PASS GAME COORDINATOR/SECONDARY CHRIS HEWITT
What's it been like working with defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson this year?*_ (Jonas Shaffer)_* "It's been really awesome. You get another guy in the room to help you out, and you can see the result in what's been going on with our secondary, but it's definitely been a plus."
We've seen DB Brandon Stephens really take off in Year Three. You guys moved him from safety to corner, back and forth a lot the first couple of years, and he even started at safety this summer. What has clicked for him the most, not just to be able to play on the outside, but play at a high level because even some really good secondary players can't play on the outside like that?*_(Luke Jones)_* "[Brandon Stephens] has always had the ability, and that's the reason why we drafted him to be a corner. When he first got here, we had the need at safety. That's the reason why we moved him there at safety, but he has so much ability that you can move him to so many different places, but selfishly as a coach, [you say], 'Brandon [Stephens] can do this,' and 'Brandon can do that,' so you always move him around, but this year, he had an opportunity just [to] soak at corner. The reps and the opportunity to be there, just playing corner the entire time, and the injuries that we've had there, we didn't have to move him around. So, he was our best player at corner, and just to answer your question, the reps have been helpful for him, just playing one spot the entire time. Now, he's processing things a lot faster, and he's playing at a high level. He's always had that ability."
Could you have foreseen this jump from DB Brandon Stephens for as well as he's playing for a guy that hasn't been playing cornerback fulltime?*_(Jeff Zrebiec) _*"I'd be lying in saying I could have foreseen him playing as well as he has, but he's always had that kind of ability. Again, because we moved him around so much, now, he's had the opportunity to really soak at the position, and his confidence is just growing and growing and growing. Now, he realizes what he can do and what he can't do when he gets out on the field [with] being able to match the best wide receivers in the league and go out there and go play."
Going against WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers every day, how much does that get these guys ready for what they're going to see every Sunday?*_(Kirk McEwen)_* "That's been one of the biggest things in practice. The type of talent that you have to play against in practice, it raises everybody's levels. We have that term, 'Iron sharpening iron.' That's exactly what's happening here with this team. So, they're making each other better every day just competing in practice. So, yes, to answer your question. That's exactly what's going on."
What's impressed you the most about S Kyle Hamilton's season, and how high is the ceiling for him?*_(Garrett Downing)_* "I told you from the beginning, in my first presser in the beginning of the year, I told you that [Kyle Hamilton] was going to be a Pro-Bowl type of player. He does everything; he covers, he blitzes [and] he tackles. There's nothing that kid can't do. A lot of things that people don't realize about him is … Don't let the babyface fool you. He'll try to rip your face off. He's a great player."
You have had injuries to top guys this year as you've had in the past, and we've seen how difficult that has been in the past years. Why do you think it's been so much more seamless this year?*_(Childs Walker)_* "One thing about it is, it's Year Two in the same system. The coaching has been consistent, and we haven't had to move guys around as much as we've had in the past. Guys have been in a particular position, and they've been able to soak and get better."
S Kyle Hamilton talked about how last year, as a rookie, there were struggles for him. Was there a point where you saw something click with him last year at one point?*_ (Jamison Hensley) _*"One thing about it is, when you come in as a rookie, it's overwhelming. You're learning a new playbook, you're playing against guys that are the top players in the world, and it's an adjustment. Going through it the first part of the year, [in] new system, being able to adjust, and then after that … Kyle Hamilton has unbelievable ability, so I don't care where you put him. He was going to shine. But, he's just grown over the last two years in the position he's playing. He's playing safety as well as playing nickel corner. So, just the amount of reps that he's gotten at that same position, that's the reason why he's grown and playing as well as he has. It's the reps."
What do you think of S Kyle Hamilton's football intelligence?*_(Jamison Hensley) _*"[Kyle Hamilton's] football IQ has always been high. I can't take credit for that. When he came in here from Notre Dame, he had a high IQ coming in here. That's not my doing."
Is there an example of one or two areas where you've seen S Kyle Hamilton grow in?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "It's the command of the entire defense [and] knowing how the pieces fit. He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He knows where the linebackers and corners and where everybody is supposed to fit in the defense. So, he knows what leverages to play, and he's able to unwind things where sometimes, things get a little crazy out there, and he's able to unwind it and get everybody in good position."
With a player like S Kyle Hamilton, do you see his swagger kind of taking off? We saw his 'too small' celebration. Do you like to see that from young players? Do you feel like that can be beneficial playing with that kind of swagger?*_ (Ryan Mink)_* "Absolutely. That's what it's all about. Guys feed off of energy, and if he's playing like that, and guys are seeing it, they want to be part of all of that too. It picks up everybody else's play on defense."
Guys that you added fairly late in the game, like CBs Arthur Maulet and Ronald Darby, why have those guys fit in as well as they have?*_(Childs Walker) _*"[They have fit in] because they're pros. Those guys have played a lot of football, and again, it's all about the reps and their repetitions that those guys are able to go but there and play and practice. Those guys having the experience of playing – I think Arthur [Maulet] is in his seventh or eighthyear or something like that, and [Ronald] Darby is in his ninth year – those guys have played a lot of football, so they've seen the coverages. Let's not get it twister; we're not putting new coverages or anything like that [out there]. They've played everything that we're doing. So, those guys being pros and just being able to get the verbiage of all the things that we're doing, that's how those guys are just able to plug in and just go play."
You mentioned that you didn't see the trajectory in DB Brandon Stephens probably the same way with S Geno Stone, a guy who's been underestimated his entire pro career. He's small but he's been leading the league in interceptions.*_(Kirk McEwen)_* "There's a little bit [of a] difference with Geno [Stone]. Geno has always been an instinctive player, a high IQ football player. It's all about the opportunity, and all the opportunities that he's had even last year and even as a rookie, every time he's come in, he's played well. Now, this year, the ball is finding him, and that's just being confident in the system. He knows the system well, and just like Kyle [Hamilton], he's been able to unwind things now and just go out there and just go play free and go play football, because he's always been a good football player. So, that's one of the reasons why we drafted him because of his instincts. It wasn't because he ran really fast [or] he jumped really high. People don't know about it; Geno has some bunnies. He can get off the ground too now." (laughter)"He can, but his instincts are the things that are making him takeoff."
You look at the analytics and you guys are near top of the league in pre-snap disguises. How difficult is that as a teacher to implement that as well as you guys have? What do you think the rewards have been for you guys this year?*_ (Jonas Shaffer) _*"It's all about trying to make things look different to the quarterback and try to lie to the quarterback as much as possible. [Defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald] has done a great job of coordinating all those things with our blitzes and our coverages to be able to lie to the quarterback. Those are the reasons why we're being successful and that the teaching has been consistent. A lot of the things we do with our disguises – not to give you too much – but with our disguises, it helps us being able to blitz."
With S Marcus Willaims coming back, do you see him, now that he's a little healthier, being able to be kind of that difference maker that we all know he can be down this last stretch?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"Yes. We definitely need Marcus [Willaims] to be that guy that we saw last year early in the year, and he will be. Having that injury ... There were one or two games, he went out there, he basically played with one arm, and that's a tough injury to overcome. You [saw] here in the last game, he's starting to tackle better, he's starting to have more confidence in the arm, and I have no doubt that he's going to take off as a player, because he's a very confident football player. [He's] a guy that we need going down the stretch to help us win these games."
Head coach John Harbaugh, for a couple straight weeks, was asked if he was concerned about the tackling from S Marcus Williams. In your mind, why is it important that he's on the field even though there were those limitations?*_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_* "For any quarterback to go back there and see [No.] 32 [Marcus Williams] back there, you're going to think twice about throwing the ball up there, even with one arm. Now, that's not the situation anymore. He's a lot more confident, and he can go out there and go tackle. But having Marcus back there in the middle of the field, it's going to cause some concern for a quarterback to throw the ball up there, because he can go get it at any time."
Can you speak to the character and the toughness of S Marcus Williams for battling through an injury like that and still being on the field and playing a physical brand that he's known to play for and fight through all this?*_(Kyle Phoenix)_* "I applaud [Marcus Williams] to the utmost. He could have packed it in and said, 'You know what? I'm going to get surgery,' but he sees that the opportunity that we have as a football team. This is a special group, and he wants to be a part of this special group to go ahead. The ultimate goal is to go out there and win the Super Bowl. That was his ultimate goal, is to try and get there and win that Super Bowl, so again, [he's an] awesome dude, and I applaud him. It takes a lot of character and a lot of toughness for him to do what he's doing."
During training camp last year, I believe you said that S Kyle Hamilton is a guy that doesn't make the same mistakes twice. Are there any examples of that athletic intelligence that you can think of? How important is that quality?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "It's one thing to go out there and make a mistake and not be able to make the same mistake twice. The mistakes that [Kyle Hamilton] did make, earlier in his career, he's making those mistakes in games. He's making those mistakes in practice, and it doesn't show up in the games. So, that's just his growth as a player and [his] growth as a professional now. He's really taking that step. I don't know if that answers your question, but that's where he's at."
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH GREG LEWIS
What have you seen with WR Zay Flowers' work ethic? It seems like it has been there since the beginning.*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "Yes, it has been there from the beginning. The kid [Zay Flowers] is a guy that wants to be great, wants to soak up all the information as much as possible. He talks to [assistant wide receivers] Coach 'Dub' [Keith Williams] and I daily about things that he can work on to get himself better. He's getting out [to practice] early to get stretched out making sure he's ready to go. He's just a young guy, [and] to see him do those type of things is pretty impressive on his end as professional as he is as early [as he is] in his career."
What has been the biggest area of improvement for WR Zay Flowers from Week 1 to now?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "Just understanding the offense and understanding the different [wide receiver] positions and where he can be utilized at. For a young player to come into the NFL in any organization, learn a new offense, learn the [play call] verbiage and understand that it's hard to learn one spot, let alone two or three spots. [Zay Flowers] has grown immensely throughout the season as far as understanding the entire schematic of what we're trying to get accomplished and how he fits into the puzzle and then going out there and letting his talent shine."
There was talk in the preseason about how WR Rashod Bateman handled always being hurt and what his role is in this offense. How have you seen him mature this season to him now being at a point where he is making plays every week?*_(Jeff Zrebiec) _*"I can't speak on what has happened in the past and how [Rashod Bateman] has evolved. Since I've been here, I had a conversation with him [on] Day One. We talked about where we're headed and the positive mindset going forward with different things. 'Bate' has been awesome daily with just trying to continue to work his craft and get better each and every day. It's showing up every week as you just noted. That's a positive for us as a team, because the more guys we have out there capable of making plays, the better for us scoring points on offense. So, it's been awesome to see him continue to grow into this offense and grow as a person. I'm looking forward to the future with him as well."
Is there anything more you can share about the conversation you had with WR Rashod Bateman on Day One? Is this something you do with all the wide receivers?*_(Garrett Downing)_* "That's something I've done everywhere I've been. When I come in, I want a clean slate with every person, and I base you off of what we have going forward [and] my expectations. I want to know your expectations, and then we move forward. It was a great conversation with him, but I had one with everybody in the [wide receiver] group."
Why have we not seen a breakout game from WR Rashod Bateman yet, even though he has continued to show signs of improvement. Why do you think that is?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Because there's only one football. There's only one football that goes around to everybody. We have an enormous amount of playmakers with ability on offense, and we try to get everybody involved. When your number is called, the expectation is for you to make those plays. When 'Bate's' [Rashod Bateman's] number has been called, he's made those plays as the case with everybody else. We talked about that from Day One. There's one football, and that's the way it goes. We're in it to win games, and when your number is called [and] your opportunity presents itself, we need you to make that play. Then, there could be another one two plays later, or it could be another one 20 plays later. That's just the way it goes as far as us being as potent as we are on offense with all the skill players that we have and the guy [Lamar Jackson] delivering the ball to us, it's just, 'pick your poison,' and we need to take advantage of that."
What has WR Nelson Agholor brought in terms of his leadership?*_(Kirk McEwen)_* "'Nelly' [Nelson Agholor] has been tremendous in the [wide receiver] room. I actually coached 'Nelly' back in Philadelphia [with the Eagles], and having that relationship with him, I knew the type of guy that he was. [Quarterbacks coach] Tee [Martin] obviously coached him at USC, and 'Dub' [assistant wide receivers coach Keith Williams] worked with him previously, so we all knew the type of guy 'Nelly' was. Bringing him into the group was a big positive, because of his work ethic, how he presents himself, how he comes to work each and every day, [how he's a] professional and then his skills. At the end of the day, he's a skillful player, and he comes out and shows it each and every day. Just from a leadership standpoint, showing guys how it is to be a pro, having been in the league nine years. He understands that he was a rookie once, and those younger guys latching onto him, to Odell [Beckham Jr.], to 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay], those type of guys, to 'Tread' [Laquon Treadwell] and just seeing how those guys … It's a very professional room. We enjoy each other's company. We enjoy playing, but when it's time to work the guys are ready to work and they know what's at stake."
Why is WR Odell Beckham Jr. so good at running slant routes in particular?*_(Childs Walker) _*"[Odell Beckham Jr.] is explosive after the catch. He can run the slant route, get the guy out of his back pedal and then set a great angle. Then, Lamar [Jackson] delivers a great ball to him, and then the guy [Beckham Jr.] with the ball in his hands is very explosive. He has a DB/linebacker-type of mindset when he does get the ball. He's physical and fast, and that's what's happening when he gets in space. It's an opportunity to make plays, and he wants to take advantage of each and every one of those."
In what ways have you seen WR Odell Beckham Jr.'s impact as a leader in the wide receiver room?*_(Jamison Hensley) _*"Just how [Odell Beckham Jr.] approaches it [and] just talking to guys. Having been in the league nine years as well, he's been through a lot and seen a lot. Different situations have presented themselves to him throughout his career not necessarily from a football on the field deal, but just dealing with different situations. He's helped those guys a lot from that standpoint. Obviously, he's a great player and his skills show. He's able to teach some guys some different things. As far as what he's been through and how he's been able to continue to make it in the league for going on 10 years is remarkable. To help those young guys understand that this is what it takes to be at this elite level each and every year is going to be this difficult."
What is WR Odell Beckham Jr. like in the wide receivers room? Is he vocal, and how does he impart his wisdom?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "The [wide receiver] room is open. Obviously, myself – I lead by example and ask questions, and [assistant wide receivers] Coach 'Dub' [Keith Williams] asks questions as well. We're the lead of the group, and we give out the information, but it's open. It's open to guys, because there's different ways to do different things. Guys have been different places whether it's Zay [Flowers] or Odell [Beckham Jr.] or 'Nelly' [Nelson Agholor] or 'Tread' [Laquon Treadwell] or 'Ty' [Tylan Wallace] or 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay] or 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman] or Sean [Ryan]. Any of those guys have done all the routes that we're doing and may have used a different technique. We're open to hear some of that stuff and maybe implement some different things into what we're trying to get accomplished. It's been awesome just to hear and learn different things, because even as a coach, you're always learning [and] trying to find different ways to get the guys and get them to understand what we're trying to get accomplished. It's been fantastic to have him in there, but it's been everybody doing the same thing just trying to learn from each other."
What is the next step for WR Zay Flowers? What do you want to see from him down the stretch?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "Just continue to improve each and every week. There's no magic thing that [Zay Flowers] needs to do. Just continue to stay focused on what we have going on. Come to work each and every day like he does and just continue to find ways to help the team and help us win games. That's the only thing that I'm looking for."
What do you expect from WR Odell Beckham Jr. down the stretch since he has started to heat up the last few weeks?*_(Garrett Downing)_* "I expect the same thing from everybody to be part of the offense, when their number is called, to help us be successful on offense and move the ball down the field and get touchdowns however that may be. It may be [Odell Beckham Jr.] catching a pass on a slant [route]. It may be him blocking on a run play. The expectation is for us to do our part, our 1/11th [for] each individual from the receiver room when they get out there on the field."
What has it been like working with assistant wide receiver coach Keith Williams? How do you find your coaching styles complementing one another?*_(Kyle Phoenix)_* "It's been awesome. I had known of [assistant wide receivers coach] Keith [Williams]. [I] recruited his son back when I was at San Jose State. Obviously, he didn't go there. Keyan [Williams] didn't want to mess with me there." (laughter)"It's been fantastic to get around a coach that is like-minded. We're very focused on the details of receiver play and understanding each and every nuance that needs to take place, but we also are regular. It's regular talking to people. It's not talking like we're some scientist or something we're not. It's been refreshing just to get around a guy that enjoys it just as much as you do, if not more. Keith has been awesome to lean on, awesome to learn from. I'm hopefully helping him the same way, and then we're hopefully helping the group of receivers that we have. Hopefully, it permeates throughout the offense into the team as well. His excitement, his passion for receiver play and us has been great to be a part of."
Is there a skill from catching passes at unique arm angles from QB Lamar Jackson, or is it all just fundamentals?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Catching is catching. You see the ball coming at you, you catch it. There's no science to it in my opinion. Now, some of the stuff that you may see Odell [Beckham Jr.] do at practice with the one-handers, that's his deal. I'm a two-hand catcher, and when it gets thrown to me or thrown to our guys, I expect you to catch it. If he's throwing it underhand, overhand, sideways, if he's kicking it to you. However you get it, the objective is to catch it. If I threw something at you right now, you'd just catch it because you don't want to get hit. That's how I look at it."
QUARTERBACKS COACH TEE MARTIN
Where have you seen QB Lamar Jackson make his biggest strides, particularly as a passer?*_ (Ryan Mink) _*"I just think just having his pre-snap and post-snap plan. Once the play gets called, he's already processing what he wants to do, and he puts in the work early in the week to kind of have an idea of what to expect from a coverage standpoint [and] from a blitzing standpoint, and he's getting through his progressions really quick. And [he's also] just having a good plan [for] if something breaks down … If it's there, he takes it. He's being very disciplined in his progressions, and that's allowing him to be consistently successful in the passing game."
Do you coach those sidearm throws that he uses, or is that QB Lamar Jackson's natural ability? What are your thoughts on that?*_ (Garrett Downing) _*"First of all, it is natural ability. I'm not going to take all the credit for that at all. But I think that one of the best ways of learning is through play. I think that you can talk about things; you can discuss things; you can go on the field and drill it. But I think, ultimately, with the time that we have in the NFL … You don't have 30 minutes to do individual [work] like, say, [in] college, where you can just work on several drills in a day. We have a small amount of time to get the guys ready to go. So, how I do it is, I'll act like a D-lineman; you'll see us in pre-game, [and] you'll see us at practice at times, where I'll act like I'm rushing [Lamar Jackson], and I'll get in his vision and try to distract him and do different things, just letting him be him. But I'm not taking the credit for that. That's Lamar; he's been doing it for a long time. But we do try to assimilate, if something were to break down – 'It happened that way' – through play. Sometimes, it looks like we're goofing off, but it's actually beneficial when the bullets start flying."
Is there a moment in a game this year where you found yourself thinking, "Man, QB Lamar Jackson did something there where maybe in years previous or last year, that wouldn't have happened?"*_ (Shawn Stepner) _*"Several times; several times. And that's just [Lamar Jackson's] growth. It's becoming the norm. And it really started during training camp. I know you guys remember the one practice we had [when] we threw just too many interceptions at quarterback, and we came back and went the rest of training camp with maybe like one [interception] the rest of training camp. And from that moment … Lamar is so competitive, and he doesn't like to be wrong. He doesn't like to have it all look like it was him. And so, he took it upon himself to just continue to study more and learn the concepts inside-out, to where he knows – when we watch film and see what a defense does – that people are going to play him [differently]. So, even when we're presenting passing plays, Lamar is already saying, 'Well, what if they do this? What if they do that? What if they blitz me?' So, you go back to the Detroit game, where we had a naked … You go back to the Cleveland game, [where] we had a naked: He gets blitzed; he finds Mark Andrews; he gets Mark a pass [for an] explosive play. Gus Edwards in the Detroit game: It's a naked [with a] guy in his vision; he finds Gus, and it's another explosive play. Pat Ricard: The wide-open play to him; it was meant for something to happen downfield; it's not there, not there; Pat was in protection, leaks out, and [Jackson] finds him for another explosive play. So, I think that that's where you can see the maturation of Lamar – is, 'I understand the intent of the play, but if it's not there …' You saw Sunday night, him checking down in situations where Isaiah Likely got huge gains when the pass concept was meant for us to go deeper downfield, but it wasn't there. They were dropping underneath it; they were deep; he checked it down, and we were still averaging like nine yards per reception on those types [of] plays. So, I think that he's grown in those areas. He's always been doing it, [and] it's always been there, but I think he's consistently doing it more when it presents itself this season."
As a follow-up to that, what would have happened in previous years with those plays you pointed out? What do you think would have happened in previous years?*_ (Shawn Stepner) _*"I think before, [Lamar Jackson] would rely sometimes on his own talent, and it would be great." (laughter) "You [would] get a chance to see how dynamic he could be – sometimes using his legs [or] sometimes starting to use his legs and finding Mark Andrews downfield and doing different things. Lamar is so dynamic, and in so many different ways, that plays can play out. So, specifically to say what he would have done in the past, I can't say that. But I can say that he's consistently doing things like that this year, and it feels different [after] watching the games and just being around him every day."
As someone who played quarterback at a very high level, when you lose your top guy for a long time, how does that impact your approach? There is so much history with QB Lamar Jackson and TE Mark Andrews, and their chemistry is so innate. How does that impact your approach as a quarterback, then, moving forward?*_ (Luke Jones) _*"Yes, it's the trust factor, and it's the factor of ... Mark [Andrews] and Lamar [Jackson], they think so [similarly]. There are times when they do things, and they do it so fast that you think that that was the play." (laughter) "Mark may break a route off, [or] Lamar may throw it back-shoulder or throw it on an angle that it wasn't meant for it to be thrown on – that angle – but he saw Mark's body language going that way, [and] he threw it towards that angle. And you just can't make that up; you can't practice that; you can't re-create that. So, what happens when that guy is not there, [and] someone else is doing it, is, 'How much time do I have working with him doing it, to where I can read his body language? Does it look like he's stopping or still continuing on? Is he going up [the] field [or] is he flattening it out?' And so … And Lamar and I, we had that conversation, and we just talked about just spending more time with guys that can be in those situations to do the things that he and Mark did. Whether it's Isaiah [Likely], at tight end, [or] whether it's another wide receiver, he and Zay Flowers and those guys are getting to that point. You saw, even Keaton Mitchell: He was on a scramble play; he was almost out of bounds, and he sees Keaton, and it [was] like a little dump pass, and we nearly got the first down to gain. So, collectively, I think, as a group, they're all getting to a point. And we practice scramble drill a lot; that's something that's new this season – where we actually take time out during practice to practice the scramble drill – and [we're] really coaching it in detail. I think that we've grown in that area as a unit, to where not only [it's] just Lamar and Mark, but it's other guys saying that these things are going to happen. This is the NFL; it's going to happen. They're going to rush the quarterback; someone is going to come free; he's going to get outside the pocket. But the play is not over; that's the second play, and we need to be successful on that play. And so, I think, as a group, we're growing in those areas. Even Odell [Beckham Jr.]: There was a pass where he saw Lamar kind of move, and they were on the same page, and he dumped the ball to him early in the game. So, ultimately, that's what you miss – is that trust and being on the same page and it happening fast. Guys will eventually get there, but the quarterback [could be] sacked by then. What he and Mark were able to do is it happened so quickly that you just thought it was a natural … You thought that was the play sometimes."
When a play does break down and QB Lamar Jackson is scrambling to extend it, is he doing that now more with an eye on making a pass play than taking off and creating a run? Is that a difference that you've noticed from maybe a couple years ago?*_ (Childs Walker) _*"Well, I think that [Lamar Jackson] is seeing the benefits of doing it more often. It just kind of goes to Mark [Andrews] and the scramble drill and things like that. When, early in seasons, as a quarterback, you do it, and you get rewarded for doing it, you're more likely to do it again, and [you'll] get positive plays out of it. And then you start seeing the effects of a defense having to cover everyone and it taking pressure off of you having to be Superman all the time. So, I think that that's maturation; that's him – having the experience that he's had in this league – knowing how people are going to defend him. 'OK, they're spying on me; they can't be in coverage. They're blitzing me; someone is open.' And [it's] him just having that understanding through experience and through, systematically, him understanding where [his] answers are. It just speaks to his maturity in the year that he's in right now in the program and in the system. But what's really cool about it is [that] he's doing those kinds of things in the first year of a new offense, and that's really unique – for someone to be as advanced in a new system, [with] new terminology, and it's like this has been the way [it's been] the whole time. And so, that's what I think is really unique about what Lamar is doing this season."
When we talk to QB Lamar Jackson, and we ask him about the Ravens leading the AFC, his response is, 'Well, it's about the Super Bowl.' As someone who works closely with him, is that how he ultimately defines himself, because it seems like he always mentions the Super Bowl?*_ (Jamison Hensley) _*"Well, [Lamar Jackson] said it when he was drafted, he said it when he signed his contract [extension], and he says it every week, so he means it – he really does. And we're sitting on the sideline at times … I mean, it's even to this point, where we're winning a game; we're up by points; like, the game is decided, and guys are starting to go, 'Hey man,' and he's like, 'Dude, [the] game is not over. Like, we're not done.' He means it. And another thing [is] he likes to get the information on the next team before he leaves the locker room of the current game. And so, he'll meet with you all after the games, and I put in his locker the advance report for the next team, and on his way home, he's already getting ready for the next team. So, he's serious, and he's working that way. He's not accepting … Even when we win, he's not happy about the fashion, at times. Ultimately, it's about how he feels like he played and then, collectively, as a unit, and then as a team. He knows the capability – and I'm not speaking for Lamar here – but I think he sees us every day, as a team, and knows how good we can be and how far we can go, and he's not stopping until we get to that point."
QB Lamar Jackson has talked a lot about being locked in. He's said that over and over again. How have you kind of seen that? Has he taken that to another level this year, in terms of being locked in?*_ (Garrett Downing) _*"No, question. Yes, we talked about [how] the idea of being locked in is locking things out, to where we're focusing on the main thing, which is winning games, and that's where [Lamar Jackson] is at. He's been around … We're talking about a man who's come into a league where he was doubted, [and] he was questioned. After being the [NFL] MVP, [he was] doubted and questioned. I'm watching TV this morning, [and he's] being doubted and questioned. And so, [there is] a chip on his shoulders to not only prove to people what he is, but to prove to people what we are as a team and how far we can go as a team. It comes with a certain level of focus, [and] it comes with a certain level of attention to detail, and you can't get to those points if you're not locked in."
As a former player, can you relate to QB Lamar Jackson in any way, in terms of that championship aspiration? Did winning that National Championship at the University of Tennessee fill any kind of void for you?*_ (Jonas Shaffer) _*"Yes. And I understand where [Lamar Jackson] is at, because … I said after we won the National Championship game [that] this is the first time I've taken a deep breath and exhaled. You always feel like you're on this roller coaster ride, where you're holding your breath, and you're going on the ups and downs, and not until the ride stops, do you go, 'Phew, that was fun.'" (laughter) "And so, a championship season feels like that. You're going to have your bumps, you're going to get jerked here and there, it's going to be fun for a minute, [and] it's not going to be so fun, and then, at the end, when you're happy with your work, and you've got the ultimate goal, which is a Super Bowl or a championship, then you can exhale a little bit. And so, that's the feeling I had. [I'm] not speaking for him, but when you're on a journey, you understand … It's like climbing a mountain; sometimes you can't see the peak, [but] you just take the next step. It may be foggy; there may be trees, bears – whatever – and you just keep taking your steps. Ultimately, you clear the clouds, and you can start seeing the top – that's playoffs – and then you get to where you're trying to go. So, I think that's what we're speaking to here."
The sheet that you put in QB Lamar Jackson's locker after a game, is that something new this year? Did you implement that? How did that come about?*_ (Brian Wacker) _*"I would think so. I don't know for [sure]; I just know that that was something that I wanted when I was a player. It was something that … How I was raised at quarterback is, 'OK, we won the game; that's what we were intending to do. Now, it's about the next team.' And going home … I would sometimes, [after] home games, leave the stadium, see my family, have dinner or whatever we did, and then go back to the facility to start on the next game when I was in college. So, it is a … [There is] just a constant thirst for information [and] thirst for knowledge. You want to know the opponent like you know your defense. Lamar [Jackson] can go and play against our defense, and he knows how [Patrick Queen's] body language looks when he's blitzing, or Roquan [Smith's] or Kyle [Hamilton's]. He knows when Kyle is blitzing, [or] when he's not … He has a good feel for them, and he can feel and just be himself and play against them. That's how you want to feel going into a game against an opponent that you may not be familiar with. You want to have watched them so much that you know when they're bluffing, [and] you know what their plan is to attack you. But it starts as soon as the previous game is done."
With QB Lamar Jackson's chip on his shoulder, has that manifested itself more this year than maybe last year?*_ (Brian Wacker) _*"I just think [that] every champion has to self-motivate somehow, and you find different things to use as motivation. I just know that [Lamar Jackson] wants to win a Super Bowl, and we all want that. But I just think that … Sometimes you don't always want to talk about it, [and] sometimes you don't feel comfortable – I guess – to say it, but when you know, you know. Like, when you know you're good, you know you're good; you step into the building knowing you can do this. And when you know you're one of the best teams in the league, say it; you know it. And so, I think he's there, and he's living in that, and so I love seeing it."
I think T Ronnie Stanley was talking about offensive coordinator Todd Monken and how amusing he can be. Stanley said that Monken curses a lot. What is an offensive meeting like, and what has that process been like – getting to know Todd Monken and you all kind of working together?*_ (Jeff Zrebiec) _*"In one word, I would say, animated. Yes, [there's] a lot of energy. It's fun, at times, but we get down to the point. [Offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken] can be whatever he needs to be to get the point across – demanding, very detailed [with] coaching just about any position that needs to be coached up. We confront issues and not people, and that's something that [head coach] John [Harbaugh] talks about. That is a program saying here, and I think that [Monken] does that. We all, ultimately, want to be on the same page and know how he's thinking – whether he's with the unit [or] whether he's in our room. He's always asking them questions about what they think [and] how they feel; 'If you don't like it, we won't do it.' And I think that that's new, and that's different. His approach is very animated – however he gets there – but we enjoy the atmosphere and the culture that we have this season."
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH CHUCK SMITH
How has the ride been? I don't think anybody saw this production coming into the season blowing up, and you're a big part of it.*_(Kirk McEwen)_* "Well, first and foremost, I want to give a lot of the credit to [assistant head coach/defensive line] Coach [Anthony] Weaver. Coach Weaver has done a fantastic job with the pass-rush plans. We work in conjunction as a D-front, so I know a lot of people say, 'Hey, Chuck. You've come in there and changed the trajectory of the pass rush,' but I want to make sure everyone understands that Coach Weaver deserves a lot of credit. He's a defensive coordinator, basically coordinating the D-Front; [that] is what we call ourselves. I just want to make sure that people understand that it's just not me teaching pass rush and spins. He works with 'Dafe' [Odafe Oweh]. I work with 'Beeks' [Justin Madubuike]. I work with 'Mike P' [Michael Pierce]. He works with 'J.D.' [Jadeveon Clowney], so it all works together, and I just want to make sure that's understood, and that answers your question as well."
Coach Weaver mentioned both groups being in the same room. Can you speak to the importance of that and the impact that it's had to have both the defensive linemen and the outside linebackers in the same meeting room?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "I think you look at that room, we're connected like a puzzle. You can't put a puzzle together without making sure all the pieces fit, so our D-front is basically a puzzle. The edge guys do some of the same things that the interior guys do, or we'll replace them when it comes to the different fronts and different positions. You'll see we have [Kyle] Van Noy lined up in the three [gap], Travis Jones – at 350 [pounds] – lines up sometimes in the five [gap, or] Dafe' [Odafe Oweh] over the nose. 'J.D.' [Jadeveon Clowney] plays multiple places. Brent Urban, he'll play defensive end, so people are like, 'This guy is 6-7 [and] 300 pounds.' So, to me, it really is the evolution, honestly, of the NFL, particularly when you're in the base three-man front, because our guys who play on the edge – think about it, those guys are truly hybrids. Jadeveon Clowney was probably a defensive end when he was in … He was in South Carolina, so when you look at it from the standpoint, this is the evolution. I believe a lot of teams are going to start doing that because you can't be in two separate rooms and try to come together and say, 'You know what. Let's piece this [together] again,' so it's basically like I'm putting the puzzle together. Then, we'll wait and try to figure out how to put the other part together, so we're putting it all together at the same time."
With DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney, what has allowed him to have the kind of success he's had this year? He's having one of the best seasons of his career at this stage in his career.*_ (Garrett Downing) _*"One thing I want to say about Jadeveon [Clowney], it's [about] what you have done now. This is Jadeveon Clowney, who we see today, and it's a credit to him of his hard work, his belief in himself – because he went places where he didn't have the success – and there's nobody in this building, probably except Lamar Jackson, who's had as much pressure as Jadeveon Clowney [has]. When you look at him, the first thing I'll say is, years ago … I was training Clowney years ago. The bottom line is he was trying to learn how to do the cross chop. [It's] as simple as that. It's his go-to move. He's always had power. What you see is the difference in Jadeveon Clowney in Tennessee, the difference in Jadeveon Clowney in other places, is that he's developed a skill move. But also, add in, he has the complementary pieces around him that he's not Jadeveon Clowney, the first-round pick, the No. 1 guy. Man, he's just 'J,' so he's not treated any different than 'Mike P' [Michael Pierce]. He's not treated any different than Tavius [Robinson] when it comes to the overall how we look at the structure of the defense. So, he comes in with a learning attitude, and he's using moves. To me, that's the biggest thing with Jadeveon. You know he's always had the physical presence to always have the violent hands. Now, I think also, we hear this all the time, the culture. My wife is always like, 'Here we go with the culture. He we go. Did you guys hear about the culture?' But I'll say the culture in that D-front room is insulated by a guy like Mike Macdonald. Then, it's insulated again by Coach [John] Harbaugh, who is basically saying, 'Hey man. You do what you need to do.' This isn't a coach that's pounding us [and] saying, 'Don't spin,' [or,] 'Well, you ran too far past the quarterback. Don't do that again.' We're going to be cutting edge when it comes to teaching, and I really appreciate I guy like Jadeveon saying, 'You know what? I'm going to try this.' Like the other day, he's trying to do a spin; I'm like, 'Let's just work on that.' But the point being, it is kind of like a culture, and Jadeveon is just reaping the benefits of a culture that Coach Harbaugh and all the folks here have already set, because I'll tell you this; Most places would have never brought me in and said, 'Hey Chuck, go ahead and work on that cross chop.' Most people didn't like it. 'Go ahead and work on that spin.' So, 'J.D.' is benefiting from what the folks here already gave me and Coach [Anthony] Weaver the opportunity to do."
When you bring in guys like DE/OLBs Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, you obviously see the potential because you're bringing them in. How satisfying is it for you and other coaches to actually see what you envision coming to fruition?*_(Shawn Stepner)_* "Well, I see it come to fruition, but I told you guys a while back that we were going to get to the quarterback. No question, but I think it feels good and not as much to me. It doesn't feel as good to me, particularly. I love seeing Jadeveon [Clowney] and 'K.V.' [Kyle Van Noy] getting their flowers. Jadeveon Clowney is what we see now. We can't look back right now. Of course, you're going to always be evaluated because you were the top overall pick, but the dude right now is as good as any rusher in the league. He's a game wrecker, and like we always tease him … 'J.D.,' and he'll say it; he could have 15 [or] 17 sacks right now. So, I'm not as much about me, [but] man, I'm so happy to see people talk about him positively. I'm happy to see 'K.V.,' who was sitting on the couch, which he could always play, but then, I'm glad to see those guys get their props, and I am excited to win, and I pray that one of them gets to 10 [sacks]. Man, for their careers and their lives, [if] you brand that you're a double-digit sacker, it's just something awesome, and I can't wait for them to see it."
Do you look at guys and identify whether they are better at a swim move or bull rush? Do you emphasis the positive, or are you always trying to incorporate new moves into what they have?*_(Kirk McEwen)_* "The moves started for us … Start off with 'J.D.' [Jadeveon Clowney]. I've trained with 'J.D.' for years. We were training when he was in Tennessee. We were training when he was in Cleveland. We were training for years. Before I was a coach, he would come to Atlanta, so he's been working on this stuff – or this one move – for a minute. I used to call him when he was at Tennessee and say, 'Dude. That's not it.' Me and my assistant Dez would send him videos. We were like … I used to consult guys from home and things like that. But, no. My philosophy is I'm going to teach you the skill moves, and we execute them. I don't believe … I'm not a big swim [move] person. I don't like the swim [move] because it opens up your hips. I'm a rip guy. Some people don't necessarily feel that way, but those are things that I believe have success. When it comes to developing a pass rusher, I'm going to teach him the signature pass rush moves that work. [It's] as simple as that. We have guys that use push-pulls. We have guys that use pops. We have guys that use rip-humps. We have guys use chop-drives like Travis [Jones]. The big thing is, when it came [to] the development of all of our guys, one thing me and Coach 'Weav' [assistant head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver] talked about; we wanted everybody on the front line to be a threat. We wanted everyone on the front to have a sack. So, when you look at it, everybody that we put in that game is a threat that has developed a move, and [that's] a credit to the offseason program. It started … We were pass rushing … We did a lot of pass rush. We did a lot of pass rush in the preseason, so I think everybody developed a skill, and we still go out there and do one on ones. We still do one on ones. With Coach Joe [offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris], we're still working at it. So, if that answers your question, yes. Everybody develops moves, and my philosophy is, we're going to execute moves. If you're going to block us, you're going to block us because we used the move, not because we're not skilled enough and using moves. We've had success, but also, we've had highs and we've had some lows. This is how the game goes. The percentages say there is going to be a time where every game we won't be getting two, three [or] five sacks, [or] we get nine hits on the quarterback. But, the one thing that won't change, they're going to beat us, and we don't get those numbers, it won't be because we're not using high-performance skill pass-rush moves."
We heard the news yesterday that OLB David Ojabo had season-ending surgery. We know how excited you are about his future. How do you help keep him focused on the light at the end of the tunnel as he goes through another rehab?*_(Childs Walker)_* "I think it's the nature of the business, but 'Ja' [David Ojabo] is a big part of everything that I've seen from the standpoint of what we want to be about. 'Ja' is about being a pass rusher. 'Ja' is a good person. It's just unfortunate that he got injured, and 'Ja' can rush. I would have loved to see 'Ja' out there. He can do all the different things that everyone else is doing out there. I'm in constant communication with 'Ja,' and I'm keeping him in my prayers, but I told 'Ja' the other day; [I said,] 'You know what the best part about this is? We're on the other side. Every day is a day getting closer to you coming back,' and that's the way that I look at it, and that's the way I want him to look at it, because it's true. He's going to get healthy, and he'll be back. It takes one day at a time, but we've got love for him."
With DT Justin Madubuike, where has he excelled as far as being a pass rusher?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "I think, again, [Justin Madubuike] accepted using skill moves. Again, I want to say this too, 'Beek' was already on fire. He came out last year, but a lot of people never brought up 'Beek' [and] what he was doing because we were looking at Calais [Campbell] and Justin Houston so much. They are great players, but last year, give him credit and the guys who were here last year. 'Beek' was already rolling [and] doing some great things. What did he have, like six [sacks] or something like that? So, he was only four [sacks] away from 10, but I think coming in this year, again, that culture … We want to have a pass-rush culture. That's what we have. We're going to stop the run, but all week, I'm thinking [about] pass rush. So, Coach 'Weav' [assistant head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver] has responsibilities. He's doing the run ... Let me tell you, 'Weav' does a lot now. He had that door cracked, and 'Weav' would be in there, [and] his head would just look up [and he'd say,] 'I've got to go. I've got to go,' but for me, it's always pass rush. If there is a person around here … I'm talking pass rush every second. It's a pass-rush culture. We're going before the game, [and] 'Beeks' would, before the game, work on his moves. He'll come up and say, 'Coach, I need to use my rip.' He works on moves. You've seen 'Beeks' get a sack on the spin. You've seen 'Beeks' get a sack on the cross-chop. You've seen 'Beeks' get a sack on the chop-drive. He's worked on his skills and basically took what he did last year and brought that forward. The last thing, and I said this earlier on the year about 'Beeks'; when you hear 'dawg' – we throw that around again a lot, [that] cliché – 'Beeks' is really the kind of dude that is absolutely trying to knock your head off every play. There is no other way to put it. So, from that standpoint, when you think like that, effort comes into play to be a 'dawg.'"
Some players come into the year with numerical goals for sacks or quarterback hits. Do you or does this staff have any quantifiable goals, or did you, coming into this year?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "I don't [want] to say we had [quantifiable] goals, but when we were doing our PowerPoint, one of the goals was, of course, we want to lead the league in sacks. On my PowerPoint, that was one of the first things. Then, credit again to Coach 'Weav' [assistant head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver], when they say, 'Write your goals up there,' and there are guys that – I'm not going to say who they are – that are on that brink of reaching their potential and reaching their goal. But, no. That's not really a thing that we're sitting in there saying, 'Hey, we want to get 60 sacks,' or '[We want to] break the team record,' or [anything] like that, because we talk a lot of pass rush, but it's because we know we have so much more to go. We could be sitting here in another two weeks, and you all are saying, 'Man, you don't have any sacks.' So, no. It's not like that, but as a pass rush coach and an outside linebacker coach, there is no question. [It's] just like our offense [says,] 'What's the one thing we want to do?' Coach [John] Harbaugh says we want to lead the league in rushing. We want Lamar [Jackson] to lead the lead in passing [completion] percentage. So, I also would like to lead the league in beating up quarterbacks, honestly. Putting quarterbacks [down] on the ground where they lean to get back up. So, that's the kind of goal that we've got. We want to put hands on quarterbacks, and that can affect the game. The sacks come after that."
What does it say about DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney that at this stage in his career, he's asking you how to learn a spin move and that he's still trying to add moves at this stage?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "It says a lot, but it says that [Jadeveon Clowney] wants to be better. To me, you know what it really says, though? He wants to help this organization win a Super Bowl. When you're a guy like that [who is] ready to sacrifice and say, 'You know what? I've been this guy, the same guy that everybody said I was all these years, an underachiever. But, you know what? I'm going to take coaching. I'm going to listen to other guys. I'm going to be a leader,' because 'J.D.' is a leader. Kyle Van Noy, he's a leader. I want to make sure I mention that. So, it tells me that he's willing to make sacrifices to humble himself and say, 'Maybe this can help,' but ultimately, the big picture [is] 'J.D.' wants to win a Super Bowl. So, he hasn't talked about [any] goals like that. He is not one of those guys. Of course, he wants to get [to] a number [of sacks], but he isn't sitting around like, 'Hey, I'm going to get 10 [or] 15 sacks.' I just think he's doing it for … The whole D-front room is really a gang of grown men. [They are] just trying to do it for the common cause, which is pretty cool, especially to see in your first year [of coaching them]. There isn't any drama. There literally is no drama. We just come to work, and we have great guys and great leadership."
When OLB Odafe Oweh was going through the pre-draft process, he had a 4.4 40-yard dash time. You turn on the tape, and a lot of times, he might have been the last guy to cross the line of scrimmage. How important has him improving his get-off been for his development as a pass rusher? What can be done to help a guy with this much athletic gift, but make it more translated to football?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "I know great athleticism doesn't always translate to getting sacks. We've seen that. If you go watch the history of pass rush around the league, you're going to see some of the slowest guys of all time become the best rushers. [As] a matter of fact – I'm not saying he's the slowest guy of all time – but maybe the second-greatest defender of all time, who played here [and] who is our leading sacker, what was his 40 [-yard dash] time? [Terrell] Suggs?" (Reporter: 4.8) "I'm just asking. OK. [I'm] just asking. So that answers that question. To me, that's kind of like a myth. From [Odafe Oweh's] standpoint, he continues to work on it. We continue to work on it. You have great get-offs, and then just like anyone else, whether you're Maxx Crosby, [or] whether you're Brian Burns, everybody has those days. But, 'Dafe' continues to work. We continue to evaluate it, push him harder, continue to do the little things like [improving] the get-off will help, especially when you run a 4.3. So, I think that he continues to work on that, and that's something that we do put an emphasis on, but he's had it. He's been getting off on the rock, and [he] will continue to keep working on the skills. These next five games, [we'll] keep working on the things that are going to help us work, and the entire defense, because it just can't be about 'Dafe,' which when you get a sack is just about 'Dafe.' Yes, he's working on his get-off. He's done a good job this year."
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE ANTHONY WEAVER
What does DT Justin Madubuike do that stands out better than other players you have coached over the years?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "I think the biggest thing with Justin [Madubuike] is he's tenacious. He attacks every day exactly the same. You have some guys that, they have their good days, and they have their bad days. I don't know that he's ever had a bad day. He just shows up to work with the same mentality every single day, and that's why you've seen the production you have [with him].
What exactly is different in DT Justin Madubuike's play this year?*_(Shawn Stepner)_* "I don't know that anything is different. I just think he's continuing to mature as a football player. His football intelligence goes up, he starts to recognize some of the things that are happening around him, and he's also probably getting more opportunities without a Calais [Campbell] here and things like that."
How do you and outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith complement each other?*_(Childs Walker)_* "Well, we're all in the same [position] room, so that I think helps in itself. Often, when you have the outside backers in one room and then the defensive front in another room, then you have two guys on the edge and two of my guys on the inside, there's a disconnect there sometimes. I think just the sheer nature of us being in the same room helps. [Outside linebackers coach] Chuck [Smith] does a tremendous job of making sure these guys are constantly throwing [pass rush] moves. He holds them accountable to that and in teaching them how to attack certain leverages on a guy. The sheer, individual [pass] rush aspect of how to attack guys, he's solely focused on that and does a really good job with our guys."
What have been the biggest improvements by DT Justin Madubuike? Is it recognition things, or is it technique?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "It's probably a combination of both to be honest with you. The thing about Justin [Madubuike] that's funny – I was just talking to Kevin Zeitler about this the other day. He's like, 'Either some guys, you worry about them running around you and being more athletic that you, but you don't worry about them running you over.' He's like, [Justin Madubuike] can do everything.' That obviously causes problems. I'm just so happy for the kid. He's walked in this year with just mission-minded [focus] from the beginning. I'm talking about in March, and to see it all come to fruition has been awesome."
How satisfying is it to you to see defensive linemen 8-10 yards down the field finishing plays and getting on the football?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "We're constantly preaching that. That's the 'Raven Way.' 'Life's short, run to the ball.' When you don't do that, you have a tendency to stand out, so it makes it easy from a coaching standpoint just to hold everybody accountable to that standard. I love it. To me, if you're an offensive team, and you're watching us on tape and you see these 10-year vets, 350-pound guys running out of stack ready to hit you, that sends a message."
Is it new that the defensive linemen are now in the same meeting room as the outside linebackers?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "That is new. Everywhere I've been, that's been in the structure. It's always been like that. The outside backer coach handles his room, and the defensive line [coach] handles their room. It just becomes hard when if you're in a four-down rush, and two of my guys are in there, and two of your guys are in there, sometimes there's a disconnect in terms of what you're seeing from a communication standpoint. When you're all in the same room, you can talk about all those things throughout the week, and it makes it more cohesive on gameday."
Have you ever seen another rusher like DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney? Is there any part of you that is surprised by the success he is having this season at this stage in his career?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "This is my fourth year, I think, with Jadeveon [Clowney], so I've been watching this a long time. The thing I've always said about Jadeveon is he plays the game violently. Sometimes, that doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, but it doesn't mean he's not being impactful. To have him come out here and play the way he's playing right now in Year 10, it's funny just from my aspect just seeing him as really this old, grizzled vet now. When I got him, he was this young buck. It's really not surprising at all, because what you see from him every Sunday so far this year is what I've seen from him for a number of years now."
Where have you seen DT Travis Jones grow the most from Year One to Year Two? What is the next step for him in his development?*_(Luke Jones)_* "First, he played at UConn. They had four wins in four years." (laughter) "So, that was tough, but just his sheer run technique and just his recognition of when to get off blocks, when to sit in there and fight a double-team [block] – that has all been drastically improved from Year One to Year Two. He still has strides to go. If you watch him [and] just look at him, he is physically just freaky. He is an absolute specimen, and as soon as he learns to play a little bit lower late in the down, particularly in his pass rush, there really shouldn't be anybody that can stop his power."
We have seen a lot of impact from veterans on this defense. Is that starting to matriculate down to younger players like DT Travis Jones and DT Broderick Washington since their production has been up the last few weeks?*_(Kyle Phoenix)_* "I think it's all cyclical. This game – you really can't force any of it. All we require is that everybody go out there and do their job to the best of their ability and let the plays come to you. Inevitably, they'll all eat. That's what we preach – 'Do your job first and then help out.' Ultimately, everybody will reap the rewards of that."
How pleased have you been with NT Michael Pierce's high level play this year after his last few years being up and down?*_(Garrett Downing)_* "I am so happy for 'Mike' [Michael Pierce], because No. 1 – I know how much he cares. He absolutely loves this football team and wanted nothing more than like a year ago to be out there and contribute and to be with his guys. So, for him to have the year he's having and just staying healthy and be out there and contributing, I love it because I love the kid. He's a little bit like Jadeveon [Clowney]. Sometimes, his stats don't necessarily show up on the sheet, but he does all the dirty work. He's getting middle pocket push which is going to help your edge [rushers]. He's keeping your linebackers clean. His value to us is immense. I'm so happy he's out there."
As a guy that has been here both as a player and as a coach, what is it about the culture that allows players like DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Kyle Van Noy to come to the team and do so well and become big-time contributors coming off seasons where they were not really like that?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "I think that's truly a credit to [executive vice president/general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and his staff, and then the cohesiveness and the alignment he has with John [Harbaugh] and us. They bring in smart, tough and dependable football players. When you add them to our defense, which is very multiple, they can be productive regardless of how late they are in their career. If you have that high 'FBI' [football IQ], and we're going to give you everything, and then you can pick and choose the parts that you can utilize to help your game – those guys like Jadeveon [Clowney] and Kyle [Van Noy], they take full advantage of that."
What can you say about OLB Tavius Robinson?*_(Jerry Coleman)_* "Tavius Robinson. First off, I don't really like rookies" (laughter) "for a number of reasons, because you're going to live through some of those rookie headaches. You're going to let them make their mistakes, and you understand that. This kid tries to do everything right. He's super meticulous, he works his butt off, and you're just at the tip of the iceberg of what he's going to be here for years to come."
There were a lot of new coaches brought in in the offseason. Is this a special group of coaches like it is with the new players that were brought in this season?*_(Kyle Phoenix)_* "I truly do. I think we have an incredible staff both offensively and defensively. I think [defensive backs coach] Dennard Wilson was a huge add. To see him and [pass game coordinator/secondary] Chris Hewitt working that 'DB' [defensive backs] room is awesome. I coached [inside linebackers coach] Zach Orr in college, so I knew exactly what we were going to get out of him with the linebackers, and you see how they play. Then, I think we have a bunch of position assistants that you never hear about that are up-and-comers in the profession like [defensive quality control] Matt Robinson, [defensive coaching fellow] Brendan Clark, [coaching/scouting analyst] Andrew Rogan. It's awesome. We have [coaching fellow] Marianna Salas who puts together one of the best 'DB' [defensive backs] tip sheets I've ever seen in my life. We have a really solid group from top to bottom, led obviously by Mike 'Mac' [Macdonald] who I think is incredible. I truly do believe we have a special staff."
Have you seen more attention paid to DT Justin Madubuike this year because of how well he is blowing by offensive lines? What is life like as an interior defensive lineman?*_(Jonas Shaffer) _*"I think that's hard. It's easier to scheme away edge guys with chippers and turning the [pass] protection. It's hard now when you have a guy on the interior, particularly when you have the edges we have. You can't take them all away, so while I think people are cognizant of where he is and what we're trying to do with [Justin Madubuike], it's hard to scheme him out. Let me say that."