Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
**Do you like WR/RS Devin Hester Sr.? *(Pete Gilbert) *"I liked him from afar. Now that he's on our team, I love him."
What specifically about his skill set surprised you a little bit since he has been here? (Pete Gilbert)"One of the things I've really enjoyed the last few days with Devin Hester is talking football with him. I've learned a lot from him and what he looks for, what his style is, how he likes to approach the game [and] what his preparation fundamentals are. It's been really, really educational for me to listen to him talk football. That was something I wasn't aware of. I knew him minimally. I knew him from the Pro Bowl, but I never had that conversation with him at the Pro Bowl. I'm really glad he's on our team for all of the talents that he brings, but I'm also glad he's on our team because he's a really good guy. He really likes football, and he's really a wonderful family man. I have enjoyed getting to know him."
Did it become pretty apparent when he worked out that he still has a lot good football left in him? (Garrett Downing) "You do well in the workout … I think 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] addressed that. We put him through the paces, and then we did it again the next day. He had no adverse effects from the previous day. He looks great out here."
How difficult is it to get WR/RS Devin Hester Sr. up to speed so quickly? John Harbaugh said he plans on him being the returner for Week 1. What kind of challenges does that present? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We've spent some extra time together just watching tape together. We've watched some of his tape, and we've talked through some things. He has learned our system very quickly. The difficulty really is having our players play with him and understanding how he plays the game – every one of these guys – especially in a punt return when the play is a work of art. He is going to find space and go. We have to learn how to play with Devin Hester as our returner. And we will, and that's why we've been working hard in practice to try to get to know one another in that regard."
With 20 return touchdowns, what has made WR/RS Devin Hester Sr. significantly better than virtually anybody that has played at returner ever? (Pete Gilbert) "I wish I had my draft report in front of me that I wrote many years ago when he came out [of college]. The thing that makes Devin special in my view is he has the ability to break away. He has elite speed. He has change of direction skills that are also elite. He has hands; he has ball skills that are very good. Then, the other thing that people aren't really aware of when you watch him in some of these big returns is that he will break tackles. He has a strong lower body, and people bounce off him. That is a pretty good combination, and we are looking forward to having that on our sideline instead of trying to chase him."
Your draft report was glowing on him? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I haven't seen it [recently], but I remember early on that I was very impressed by him."
Wil Lutz got picked up by the Saints and Sean Payton said he had the best kicking workout he has ever seen. How proud does it make you that he got a job and how impressive he has been after working with you all summer? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Wil came in here and did a great job for us. Anytime you bring another kicker in camp, you are looking for a guy that can play in the National Football League. You're not just looking for a guy that can get you through practice. Wil demonstrated those skills, in my view, in college. He has a wonderful swing fundamentally, and I think I told some of you guys, he just needed to work on a few things, and I thought we could help him. With the teamwork that we have in this building, not only with the personnel department, but [kicking consultant] Randy [Brown] coaching him and our specialists embracing him and helping him while he was here ... Justin [Tucker], Sam [Koch] and Morgan [Cox] know a lot about kicking; they have seen a lot of kicks. Wil Lutz dove right in the middle of it. He was willing to listen, he studied tape, and he worked hard and took extra days of reps, and it paid off for him. This is one of the stories that, in my view, makes America great. You get a young lad that really no one knew about, he gets an opportunity and makes the most of it, and he is kicking in the National Football League on Sunday. We are all really happy for him and really proud of him."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
How pleased are you with how the emphasis on takeaways and quarterback pressure has manifested? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I think we saw more turnovers in the preseason, even though we didn't really overly pressure in the preseason many times. I thought we saw an increase in the turnovers. What I've really seen it in is out here in camp. We've had really a lot of different PBUs and interceptions – a lot more than what I've seen in the past. The thing of it is all of that is well and good, but now it has to carry over into the live bullets on Sunday. Now it's the season, and now we have to carry that to the field. All of that being said, I think the emphasis has worked. Now let's see if the emphasis continues to work when we really need it to work."
With OLB Elvis Dumervil saying he won't play in the first game, how are you feeling about the younger options at that position? (Luke Jones) "That's OK. Whoever is out there, I feel good about the guys that we have. I feel good about the guys that made this football team and made the 53- [man roster], and especially the guys on defense. I feel good about it. Would we like to have Elvis? Sure, because Elvis is a special guy, but we also have some other special guys out there, and I think it's an opportunity for these young guys to step up, get the adrenaline flowing in the first game of their career, and get after it. They've shown some things in preseason that I think we'll have the ability to do that. Hopefully, we'll be able to show that on Sunday."
Can you simulate Bills QB Tyrod Taylor's talent in practice? Have you used WR/RS Keenan Reynolds to help with that? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We kind of used some guys during some other practices and stuff, but Tyrod is one of the best athletes I have ever been around – ever. Just watching him out here do things, even when he'd be out here catching a punt and doing things, he's just a phenomenal, phenomenal athlete. I don't know that you can simulate that. Our guys have tried to do a good job that we've put in there. The quarterbacks and running backs and all of those guys that have done that have done a great job with it. We just have to do a good job on defense of doing what we're supposed to do – having good eyes and doing our technique, following our assignments and being where we're supposed to be. [LeSean] McCoy is the same way. When McCoy runs a sweep, it's like a punt return. You don't know where he's going to end up. I watched a film on him when he had four yards in the backfield on third-and-one, and he ended up gaining three, and nobody blocked anybody on the play. It was amazing. Those guys are phenomenal. It's not just Tyrod. They have Sammy Watkins out there. They have [Charles] Clay, who I can still remember from Miami and is a heck of a tight end that's got speed. They have a very, very talented crew. We have our hands full with all of them."
How much have you see of S Lardarius Webb's transition? Is he where he needs to be? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think so. I've really been pleased with where 'Webbie' is playing safety. I think he's more and more comfortable every day back there. It gives a little bit of a situation where you can almost play him as a third corner if you have to, because he has played it so much; he played nickel. With the addition of Eric [Weddle] back there, those two guys just really seem – and Kendrick Lewis – those three guys have really kind of meshed I think. I feel good about the safety position."
In terms of CB Shareece Wright, from the outside looking in, it looked like he struggled in coverage in the preseason. Do you have any concerns with that?* (Pete Gilbert)* "He was banged up [for] most of it. I'm going to build an excuse for him a little bit. We put him in there because we needed to put him in there, and he needed to play, but there was an awful lot of time early on in preseason that he was not at full-go. I'm not the trainers and I can't tell you, but he has been out there practicing looking like he's full-go this week, so we're expecting good things."
Do you feel better about where CB Jimmy Smith is from a health standpoint? He has talked about how much the foot was still an issue for him last year. What are your thoughts on how he is looking at this point? (Luke Jones) "Same thing. I feel good about all of those guys right now. I think, health-wise, we're probably about as good as we can be. We had a few guys out a couple of weeks ago – not getting any time in the Saints game and getting a little time there for guys to heal. I don't think we have any excuses right now. I think we are as healthy as we can be and ready to go, other than Elvis being out. Jerraud Powers would be the other guy. We have a bunch of able bodies. We have to play."
You mentioned CB Jerraud Powers. Do you like what you've seen from CB Tavon Young and even CB Will Davis, who has played a little bit of nickel? (Luke Jones) "Even Anthony Levine [Sr.] has played, and Anthony Levine has made a bunch of plays here in the preseason. We have guys that can go in there and play it. Same way, we'd love to have Jerraud, but we don't have him, but we have some guys that I think are very capable of doing that. Whether we play one guy at one time or whether we substitute and play different guys at different times, we might have different packages. You never know."
Does WR Sammy Watkins remind you of anyone or does he have a unique skill set?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*"He's a little bit … This isn't recently, but he's a little bit of Randy Moss in that he's long and he's fast. Randy was always faster than what he looked like. He looked like he was loping, but he was running. What he has is an innate ability to go get the ball. You just watch film, and there are just so many times he's covered, and Tyrod puts it up, and [No.] 14 comes up with it. That was Randy Moss. He just had a way of never showing his hands running down the field. All of a sudden a DB is trying to play the hands, he doesn't show them, then all of a sudden he shows them and they're on the ball. To me, he is a little bit like him in that he is a deep threat every time he lines up, every time he lines up. Randy was that way for his whole career."
Dean, OLB Matthew Judon has gone from playing against smaller schools at the D-II college level to getting to this level of competition. How impressive is it for someone to go from that level to this level in a short amount of time?* (Glenn Clark)*"It's impressive, but I think sometimes we all overthink that thing. Where did [No.] 84 [Antonio Brown] from Pittsburgh come from? Where did Jerry Rice come from? I think we overthink these things. An athlete is an athlete. There are a lot of guys that don't get recruited out of high school for whatever reason; maybe they're small. Do you guys remember [John] Offerdahl that played linebacker for [Western Michigan]? This guy was a 195-pound kid coming out of high school. Nobody wanted him. The guy ended up being … I don't know how many Pro Bowls he went to as a linebacker. And he played at Western Michigan. That stuff is so overrated. A good athlete is a good athlete, and what happens is they rise to the level of the competition that they play. What happens is, they play at a certain level, and when they come in here, because they're still a good athlete, they rise to that level. There's just been so many of those guys around the league that I think the small school syndrome … I don't buy that anymore. An athlete is an athlete."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
I don't expect you to reveal any details of the game plan, but with your running back group going into this game, do you know how the carries might break down, or is it still up in the air depending on how the game is played? (Jamison Hensley) "I think the bottom line is we have some idea in how we want to work them in and rotate them, and then we will adapt to the game conditions and see where it goes. I expect to see all the guys playing and in there at some point in time."
Is it a tough balance between trying to get everybody involved and trying to not worry about not allowing a guy to get in rhythm?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*"Yes, in terms of our specialists, because of the nature of guys coming off injuries and missing some of training camp, we are going to be a community group for a while until we see how this thing sorts itself out. All of our receivers are going to get playing time, all of our running backs are going to get playing time, and all of our tight ends are going to play. We are not going to be in there with one unit playing the entire game. Everybody is going to have to play, everybody is going to have to be ready, and nobody is quite sure when guys are going to be out and when they aren't going to be out, depending on the weather and the amount of plays we are running. The bottom line is everybody has to be ready, and everybody is going to have plays that they are going to be up for, and nobody knows when those plays are going to be. Everybody has to be ready to know the game plan completely."
In terms of running back directly, is it tough to get everybody work, but not risk not letting guys get in a rhythm? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I don't think so. I think our guys expect to be moved around. [Running backs coach] Thomas [Hammock] has a great feel for that, and he really handles that with John [Harbaugh] and my approval, so to speak. He [Hammock] did a great job with that last year, and I expect that [this year]. He has a good feel for when these guys need to come out, when they need a break and if there is a play that they need to be in on. And if he feels like he can get it done, he will get them in there."
Have you made a decision on who is going to start between G/T Alex Lewis and G/C John Urschel? (Garrett Downing)"I'm going to leave all that up to John [Harbaugh]. He wants to make the announcements on who is going to play."
In terms of G/T Alex Lewis, how has he taken advantage of this opportunity? (Garret Downing) "He has gotten a lot of reps, a lot of playing time. He has certainly done a very good job when he has been in there. We feel good about our linemen that are going to be out there. They all have significant playing experience, other than the two rookies, and we certainly feel good about them. I'll let John determine how that is going to play itself out. But I would expect, depending on how much time of possession, depending on how many plays, the guys that are up are going to see some kind of playing time."
How confident are you in the left side of the offensive line? T Ronnie Stanley will be the tackle, and either way you will have a new starter at left guard. (Luke Jones) "I'm very confident in their ability. We will do whatever to help them and to provide an opportunity for them to get their feet underneath them. They have both shown us over the last six weeks and the spring that the game is not too big for them. We have high expectations for them to go out and play at a highly-sufficient level when they are in there. We will go from there."
Is it kind of exciting that you may not know who will be the star each week? You look at this team, and the depth is impressive. (Pete Gilbert)"I think that is fair. It is exciting to know that we have a very unselfish group of players. They certainly all want the ball, and I would expect nothing less from each and every one of them. They are going to play the game unselfishly. They know that they are going to be worked in and out and that everybody is going to get involved at running plays on Sunday at some level, in some quantity. It just depends how it is going to sort itself out. That is exciting – to see who is going to be in there at that one time when we need to get it done or who is going to make the play at an unusual time. They really do all have to be ready this time around."
It is harder to prepare for you guys in that regard, right? (Pete Gilbert) "I can't speak for that. It is exciting to know that we have guys that are trustworthy and unselfish and are good football players."
**How has WR Steve Smith Sr. looked to you, and how excited are you to see him back on the field knowing what he has been through? *(Luke Jones) *"I think that is the bottom line – the excitement for him, all the work that he has put in, the love he has for the game and passion and where he is in his career and how it relates to us a football team and an offense. I'm really excited to see that. I'm excited because Mike Wallace has new life here, and Breshad Perriman is coming off an injury and is going to have the opportunity to play. I'm excited for Kamar [Aiken] to see where he goes this time around in his second year not just being a receiver, but a reliable, dependable and durable guy who can go in there and play at different positions. It starts with Steve, certainly, but that is a formidable group. We will then see where Chris Moore fits in."