SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening Statement:"It's good to see everyone. I hope everyone is doing well. Right now, our attention right now is just strictly on Jacksonville [for] Sunday Night Football. We understand what's in front of us. We understand Jacksonville has a pretty good special teams' unit. We faced these guys last year. We're just looking to go out and just go play our best football. Questions?"
How can you make it so you have 76-yard returns for touchdowns every time?*_(Kyle Goon) _*"That's a good question. One of the things, a lot of things have to happen, a lot of things have to go right in order for those things to happen. One, you have to get the ball. You have to get the right punt, and then you have to take care of the gunners. You take care of the gunners, then you take care of the guys covering down the field legally with good blocks, good attention to detail, and then you have to have the returner back there. One, make a guy miss and go the distance. That's really how it's done. If those things can happen all the time, I'd be happy."
A lot happened for WR Tylan Wallace in that game. He had the offsides penalty and then he had to come in for WR Devin Duvernay. What were your conversations like with him? Tylan says he was really hard on himself. Did you sense that? Were you trying to bring him out of that?*_ (Kyle Goon)_* "On that offsides play, that's just one of those where you, after the game, you kind of talk to [Tylan Wallace]. You don't really understand … Because that's the same play that 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay] was hurt on, on that play. So, as his coach, I was frustrated. That's a change of possession and then I kind of go over [and] have a conversation with him. At some point throughout the game, [the trainers] say, 'Hey, Duv's down.' Then you go back to Tylan and say, 'Hey, you're going to be the punt returner.' There's going to be some opportunities there, and the first thing first is possession of the football. That's one of the things we talk about all the time. He did that and from there, it's just let his natural football ability take over. He has that. He's a good receiver. Once he gets the ball in his hands ... All those guys have the capability of making those kind of plays."
In terms of WR Tylan Wallace's resilience, he's a guy we talked to during training camp and he said he was sitting in his car waiting for the clock to turn to 4:00 PM to make sure he was going to make the team. To go from that point to what he did this past game, can you talk a little bit about his resilience?*_ (Melissa Kim) _*"It just speaks to who [Tylan Wallace] kind of is and what he's done. This is a guy that goes out there every day, and he just puts the work in, and he just waits for the opportunity when his number is called. That speaks a lot to kind of who is as a person. When he first got here as a rookie, I didn't really know who he was. I just knew he was a receiver. We put him out there as a young guy and he played gunner and he made plays. So, you speak back to all those plays he's made … This is just the one that got in the end zone, [on] this big return. But Tylan's been making plays for us really since he came here as a special teamer."
Coach John Harbaugh said it was a long run down there to the end zone. We saw you in the camera running around down there with him, did you feel that way, too?*_(Valeria Preactor)_* "I definitely felt it. My adrenaline was going. I went all the way down to that huddle, [and] I started to cramp up a little bit. Then I realized I have to get back [because] Chase [Blackburn] is on the other side. Chase was one of my teammates in New York, so I had to go down there [and] shake his hand, so it's all love. Those are really the plays that we look for, the plays that we aim for. I talk about how it's easy to go out there and have good plays. We've had good plays this year, but those are the great plays. I always talk about in the return game, the plays that score are the great plays. But we've had a lot of good ones, and we finally got us a great one on Sunday. We're just looking forward to going back out there and continue to build on that."
For you, was that the most exhilarating moment of your coaching career? How does that compare to your playing career? Is that the best moment of both your careers as a coach and a player?*_ (Ryan Mink)_* "That is the best moment of my coaching career by far. To win the game in that fashion as a coach, you're so excited for the guys first. Then, as a coach, you sit back and think about how much time [special teams coach/specialist] Randy [Brown], [special team coach] T.J. [Weist], [Consultant] Sam [Koch] and I and [Head Coach] 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] when he's in there, how much time we put in there just working and trying come up with ways to score, for great plays to happen and the attention to details in that situation. But that was definitely the best one as a coach for sure."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Obviously, Jacksonville last year, that was a tough way to end that game. We didn't get a chance to ask you after the Cleveland game and how that kind of ended in the fourth quarter. You guys are usually good Quarter 1 through Quarter 4, but when there have been those fall offs in the fourth quarter, has it been easy to pinpoint what contributes to those types of collapses?*_ (Jonas Shaffer)_* "Well, so talking about the Cleveland game, we were in a two-minute situation. Then, at some point, it really becomes a four-minute situation when time [advantage] kind of goes back on their side, and they're trying to kick a field goal. So, our mind kind of shifts in that particular situation. The Jacksonville game last year was a straight up, 'Hey. They had four downs. They had plenty of time to go down and score. We have to stop them.' In that game, we got them in a third-and-long. [We] had two downs to try and get them to fourth down, and we didn't make those plays to make it. When you're looking at fourth-quarter drives to win the game, you're not really thinking in terms of the calls and plays. You're thinking [about] players and matchups. Our guys understand it's hard to stop a team with four downs, so a lot of times, it's a takeaway or a sack to lead us to the victory in those situations. So, our mindset is to go out and play our technique and be aggressive. Obviously, there is strategy involved in the things that the offense is doing and the things that we're countering with on defense. That changes from game to game, but the philosophy is always the same. We want to be in attack mode and stay aggressive. Ultimately, it's going to take a play to win those types of games."
How impressed are you with S Kyle Hamilton's toughness. He tweaks a knee and comes back in. He tweaked it again. He said he wanted to come back in until you had to sit him down, and he's already practicing this week. Beyond his talents, which are a given, what does that say about someone that's wanting to be out there like that?*_(Luke Jones)_* "Well, you said it. [Kyle Hamilton] is a tough guy. Talking to him about what he was thinking through the situation, it was a funny story to hear about it, because it was the play before where he tackled the crosser, and then came back. [He] didn't really realize it was banged up until later. He probably had some adrenaline going in that situation, but yes, he's a tough dude."
With Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, his ability to run is something to monitor. He's coming off the ankle injury before. When you look back at the film, did you see a quarterback that can still very much hurt you with his legs? Is that something you have to focus on this week?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"Yes. Definitely. You wouldn't have guessed that [Trevor Lawrence] hurt his ankle the week prior. Just like we were talking about with Kyle, he's obviously a tough player [who's] willing to stand in there and take hits and make throws. [He'll] try to extend plays. [He] doesn't slide much down the field either. [He's] a very competitive player [and] very tough. It definitely speaks to what type of guy he is coming back so quick and not really showing any signs of weakness."
During the Bye Week, head coach John Harbaugh said he's not at all concerned about the run defense. Sunday, obviously in the second half, you shut down the run game. In the first half, you probably gave up more than you'd like. Where is that run defense at? Do you have any concerns? Do you see any need for improvements there down the home stretch?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "I'm not going to call it a concern, but [it's] absolutely an area for improvement. It goes with every aspect of the defense. You're always evaluating it. We're doing it in game [and] making adjustments of front structures that you want to play [and] personnel groups. The Rams are a little unique in how they ... in terms of what we've seen throughout the year, so [we're] making sure we're playing the plays that we need to play. Then, you turn the tape on, and a lot of it is ... We're not calling different things throughout the game, but how we're playing the plays and guys getting used to it, there's something to be said about that. Obviously, schematically, you have to be able to adapt as games go on, as well, so we're never concerned about anything. You're always thinking about [it] through the lense of, 'Where are we?' 'Where do we want to be?' 'How do we get there?' That's how we're approaching it."
S Kyle Hamilton does so much, and he's so versatile. If he's not on the field, does that affect you at all schematically? What is the difference between having him on the field and not having him?*_ (Brian Wacker)_* "Like you said, [Kyle Hamilton] is such a unique player, so you can use him uniquely. If he's not out there ... Not one guy is going to do the things that he can do. Now, we have people that can go in and perform at a high level, which you've seen, but it probably won't be just one person filling the roles that we'd have him to play. We can get there through personnels and different calls and things to kind of alleviate the stress of not having him out there."
How involved do you get throughout the week knowing how S Kyle Hamilton is feeling and responding so you can prepare for X, Y or Z depending on his health?*_(Morgan Adsit)_* "Anytime someone is kind of up in the air, you kind of have to have a contingency plan. That goes the same for really every position. What happens if so-and-so breaks a chin strap? Who's going in? What's your backup plan? How does the gameplan adjust? It's impossible to cover all those bases, but you try as much as you can and try to think through some of those things so when it does happen, it's kind of like you've been practicing it all week. You kind of know what direction you need to go, and coaches do a great job [of giving] input for who's ready for what. In this situation, we have the whole week to work [on] our contingency plans on how everything shakes out. So, it's a little different when it happens in real time, but yes, you're definitely always thinking about those things."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
What has been the biggest difference over the last month for WR Odell Beckham Jr. where his production has gone up?*_(Luke Jones)_* "I think health has played a big part of it. [Odell Beckham Jr.'s] relatively healthy [and] has been able to practice, so [it's] the confidence that he has to play at a certain level and the confidence we have to play him and put him in certain situations."
How has T Ronnie Stanley raised his performance from two weeks earlier? How critical is his performance to where the offense can go?*_(Childs Walker)_* "[Ronnie Stanley's] certainly fought through. I think that the knee is going to continue to strengthen. He thought he worked awfully hard last week to get to that point that it's only going to continue to get stronger just like he said. Certainly, you need that. Certainly, you need some. With all these teams that you play, and then you get in the playoffs – we've gotten a bunch of them from the [Cincinnati] Bengals to the [Pittsburgh] Steelers to the [Cleveland] Browns to the [Los Angeles] Chargers to where you're like, 'Who's lining up at left [defensive] end [on] our left side?' It's a real challenge for anybody's left tackle, and it's a real credit to Ronnie in terms of how hard he worked to keep strengthening that and how hard he's working this week."
How would you describe the continuity between QB Lamar Jackson and the receivers now compared to the first couple weeks of the season?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "Like anything, it's just practice reps. That's all it is. The more you're around the guys that you have to have that rapport with, the connection is going to grow – the anticipation of where they're going to be, the communication [and] how we call it in terms of targets. Sometimes, you're trying to design things where you want the ball to go there, and sometimes the ball just finds them just by progressions. Sometimes, it's not always by design especially like a guy like Lamar [Jackson]. Some of the plays that he ends up making is not by design – it's where he ends up. Everybody be alive."
How often do you see QB Lamar Jackson changing the plays at the line of scrimmage? How has that gone so far?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "It's been fine. It doesn't come up as often as you would think, but when it does come up, [Lamar Jackson] has the authority to do that in terms of within the scheme of what we're doing or the concept itself. Certain concepts lend more flexibility to that or lends itself to where he has the ability to change things, but most of the time we work through that during the week in terms of what he likes and doesn't like. There's not one concept that if Lamar doesn't like, we don't run it. I ask him as the week goes on depending on … It could be a shot [downfield]. [It] could be a quick-game. [It] could be anything that's in there like, 'Let's go through them. Do you not feel comfortable with this?' If [he doesn't], then we take it out. We don't need more plays. We need to execute better."
How much did the increase in deep pass attempts against the Los Angeles Rams have to do with the opponent you were facing vs. coming off the bye week and seeing the offense in a better position to take the deep shots?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "Sometimes, it just presents itself. Sometimes, you have those called in other games, and the ball doesn't find that spot. It ends up [as] a checkdown [throw] or ends up [if] you have a breakdown in [pass] protection. To the naked eye, they feel like we took more shots. I'd have to go back and look at it, but we certainly have the same amount within reasons each game. You're looking at screens, get-the-ball-out rhythm throws, movements, play-actions and drop-backs. We try to stay within a certain window the best we can. Certain games go another way than others. Like I said, sometimes the ball finds them. Did we go into the game anticipating that many throws? No. Did we anticipate two lengthy two-minute drives that are going to skew that – that are going to make it look more like we were throwing it more often? We were a little bit, but not to that extent. Heck, we had 18 plays until we had that 12-play [drive] before halftime, so sometimes [it's] by design and sometimes [it's] by protection, and [pass] coverage allows itself for the ball to find that. Some of the other plays when Lamar [Jackson] moves around, it lends itself to that."
What can be gained by a drive like the touchdown drive late in regulation against the Los Angeles Rams where the offense needed a touchdown and two-point conversion from a confidence standpoint?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "First of all, I think Lamar [Jackson] is already very confident in his ability. I don't mean that [as] overconfident. He loves playing football. He's one of the rare guys I've been around. There's guys that like football, and he loves football. He loves to play, so those moments never get too big for him ever from what I've seen. I should never say that. What have I been here – 13 games? Heck, I should never. That's a pretty short stay, but it doesn't feel that way. I do think that the more often you're able to have success, certainly it builds confidence with your ability to feel like you're never out of it. Obviously, the way it turned out was … I've been doing this 30-something years, and you can count on one, maybe two hands the number of times you have a game like that. [It's] pretty cool. You don't want the night to end, because the next day you're onto the next team and you're like, 'This stuff's over. You have to be kidding me! Can I enjoy this? Can we get a week?'" (laughter) "Now, that would've been really cool [if it was] going into the bye week. Now, you could've enjoyed it a lot longer than that, but it's like, 'OK, this is over. Great.' That was an unbelievable credit to our players and their execution down the stretch. Obviously, it didn't feel like that on first and second down. It didn't feel like that execution was at a high level, but we certainly came back on that third down."
Relative to your time with WR Odell Beckham Jr. before, does he look like the same guy to you, or is he different? What do you see?*_(Pete Gilbert) _*"Well, I think I said this early on when … [Odell Beckham Jr.] has always been a highly intelligent football player. [He] understands the game [and has] outstanding balance and body control tracking the football, which you still see. You still see that. Like with any player, over time, your body gets older. That's the way it is. But he still has it in him. You see it every day when he's out there practicing – the way he moves and [his] explosiveness. But you can certainly see … Like I said, guys that are crafty, guys that are great at tracking the ball [and have] balance and body control, they never lose that. They never lose that part of their game, and he still has that."
The play that QB Lamar Jackson made on the two-point conversion, what were your thoughts when you watched that back on film?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"What's interesting is … You don't give it due justice when it's at full speed, because you don't always see … And it's the something with throws when you're under duress; you might not see to the naked eye that there was a D-lineman in your face, [and] you might not see what exactly … Like, to me, it worked just like we designed it."(laughter)"Like, holy [crap], we blocked that thing perfect, got out there, ran a [sharp] route, didn't like that, went there, and later, you're going, 'God, did that look like crap,' and [Lamar Jackson] made a hell of a play – him and Zay [Flowers]. Like, I'm serious. [To] the naked eye, you're all (whistles) fired up; 'Hey, we ran this,' and you look back and go, 'Huh? I guess, [we] could have run anything. He just ran around and made a play.' I'm joking. But some of that was a really good route by Zay. We got a little loose with the protection, then he had to step up there. And I've been on the other side of that, where you don't get the two-point conversion, and they go down and kick a field goal, and that was the difference – that margin right there. I mean, wow. What a tremendous play by both those guys, and [it] obviously was a big part of us [ending] up winning the game. That's just the way it is."
FB Patrick Ricard is listed as fullback, but he's kind of more extended as a tight end. Do you think the fullback position will always be a part of football, or do you think it's a position that could ultimately get phased out?*_(Jamison Hensley) _*"I think you said it; [Patrick Ricard] is not really a fullback, because we don't line him up there very much, for a number of reasons why. He lined up a little bit more there last year when [Josh] Oliver was here. [It's] a little bit different when you end up with maybe a blocking tight end a little bit more, in terms of a C-gap area. So, he's more of a tight end. But teams that are using fullbacks ... I think that's where our guys have done a great job in the run game, in terms of utilizing his strengths, because now you're seeing [that] teams are using fullbacks; they're using them more as … They're not as big as Pat; let's just be really honest. I mean, holy [crap]. They are more athletic guys you can do more with. Hold on. Scratch that. Cut off every camera."(laughter)"Pat is very capable. I'm just saying that there are just different skillsets. I'll just put it that way, all right? And we're fired up that Pat is here. God damn; I've got to go back. So, we're fired up [that] Pat's here. It's just [that] the days of that part of it … The game is changing, and it's changing from the levels below. [It's the] same with your tight ends. Guys that are more blocking tight ends are playing tackle or defense. You'll see more air-raid, 'Ys' playing tight end – more route running, ball catch – and that's also [why] you don't have fullbacks. That's what Pat wasn't; he was a D-lineman. You're having makeshift guys in those positions, so it's just … But I'm fired up we have him. He's done a great job, and we've used him a lot more – like I said – in line. I took that question and just … That was awful." (laughter) "How I went around in that with that whole thing …"