TUESDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: BYE WEEK
Ravens Assistant Coaches
Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen
Opening statement: "We'll shoot just like coach [John Harbaugh] always says: 'Appreciate everyone being out!' (laughter) Great work in the bye week. Guys [are] getting better, and we're excited and getting ready for the second half of the season."
What changed about the run defense over the last couple of weeks to tighten up that group? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The first thing is, you always dissect what the problems are and everything like that. It's never as good as you think you are, and it's never as bad as you think you are. Obviously, we got some bodies back. We have Carl [Davis] back, who is a big body; we have Brandon [Williams] back – that obviously helped. As you look at it, it's really just 'tightening the screws,' as we would say. If you think about the Chicago game, when everyone was like, 'The world is ending!' … OK, they had 55 rushes, and at the end of the game, at halftime, they had 3.4 [yards] a carry. It's still not great, but 3.4 is about near the Top 5 in the league right now. The biggest thing is [that] we have to hustle to the ball and make tackles. I just think the last two weeks … We started with the Miami game, we get the knockback up front, kept things in front of us, and if one did break, we had guys hustling and getting the guy down."
**What have you seen from DE Chris Wormley's development as a first-year? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Progressively, he plays a position in our defense where it's one of those positions where you're not going to get a lot of glory. Lawrence Guy has played it, Brent Urban has played it, as you guys know, Chris Canty. He's playing more square, playing more physical, and in the last couple of weeks, he's progressing pretty well."
What have you seen from DT Willie Henry? (Luke Jones) "Willie got thrown into the fire. We had some injuries, and really, Willie is a jack-of-all-trades. He plays them all pretty good. He's played the five [technique], has been able to play the one [technique], played the three [technique]. Then, in our sub-package, he's gone inside and gave us some pretty good play in there. Willie is playing steady. When we went to Oakland, and Carl [Davis] got hurt, he played pretty much the whole game. We didn't have Brandon [Williams] either. He played a pretty good guard … You guys know who he is, 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele], Pro Bowl player. He really showed that he can play the run and play physical. Then, he had to do the same thing in Chicago, and really last week, he had to play a lot of the snaps when Mike [Pierce] went down. He's done a good job, and he's really filled in well in his role."
**How much have injuries hampered OLB Tim Williams so far, this year? *(Jerry Coleman) *"Well, a little bit. We had him going earlier in the year, and [he was] showing great progress. Then he had a hamstring and a groin injury. Hopefully, we'll get him back, but that set him back a few weeks."
*What about OLB Za'Darius Smith? Head coach John Harbaugh talked about him yesterday with the issues of his penalties. *(Jerry Coleman) *"Sometimes the aggressive penalties like on that play there … We had a great flush by 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] and got [the quarterback] out of the pocket. 'Z' [Smith] came from the other side – I mean, really, he was flying in. You just have to be smart in the situation where if you see the ball thrown in today's day … If you don't tackle him as the ball is thrown, and it's not in the strike zone, you're probably going to get a foul. Even the one against Chicago – he did everything that … Officials have come in and showed us what is legal and not legal. He had the quarterbacks by the legs, but he rolled. He didn't maliciously go in. So, you just have to be a little bit smarter in those situations." *(Reporter: "Is that something that you will address during the bye week?") "Yes, we address that all the time; we try to coach that all the time. The head coach does a great job on Fridays, showing things like that to the team, and we try to address that. After the one where Matt [Judon] did hit [Marcus Mariota] legally, even their coach – coach [Mike] Mularkey – said it was a legal hit. They were looking for something. We tried to address it then. It's just the heat of the moment, spur of the moment thing. 'Z' was flying to the football; and when you see the ball thrown, and you're not hitting it as it's thrown, it's probably a good bet that you're [going to have to] lay off."
With the young pass rushers, do you feel if you get a couple of sacks, then the light bulb goes off and you build momentum from there? (Garrett Downing) "I think it's confidence. As you get one, you tend to feel a little bit more confident in doing that. You think back earlier in the year in the Cleveland game [when] Tim [Williams] blew right by Joe Thomas – who I know well – on the last play of the game, and it really should have been a sack, but threw it up just because it was the last play of the game. He's had some good hits. 'Z' [Za'Darius Smith] has rushed well the last few weeks; he got the sack against Miami. [If] you look back at Tyus [Bowser], Tyus is the same thing and has two sacks now. It's just a development and confidence thing."
Do you look at those young guys – OLB Tyus Bowser and OLB Tim Williams – and think that those are two guys that could really help you out in the second half of the year? (Ryan Mink) "Absolutely. We get in a situation where you get a lead, and you're rolling, those guys will be rolling in those situations – if they're both healthy and ready to go, which they should be."
Do you feel the best is yet to come with this group? I know you're not going to get DE Brent Urban back, but you've had young guys play and now you're getting some veterans back. (Luke Jones) "I think everyone now is a seasoned veteran – whether it's Willie Henry, who is getting thrown into the fire, or Tyus [Bowser], with 'Wink' [Don Martindale, linebackers coach] and I throwing him into the fire. Now it looks like, 'Hey, it's not how you start, it's how you finish in this league.' I learned that a long time ago. When the dust all settles at the end of the year, you keep chopping wood, keep grinding, and then good things will happen. I think, absolutely, the best is yet to come."
Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris
Obviously, you guys have dealt with a ton of injuries going back to training camp. As far as where this offensive line is now, do you feel pleased with where you are and the potential moving forward? (Luke Jones) "I think the guys have done a good job of continued growth, and I think we are still in that phase of continued growth. Nothing is ever settled. You try to settle it the best you can, but you are going to have injuries. You are going to have new people in. You have to get the timing of the new players in there. But we have been fortunate that, other than when Marshal [Yanda] got hurt, Matt Skura and Jermaine [Eluemunor] had to work a combination together … We had to work through that, and then Matt has been able come back and solidify that for us. Now, the last couple weeks, we have been able to have five out there playing together again, which has been good for communication purposes, for assignment recognition and for fundamentals and technique for development of execution of a play."
Have you seen T Ronnie Stanley raise his game in Year Two? I know you weren't here last year, but what areas do you think he has improved in? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Ronnie has been working really well. I can't judge from last year, and I am not going to do that. I can only judge based on [this year] and really see where he is operating right now. He is working daily at his position, and I see nice growth in the run game and pass protection. You saw on the screen that we popped the other day, he made a block. I know his helmet came off and everything else, but he still sprung the tight end for a nice run. He is getting more aware of all the offense and why and how it works."
How do you think the run game has come together? There was so much focus on it in coming into the year. Are you pleased with the strides you guys have made with run blocking and the commitment you have shown? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I feel very fortunate to work with [senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach] Greg Roman and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] and coach [John] Harbaugh. That was the philosophy. We wanted to improve and work on the run game. I see nice steady growth. We have had some setbacks sometimes, but then, all of a sudden, you are going to have a positive gain. We have hit some spurts where we are going to have some consistent runs, but then, we get back at it again. I think it is a daily work in progress for the run game as it is in pass protection and passing game. Where we are right now, let's continue to go. The good news is that we have another game coming up next week in Green Bay, and we will see how this running game works then."
Related to pass protection, QB Joe Flacco said he needs to trust the pocket a couple of weeks ago. How have you assessed the pass protection and giving him that pocket? (Bo Smolka)"I think our pass protection is growing. You have to pick up a lot of different stuff. If it is single blitzes or it is going to be multiple games … Last week, we were playing Tennessee, they were moving a covey of quail all over the place. Our guys, I thought did a really nice job of finding who they had to block, identifying him and then sorting him. I think the pockets continue to grow the more they have worked the protection and with Joe in the pocket with us."
How critical has it been to C Ryan Jensen solidify the center position? (Luke Jones)"Ryan has done a very nice job. He has taken ownership of it. He started in OTAs, and he has continued right now. He is a vocal leader up front and helps guide and direct those linemen and the running backs and tight ends. Like I said, he has taken great ownership, and I see great progress with him each week."
It is a different position, but how critical has his emergence been from that leadership standpoint with G Marshal Yanda injured? (Luke Jones)"That is real important. Your center has to be … He is at the middle of everything. He is the guy that communicates. Your guards do, too, but your center really has to do it. I always say the center is the eyes and voice of the coach. As the line coach, you want him communicating, directing, guiding an leading. You are not there, so someone else has to take charge. He does a wonderful job in that area."
Can you talk about the progress you've seen from G Jermaine Eluemunor? He got an opportunity to start for a couple games. Also, I know he's hurt, but what you see even from G Nico Siragusa, and how important this year is from a learning standpoint? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I'll start it off with Nico, because he was injured early. We saw really nice growth with him. We were working him as a guard, as both guards, and working him at center. He was doing a really good job of absorbing all of the offense, the communication skills, and then applying his technique and fundamentals. Unfortunately, he got hurt, and now it's a setback, but, it's a setback, in a way, that [means] he's going to get bigger and stronger. He'll mend and get back to rehabbing, and we'll see how he comes back in OTAs. With Jermaine, Jermaine has been a nice, steady, work in progress. We saw that when Marshal [Yanda] got hurt, we had to try to see who could assume that responsibility at guard. He and Matt [Skura] worked it out, and Matt has somewhat surpassed him – just because of production. As a coach, we look at who's productive and who's not productive. Not that Jermaine is not productive; he has just been a little inconsistent. That could be because of his youth, but he's going to continue to grow. He's growing right now, he's learning multiple positions, and I see nice growth with this young man."
We saw G Marshal Yanda scoot by on a little scooter today. To what extent is he involved with mentoring these young guys? (Bo Smolka) "Marshal has been on the mend, and that's the biggest thing that I could say right now. He's been trying to get well, and he's begun to get back in here for rehab. We'll leave it at that."
**Do you think T Austin Howard has been a good influence? This is a guy who was on the practice squad at the beginning of his career, maybe not high-profile coming out of college, and you have some young linemen who have a similar background. *(Luke Jones) *"Austin has done a great job; he's been a great pro. One thing I can tell you about Austin is he's going to try to do it as the coach asks [him to] do it. He applies himself. I always said an old dog can learn new tricks, and he's done that. He has really done a heck of a job. I think he has really improved in his … Run-blocking was a plus when he came in, when we signed him. The area that we felt he had to improve upon was pass protection, and I think technically and fundamentally, he's improved in that area. He works at it daily to continue to improve, and that's a great mark of a good pro when you see players do that."
Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram
It is no secret that the passing game, statistically, hasn't been able to get going, specifically at the wide receiver position. What do you think needs to happen to unlock not just the deep passing game, but also the intermediate passing game? (Luke Jones)"I think the passing game … Everyone is involved in that in the entire offense, just like the run game. I think for us, it is just staying focused on being detailed – running great routes, getting open and just allowing everybody to do their job and making sure we are taking care of our job at a high level as well."
You spend more time with WR Breshad Perriman than maybe anyone in this building. What has to happen for him to iron out some of the stuff, like drops, that have held him back? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Consistency is the key. Now, what does he have to do to be more consistent? Keep working, keep practicing. I thought last week he had his best week of practice. He made a few catches in the game, but there are a few that you would like to have. If he continues that work ethic in practice, it will carry over to the game, and he has to believe that."
Do you think WR Breshad Perriman can fight confidence at times? (Jeff Zrebiec)"You have to. This is a game where you have to play with confidence, and different guys go through it at times. But the thing about it is you have guys in this [meeting] room – Mike [Wallace] and 'Mac' [Jeremy Maclin] and myself – we are going to keep him up. He is a part of our crew. He is a part of this team, and we believe and we know he can go out there and make those plays. We just have to keep him up, and he has to make a few of those plays to get rolling."
Are you encouraged with what you have seen from WR Jeremy Maclin the last couple weeks since he came back? I know he was dealing with a shoulder injury.* (Luke Jones)*"I have been encouraged since he has been here. He is a veteran guy that knows how to play this game. He is smart, he can play inside, he can go outside and run routes. He has been great for this team. He showed up big last week. I think he was targeted nine times and made eight catches, almost 100 yards. Yes, he needs to just continue to get healthy and stay healthy and keep playing the way he is playing. We are probably going to ask more of him, as we are of all the guys in our room."
How have you seen WR Mike Wallace handle himself? I know people say he can be a little lightning rod sometimes if he is not getting the ball. How has he been in the meeting room? (Jeff Zrebiec)"He has been great. He came out here … He comes out every day to work. He came out during the bye week not feeling his best and had a great work day. In the meeting room, he is always asking questions about details of how we want the route run or details of the concept – what is the big picture? He has been nothing but a leader in that way, and I have not been around many really good receivers that don't complain when they are not getting the ball. I just talked to Mike about [how] he is a leader and everyone looks at him that way. Just make sure you are handling that in the right way. Guys respect that you want the ball, and I think he has handled it in the right way. He is very competitive and he feels like, 'Hey I have worked hard. I deserve these touches.' But some of that is he is open and the ball goes over here and the ball gets completed. That is kind of part of the game. But he has handled it the right way."
We asked John Harbaugh about WR Quincy Adeboyejo. Do you think he is getting close to being an option? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, he looked great today. Every week has been a little step in the right direction. It seems like [his knee injury] has been a little bit slow, but I know I stay on him about doing everything that he can and being a professional away from the classroom and away from the practice field. Those are kind of easy things, but when you get away from the classroom and the football field, what are you doing to keep getting better and keep getting yourself healthy? I think he is doing everything he can, but he is getting close."
Not to keep beating a dead horse here, but do you seem to think that if WR Breshad Perriman has some success on the field, the light would turn on a little quicker? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I just think that if you look at what happened last year towards the last half of the year, he finished up very strong. He had a lot of success on the field. It is not like he has not had success on the field. We just need to him to get going now."
*I know no one wants to make excuses, but you were an NFL receiver and played with different quarterbacks. How challenging was it looking back at the beginning of the season and knowing QB Joe Flacco was not on the field at training camp and knowing how important that time is to build rapport with a quarterback and a wide receiver? (Luke Jones) *"I think missed time, certainly in the passing game, could have an effect. Breshad [Perriman] missed some time early as well. But both of those guys … We are into the season now, and we kind of have moved past that. From where are now – in this bye week – we just have to figure out how to get better, how to make more plays, and specifically, we have to try to produce some more big plays, and we need to get some run after catches, whether it is getting the opportunity or creating the opportunity. The guys are in a great frame of mind. It is not a gloom and doom picture. You look at certain situations, and you look at statistics, and that is one part of the story. But we have played really well in spurts at times. We just have to do that throughout a full game."
Linebackers Coach Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"About the linebackers, let's just go down the list, and I am going to leave C.J. [Mosley] for last. Matt Judon at SAM has been playing at a very high level, and you see his confidence grow in every game. There have been some ups and downs, but I am really pleased with where he is at and the effort that he is playing with and the edges that he is setting. The sacks are starting to come for him, but he has a different workload this year than what he did last year, and he is feeling it. I think you all can see it, too, [with] how he changed his body type and everything else. I am really happy with where he is at. 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] is playing WILL for us right now. He has been very productive for us. He got a little banged up last week at Tennessee; that is why he was not out there today. I am really pleased with where he is at and where he has grown. He has only actually played linebacker for a year-and-a-half, and I am excited to see his development and the production he has brought to the position. C.J, I think we have all seen where he is at. He has taken his game to a new level. I really think that he is playing at a Pro Bowl level, which he is a Pro Bowler, but I think he is trying to even go higher than that. You guys know what that means. That is the three starters. If you guys have any other questions, I'm sure you can ask from there."
What have you seen from OLB Tyus Bowser? He earned Rookie of the Week against Cleveland, and then had a rough game against Jacksonville. Since then, he has not played a whole lot. Where do you see him needing to grow to be in the mix a little bit more? (Luke Jones)"At SAM, it is what I alluded to before with Matt [Judon]. He [Judon] has been playing so well, that I have not put him [Bowser] in there at SAM as much. I see him more as a sub 'backer, as a 'penny' defensive end. We have been moving him around in the sub package. He will continue … The last three weeks, I have really seen him grow up. It is always a process with rookies, and every one of them grows at a different pace, but I have really seen him grow up, and I really do think he is going to be a star in this league once he gets it. He is starting to get it in that process, with Tyus [Bowser]."
LB Patrick Onwuasor has basically taken that job from LB Kamalei Correa. What was it that established LB Patrick Onwuasor there, and what does LB Kamalei Correa have to do to play more? (Bo Smolka)"I think it is two-fold. I think productivity-wise, 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] has been more productive at the position and actually needed more reps, which has helped him be more productive when we made the switch. K.C. [Kamalei Correa], as the season progresses, roles develop. To help you all to see where I see K.C. at, I see him taking the 'Bert' role, Albert McClellan's role. He has done a great job on special teams, and he is really playing all three spots. I had him playing MIKE today some. He can play WILL, he can play SAM, and that is where his role is at right now. To answer your question, 'Peanut' just was more productive, and I went ahead and went with that move of putting him there full-time. K.C., he will spot 'Peanut,' but not as much as what we were doing earlier when we were rotating them."
How has coaching assistant Zachary Orr done in his transition? (Garrett Downing)"He has been awesome. He has been awesome. We all know that. He has been really good for 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] and K.C. [Kamalei Correa], because he has played the spot, and it is natural to give the tips there. It is great to have him back in the room."
Is this the highest level you have ever seen ILB C.J. Mosley play at? Is there one difference, or do you think it is just an all-around thing?"Yes, [it is the highest level]. I think it is the all-around game. I always talk to the young guys about waiting until you get your old man, dad strength. You know what I am talking about with that, when they hit that age. I think you are seeing him take a different leadership role. I know he is quiet. I know he is quiet in interviews. I know he is quiet in the cafeteria. But on the field, he is not quiet, and you can hear him play instead of seeing him play with the hits that he is delivering out there."
With the way the NFL has evolved into a passing league, do you see ILB C.J. Mosley as the prototype of the new age linebacker? (Jordan Schatz)"Sure. *(laughter) *I just see him as a linebacker. That is a good question. It has been a passing league for a long time, but the next question someone will ask me is, 'What about the run defense?' It is a fair question either way. He can do it all, C.J. can."
Senior Offensive Assistant/Tight Ends Coach Greg Roman
**How pleased are you to have a Top 5 run game through the midpoint of the season? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"The guys are working very hard at it. We're constantly reaching to find a level of consistency that we want to have. The guys have done a great job up until this point. They're really applying themselves, learning new stuff, and going out week to week and executing it. Every week is a different challenge. We want to build a run game that could adapt each week, to each different opponent. There are always things that we can improve on, but up until this point, I'm really happy with how the guys are working at it."
**Do you see adjustments every week with how defenses are playing you? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Yes, I definitely think [that]. It's situation by situation, as well – what they're willing to commit to stop the run. We'll definitely see some new things from different teams. Each defensive coordinator has a thumbprint, a fingerprint. The guys have done well adapting during the course of the game to stuff that they might not have seen on tape."
John Harbaugh called TE Nick Boyle the centerpiece of the run game yesterday. What is it about him that made him so critical to what your the team does? (Luke Jones)"Nick has proven himself to be a very reliable, dependable, physical presence, and also a Swiss Army knife, of sorts. He can multi-task; he can go up to the line of scrimmage and perform a variety of different things that might transpire. He does so in a dominant fashion. I think it all starts with his passion and his commitment to do it the best he possibly can every time. He's a grinder – and the guys like that make a real impact at what you're trying to do. He's been invaluable to us, thus far. As a coach, you're trying to always get guys to get a little bit better, and he's really committed to that. He really is his own harshest critic. He's always straining to get better, and that's what we're seeing from him: a young guy that's really learning all the little different nuances of playing the position. He definitely has. He's a tight end, but he plays a multitude of roles."
Your first year here, there was such an emphasis to establish a consistent running game. How much pride do you take in the fact that you are where you are right now? (Garrett Downing)"I don't really look at any of that stuff until the season is over. Now, we're definitely spending a lot of time this week studying what we do, and how we do it. The constant push is to really improve it. How can we get it better? I think once the season is over, if we earn the right to be at the top, then that'll be time when we can really look back and say, 'Wow, look at what we accomplished.' But, we have a lot of work yet to do."
Have injuries complicated the process of establishing a consistent run game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You know what? I just have to give credit to all the different assistant coaches on the offense. When their position – when they've had to make an adjustment – they just don't even blink. Joe 'D' [D'Alessandris, offensive line coach], Thomas [Hammock, running backs coach], and Rich [Angulo, assistant offensive line coach], and Andy [Bischoff, offensive assistant], and Bobby [Engram, wide receivers coach], and all those guys – they just 'next man up' and get them coached up. Gavin Escobar came in here at 11 o'clock on Monday morning before the Thursday night game, and he was ready to roll. To the players, and those coaches … It's just a full sprint to get them ready to go. Hats off to them."
Why do you think RB Alex Collins has been such a good fit coming in to what you do with the run game in its totality? (Luke Jones)"Alex is a good football player. Thomas [Hammock, running backs coach] does a good job coaching him. He's a really good talent. I loved him coming out of college; I remember him back at Arkansas. He's a really good football player, really like his spirit, and he runs hard. He's definitely bought in to everything we're trying to do."
**Are there certain things you'll have to do to take that next step in the run game? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I think it boils down to consistency. I think some weeks we've been as consistent as you may find; others, we need to keep pushing for that and not take any little detail for granted. I think it's going to come down to the details, and the fundamentals of things. That's always been the case. Running the football, though, starts with having the right attitude, and I think our guys have that attitude."