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Transcript: John Harbaugh Monday Transcript

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: BYE WEEK

Opening statement: “OK, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. We’ve been hard at work today, like we always are on Monday, and having a good day. Players are just wrapping up meetings now. We’ve been in meetings since 12:15 p.m. with the players. Coaches were here early, obviously, working, and then the players will have a workout session until 4 p.m. Then, we have a player development seminar from 4-5 p.m., so that’s the schedule the rest of the day for the players. Coaches will be working going forward. We’ll also be meeting tomorrow on football starting at 8 a.m. We’ll work until 11:30 a.m. with the players also, strength and conditioning and football work. We will not practice. We’re not going to practice tomorrow or Wednesday. I know that we’re better off resting at this point. I think our guys have been hard at work at it through a long training camp, and it will be good for us to get an opportunity to get off our feet and get our legs back, so I’m looking forward to that. There will be treatment, obviously, throughout the course of the week with the guys who need it, and the rest of the players will be away. The coaches will be working through the week. So, that’s where we’re at.”

Do you think with where you guys stand right now and rest and, obviously, as you said yesterday, getting some of these guys better, is maybe not all it’s going to take, but a majority of what it’s going to take for you guys to rebound? (David Ginsburg) “That’s a big part of it. It’s a long season, obviously. It’s been a tough stretch. We’ve played three really good football teams the last three games. We haven’t won them. Two of the three have been really tight, good football games, and we didn’t do enough to win one, two or any of those games, so that’s the difficult part. The ‘plus’ part is they’re good football teams, and we’ve been going hard. Our players have been playing hard. I watched the tape. I’d like to sit up here and say, ‘There are so many things we need to do and so many areas that we need to improve upon…’ There are areas that we need to improve upon. There are things we need to do, but when you watch the tape, it’s good. There’s a lot of good tape, and that makes me feel good, because I know the things we can work on are more directed. They’re more pointed. They’re more specific types of things, and also, schematically, things that we can look at as coaches and try to expand what we’re doing or tweak what we’re doing a little bit to cause people problems going forward. And, that’s one thing about the bye week that you have a chance to do. I think all three of the last teams that we played, you see, schematically, the things that they were able to look at over the bye, come up with ideas, and that’s what the bye is for. Teams use that for that purpose, and we’re going to get a chance to do that now this week, too.”

On the third down, I think it was the crucial third down against the Steelers at the end of the game, OLB Terrell Suggs was on the sideline; he was kneeling. Was there a reason why he wasn’t on the field? (Jamison Hensley) “I don’t remember that specific play. I’m sure there were third downs where Terrell Suggs wasn’t on the field. There’s a rotation there. He might have been on the field for a number of plays before that. We have a lot of confidence in our guys. Za’Darius [Smith], Matt Judon, those guys play fast. You want the fresher, faster player on the field, and there were some drives out there, too, where they had some longer drives, so you can’t have the same guys out there the whole time. We want to rotate our defense. I don’t know the play specifically, but Terrell played quite a bit, as much as we wanted him to, and he played well. So, I don’t think it’s a negative, per se, that we’d look at it that way.” (Reporter: ”I was just wondering if he was banged-up or injured.”) “Oh, OK. None, no injury.”

After getting a chance to look at the film, the two throws – QB Joe Flacco had talked about it yesterday, I don’t know if you had the chance to – the misses, the first one to QB Lamar Jackson and what you saw from that, and then later with WR Michael Crabtree in the first half. (Jerry Coleman) “I’m sure the things that Joe said, the one to Lamar, that’s the last part of his read. I’m sure he would have liked to have gone through all of [them]; that would have been the fifth part of the progression. But, that’s part of it. It’s a left-to-right read all the way across the field. If he’d have gotten to that, it would have been a touchdown. I’m sure Joe would have liked to have gotten to that rather than try the high throw over the top of the high-low route we had there. And, it got walled off. So, that’s what happened on that. And then, yes, he just missed the shake route to ‘Crab’ [Michael Crabtree]. That would have been one that he would have wanted to make.”

You mentioned yesterday after the game that you’d like to get QB Lamar Jackson even more involved. How difficult is it to balance and to kind of pick your shots with him, for lack of a better word, when you’re thinking about whether the offense is in a rhythm, when’s the time to do it? Has that been kind of a moving target throughout the first half? (Jeff Zrebiec) “It is a moving target. You hear … Probably, the best way to describe it is all the things you hear said. We have [TV broadcast] production meetings, and the different guys – the Troy Aikmans or the Rich Gannons or whoever they are – they all have an opinion on it, and it goes in different directions. You guys write stuff, and football coaches or people that watch the game have opinions from, ‘We shouldn’t play Lamar at all,’ to whatever other plays they think he should be in there running. So, that’s really a challenge, and all those things are legitimate. You want to keep your offense in a rhythm. You want to keep your quarterback on the field in a rhythm. But, you have a playmaker; you want to get him [involved]. And, you don’t want to just have him run the ball all the time. He’s not a running back. He’s a quarterback. So how many throws can you get him, and how many throws can you get him with Joe [Flacco] being not really a legitimate receiver out there unless they just abandon him? So that’s all the stuff that goes in to it. Just like for you, you’re talking about, those are the things we have to think about when we put that package together. All that being said, you do want him on the field. And when I say I want him on the field more, it’s because he’s such a good player, and you want to put your good players on the field. So that’s where we’re at with that.”

But overall, do you think, plays that you’ve used QB Lamar Jackson so far, are you guys pretty pleased so far with kind of the results that those plays have yielded? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Yes. The run game – he’s been on the field mostly for runs. Actually, he was on the field for the two-minute drive [against Carolina]. I don’t know how much you put into the two-minute drive against Carolina. It was a nice drive, but they were kind of playing soft there, in all honesty, but he played well. He made the [touchdown] throw. I don’t want to take anything away from it, either. It was a good drive. He’s completed some passes, had a nice one yesterday – a little scramble to the right. Missed one or two throws – the reverse pass was tough. I didn’t want him to tuck the ball. I wanted him to kind of hold it as a run-pass type of deal, there. Yesterday, we tried a reverse pass, and it just got covered. They played it really well, and he actually got four or five yards on it just by sheer athleticism. But, the stats say in our running game, when he’s out there, we’re over twice as effective running the ball with Lamar on the field. That’s even with the ‘10-man football’ that people say we’re playing. The numbers don’t lie there, either, so it’s been effective for us, and that’s probably why I say I’d like to get him on the field more, because you always want to do things that are effective more.”

Just for clarity, because I think when you mentioned that you’d like to see QB Lamar Jackson on the field more, was there, is there any consideration of, some people were like, “Oh, are you meaning he could start a game or anything like that?” (Jamison Hensley) “Joe [Flacco] has played well, so I don’t want to get into all of that. We’re rolling right now with what we have. But, of course, at some point in time. This guy is a quarterback. We’ve said from the beginning, and anybody that wants to dispute that, come to practice like you guys do, or you watch him play. He’s improving all the time. He’s getting better as a quarterback, an NFL quarterback, all the time. I love the guy. I love all of our guys. So, it’s not one against the other. It’s all 53 guys. They all have specific talents, and they’re all here for a reason. And Lamar Jackson, just like Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews and Kenny Young and the other rookies, they’re talented guys, and I want to see them on the field, and I want to see Lamar on the field, too. How to do that is kind of what we’re working through, so that’s what we have to figure out.”

Speaking of rookies, T Orlando Brown Jr. got his third-straight start. Have you seen him progress every game? (Todd Karpovich) “Yes, yes, I have – really done well. Every game, the footwork has been a little better, and every game you watch it, and there is still a lot more to get better at. This guy, there’s a lot to be written on his ledger going forward, and we just have to keep working on the fundamentals. He has talent, and he has toughness. He has a real mentality about him, a real right-tackle mentality. He’s like his dad, and that’s the greatest compliment that I or anybody else could give him. It’s fun watching him develop, and I’m excited about where he’s going.”

You mentioned the run-game production when QB Lamar Jackson is in there, but how much of a priority is it to get the run game working a little bit better when QB Joe Flacco is the only one out there to prevent it from being predictable, where if Lamar is out there, you’re running. If Joe is out there, you’re throwing. (Luke Jones) “It’s not so much that, because when we put Lamar out there, you don’t know who’s going to be the quarterback when you first make the call. So, what a team has to do is they have to put a check in there, which I think teams are certainly doing, whether Joe is the quarterback or Lamar is the quarterback. Now, we run the ball plenty of times with Lamar in the game and Joe at quarterback. So, you can’t say it’s pass defense, and when Lamar is in, it’s run defense. But, we’re certainly getting run-heavy defenses when Lamar goes back there and plays quarterback, which is why I want to throw the ball more when he’s back there playing quarterback, take advantage of that. So, that’s what we’re working for. To your point, I forget what the question was, kind of.” (Reporter: “When Lamar is not in the game, how much of a priority is it when you’re running in those instances to be more productive, because you’ve said that Lamar, your run game has been better when he’s been out there.”) “No question. Yes, we need to get that part of it, the standard running game, absolutely. We had some good runs. We had some well-blocked runs. I think the running game the last two games has been the best it’s been all year, in terms of getting guys to the second level. Getting guys past the second level, for the big chunk runs, is what we really need to do, and that’s what we haven’t done yet.”

You acquired RB/WR Ty Montgomery last week. Does that have anything to do with the status of RB Kenneth Dixon, or do you think after the bye you’ll have them both? Well, you’ll obviously have Ty Montgomery. (Jeff Zrebiec) “No, it didn’t have to do with that. It was more an opportunity [to] trade, the way I see it, to get a really good player. I guess I should ask Ozzie [Newsome, general manager and EVP] his thinking on it, so I can relay it to you guys. That’s the way I understand it. He’s a good a player. I watched him practice last week; he’s a good player. He’s a versatile player – he fits us. I’m looking forward to getting him on the field. Dixon is a different story. There are issues going on with him that are beyond our coaches’ control. We’re just going to have to wait for league clearance and things like that and all that. So, I don’t even delve into that, because it’s not my concern. Ozzie takes care of that. When he tells us he can practice, he’ll be out there. I’m hopeful it’s next week. I’m really hopeful it’s next week. So, we’ll know more next week.”

Were you insulted, surprised, by the couple of questions yesterday involving your job security? (David Ginsburg)“Not insulted – I understand that’s part of it – and probably not surprised, because you have to win games in this league. That’s the bottom line. So, I think that’s it – not really surprised or insulted. No.”

You had a stretch earlier this season where the defense didn’t allow a second-half touchdown. That has faded. Have you been able to diagnose why you were so dominant early and now you’ve faded a little bit the last couple weeks? (Aaron Kasinitz)“Boy, that’s a vague question. It’s play-to-play; it’s series-to-series. We haven’t done a good job in the red zone the last – what – three weeks, four weeks. To me, that’s the biggest issue, if you want to talk about why they’re scoring touchdowns. We were stopping them in the red zone earlier in the year; we haven’t been now. To delve into that – yes, I could give you a lot of reasons that are specific reasons. One of them is they’ve run the ball in there too much. Yesterday I thought [Pittsburgh] had a good little cross-release play against man coverage they caught us in to get the running back the touchdown [in] the right corner of the end zone. It’s play-to-play, as far as why they’re scoring, but it’s our job to just put a stop to that. We have to put a stop to that, especially in the red zone. We’ve been a great red zone defense here for many, many years. For us to have this stretch where we’re not stopping people in the red zone is something that’s kind of ticking all of us off a little bit, and we all want to be better at it.”

Is there a consideration of keeping QB Lamar Jackson in for a series as another way to give him opportunities? (Jamison Hensley) “I would say that’s an option, yes. We talked about that option, too. Every option that you’ve thought of, we’ve talked about. So yes, that’s a possibility.”

Everybody knows WR John Brown’s ability to make big plays. Are defenses doing more compared to earlier in the year to take them away? If not, are there things that you can counter when they do that, that you need to take better advantage of more? It seems like he’s not getting the big plays. (Cliff Brown) “One of the big things to get the ball down the field [is] you have to protect. The last week or two has been a problem for us with some of the injuries that we’ve had. We haven’t been able to protect long enough. We had him come open a couple times, where we just haven’t had time to get him the ball – that’s one thing. Second thing is people are playing zone coverage a lot of times in those kinds of situations – early down, play-action situations – where they’re playing deep. They’re forcing us to … We hit the tight ends a few times underneath. Joe [Flacco] just has to read that top-down and throw it to where the opportunity comes. The third thing is man-to-man coverage at times is played well against us. We have to break down man [coverage]. Whether it’s John or anybody else, you have to break down man coverage, and you have to beat it and drive them out of man coverage.”

Do you expect the bye week will allow enough time for everyone who’s a little banged-up to recover and be back? (Jerry Coleman) “I do, I do. I think all of our injuries are along those lines. Then we’ll be looking at a few guys coming back potentially – Maurice Canady, maybe, guys like that. So yes, this should be [beneficial]. The timing is pretty good right now that way.”

QB Lamar Jackson had a fumble on the exchange with RB Gus Edwards. What happened with that? Overall, how has Lamar’s ball security been? (Aaron Kasinitz)“Overall, it’s been good – but that was bad. That was bad technique. He’ll tell you that. With any kind of an option, I go back to my dad’s days as an option coach at Western Kentucky: It’s the same old technique. You start the ride deep. You start the ride just back as far as you possibly can, and you ride it to your front hip. When you start the ride at your back hip to your front hip, it’s just six inches to make that decision. It’s too quick. So, you’ll tend to hold on to it to make sure you’re right, and that’s what he did. He pulled it late. He should have just given it there, but he just wasn’t sure, and he pulled it late. You start the ride back here (motions along back hip) and ride it to your front hip, and you have enough time to do that. So, [it’s a] fundamental thing that he can fix like that.”

With T Orlando Brown’s development, do you see it possibly reaching the point where he becomes talented enough that you want him on the field later in the season somewhere on O-line? (Jonas Shaffer) “Yes, that’s a great point. To me, it’s competition, man. I mean, it’s competition. He’s, by virtue of the circumstance, I think he’s wedged his way into that conversation. That’s a good thing for us.” (Reporter: “Is that more of a consideration given the flexibility you have with guys who are also on the line?”) “Well, it does help that way, too – you’re right. The fact that you have one more piece into the puzzle, so to speak, kind of bolsters all the other pieces. That’s going to be fun to watch.”

I know it’s nine games in, but do you feel like you’re getting the production you anticipated form the rookie class? (Ed Lee) “Right – the production from the rookie class. Yes, I would say so. I’m really pleased with it. It’s been really good. We work those guys. They come in, we keep them two weeks after the vets leave in the summer, we bring them in a week early. They work at it, and because of that, they’re playing for us. We need them to play for us. You watch them play – they can play better. We keep chasing that, too, but I’m really pleased with the way those guys are playing.”

With the pass rush, lack of sacks in the past three games ... Is a lot of that down-and-distance situations that opponents aren’t in second- or third-and-long situations? Do you see that as a big factor in that? (Ryan Mink)“Yes, a lot of it was in this last game, [when the Steelers] were in third-and-5 a lot. They were able to get the ball out really quick – and that’s what Ben [Roethlisberger] does. Their pass protection was excellent. We were not able to create much pressure one-on-one. They’re big, they’re strong, they grab you, they lock you in there, and it’s legal. They had three holding penalties that were very much holding penalties. I might have wanted a couple more that I saw – but that was fair. I give them all the credit in the world. Ben does a great job. We had him in our grasp numerous times, and he dumps the ball to the back, he throws the ball away, throws the ball out of bounds one time in the pocket – at least, I thought he was in the pocket. He’s great at that. He’s tough to get down. But it’s not just this game. It’s the last few games. I think people are game-planning us that way. If you get them into third-and-long, they usually have to hold the ball a little bit longer or a quick out, come get you off the field. A quick out, come on third-and-5, that doesn’t always get you off the field. That’s important for us.”

With CB Marlon Humphrey back, CB Jimmy Smith’s snap count went down a little, but it seemed like in the second half he really played well. Was he considerably improved from his first games back? (Jonas Shaffer) “Yes, very good observation. I think two things: The fact that he’s back more … He played well – Jimmy played well. Then, the fact that we have … This is the best corner situation we’ve ever had here, by far, since I’ve been here. We’ve got a lot of good players. Anthony Averett went in there and played pretty darn well, too. Cyrus [Jones] is improving all the time, and I think he’s a good player. You go down the depth-wise … But to have Jimmy and Tavon [Young] and Marlon and Brandon [Carr] … The fact that we can roll those guys around and keep them fresh, keep them sharp, is a big plus, especially the fact that we want to play aggressive coverage. We want to play a lot of man coverage and cover people and lock people down. We were playing pretty darn good receivers yesterday, and I won’t take anything away from them, but we feel like we can cover anybody in the league. I don’t care if it’s third-and-5 and less or not; cover those slants, cover those crossing routes, deal with the picks in a good way. Those are things that we expect to do with the kind of corners that we have.”

Was CB Tavon Young alright, or was he just one of those guys that needed rest? I don’t think he finished the game. (Jonas Shaffer) “The Tavon … with the rest?” (Reporter: “Yes, I just don’t think he finished the game. He had an ankle [injury].”) “Right, right. I don’t think it’s a serious ankle, [as it] turned out. Matter of fact, I know it wasn’t. But yes, the rest is going to help Tavon. He’s been really putting some reps up. This week is going to be big for Tavon.”

Closing statement: “Just to make one last point. When you watch the tape, we played fast; we played hard. But are we as fast as we were earlier in the year? Probably not – we’re probably a step off just because it’s Week 9. This week is going to help us. It’s going to help us pick that step back up. I’m really excited about that.”

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