THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 7 vs. Saints
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
How did CB/RS Cyrus Jones look in his first couple returns for you guys? _(Jamison Hensley) _"He got off to a good start. The thing I like best about it [is that] he looked like he was poised, he was under control, under the ball, handled the ball well, made a couple guys miss, got a few extra yards. There's room for growth, but it got off to a good start. I particularly like the fact that he made a tackle in kickoff coverage, and he played gunner for us. So, as a returner, that was a positive."
Did that surprise you, that CB/RS Cyrus Jones was going to be helpful in other ways than returning punts? _(Pete Gilbert) _"No. I've watched all of his college tape. I've seen him play football. He's a football player. And, I seem like I say this every week, but we like guys who can do more than one thing, and Cyrus being the football player that he is – he's a second-round draft pick corner – so it doesn't surprise me at all that he would go in there and make a tackle and go play gunner for us. It bodes well for his future, because we need those kinds of players."
John Harbaugh, when he was asked about OLB Tyus Bowser yesterday, him being a healthy scratch, talked about the other issues that go with it, special teams being one of them. What does he have to do to help you guys out more on special teams to where he doesn't have to face that reality? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"I think Tyus' situation was simply a numbers, roster, gameday situation, and every game is different. You match up against different teams in different ways, and I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen this weekend. But one thing I have seen from Tyus [is] he's been practicing very well, probably the best I've seen him practice. I'm looking forward to him helping us win games down the road. I don't know when exactly that's going to be. It may be this weekend, but the things I've seen from Tyus in practice, I'm very encouraged by how he's going to play for us."
Will there be some joy this weekend in seeing Saints K Wil Lutz, who obviously, you helped get off to a good start? _(Childs Walker) _"Yes, certainly. We're very proud of Wil. He's one of those guys that, as you know, spent a good deal of time here in the spring and training camp a few years back, and he's made good on his opportunity that he had. We had a very high opinion of Wil coming in here, and he's proven to be the kind of player we thought he was."
How unusual is it to face an opponent that has a starting running back returning punts, and then a backup quarterback returning kicks? (Ed Lee)"I don't know about the backup quarterback thing. I haven't seen that, I don't think. We respect the return game, and Ted Ginn [Jr.], obviously, is a very skilled, well-known, productive returner, and so he may be back there. But, whoever is back there, we have to cover kicks. We know that. With regard to the quarterback, as you say, I haven't watched the defensive … With the defensive coaches, I haven't watched his offensive tape, but I know this: He's a football player. The guy plays aggressively, and he's strong and tough, and there's a place for players like that in this game. He's shown that."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "Alright, obviously really pleased with last Sunday's performance. I think that it's the same pace as what we were coming after the Cleveland game or after the Pittsburgh game. Now, we're on to New Orleans, and we're really looking forward to that challenge as well. Really pleased with a lot of guys in that game. Obviously 'Z' [Za'Darius Smith], I think that was great for him. I talked to the defense today. I think there was a guy that was so proud of him and just sat there and smiled, [and that] is 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], because 'Z' is starting to become the player that 'Sizz' thought he could be three years ago. I mean, that's really cool to watch, it really is. It's cool to watch about the leadership and the communication we have in that room, and we just have to keep working on that. So with that, I'll open it up to questions."
When you look at why the Saints' offense has been so effective year after year, to you, what's the essence of it? (Childs Walker)"The reason why they've been so effective year after year after year is because Sean Payton and Drew Brees have stayed together year after year after year. It's a tough out. You can say Drew Brees with all the records, where he's at, he's one of the greatest of all time – that's up to you guys to say that. But I know one thing for sure: He should be on the Mount Rushmore of the quarterbacks in this league, because he's done some great things."
What do you think has allowed OLB Za'Darius Smith to take that next step this year? (Garrett Downing)"I think it's the same thing we've been talking about. He has taken his game to a new level because [of] the way he's prepared in the offseason, and how he's attacked this season. I think it's a little bit of how we streamlined just his role that's helped him. He has just flourished. You see guys like that play the games they played. There were other guys now, let's not forget about 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor], let's not forget about the guys in the back end – Jimmy [Smith]. Jimmy is continuing getting ready to take off. There are tons of guys and you see that with all the different guys who had sacks, that played well. As a coach, I heard John [Harbaugh] say it yesterday, you're just happy to be a small part of it. Because if you're a coach – and you have your heart and mind in the right place – when you see those guys have success, you become the Pop Warner parent. I mean, you're just proud – you really are. It's great to see, and it's cool to watch."
Has OLB Za'Darius Smith become a really good all-around linebacker?_ (Ryan Mink)_"He's done a nice job playing wherever. He knows the system inside and out. He's been doing well wherever he's at."
What is it about Saints RB Alvin Kamara that sets him apart from the others? (Pete Gilbert) _"He's a problem. He's like I said before, he's one of those Major League pitchers that has about four different really good pitches, when you're going to stop him. He's good on the outside, he's good on the inside, and he can run the ball, too. He's an all-around threat. They know and Sean [Payton] and Drew [Brees] do a nice job of getting him places where he can have his best success. That's going to be a great challenge for us."(Reporter: "Does he remind you of anybody?")_ "He reminds me of a really good running back that makes a lot of plays." (laughter)
Stylistically, how different is RB Alvin Kamara from RB Mark Ingram? (Ed Lee)"I know they have the thunder/lightening thing and all that stuff. They're both really good backs. Mark is a really good back, too. I'd say that maybe the difference, style-wise, is Mark probably has more power, and he has more speed. That would be the only thing. Like I said, it's not off by much either way."
Saints head coach Sean Payton noted that your defense disguises really well. Why have you guys had such success disguising coverages and blitzes this year? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Just pure luck. (laughter)No, I mean, we work at it. I think people see that and I'm glad that he acknowledged that. We also know that he's going to have a plan for that, too. It's going to be fun for us – and talking to the defense today – we're going to have to be at our best communication-wise, in between series, in between plays. We are going to have to be on point. Like I said earlier, I really like the rhythm that we're in now on defense, going back from Pittsburgh, really. We're going to have to take it to a new level. I told our guys that they're going to show us something new, we're just going to have to see it when it happens, and they'll build off of it, because that's the genius of Sean Payton offensively. He'll find something new, and it's something that we haven't seen yet. So, be ready for the unexpected."
With WR Michael Thomas getting his large share of targets from QB Drew Brees, does that make it look easier in terms of crafting a defensive plan? (Ed Lee)"No, No. He's like any No. 1 receiver – he's a problem. Just because he has … I think he has 49 attempts at him, and I think he has 46 catches – it's crazy. I haven't heard anybody with that stat, and he's that good. So if I was Drew, I would throw it to him a lot as well."
You guys got back DT Michael Pierce and DT Willie Henry for that game in Tennessee. What did you see from them and how did they affect what you were able to do pass-rush-wise? (Jonas Shaffer) _"We're getting to be where we're full strength. That's exciting. We've gone to the three Hs now: humble, hungry and healthy – and healthy should be first."(Reporter: "I thought 'Henry' was going to be one of them.")"He keeps playing the way he is, it could be." _(laughter)
Do each of those guys have a different role on what they can do for you guys on the defensive line, or are they multipurpose? (Jonas Shaffer)"I think they're both multipurpose. I think it looks different, because it's two different body types just like anything else. I think they're both multipurpose to use your word on it. That sounds a lot better than what I would come up with."
What about CB Jimmy Smith has you excited? (Aaron Kasinitz) "He's Jimmy. I mean, he's starting to play. He's getting used to playing again in the second week, and you can see it. We didn't play that many plays, but he was doing some things really well and receivers were having a hard time getting off the line of scrimmage. It was fun to see – the whole thing, obviously, was fun to see. I didn't realize everything that happened until after the game because we live as a unit. We live in that one-play bubble. We're just always looking to that next play. After it gets done, Kevin [executive vice president – public & community relations] and Chad [Steele, vice president of public relations] came up to me on the field. Chad's like, 'Do you realize what just happened there?' I'm like, 'No.' Then he started reeling off all the things and you're like, 'Woah, OK. That's pretty cool!'" (laughter)
Any highlights from that post-game mosh pit celebration with your guys? (Jonas Shaffer) "That was cold. (laughter)That was cold. That was cool. That was something I'll always remember. It was cool."
So many offenses preach balance and not many can truly do it. The Saints have the weapons to have that balance of a strong rushing and passing attack, maybe more so than other teams. Is that fair that they can attack you in different ways just because of their talent? (Pete Gilbert) "It's not fait at all. I wish they were just good one way or the other. But you're absolutely right. They can attack you in many different ways. Hopefully where we're at right now, we'll be prepared for any way they do, and if not, we'll be adjusted to it fast. It's going to be a great challenge – we all know that. Any football fan knows that with Drew Brees out there. It's going to be a lot of fun. It'll help us. It'll help us finally being at home and on third-down when the place is rocking. OK, so that's what we're looking forward to. With that road trip it was like, 'Alright, we're on the road again.' You were on the road so much, you got used to it. So we're all excited. We're all excited about coming back here and playing at M&T [Bank Stadium]."
With LB Patrick Onwuasor's performance on Sunday, is that what you anticipate from him? _(Ed Lee) _"He and Kenny [Young] are still rotating. We had a thing a couple weeks ago when one of them wasn't as effective on special teams and the other one was. We named the starter that week because that's what we need for this team. We emphasize, obviously, in our room defense and that goes without saying, but we also know the importance of special teams and building a team. A lot of our guys play on special teams, and I want them to attack special teams the same way we do defense. They all know that – we keep it real in there – they all know that. Just like when guys do things well on special teams … At Tennessee, the first four clips that we showed in reviewing the Tennessee game was four special teams plays: 'Bert' [Albert McClellan] on his tackle on the punt, Kenny and 'Peanut' both on punt return on their holdups, and Cyrus [Jones] on his tackle on kickoff. That's the importance of it, and with all this being said, the simple answer is: We are forwarding John's [Harbaugh] plan. We're just his vision of how it works. I wish I could give you something else that would make it sound really cool, but that's all we're doing. We're communicating, we have no egos, we go with the Jack Welch theory, 'Generosity is the No. 1 thing with leadership.' You see guys talking about the, 'The Team, The Team, The Team,' and it works. Bo Schembechler is right – it works. When you see a game like that Tennessee game with all three phases clicking, that's what you get. Wish it was like that every Sunday, but I don't think it's going to be like that every Sunday."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Let's wrap the last ball game up! The fellas did a heck of a job. All of the big-picture goals – the fellas accomplished those. Our defense was playing so well that there was a point in the game where [we] certainly thought it was over. Guys played hard. Gus [Edwards] was a big addition for us – he came in and did a nice job, physical runner. The line did a heck of a job. Willie [Snead IV] had a heck of a game, [Michael] Crabtree had a heck of a game. Let's get to this next game – let's not let their numbers sort of trick us. They're No. 1 in rushing, No. 1 in yards per carry in the run game. The last couple games they played very well look like they've settled in and have been playing really well on defense. One of the challenges and opportunities is the run game against the No. 1 rush defense. Secondly, they have some great pass rushers – some fantastic pass rushers starting with [No.] 94 [Cameron Jordan] and [No.] 92 [Marcus Davenport], and there are many others on their defense. They do have an excellent scheme. They're well-coached, so it's a great challenge, great opportunity, glad we're back home. It'll be the first time in going on a month that we've been in cadence, so we've been emphasizing that, certainly, during practice among other things. The little things become big in these types of games. Big ball game on Sunday afternoon. Let's open it up to questions."
If G/T Alex Lewis can't play on Sunday, where does that leave you with what you can do with the offensive line? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"We'll see. We have several young men that are fine football players that we'll plug in. We've got a very, very good player that may not play. So, the mentality is next man in, and let's go play as good or even better. What a great opportunity. So that's where we're at."
What did you see from C/G Bradley Bozeman and T Orlando Brown Jr. last Sunday? _(Cliff Brown) _"Those are two of really three … Well, we really have more than that, that I think can go in and do a good job. Brad did a heck of a job going into the ball game initially. Orlando, we've played him on and off for just a little while. Both of them could go into the ball game and be effective."
You mentioned the New Orleans rush defense, despite how good they are, do you still have to commit to the running game and test them to keep them honest?_ (Ed Lee)_"We'll see. Every game is a little different. We're right in the middle of the gameplan, sort of putting on the finishing touches by tomorrow. We'll see."
Them being so good at rush defense isn't going to dissuade you from attacking from both ends?_ (Ed Lee)"We'll see. That's … Come on, you know that. I was trying to get out of it with a one-word answer there, or two: 'We'll see.'"(laughter)_
John Harbaugh said a couple weeks ago about running backs by committee. Last game RB Gus Edwards had 10 carries and RB Javorius Allen had just the one. Is that something that as the game goes on that you're getting a feel for how that works?_ (Brett Harris)_ "So it's really well-planned. Thomas [Hammock, running backs coach] and I talked specifically about each back, including Gus, last week. Then it's how the game flows as well. So sometimes those well-laid plans change just a little bit depending on how the ball game is going. I suspect it will continue that way up until something drastically changes."
Is there a part of you that would like to get WR/RS Chris Moore some more opportunities? (Ed Lee) "Sure, he's earned it. He deserves it. Yup – good point. We certainly have plays for him in the gameplan. On occasion, the ball doesn't get to him because of many different variables. But yes, he's a fine player. We're trying to utilize him just a little bit."
Was there specific intent to get the ball to WR Michael Crabtree early on, or was that more coincidence? (Pete Gilbert)"Oh no, we want to get Mike going. Mike is a proud man, a proud man. We have great trust in Mike Crabtree. He had a heck of a game, huh? Just because you call one doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to win on the route or the ball goes to him. He did all those things. He got himself open. In fact, we could've utilized him a little bit more, but the score and the flow of the game was dictating some other things."
Was it good to see QB Lamar Jackson break one and come just short of the end zone? (Garrett Downing)"Lamar had been so close on many – I feel pretty comfortable on saying many – of those. We'll just keep plugging at it there. And then he popped; it was an important [run]. I'm proud of Lamar. He's done a heck of a job. Pre-practice you see a little bit of it, and then post-practice, he and James Urban and a little bit with Robert [Griffin III] working on the quarterback mechanics and playing quarterback. Then in-between he can help our ball club win in a couple other ways."
I know you don't want to be in third-and-long situations, but you were able to convert some. What does that say about where your offense is, and how things are going that you're able to move the chains when it's third-and-long?_ (Luke Jones)_ "Look, it takes everybody. It starts up front, and Joe [Flacco] kind of runs the show and he's getting in and out of some things. He's done a beautiful job of that. Then the receivers have done a nice job; the tight ends are involved in that big time as well. So yes, all of them did a nice job. [Tennessee] was a highly-ranked third-down team, highly-ranked red zone team. What were we at half, I can't remember, 8-for-9 or something like that, and 3-for-3 in the red zone? So those were a couple of those big-picture goals that were accomplished. Every game we sort of pick these things that are going to be – nobody is Nostradamus – but we think is going to be important to the game. The guys do a good job of that, and that goes back to their preparation."
ILB C.J. Mosley
On if knowing that QB Drew Brees has "seen it all" affects the defense's thought process:"Not really. We still have to go out and do what we've been doing this season and this whole offseason. You go against an offensive coordinator or a head coach and a great quarterback, and, yes, they've seen most [defenses]. Well, they've seen everything, but they are going to do stuff that we've seen before, too, but just try to show a different way, so we hope to do the same thing."
On if experience with QB Lamar Jackson helps with preparing for New Orleans' packages with QB Taysom Hill:"I guess, in a way, but every team kind of has their way of running the thing, and [Taysom Hill] is pretty much a legit running back when he has the ball. He's running down on kickoff. He's on kickoff return, he's pretty much doing everything, so you're definitely going to see that. That kind of shows what kind of substance he has. When he does get the ball, when he does have his package, you have to make sure we tackle him like a running back."
On what makes RB Alvin Kamara special and tough to defend:"Just a dynamic player. [He] makes people miss in the openfield. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He does it on special teams, as far as punt returning and all of that. So, for us, we just have to make sure that we try to tackle him. They might try to get him going early. They're good at getting the ball to him quick in the downs, so, for us, we just have to be able to all run to the ball and make openfield tackles."
On is he's seen a running back like RB Alvin Kamara, or if he's a "new breed" player: "I guess I wouldn't say 'new breed,' because you think of [Chiefs RB] Tyreek Hill, guys like that. They all kind of have that same kind of style, that quick burst, to be able to line him up at wide receiver, put him in the backfield, and, like I said, put him on special teams to make plays. He's kind of in that situation. He's an athlete in the NFL."
On if this Sunday is a "measuring-stick" game: "To a certain extent. We've been playing pretty good defense. We have a great team coming in, a great offense coming in with a Hall of Fame quarterback, good offensive line, good running backs and good receivers, so it's going to be a good test for us to see where we really are this far in the season. But, at the end of the day, our motto has been: 'We're not changing the way we play. We're not going to stress. We have to do this even better this time, because we have a great offense coming in.' Because that's how we want to play every single week, no matter who it is."
On if, with NT Michael Pierce and DT Willie Henry returning, the biggest benefit is having more skillsets or the opportunity for those two players to play fewer snaps and be fresh: "Both, both actually. Keep the guys rolling, keep the rotation going, and we can have different guys in different packages. We can put different people in and have different guys going and rushing. That's the same thing with the linebackers and DBs."
On if he'll "take it easy" on former Ravens TE Benjamin Watson: "He's out there making diving catches and making great plays, so the same thing he was doing for us, he's doing back with his home team. When we get on the field, we have to lay it on whoever it is." (laughter)
On if he notices CB Jimmy Smith making progress: "Yes, he did a great job coming back from the suspension. More credit to him for being in shape and being ready to go. Definitely, having a 6-2, 6-3 corner out there definitely helps out a lot."