Thursday Practice Transcript - 11/17


Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg

What are you doing to rebound with the kick return team? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, we're practicing today. That's the first thing that's really important. What we did yesterday is we took David [Reed] aside, and we spent a good deal of time with [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery and myself going back to the fundamentals of ball security. Really, that's what it was, fundamental flaws. It's not a lighting strike; it doesn't happen by accident. There are reasons that it happens. There are reasons it happened at Pittsburgh, and there's reasons it happened at Seattle. We went about trying to correct it or fix it. We like David back there as a returner, but he won't be a returner if he puts the ball on the ground."

Are there specific drills that you can coach him in? (Mark Suchy) "Yes, certainly. These are the same specific drills that we've been using for all our offensive players and returners during the offseason, during training camp, or perhaps you've seen them off to the side. There's a variety of things we work on. There's a fundamental way to carry the football, and those principles were really not put into play. We've got to get it fixed."

It seems like he left his feet on both of the fumbles there. Is that something you don't want kick returners doing? (Dan Kolko)"Yeah, that's something we don't want. The first one, he left his feet. The second one, he left his feet because he got cut out from the backside. So, like many football players, there's a number of different variables that enter into it. But that is something we do not teach and we don't want David [Reed] to do. That's a part of the ball security, too, what position you put yourself in. When you do get in those positions, how do you protect the ball, not only with your hands, but with the rest of your body as well?"

You've got a couple of other guys that have done a little bit of kick return stuff with you in the preseason, maybe in LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. Are they options to kind of work into the mix perhaps? (Dan Kolko) "Yes, certainly. That's what we're working on today. We're going to have a good kickoff return practice, and we're going to find out who our kickoff returner is going to be for Sunday."

Do you sense that Reed is discouraged, or do you question whether he can bounce back? (Jen Royle) "I'm sure he can bounce back. David is a competitive athlete. He's looking forward to his next opportunity. We don't know when that is. I'm certain, when he does get in there again, everybody is going to be watching him with that in mind. But David is a competitive guy and he understands what he has to do to get that job back. He's got to earn the trust of everybody on this football team that he's going to hang onto the ball when he gets it. He started that path yesterday."

"Get that job back." So, did he lose it? (Jen Royle) "He will not be returning kicks for us on Sunday."

On Monday, John Harbaugh said those returns were blocked as well as they have been all year. Is he just having a problem reading… (Jason Butt) "We had… Well again, without going in all the details of it, there was a number of really good blocks. That was a quality kickoff cover team. I was really pleased by the number of young players who went into that game and did their job and blocked well."

In regards to Billy Cundiff and his misses from 50-yards-plus, when you go back and look at the tape, are you seeing mechanical errors or is it a collection of all three elements of the field goal game? (Mark Suchy) "This particular game was completely different than the St. Louis game. The St. Louis game, I think, we looked at it from a whole different perspective than we did this time. When the first ball left his foot, I started walking back to the 40-yard line because I didn't think there was any way it wasn't going to get there. I saw it leave his foot and it was straight and true, and I thought, 'OK, let's get the kickoff team ready.' When it fell short, it really surprised me. In pre-game, he had no problem getting it there. He made it from 58 [yards] in both directions. So, it wasn't a matter of distance, it was just a matter of playing the wind properly and getting the ball on line, which he did with the first one. That one, he thought he had a good head on it. The snap wasn't perfect, the ball was down. So we don't know what exactly happened to that ball when it was airborne. I'm not certain; I wish I could tell you because I really don't know. On the second one, we just didn't take enough of the uprights. The wind was blowing left to right, and the ball never came back. It was starting right at the upright. But he hit that ball… When he hit that ball, it left his foot, and I knew it would get there, but I wasn't sure it would stay inside. It didn't; it got pushed out. Each kick was different. But it wasn't a case where Billy didn't swing, or tried to aim it, or some of the things we had to deal with after the St. Louis game. It was a good, pure, firm swing, and neither one of them went in."

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron

How would you describe the chemistry between Dennis [Pitta] and Joe [Flacco]? (Tom Worgo) "Getting better. I think it's good, and it's only going to get better every game they play together. [They] did some great things in that game, and we're going to need it again this week."

Cam, going forward what do you do to try to involve Ray Rice more? This is the second time he had a 13-touch game. I know you guys want to, ideally, get him the football. (Aaron Wilson) "Yeah, sometimes defenses dictate that. There is nobody that wants to get Ray [Rice] the ball more than I do, or we do as a staff. Sometimes circumstances dictate. Now you are starting to try to throw it to a guy instead of handing it to him. That has its challenges. In an overall sense, by the end of this season, he needs to be a guy who is getting the ball as much or more than anybody in the League. That gives us the best chance to win. Philosophically, you get the ball to your best players, and he is one of them. Whether it's Anquan [Boldin], Ed Dickson, Dennis [Pitta], Ricky [Williams]… all of our guys. Hey, I feel you guys. I feel everybody when it comes to Ray, continually keeping him involved. I don't know how he stacks up across the League. We really don't care how he stacks up across the League. It's bottom line, giving him an opportunity to help us win."

Joe [Flacco] is on pace to throw one of the highest number of passes for any quarterback in the League in history. Are you comfortable with the balance overall, not from week to week, but overall for the course of the season? (Dan Kolko) "Every game kind of takes on a life of its own. We're not looking at it big picture as runs and passes. In circumstances, if you look, and I think you have to look into all the two-minute [offenses] we've had right before the end of the half, we have been in two-minute before the end of every half, which you are going to throw the ball a lot. We've had some success, so you are throwing the ball a lot, and then we have been in two-minute at the end the games. We were in the two-minute of the second half of two games, so there is no doubt it's tilted. If you look at our two Pittsburgh games, if you look at the Jets game, if you look at the Texans game, that's what we really want our offense to look like, but yet we have to be ready to run our two-minute offense, and if we have to throw it 50 times like we did against Arizona to win the game, that's what we're going to have to do. But, we want to run the football better. We want to run it more, but sometimes circumstances dictate that you have to do whatever you need to do to win the game. As far as numbers go, I really haven't looked at it in that way, per se."

Cam, how much do you balance, like when you line up, you want to run the ball, but they are not giving you the front? Do you sometimes say, "Well, we're going to do [this] because of what they're dictating vs. what you want to do? What's that process like? (Pete Gilbert) "There are several ways you go about it, but as you guys know, and this has been a little discussion for us the last couple of years, alert packages and check-with-mes, and we do a lot of that. A lot of the times, when the box is loaded, whether we're in a two-back set or a one-back set, Joe has the leeway to do a lot of things with it, and he has done extremely well. A lot of those completions are runs that went to passes. There are a lot of those runs that were passes that went to runs. We don't really want anybody to know when we do that or how we do that. But, there is a lot more going on there than you would imagine, but at the same time, you really don't want to get tilted one way or the other, especially on first or second down. Third down, we know it's pretty much a pass league, but we'd like to be more balanced. But again, circumstances – meaning score, field position, all those things – factor in. And, the bottom line is, whether we run it, we need to execute, whether we throw it, we need to execute. We're capable of executing both, especially [because] these young guys are growing at such a fast rate. Again, you saw what our tight ends did last week, you see what our receivers are doing – [we] may get a couple of guys back. We have to get better, that's the bottom line, and I think as we get better, you are going to probably see more balance, assuming the game doesn't dictate something differently."

Cam, with that said, in terms of cumulative effect with time of possession, with the defense, maybe they aren't as bruised up because you are not run-blocking them... Is that a concern when you do feel like out of necessity you need to throw, maybe at the end, your defense might be tired, or their defense isn't as tired. (Aaron Wilson) "Really, it's the opposite. You talk to guys that can rush the passer, rush the passer, rush passer, that takes it out of them. There aren't a ton of teams just bruising people up all the time now. But, you can take just as much out of them, making them rush the passer, and our guys did a great job. You've seen it several games. It just depends on how you want to look at it. There are times you want to be physical. We are going to be physical in pass protection. We're going to try to bruise people in pass protection. I think the game has evolved that way – you have to be physical on every down, run or pass. I think we have to kind of get away from stereotyping things as run or pass. It's really about execution, it's about throwing it and catching it, when you run it, hanging onto it, because our No. 1 issue is ball security – that's our No. 1 issue. We've done a tremendous job here the last few years of ball security, and it doesn't get talked about. It's one of those things that doesn't get talked about – which I understand that, when you are doing it well. Our biggest issue is ball security, and we have put our defense out there too many times where they are standing there with the goal line right behind them. That's really hurting us in ball games, and offensively, that is our responsibility. Our responsibility, whether we run or pass, is to make sure we don't turn that thing over. Stay aggressive, but don't turn that thing over. And, if your defense gets put back out there, let Sam Koch, one of the best punters in the world, punt them down to the other end and make them go a long way. Let's get back to the fundamentals of how you win games in this league. It's not whether you run or pass, it's how you take care of the ball, it's how you execute and how you work as a team – offense with your defense. And, our offense knows that. I am not telling you guys anything that we don't talk about all the time. Our goal is to keep our defense on the sideline, and if we put them back out there, make sure those men don't have a short field behind them."

Joe [Flacco] has had his share of ups and downs against the Bengals. How much of that can be attributed to the Cover 2 scheme that they play? (Ed Lee) "They're just a good defense. I think you've got to look at other quarterbacks that played against them as well. They really do an outstanding job. They've got an outstanding scheme, and they've got really good players. I think that's the thing that gets lost in the Bengals sometimes. Just look out there sometime – they've got good players, and they play hard. That's the important thing. That's the thing: We have to play hard in this game. We have to execute. The Cover 2 scheme, that's gone out the window. I think once everybody realized it wasn't a fact, everybody realized that it's just a matter of they have a good defense that plays hard."

So, is every onus on Joe [Flacco] to figure out where their vulnerabilities are and attack those? (Ed Lee) "Absolutely. Really, just like any other week, but it's been a couple of years now… People have quit putting just a safety in the middle of the field. They've done that to a lot of quarterbacks this year, but there are a lot of young quarterbacks or guys that they felt couldn't beat them outside. There's no doubt, we'll come out, and we'll see what most people do to us – give us a two-shell – and try to disguise what they are doing. But, that's been every week now since whatever game that was a couple of years ago, that they figured they better get that safety out of the middle of the field."

Cam, every defensive front presents its own challenges to an offense – be it 3-4, 4-3, any type of hybrid. What does a 4-3, what are the challenges when you go up against a 4-3 that makes that scheme tough? (Dan Kolko) "It's really the personnel. It's really not the scheme, per se. St. Louis was a 4-3 team. Arizona is a version, but they are 4-3 people. They call it a 34 personnel, but they are playing more of a 4-3. The Jets are more of a 4-3 than people would think. The Houston Texans are more of a 4-3 than people would think. They bottom line is that it's personnel. This team has good personnel, and they've given us some problems. But, in my view, they've got good personnel, and they make it hard on you."

Cam, you talked last week about going to Seattle how the crowd noise plays into that and how much of a factor you think that was, and how does that change coming home this week? (Garrett Downing) "That's a good point. Really, that's the only thing worth looking back at. Joe [Flacco] and I were talking. It's not even half as loud as our stadium. It's kind of why I phrased it that way last week. They may have had, in my mind, the loudest stadium, but they never had the loudest fans. They have constructed a stadium there that captures sound. I think we know that we have one of, if not the loudest stadium in the League. Crowd noise really was not an issue in that game as it relates to our ability to communicate."

Cam, with Lee Evans practicing and looking like he is going to get back on the field soon, how much of a challenge is it for you to work him into the game plan, considering he really only had a few weeks on the field with Joe [Flacco] early? It's been a long time since he has been out there. (Luke Jones) "Like I have said, that doesn't really affect Joe a lot. He is one of those unique guys that if a guy can get open, he can hit him, whether he has been with him for a week or a month. It's really going to be predicated on how he practices. He probably needs a week or two of good practice. I think that will help, because some of our other guys are playing really well, and we have some other options until he comes back. We'll see how the practices go. If he is practicing at a level that John [Harbaugh] feels and we feel he can help us win the game, then I am sure he will be active. That may take a week or two."

Ray Rice and Ray Lewis, yesterday, were both kind of talking about the ideology of using the run to set up the pass, but in today's game, is that principle still the No. 1 means for an offense to succeed? (Jason Butt) "Everybody is a little different, and It kind of works in cycles. There are a lot teams – there is one in Denver, there is one in San Francisco – that are winning, and they are running it, running it, running it and setting up the pass. Then, there are other teams when that when you have a quarterback who can throw it, who is accurate, you have guys that can catch and run, and you have the ability to spread people out. For us, it's a little bit of both. We don't need to revisit what we talked about earlier, but every team is a little bit different. Even with every team, every game can be a little bit different. You go against a great run defense, you might go one direction. If a team is struggling in pass defense, you might go another. We'd like to think at some point in time – hopefully sooner than later – we can do it either way. And, I think we have proven we can do that. The word that everybody is saying is 'right on spot.' Just spot on is consistency. This league is about consistency. The good news is our preparation is consistent, our practices our consistent. We have guys that are doing everything we are asking him to do. We just have to continue to work, and I think the harder we work, we are going to get more consistent. That is the bottom line."

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano

What are your impressions of QB Andy Dalton through the start to his career here? (Mark Suchy) "The kid's playing really well. I mean, he's playing beyond his years; great release, really poised in the pocket. They've got a ton of talent around him. They've got a great run game [and] their offensive line is as good as we've seen all year. So, he's playing at a really high level and gets the ball out quick. Like I said, he's got a great release and all that stuff. So, we've got our hands full."

After the run defense gave up 109-yards to RB Marshawn Lynch this past Sunday, what was the mood of the guys in the meeting rooms? (Ed Lee) "You know what, we don't want to give 100-yards up to anybody. But, when you break it down [and] you look at it, it was 42 rushes, and they averaged 2.8 [yards per carry]. So, that's a lot of rushes on any defense. You average 2.8, our goal going in is to hold teams to 3.5 or less, and we average 2.8. Again, we don't want to give anybody 100-yards. We had a chance and didn't get it done. So, they're not pleased with it."

What's your impression of RB Cedric Benson? Does he remind you of any other running backs you've faced this season? (Ed Lee) "It's the same. I mean, the guy is tough as nails. He's a downhill runner; straight-ahead, no fear dodging. He can jump cut, he can bounce it outside. We've got our hands full. We played him well last year. The two times we played him two years ago, both times he had over 100-yards on us. So, he's more than capable. We've got to do a great job with him."

Is CB Jimmy Smith showing you enough? He's getting on the field more in the dime-package, to maybe contribute more week-to-week? Or is it a more gradual scale because he missed so much time? (Pete Gilbert) "Yeah, he'll see a considerable amount of time. We've got to get him out there and get him going. So, yeah, he's ready."

How much does the Bengals' offense change if WR A.J. Green is unavailable? (Ed Lee) "They've got enough guys. Marvin [Lewis], he knows… He's going to come in here and, whether we're playing there or he's coming here, he's going to hand the ball off. I charted the last four times we've played them; it's 33 rushes a game. He's going to pound the ball, they're going to take their shots, they're going to throw two, three shots down the field. Get the ball out of that kid's hand quick [and] get it in their playmakers. They've got a tight end that can stretch the field. He's a big target in the red zone. [Jerome] Simpson's playing really good. [Andre] Caldwell's playing really good. So, whether he plays or not, we've got our hands full across the board."

Along those lines, does this game resemble the physicality of maybe a Steelers game? (Evan Washburn) "It's always that way with this team. It's a bloodbath. That's what it's going to be. For us, we look at it, it's like a 9-on-7 drill. We come out there, and we go inside run. There are no corners in there, [just] our front seven and our two safeties. It's going to be a bloody-your-nose type deal. We just got out of one, we've got this one, [and] we've got another one coming up. So, we've got to be ready to roll."

They have one of the top defenses in the league as well. Is there a pride element having two top defenses going up against each other? (Garrett Downing) "You know what, our guys just go out and play. Their goal, and our goal, is always to be the best in the NFL. We've just got to be better than they are on Sunday."

This defense always prides itself on its ability to take the ball away from the opposition. But, in the last four or five games, they're not creating as many takeaways. Is that something, as a coach, you want to balance and caution your guys not to try and do too much and still want them to make their assignment? (Luke Jones) "Yeah, and I think the game plays a lot… How the game is going, and the score of the game. If they're able to continue to run the football, and they're not having to drop back and throw it 35, 40, 45 times a game, you're not going to have the opportunities. But we're still going to emphasize it at practice. We're clubbing, we're stripping, trying to get picks in practice. We say, 'If you catch them out here in practice, you'll make them in the game.' They're just not giving us opportunities. They're not going to throw the ball down the middle of the field when Ed's [Reed] there. They're just not going to do it. Then if the score dictates it, and they don't have to do it, it makes it hard. So, our guys are frustrated. Our coaches are frustrated with it. And turnovers they come in bunches, you know? You get seven in one game and you go a stretch and you don't get any, like what's going on right now. We've got to get up on these guys and force them into some throwing situations. Then I think they'll come."

What about the pass rush and increasing the sack totals? It's been down a little bit the last two weeks, what are you seeing on the film and what adjustments can you make to get more pressure? (Mark Suchy) "I've got to send them more. I've got to call more. That's not on them, that falls on my shoulders. We've got to be more aggressive, and we've got to come after them. They're keeping more guys in to protect. They're running the ball a little bit more. So, we've got to, again, do a great job on first- and second-down and get them into throwing situations. No matter what the situation is, if they want to keep six, keep seven in, we've got to design… I've got to a better job of putting our guys in position to get after the quarterback. So I've got to go after him."

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