Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement:"Where we're at after two games: It's crazy, I told the defense in our meeting on Saturday, we're driving home and it just didn't feel as good, obviously, as what we did the week before, because it just wasn't as clean. But, what I'm saying the crazy part of it is, is you give up 211 yards – and that tells you where our standard is at defensively. You give up 211 yards, and a lot of people love that right now. This is going to be a big test for us going to Philly, because they have a lot of skill at wide receiver and tight end and running back. It's going to be a measuring stick, definitely. It's one of those things that we talk about. This third preseason game, it's getting down to crunch time, now, where guys are going to make the 53 [-man roster] or they're not. The biggest message was, if you think you're on the bubble, you are.
"That's where we're at right now. I was pleased with our effort. I think we're playing hard. I think we're playing fast. With our two big tackles we have inside, we're going to see some toss plays, and you saw how we ran all those toss plays down going into that game. Green Bay definitely game-planned a little bit. They didn't want another 11-sack performance, so they got rid of the ball quick, and they had a lot of screens. That was good work for us."
Now that we're a few weeks into training camp and two preseason games, what have you seen from OLB Shane Ray, maybe from the time he arrived in the spring until now? (Luke Jones) "I thought Shane had more juice against Green Bay coming off the edge and working inside than what he did with Jacksonville. What he needs to do is stack that, take that next step here in Philadelphia. I think he's getting his legs. In the dog days of training camp, it's hard to do that, getting ready for games. I think 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] has done a great job for all the guys, getting ready for these Thursday night games. We're starting to get in a little bit more of a rhythm, and I just expect him to improve, do better than what he's done, and he did a pretty nice job. He did a nice job against Green Bay."
With CB Tavon Young's injury, how key is it to have depth in the secondary to have people to step into that role? (Todd Karpovich) "It's awesome that we have that much depth. We'll do some different things without Tavon, and we don't know how long Tavon is going to be out. We'll do some different things. It's nothing that we haven't done in the past. We have a lot of guys who can step up and fill that spot."
One guy who was pretty active against Green Bay was ILB Otaro Alaka. What kind of progress have you seen from him? (Jamison Hensley) "It's like I said before: He has that linebacker pedigree. He's played the position his entire life. I'm not talking about a conversion guy, which a lot of NFL teams are doing now, like we have with 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor]. He has that pedigree, and he's really instinctive inside the box. He's faster than what you'd think, because he keys so well. I was really impressed with him."
Are you happy with what you've seen from CB/RS Cyrus Jones? (Gabby DiPaula) "Yes, I think Cyrus, he got a little tired there at the end of the game, which is good for him to know that he needs to get his legs. I'm really pleased with Cyrus. I think he had eight tackles in the game. When you have a nickel that can make eight tackles, you're going down the right street."
A lot was made about the headset. Are you settled on that, or is that going to be a gradual thing that you're still working on? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's been 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] all camp, all of OTAs. That's the direction that we're headed, but that can always change, too. That can be a gameplan-thing change. That can be whatever we need, because the biggest thing that we've talked about is communication. We've done a nice job with communicating. We need to get better, it needs to be faster and it needs to be cleaner – all those things you say during training camp. But, once you get the whole team talking, it doesn't really matter who has the speaker in their helmet."
You still have time to game-plan and figure things out, but if CB Tavon Young is going to miss some time, how do you decide whether you want to play one guy in the slot versus matchup four or five guys? Is there anything that goes into the decision-making process? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's going to be a gameplan, and right now, Cyrus [Jones] is the No. 1 nickel right now. But, we'll just wait and see what happens when we game-plan it. Brandon Carr has been in there. 'Double A' [Anthony Averett] has been in there. We can put different guys in there, and you said it earlier in your question, it's matchup, what we think is the best. We put Chuck [Clark] and DeShon [Elliott] in there. It's just a matchup thing."
As you're reviewing communication before a play, is it just a situation where during training camp, you get a sense of how well these guys are communicating? (Jonas Shaffer) "There's no doubt about that. It's during training camp, but the biggest thing is during the game. That's what was so good about playing the first group together for the short period of time that we did, was to see that communication. I think coming away from it, 'T.J.' [Tony Jefferson] said he had one bust to Earl [Thomas III], but Earl loved the communication. Earl communicated well – the safeties, back there. And then, of course, the front seven, 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] is doing a nice job there."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. We're heading into our third preseason game. The guys are working really hard; they're really locked in. We're getting a lot done, and we're trying to refine things now. We got most of the offense installed. We were able to work on some things that we kind of fell into as we were watching ourselves the first couple weeks of camp. Some will make the final cut, and some will be on the cutting room floor straight to DVD. The guys are working really hard, and I'm really pleased. I'm really excited about our work against Philly, a different style of defense, a very talented group. I think we'll be able to get a lot out of that."
When you say a different style of defense, I imagine it's the 4-3 and the way they're rushing the passer. How does that challenge QB Lamar Jackson? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Exactly. I'll tell you, it's going to test our whole offense. They get out there in those wide nines, and they're coming off the edge. They bring it. They're a real penetrating, run-to-the-ball defense. It's just a different style, and to be able to practice against those different nuances that you're going to see throughout the season [is beneficial]. It's a great advantage for the guys to [have played] more of a 3-4 structure last week, more of an eight-man front, 4-3 the week before, and now they get to play against that 4-3 stack with those wide nines. It's different. You have to look at it as an entire offense and see how that's going to change how you play the game a little bit. So, [there will be] a lot of challenges."
At the left guard spot, is there any concern that the offensive line may be together for the first time on Sept. 8, or it there enough familiarity there that you don't think it will be an issue? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's a situation where we're getting a lot of work for a lot of guys. Throughout the course of the season, that's going to really benefit us – like when you're at Week 8 or Week 9, and something happens, and you have to reshuffle the deck. You've already been doing that. So, I think that's a real positive. The experience, guys working with one another, speaking one language, getting on the same page … I feel really confident about that process. I think we have a bunch of guys that are really, really competing and getting better. Our offensive line really improved over the past eight, nine, 10 days, so I think that's a real benefit for us."
You said you used the first two preseason games to kind of evaluate. Is there a plan to scheme things up a little bit more to unveil more and to get more reps? (Andrew Gillis) "That's an interesting question. Not specifically, no, but I definitely think [that with] this style of defense we'll probably have a little bit of a different gameplan going in. It necessitates that, which is good for us, but I don't think we're saying, 'Hey, we're just going to go out and run what we're going to run in the first couple of weeks of the season.' We might, but we might not. I don't want to give away anything, if you haven't noticed. (laughter) I definitely think we'll do some different stuff this week."
Is it a challenge spreading out the reps amongst the running backs, as far as who is going to get more carries? (Todd Karpovich) "It is. That's a good problem to have. I like good problems. Bring on those good problems. Those guys are doing a really good job. I thought all of them afforded themselves very well last week. It's a continual challenge to get all of those guys into a rhythm, and they're handling it really well. They're taking advantage of their opportunities. When you have several guys that are really good players at a position, that's a good thing. I really like how those guys are shaping up."
With RB Justice Hill being one of those backs, he's drawing comparisons to Eagles RB Darren Sproles. Do you see those comparisons? (Jamison Hensley)"I can see where people would do that. I'm really excited about Justice and what he's been able to do thus far. I don't think he's the guy that you just go, 'Oh, the "toss guy" is in the game. Watch for the toss.' I think he has shown that he can run a variety of run schemes – inside, outside – and he's displayed vision and quickness to definitely run the scheme. But also, you love it when, if something breaks down or changes, he can fix it on the fly. He just has to keep coming in every day working hard, because he's done a really nice job so far. We're all really excited about Justice."
How did you think G/T Jermaine Eluemunor looked against the Packers, not just at left guard but also playing extensively at left tackle? (Luke Jones) "He did well. As always, it's a constant climb to that ridge line. You're trying to get there. There are some things that we can improve, and he's doing it. Jermaine has just continued to improve incrementally every day, and that's what we're looking for. Just keep stacking good days, and that's what he's doing. He's a big, strong guy that has gotten better since he's gotten here. We're excited to see that continue with him."
You've had two good looks at QB Trace McSorley this preseason. How would you judge his performance so far? (Andrew Gillis) "Trace has done well. There are some plays that he'd like to have back, like anybody else. Playing quarterback in the National Football League may be the hardest job in all of sports. In my opinion, it is, from my knowledge. He has experienced some things that he needs to learn from. He knows that, and that's all good. He's a sharp guy. He's doing well, and this is a big week. It's a great opportunity for him, too, to keep getting better. That's what we're trying to do."
John Harbaugh said he also wants to give QB Trace McSorley some reps on special teams. How do you balance that?_ (Todd Karpovich) _"He'll meet extra. He'll spend extra time at the facility. He'll do all of that. But as far as that goes, he is a top-flight athlete. He's in great shape. He has no problems handling all of that. So, that's been pretty smooth."
How big of a challenge is it for a young guy like rookie QB Trace McSorley to also have the workload of learning special teams? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a workload, for sure. You tip your hat to a guy like Trace. I think he can handle it, because he's a really sharp guy. He's a hard worker, very intelligent, very diligent. The opportunity to play is what excites him the most."
You guys have said from the beginning of camp that there is a plan in place for WR Marquise Brown. Are you pleased with the progress he's made and what you've seen from him on the practice field? Do you feel like that plan has put you in a good position with him heading into the regular season? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We're giving him more every day. I think the plan was the right plan. This past week, we really saw a different gear from him, and that's exciting. Now, we have to build some chemistry with he and Lamar [Jackson]. His style is a little different. He can kick that gear in. You better put some mustard on that ball. (laughter) He's doing really well, and he's improving every day. He's really engaged in the meetings and out on the practice field. He's really excited."
When you get a guy like that on the practice field, do you start generating new ideas to deploy him, or is it from what you saw on the tape? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Those things come to you, definitely. You already have a ton of ideas in the back of your head, and you have some on paper and whatnot, and they'll continue to flow. The biggest thing is getting him out on the grass with the fellas and with Lamar [Jackson], building that rapport in real time, building that chemistry. The ideas, we'll always have those. But getting them out there and advancing, the players getting together and working together, that's really the biggest thing."
Getting WR Marquise Brown on the field is obviously big for his skillset, but what does it do for the other guys, because teams have to respect his speed? (Andrew Gillis)"You'd have to ask them, but I definitely think he's a guy we will be able to use in a lot of different ways. I'm sure different people interpret that challenge differently, but he's a guy that we definitely want to get involved in a variety of ways."
When you've been a play-caller in the past, you've had guys like RBs Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy. Is there something about the veteran running back that stands out to you? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Each guy is his own guy. We're fortunate with Mark Ingram II being here. He brings a football character to our outfit and to our unit, really, to the whole team. I think that goes beyond running back or position. When you have guys like that, it just makes an impact on the entire team. Mark is that kind of guy. It was fun watching him play the other night, wasn't it? We didn't give him much, but it was good watching him do it."
Did you know RB Cedric Benson at all? (Bobby Trosset) "I did not know him. I was just given that information. It's a horrible tragedy, and our prayers are out."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement:"Just a recap on last week against Green Bay: I thought our guys went out, we played, we competed well and saw some good things from some guys that needed to step up. I was really encouraged by the video. Moving forward to Philly tomorrow, I just want to go out and see our guys compete at a high level like they've been doing, and it's another opportunity to get real game-like experience against another team – against a good football team. So, we're really looking forward to seeing our guys go out there and compete."
How is WR Jaleel Scott developing into a special teams player? I know John Harbaugh recently said he didn't do a whole lot of special teams in college, so how is he coming along with that? (Luke Jones) "Jaleel has done a great job. From Game 1 to Game 2, you just want to see some improvement, and he improved a lot from Game 1 to Game 2, and it's really encouraging to see. He went out there, he made two tackles, and I was really fired up for him. Really, just with game experience, he's going to get better, because he has that want-to, he has that 'it' factor. He's going to be physical. He's going to be a high-effort guy, and then from there, with game experience, we get him tuned up on his fundamentals, and he's going to be OK."
One of the battles that we've been watching is returner. What have been your impressions of how that is going? (Jamison Hensley) "I really think both guys, Cyrus [Jones] and Tyler [Ervin], have caught the ball really well. I talked to you guys before about punt returning, and that's really the No. 1 job. OK, who is going to catch the ball, get under the ball? Then from there, everything else is, OK, let's make some yards. Tyler has had more opportunities for returns. I think Cyrus has more fair catches, but both guys are really doing an outstanding job, and just like you guys have seen the first two weeks, we're going to continue to rotate those guys rep after rep."
We've seen WR Marquise Brown fielding some punts in practice. Is that just seeing how he handles it, or do you think at some point he could be in the mix? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's a playmaker, so anytime a guy like that, we can get him out in practice and give him an opportunity to see if he can catch punts, we love to have that kind of guy back there. Right now, it's just, let him take the reps in practice. Let him get as many reps as he can, and when we can put him back there, we'll see."
This is your first year as special teams coach. Do you know how roster cutdown is going to work? Are you going to be able to make your voice heard and pinpoint some guys you want on the roster? (Aaron Kasinitz) "You know what, I do know how roster cuts are made, from both sides. (laughter) So, I understand that. I understand that we're going to keep the best 53 guys, and however that may unfold, those are the guys that are going to make this team. As a special teams coach, you kind of do have a voice. You have some guys. You have a handful of guys that are going to go out and their role is really going to be special teams guys. Whoever has done that from spring and building themselves up, and really, whoever helps us with the overall makeup of the team, those are going to be the guys that we're going to keep, and the guys that we keep are will be the right 53 guys."
One of those special teams guys that the Ravens got was CB Justin Bethel, a great gunner. You obviously played DB in the NFL and were around a lot of guys who played gunner. Why is it that some cornerbacks are just average cornerbacks and very good gunners, and some cornerbacks are quite good but don't have what it takes to be a gunner? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think it comes with just overall skillset. It's like every position. He can go out, he can go play corner when you need him to, but his value is, he's a special teams gunner, and you can't block him. It's an effort thing, it's a want-to thing, and he's fine. So, it's not so much of a, 'He can't do one or the other,' because I think he's really good at one, and more than serviceable at the other. And, that goes with every position. Your starting linebacker is not going to be, probably … He can go play special teams, but that's not what you're going to use him for. You're going to use your backup linebacker at that spot. So, I think it's just one of those things. You're good at one, you're OK at the other, and it's OK, because what you're really good at is valuable."
When we're talking about cutdowns and you're talking about how you know both sides, do you feel like you have a different or unique perspective because you kind of know how it feels to go through the process like this? (Jamison Hensley) "I think I do, and one of my big messages to the guys all the time is, 'Just go out and play every play like it's your last play,' because you don't know. You really don't know. Go out and give everything you have, because not only are you trying to make this team, but there are 31 other teams [looking at you]. If you play well enough, you can go find a roster spot on another team. I think if you help guys understand that, you're going to get the most out of them every day, and they're not worried about, 'Oh, you know what, it's the third preseason game. At some point, these cuts are going to happen.' It's the nature of football. We can't keep everyone. We'd love to, but we can't. So, I think you just tell those guys, 'Go out, give everything you have, and don't worry about what is going to happen. Something is going to happen, and whether you're on the wrong side of the fence or not, you'll be OK.'"
When you were a player, when you got that news, how tough was it to go through getting cut? (Jamison Hensley) "It's very tough. All of your life, you grow up and football is everything you know. That's all you want to do, is play football. It was after my third year that I got that call. I really liked how they did it. It was the one guy I was really close with. They didn't send the young intern to come tell me I was cut. They sent the veteran guy that I had been close with to call me in and tell me, 'Hey, Chris, we're going to let you go.' I accepted it. It's not fun, but you say, 'OK, my time is done here. I'll go somewhere else and try to fit on somewhere else.' It's never the end until you say it's the end." (Reporter: Who was that guy that told you?)"It was Alex Santos."
How much of a resource is assistant special teams coach Randy Brown? We hear about his expertise with kickers. (Jamison Hensley) "He is great to have around. You guys only see him as the specialists coach, really versatile with kicking and things like that, but he definitely brings great ideas to the table when we're talking about, 'What do we want to run, gameplan-wise? And player-wise, do you think we should play this player here or there?' He's been around a long time. He's been in this league for a long time, so he understands the game, he sees it from different sides, and he's been great to have around."