Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
**So the three specialists you have, Morgan [Cox], Justin [Tucker] and Sam [Koch] – they have a great relationship. I guess what's it like for those three guys in the meeting room? The camaraderie that those guys have together… *(Matt Vensel) *"Now that they've all been together for a year, this year is probably a bit different, because they've been through a few games and a few battles together. They know each other very well – they're friends. But, the thing that's really encouraging for me is they're all really professional. They give each other enough space where if somebody is working on something, they'll help them. That's what we're trying to do here – we're trying to win. They're trying to be as good as they can possibly be, and they help each other and they push each other, and they assist each other in that journey."
**It must also help you to have such a great group, in terms of skill, with your three specialists – probably up there in the top of the league … *(Matt Vensel) *"I don't do the rankings. I just know we have three really quality people and really three really quality specialists. We feel good going into the season with them."
I know you said this time last year you tweaked a little something in Justin's [Tucker] technique, which really got him kind of focused in and he's a big technical person. Are you guys fearful that you'll lose that o r… I mean, he's been bombing monsters out here, so chances are he's found it and then some. Can you talk about that a little bit? (Glenn Younes) "Yes, he's been through a lot of games since that point. That was a long time ago – I don't even remember it. He doesn't remember it, hopefully, either. He's very sound, technically. He's got great coaching from [kicking specialist] Randy Brown. He works on his fundamentals every day, and something by now is engrained in him and he's not done doing it. I think that the best example that he has to follow is Sam Koch. Sam Koch is a guy who has been working on his technique since he got into this league – since I've been here – every year he has worked on some specific thing to make himself a better player during the offseason. This year is no different. He's out here grinding every day with a very determined look and trying to improve on what he did last year, which was a record-setting season. Justin [Tucker] watches Sam work, and I think he's learning how Sam has developed over the course of his career and he understands that while he had a really good year one year, he's just getting started."
**Justin attempted a 71-yarder the other day in camp. What's the longest kick you've seen him make? *(Garrett Downing) *"I honestly don't know. I couldn't honestly answer the question – mid-60's, I'm not sure. But, that was not in game situations, like [the 71-yard attempt] was a game situation. That particular play was as much for the defense – actually more for the defense – than it was for the field goal team. We try to practice that end-of-the-half situation, where someone is taking a long field goal at the end of the half. And, like every other team in the league, we try to return it, because there's no time on the clock – there's nothing to lose. And it's no fun to practice that if the ball goes through the uprights and out through the end zone. So, we have to move him back far enough so we can actually catch it in the field of play and practice the return – that's what that was about."
Could you see him attempting a mid-60-yarder in that situation in a game? (Garrett Downing) "It's so different in games – you never know what the conditions are. He's got a strong leg, and we're going to use the weapon that we have. You have to strategically go into the game saying, 'When would we use this?' The field-position gamble is not worth it during a normal game situation, it's just not worth it – percentages are not with you. At the end of the half, with three seconds, you really have nothing to lose, so you try to find out his range, see how far you can make it from and make sure your protection is good. We don't change the timing of the kick, and we just make it a normal field goal. And if he doesn't make it, it's nothing lost."
**Situation where he will tell you how far he can make it or … *(Cliff Brown) *"We communicate a lot during the course of the game. We'll go through a pregame warm-up and practice from all distances, try to judge the wind. During the course of the game, we communicate with one another – how the weather has changed, how the wind has changed, how the balls are that we're actually kicking – because we're not actually kicking the balls in warm-up that we're kicking during the game. So, all of these things come into play when you're making that determination."
How much do you thrive during training camp knowing that there are so many rookies and undrafted free agents that where they are trying to battle it out especially on special teams and trying to make the squad? *(Kris Jones) *"This is a fun time of the year for us. We are giving a lot of players opportunities right now. We have – for example – our punt team is as deep as it has ever been. We have so many contributors that we're practicing multiple punt teams right now, where typically, at this time of the year, we're just honing it down to just a few more guys. We're practicing a lot of guys. We're going to be able to play a lot of special teams players during these preseason games – to get a look at what it's like in a game. Really, that's important to us. Practice is practice, games are games. We want to see how guys react in game situations. The beauty of the way we practice is we practice fast, and we're getting a lot of guys reps, so that they're going to be ready to play in those preseason games."
**With Vonta Leach back, Kyle Juszczyk is probably going to make more of an impression on special teams. Knowing that fullback experience, are you going to try to play in different positions? *(Kris Jones) *"Kyle's [Juszczyk] role in special teams would have been big regardless of whether some other player was here – in this particular case, Vonta [Leach] – because he can really help us on special teams. He's a really good athlete. He's got a lot of skills that we can utilize. And for an offensive player, he's remarkable in a couple of ways defensively – which a lot of offensive players don't have those defensive skills. It showed up in the Senior Bowl last year. Frankly, we saw it before he got here. He's practicing well. His role is going to be big, but it was going to be big anyway."
There are a lot of guys getting reps at both punt and kick return right now. Is Jacoby [Jones] the No. 1 at both those spots right now? (Garrett Downing) "Jacoby [Jones] had a pretty good year last year, so we've got to understand that he's probably going to get some grace from the coaches when we make the depth chart. From that point on, we also understand that roles change during the course of someone's career. We hope he's here a long time and at some point in time, when there's someone that can take his reps, and be just as productive so he can focus more on offense, then we're willing to do that. That's why we try to develop so many players – depth is a good thing. If we have another player that can play gunner and also return kicks – width is a good thing, too. We have guys that can do more things. This is that time of year when guys can show us what they can do."
**Along with that, is Deonte [Thompson] a guy you'd be looking at? *(Glenn Younes) *"Deonte [Thompson] has been practicing every day as a returner, yes."
Jerry, with the change at the Pro Bowl format and not having the kick return, is that disappointing a bit? (Kris Jones) "I don't know the details behind it; I heard it today. But I don't really know the details. I heard they're not having a returner at all? (Reporter: "They're eliminating kickoffs from the game.") *Why are we playing? Let's just have a banquet." *(laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
**How do you like the fire that QB Joe [Flacco] has shown throughout practices? He seems to be the voice of the offense. *(Ryan Mink) *"He's competitive, as you all know, and those of us that have been around him understand that's just the way he is. I think you're probably just noticing it a little bit more, but he was also a lot like that last year as well, in case you didn't notice, and probably even before that. I think everybody's paying a little bit more attention to him, obviously, at this point. Joe gets his job done, but he does a great job of leading, and he certainly loves to compete."
**Too much back and forth between offense and defense, just the right amount, or not enough? *(Glenn Younes) *"When [head] coach [John Harbaugh] thinks it's enough, he'll let them know. Right now, I think the banter is good, and it's competitive. Every single day is a real, tough competition. That's what makes us all better."
**Now that you guys have settled in without TE Dennis Pitta, what adjustments do you perceive for the offense? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Well, obviously I think what you do is you look at the unit … You have to be able to play to your strengths. Dennis brought some things to the table, and now we've got to look at some other guys to do some other things well and what they do well. [We have to] work [with] that, and try to figure it out. We may call on some to expand their role just a little bit. We're looking at all that. We're working our way through. We're doing a lot of different things at this time at training camp, so it's going to be fun."
**John Harbaugh talked about FB [Kyle] Juszczyk being versatile enough to maybe do a few different things? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Juszczyk is a very, very versatile guy. He does a nice job, not only from the fullback spot, but also, he can line up at a number of different positions. He runs routes well. He has very, very good hands, and he's smart enough to learn multiple positions. So, he's one of those guys … We have a number of guys who I think would be able to play multiple roles for us."
**You voiced confidence in TE Ed Dickson the other day. What in particular have you seen from him in camp so far? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Ed is big, strong, fast – [he's] a very, very capable guy. You can see he can stretch the field, run and catch. He's been doing that for quite some time. We just might have to do some things to maybe even get the ball to him a little bit more from time to time. But he's going to be an integral part of what we do."
He looks like he's having a really strong camp so far. Why do you think he's playing so well right now? (Ryan Mink) "I just think that he's been maturing, been coming along, getting better and better each and every year. He really started to come on last year. You could see him really start to show up during the playoffs, and I think he's just building on that."
**You were talking about playing to your strengths. In the aftermath of the [Dennis] Pitta injury, you guys brought back FB Vonta Leach. Is it nice to know you have it if you need to rely on the running game more? *(Luke Jones) *"Certainly. Obviously he's a Pro Bowl fullback – a big, strong, powerful guy who does a great job of establishing himself in terms of the run game. But he's also very, very athletic enough to get out on the flanks and catch the ball. We've expanded him as well – used him in formations where it's not just your typical fullback location, and he's done very well. To have him back in the fold is great for us."
**On TE Ed Dickson again – he seems like he's become a more well-rounded player this past year, and he's started blocking more. I think that's helped him realize how important his skill set is, too, now you can open it up a bit more without Pitta. *(Glenn Younes) *"I think that Ed has always had a good sense of self. I think he knows himself extremely well. There are areas that he certainly looks to improve. He's been working on his blocking on the line of scrimmage and in-line blocking – things of that nature. He's improving. He has worked on every phase of his game – route running and catching the ball – and I think you're going to continue to see him develop and get better and better and better. We've been really pleased with him."
**You mentioned QB Joe Flacco's leadership. How would you describe him as a leader? What type of leader is he? *(Ryan Mink) *"He's probably more of a leader by example. He'll go banter back and forth with guys, particularly if there's an issue to be discussed, but for the most part, he's going to lead by example. He's not a big 'rah-rah' guy. He will focus in on what he's doing, and sort of carry guys with him because of the way he goes about his professional life. He studies hard. He's attentive in meetings. He knows our offense, and he continues to get better."
**WR LaQuan [Williams] had a shoulder injury. It seems like he has played well aside from the few days that he missed with that shoulder injury. *(Matt Zenitz) *"He was out for a couple days, but he's bounced back. He came back the other day, and since, has been playing well. [He] made a couple nice catches today, and I think he's another guy who's really maturing and developing. He's catching some balls for us. He's got speed. He's got power. We'll see if he can continue to develop."
**Today was the first day as far as the full team practice with [No.] 14 WR Marlon Brown. Coming back from the ACL, what did you see from him today? *(Matt Zenitz) *"The first day is kind of tough to judge a young man, but you can tell that he's got a skill set. He's long. He's got speed. Obviously, the first day out there is a difficult task. This game is a little different ball game, but he's a young man that is willing. He is very capable, and we're anxious to see what he can do."
**What has been your impression of the wide receiver battle so far in camp? Is anybody sticking out? *(Ryan Mink) *"All across the board, every single guy has been working extremely hard. From the guys, obviously … Jacoby [Jones] has been working extremely hard. Tandon [Doss] has been working hard. I mean, the whole group of guys … Torrey Smith does a tremendous job out there, working and developing the rest of the guys. You see guys coming along and making strides, and it's a good battle right now."
**How would you size up the battle at center right now? We've seen [Gino] Gradkowski and [A.Q.] Shipley share time. *(Luke Jones) *"They're both doing well. They're sharing time because we want to see exactly how they're going to do under different, unique situations. The great thing about it is the fact that we've got a great front to work against. [We have] big, powerful people on defense. That's certainly going to put every single guy to the task. What we say when we go out here in practice is that if we can block the guys across from us on this field, we'll be in pretty good shape and ready for the competition we're going to face during the season. So, those two guys get some great work in the middle, and they've just been fighting along. Both of them have been performing extremely well, and we feel good about their progress."
**Just to follow up, how critical is the communication? Matt Birk was a guy who had been in the league 15 years, making the calls up front. How critical will that play into it? *(Luke Jones) *"That's a very, very important part. The center's job is not only to take care of his assignment from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint. He is like the quarterback in the line. He has to be able to certainly get everybody going in the right direction, making the proper adjustments, identifying those that should be identified. The way in which [run game coordinator] Juan [Castillo] structures his teaching, those guys really have to do quite a bit for us. Joe has been around and knows the system, so he can help a lot in that regard. But nevertheless, that part of it – the mental part of the game for a center – is difficult."
**We mentioned Kyle Juszczyk earlier. Just having Vonta Leach back in the mix, how much more freedom does that give you as far as Kyle and your wish to use him in different ways? *(Matt Zenitz) *"One of the things I think Kyle's probably happy about the fact that Vonta is back [is] because he had to take 20 goal-line plays in a row the other day. So, I know he's pleased about that. But it certainly does give us a chance to take him and move him around just a little bit more, because obviously Vonta can take over that fullback spot and be able to give him a spell here and there. And we can branch out a little more with Kyle."
**Was using him in different ways something that you guys planned for before bringing Vonta back? I know, just seeing him out there, he was practicing in different spots even before Vonta re-signing. Kyle even mentioned that yesterday. *(Matt Zenitz) *"He has the ability to do a number of different things for us. He's got the size to block on the line of scrimmage. He's got the ability to get down the field. He's got very, very good hands. Like I mentioned before, he's a guy who is smart enough to handle a number of positions. From an intellectual standpoint, he can handle a strong load, and that's going to be good for him."
**How has it been for you to have the offseason to work on putting your quirks into the offense, and now being able to install them here? *(Kris Jones) *"Having an opportunity to put a whole year and a whole development of a system together – it makes a difference. It makes a difference just in terms of being able [to gain more] familiarity with the system [and] with the people you are working with. But just like anything else, we lean heavily on the guys we work with. Our coaching staff does a tremendous job. We have a bunch of guys up there that know this offense extremely well and do a tremendous job with it, so we have good players to coach. That all has been fun, so the whole year has been a real challenge. It's a challenge every day. It's not going to be easy from here on out, either."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Pretty spirited practice out there today? (Kevin Richardson)"Every day, it's every day [that] it's spirited around here."
*It seems like that competition at safety is spirited, too. James [Ihedigbo], [Matt] Elam, I know there are other guys in there, too. What have you seen from those two guys in particular? (Matt Zenitz) *"I'll tell you what: It's day to day. Everybody is competing for a job. I still think … I don't know. I don't know who I would pick right now. It's just a really competitive situation right now. That's great for us. It's really great for them, because it makes them play even harder and get better. Right now, I just think that we have some depth there, because everyone is competing real hard."
What have you seen from James [Ihedigbo] in the early part of camp? (Matt Zenitz) "The thing about James [Ihedigbo] is one thing that is going to carry over from last year is that he is a multiple position guy. He can actually get out in the box in our sub package and play as a linebacker and do some things. [He is a] pretty good blitzer – all those kinds of things. The good thing about him right now is he kind of knows the package probably a little better than maybe Matt [Elam] does, so we can do more things with him."
What have you seen out of Matt [Elam] as rookie? What do you like out of him so far in camp? (James Searls) "He's fast, and he's tough. He's fast, and he's tough. That's what you want in a strong safety. The guy will come hit you. Yesterday, he had a play where he showed his closing speed on Tyrod [Taylor], who is very fast. The guy can run, and he can hit. He's a smart player, and he just needs to keep on learning the system and getting used to it. He still makes the rookie mistakes and stuff that eventually he will get rid of. What I told you … We always ask three things out a player: Be tough, be smart and give great effort. When you are fast and give great effort, that shows up."
**I noticed Lardarius [Webb] making some plays in the red zone today. I know you have been sort of cautious with giving him more and more rope on the field, but it seems like it's going in the right direction? *(John Eisenberg) *"I'd agree with you. I think it's going in the right direction. I think he's starting to feel comfortable. [Secondary coach] Teryl Austin is doing a great job of kind of monitoring him and getting him in on situations that aren't maybe going to be a lot of contact right now. We know what he can do. He's a veteran guy. We need to get him ready for the season. I think Teryl has been doing a great job with that. I agree with you. It's coming along, and we will get him back."
*Can you talk about Chykie Brown and what areas has he improved? *(Ryan Mink) *"Chykie [Brown] has improved maybe as much as anybody on this football team in the last couple of years. I really think that he's come light years from where he was. Now, he still has his moments, but all 11 have their moments; I have my moments. *(laughter) It's just a matter of … He just has to become more consistent. Really, maybe of anybody that has been here, he may be the most improved guy that I've seen in the last couple of years."
**What is he doing so well right now? *(Ryan Mink) *"Just playing better, just playing football better. Overall, he's always had speed. He's had length and long arms. His arms haven't grown in the last two years. It's just now he just knows how to use them. It's the same thing. He's always had the speed, but sometimes speed can get you in trouble if you are looking at the wrong things. Now he's starting to look at the right things, playing more instinctively. Now all those physical attributes that he has are starting to show off because his mental game has improved."
What have you seen from Brandon Williams at nose tackle? (Matt Zenitz) "He's, again, a very strong, tough guy that has very good … The secondary and linebackers, I always talk about quickness. Upfront, I talk about suddenness. I know it's quickness, but there is a difference between getting off a block sudden, and he's a guy that has a suddenness about him – if that's a word. He's got some power. He is [the] same way, kind of like Matt [Elam] – there will be some times when it will all kind of runs together. We are not a simple system. We don't line up the same way every down like some teams do. So, that's to be expected. We will work through those. I'm very pleased with him and really all those guys and how they are working."
**I know [assistant general manager] Eric [DeCosta] said after you guys drafted [Brandon Williams], seeing him at Senior Bowl he looked like a typical 3-4 nose tackle from what you guys had seen at that point. I know it's still only a week into training camp, but now that the pads are rolling, have you seen some of these characteristics? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Yes. Those guys that we drafted, I will say this about our draft class: What we saw on film and what our scouts told us about these guys has been exactly right on, spot on. I'm not disappointed in any of them."
*Is [Brandon Williams'] versatility enough to play some three-tech, too? (Jason Butt) *"They all do. Our guys learn multiple positions up there. There's nobody on this team that doesn't know more than one spot. Really, the guys up front, we try to make them know all three, and then try to figure out what they do best. All of our linebackers know a couple of spots. All of our secondaries know a couple of spots. So yes, they know them all."
In the secondary, Jimmy Smith in Year Three, do you see him taking that extra leap this year? (Jason Butt) "Absolutely, I think he's playing with a lot more confidence. I said that the other day when the question was asked. I think the Super Bowl helped him. I think the playoffs helped him. I think he's starting to feel very comfortable. He's playing more consistent. Like I've said, we are a long, long way from where we need to be at. I'm painting a positive picture, because I feel really, really good about these guys. But, we are a long, long ways from where we need to be opening day."
Is confidence a big thing, especially for the cornerbacks? (Garrett Downing) "Confidence is a big thing for all of us, including me. When you are calling a game, if you are on a role and feeling confident, it's better [than] when you don't. It's not a good day. It's basically in the back end. When I used to coach the secondary, I said, 'You know what you are? You are the guy standing on top of the cliff and a guy is dangling over, and he's holding on to a chain, and you are the guy holding on.' They miss a tackle up front, no one knows the linebacker. They miss the one in the back end, everyone in the stadium knows it. Same way if the ball is over the top of the end. A guy can miss a sack, no one talks about that, but they talk about the one gets over the head. When you play back there, you live on the edge. You live on an edge of a cliff. That's part of the fun. That's the fun part of coaching back there, too."
More teams are using 3-4 receiver sets more than ever. What's the challenge of the defense having to defend teams when they spread you out like that? (Matt Vensel) "The biggest thing is you have to try to match speed with speed. You can't sit in there with a big group. You have to try to match up the best you can personnel-wise to what they have. You also have to be smart about it, because teams are smart enough to get a group on the field and keep them on the field and try to run the ball. We just have to do a good job. The good thing is if you really look at our playoff [run] last year between Indianapolis, Denver and New England – who does that better? I think that we've kind of learned a little bit. We've had some experience with that. Really, to be honest with you, every day out here … [Offensive coordinator] Jim [Caldwell] does a heck of a job substituting on running on different personnel groups, hurrying up, getting on the ball, the way John [Harbaugh] has us practicing tempo. I'll tell you what: It's a workout for the coaches. It's really good for us. We just have to do a good job of putting our best personnel on there and trying to match up the best we can."
*You said the team has a long way to go, but you are also confident. Is the versatility in your DBs one of the reasons you confidence? (Glenn Younes) *"I'm really confident with the front seven, too. I feel like we have some guys up there. There's a little bit of depth. There's a lot of competition. The biggest thing that I like right now in camp is the fact that there's competition at a lot of positions. It's not one of those where you walked in last year and said, 'OK, I know who the 'mike' 'backer is and I know who the free safety is.' Now all those things are a little bit up in the air, which is a different situation, but it's not a bad situation, because there is a lot of competition, and I just really like the way our team is competing right now."
**Can you talk about Chris Canty, what you've see from him, what type of leader he is becoming in the locker room? *(Kristen Berset) *"True pro. I can't say enough good things about him. I have no idea what he was like at any other team, but I'll tell you what: He has walked into our room and just fit in like he has always been here. He is a really good pro. He studies. He asks great questions. When you give him a tip or something you think you see, he takes it. It's not one of those, 'I know what I'm doing.' He's really a great pro. He's a great addition to this defense."