HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. [I] appreciate you guys being here. [I] hope you had a good weekend. We are working on the [Los Angeles] Chargers game coming up. [We] had a chance to study the [Cincinnati] Bengals game on Friday as a coaching staff. The players will come back in tomorrow afternoon, and we'll probably debrief on the [Cincinnati] Bengals game just a little bit [and] make our corrections – things that we need to build on going forward for the next game. Then, it'll be all about our next opportunity. What questions do you have?"
After all the medical tests on TE Mark Andrews' ankle, is it definitive that he will be out for the rest of the season?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "Nothing's completely definitive yet, but my understanding is in talking with our trainer [Adrian Dixon] and the doctors is that it wasn't as bad as initially feared right after the game. There is the type of damage that's done sometimes in that kind of an action, what happens to the ankle, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been. It's cleaner than they thought based on the MRI. He's going to be involved with Dr. [Robert] Anderson down there in [North] Carolina in Charlotte here [in] the next few days. We'll know more, but there might be an outside chance he could get back at some point in time. We'll just have to see how that goes, though. I don't want to say that's definitive by any stretch, but there is some optimism."
What went behind the decision to not activate DT Broderick Washington for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals?*_(Childs Walker)_* "[It] just has to do with our opponent [and] the types of formations and personnel groups they were in and the type of game they play on offense. It was a strategic decision in terms of how to best use our personnel."
What have you seen from DT Broderick Washington's play this year compared to last year?*_(Luke Jones)_* "I love Broderick [Washington]. He's a guy that just brings it every single practice [and] every single game. [He's a] very physical player. [He] does a great job pushing the pocket [in the] pass [and] run game. [He's a] leader [and] tone setter, for sure. He's a Raven. We love it when he's out there. He understood the situation. That's a week-to-week process."
Beyond what Mark Andrews brings to the table as a receiver, he has become a very good blocker. What have you seen from TE Isaiah Likely and TE Charlie Kolar as they have improved as young blockers?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "I have seen that. They develop, and they've been getting better really every day [in] every part of their game as tight ends – in-line blocking, perimeter blocking, pass game stuff. Charlie [Kolar] made the catch [on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals]. Isaiah [Likely] had numerous perimeter blocks that were outstanding. Charlie's been doing a really good job with the in-line blocking the last month or so that he's been out there doing it. [I] have full confidence in those guys. I know they're going to go in there and get their shot and do a great job with it."
Did you get an opportunity to spend some time with your brother, Jim, before, during or after the University of Michigan game at Maryland?*_(Jerry Coleman)_* "Yes, we did. Jim and Sarah [Harbaugh] came over and watched it with Ingrid and me. We watched that game – [a] tough game. [It was] a great win for Michigan. Kudos to Maryland – they played a great ball game. We had a chance to watch it [together]. It was fun."
What was the experience like watching a game with your brother, who was supposed to be on the sideline for the Michigan vs. Maryland game?*_(Jerry Coleman)_* "It was fun. I enjoyed it. That's my brother. I think he would've rather been on the sideline, I have a pretty good feeling, but we appreciated him being over at the house. Sarah [Harbaugh] was great, as always, [and] charming. We had sandwiches and snacks. It was good. He did have his play sheet and his call sheet in front of him. That was fun to talk a little football during the game."
Did you learn anything about how he thinks during a game when you watched the game with him?*_(Giana Han)_* "Yes, I think so. I got some insight into the way he thinks. I know he's very involved with the play-calling offensively, obviously. That's something that's … I credit his team and his coaching staff for overcoming that. It's a challenging thing not to have your head coach out there. He's an offensive coach. Obviously, [he was a] quarterback [and a] quarterback coach. [He's] very involved in everything they're doing, but it's hard for him. I'm not going to sit here and say, 'It's not.' Obviously, I think it's incredibly unfair what's gone on. That's how I feel about it, but I think he's handled it at the highest level. In that situation, you have no power. You have no say in any of it. You just do what they tell you to do. That's what you have to do, and the facts aren't all understood or out. But certainly, the quote, unquote investigation is not complete. [It's] not even close. That's where it stands. Just from a personal level, that's all aside. The chance to be together as a family, it was great. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure glad they came up with a win."
Have you seen enough from TE Travis Vokolek to believe he could be a guy who can help you here going forward if you add a third tight end to your roster?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "Yes, that's definitely a process, a work in progress. He looks good in practice. Travis [Vokolek] does a great job. He's tough on our [defensive] guys; he makes catches; he's developing as a blocker. It's a little bit tough to develop in season the way the rules are now for young guys, I do have to say, because you're not in pads very much, [and] you're not really doing things that help guys develop as football players. And that's one of the sad things about the way it works – it's necessary, but it's just tough. So, I don't think you really know about what a person could actually bring to the table until you get him out there. So, we wouldn't know for sure, but I would say all arrows are pointing up for sure. He does a great job, and I'm excited for his future."
What's your reaction to QB Joe Flacco not only being back in the league, but being back in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns?*_(Bo Smolka)_* "It's great for Joe [Flacco]. I saw where Joe had said a few times where he was wanting to play still and still had plenty of juice left. I don't doubt Joe; I never doubt Joe. He's an ultimate competitor, and we'll see what happens."
More than 10 weeks into the season now, where big picture have you seen your team make the most strides and making goals that you've been hoping for and progressing towards as you continue on?*_(Kyle Barber)_* "We're so much in the middle of that right now. It's really just right now, we're just trying to get ready for the Chargers game and get our gameplan together. You watch [the Chargers] on tape, how talented they are in all three phases [with a] great quarterback, great skill players, high draft picks really everywhere. So, that's really what we're just really kind of getting ready for, but I will say this about our team in terms of development, I just love the way they play. We play hard, and we play with discipline, we try. We do our best to play smart, and they're very conscientious about that. They try to do the right things that lend themselves to winning, and that's what you appreciate as a coach. They care about that, and they care about winning and playing winning football. Again, they just play so darn hard, you just have to be proud of them. When I put the tape on, I'm proud of that part of it. I'm proud of a lot of it, but that speaks to who they are as people and players. So, you just have to keep building on all those things."
The way some people talk about pass rush, they kind of reduce it to one-on-one matchups, but the way that you guys play, it's a lot of teamwork, it's a lot of selflessness. How do you think those two factors have kind of played into the way in which you guys have played this year?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Right, and that's a good point. It is both. It is one-on-one matchups a lot of times, but it's also teamwork and playing together. Even when you are one on one, you have … There's five rush lanes and four guys usually, and you have to account for all those rush lanes, or the quarterback gets out, which he has against us. Quarterbacks have gotten out and made some yards, they did against us last game, too, and they do it every week in the NFL, yet you try to minimize that. So, you can't get sacks if the quarterback's running away, so you have to work together. I've never seen a sack that was just completely one on one, completely. There's always a team effort involved there. But then, to your point, you add in the blitz patterns and the games and stunts and all that being executed at a high level, a lot of times, it's the guy that doesn't get the sack that deserves most of the credit sometimes. And the fact that we have 14 guys that have gotten sacks this year, still two shy of last year, I think we had 16 different guys that had sacks last year, I was told. So, that's a credit, really, to that point you're making, but really any way you can get them, is the way you want them."
In the summer, we talked a lot about Outside Linebackers Coach Chuck Smith coming in to work with the young pass rushers and with OLB Odafe Oweh's production recently, are we seeing the fruits of that labor? Is Odafe a more sophisticated pass rusher maybe than he was when he came into the league?*_ (Childs Walker)_* "Yes. Absolutely. [That's a] Great point. [Outside linebackers coach] Chuck Smith does a great job. He's an outstanding coach. He's a technician, [and] he's studied this thing his whole adult life. [Assistant head coach/defensive line] Anthony Weaver is another great coach. Those guys team up and work together on that. Nobody does a better job in the league than those two guys [with] coaching the pass rush part of it. Then to your point about Odafe [Oweh], he worked incredibly hard at it, and he still on the ascend. He's getting better all the time, and I don't think he's even scratched the surface yet about what kind of player he can be pass rusher [or on] run defense, all of it."
When you talk about improvements for OLB Odafe Oweh, where has he had improvements? Can you be more specific if it was in his hands, speed or where?*_(Mike Preston) _*"All of it. He's a much better game runner. He's a better penetrator; he's a better looper in terms of timing up that. It's cleaner now than it used to be. A lot of times especially with the T/E stunt, we're not getting jammed up and slowed down as much as we were off of the penetrator. The one-on-one moves have really smoothed out. [The] spin move has smoothed out, not perfect a lot of times, but he has four or five moves, I would say, two or three go-to moves and probably four or five moves overall that he uses pretty regularly. That's a big addition to what he was before, more just kind of a straight speed rusher, probably, first when he came here. So yes, he's working hard on all that stuff."
With DT Justin Madubuike blowing away all his career stats from previous seasons, what have you learned about him watching him come into his own that maybe you didn't know before? Has anything surprised you as you've seen him this season?*_(Giana Han)_* "[It's] a great question. Nothing really has surprised me, because I knew he was going to have a great season. You could see it in the spring [and in] the summer. You kind of saw it over the last couple of years. The talent has really been there, and, again, it's really a developmental thing. Guys grow as players. [He was] a third-round pick [with] a lot of talent, and [he] has always played well for us, but man, [he's playing at] another level in terms of the combination of his explosive talent, the time in the weight room and all the things he's working on to just become bigger, faster, stronger [and] quicker, all those things. But also, the technique [is] more consistent. [He's] much more consistent technique-wise play-to-play than he had been before, and it's showing up more in his stats."
To keep the defensive theme going, DB Brandon Stephens has played really nicely for you guys this season. At large, where are the strides or specific areas that you've seen improvement with him?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "[Brandon Stephens] is just seeing things quicker and probably processing [things in] more of a subconscious way. He didn't play defensive back a lot coming here. [He] hadn't seen a lot of those things happen, so he had to think his way through his reactions. Now, [that's] not the case. He's reacting his way through his reactions. He's seen it enough. He just responds and is just playing faster as a result."
On Thursday night, we saw QB Lamar Jackson push through that ankle injury. He said he was fine after the game, but now, four days removed, does it seem like everything is OK with that ankle?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "It does [seem like everything is OK]. Yes."
On Thursday, I think it was CB Ronald Darby on the field for two drives and then DB Rock Ya-Sin would come in. Then, in the fourth quarter, we saw CB Jalyn Armour-Davis a little bit. Was that a matter of just because he's earning the playing time, and you just want to see a young player play in that situation? How would you assess how he performed?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "Yes. I thought [Jalyn Armour-Davis] played well the little bit he was in there. We definitely want to get him on the field and give him a chance to grow as a player, so that was an opportunity to do it. I also think there is competition for those reps out there. Marlon [Humphrey] hopefully will be back out there this week. We'll see, but we have kind of a deep corner group, and they all want to play. So, [we'll] give guys out there a chance to play and build it going forward."
I know we asked you about the hip-drop tackles on Thursday after the game. There was a report today from USA Today that one member of the Competition Committee with the league suggested that a rule be put in place to outright ban it this season. Do you feel strongly either way about the hip-drop tackle as a whole?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Yes. I kind of have, in my mind, a plan for that, if I was king for a day, what I would do, but I'm not, so no one cares. Right now, I just think it's in good hands. The Competition Committee talks about those things, and if they decide to do something it would be for good reason. I know [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell gets involved in all those things as much as he can. [Chairman of the Competition Committee] Rich [McKay] and all those guys do a great job, so whatever they decide to do, at whatever point in time, you just abide by it, and you say, 'Hey, it's what's best.' Then, in the offseason, I'm sure there will be a debate, and it will be voted on and all that. Right now, we're just trying to get ready for the next game."
How do you talk to your defensive players about hip-drop tackles? Is that something you teach because it is in the toolkit right now or do players do it by instinct? How do you deal with that as a coach?*_(Childs Walker)_* "No, we don't teach it. We don't teach it. I can't remember one of our guys doing it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember seeing it from one of our guys. It's not something we teach."
Is there anything with WR Odell Beckham Jr.'s shoulder? I know it was a little roughed up after the game. Is there any update there?*_(Brian Wacker) _*"Yes, [Odell Beckham Jr.] is not going to be … It's not going to be a long-term shoulder thing. Guys have … I promise you, every single guy … We can sit in here – you guys would probably want to – and go through every guy and their exact status [and] what they've got." (Reporter: "If you're offering.")"Which I'm not." (laughter) "But you could." (laughter) "So, everybody has something. I've got some things, too. I could tell you my issues, if you were really interested." (laughter)
Without TE Mark Andrews, is there a possibility you might use more multiple wide receiver packages and just go with that?*_(Mike Preston) _*"Oh, sure. I think so. Everything is on the table, for sure – more wide receivers. We're going to play those guys [and] those tight ends more than they have played, for sure. [We're] going to mix it up. One thing we always want to do is keep it moving. We don't want to become … And sometimes you have to be, and we have in the past; you get forced into certain kind of groups based on what your roster looks like. But really, I do believe, more than we have been in recent memory, we're probably more prepared to deal with something like this than we have been. We have a lot of guys that can step up and make plays – wide receivers, tight ends, running backs. I feel really good about the guys that are going to – all together – fill in for Mark Andrews. Mark … Listen, man, Mark is such a competitor [and] such a talent. He's a superstar player. It's impossible to replace him, per se; we have to replace him together, as a group, and I really believe we can do it. And then when he gets back, we'll just be that much stronger for it – whenever that is."
When you say that there is an outside chance for TE Mark Andrews to return, are you thinking in the playoffs, maybe?*_(Jamison Hensley) _*"I don't even want to say right now. [Mark Andrews] has got … Once he gets back from [his further evaluations] this week, maybe that's something we can mention and talk about, because we would just know more, and also, I'd probably have to lean into Mark on that, too; what are his thoughts on it? So, I don't want to speak for Mark, either. But I'm going to tell you this: There is no bigger competitor [and] nobody wants to be out there more than Mark Andrews. This guy, he is all about … He's all about everything, but he's all about gameday. I'll give him a hug every now and then [and] tell him I love him, because I do love him, but I try not to get too close to him sometimes." (laughter) "He's all about it."
Without speaking for TE Mark Andrews, do you have a sense of his mood right now and how frustrated he is or anything like that?*_(Bo Smolka) _*"I couldn't even say. I mean, yes, I'm sure he's frustrated. But he's OK. He'll be OK. He's tough."
Do you feel like the run defense giving up more yards than usual on the ground is pretty fixable?*_(Jonas Shaffer) _*"Oh, yes. Absolutely. I'm not too worried about our run defense. We take a lot of pride in that."
The Chargers are 4-6 on the season, and it seems like their margin for error to get into the playoffs is razor thin at this point. Do you coach any differently when it's a team that is desperate for a win, or is it just continuing to coach for your opponent?*_(Kyle Barber) _*"No, we're desperate for a win. We're 100% desperate for a win. That's what we're focusing on."