many, many years ago running the 'Split Back Veer.' So, we have a little … I've been fortunate enough to be exposed to quite a few offenses over time; zones, power, gap schemes, pivot pools – all of those kinds of schemes. We have … [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] does a great job of having a variety of offensive run plays and pass protections, and we'll build that all up together. We try to fit it all as a puzzle for us."
Can you talk about your coaching style? What have you picked up from some other coaches? What do you try to get across to your players? (Mike Preston) "I try to come across, first of all, to be a teacher, and teach, and educate and share knowledge. To me, that's the most important thing, because if I can do that, I can share some of the things that I know, that I've done and [that] have worked for me, and then I know how to fix those problems when we have them. Or I'll have a pretty good idea how to fix those problems. So, that's how I look at it; try to become a teacher first and educate the guys, give shared knowledge and then each day is a new day with each player. Some days, we have to motivate a little bit more than others, and some days, you don't have to. So, that's just part of coaching."
How do you see the rookies developing? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "The rookies are really developing very well. They are really a very good group. All of them have come in here … We started rookie camp and they did wonderful. They've jumped in with the veterans and they're starting to learn. They're really growing in all areas of fundamentals, technique, knowledge and communication."
T Ronnie Stanley had a great year last year. Have you seen anything, any parts of his game where he has even improved or he's trying to focus on this year? (Jamison Hensley) "I think what he's done is … I think Ronnie [Stanley], like all players, we all get back [to fundamentals]. And that's basketball, that's hockey, that's football, that's baseball. You've got to get back to the fundamentals again. You've got to build the base, and I think Ronnie is doing the same thing, like the rest of the linemen. Right now, we're trying to knock the rust off, so they can begin to play more spontaneous in their reactions. As I say, we're building motor skills. So, those motor skills become very functionable quickly, because of sight recognition."
We've all seen G D.J. Fluker's physical transformation this offseason, and he looks great out there. How is he adjusting to a new scheme? Is there overlap that you can help him with, because of your time coaching him prior? (Ryan Mink) "I think with 'Fluke' [D.J. Fluker], he is a willing, willing young man. He will work. He's a big, imposing, physical body. Now, we're trying to channel that physicality in all his fundamentals and technique, and again, try to develop those skills and get him up to speed with quickness, changing direction and those things. He's working diligently at it, so that's a plus. And I had him for three years, and he's a pleasure to work with. I'm telling you; his heart is as big as our auditorium. He's got a heart of gold. He will … He did things around San Diego without us ever knowing. He went out on Christmas Day and went to a detention center and spent the whole day with those kids, just trying to be a mentor. He went out and bought his own pizzas and shared it with those kids. But that's D.J. Fluker – like I said, he's got a heart of gold."
How do you see G/C Matt Skura moving around after the injury? (Todd Karpovich) "It's nice to see him back from that injury. He came out there and we've got him in some drills; start him off in fundamentals and technique. From there, we start putting him in plays, like today. He practiced really well for us today. So, he's coming on. The medical people, I'll leave that up to them – I coach. I let that department do their job, and when they tell me, 'Joe, he can do more.' We follow protocol here."
BOBBY ENGRAM – TIGHT ENDS COACH
Obviously, you've got two really good tight ends on the roster. But in terms of trying to find the guy who might be number three, what are the things that you've been looking for? How do you assess the three players who are, kind of, in the mix there? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We definitely have two good tight ends, and we, kind of, count Pat Ricard in that count as well. I know he's listed as a fullback, but he does so much stuff for us as a tight end as well. And the three guys … The two young, and one veteran guy who's been around, they're in tough competition. So, it's been exciting. They all bring something a little different to the table, but everybody is pushing hard to learn the playbook and get better at their craft. I'm looking forward to seeing how the competition shakes out."
Can you talk a little bit more about FB Pat Ricard and his ability as a tight end? Do you truly look at him and say, 'Hey, he could be a third tight end for us if we need him to be?' (Ryan Mink) "Obviously, he would be limited on some things, because, number one, his role in our offense is as a fullback. He's so physical. But he's in our room every day. We're growing him, we're learning him, and we're doing more stuff with him in-line. So, he's not your traditional tight end, obviously, but we're just really focusing on seeing [what] other ways he can help us. Pat [Ricard] is smart; he's handling a lot of information. He's a physical guy – and you know how we like to run the football. So, anything that we can do to expand his role is going to be a plus for the Ravens."
In what areas have you seen the most improvement during camp so far? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "During camp, I think the guys have improved. Specifically, just some route-running ability. I think Mark [Andrews] really worked hard this offseason. He changed his body. He's playing really fast. Specifically, just releases and just being disciplined in his route running. And Nick Boyle, he is running around really well. Obviously, Nick is a physical guy. You know, he's extremely important to what we do in the run game. Probably one of the best blocking tight ends – if not, the best blocker – in the league, in my opinion. But he really helps us in the pass game in a lot of subtle ways. We're just trying to grow and just understand what our role is in the offense, whenever we're called upon in run or pass and just perfect it."
TE Eli Wolf, obviously, has not been out there the past couple of days after he had that collision in practice. How difficult is that for a young player when he is, as you said, involved in a position battle – a tough position battle? (Childs Walker) "It's tough for any of us to lose time, but hopefully he'll get back soon. And the thing with Eli [Wolf] – just through all of the Zoom meetings that we had this offseason, we understood that he's extremely intelligent. He was able to process and carry over a lot of information. For him, at where he's at in his development, he's progressed rather quickly. So, hopefully we can get him back out there as soon as possible, but we anticipate him not missing a beat."
TE Mark Andrews – he went from a third-round pick to becoming one of the better tight ends in the league very quickly. Was there a moment where it seemed everything just clicked for him? Can you talk about his development, and if there was a moment that stands out in that development? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know if I could point to one specific moment, but I definitely think when guys start making plays, and they get more confident, and then you start getting more targets, you saw him just continue to capitalize on those opportunities and assert himself. Really, the change that I've seen is from last year to this year. He's hungry; he has a desire to really be the best at the position, and not only that, he works at it. He's a smart guy. And all of the guys in the room – they want to know the 'why's' behind the 'how's.' And they want to take that information onto the field and understand how it's going to make them a better player. So, it's a fun meeting room to be in; it's a brotherhood. Those guys work extremely hard, physically and mentally. I think the sky is the limit if he just continues to work and progress."
JAMES URBAN – QUARTERBACKS COACH
Obviously, he wasn't out there today, but with QB Lamar Jackson, how is this year different for you working with him in training camp than in Year One and Year Two? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We started, basically … Go back to the beginning with everything. That's kind of how I've always done it. So, in terms of fundamentals … Literally, start with the stance every year. And that way, it's like riding a bike. Third year with him, what I have noticed is he is much further along and was much faster to get up to speed in terms of the body, mechanically and throwing and accuracy, and those things. He looks like he's going into his third year of playing."
How do you see the speed during this training camp? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "The one thing that I've seen … And this is going into my 17th year in this league, is … And this is the strangest training camp I've had, in terms of guys getting up to speed and doing things the right way. This acclimation period that we went through is very interesting to me, because by the time we got to football, it made up time. Whether it was the NFLPA or the league as they joined together … That acclimation period I thought was very productive for us. And once we got the pads on, it's been, pretty much, football as normal. Once we get out on the field, it's been football."
QB Lamar Jackson had one of the best quarterback seasons that a quarterback has had. He's a young quarterback. What specifically would you like to see him improve on in this next year? (Jamison Hensley) "Here's what we talk about all the time; like all of the high-end, great players – whether it's basketball or football – you talk about Brett Favre and Joe Montana and those guys. It's always [about] putting more tricks in your bag. Basketball – they learn [how] to shoot a jump shot. Then, they learn the fadeaway. But they never lose the ability to drive the lane. So, we're never going to lose the ability for him to take the ball and run, like he does, and that great natural ability. We don't want to coach him out of that, but we do want to improve the pocket passing consistency. Certainly, he had great flashes of it and the accuracy is there. We just want to always chase perfection. We know this is not a game of perfect, but that's what we're chasing. So, the improvement of certain types of throws, and then becoming more consistent with making those types of throws."
What can you tell us about your role with QB Lamar Jackson this offseason? This is a guy who didn't exactly have your typical offseason for an NFL player. He was in the limelight, but at the same time, he seems to take it in stride. How do you see his offseason going? What was your role with him during it? (Bobby Trosset) "Lamar [Jackson] and I communicate frequently. This year was a lot of doing it like this [virtually]. Listen, Lamar is mature beyond his years. You guys have heard that, you've seen it. His ability to handle those things and stay focused on what his goals are, which is to win a Super Bowl, many Super Bowls … That's the goal; that's everybody's goal … But that's, really, what he lives. All the other stuff … He and I have this conversation – at some point, when he's old and gray, and he's sitting sipping some lemonade with the grandkids running around, maybe he'll remember these things. But right now, now is not the time for reflection. Now, [it's] 2020 and we're moving on and we're trying to get that big prize at the end."
Speaking of that – you work with a lot of really motivated players who want to win the big game [Super Bowl]. QB Lamar Jackson talks about it all the time. How is he different from other players, or special in that regard, in his desire to win a Super Bowl? (Ryan Mink) "It's unceasing, it's burning – there is no Lamar [Jackson] … If you took that away from Lamar Jackson, he would not be the person that you see every day, that we see every day. It is short of an obsession, but it's an obsession – if you get what I'm saying. This is what his goal is – to lead this franchise to a Super Bowl. That's the way he views it. That's just what he wants to do."
This is, obviously, a really challenging offseason that I think hurt the young players more than anyone else. Wanted to get your thoughts on what you're seeing from QB Trace McSorley, and even QB Tyler Huntley coming in as a rookie? (Luke Jones) "Listen, all three of those guys – Robert [Griffin III], and Trace [McSorley] and Tyler Huntley have really been working hard. They were all diligent through the offseason. And the one thing that we gained, is we probably did more football 'Xs' and 'Os,' theory, studying of our passing game, studying of defenses, than we've ever done, because we weren't getting ready to go on the practice field. We just didn't have that opportunity. We still had all the meeting time without watching practice film or preparing for practice. So, we gained something there. I would say that Trace is having a really good camp. He looks good; he's worked very, very hard. And all signs are pointing up for Tyler Huntley. It's not too big for him. He's done the work, the mental work. And then when he has the opportunity to make throws, he's making some really good throws. I'm just really happy with the room and the guys that I get to work with every day."
MATT WEISS – RUNNING BACKS COACH
We all can see RB J.K. Dobbins' explosiveness. But when you think about whether or not a rookie running back is ready to contribute immediately in the NFL, what are the kind of cues you're looking for and how is he faring in those areas? (Aaron Kasinitz) "J.K. [Dobbins], I've been really impressed with. I think every day, his athleticism, his physicality, his vision – all the things that make a great running back – show up on the field. I think honestly, though, I've been even more impressed with his mindset, of his make-up, which is really his competitiveness, his work ethic. He's kind of wired a little bit differently. I think that's really a credit to J.K., first of all, but also a credit to the scouting staff, to [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta]. Those guys do a great job getting that background information and then synthesizing it into the draft process. I knew that he was good that way, but sometimes you never really know until you get a guy in the building. I've been really impressed. That's why we have one of the best scouting staffs in the league. I'll give you guys a quick example: A big part of the culture here, you guys probably know this, but just hard work. The weight room is huge, [head strength and conditioning coach] Steve Saunders does a great job, gives us a competitive advantage across the whole league. That's part of the culture that [head coach] John's [Harbaugh] built. It's like a hardworking … We work here, that's what we do. I tell rookies that right away. I said, 'Hey, J.K. You're going to go into this weight room. This is part of being a Raven. You need to do a great job in the weight room. It's valued here. It's important.' He's like, 'I know. I've got it. I love the weight room.' 'OK, great.' So, the first few days of training camp was nothing but strength and conditioning. So, we find out … I hear from people that he's in the weight room doing the workouts just talking trash to the strength coaches nonstop. I knew that they secretly loved it, but I asked him, 'J.K., why do you do that? I mean, these are the guys telling you how much weight to put on the bar, how many reps to do. Why would you go in there and talk trash? That's just going to make your workout harder.' He said, 'I'll tell you why I do it. I do it because I know if I talk trash, I'm going to get the attention. They're going to be focused on me the whole time. I've got to be at my best. And I know if I'm talking trash to them, they've got to be at their best. So, we're both going to be at our best, and I'm going to have the best possible work out. So, that's why I do it.' I just think that that kind of speaks to who he is. He's just a really rare guy that way. Not having any preseason games is disappointing for a guy like that, but I can't wait to just see what he does on the field in live action."
What are you doing to polish each running back's skills? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "That's a great question. I think one thing about our room is that we have tremendous diversity of skill, so they're all a little bit different. I think that helps in terms of cohesion in the room. I think it helps in terms of synergy and making sure we get the most out of the position, where we can leverage guys' strengths and put them in positions to be great at their strengths. The other thing, too, I love about these guys is whatever weaknesses they have, they can do everything. Gus Edwards isn't known as a receiver, but he can catch the ball. He can run routes. He can surprise people that way. Justice Hill is a little bit undersized. He is a great technician at pass protection. So, we work to leverage everybody's strengths and put them in position to do their strengths, but also to strengthen their weaknesses as well. So, to your question, we focus on that a lot."
Another question on RB J.K. Dobbins. With your interaction in the draft process and your interactions with J.K., was there anything that kind of stood out and made you think this guy would be a good fit for the team? (Jamison Hensley) "He had a great interview at the Combine, and from the little bit of background I'd done, I knew that he was a great make-up type of guy in terms of football intelligence. That's another thing about him. We had watched old San Francisco [49ers] film from when [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] was the offensive coordinator there to watch Frank Gore. We pull up the film and right away he knows, 'Hey, there's Joe Staley. There's Mike Iupati.' He knows all the players. I mean, that's just really uncommon. In terms of the draft, like I said, I knew he was good. I didn't know … In terms of his make-up, I didn't know it was like it is. I've been really impressed."
I think a lot of fans are still talking about four running backs and how you get them all involved. How do you like the diversity of what they bring to your rushing attack? And do you feel like, 'I can find reps for all these guys?' (Ryan Mink) "That's definitely something that I've seen out there a lot, and I for sure expect, and it's definitely something that we're working on. I would say this though; there's an African proverb that you guys have probably heard. It says, 'If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.' And I think that's the mindset of our room, in terms of ... All these guys, I truly believe that they would all start on most NFL teams, [and] if any of them ran alone in our offense, they would have a chance to lead the league in rushing. But our offense wouldn't go as far, [and] our team wouldn't go as far. I think they all have that mindset. And they're better together; they truly are – just from the standpoint of the synergy you get from being able to be fresh all the time in games. And between games, week-to-week, not having to carry the load like that makes them better players. The fact that we have diversity of skill, and we can leverage their strengths – like we talked about – makes everybody better. And the other thing too, just with our group is these guys all really like each other, and I know that from being with them every day. To give you an example, they took a running back trip to Brazil in the offseason. This is pre-COVID-19, obviously. I've never heard of an NFL position taking a vacation together, so obviously, they like each other, and it just speaks to the fact that they all want each other to do well. They're the happiest people on the sideline when the other guy is running the ball and scoring and getting yards, or whatever it is. And that's really helped too – to have that culture already established – to bring in J.K. [Dobbins] when that's already the culture in the room, to get him involved with that too."
What do you know about the logistics of that trip? Was that something that a veteran like RB Mark Ingram II would've put on? And then, if it was him, how do you view him entering Year 10? He was a little bit banged-up at the end of last year. What are you seeing, physically, heading into this season? (Bobby Trosset) "Mark [Ingram II] definitely is the leader of the group, and he helps set a lot of that stuff up. You'd have to ask them for more details. I definitely respect the question too, in terms of the age and all that, but truly, I think Mark is ascending. There [are] aging curves at every position, and obviously the running back aging curve is a steep one – which is I think what you're getting at – but I also think there [are] aging curves for every skillset. We know speed deteriorates the fastest. When I look at Mark's skillset and why he's good; he's super athletic, he's powerful, he has great vision, great contact balance, [and] none of those things deteriorate quickly with age. In fact, many of them get better with age. And so that's what I see from Mark. And as long as his body stays intact and everything's good, which it seems to be … He's talked about it before; he's never been the guy taking 300 carries in a season. So, I think he's great. I think he's an ascending player. I don't think he gets enough credit for the type of athlete that he is. Anything that we want to do – whether it's the footwork – you can just articulate that, and he can do it. It's amazing. I think he's an underrated receiver. To give you an idea of the type of athlete he is, he actually won the seventh and eighth grade USGA Youth Midwestern Regional Tournament two years in a row. He shot a 78. That's verified; you can look it up. So, he's a phenomenal athlete, and that doesn't go away; that doesn't deteriorate with age, so-to-speak."