SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening Statement:"[It's] good to see everyone. [I] hope everyone is doing well. Just as we look forward to this week, our guys have done a great job, the last two days getting ready to play. We're looking forward to the challenge with Houston. They're a good football team on special teams. So, for us, it's just go out there and do our jobs, and let's go have fun. Questions?"
There's going to be a lot of attention with how kickoffs are handled this year. Did you get any sense with how teams were going about it in preseason how it could happen, and how are you handling it? Do you expect it to be a kind of a week-to-week thing?_ (Jeff Zrebiec) _"For the first part, kind of sense throughout the preseason, I think every coach is going to do what they feel is best for their team. For us, I think it will be a week-to-week basis. I feel like we feel we do a pretty good job returning the ball. So, we have Devin Duvernay back there, and we're going to allow him to return the football. Again, that'll be a week-to-week basis depending on the job of what we see from the opponent as well. So, now that we have that option, I do think it could be something that could be utilized."
LS Tyler Ott spoke about being in this new unit with K Justin Tucker and P Jordan Stout. What are you looking forward to seeing from them in Week One and how have progressed this training camp and the chemistry they've built? _(Valerie Preactor) _"The three guys when they came in … When Tyler [Ott] came in, he fit right in there. He's a pro. He's a veteran guy. It's not like we had to go out and get a rookie, a first-year guy that's never done it in this league. He's a veteran guy. He understands the job that needs to be done in order to have success. So, when he came in, and we paired him with Jordan [Stout], and paired him with 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker], then he just learned how they do things at the Ravens. Then once he figured that out, he fit right in. He's going to be good. He's going to be great. [I'm] looking forward to seeing those guys again in a real game. It's going to be good, and it's going to be a little bit different. We're going to see a lot of different things. It's not going to be just a lot of six boxes, and there's nobody attacking the snapper. Now guys are going to come after you. So, it's going to be fun to see those guys work, and I know right now, he's working really hard, and he's going to do a really good job for us."
When you see the players are running down the field with the coverage deep, what are you looking for as you're doing that? (Jamison Hensley) "Honestly, I'm just having a little fun. When you're out there with the players, those guys like [it] when you bring just a different type of energy to it. Hey, I could still do it, so I want to go out there, I want to run around, and have fun with them, but I'm trying to stay out of their way. I'm trying not to get run over. [I'm] making sure I'm not going home to my wife and she's like, 'Chris, why are you limping?' So, I don't want to be doing that. My job is to stay out their way and let those guys work, but I just love getting out there. [I] might challenge them a little bit, and if I beat you for 10yards, what's wrong with that? So, [I'm having] a little fun."
P Jordan Stout has talked about how he's struggled with his confidence. What have you seen from him at this point to show that he's a more confident player? _(Cordell Woodland) _"Jordan [Stout] is just maturing. As a first-year player [last year], I think it's like any first-year guy, you're going to have those ups and downs, and then there's going to be times and situations where you're pretty down on yourself. It's our jobs as coaches to kind of reel him back in and help him understand like, 'Hey man, it's OK. You're a first-year player. There's going to be those things, but let's find some consistency.' Now that he's found that consistency, and he's continuing to find it, his confidence is just continuing to rise, and it's going to continue to rise throughout the year."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
How is going into the season where you didn't have the starters playing at all in the preseason? Is there uncertainty for when you do get everybody on the field and how it will connect especially early on? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I mean, you're taking – how do I say this – you're going to take what you've seen which is in practices, and then the closest thing we've had [to a real game] has been [our joint training camp practices] with the [Washington] Commanders, so that's what you go by, and you go by … It would be a little different if say Lamar [Jackson] was a first-year player, but he's not, or a J.K. Dobbins ... We have a lot of experience. Our guys have played, maybe not so much in what our terminology is now, but football is football. An inside zone play is an inside zone play. A curl flat is a curl flat [and] four verts, so you rely on that to make sure just the language gets communicated across. Then, we can execute at a high level, but I don't have any concerns over it. Sure, would it be nice to have played in games? Of course, that's obvious, but I don't feel any different other than I think we're excited to go play."
A lot of fans and media are probably curious and intrigued as to what this offense will look like this year. Where do you feel like the offense is as you're building it? (Garrett Downing) "I think we're in a good spot. I think that's been really overplayed in a lot of ways, what this offense will look like or what we've done in the past. I get it; there's excitement. I mean I'm excited to get started. I mean I am, but it still comes down to execution and it trumps everything. It doesn't matter what we're running, playing at a high level. Our guys are excited to play and being able to stack plays, but again, what it will look like, I'm excited to see it. I'm excited to see where we're at in a lot of ways. I've seen it in practice, and now I'm excited to see it in games."
Do you have a preference long term for whether you want this offense to be multiple in a sense that you can run whatever type of personnel grouping or do you want to major in a couple certain sets? (Jonas Shaffer) "I really don't care who's on the field to be honest. If you stay within the framework of what wins – which is don't turn it over, be successful on offense, be explosive, eliminate loss-yardage plays, score touchdowns in the red zone and be elite on third downs – if you stay within that framework, the personnel really … It's putting the best players on the field to give you a chance to be successful. The more talent that you have, the more exciting it is. You can be more versatile. If you have multiple backs, you can play some of your 21 personnel. If you have multiple tight ends you like to get on the field, that gives you opportunities to put personnel on the field. I think we're in a good place in terms of the personnel that we have that allows you to be versatile in a lot of ways. You just have to be careful of getting spread too thin and having way too much and being easy to defend because you have things you do specifically in certain packages, but I'm excited about our guys [and] the versatility, I think we'll have."
There's been a lot made about the quarterback having more control in this offense. Has that usually been the case with you in your other stops and giving the quarterback that kind of control? Why is that important? (Cordell Woodland) "It's been asked a lot, and it doesn't seem universal to me. It seems pretty normal that the guy in charge has a big say in what we do and how we do it. His career is on the line [and] how we have success is on the line. Now, with that being said, I think the more you empower people – it's not just the quarterback, the more you empower people, your coaches, your staff, people that work for you – the more you empower them to me, you're going to get more out of them. They're going to embrace their role. They're going to want to be … They're going to bring ideas to you. If you 'poo poo' every idea someone has, they stop bringing you ideas. It just works that way. Now, you have to earn that. You don't just allow anybody to have control of an offense or changing things or any business, you don't allow just anybody to be empowered without earning that. That comes with that, but I think it's the only way to be elite. I learned that from people empowering me. That's not something I developed. This isn't a Todd Monken thing. That is a life thing, and it makes sense. But I'm just saying, in general, that's what makes people grow, is trusting people."
What are you seeing from a healthy WR Rashod Bateman these last few weeks? What do you like about him that's unique that he can bring to this offense?_ (Luke Jones)_ "First of all, since I've been here over the last two or three weeks-plus, it's been great to see 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman] with a smile on his face. I think like any human being when they're not in a good place – this isn't just football – what he does for a living, being hurt, being frustrated with rehabbing and coming back, like I said, 'We're always better in a good place,' and I think he's in a really good place in terms of where he is and what we do offensively and where his health is. So, with that being said, you start to see some of the explosion that he has, the speed [and] the playmaking ability that you love to see [and] that you've already seen. Now, it's a matter of being able to stay healthy, and [I hope] that for him, because it's what he loves to do."
There hasn't been a lot of talk about how a fullback could fit into your offense and how you utilize the fullback. How do you view FB Patrick Ricard overall, and how do you view his fit into what you want to do offensively? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think [Patrick Ricard] is an invaluable piece. It's trying to figure out where and when. What spots of the field, what situations, what packages, what set of plays best utilizes his skillset [and] fits into what we want to accomplish throughout the course of a game, which is a lot of 'coach speak,' I guess. But that is the way it is with any player. When you're thinking about, OK, 'Why are we going to play this slot receiver? Why are we going to play this tight end? Why are we going to play this player?' Pat has a unique skillset, and so, us trying to fit that in … And how do we utilize him in more aspects? He is certainly going to be valued in four-minute, goal-line, coming-out, short-yardage [situations and] when you want to run the football. [There is] a certain physicality that the Ravens' helmet stands for. You have to have that on your team. But now, how do you add packages to that? That's to be determined, basically, week to week."
How much does the athleticism of your offensive line – with guys like C Tyler Linderbaum and T Ronnie Stanley – allow you to be creative with what you want to do? (Pete Gilbert) "That's a great question. When you have an athletic center, you're not as nervous in certain fronts when you have to pull a center instead of a guard. Obviously, some of your toss-crack schemes and your screens come into play when those guys can get on the perimeter. And then, in terms of movement, you see so much up-front movement – twists and stunts – their ability to recover, I think is critically important. So, it's … It's not a luxury; it's just what you're looking for in a center and a left tackle. That's really … If you said, 'What are you looking for?' Smart, intelligent, tough, athletic, and I guess that's what you're looking for at every position. But we're lucky to have those guys."
After his late start to training camp, do you feel like RB J.K. Dobbins is at the point you want him at now, heading into Week 1? (Ryan Mink) "I really like where he [J.K. Dobbins] is at. All along, he's had … Again, I think he's been ready to go from the start. Again, I don't get into someone's business, but I thought he did a great job of being in the playbook, asking questions. I thought he was in great spirits, it's fun having him out there, [and] he loves playing football. And guys like that, you can feel on the practice field. You really root for those guys, because they love playing football. They bring that energy on the field, and they bring people with them."
Everybody is different, obviously, but from your experience, what is the hardest thing for a rookie QB making a first-career start? (Brian Wacker) "Oh, I don't know. It's hard to speak for [C.J. Stroud]." (Reporter: "More generally.")"I think it's really … I think it's hard … In any profession, when you start a new job, I think it's hard. I just do. I just think you learn as you go, and you improve. I don't care how talented a writer you are or how talented a journalist; you've all gotten better from the first time you wrote and whenever you spoke. [It's the] same with me, right? So, I think it's hard to come right out of the block and be where you're going to be. At least, I hope that's the 'frickin' case. Let's at least put it that way, right? (laughter)Hopefully, it takes him at least another four days, OK? Let's talk about that. But he's a tremendous player. Last time I saw him [when I was at Georgia], we were in a barnburner with him in the [College Football] Playoff. So, he's a tremendous player and a great, great young man. But I think just generally speaking … And again, I wouldn't want this to come out like I'm speaking for him. But just in general … I'm just saying, in general, in any profession, it's hard when you first start – that's every position. Your rookies are going to have bumps. It just happens that he's in control of the offense, [so] it's more obvious. Does that make sense? I think the first game I called plays, we [had] seven straight three-and-outs. I mean, holy (expletive). You talk about wanting to quit calling plays.(laughter) I mean, my goodness. So, that was awful. I mean, I was like, 'I thought this was going to be fun; this is terrible.' (laughter) There's nowhere to go. You can't [complain] about the play caller. You're that guy. (laughter)So, I do think it's hard whenever you start, and I think that's just the beginning of it as you … Like I said, [in] any profession … He just happens to be at this point in his career, and I think he's going to have a heck of a career. I just hope, like I said, I hope it doesn't start in four days."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Opening statement:"How's it going? Good to see everybody. [I'm] excited to get going. It's about time. It's been a long time since we've played for real, so [I'm] excited to see the guys go out there and play. What do you have?"
Did you have to go back and watch Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud's film from his Ohio State playing days to gameplan against him? (Jamison Hensley) "No. Obviously, [we're] just watching [Houston's] preseason stuff and going back to San Francisco [49ers where Texans' offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik was the offensive passing game coordinator] and a couple of the other guys on staff have been in some other spots that we checked out. It's going to be a great challenge. It's tough – first game of the year – just not as much information that you're used to acting on. You're trying to blend last year's stuff to this year's stuff and try to anticipate how they've attacked us before, but at the end of the day, we're just trying to hone our craft so we're sharp on our stuff. Ultimately, we're trying to make them react to how we play. So, that's the mentality."
What is your confidence with the cornerbacks with new players and guys coming off of injury? _(Pete Gilbert) _"I feel great. We have a lot of confidence in those guys. We've had a great couple days of practice, and we'll see who's out there at certain times. I don't want to give that away quite yet, but whoever will be out there, we have a lot of confidence in them, and I think they're ready to go."
Do you think there might be a situation where you rotate some players early on in the game to get a feel for things? (Jamison Hensley) "I think you might see a little bit of a rotation. I wouldn't say for the reason of getting a feel for it, but we have our reasons for who's in there and when and all that. So, we'll see who ends up in the snap counts. I probably couldn't tell you right now. I'm not keeping that from you. I just don't know that yet."
What have you seen from CB Ronald Darby since he has arrived and what makes him a good fit for what you want to do defensively?_ (Luke Jones)_ "Well, he's a quick study and is really quick-footed. [He] has a great feel of what we're trying to do. He's played a lot of good football and understands the game – route concepts and splits and distributions and things like that. He's just been a great guy to have around. It seemed like he picked it up seamlessly just from the first day he got here. So, we're excited to see what he can do."
Have you noticed any changes in Texans QB C.J. Stroud since you last scouted him while you were defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan (2021)? (Noah Trister) "Honestly, it's been a lot of football between the last time he was on the opposing sideline. But, he looks impressive to me. He doesn't look like a rookie on preseason tape. He seems poised back there and comfortable. He's always been a really accurate passer – that definitely hasn't changed. I think the scheme and him fit well, and obviously, he's a really talented guy. He has a pretty good command of what they're doing, it looks like. It'll be a great challenge for us, so we're ready to go."
How much have you talked to OLB David Ojabo heading into this game and making sure he is not fixated on outside distractions with him being scrutinized this offseason? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's in a great spot. We've had conversations – not just about the preseason – but just because I'm one of his coaches as with a lot of the other guys on the roster. The message to him is, 'Get lined up, and let's roll. Throw your fastball. Sometimes, you're going to get blocked just like every other NFL player to ever step out there, but we want you to go play the way you know how to play and go make them block you. Don't give them a play off.' I think he's responded really well. He's in a great spot mentally. He's had a great couple days of practice, so I'm looking to see how he plays on Sunday."
Is it different to scheme and plan against a rookie quarterback like C.J. Stroud who you are facing on Sunday? (Brian Wacker) "A lot of times when you're facing a quarterback that has a longer track record, you have just a bigger database of stats of how well he's played and reacted to certain things that you could present him with – and you just don't have that with a rookie. That's OK. It's definitely a little bit more leaning towards the scheme and the things that they present historically in that family of offense that you're thinking about defending in addition to the quarterback rather than starting with a quarterback and then going to the scheme, if that makes sense. At the end of the day, we have to go play our style of ball and make them try to move the ball on what we're going to give them."
Did the struggles in the secondary early last year confirm how you went about preparing for this season in any way? (Jonas Shaffer) "No. We had a fresh perspective coming in here with the guys that we had, and then the focus was really, from Day One, of who we had, what we can do well with an idea of the vision that we're trying to build over time and see how close we can get to that. With the movement a little bit in the secondary [with some injuries during training camp], I think that might've changed some of the things we were trying to do. We'll ultimately be able to get to that point, but I'm just very confident where we're at right now. The guys have done an amazing job. We're really communicating well right now. We're sharp – I have a lot of confidence in those guys back there."
Is there a lot to learn about how your defense plays that you pick up over the offseason when you have more time than during the week-to-week grind? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think we're a defense built on concepts, so you can't just throw out the final entrée Week 1 to the guys in training camp let alone OTAs and expect it to work. It's a building process, and you have to build a foundation and start to layer things over time. Just the process – it takes longer than you want, so you have to be patient with it. But like I said, just having a clear picture with the end game in mind. I wouldn't say it makes it easier, but it's definitely clearer on what you're trying to get to."
What specifically stands out to you about Texans RB Dameon Pierce and trying to stop him besides the obvious production? (Pete Gilbert) "Man, he's a great player. We say he runs angry. The first guy is going to have a hard time bringing him down, so it's going to take a group effort. That's definitely a point of emphasis this week. We haven't tackled in a real game yet, especially with our Ones [first string]. So, that's been a message throughout the week of, 'Hey, we want to bring our A-Game with the tackling and make sure we get 11 hats to the ball and taking great angles, so we're not giving up any loose plays.'"
Can you see it in some of the players at practice like ILB Patrick Queen and ILB Roquan Smith that they're itching to tackle? (Jamison Hensley) "I get that feeling from the whole team."
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE ANTHONY WEAVER
Is there any familiarity with the Texans since you coached with the Texans recently (2016-20)? (Jamison Hensley) "Not much. That's three head coaches removed now. So, there's certainly familiarity with the fact that I played with their head coach [DeMeco Ryans] for three years and still know a bunch of people in the building, but in terms of the team itself, [it's] completely different."
Does it surprise you that DeMeco Ryans has become a head coach, or did you see some of those qualities back then? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Not at all. DeMeco [Ryans], from the second he stepped on the field with us, he was a leader. You can tell, it was in him. So, I'm not shocked by this at all. I'd like to see him start 0-1, obviously. After that, I'll cheer for him for sure."
Both Coach John Harbaugh and DE Jadeveon Clowney both said you were the man in the middle when Clowney came to visit. You talked the Ravens up to him and you talked him up to the Ravens. How happy were you to see him come here, and why did you think he would be such a good fit?_ (Childs Walker)_ "I'm thrilled he's here. I spent three years with Jadeveon [Clowney] in Houston [working at the Texans]. He had a lot of success. We have a special bond and a special relationship. So, whenever you coach anybody, you're always trying to forge a bond, and we had that, so I don't even think I had to do a whole lot of talking. He wanted to be here. We wanted him here. He's a perfect fit for us and just his style of play, he's aggressive. I tell people, 'He's a car with no governor.' He's not going to slow down; he's going to run through contact which, to me, screams playing like a Raven. So, [I'm so] happy he's here."
This is the second year for DC Mike Macdonald. People have his stuff on tape and had the entire offseason to review it. How quickly do opposing offenses catch up and require reinvention? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, everybody does similar things. Ultimately, you're always trying to tweak, and you're always adjusting. You're always evolving and adapting. Mike [Macdonald] is always doing that; I promise you – day-to-day, hour-to-hour, [and] minute-to-minute. So, if somebody catches up and starts to figure him out, please tell me because I haven't yet. I think Mike has done a phenomenal job, and he's going to be an excellent head coach one day."
How excited for you to go out there and play a real game? (Cordell Woodland) "Beyond excited. Obviously, if we could play tomorrow, I'd play tomorrow. But [I'm] trying to enjoy the journey, take it one step at a time [and] be processed oriented, but I think we're kind all jumping out of our skin to play. I just can't wait to see what we have. We love what we see into this state on the practice field. [We're] just so excited to unleash the rest of this team on the world so they can see and be proud of all the work they've put in."
How excited were you to see DT Broderick Washington get the contract extension and what are your expectations for him as a guy who's expecting to play a little more this season? (Luke Jones) "I love Broderick Washington – and I think I've said this before – I don't that anyone in the building works harder than him. So, just to see all that hard work rewarded, and from a guy that truly has just … he's grinded his way to that deal. So, [I'm] extremely proud of him, [and I] can't wait to watch what he does this season. It could end up being a bargain for us in the long term because he has that much potential and that much talent in him."
DE Jadeveon Clowney has moved to different spots in his career and rushed from different places. How do you see him as a guy who can be effective outside and as a guy inside?_ (Cliff Brown)_ "I see it exactly the same way here. There's value in that. When I had J.J. [Watt] and Jadeveon [Clowney], both were dynamic players. J.J. loved to be on the left side. Now, offenses – because they knew he was there –they would try to scheme him out; good luck. They would try, but when you'd talk to coordinators, [they'd say], 'That Clowney kid, we don't know where he's going to be.' Awesome, that's the point because now you can't scheme him out. We're going to try to put him on your weakest guy and maneuver him like a chess piece and let him go out there and do his thing."
You call DT Michael Pierce and DE Brent Urban the fun bunch. What makes their relationship together so special? (Melissa Kim) "When you look at them side by side, Brent [Urban] and Michael [Pierce], they look like the perfect number 10. First and foremost, right? But those two, they obviously had a bond from playing here prior. I was kind of brought into that, but you can see the genuine love [they] have for one another. And honestly, upfront and as a defensive unit, you're trying to build that bond with everybody. When you have genuine care for one another, that can transcend the team. I believe we're building towards that, if we haven't gotten there already. (Reporter: Do you endorse the Urb celebration?) Absolutely. 'Urb' is an energy giver. He's a juice guy. So, when he does that celebration, you see everyone doing the exact same thing. It's infectious, I love it."
QB C.J. Stroud will be starting on Sunday for the Texans. What are things that you try to do to get the players prepared for players they haven't seen play yet? (Brian Wacker) "First and foremost, you're trying to hit him as much as humanly possible. Then you're going to try and confuse them pre-snap, but those guys … The complexity of defenses in the National Football League are leaps and bounds of what you're going to see in college. You're forced to be vanilla because you just don't have time on task in the college game. Those guys are forced to do so many other things. So, we hope, obviously, to both confuse him pre-snap and get after him with our rush and our pressures."
TE MARK ANDREWS
On how he's feeling right now after his injury: "I'm feeling good. I've obviously taken some time off [and] kind of slowly working back in. It's one of those things that's been a little tricky, but I'm feeling better running around. It's just day by day getting better, and we'll see what happens."
On how the quad injury came up:"It was just one of those things that when you practice hard, you go hard and it was unfortunate, but for me, it's just getting back out there on the field [and] focusing. It's so exciting getting back out there on the field. We're all kind of champing at the bit, so I'm excited about that. [I'm] just trying to be healthy, get healthy and help this team win games."
On if it's in his nature to practice so hard and if he'll have to dial that back in after his injury:"It's not. I'm taking a lot of reps, and I've gotten a lot of good work. I feel like I've had a really good training camp and those practices against the Commanders and stuff like that, those are game-like reps. So, I feel good mentally [and I'm] understanding this offense and just the total vibe around here is just … it's time to go get it."
On if he's also excited going into Week 1 seeing how it's all going to come together:"For sure. I think all the three phases, offense, obviously, that's what I'm most excited about and to see everyone clicking, obviously No. 8 [Lamar Jackson] back there doing his thing, coach [Todd] Monken calling the plays, and just all of us guys vibing together, making plays, moving the ball down the field [and] scoring points. It's exciting. Our defense [will be] doing their thing and special teams. That's what we do."
On if he has any doubt that he'll play on Sunday: "For me, like I said, I'm just taking it day by day. I'm doing my thing, and God willing, I'll be out there."