Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, watching film, obviously [there was] the blocked kick for a return. How gratifying was it? One of your players said that you guys actually practiced when you block a kick and all that stuff. How gratifying was it to see how everyone did their job on that play? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I thought it was a great reaction by a lot of people. Will [Hill III] picking the ball up. Terrence Brooks not picking the ball up after Will had it [in his sight]. And then at that point, everybody kicked into the return mode, and they all climbed and tried to find somebody, and they ran all the way to the goal line. It was a great effort play, and it was also really well executed, because there are a lot of little elements to that. Brynden Trawick on the backside did a great job. He knocked one guy off just with his shoulder enough where he couldn't make the play, and then he climbed to the next guy. I can name almost everybody on the team. That was a collective effort. They did a great job."
What does it mean to have five-consecutive games with a block? Something like that hasn't happened in like 30 years in the NFL. As a special teams coach, that's something. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, it's great. I'll point to the players. We've had some extraordinary efforts by individual guys and other guys helping them block kicks that led to that. It was a lot of guys and a lot of effort, a lot of study. We work at it, and the work has paid off thus far. We have another challenge this week. We have a very good special teams group we're playing, and we have our work cut out for us."
With everything happening on the field as fast as it does, is patience really a virtue on special teams? (Joe Platania) "In what regard? (Reporter: "I noticed before the snap that Will Hill took a step back, and then the ball came right to him. It seemed like he wasn't leaning forward at the snap like some guys would be.") "Oh, Will. That was his assignment though. His assignment was to step back. He was not a rusher on that particular play. He was in coverage, and then the ball came to him, and then he kicked in. When he stepped back, that was what he was supposed to do."
Jerry, you guys have had a lot of maneuvering on the back end of the roster because of injuries or taking a look at guys for whatever reason. How challenging has it been to keep the special teams units playing up to the standard that has been set here with all the turnover on the backend of the roster? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The way that John [Harbaugh] has built our team – and the way that John has built our practices – this goes all the way back to training camp and even spring practices. We have a mentality that everybody practices special teams. Now, not all the starters practice everything, but Courtney Upshaw for example is on the punt team during those times. Will Hill is in the vice on punt return. Kyle Juszczyk is doing about everything. It's not just the special teams guys. When people think of special teams players, they're 'backups.' Well, it runs throughout our roster. The other part of it is the way we practice. Our practice squad players are competing during practice. They're not just holding a bag or going through the motions. They're actually competing with the guys that are getting ready for the game, and it's our belief that this helps us when an injury happens, when a roster change happens. [It is] where a guy like Daniel Brown, who really wasn't even on the roster up until gameday, can go in and play on special teams, because he has been practicing. He has been doing it. He did it in preseason. He has been practicing at a competitive level during practices, and then he can go in the game and go play. It's John's design the way the team is run – and the way a team is built, and the way the team practices – that allows you to replace players if something happens."
The players credit you and head coach John Harbaugh. You're constantly deflecting it to the players. What has been the biggest key in your mind to having such a successful special teams unit here the last couple of years? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The team. It goes back to the concept that's on our wall. It's about the team. We're all about winning. We want to be great on special teams, but we want to be great so we can win games. That's the whole idea behind it. Our players buy into the fact that if you really get good at something on offense and defense and you can help us on special teams, our team is better. Or if you're a backup on offense and defense – and you're not yet ready to start there – and you can get good at a lot of things on special teams, it makes our team better. It's really built on the concept of team."
C*an you talk about WR/RS Kaelin Clay and the punt return – the things that went right on that – and what he has shown you in such a short time? (Cliff Brown) *"I think I stood up here last week and told you that I didn't expect too much out of him. Well, I was wrong. He made a tremendous play. The return was designed to go to that side. He saw that they were already upfield on him; he couldn't get there, so he made a couple guys miss and then got back outside. It was an extraordinary play by him. After I watched it on the plane – I was talking to John [Harbaugh] – I said, 'That was a returner's return,' because there are sometimes you can't block them all cleanly and you have to avoid blocks so as not to get a foul. That's really what happened on that play, and then he was able to get it back into the point of attack after he made a couple guys miss. It was a great play. I give Kaelin a lot of credit for that."
Jerry, do you feel like you stress the technique more than some other teams may on special teams – all those finite little details? And would you categorize yourself as a perfectionist? (Ryan Mink)"I guess I don't categorize myself. I honestly don't know what other teams do, so it's hard for me to gauge what we do against some other team. I don't spend a whole lot of time evaluating myself. I just try to coach. Leave it at that."
Jerry, you talked about the conversation with head coach John Harbaugh on the plane. He talked about that, too, and he said a lot of it was frustration from you about some mistakes that were made during the game. Then it was like, "Wait a second, there were two touchdowns scored on special teams, and that's pretty special and rare." (Pete Gilbert)"I think the expression we use in coaching is, 'It's never as good as you think, or it's never as bad as you think.' After you score two touchdowns, I was so happy after the game. We got on the plane, and I started watching the tape, and I saw what happened on kickoff return – I saw what happened on kickoff coverage – and I had a hard time dealing with it. So, John just reminded me of the other successes that we had during the day. It got me through the plane trip." (laughter)
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, can you talk about the improvement CB Shareece Wright has made, especially from that first game when he was in a difficult spot coming in here? (Ryan Mink) "The guy has worked really hard, really tried to learn the system, tried to learn what our coverages and stuff are. I feel for him in that first game. Not only was he put in a situation where he had to go out and start against a team that he had just played for in a short week, but it had also been a tough week. He had been in Indianapolis with a tryout earlier in the week – he caught a red-eye to that – and then he came over to us in the same day. It was a tough week for him. But I think since that time, he has really dug into the playbook, really bought into everything, plays with good technique, good eyes. It has been a pleasant surprise. I think he has done well."
**Dean, what do you think of DT Timmy Jernigan in the past couple of weeks? *(Mike Preston) *"I think he's very active. The thing of it is now he'll do some things that will be like, 'Oh, wow,' but it sometimes turns out pretty good. That happens sometimes with guys like him. The thing about him I like is his energy and what he's bringing to the table there, because he plays hard, plays fast. Sometimes even when you make a mistake – if you're playing hard, you're playing fast – you can make up for it. The other thing is I think we've found a role for him a little bit, which I think he likes and has been good. He has really bought into that. We're rolling a lot of guys – as we always do – upfront there. I think he's playing really well, too, right now. I think he has really come on in the last few games."
DT Timmy Jernigan was just talking to me, and he was talking about him as a pass rushing kind of guy where other guys are occupying people for him to get free. (Mike Preston) "There are some scheme things in there. There are some of those things that sometimes we're asking him to do that, too, a little bit – doing some pick game. Anytime we do that, we never really want it to be one guy, because then everybody is going to figure that out on film [that] that's the guy that's going to do the pick. I hope Timmy says that, and put that in the media, please. (laughter) If he feels that way, that's fine." (laughter)
How are the guys handling the heat in [the indoor practice facility]? (Garrett Downing) "I tried to put this [sweatshirt] on, too. (laughter) They're doing OK with it. Everybody is doing OK with it. It's about as good as you can simulate it, and I think the guys are … It hasn't been a problem."
DT Carl Davis had shown some encouraging signs early in the season. I know you like to rotate the guys up front. Is he just getting caught in the numbers game? (Joe Platania)"Brent [Urban] has come back, and we also wanted to see … When you're going to find out where somebody is, is you play them. You can sit there and keep playing them in practice thinking, 'Is this guy ready?' We thought [Brent Urban] was ready, so let's go play him. It's going to be a week-to-week thing. It's not necessarily [that] Carl is doing poorly or Brent was doing [well]. It's almost going to be week to week. We'll look at the scheme that we're playing [and] what's going to be the best fit. Do we need a five technique more than an inside guy? Do we need an inside guy more than an outside guy? And maybe [it is] who practiced best during the week. It's really between all three of those [guys] and Kapron Lewis-Moore, too. All three of those guys we're happy with. It's going to always be a week-to-week rotation. Maybe someday it might be all three of those guys and somebody else. It's not on anybody's default. It's whoever we think is playing the best or is the best fit for the scheme we're playing."
Dean, what makes WR Jarvis Landry so difficult to stop? (Luke Jones) "There are guys – [like Anquan] Boldin – there are guys like that who do not necessarily go out and run a 40- [yard dash] that absolutely blows everybody's mind, but they are just really good football players – great eyes, quick, good vision. Not every great running back in the NFL has been a 4.3 guy. There are guys that have good vision. [Jarvis Landry] is one of those guys that when he catches a ball, it's like a punt return. He has quick feet, exceptional eyes. His yards come running after the catch, and he makes a lot of people miss. I can't tell you sometimes what it is; it's just it. It's that there are football players that are like that, and he's one of those guys. The little guy that plays for the Cardinals that was at LSU, 'Honey Badger' [Tyrann Mathieu] – or whatever they used to call him – terrible 40 at the Combine, right? Everybody said, 'Oh, he can't play.' He's playing pretty good the last time I looked at the stats and stuff. There are players like that. I've coached some at linebacker – not here, but some other places – that probably … When you put Willie McGinest in a 40, you're not going to be really impressed. But, I'm really impressed when he's on the edge. There are guys like that. They're football players, and [Jarvis Landry is] one of them – really good."
As someone who has seen all the work DE Brent Urban put in to even get out there, what was it like seeing him finally get on the field and make that big play at the end from a personal standpoint? (Jon Meoli) "It was great. He needed something like that, too, I think, as an uplift. The guy has been through a lot – been injured and down and injured again and down. To fight through all that stuff and finally get a chance to finally play, it's really amazing it ended up being that last play to really make him feel good. He still has some work to do, now, on defense, but, he got out there. He played. He got his feet wet a little bit, so it was really gratifying to see him get out there."
How much did your emotions change between the last Cleveland touchdown and then seeing S Will Hill III take the field goal back? (Cliff Brown) "My emotions went from seeing the touchdown that we gave up, then to turn around and stopping them in 2 minute, and then turning around and seeing a sudden change in 2 minute – but getting them stopped – all those things were good. Because one thing we felt like [was] if we could keep the field goal outside of 50 yards, that we had a good chance. I know [Travis Coons] has been very accurate, but he hadn't kicked anything, I think, over 44 yards. That was a big key for us on defense. That one play that sometimes goes unnoticed [was] the last play that they ran the ball where we sent C.J. [Mosley] through, and he hit the guy in the backfield. That's another yard or two lost that you never know [if it] makes a difference. They had to pull me off the window when Will Hill scored. (laughter) I was about ready to go out the window. *(laughter) *Emotions were like this that whole last two minutes. Hey, we've lost some that way, and we've won some that way. It was great to see us on the good side of it."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
Opening statement:"Hi, everybody. I just think I'll start with a review of last week's game. First of all, up front where it all starts, I thought our linemen – our young linemen, particularly, from John Urschel over to the left side with Ryan [Jensen] and with James [Hurst] – really did a nice job in the run game, backside blocks and, certainly, our pass protection. We expect a little bit more on the right side with Marshal [Yanda] and with Rick [Wagner] over there. They played well, as well, but they did an excellent job pass protecting; we didn't have any sacks. They did a really good job in the run game, as well, and I thought our young backs [Javorius 'Buck' Allen and Terrance West] really showed up and had a chance to perform and run behind a line that was coming off [the ball] and extremely physical. I was also pleased with the few pass protection opportunities that both Terrance and 'Buck' had; they did a nice job of stopping the rush and giving Matt [Schaub] a chance to throw the football, which was good. We continue to grow in our passing game. We're still leaving yards out there. We've seen some good things happen, certainly. The deep ball to Chris [Givens] and Kamar [Aiken] playing at a consistent level, but we can get more out of it. We've got guys open, we've got to hit our right depths and our discipline has got to improve, and we're working on that to try to get better each and every week. I thought Matt really showed his leadership. Quarterbacks, each and every week, throw picks, and they throw pick-sixes, too. But we always look at our players, and our quarterback, how he responded to the adversity, and no one can question that. Twelve plays, five first downs, a fourth-down conversion and a touchdown pass after a play that definitely could have set us back; he got the points back and went on, I thought for the first time out in a couple years, to play very well and move our football team."
How do you evaluate how WR Kamar Aiken has played since going into the No. 1 role? (Ryan Mink)"I think he has been productive. I think he would tell you, we want more out of him in terms of being in the right place at the right time and doing those kinds of things, but no one can deny he has made catches, contested catches. He has gotten us RAC, run after catch, after he has caught the ball and done some really good discipline things. The route he ran for a touchdown was beautifully executed from the classroom to the practice field and in a game, and so, that's a good sign, that he's doing things, taking them right from a meeting and onto the field and executing in the game. And his depth really allowed him – doing the right things there – allowed him not only to catch the ball but have room to reach and score, so a lot of good things."
G Ryan Jensen made his first start at guard a couple weeks ago. C John Urschel made his first start at center this year. T James Hurst has been in and out for T Eugene Monroe. Has all the change along the offensive line affected play-calling at all, or have you been able to pretty much do what you do? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Quite frankly, I haven't really thought about it in terms of … To answer the question, I don't think about it when I'm calling plays. We're with them all the time. [Offensive line coach] Juan [Castillo] and [assistant offensive line coach] Todd [Washington], they're the best at developing young players, and it shows up in the game. So, we're just dialing up plays and expecting them to do their job, because we see them do it in practice."
To piggyback on that, would the same apply to the ever-changing skill position cast, as well? (Joe Platania)"Yes, I think it all … Our job as coaches is to work with the players that we have and develop them, and we've said it from the beginning, when Steve [Smith Sr.] went down, we're going to work at developing the next guy and getting him ready to play. And [with] Justin [Forsett], we've got to get 'Buck' [Javorius Allen] up to speed better, and it just keeps moving on. We've got good players here that have been getting opportunities, and everybody gets their opportunity sometime; and we're trying to help them make the most of their opportunity in this league." (Reporter: "I guess what I truly meant was that it was said Matt Schaub had the full playbook to work with; it wasn't simplified at all. Now, that would apply for everybody else, as well? *Schaub was confident enough to handle it; everybody else could?") *"That's right. We wouldn't call a play that we didn't think every guy had understood the play from the class room to the practice field to the game. Because we've got plenty of plays, but we felt very confident that we could go in with a fully-vested game plan, and we did."
Have you seen the development in the offensive line in terms of run blocking and pass blocking? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, I think we do see that. I think that each and every week, you've got to go out and perform. We do see it in practice. We did see an escalation of, a development, in our line, but it's a new test on Sunday. It's a new line, and it's going to continue to get [tougher]. We're going to continue to play against some of the better defenses in the National Football League as we move forward, but Monday night was a good one for us. We're trying to continue to get better. The focus is always to get better, because there's always room to get better."
Were you pleased with what you saw in RB Terrance West's debut? (Garrett Downing)"I was. Yes, I think that we all were. He didn't have many touches, but when he did, we were kind of on the edge of our seats saying, 'It might be more than two. It might be more than three." And he jumped out there and made some plays. Again, the pass protection is a big thing, and both young backs [West and Javorius 'Buck' Allen] had a chance to pick up a blitz. That's very comforting to know that you have a back who you can stand next to a quarterback in a third-down situation and know that he's going to block the right guy. You've got to have a guy that can do that. Justin [Forsett] was always able to do that, and we felt a lot better about it this week. And of course Kyle [Juszczyk], as well, helped out in that regard."
There's been a lot of attention on losing the quarterback, the running back – starting running back – and No. 1 wide receiver. But the rotation at left tackle because of injury, how much of a challenge has that been, as far as offensive game-planning, not having as much stability at left tackle as you would like? (Jamison Hensley)"Like I said, we really don't think about it much. We go into game saying, 'Who are the difference-makers on the other side of the ball?' And then we adjust accordingly. We don't say, 'Well, we're going to try to help this guy. We're going to help Rick [Wagner] out, or we're going to help John [Urschel].' We don't really say that. We really say, 'Who are their players we've got to pay attention to, the game-wrecker-type players that we have to pay attention to?' And then we start from there to help our guys if we feel they need it."
Marc, John Harbaugh said after the game, when he was asked about the fourth-and-1 play on your 20- or 21-yard line, that you were encouraging him, "Hey it's only a foot" or something. You guys have been one of the best teams on fourth down. How much do you appreciate John's aggression in going for it, and how much did you do talking on that play to try to make sure he kept the offense out there? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I appreciate John [Harbaugh]. I know John is … He's making analytical decisions, but he also has an internal clock working, too, that he knows when those decisions should be made. I thought in that situation it was unique, because the first down was to the white line. So, it was really evident what we needed. We could really see it from the sideline, what we needed, and I think that helped in the decision."
How much lobbying do you do on a regular basis? (Garrett Downing)"I just get ready for the next call and leave it up to John [Harbaugh] to say we're going to punt or kick or go for it, but we meet on these things. We talk about them. We talk about how we're going to handle them, and John makes the decision, then we make the call."