Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "First, I want to start off by sending our deepest sympathies and sorrows and condolences to the family of Darryl Drake. It's a brotherhood, our profession. Last night, we lost a great man and a great football coach, the wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I know they're a great rival, and there is a ton of respect between both organizations. We said a prayer after practice for the family and the organization. What a tough thing to have happen. We send our deepest sympathy to their family – he has his wife and his three daughters and grandkids. That's a tough thing. We went through it with [former Ravens defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks. It's a tough situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
"Going back to the game … It's hard to transition out of that, but I know that's what we're here for … Going back to the game, we were really pleased, because a couple of things that we wanted to accomplish going into that game were to play hard and fast. I thought we did that. We were physical. The game was pretty clean as far as mistakes. There are some little things that we need to correct. I was really pleased with how several of the players stepped up when the lights came on."
How pleased were you with what you saw from OLB Jaylon Ferguson? (Childs Walker)"I really liked what we saw from Jaylon Ferguson. He's just going to get more and more playing time. He made it simple, just being physical with the man across from him. He wasn't thinking about 10 other things, which rookies do. You saw a lot of good rushes, and you saw his power, which we've been looking for in training camp going against somebody else."
How did the outside linebackers do in terms of setting the edge?_ (Luke Jones)_"We can improve there. There's a great battle still going on with all of them. We talked about that today in the defensive meeting. It's a battle. It's not only a battle on defense, it's a battle on who's going to step up on special teams as well."
What kind of an impression has DT Gerald Willis made on you so far? (Childs Walker) "I think the game was a wake-up [call] to him. That's when he was like, 'Wow, this is different than college,' because not every play is a pass or a bubble screen or a tear screen. In the run game, especially, is where he got a wake-up call. He did some nice things as well. He's in the mix. It's like I told them, 'You have three games to make your career.' I told the whole defense that. There are guys that have a lot of pressure that they're under. We know that, and we respect that. That's part of competition, of trying to have a role on the 53 [-man roster]."
A lot was made about CB Jimmy Smith looking disappointed in himself during joint practices. Have you seen him bounce back over the last few days? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, especially in the red zone. He made another play out there today. You can see that he's getting his legs back. I think he's getting back on track with that. We'll see in the next three weeks exactly where he's at. He has made strides since last week."
How much does trust come into play with veterans? (Jeff Zrebiec)"There is a lot of trust. I talk to Jimmy [Smith] every day, 'How are you feeling?' He's trying to do some different things, nutritionally, and things like that. The great thing is, Jimmy is honest with where he's at. But like I said, he's made great strides these past four or five days."
What have you seen out of OLB Shane Ray? (Jamison Hensley) "Shane had a couple nice pass rushes in the game. He did OK on his punt return rep. To me, it's a dead heat. That can be a good thing, or that can be a bad thing. When you're looking at it from the coaching perspective, you want somebody to jump out and be a little bit more productive. He had some good rushes late in the game. Now, we have to get him in there earlier in the game to get some good rushes as well."
What have you seen from DT Daylon Mack? (Jamison Hensley)"Daylon, same thing with 'G' [Gerald Willis]. It was his first game. He left some plays out there. He knows it. But, he also made some good plays. He's a big man. He's the centerpiece of the defense."
Can a hit like ILB Kenny Young's on the quarterback inspire the entire defense? (Jim Forner)"The guys were jacked up the entire game. I think that just added to it, no doubt. Really, why would … Well, I won't even get into that. He knocked the quarterback's helmet off. I thought somebody should have checked him, because that was a good hit."
After losing several outspoken leaders, have you seen anybody step up? (Bobby Trosset)"Yes, and I think you have plenty of them still in there, too. You guys just don't know them, yet. There are guys who will step up. For those leaders that are stepping up, the productivity has to follow them, because that's who gets listened to the most, the guys who are the most productive out there on the field."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement:"I'd like to first start off by offering condolences to the Drake family and the entire Pittsburgh Steelers organization. We were all deeply saddened by that news, and our prayers are with them.
"We're two days in to a four-day stretch here. We had a really physical practice today. [There are] a lot of things to get better from, a lot of things to learn from. The guys are working extremely hard. We're throwing a lot at them. I think we talked last week about … Jacksonville came in, and we were going to really focus on fundamentals and dial things back, so we really had a five-day stretch where we were really dialed in on basic things and fundamental things. The moment they got back here Saturday, we threw a ton of stuff at them, and we've been throwing it at them whenever we can. Guys are working really hard. We're excited about this upcoming week."
What did you think about how G/T Jermaine Eluemunor and G Ben Powers played against the Jaguars? (Luke Jones) "I think both of them did some good things, and they both have some things to learn from. I thought that game was … We weren't trying to reinvent football in that game. We were staying extremely basic and had an opportunity to let them get their feet wet and go out and execute, and evaluate, correct it, and see who gets the improvements, see who gets the corrections and makes that connection. So, I think both of them did reasonably well, played hard, and we're just looking for improvement. I think those guys just have to keep competing and see where it grows."
A lot more than any other team in the league, people want to know what your guys' offense is going to look like, because there's been a lot made about the changes, QB Lamar Jackson's development. Is there a fine line between needing to work on stuff during preseason games and not wanting to show much? How much do you discuss that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, I think that's definitely a consideration, and we have those considerations. They're ongoing. We're definitely working on things out at practice, in the indoor facility. We're spending the bulk of our time on long-term investment. I think the first preseason game, the second preseason game, you're really looking at evaluating people. So, if you're going to try to start scheming stuff up to have people running wide open, is he [really] getting open? Or, is the scheme helping? If we're outnumbering people at the point of attack, well, is that really good blocking, or is it we just had the numbers advantage? That kind of thing. Those are all considerations, so I think there's a little bit to what you're saying, though, because the core of what you do, you better be working on all the time."
We've seen WR Marquise Brown's activity level go up the last few days. It's still early, as far as getting him full-team work, but what have you seen? (Luke Jones) "It's great to have Marquise out there. Guys were razzing him a little bit, as you could expect. We like what we see right now – quickness, speed, some natural ability. When things require football adjustments, he makes natural football adjustments. The trainers and the doctors have a really clear plan on that, so we're just going to listen to them and let them advise us on that, and we'll keep pushing him as we go. We're very excited to have him out there with the team."
You've been teaching offense to guys over a couple of decades now. Is there any difference in terms of how you find guys of this generation learn offenses versus guys of a previous generation? (Jonas Shaffer) "I definitely think there's a difference, a distinct difference, and I think it's all just a product of their experiences. I think a lot of guys now, their experiences are very different from guys that, back in 1995 and 1996, guys I was working with and what they had brought them to that point. I think you have to be able to change and adapt and understand that as you go. I think football players are still football players, though. I do think, though, that some of the time restrictions that are placed on them in college changes what college coaches [do and] how they can invest their time. So, they have to be really smart and wise about that. I think there's a little steeper curve for them."
Does the technology available to you guys make it easier to teach the concepts and convey what you want to? (Jonas Shaffer) "If I could get my watch to work, I don't know … (laughter)Technology is a blessing and a curse. I think our video department, the amazing job they're able to do with technology … It really is, I think, an advantage in many ways. It's really hard to find where it's not an advantage. Now if I could get my darn TV to work." (laughter)
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
The team announced that they've traded P/K Kaare Vedvik to the Minnesota Vikings. What is your reaction to that? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"My reaction to that is I'm really fired up for Kaare. Like I told you guys before, Kaare was right on schedule. He was right where we needed him to be. [Assistant special teams] Coach [Randy] Brown, myself, we did a great job getting him ready for this opportunity. He went out on Thursday night, and he had an awesome night. So, I'm really happy for Kaare. He deserves it after everything he's been through. What an opportunity for him."
Did you get to talk to him at all after he received the news that he'd been traded? _(Childs Walker) _"We were actually on the field working out and guys came up and told him what happened, and he was fired up, we were fired up for him. We all gave him big hugs and wished him the best."
It can be rare to get a draft pick back for a kicker. What made him so valuable and are the good kickers worth draft picks? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"He's like every other position; if you add value, people are going to want you. He came out, he executed, he did the things he was supposed to do, and just like a quarterback, running back, [defensive back], linebacker … If you have value, guys are going to want you. He upped his stock, he got better this offseason, and again, we wish him the best."
Reports have indicated that they may be interested in him with regards to both kicking and punting. Do you think he is capable of doing both at the NFL level? (Childs Walker) _"Did you watch the game on Thursday night? _(laughter)So, then you can answer that question, right? He can go out, he's prepared himself, he's a rare guy, and he's really good."
Overall, what did you think of the performance of the special teams unit last Thursday night? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Overall, we had a really good night outside of one play that got called back. For us, I was a defensive guy, it's like a long foul ball; that play never happened. But to us, it happened, and it was a good learning experience for some of our guys. We got it fixed the new couple of times, and when we kicked off, we had a really good day. Justin Bethel [who downed a punt on the 3-yard line], that's why he's here. The guy is a really good special teams player, and he has been for a very long time, and he's just continuing to do what he's done in this league for a long time. We punted the ball well, we covered kicks well, so I'd say for our first time out, it was a really good day. We had one penalty. We came back and got that corrected, and we're going to move forward. Real honestly, the practices against Jacksonville really prepared us for that and gave us an opportunity to compete against another team that really gave that game-like situation before the game."
In the competition for the return battle, is there a time that you'd like to narrow that down, or no? Are you going to keep giving a bunch of people reps all preseason? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"I'm going to play this thing out until the end. There are guys out there … Cyrus [Jones] is doing a great job. Tyler Ervin is doing a great job. We've got some other guys who we are going to get some reps, too. It's just a matter of time. We're going to give the guys that deserve those reps the reps, and like I said before, that will play itself out here."
Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris
Opening statement:"Before we get started, I just want to send out a message to Darryl Drake's family and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that our thoughts and prayers and sympathies are with all of them who are in this difficult time. Darryl was an outstanding coach with the Steelers, and all through college and his professional career. I know that myself, all of our coaching staff, send our thoughts and sympathies and prayers to his family and, like I said, the Steelers organization. I just wanted to make sure we get that out to them."
How do you think the offensive line is coming together so far? I know left guard, it kind of seems like that position is undecided. (Luke Jones) "We're always a work in progress. Nothing is completed. Who knows how long this takes? Here's what I can tell you: The guys are working hard. They're diligently all trying to compete and trying to make the strides they have to make individually and collectively as a unit, and that's good to see all of them competing like they are. Those spots will all be filled as time goes on. When we open up in September against Miami, we'll have our starting offensive line then, and we'll have our group of 53 and our group of linemen that go to battle with them then."
There's been a lot of attention on G/T Jermaine Eluemunor. Are you guys confident that he's improving and he realizes the opportunity at stake? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, I think so. I think Jermaine has been a work in progress, and I think he's grown a bunch since he's been here. So, we're just going to continue to coach him and encourage him and see wherever the chips fall. It was good for him to play the other night at that position. I know he played right guard as a rookie, then we bumped him a little bit at tackle last year. That worked out for him. He had to help us last season against Pittsburgh and against Carolina at left tackle and didn't bat an eye. This year, we have him at left guard, and we'll see how this all continues to develop."
How have you seen G Ben Powers grow from the time he arrived? (Luke Jones) "Ben is a fine young man. So is Jermaine. They all are. He's making nice strides, steady improvement. It was good to see him play last Thursday night, and he did well. He did well. And, is there improvement? Yes. Is there improvement for myself – improvement for them? We just keep on growing. But, he did a nice job."
How has T Orlando Brown Jr. progressed from Year 1 to Year 2? (Andrew Gillis) "Orlando is still a work in progress. Each day, he's trying to make strides, and we're going to continue to coach him for growth."