THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 11 vs. Bengals
Associate Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
What can you comment on with Bengals WR Alex Erickson? He's fourth in the league on kickoff returns. What's the challenge of keeping a guy like that contained? (Ed Lee) "It's a team effort. You can see by his numbers that he's a very effective player and a highly effective receiver and special teams contributor in a lot of different ways. It's one of those things that everybody has to contribute. He's very good at finding creases. So, our first task is not to create any creases, and the second thing is we have to tackle him. He slips tackles very well. He gets vertical. He's a fine player."
Have you seen enough from RB/WR Ty Montgomery to conclude that he might be able to help you on special teams? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We've seen him previously before he got here; we watched all his tape, obviously. Now, the fact that he's been practicing with us for a while, we have a better idea of how he fits in to our system and how we would use him. That whole process will continue. We may or may not use him how he has been used. He's been practicing in a bunch of different places. He has returner skill; he's demonstrated that in this league before. So, we'll continue to use him in that way, and we're also working him in a bunch of other spots so he can do more than just be the returner."
It's the point in the season where the temperatures are dropping, and kickoffs might not be going as far. Is it at this point of the season where you estimate that a little? (Jamison Hensley)"The Ideal Gas Law, right? Can we say that? (laughter) But it's a fact! Now, why it doesn't go as far? I don't know the science behind it; we've discussed that previously, so have a lot of other people. But we expect this time of the year that we're going to have more return opportunities. As a kickoff team, you also expect to cover more kicks this time of year. It's just reality. We've talked about it all year long during our practice sessions that we're not only practicing for this week, but we're practicing for November/December, where we're going to have more opportunities in both areas. We'll find out who the good kickoff teams are, the good kickoff return teams are. In these outdoor northern games, the game changes. We're preparing for these games all year long, but we're also preparing for the playoffs. This is where we play; this is what we do. If you look outside today – this is football weather, in our view. We have to get ready for it. This weekend, I don't think it's going to be snowing like it is today, from what I heard, but we're preparing for that."
The way WR/RS Chris Moore is playing on offense, is there any thought that his special teams role could be dialed back to give him more? _(Ryan Mink) _"I have not proposed that, no. He's a very valuable member of our special teams, and we hope he can continue to be that. He does a lot of things for us and our whole team. That's really the kind of players we desire. The guys that we want on our team can do a lot of different things. He's an effective coverage player, he does returns for us, and he plays a variety of different positions for us. He's a fine football player, and it's demonstrated week after week. He's a very consistent player, too."
You've been with John Harbaugh a long time now. A lot of things are coming up, a lot of pressurized situations, about John. How has he been thus far dealing with the coaching staff? Has it been business as usual?_ (Jamison Hensley) _"Yes. I understand why all those things are going on out there, but John is a rock. He is. That's the kind of human being he is, that's the kind of man he is, that's the family he grew up in. He and the rest of his family are all … These are strong people. They're grounded in the right way, and his preparedness and his message to our team has not changed one bit."
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"It has been awhile now. We had a good bye week. Everybody came back fresh and ready to go. As a coaching staff, we did a lot of things that I think are really going to help us in the second half of the season – I'm excited to see that – and just took an overall look at the first half. We're getting ready to attack this second half, because November [and] December, as we all know, is playoff football."
When you're doing that self-scouting, did anything – I know there are a lot of things that you liked, didn't like – was there one thing that jumped out at you that you said, "This is one thing we really do have to improve on as a defense going forward?'' (Jamison Hensley) "I think that's a good question, but that you could also put that towards just a specific game as well, besides the entirety, because when you're looking at it statistically, obviously, there are a lot of good numbers. And, I know that doesn't give you wins or losses either, and I've said that, too: 'Wait until after Week 16, and then we'll have that conversation.' I think there are some things that you look at that you don't know as a play-caller that you're heading down that street. It's not a rut, but you're heading down that street, or vice versa. I'm saying playing the specific coverage on the specific down-and-distance or whatever that might be. But also, you have to see the success rate of that coverage in that specific situation [and] say, 'I know we have a tendency here, but we're playing it lights-out, so I'm not going to change it just because we have a tendency.' So, there are those situations, whether it's individual players or whether it's calls, whether it's packages, different personnel, all those things you look at. But, we're really excited about where we're going with it."
How big of a challenge is RB Joe Mixon? (Ryan Mink) "He's a challenge. He's a really good running back; I think he's Top 10 in the NFL. We need all hands on deck with him." (Reporter: "Is that kind of where it starts for you guys defensively? You have to make them a little bit one-dimensional, make Andy [Dalton] hold the ball?")"If you can, but we need to attack '28' [Mixon]. It's all hands on deck with him."
How much does Cincinnati's offense change without WR A.J. Green? (Ed Lee) "I don't know necessarily if A.J. Green is not going play in this game. I know everybody thinks he's not going to play in this game. I have not heard it, so we're preparing like A.J. Green is going to be there. So, how has it changed? I don't know, because we haven't seen it yet. I know they have some other really good receivers, because this is pro football. They have some guys ready to go. Obviously, he's one of the best. He's [had a] Pro-Bowl-type career – or Hall-of-Fame-type career, I think – and I think he was playing at the highest level that he's played this year. I think I may have mentioned that the first time we played them, and you can really see that. To answer that question, I don't have an answer for it. I know statistically, there are some statistics out there, but that's it."
You go against QB Lamar Jackson and this offense in practice all the time. How much tougher does it make it on a defensive coordinator when you have a quarterback like Lamar who can run the way he can. _(Ryan Mink) _"I think that's a great question. I don't want to help out anybody that we're getting ready to play. It's tough. I think that would be a good question for Marvin [Lewis] or whoever afterwards."
WR Tyler Boyd, obviously a guy who seems like he's getting better at receiver. What about him makes him so effective? (Cliff Brown)"I think he's a really good slot receiver, and I think that's … Some of Andy's [Dalton] best throws are to the slots and the seams. He has a big catch radius. He can catch anything that's by him. He has really good hands, and he's just really athletic when the ball is in the air. And then also, [he excels with] run after catch. So, there's a challenge there with that. He's playing with a lot of confidence, as well."
In the first game against Cincinnati, QB Andy Dalton didn't seem to hold the ball at all. He seemed to be getting it out really quick. When a quarterback is doing that, when you're not really having an opportunity to get the pass rush going because it's out of his hands so quick, what are some of the focuses of the defense on how you sort of combat that really short, quick passing game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think statistically, I think he's second, as far as getting rid of the ball. He's really throwing the ball well in rhythm right now, to answer that. So, we need to be physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage, and I think we're … I know we're in the Top 5 for sure, maybe second, with batted balls. We've had some success in the past with knocking some of the balls that he's thrown up in the air and we've come down with them. We just haven't come down with them yet this year."
ILB C.J. Mosley only played one snap in the first game against Cincinnati. (Ed Lee) _"Three snaps, but … Three-and-out! But, I'm not [mad]." _(laughter)(Reporter: "How much can his presence change [the situation]?") "I think anytime you have a player like that, and he can play the entire game, I think it's going to help us immensely. It's a comfort."
Do you always wear shorts, even in the snow? (Ryan Mink) "I wear shorts here. It's a great job. (laughter) I am a shorts guy, but I also absolutely hate cold weather, so I wore sweats in today." (laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Heck of a bye week – got a lot of things accomplished. Players got some rest, both mentally and physically, and then we have a big ball game Sunday. We're right in the middle of preparation. The fellas have done a great job of that."
How prepared do you feel like QB Lamar Jackson is, just in case he starts on Sunday? _(Kyle Andrews) _"We'll see on Sunday who it is, but Lamar and Robert [Griffin III] and all of our players prepare like they're starting – even if they're not up, even if they're on the practice squad – like they're starters, because it pays off at some point when they get their opportunity. So, all of our players prepare like they're starting the next ball game. Great experience for them, and it does pay off when they get their opportunity."
If something happens where you would have to call upon QB Lamar Jackson specifically, what gives you confidence in what you've seen over recent weeks for him being able to handle a situation and a role like that? (Jamison Hensley) "The young man certainly has progressed. Smart, talented, tough – he has some great, great qualities, and [quarterbacks coach] James Urbanand he have really worked hard in his progression. And, he's done a lot of things for us up to this date."
Do you get a sense from QB Lamar Jackson that if the starter were to be him, that the moment of it isn't at all too significant for him, that by no means would it be that big to him? _(Garrett Downing) _"He certainly has inner confidence. There's no question about that, yet, very humble. So, it's a good mix there. Yes, good point."
How much of the bye week was spent coming up with ways, that if teams are going to take away WR John Brown, to get other guys the ball to open things up? (Ryan Mink)"We looked hard at that. We were doing some things really well up until the last ball game. The third downs were really high, red zone [was] really high, scoring on first drives out of the gate [in] both halves, all those things. Then in that particular game we didn't do as well. So, we looked at that hard, and we have been up to date. We have plenty of plus-20-[yard] plays. But we haven't gotten the real explosive plays as much. So, we have to become up-to-date [and be] a very long-drive team. We looked at that very, very closely. We looked at a lot of things very, very closely. Certainly, we have some thoughts moving forward to where we can put our players in little bit better position to have some success."
John Harbaugh said that QB Joe Flacco doesn't necessarily have to practice this week in order to play. What are the biggest challenges if he doesn't practice this week and then has to turn it on on Sunday? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Well, I will tell you, [for] some guys it doesn't work very well. Many of the fellas that are in this league – that's what they do. So, they get themselves prepared. I've had quarterbacks, tight ends, linemen, all different positions, play without practicing. Most of the guys do it really, really well, because it's all about preparation. So yes, I think Joe would do very, very well without practice, because he has experience, he's a smart guy, he knows how to prepare – all of those things. He has all of those things. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't play really well without any practice."
Because of the uncertainty over QB Joe Flacco, as you're developing the gameplan this week, are you developing just the one or do you have contingency plans if it's QB Lamar Jackson or QB Robert Griffin III? (Jonas Shaffer)"Yes, well, certainly that comes into play. There's no question about that. But all the quarterbacks have prepared for the same gameplans all year long. So, I think we would be in good shape there."