Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Obviously, two guys that have been doing returns for you – in this past game – got injured last week. Where do you see the status there, and does this make CB/RS Lardarius Webb more of an option than he may have been? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Lardarius [Webb] has had a long, rich history of returning balls for us and had some success both in kickoffs and in punts. He's a busy man every Sunday, but we value his skills, and he's one of the guys that we're going to be using."
Clearly there was uncertainty at the return position entering camp when you had the big competition. In your coaching career, can you remember a year where you had this much uncertainty and now some injuries mixed in as well? (Luke Jones) "Unlike some places where there's a number of guys stacked up in a college roster – where you have eight guys ready to play – in the NFL, it's different. Change is constant. Everybody goes through it. We're going through it at the returner position. We can deal with it. We have guys that we trust, and we have guys that have skills, and we have good blockers. We plan on having a good return game regardless of who is back there."
You have two players on the practice squad as well that have return experience with CB/RS Asa Jackson and WR Jeremy Ross. Will they also be in the mix as well? (Jamison Hensley) "Not until they're on the active roster. That'll be important to us."
Is CB/RS Lardarius Webb in the mix at kick returner, too? (Garrett Downing) "Yes [Lardarius Webb has] practiced both. All year long, he has been doing both. He just hasn't had any reps there [in a game]."
**You mentioned change happening. It seems like the role of kickers has changed with long extra points. There's some scrutiny that they've been under the last couple weeks. Did you get a chance to see what was going on with kickers around the league, and what were your thoughts on that? *(Jon Meoli) *"I pay attention to it at a distance until about this time of the week. [Kicking consultant] Randy [Brown] does a great job. Randy Brown does a great job of going through all the reps for us and pulling out reps that I need to see, so I don't have to watch all of them. I've watched it, and really, frankly, it affects us more on the field goal block side than it does the field goal side, because I'm not dealing with their guys. They have to deal with their guys. So, when we play a team that's having issues, that's important to me. What goes on with them when they're playing somebody else – their field goal – really doesn't matter to me. I guess that's the way I look at it. We're just trying to make sure our guys make our kicks."
How much of a resource is it to have somebody like kicking consultant Randy Brown and his experience, especially in the kicking game?* (Jamison Hensley)* "It's very important. We have a really good team assembled. Our guys work well together. Our staff works well together. We have good roles. We trust each other. It works really well."
*WR Chris Givens was brought in, obviously, to affect the vertical passing … *(Turron Davenport) *"Yes, there's another guy." *(Reporter: "With the return, how confident are you? Where are you at as far as how he could contribute in the return game as well?") "One of the first conversations I had with Chris [Givens] was about that. He knew what my job was, and I knew what his job was, so we had a conversation about that the first time we met. The thing I like about Chris is he's eager. He wants to do it. And he told me not only [about his skills] in the return game, but he told me all his other skills he has for special teams. I like guys like that. He understands what it's like to be a Raven even before he was here, so that was a real positive factor in my view."
The last two games, there were some creative plays with the punt and fake field goal. How much time do you devote to the trick plays? (Jamison Hensley) "As much as necessary. I guess what I'm saying is that there are certain times that you think that you have an opportunity. There are other times that you don't. So, it depends on the game. It depends on the team. It depends on what you've run and what they might be looking for. It's no different than offense and defense. You're looking for an opportunity to make a play, and if it's there, then you'll practice it and spend time on it. If it's not there, then you'll move on to something else."
**For the fake field goal, was that something that you just kind of thought you might use against the Steelers that week, or was that something you had been practicing in weeks before thinking you might use it in advance? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Without going into a lot of scheme-talk, it's something that we've practiced for years – really honestly – and just different parts of that. There are other teams that have run a fake like that, and we've practiced aspects of that for a long time. It's the first time we've run it."
You mentioned the other struggles from around the league last week. And you've talked, obviously, about it before, [about] the luxury of having a kicker, and that team – your snap, the hold, the kick – have been so successful. And to do it in a place where it's really hard to kick like Heinz Field, it has to make you feel at least a little warm and fuzzy, right? (Pete Gilbert) "Warm and fuzzy? I'm not sure what that feels like." (laughter) (Reporter: "You? No?") "I have a lot of confidence in them, if that's the same feeling. *(laughter) *I don't know if it's a luxury, either. I think it's a necessity, so I look at it that way. You have to have good specialists to have a good kicking game, and we have three outstanding guys that not only [are successful] in their own right and their own skills, but they work so very well together."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, how uplifting was it to see some of the guys contribute, whether they're young guys or guys you brought in, like CB Will Davis and OLB Za'Darius Smith? How big a boost did they give you last week? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It was great. Remember the question I was asked a week or two ago about Carl Davis, I think it was? Somebody asked me, 'Do we look for him to contribute?' It wasn't like, 'Do we look to him [to contribute]?' He has to. That's the young guys starting to kind of come around. At least I hope. Za'Darius [Smith] doing that … Will Davis kind of coming in brand new getting a week to soak [in the information] and then go at it … Jason Babin played in that game a little bit. We used everybody. We used every tool that we had getting ready for that game. It was just good to see us play team defense like we are capable of playing. We played it [well] Week 1 and Week 4. Now we just have to find that same formula and play it for the rest of the season and forget Week 2 and 3."
Along those lines, do you feel like you have kind of the right mix in the secondary with CB Will Davis getting some more reps in there? Could that be something that continues? (Garrett Downing)"Yes, as long as we can stay healthy. That's always the key thing – you always have to have contingency plans in case somebody is down or something like that. That's always the case, is when you're healthy and you keep playing the same guys over and over and over again … If you just look around the league, and you see the same offensive lines that are playing, the same defensive lines that are playing – whatever position that might be – usually they're playing well if those are guys that have played together for a few years and there's continuity. What's hard is when you don't have any continuity and guys just don't have a feel for how the other guy plays. I'm hopeful that if we can continue to do that and stay healthy that we can keep having some success."
**CB Kyle Arrington's snaps have cut down a little. I assume it's more because CB Will Davis is … Is that more of a matchup thing, or is there something you'd like to see him do a little better? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Kyle [Arrington is] still a very, very important part of our defense, because he fulfills a lot of different roles. He's a guy that can go play nickel. He can go play corner. He can actually go play some safety if we needed him to. He has that role right now a little bit. It's a little bit more, really, based on Lardarius Webb than anything else, because I really feel like he is a really good inside player and a good nickel for us. And when we play sub [-package defense], we would like to keep him there as opposed to outside if we can, and I just feel like that's a great matchup for us. It's more, really, [not] because of anything down on Kyle; it's a little bit more of a good fit for 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb], and really, a better fit for Will [Davis], because he's really an outside guy only. It's kind of more of the fit than it is … In no way do I look at No. 24 [Arrington] as a demotion or anything like that at all. I just feel like that's a better fit moving some guys around a little bit."
There's so much turnover around the league that you often get a guy that was on a team or a coach that … Now, getting ready this week for QB Josh McCown, and Marc Trestman, of course, [McCown] had him as a head coach. To have him as head coach and be his QB, did you really rely on Marc for tendencies and stuff this week? (Pete Gilbert) "Sometimes tendencies, really, are based on the offense that you're running. [Marc Trestman has] told us a lot about Josh' [McCown] personality, how he studies. He has nothing but just great things to say about him. Those are all things, as a coach, you can talk about [like], 'OK, this is the guy's personality. Here's how he's going to study. Here's how may look at things.' But that really means nothing based on the offense that you're put in. He has to do whatever the offensive coordinator in Cleveland wants him to do. His reads could be totally different than what Marc had him read, because it's not the same offense. All he can tell us is what kind of a person is he, how strong is his arm, [that] he can do all the physical things and the mental makeup of the guy, the character of the guy. Marc has been really good, and like I said, he's extremely, extremely complimentary of him."
Last week, you faced WR Antonio Brown, an explosive receiver. This week you have … (Turron Davenport) "And you wanted to know how I was going to defend [Antonio Brown], too, if I remember right. (laughter) See, I don't forget any questions." *(Reporter: "You did a good job though, we'll say that. This week you have WR Travis Benjamin. What have you seen from Benjamin?) *"Fast, fast, fast. That's all I can say. I mean, this guy can take the top – and has taken the top off – of our defense. We just, really, have to be on top of it, and he's not the only one. They have a bunch of quick, little receivers. They really have a good corps of receivers, and the quarterback is spreading the wealth. The tight ends – you lose [Jordan] Cameron and you think, 'OK, well maybe, they're going to be down a little bit at tight end.' Their tight end [Gary Barnidge] is lighting it up. I just think that they're doing a great job of spreading the ball around on offense, and it's not only [Travis Benjamin]. [Brian] Hartline has been around. I've seen him ruin some games for some people, too. And the other guys are all quick – [Andrew] Hawkins and all of them. They have a bunch of quick, little receivers. It's going to be a tough matchup for us."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
Opening statement:"I'll just begin by saying we've started the week with the mindset that we're going to try to put it all together. A week ago, we were standing here talking about our run game, and we feel that we got a little bit more on track. And I've said every game really does take on its own storyline, but we've had weeks where we've thrown the ball very well. We've had a week now where we've run the ball pretty darn well. So, we're trying to put them both together. We've assessed our third down; we've got to improve on third down and stay on the field. We've assessed the red zone this week; after four games, we had a little time. We know we've got to get better with that part of it. And then we're excited about the opportunity for the guys who are playing, because Steve [Smith Sr.] is out [of practice], and we're trying to find the productivity that we've had amongst all of them, trying to get them involved in the game as well. So, it's an exciting week from that standpoint."
WR Chris Givens brings an element of speed – with WR Breshad Perriman being out – that you didn't seem to have before. How much is that … He hadn't had a whole lot of reps in St. Louis this year and he's so new now, but that unique skill set, right now, how … (Pete Gilbert)"[Wide receivers coach] Bobby [Engram] has spent a lot of time with him this week, and it has shown up on the field. We've worked him, we've practiced with him, he has spent some time with Joe [Flacco], and it's really day-to-day. We've got another day tomorrow, and we'll kind of just assess where he's at. But he's picking things up, and it'll be exciting to see if we can get him in the game and make him part of what we're trying to get done on Sunday. We'll see."
When it happens that fast with someone, do you throw it all at him and see how he does this week, or do you kind of keep it simple? (Morgan Adsit)"It's a good question. I don't that we're keeping it simple. He [Chris Givens] does have very good football intelligence, but I think we're more or less throwing it at him and finding out what he can do after we've thrown it all against the wall – kind of immersing him in the offense and then pulling back once we see where he's at. He's done a good job with it, and Bobby [Engram] has done a great job with the time that they've spent together, both in the classroom and on the field. So, he has been there working. He has gotten some reps this week and done very well."
Does the offensive philosophy or play-calling change at all knowing WR Steve Smith Sr. is not out there? (Garrett Downing)"When you have Steve [Smith Sr.] as a target, it is part of how you're calling plays, certainly, and I've kind of explained it like this: We've got to find that kind of productivity amongst the group that's playing. Whether it's through Justin [Forsett] or tight ends or receivers, we've got to try to find a level of productivity to allow us to have the kind of passing game that we want to have. Joe [Flacco] has had a lot of reps with most of the players throughout OTAs and training camp. So, there is a familiarity there as well."
WR Darren Waller got his first catch and got some really good time [against Pittsburgh]. Can you just talk about how he has developed since the regular season started? (Cliff Brown)"I think he has [developed]. He's a very diligent worker; he's really good in the classroom in terms of note taking. He can spit things back to you and give you the information and have the kind of communication you want to have with a receiver. And you see it in his development on the field, his physical development, the way he's running routes, his pad level. He has such great size, and he has speed as well – to be able to put it all together. Again, I think Bobby [Engram] has done a really good job developing him, and when he stepped up – and when we needed a play last week – he gave us more than we expected. He got the catch and the run after catch, and that was a huge time in the game, notwithstanding the fact he did very well on special teams, as well, for us."
Marc, when you talk about some of the things you'd like to work on, is short yardage – has that become something you guys are a little bit more … (Jeff Zrebiec)"Like last week, the discussion – rightfully so – was run game productivity. We haven't run the ball well. Short yardage, to us, would be third-and-1, third-and-2 and third-and-3, and we've gotten a lot of those opportunities. We are way behind in terms of converting in the third-and-medium situations, and we're talking about four or five more conversions that would have allowed us to run more plays, run the ball more, extend a drive and so forth. We're paying very close attention to that this week."
When you think about short yardage, is it as simple as just getting a push off the line, or is it something more? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes, we're talking about a couple of different things – short yardage being a yard, getting a yard. We haven't been as good as we can be and what we want to be, and that's something we focused on in the offseason. We haven't gotten it done early. I think that's a big part of our focus, is play selection, type of play and then executing the play. And a lot of it is a composite of all those things, and we just have to do a better job in that. And that certainly starts with me."
Just two tight ends on the roster right now, and both of them rookies. That's a pretty rare scenario. They seemed to have held up quite well. Can you assess what they've done so far and what they need to do better this year? (Pete Gilbert)"They're always going to try to continue to get better, and we're going to try to help them get better. If you had a chance to really watch practice during the course of the week, these two guys are working scout team and working Cleveland plays. Then they're flipping over, and they have to play all of our practices well. I'm really impressed with their work ethic, I'm really impressed with their football intelligence, and they've proven that the game is not too big for them. They've made plays when we needed plays, they've made blocks when we've needed blocks and they're just going to continue to get better. They've got a really good skill set to be long-term players in this league."
You have a history with QB Josh McCown from your days with the Bears. What stands out about him as a quarterback? (Jamison Hensley)"I think, No. 1, he [Josh McCown] has a leadership skill set that transcends a locker room. He's not just an offensive guy. His communication skills and his ability to connect with players [are] at an elite level from that standpoint. He's very good, and he has – as I said to [defensive coordinator] Dean [Pees] and the guys – he is a better athlete than people give him credit for. And if you ever watch him play basketball, he's a very, very good basketball player and very athletic. You see that show up, but I think those are two things. He has great experience, and he has great work ethic. And he has journeyed his way into … We always say a quarterback's journey can start anywhere, and he has restarted his career; and he's making the most of it. I think his leadership skill set is very high." (Reporter: "Have you been able to stay in touch with him over the years?")"Yes, we text and stay in touch and communicate. We're not going to do that this week, but maybe after the game. *(laughter) *But that wouldn't be right on either of us. We're just doing our job this week, but I'm excited for his opportunity. I was [excited] when he left Chicago. He had a great opportunity, and I was excited for him, excited for the career he has extended." *(Reporter: "Was he ever in the … Because when Tyrod [Taylor] left, you needed a backup. Was he ever in the conversation about [backing up Joe Flacco] if he couldn't get a starter job?") *"I don't think that at this point in time … I'm sure that when Josh was available, he was probably in a lot of conversations. But to say that he was in ours, I can't say that."
Marc, how much are you looking forward to getting T Eugene Monroe back and having your starting offensive line intact? (Luke Jones)"We're excited, certainly, to get him [Eugene Monroe] back, and, I've said this before: James [Hurst] did an admirable job and is a very good player. Just to have healthy players is always a good thing, and to have somebody like Eugene to come back in and play for us is certainly a big deal. It's going to be good for our offense, and it's going to be good for our team."
Marc, kind of the narrative this week is wide receivers. [With] WRs Steve Smith Sr. out, Michael Campanaro out and Breshad Perriman still out, a lot of this is on QB Joe Flacco to make sure these young guys are up to speed and he can trust [them] to spread the ball around. Is that unfair on Joe? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I think it is up to all of us. Joe [Flacco] can only do so much. He has to do his job. It's up to all of us to help all of us to get this done. So, I don't personally look at it that way. I look at it … It's a team game, and it's not one guy. Certainly, Joe expects to play at a high level and does every week. This week should be no different than any week. And certainly, it always starts at the quarterback position. But it's a team game, and we all have to step up when somebody like Steve [Smith Sr.] goes down. That's all of us, and we expect to do that."