S Chuck Clark
The Ravens are 5-1 and have one of the best records in the NFL. But after yesterday's game, I'm sure towards the end, you guys feel like you could have been playing a little bit better at that time. What is the team's feeling about itself right now at the Bye Week? (Jamison Hensley) "We're happy, because we got the win, at the end of the day. But as an overall team, the feeling and the moral from that game was we should have won it in a way different way [than] we did. That was a team that we felt we could have definitely blown out, or at least not have it be as interesting at the end. And we should have done our work and got out of there a lot cleaner than what we did."
You weren't supposed to have a Bye Week this week, but you do have one. Do you think that the timing for a Bye Week is right, because you get two weeks before you face the Steelers, and you get to heal a little bit? How do you feel about the timing of this Bye Week? (David Ginsburg) "That's just the NFL right now. That's the game. With the way the things are going with COVID-19, it's kind of like you almost don't know who's going to be playing this week, what teams are going to be playing, which players are going to be playing. But it is coming at the right time for us as a team. Going into the [game] we're going into, we're going to have a little more extra time to prepare and study and practice for them. So, that's just the year we're having this year – and I'm not saying us as Ravens, but the whole NFL."
When S DeShon Elliott got into the starting lineup, you and all the players and coaches were so confident about how he was going to play, and it seems like he's done exactly that. Can you just talk about what you've seen playing next to DeShon for the first six games, and how he seems to be getting better every week? (Cliff Brown) "He's just getting his opportunity to shine. He sat around on the bench for two years – same situation as me – and once we finally got out there and showed that we can play, it's like, we're out here to take it and run with it, and that's what we tell each other just about every game. And I'm so happy for him that he's even able to be out there. He's healthy, being able to make plays, get turnovers and just show his spirit out there on the field – and his emotions."
How different is this Bye Week going to be this year? Normally, some guys would have like a mini two- or three-day vacation, right? What's the plan for players this year? (Shawn Stepner) "Honestly, for us, we still have to be here [in Maryland], and we still have to get tested, stay healthy, and keep the game safe. A lot of us are still going to have that time to come up here and take that extra tending and caring to our bodies. So, we'll definitely be able to have that time, instead of going out, getting on a plane or something, [and] a few extra days of doing that to your body and whatnot. But we'll definitely have a little more time to get healthy and attack the rest of this season."
Did you notice any commonalities in some of the big plays that the Eagles had while they were able to make their comeback? And any kind of root to the issue? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'd just say us not executing, honestly. We were put in a position, but we just didn't execute on the plays – on some of the plays that allowed them to get that close. But we're going to be better with that. Like I said, we have two weeks to clean that up and get better and move forward."
The Steelers game looks like it will be two of the top defenses in the NFL – you and the Steelers. Is that a type of game, especially for a defensive player, that you kind of relish? (Jamison Hensley) "Definitely. As a defensive player, you love looking forward to a defensive battle. You know that their defense is going to give our offense their all, and we're definitely going to give their offense our all. So, I love it. I think any other defensive player loves that, as well."
Piggybacking off of that, do you kind of like that QB Ben Roethlisberger is back? Do you like having that Steelers offense be at full strength and going up against that? (Ryan Mink) "Definitely. If you want to be the best, you have to go up against the best. You have to compete against the best players. So, definitely."
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have two of the highest-blitz rates and two of the highest-pressure rates in the NFL. With this trend toward offenses becoming more and more explosive, does sending more guys after the quarterback have a counteracting effect on what these offenses want to do? (Jonas Shaffer) "We just do what the coach tells us to do, honestly – how it's drawn up. When you have somebody in your face coming at you and you have the ball, you have to make a quick decision."
ILB Patrick Queen
Heading into the Bye Week and coming off of the Eagles game, what are some things you think defensively that you guys want to correct on that side of the ball? (Jamison Hensley) "Everything. We can't look at one little detail of what we need to fix. Everybody has stuff that they need to work on, including myself. That's just what we're going to work on. I could've had a pick that would have saved a touchdown. Some other people could've had picks that could have saved some stuff. So, we all just have to focus in on what we need to improve on and just get better."
For you, are you allowed to travel for the Bye Week? Are you allowed to go anywhere? Is the team kind of keeping you around? What's the status of that for this week? (Andrew Gillis) "We're just doing our simple stuff; going over the film, breaking it down, getting better, try to work through some stuff and just build on for the next week. I'm going to be here all Bye Week; I'm pretty sure everybody else is, too. We're looking for a long season here. We're not looking for any minor setbacks, or getting away from the game, or anything. We're all just trying to stay locked in pretty much."
When you look at a game like yesterday and how it played out, particularly in the second half, and how it was trending yesterday with you guys on defense, and you kind of look at the game from the perspective of heading into a Bye Week – how do you look at that? Obviously, you don't want to have the second half that you guys had collectively, but is it almost a better thing that it happens now with two weeks to kind of prep for the Steelers, rather than earlier or later in the season? (Shawn Stepner) "Things happen. It's the NFL – there are other players just like us playing football and being great at what they do. So, stuff happens, and we just have to fight through adversity and get better. I don't think anybody was looking at it like, 'We have a Bye Week. We want to relax,' or anything. There's just stuff that happens. It could've happened three weeks from now and we probably would've been in the same situation. It's football – it's what happens. We just have to build off of it and know when adversity hits, we just have to push through it and be better."
I know the Steelers game is going to be about two weeks from now, and I don't know if we're going to get another chance to talk to you between now and then. As far as the Steelers, they're undefeated at the top of the division. Do you think … Heading into that game, do you consider that as maybe one of those measuring-stick games? (Jamison Hensley) "They're a great team. Like all the other players, I'm just ready to go play, like I said, a great team. I'm ready to go get after them. I know about the rivalry, so it's going to be a fun game. I can't wait – they've got great, great, great players. [They have] players who a lot of people look up to and stuff. So, it's going to be fun to actually go against those guys now."
How do you look at where things stand with you at this point of the season? There's buzz about you as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. At the same time, you're talking about how you guys, individually and as a team, want to get better. Just how do you assess where you are at this point of the year? (Garrett Downing) "I just look at it as a way to improve every day. Sometimes in a game, people might get tired and then you just look at it as it's another opportunity to make a play. I look at each day like that; one play is another day to get better. When you treat it like that, I feel like there is no limit to what you can do. So, that's what I hope everybody else is doing, because I know the team that we have, and I know the greatness that we're chasing. I wouldn't rather be anywhere else; these are the guys I want to be around. Every day when we come into work, it's just a fun place to be at. I know that game in a few weeks is going to be a fun one as well, so I can't wait."
What do you remember or recall about the Ravens/Steelers rivalries as you grew up kind of watching from afar? (Ryan Mink) "Hard-nosed football – that's about it. (laughter) Growing up watching football, you don't know much about the game, but you just see all the emotions coming into it and the hard hitting. That's what the kids growing up really look at, how people play. That's the main thing I looked at growing up, was just how hard they hit and the energy that they brought every game."
Head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale, they both have talked about just how you're a guy who rarely makes the same mistake twice. I know it's tough to measure just how far you've come since early September or since, I guess, early August, but what can you say about what you've learned about the game and what you understand now that you didn't before you actually got your first NFL snap? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's a great question. I would probably say just slowing myself down, because I tend to want to be super-fast and stuff. In the NFL, you don't really have to be, because you have teammates there that support you play-wise. That's what my main thing was, just being able to slow down on my recognitions. I always wanted to be first in things, but it's not always [about] being first; it's just about making sure that you're doing your job. So, that was the biggest thing for me, and I feel like I've improved on that a lot."
With this whole Steelers/Ravens rivalry, it's always kind of been defined as the strong defenses. It seems this year, a lot of people are talking about Steelers/Ravens again being the Top 2 defenses in the league. Do you kind of relish that when you have a great defense and you go against another defense that people are talking about as well? (Jamison Hensley) "That's what you live for – a defensive game. I know football, everybody wants to see high scoring games now, but at the end of the day, I like holding people to three points, no points, whatever it is. It's a sign of dominance. Being a male, that's what male people look for, being dominant over stuff. That's what goes into football; you just want to dominate everybody all the time. I'm pretty sure that's what everybody's mindset is right now; just going into this game [and] trying to dominate them. Like I said, they have a great team. I know what we do and what they do on defense, so it's going to be a great game."
Going back to yesterday's game, what are some of the challenges when a team like the Eagles use a gadget player sort of like QB Jalen Hurts? How did you assess how you all defended him? I know on the big run, they kind of used him as a decoy. Other times, he had the ball. How do you assess, sort of, how you handled that wrinkle? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That stuff works every now and then, but you can't do it the whole game. We just had to sit there for a few plays and just battle each play and try to overcome adversity, like I said. That's what we did. They had a few plays here and there, but after that, we settled down and got back to playing regular football."
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. A couple of injury things since we're in the Bye Week; Brandon Williams is on the COVID-19 [reserve] list, that's why he missed the game. He did not have COVID-19. He never tested positive, but it was a close contact in there. So, he'll be fine. Derek Wolfe had a concussion protocol Wednesday in practice, that's what happened with him. He says he feels great [and] should be fine. Mark Ingram II had the ankle [injury]. It's a minor ankle sprain – not a minor – but it's an ankle sprain that's probably a week … It's probably a week, he could be back by the Steelers game. He probably will be back for the Steelers game, but we'll have to see. Tyre Phillips had a hand [injury], I don't think it's anything serious there, in the game. Anthony Averett, however, has a shoulder [injury]. He's going to be out for a while. He's going to be out for five or six weeks. He has a slight fracture in one of the bones in the clavicle or shoulder, somewhere in there. I don't know, you can get the details from [head certified athletic trainer] Ron [Medlin]. You could get the details from Ron if he talked to the media, but he doesn't. So, I don't know how you're going to get the details on that, because this is the last time I'm going to talk about it. But then, that's all I know. That's where we stand with the injuries, OK? What questions do you have?"
I'm curious, you would've been playing the Steelers this week. Obviously, you're not. You have a Bye Week. I'm wondering what you think about the placement of this Bye Week? I know that you accept whatever is thrown your way, but maybe this gives the team a little chance to get healthy and iron out some of the kinks? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, it just is what it is. It really is more what you said to start with, I would say. It is what it is. It's a Bye [Week]. We have a Bye Week every year, except for 2008. We'll pretty much just deal with it the way we always do, and that's it."
Regarding the Bye Week, this year it is very unique, because usually you see players maybe take a mini vacation or get out of town for a couple days, but they have to stay close this year. Can you just kind of comment on just how different this really is this year with the Bye Week? It's probably going to be strictly football at the facility, right? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, you're alluding to the rules. That's right; guys can't leave town at all. [They have to] get tested every single day, even the off days when they don't have to be in. We were working today. We have the guys in here this afternoon. Our coaches have been here, obviously, since early this morning. We'll have practice tomorrow [and] practice Wednesday. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are off days for the players, but they're allowed on a voluntary basis to come in and work out and do those kinds of things. I told them they could come in and eat; we've got food. So, it's way different than other years, yes."
About the penalties yesterday, you had mentioned some issues with the cadence. Did you delve further into that today when you looked at the film and try to figure out what some of the issues were? (Todd Karpovich) "We know what they are, and the offensive coaches work on those every day. The cadences … We have a cadence system that we use. We understand where the issues were, and really, it's just a matter of doing a better job. We practice them every single day. We just have to be locked in way better than that, and that goes for the alignment issues, as well. Those are issues that really shouldn't happen. We've been great at that in certain games – look at the Houston game. And last year, we were one of the best in the league, both in cadence and our pre-snap formation stuff. We run a lot of formations. We run a lot of motions, and we put guys in different spots. We're very creative that way. But with that, you have to be locked in and you have to get it right, and that's something we need to improve on. We'll be working these two practices to try to get that stuff cleaned up."
With the offense, one kind of common criticism is that this offense this year isn't clicking like it was last year. Do you think that is a fair standard to use and to live up to? (Jamison Hensley) "I think it's natural. I think it's understandable. We use the same standard; it's where we want to be. We want to improve on where we've been in the past. Sure, we're not where we want to be. I don't think we were necessarily where we wanted to be last year at this time, either. It definitely is a work in progress, but we know we have a lot of work to do. We have to improve. Our guys are all about it. The thing I told the guys today [is] the effort level is A-plus. I really have to give our effort level a grade of perfection; we are working as hard as you can work in practice and in games. Our guys are playing super hard. Now, within that and around that, let's build our execution up in every way. Communication is a big part of that, of course, technique and just doing things the right way. So, we're going to keep working on that and that's how you do it. It's a long season in this league, and it's really … How you do it over the long haul is what really counts. The fact that we've been able to win games while doing that is big. It's not too often that we've been 5-1, so I never want to discount that. I never want to discount that with the players. They deserve credit for winning the games, because that's the goal and that's what you judge by. [Former NFL head coach] Bill Parcells said it well; we understand that. But we have a lot of work to do, and our guys like working, so that's a good thing."
I know after the game you said you were certainly not satisfied with the number of big plays that you gave up. When you went back and looked at that film, did you find any pattern between those plays, or was it really just different circumstances on each one? (Childs Walker) "Different circumstances. It always is different circumstances, but the pattern was really just doing your job. Communication was an issue – as much as anything – and/or being in the right place against the big run, obviously. One thing about the big run I want to make a note on though – I hope it doesn't get overlooked – because we didn't play it well. It was a pressure. It's a run-blitz. It should have been a no-gain play. Guys were seeing too much sometimes. They ran a ghost-motion over the top, and we had two different guys go play that instead of playing their gap. And that's what happens. So, that's just a … If anything, it's being overzealous. But to point out the effort chasing that thing down by DeShon Elliott, Marlon Humphrey and what they did … This running back, [Miles] Sanders, I think he ran a 4.3 – low 4.3's – at the [NFL Scouting] Combine. This kid is fast. And DeShon, he was running about 21 miles per hour to go get him, and not only got him, knocked the ball out. They were fortunate; they had a guy hustling behind too [J.J. Arcega-Whiteside] who made a nice play to pick it up in the end zone. So, I hope that doesn't get lost either. There's something there in terms of the … I go back to the effort; my point about the effort there is embodied a little bit in that play."
You just mentioned S DeShon Elliott. Everyone was so confident when he became the starter that he was going to embrace it and do fine. It seems like that's what's happening. How have you seen him grow over his first six games this season? (Cliff Brown) "I agree with that. I agree with that 100%. He's developing into an established starter. Now, he's not there yet. He knows there's a lot of things as a young player; eyes, what he sees when he's deep and then communication. Man and zone – especially the man stuff; we had a couple issues with that yesterday. But he's telling me. He's the guy who's talking to me after the game, or we're texting back and forth, and he's a guy who says, 'Hey, I've got to get better at this, that and the other.' He already knows, and you appreciate that. That's kind of the foundation for a really good player; [someone] who understands that and wants to acknowledge the things that he can get better at and thinks about them all the time. He's thinking about them all the time. So, he's going to be fine. He's going to be really good. He's going to be a lot better than fine."
It might be two- or three-straight games we've seen instances where QB Lamar Jackson throws to WR Miles Boykin, and he's either not looking, or he's going a different direction. Now, I know that happens, and there's miscommunication through the course of a game, but it seems to be Boykin who's having a hard time getting on the same page with Lamar. Is there anything that you've noticed about that? And is that a concern? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It is. You're right, it's happened at least twice in the last two games. And those are plays that are opportunities for big conversions or possibly big plays. We talked about that in the meeting today. It's a communication issue between those two guys. So, that's got to be fixed. It will be. They're both very smart … It's Miles' responsibility, really, to get it right. Lamar [Jackson] is calling the play, and Miles has to get it right, and he knows that. He's a very accountable guy. He had a lot of good plays too, but you're absolutely right about that."
With CB Anthony Averett, is he a candidate for that short-term Injured Reserve that you can bring back after three weeks? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes. I don't know, [but] he'll be some form of an IR [Injured Reserve]. I'm not sure what it will be. It won't be season long. I'm not sure what the other options are, but it will one of whatever those options are there."
To fill in the depth, is CB Khalil Dorsey a guy that you'd like to maybe see get some defensive reps? Might you make a move? Have you thought of that yet? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'm very confident in Khalil [Dorsey] – absolutely. He's playing well. He's playing really well in practice, and he's playing well on special teams. Terrell Bonds is another guy who's in the mix there. He'll get his opportunity. Those guys are ready to roll. They've been practicing well, and we're very confident in those guys."
When we've talked to your edge guys recently, they've said over and over that they almost care more about stopping the run than they do about pass rushing – that stopping the run is No. 1 for them. When you think about that position and what goes into being a really good edge setter, what to you are the key components? (Child Walker) "First of all, your feet have to be right. You have to establish a foundation of a post foot and a strike foot. We don't play it like we're just running up field. We're not containing when we set an edge; we're forcing the play. So, heavy-handed guys – length certainly helps – but explosive, heavy-handed guys who can control a blocker with their hands and get off blocks, and then bring a certain explosiveness after they're able to shed the block and go make a play. So, if you look historically at the Ravens, it gives you a very good mental picture about what edge setters are, because that's been the way we've done it when you go to 2008, certainly, and I would go back before that; all the way back to [former Ravens defensive coordinators] Marvin [Lewis] and to Rex [Ryan]. That's kind of the same defense – especially in the base defense. Nickel is a little different than it was then. But that type of a personality, the Pernell McPhee-type guy. Jarret Johnson, right? Terrell Suggs – so many of those guys. Those are the guys who I think those guys pattern themselves after, and when they come here and play, they take on that personality a little bit, and it starts with that. We also want them to get after the quarterback, and they do too – I assure you. But definitely, you can't play here without being an edge setter as an outside guy."
Along those lines – someone like DE Calais Campbell – his length is what makes him such a great player. But for a guy to be 6-[foot]-8-[inches] and play low, how rare is that for him to be able to use that length and that size as a strength, instead of something that could hold him back in a lot of ways? (Jonas Shaffer) "No question – so rare. So, so surprisingly rare. I give the [Arizona] Cardinals a lot of credit when Calais [Campbell] came out; he was a great player at [the University of] Miami, but that was the question that you had, all the way back then – is he going to be able to maintain leverage on these NFL blockers? Especially in the run game? Not only has he maintained leverage – he's dominated leverage. And he did it again yesterday, numerous times. He's a very different kind of a player. He's very unusual. He's pretty special."
Six games in – obviously, you knew you were going to miss G Marshal Yanda. People seem to forget about that, but is that maybe one of the reasons why the offense isn't quite the way you want it to be right now? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, of course. We don't think about it. We don't dwell on it. But if you want to make the comparison, that's it. Marshal [Yanda] – he played at a Hall of Fame level for years, but especially last year. I really think, in a lot of ways, last year was his best year – I really do. If you watch the tape … He had so many good years, but he never played better than he did last year. He was dominating. He was blocking two guys often times in the run game. That's part of it, sure."
You guys, obviously, spend a lot of time working on onside kicks and that kind of stuff. How pleased were you to see a young guy [James Proche] not only make a play, but look like he wanted the ball in that situation? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's such a great observation. James Proche – twice now – he's had an opportunity, [and] he's gone and attacked it. And that was a perfect kick by the Eagles. They put it right in the right spot – very tough spot. And he just attacked that thing like a shortstop [or] a third baseman going after a bunt – scooping it up with one hand, fire it over to first base – [with] that kind of confidence.
"I'll share this story with you really quick: He's got amazing hands. He's got a lot of confidence in his hands. So, every day when we go to kickoff return, he's back there with the returners, so he runs back, and they always do a JUGS practice kick to get the distance right. So, he's always running back, and the JUGS thing fires, and he just hears it. He doesn't look over his shoulder. He just, right at the right time, he counts it out, he looks back, and he finds the ball and he catches it every single time. The first time I saw him do that, like four weeks ago, he looked at me and he held the ball and said, 'This is my best friend.' There's a guy who has confidence in his hands. Somebody who you have to have on your hands team."
I've heard mentioned by QB Lamar Jackson that he's facing a lot of different looks this year. Teams have adjusted. Going forward, how much is that on a young quarterback to learn and adjust? And how much is it on the coaching staff helping him understand what's going on? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, it's both. But for Lamar's [Jackson] part, he's doing it. He's studying it. He's taking the coaching like he always does. He watches tons of tape, and he understands the looks he's getting. Putting the plays with the looks in real time and in the game – all of those things are what experience is really all about. But it's our job to process the different looks we're getting and to create the situations for him to execute. It's our job to, basically, put him in a position to make the plays. To come up with the plays, or the audibles, or whatever it might be against different things they're doing, that's 100% our responsibility, and we're working hard to do that. That's a good question. That's something that I think, we as coaches, need to do a great job of going forward here in understanding what we're being hit with by defenses now. Basically, what they're doing is: they're stacking the box, they're bringing people down on top of our run game, they're playing a lot of man-coverage, they're mixing it up so we can't just throw man-[coverage] beaters out there, they're getting those safeties involved in the run quite a bit. And we have to make people pay for that."
With S Marcus Gilchrist being called up for Sunday's game, that still counts as one of his two practice squad calls, right? It's not a different situation because of the COVID-19 roster replacement? (Jonas Shaffer) "My understanding is it doesn't. When it's a COVID-19 call-up, it doesn't count. I think the Patriots might've had five or six of those call-ups this week. My understanding is that doesn't count. Now, don't hold me to that, because I don't spend a lot of time always studying every aspect of those rules. But my understanding is that a COVID-19 call-up does not count as one of the two."
My impression was just that because it happened before 4 p.m. on Saturday, it did not qualify as an emergency call-up, but I could be wrong. (Jonas Shaffer) "I don't know, that's a great point. We'll have to look into that. That's not something I've been working on today. But I'll talk to [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] about that, now that you mentioned it, and we'll find out. Thanks for bringing that up."