JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 3 vs. BRONCOS
Opening statement:"All right, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. A couple roster moves: Albert McClellan was re-signed. As we said [weeks ago], that might be a possibility, so we're happy to be able to do that. Maurice Canady was put on IR, although he'll be eligible to return, potentially. He does not have a season-ending injury, as we said before, so he's a guy that could come back in due time. And, we re-signed Kai [Nacua] to the practice squad. Kai had a heck of a training camp. He dealt with some injuries but fought through it, played very well whenever he was out there, so it's good to have him back in the mix. With that, I'll take questions."
While you mentioned CB Maurice Canady, RB Kenneth Dixon was placed on IR last week. Is he someone that could potentially return later in the season? _(Luke Jones) _"He is. He is, same category – correct. He's another guy that could come back, so that would be – if both those guys came back – those would be our two guys for the year. I think it's a wise choice by Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] to make the move the way they did and just see how it plays out."
Is it reassuring to be able to turn to a guy like LB Albert McClellan? You're dealing with a little bit of uncertainty with ILB C.J. Mosley. _(Childs Walker) _"Albert is a veteran player. He's a very good football player. He knows everything we do. He gives us a lot on special teams, as well. He can play middle linebacker, to your point. It's a very good point. I would say [he] kind of solidifies us in there a little bit, having so many young players in the group."
Can we go back to Thursday night, now that you've has a chance, of course, to look at the film? When ILB C.J. Mosley left, was there a temporary … Was there some sort of communication breakdown in terms of the mic helmet and ILB Patrick Onwuasor taking over and then eventually sliding to S Eric Weddle? (Jerry Coleman) "We got it to Eric. We wanted to get it to Eric. What the situation was with the phones, or how they were working or stuff like that, I really don't know. We have the best phone guys in the world; love those guys. They do a great job, and they work all that stuff out. Patrick had it, I think, for a short period of time, and then it went to Eric, which is who we want to have it in those situations."
Is that a contingency? In other words, if the main guy – and you've identified these guys in the past – if they go down, does it just fall on to the next guy who's in line? _(Jerry Coleman) _"Yes. There's an order, a pecking order. In my mind, it's Eric [Weddle]. That's the No. 2 guy, and that's what we got to. We didn't have too many communication problems, as far as getting calls in. We didn't play things the way we wanted to play them all the time, but we had the calls in, for the most part. We had a few strength calls that weren't right, but those aren't … It's not too much of an issue, because the defense is still sound, as long as we're all on the same page. On-the-field communication, getting everybody on the same page, talking things through, that's what we emphasize. We have smart players, and it's early in the season. I watch games all around the league. There are a lot of communication issues early in the year, and we're no different. So, we've been pretty good with that stuff, and we continue to get better and improve, and before it's all said and done, you want to be humming in the area of communication. When you lose a player like C.J. [Mosley], it's a factor with that, certainly."
Do you have an update on ILB C.J. Mosley? _(Jerry Coleman) _"No. It's just what was reported. It's a bone bruise, and that's good news. It wasn't a structural issue, so we'll just see how that thing comes along and keep our fingers crossed."
It's been about four weeks since both TE Hayden Hurst and DT Willie Henry had their surgeries. Any chance they practice this week? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"No. No, they won't practice this week."
One other question regarding Thursday: Going back looking at the film, the decision with Bengals WR A.J. Green, single coverage versus double coverage, was he alone in single coverage perhaps too much? (Jerry Coleman)"No. You can't double him all the time. It's impossible. So, we played our defense. We mixed our defenses, and he caught three touchdown passes. We didn't play him as well as we need to. We didn't cover him as tight as we need to, the way we wanted to cover him, obviously, so he made some plays."
You're on the other end of what was a short week. Now, a little longer. Good timing to get a few extra days of rest for the next one? You've been off since Thursday, I guess, Thursday night. _(David Ginsburg) _"Yes, that's valuable to have that. As far as recovery and things like that, and studying. This will be our opportunity. Everybody will get that at some point in time during the season, so it has value. That's right"
The rushing game averaging 3.3 yards, I know that's probably not what you want it to be. What, do you feel, is the biggest problem to get that running game back on track? (Jamison Hensley)"We just have to get the running game going. We need to pop some runs. That's the biggest issue. When you hit some long runs, that average goes to where you want it to be. We've had some steadiness with it. I don't think we've been hit in the backfield too many times, but we've had a few pretty solid runs. We didn't have nearly as many runs as we wanted on Thursday night. It's only the second game. People are playing us a certain way. The Bills made it a point to stop the run. That was kind of where they went with their defense, and then Bengals didn't have to, because they jumped out to a big lead. That's a big priority. We're not, in any way, pleased with the numbers. And, we are very determined to run the ball well, because we think it fits our offense, and it's something that opens everything else up. So, we have to get that going."
Most defenses go with a linebacker wearing the defensive headset. Is there anything that you guys have to be wary of with S Eric Weddle being the guy, the safety who's also the one relaying the play calls? (Jonas Shaffer)"The biggest thing is that he's not in the middle of the defense. That's probably your point. I think it's valid point. It's a little harder for the safety to communicate to the whole defense, but we do a good job of echoing our calls. Don [Martindale] does a good job of getting them in quickly, although we can always do that better. You want to get them in as quick as you can, but there are a lot of factors there. You're not just going down a list. You have to determine what the personnel is and what the situation is before you can make your call, so that's probably the biggest issue with it, sure."
How have you seen LB Kenny Young come along since training camp? He's obviously gotten a lot of snaps, particularly on Thursday. _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Kenny continues to get better. He's doing a great job. We're really happy with him. I wouldn't say he's a finished project – nobody is ever a finished project – but he has a lot to learn. There are a lot of plays that Kenny, I think I saw him say, he didn't play everything right, and it led to a few plays for [Cincinnati]. But, he played a lot of things really fast and really well, and it led to a few plays for us. He keeps building on the plusses and the playmaking and keeps minimizing, in terms of just understanding where he's supposed to be with all the pattern reads and things like that. He's only going to get better. Very smart, very studious, very conscientious. So, his learning curve is steep. He's going to do a good job."
Along the same lines, what have you seen from TE Mark Andrews?*_(Ryan Mink)_*"Very similar. Mark had the slow start in in training camp because of the physical issues, and man, he's kind of a gamer. He steps up and make plays, and that's what we thought we had when we drafted. He's worked very hard in practice, and to see that show up in the games is good. [He's a] pass catcher, but, I'll tell you, a better runner or a better blocker, than probably anybody thought. In the games, he kind of steps it up, so that's a very big plus for us."
You had those two fourth-down conversions [in the last game]. What's your process of figuring out the math behind it in real time? (Aaron Kasinitz)"That's a good question. The math is already done. We study all that, we have all those numbers, and that's given to me during the game. The math, in both of those, was pretty overwhelming to go for them. But I also … While I'm no Copernicus – I passed math all the times I took it (laughter) – I have a pretty good understanding that while the statistics might be overwhelming a certain direction, there are also factors that … I had stats class, so the more things are done, the more the statistics tend to balance out. Like I tell our stats guys all the time, 'We don't want to be the factor that balances the stat back out – especially on fourth down.' So we were down by a lot, and we wanted to … I think on the road, there are two ways to look at it. One way to look at it is that you get the points and you chip your way back in – which is generally what we've always done. The other way to look at it is [that] we needed touchdowns, we need to score, and we were running out of possessions. I went with the idea to go for it, figuring that we could convert it. The fact that we didn't convert them makes me feel like we shouldn't have gone for them, we should have kicked it. In the end, that's really what you judge it on – whether you make it or not. But the analytics, to your question, was pretty strongly favorable for going for it."
It seems like it comes up every year, but when you see all those missed kicks around the league, is there a nice feeling inside about having K Justin Tucker? (Childs Walker)"Yes, and you know, you never take it for granted that the kick is going to get made, because I know how hard it is. It reminds you of how hard it is to make field goals, right? In Baltimore, we don't ever take those three guys for granted. They're a team. They'll be the first to tell you that they have to make the next kick. So, they work really hard to do that. But, 'yes' is the answer to your question."
Two ties in consecutive weeks. Were you in favor of shortening the overtime? (Todd Karpovich) "I was. I think it's … Gosh – it's hard to come back. You play all that time, but I don't know if five minutes make that big of difference or not. I'm not sure. I'm sure there are some studies on that, too. Who knows? We're going to try to win them in regulation as much as we can."
When you go up against a pass rusher like Broncos OLB Von Miller, how big of a challenge is it to stop him?_ (Jamison Hensley)_ "Big challenge. He's the bell cow. They have a very good defense. I go to Darian Stewart, who was here – he's playing very well and been playing well for them there. Two really good corners, inside 'backers that fly around – very strong, solid defensive front. He's the straw that stirs the drink, no doubt – one of the very best in the league at what he does. We will have to have him accounted for at all times, on every play. If we don't do that, he'll wreck the game. That's job [No.] 1 on offense – that's where it starts."
When you watched the tape of the offensive line from Thursday, did you see any systemic problems on some of the pass protection? Was it more individual matchups? What stood out to you? _(Childs Walker) _"Well, no systemic, in the terms of what type of protections we were running. We were mixing the protections pretty well. We had one bad matchup: We had our tight end on their best pass rusher on a play-action when he lined up on the right side – which he does occasionally but not all the time. That was a tough one, and he ended up hitting Joe [Flacco] as we were trying to get a deep throw, which would've been a big play for us potentially. It looked like it was going to be, but you have to get it off. When you run the seven-step drops, especially even off a play-action … When the defensive end doesn't bite off the play-action, he pass rushes, and you have a tight end on him – that's tough. Those kinds of things ... I think they won some one-on-one battles at times – you've all seen that. We just have to work really hard to protect our quarterback. When we did, I think we had a lot of success throwing the ball. Joe made some really good plays, too, creating some things under duress. When we didn't, that makes it tougher."
You recovered WR/RS Janarion Grant's fumble. Is there concern with him and how he's doing? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, I'm concerned. It's twice in two games, and you don't want to see that. Whether he fumbles or not catching the ball the first time, you want to see the ball secured. He did secure it well a number of times – high hangers, people buzzing around him two weeks ago in the rain. But any time the ball is on the ground it is not a good situation. He knows that, and he's working hard at that. We'll kind of monitor that as we go here."
After the game, we talked to T Ronnie Stanley, and he deferred to you in terms of how he is. Is he fine going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) "What did he tell you? You asked him."(Reporter: "He said, 'You're going to have to ask coach Harbaugh.'")"Did he? I read a different quote." (Reporter: "He said, 'I'm fine,' and somebody asked him, 'What's wrong?' Then he said, 'You'll have to ask …'") "Oh, so now we have the whole quote. It's always good to get the whole thing in context – see!(laughter) (Reporter: "He deferred to you twice.") "He did defer to me twice. I appreciate that. OK, but he said he was 'fine?'" (Reporter: "He said he was fine – that was the first thing, yes.") "Well, we'll just go with that. He said he's fine – he's fine. We'll see. I don't know, we'll see. I think he's OK. We'll see."
What stood out about Denver's rookie RB Phillip Lindsay? He's set records, been really productive and is an undrafted guy (Luke Jones) "Amazing, because we looked at him – we liked him. He's a free agent guy, we had some pretty good free agent backs in here, too. It's incredible, these free agent running backs around the league. He's fast – that's what stands out about him. He's quick, he's kind of fearless. They put him in good situations, they get the ball to both rookie backs – [Royce] Freeman from Oregon, too. They get the ball outside quick on the edge couple different ways. They run a lot of draws really well, some screens, they get him in space. The offensive line has done a good job, but this kid is running and he's making plays with his speed and his fearlessness. He's doing it as a kick returner, [too]. He's back there as a kick returner as well – pretty impressive."
How did you think the run defense was against the Bengals? (Cliff Brown)"It was OK – not great. It needs to be better. Not to our standards. All our guys will probably echo that. We have a high, high standard. So, it might be good enough for other teams around the league, but it's not going to be good enough for us."
I believe you guys are 9-for-9 for converting inside the red zone so far this year. Have you seen anything different? (Jerry Coleman) "Man, I'll tell you – I don't know. What I'm seeing is good players. I think we have guys making plays, and we ran the ball in a few times, and that's big to our running backs and our offensive line. But man, you don't want to start patting yourself on the back. This league is too tough. The one thing you do see is – and I told the team this today – when you do have a weekend, kind of what you're talking about [to] get a step back and watch games, boy, it gives you good perspective. You see it's a crazy league. You see how tough it is. You see how tough it is to score in the red zone, how tough it is to stop somebody in the red zone. Everything is tough! Guys make plays, guys make mistakes, games go down to the wire, somebody gets blown out that you don't expect to get blown out. You just can't beat yourself up too much, because if you do, that just takes you to a downward path. You can't do it. What it's going to boil down to in the end is who is mentally tougher over the long haul. You have to keep grinding. You start with a lead? Keep grinding. You start out down in a hole? Keep grinding. It's a long game. If it's tight? Keep grinding. Someone has to pull ahead. I think it's true for a game; I think it's true for a season. That's where we're at right now. It's early and we just have to grind and become better and become mentally tough and fight and become a good football team. Nobody in the NFL is a good football team yet. So. it remains to be seen who the good football teams are, and that's what we've got to try to become."
Two games, 10 plays for QB Lamar Jackson. How do you think that's going, and do you think that could even expand? You know, he's started getting big plays. _(Jamison Hensley) _"It's week to week, gameplan to gameplan, game to game during the game. There are more plays than five in the gameplan for him. We'll just try to do what we can do with all the weapons we have to try to put as many points up as we can. That's really what we're trying to do with all our guys. I put him in the same category that way."