SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement: "Good to see all of you guys today. It's just our guys out here; we're working hard. It's a division game, and we're pretty fired up for it. We will be ready to play. And just like I say every week, I'm just continuing to see the growth in our players in this phase of the game. We're doing a good job of starting to make some plays, and really just some young guys are coming along. We're playing some young guys, and those guys are really showing up for us. And we're just looking forward to the opportunity on Sunday. Questions?"
When a team is going through a lot of injuries, it's usually the back end of the roster that's affected a lot, which usually affects your group. How much has the continuity and the overall health of the team helped you to get the same guys out there most weeks and grow?*_ (Jeff Zrebiec) _*"It's been pretty good from the start of the season to where we are now. It's been good to get some guys back. All those things, usually, pretty much help us on special teams. And I've just been encouraged by the guys that maybe hadn't played a lot of special teams in their career; they're getting a lot of opportunities to play. And guys that I think about; I think about the Charlie Kolars and the impact that he's making for us weekly. I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing [from] all those guys."
We saw RB Keaton Mitchell break out as an offensive player, but he's worked on special teams as well. What have you seen from him in that area? And how fun is that for you, as a special teams coach, when you see a guy get an opportunity on offense or defense after working with you and taking advantage?*_ (Luke Jones) _*"It's one of those things where … We talk about young guys all the time; in order for them to really make their mark, they probably come through our room first, as a special teams player. And once we find out [about] and give those guys [an opportunity] and establish a role for those guys … I've stood up here before; I've told you the things that [Keaton Mitchell] does well. He can run. Some would say that he's a small guy, [but] he's a physical guy, and those things do show up on special teams. So, when you get an opportunity to put him out there, and just to watch him go play gunner, watch him run down the field on kickoff, watch him hold up guys on punt return – [against] bigger guys – it's been amazing to see. And then to watch him get his opportunity on offense and then do what he did in the game, I couldn't be more proud of the kid."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
How fun was it to get RB Keaton Mitchell in the mix offensively and for him to produce the way he did?*_(Luke Jones)_* "It's a pretty easy question, isn't it? [I'm] happy for him. [He] had a pretty good preseason [and] then got hurt. Then, we started getting him a little bit more involved [and] then got hurt again. It was fun to see. The guys were excited for him. He's a great kid. [He] works hard. You can see that by our guys [and] how excited they were for him."
Was RB Keaton Mitchell's physicality something that surprised you throughout the game?*_(Morgan Adsit)_* "What happened in the preseason a lot is there were some plays that he showed some lateral quickness in getting to the edge, but you really didn't see him play behind his pads like he did in the game. [I] thought he did a great job playing behind his pads. [He] showed good vision. There were runs that should've been four or five [yards]. He got seven or eight [yards], and runs that would've been seven or eight, he got nine or 10 [yards], besides the one that showed his speed. [I] thought he did a great job playing behind his pads."
What does RB Keaton Mitchell's performance on Sunday mean for him going forward for the rest of the season?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "I don't know. It's still early in the week. We'll see. Games go different ways, but I think with any player, when you get your opportunity, you take advantage of it, and that leads to more opportunities. I think that's the simplest way to put [it] in anything in life. If you're given an opportunity, and you're successful at it, you're going to get more opportunities. You deserve it. You earned that. He's earned that."
What is going so well in the run game right now having the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"Well first off, our coaches do a great job of scheming the run each week trying to tie it into what we want to do in all areas of the gameplan. Obviously, Keaton [Mitchell] having a 40- and 60-yard run helps that. You're not counting on that. That's difficult to account for in any given week. Lamar [Jackson] adds to that. You're in an interesting position to where you have a quarterback that each week may account for 50 to 60 yards. Some [are] planned runs, some [are] scrambles that lead to that, so you're going to get some of that. But, as I always say, you can't control the game if you can't run the football. We have good backs. We're physical up front. I think we're pretty versatile in the type of run game that we have, and Lamar [Jackson] is certainly a big part of that. The backs have been a big part of that, along with the O-line, and the coaches have done a great job. I know I mentioned that. [It] came full circle, but they've done a great job of scheming that up."
How important is the versatility in the run game of having a bigger running back like Gus Edwards who can be physical and complementing it with a speed running back like Keaton Mitchell?*_(Jacob Calvin Meyer)_* "I think when you have, for instance, three running backs that are up on gameday, it is nice to have players with different skillsets that you can utilize. Sure, would you like three backs that are a short-yardage back, a receiving back ... that can do it all. At least, from Gus [Edwards'] standpoint, obviously from a power standpoint, and he showed speed [and is] able to break tackles and then having some other guys [who] can do some other things, I think is helpful in terms of when you're game-planning certain matchups, certain parts of the field, certain situations, as we all know."
How has TE Mark Andrews continued to evolve in your offense?*_ (Pete Gilbert)_* "I don't think he's changed much. Sometimes, he has a way of the ball finding him. [He] just has. I think you guys asked before, 'What's the deal with Odell [Beckham Jr.],' and I said before, and I'm not bringing Odell into this. I'm just saying that the history that [Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews] have together leads to that. To me, in the passing game, the ball finds players that the quarterback has trust in. When Aaron Rodgers went to the [New York] Jets, there were certain guys that he wanted with him. There's certain guys that quarterbacks, when they get to a certain part in their career, they have trust in skill guys around them. You can see that. That's been built over time."
QB Lamar Jackson saw a lot of man coverage during the Week 4 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. What are the expectations you have for how the Browns' defense will play him this week?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Some of that was we saw a decent amount of man [coverage], and then it got even more of that as we were up in [the score of] the game. We've seen a decent amount of man [coverage]. I don't know what it really does to him, other than from us from a game-planning standpoint, like any game we go into, we have to have a plan where Lamar [Jackson] feels comfortable where to go with the football, no matter whether they're playing man [coverage], zone [coverage], types of zone, types of man that are good vs. all [types of defenses]. I think that's the part of it is having enough skill guys that make it difficult to play man. The more guys you can have that can win, the better job you can do of uncovering those guys the more fun it is. The fewer guys you have of that and the worse job you do of uncovering them, then you get covered, you're holding onto the ball, and you hope he runs around and makes a play. And that's what we're trying to avoid, obviously."
Obviously, you played quarterback back in the day. To see the kind of throws that guys like QBs Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are making, with side arms and arm angles, what do you make of the evolution of football?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "It is so cool that the game has evolved from what would have been considered, years ago, a quarterback … Well, the offenses have changed, right? So, there were pocket passers … You were either a running quarterback, or you were a throwing quarterback. You were one or the other, more, I'd say statue is a strong word, but more of a pocket passer. Where now, you've gotten to the point where you have really athletic guys with arm talent and size, and [they] really understand the passing game. The game has changed forever in a good way. To me, it's more fun to watch. It's hard to consistently stay in the pocket and distribute the ball unless you're really elite on the outside. You need the ability to extend plays and allow the guys on the outside to uncover. The No. 1 pass play that we've had every year that I've been in coaching, when you have quarterbacks like Lamar [Jackson], is scramble. There's not one other pass play that we're going to call – not curl flat [and] not four verticals – it's going to be scramble. So we have to continue to be elite at our scramble rules because, when you have athletic quarterbacks [and] when you see them making plays off schedule, all the guys you mentioned, the guys that are elite – you're talking about the Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes [and] Lamar – those off-scheduled plays are hard to defend. They are two-play quarterbacks, and I might have gone off in a different direction and not even answered your question about [me playing at] Knox College back in the day."
Is QB Lamar Jackson attempting throws with arm angles that maybe you were discouraged from attempting because of the elasticity that he has?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "It's impressive, isn't it? It's pretty cool. You're not going to see those old YouTube videos and see those arm angles with me. I didn't even know those existed. That's awesome. [Lamar Jackson]'s got a unique ability to still be accurate with multiple arm angles, which you're seeing with a lot of these quarterbacks. You're seeing the ability with arm angles. Some of it comes from guys that, in my opinion, played baseball, like [Patrick] Mahomes. If you're a middle infielder, you're used to turning a double play, and your arm angle is [a certain way and] still being accurate. That's my opinion. Maybe [it's] not everybody's opinion. I do think that he the ability, with a lot … And, the other thing is, 20 years ago [or] 15 years ago, you didn't have nearly as many quarterback coaches, and I'm not talking about in the building. I'm talking about guys outside [coaches] that train young kids at an earlier age. Because of their athleticism, they're working a lot more off-scheduled throws. You just watch these [guys] on YouTube, and they're all over the place, moving and [throwing with unique] arm angles, being off platform because you're just seeing more of it, and they're just more ready and available to play because it doesn't have to be perfect. It used to be everything was training and being in the pocket. Now that's just evolved in a lot of ways, and you see it with players across the country from college to the NFL."
You've said before how gameday is stressful for you. What's two games in five days time like?*_(Morgan Adsit)_* "It's actually better [for me]. There's less time in between. I wish we played every day. Like [in] baseball, you go 0-for-4, and you get to go play next day, and you get it out of your system. Now, the good news is, when you play well, it's actually nice [because] you have a week. I feel pretty good. There's not as much stress. You play like [crap], and you feel like [crap]; that's just the way it is, so do I prefer to play the next day? Of course. The fun is in playing. It's [in] getting out there and going and seeing what you do, so to me, it is what it is. Luckily, we've played them before, [and] they've played them before. [We'll] get ready to go. First of all, taking care of the first one [against Cleveland], that's the most important is what we do this week and how we prepare for this team. Then, [we'll] take care of the Bengals [game] when that comes after we play [this] Sunday."
What are the challenges preparing and game-planning for DE Myles Garrett, not just because he's a great player, but he's such an athletic freak. He can do so many different things and line up in so many different places. What's that like?*_(Pete Gilbert)_* "It's awful. It absolutely stinks. [Myle Garrett]'s got such natural ability, and he's worked awfully hard to really drill down his pass rush moves, and he's relentless. You have to account [for] wherever he's at, which is [for] any elite player. It could be a receiver, quarterbacks that can move [or] pass rushers that make it difficult. It makes it difficult in terms of everything that you do because he can wreck the game. He can wreck the game. He made it hell on 'Indy' [Indianapolis Colts]. There were a couple of plays that really changed that game, so again, and he's a tremendous young man. He's a hard worker [and] a great kid, but it stinks [to play against him]. You'd prefer he's out."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
You prepared for QB Deshaun Watson last time, and he ended up not playing, and you ended up going against QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Now that you know who's going to play quarterback this game, does it help to prepare for them this week given what didn't happen last game?*_(Pete Gilbert)_* "I really haven't thought about it through that lens. It's really the same process as usual where you're going off of what we went into the first game, [for example] how we felt like the first game went, and then obviously the four games since then and how they've evolved and how you anticipate them kind of responding. It's always kind of an anticipatory thing going into a second division game. So, that's the way we're kind of approaching it."
A few of the guys mentioned the natural comfortability that comes with being with a defense for a second year, but having one year of NFL coordinating under your belt, did you change anything about the way you taught at all this offseason?*_(Chris Bumbaca)_* "We had talked about this in the offseason a little bit about having a clear vision of what we wanted to get to. So, it crystalized a little bit in how we were coaching it and our methods and how to do it. I think it was clear, and the staff has been awesome on how we've worked together on how we want to do it and how you go about executing it. So, the logistics of everything is just a lot smoother the second time around."
People who watch your defense watch the film and the things they say a lot is how unselfish everybody's playing. OLB Kyle Van Noy wasn't here until Week Three or Four and OLB Jadeveon Clowney came here halfway through the preseason. CB Arthur Maulet came in late as well. How did you get guys to buy in? Is that something where the culture kind of sells itself in a lot of ways? Is it something you discuss often? How does that process work?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "I'm really glad you asked that because our guys deserve a lot of credit for playing that certain way. I guess the culture is probably the first thing that 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] instills to the whole team, and that's been how we've operated for a long time. Then the coaches do such a great job with their rooms on a day-to-day basis and just over communicating [their] roles and how we expect it. That's something we talk about as a unit all the time about, 'Hey look at this guy doing a great job that set up this guy. So, this guy made a great play, but he was able to make a play because these three guys are doing a great job setting this guy up for success.' If that makes sense. Every time someone makes a play, there's so many great examples that you can show, so that's definitely something that we've stressed, but credit to the guys. In buying in, I think they see different guys making plays, and that's building their confidence, and obviously, I think we have tight unit, and it's exciting to see people be excited for other people's success. It's not easy to get to this point, but hopefully we build on it, but definitely [I'm] proud of where we're at for sure."
What impressed you the most about OLB Kyle Van Noy in the past weeks or so?*_(Jacob Calvin Meyer)_* "To me, he's the player that we anticipated him being. The things that he's done over the course of his career, he's doing here. He's playing obviously at a high level, but he's the type of player that I expected him to be. So, credit to him for being ready to go. I don't mean that to take anything away, but that's how highly I thought of him for sure."
Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh said this week sacks can be kind of overrated with how it's measured. For a guy like OLB Odafe Oweh who you guys felt like improved last year, but it may have not shown in the sacks stats, how much can getting sacks and having that help him going forward?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "I don't think [Robert Saleh] is wrong by saying [sacks] are overrated. I know where we stand sack-wise, but it would be kind of talking out both sides of our mouth over the course of the years. With [Odafe Oweh] in particular, it's just overall confidence. You're getting to the quarterback and having success and having maybe a little bit of validation about the type of work that he's put in, but whether not he was getting [sacks] or not … To me, and I've spoken on this a lot, is the process and how he approaches it, we're very proud of that, and he is standing on that right now, and you're starting to see the production come to fruition – it's what we anticipated all along."
What is it like going against TE Mark Andrews in practice? What sticks out the most to you as a defensive coordinator watching him?*_(Pete Gilbert)_* "Mark [Andrews] is an ultimate competitor, and he brings it every day, so that's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Mark. Our guys know, 'Hey if you win a rep against Mark, that's saying something.' So, that's just iron sharpens iron type of thing, and obviously, he's definitely one of the best in the game to do it probably for a long time. So, just seeing him come out and compete every day and his mentality – he doesn't ever back down. He's always bringing it, and he makes sure we're on our Ps and Qs as well."
I'm just curious to hear your opinion on why you think sacks are overrated?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "There's a lot that goes into it. You can win rushes at a certain rate, and the ball's out, or if you're winning rushes at a lower rate, but the guy's holding the ball … There are different things that go into it, so I think sacks are important for sure because they affect the game and yardage and all sorts of things [like] quarterback psyche, that sort of thing. But there's definitely more that goes into it in terms of affecting the quarterback and winning downs on a situational basis."
You guys did a great job against the Browns in Week Four, and obviously it's a different quarterback this time around. It seems like QB Deshaun Watson has a great relationship with WR Amari Cooper. What do you make of your execution from that first game and how to make changes this time around?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "Well, like I said the first time, they do a great job of moving [Amari Cooper] around. So, we have to able to account for where he lines up and the things that he does from those particular angles. I think the guys did a good job of recognizing that the first game, and the way the game played out, it was hard to get to some things they probably had game-planned, so that's something we're going to have to account for as the game goes along for sure."