*TRAINING CAMP: AUG. 14 PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
**When you have a lot of young guys and are incorporating them on special teams, how big is a guy like LB Albert McClellan to send a message when you're not? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"One of my favorite things about this job is getting guys like Albert, undrafted free agents, particularly young players that you watch grow and develop – both as players and as men. Albert has now been here, I believe, eight years, somewhere around that. He is a team leader. He's not just a leader of special teams, but a team leader. His work ethic and the physical brand of play that he brings [are impressive]. His versatility is a huge factor, because he can play all three linebacker positions – it just depends on where we need him. He can go rush the passer if we need him to, and, as you all know, he's one of our best special teams players and has been for some time. What he brings to special teams is that same kind of physicality. He is a physical football player. In the classroom, and with the young players, he's a constant voice in their ear. He grabs guys specifically to sit by him so he can coach them while we're in the meeting room. He's a remarkable man, and he's a huge asset to our organization."
**I know K Justin Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, but it does seem like he has missed a few here and there in this camp? Is there any kind of concern when a kicker does miss? *(Jamison Hensley) *"We treat practices very seriously – just like for punters, kickers and all players who are practicing to get better. The results of Justin's training camp, I think, are positive. The kicks that you've mentioned, they're a part of training camp. We don't want to miss any kicks during training camp, just like we don't want to miss any kicks during the preseason games, nor do we want to miss any kicks during the regular season. But, it's a fact of life. When you're away from one another, the operation, the battery – Justin's training in Texas, and Sam [Koch] in Westminster, Morgan [Cox's] in Memphis – that doesn't come together right away. They've been working really hard together to try to get back in the same tempo and the same kind of productivity that we had in 2016. I have a lot of confidence in all three of those guys, particularly in Justin. He has, as you mentioned, an excellent track record. We're happy we have him, and we trust him."
The WR/RS Tim White injury is a setback in the return game, but what else have you seen from him, and can you break down the long WR/RS Keenan Reynolds punt return from last week? (Bo Smolka) "Tim White – that was a shot to the heart. We all saw his promise – most of us out on the practice field – you guys included. I was particularly encouraged by all the other things he was doing on offense. And, we had him doing other things on special teams. He was playing gunner. As I mentioned, those are some of my favorite guys, the undrafted guys that come in and [you] see them blossom, and he was doing that before our very eyes. That's why we push him forward, because we thought he had some special qualities. The injury bug bit us. I feel for him; I bleed for him. He's still here. His time will come, and adversity for one man brings opportunity for others.
"Keenan's return, specifically, was exactly what we want him to do. You may have seen Tim White's return earlier, [which] wasn't what we want him to do. He spun out and went to the sideline. Keenan hit it exactly how we like. It was beautiful, and I think Keenan also showed why he gained so many yards and touchdowns while he was in the Naval Academy. He ran a lot of inside running plays, and he can get vertical. He can put his foot in the ground and make people miss. He's developed a lot better ball-catching skills, both in punt return and kick return. So, he's going to get opportunities now to show us what he can do through the rest of training camp."
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"A quick review of the last ball game: It is a good start, and that is where we start – right there. We are working diligently to get better in all phases. We did some excellent things in the ball game, and we are working specifically [on] communication. It was good, but it has to be better. Our substitutions were good. It has to be better. I believe we had no pre-snap penalties; that is a good thing. We did have one clock problem down there with that third group, and then we also had a shotgun snap that we took care of. There are a couple of things right there. Fundamentals, techniques, communications, assignments – all good. We have to get better that way. Let's open it up to questions."
How tough is it shifting your offensive line? (Mike Preston)"The first ball game, you look at it, and I believe, three linemen, three receivers, one of the running backs [didn't play] – some of it by choice, some of it due to injury – all of those things. I thought the guys did a heck of a job preparing, and for the first preseason game, they did a heck of a job on the field."
How about now? G/T Alex Lewis is out, and you have a new tackle, T Austin Howard. You moved G/T James Hurst over [to left guard]. How tough is it now? (Mike Preston) "It is certainly a good thing … First of all, they are good ball players. It comes to them; they are quite natural. It comes to them very quickly. Second, it sure is a good thing that we made those adjustments now when we have plenty of time to get this thing done."
I know you have talked about versatility and moving guys around. Is it getting to the time, though, where you need to have more cohesion with whoever the starting five offensive linemen are going to be Week 1? (Luke Jones)"That is a good point, because typically, if you look around football, the line plays together. Five or six guys play together pretty much throughout the year, and that way you can stay pretty consistent that way. So yes, it is important. Really, with big Austin [Howard] and James [Hurst] in there making the moves there – terminology and with Austin, the basic snap count – all of those things … [Howard] has had much other terminology before, as you know, so he is off and running right about now. He is off and running. There will be a couple mistakes here and there, but he will learn from them and move on. It looks like we have just enough time to get that done."
What do you like about G/T James Hurst at left guard? (Garrett Downing)"James Hurst is a good football player, and he is a versatile football player. He most likely if asked could play, really, anywhere across the line. His versatility allows us to make that move with him and Austin [Howard], yes."
What do you want to see out of QB Ryan Mallett in this next preseason game? (Jamison Hensley)"There are several things: The one thing we have discussed is that he has proven he could play at that high level. Now, let's play at that high level consistently. Then, it looks like we are going to have some more players playing, so that will be a good thing for him. He did some really good things in the ball game, and then some other things, we missed just a little bit, and it was several people's problem there. Hopefully, we have that straightened out."
Understanding that QB Joe Flacco has been in the league for 10 years now, how much concern do you have as an offensive coordinator knowing that your starting quarterback is not going to get any of those live game reps this summer? (Luke Jones)"I sure would love to have him here. You have made a lot of good points today. You make a good point – there is no substitute for experience, and especially in this situation. It looks like we are going to have just enough time there to get him ready as long as he keeps progressing, and by all accounts, he is progressing pretty well."
You are always trying to get the best players here in camp. There was an acquisition today. Can you comment on that?* (Rich Sayers)*"Yes, Thad [Lewis]. He came in yesterday and had a terrific workout. As you know, he has been with several different teams. He has some starts under his belt – I believe that was Buffalo, if I remember right. I am thinking back; it was Buffalo. He is coming off of a knee injury, so that workout was important for him. Man alive! It looks like he is fully recovered from the knee. He has a big arm. It looks like he is really accurate. You can tell he has some experience under his belt. He is a really smart young man as well, and then he has some movement ability. He had a heck of a workout, and then he practiced pretty well today. I don't know if you saw, but with the physical and the paperwork and all that – he came out [to practice] with a couple periods into it. Boom, put him in; let's go! He performed very well today."
In the last game – just looking at QB Ryan Mallett – you talked about how there were some other players that might play this Thursday that did not last week. How much of the incompletions were on Ryan, or was it miscommunication or anything like that? (Jamison Hensley)"As quarterbacks, everything is our responsibility – period. Right? The ball is coming out of our hands – done. Everything is your responsibility; that is the way we approach things. Now, there are some details within it that we have to clean up, but that is the way we mentally go about our position and our game."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
What have you seen from OLB Matthew Judon? Where do you feel like he's made his biggest strides in becoming an all-around linebacker? (Ryan Mink) "The biggest stride is just the fact that he is learning SAM linebacker. He didn't play it at all last year, and just all of a sudden, taking over a new spot [can be challenging]. That is a big spot for us. That was Jarret Johnson, Courtney Upshaw, and that's always been a big position for us and a big position of importance. I'd say the biggest strides that he has made is being able to set the defense, getting us lined up on calls and doing those kinds of things. That guy has always done that job for us. Having never done it before and really not having done it in college, I think he's come a long, long way here in camp."
I think the results spoke for themselves last Thursday night. What would you like to see, perhaps improve on, maybe see something in the second preseason game that you didn't see in the first one? (Luke Jones) "Obviously, a continuation. Our biggest focus is … That is a start, not a finish. Our biggest focus right now is on finishing. What we need to do is we need to go back out there and do the same thing in Miami, same thing next week, same thing throughout the season. Three series is a long way from playing a game and a long way from playing a season. It was a good start. Not going to lie to you, I loved the way we started, but it's all about how we finish."
**You ran the dime package quite a bit. What do you like about that? You haven't necessarily run it a ton in the past; you practiced it. But, what do you like about that package, and specifically, DB/LB Anthony Levine, Sr. being on the field in that package? *(Luke Jones) *"Like anything, [when] you put more speed on the field, you're going to play faster – it's not rocket science. The thing about him was in the past, too, we kind of have been a little light at safety and felt like we needed to leave him at safety. So, this offseason, we made a little bit more commitment to try to maybe get him some work in there at the dime spot and be able to play it and be able to play it all the time – not necessarily having to get stuck in a situation where we can play it on any down and distance, rather than just on third down. Again, the more speed you put on the field, the faster the pressures are, the better the coverage is. We would like to do that in a lot of different ways."
*Can you talk a little more about DB/LB Anthony Levine? In baseball, you talk about utility players. Levine is probably as close to that as possible. How valuable is that? *(Bo Smolka) "It is great value. If you really think about it, we have several guys that have done that over the years. You have Anthony doing that at safety; he has played nickel for us. I think one game he might have even played corner for us. He has played dime. We have Albert McClellan, who has played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, RUSH and end in sub. He has done all of those things for us. You always need a couple of guys on your team that are just so smart like that, they go in there and plug in a hole, because you never know in a situation in a game, and all of a sudden you get a couple of injuries, it is not like you have a week to prepare to get another guy ready. All of a sudden, it is in the game, and you want to keep the flow going. When you have a couple of guys like that, it is just invaluable. I think sometimes that is overseen. A couple years ago, maybe it was when Ray [Lewis] was down – the Super Bowl year – we had a run there for some games where Albert went in there and played MIKE, and we won all three games. It is just stuff like that. If you are going to be a good defense and a good team, you have to have some guys that can do that. Those two guys really stand out, and we have some others, too."
CB Jaylen Hill just continues to make plays. It seems like it would be a big leap for an undrafted rookie to step in and be your starting nickel. But do you look at him continuing to make plays and think, "This guy has a legitimate chance of being that guy for us?"(Ryan Mink)"I think he makes a play, it seems like almost every day in practice, and the game does not seem to be too big for him. It was evident the other night. That is what you look for. You look for production. Everyone gets caught up in speed and numbers and size and height and weight and all that type of stuff. The bottom line is, can you play football? Can you be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there? So far, he has done a great job with that. The nickel spot is actually … It is kind of like [Matthew] Judon's spot at SAM. [Judon] gets us lined up in a way, it kind of starts with him. But, in some ways you can protect those guys inside a little bit more. Sometimes you can with outside guys, too. Just to go back on your nickel part … But to me, it is one of the most fun places to play on this defense, because there are a lot of things we do with them."
You guys have obviously invested a ton in the secondary the past couple of years between the draft and free agency. How good do you think this year can be? (Childs Walker)"I don't know. What is the last game of the season? I'll tell you in January. I don't know. Hopefully, they can be really good. I just think that … We have to go out and play, and we have to prove it. We have not proved anything yet. We played good for three series. That is what we have proven. We are so far away from being where we need to be to play a season and really be the kind of defense that we want to be. We are a long way away from that."