Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
On WR Devin Duvernay's kickoff return, the previous weeks, did you see that as a possibility? Did you see how close you were to breaking one like that? (Jamison Hensley) "That return – we talk about it every week. Devin [Duvernay] is back there for a reason. We thought during [training] camp he showed us the most, and we're excited to get him back there and give him that opportunity. We've been working our tails off for those opportunities. We just keep striving and striving, and we finally popped one. I talk about it all the time – it's really got to be 11 guys doing the right thing for those things to happen, and we got that on that play. It was very exciting to see."
What did you see about WR Devin Duvernay this summer and heading into training camp that made you guys so intent on giving him a try back there? I know he did a little returning at Texas – if I recall – but not a ton. (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's true, Jeff. He did return at Texas. When he came in, you knew right away ... You watch him go out there and watch him run, you knew he's fast. So, from there, you want the speed back there. Those things are pluses for your return game. And then, you saw him with the ball in his hands; he's a strong runner, he's got good vision. You just loved everything that he brought to the table. So, we just felt like let's give him an opportunity. With no preseason games, there was a lot of unknown – how was he going to handle it? And I thought both those young returners are handling the game very well right now."
How much do you have to keep in mind about guys when so many kickoffs go into the end zone, or are a touchback? I know you've got to be ready every single time, but those opportunities are so seemingly rare in today's NFL. (Pete Gilbert) "Every week we talk about it. I just talk about our kickoff coverage. You never know when the ball is going to be in play. So, every play, you've got to assume, and run like and block like – you know what – this is going to be the play. It's just one of those things. We work our butts off during the week for those opportunities. When we don't get those opportunities – you know what – we come back to the drawing board, and we say, 'Hey, we're going to keep working.' Someone is going to give us an opportunity, and when we get it, let's make sure that we're doing the right things and we're taking care of our business so we can hit returns like that."
We talked last week about what a great kicking matchup you had ready to go – [Chiefs] K Harrison Butker against K Justin Tucker. Justin has said that M&T Bank Stadium is one of the hardest stadiums to kick in. Butker sprayed a couple of kicks. Were you surprised about that? I'm wondering – what do you see as the challenges kicking at M&T Bank Stadium? (Kirk McEwen) "Justin [Tucker] is right; he knows that stadium very well. I think when kickers … It's just a history of when kickers come in there, they tend to struggle in our stadium. Whatever the reason was for Harrison [Butker] on Monday night, he just wasn't on. I think our field goal block team … If you guys haven't watched that tape, just watch our guys get after it – whether he felt the pressure on him the whole time, or for whatever reason it was. It's not an easy place to kick. It's one thing we've found over the years. But our kicker understands those winds in the stadium and things like that."
You mentioned some of the pressure on the field goal blocks. DE Calais Campbell – being as big as he is – is there something special about him being able to disrupt that sort of thing with his length, and his size and his power? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That's a good question there, but there's always … When you've got a guy that big, that tall, that long, all he's got to do is get a little bit of penetration and get his hands up. That'll affect the kicker if he sees him in there. But I'm talking about all 11 guys out there. You're talking about what Brandon [Williams] is doing, what Derek Wolfe is doing, Matt Judon, L.J. [Fort], the corners, the safeties – all those guys. The effort on that play; we take it serious. There's an opportunity to eliminate points on the board. Our guys understand that, and we really take that phase seriously."
Your long snapper Nick Moore was out there punting left footed. I know he's trying to help you adjust to the left-footed punter. How did you find out that he could do that? How beneficial is that to have that guy like that? (Jamison Hensley) "It's always beneficial to have other guys in there that can do a lot of different things. We were surprised when he said, 'Hey, I could do this. I could help you out.' I said, 'OK, he's a lefty – let's see what he can do.' He's been good to have around and things like that."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Obviously, the big news of the day is CB Marlon Humphrey's extension. How important is that to this team going forward, and what was your reaction when you got the news? (Jeff Zrebiec) "How important … I can't express how important it is, because of the type of person that he is, and the player, and what he does for us specifically on the defensive side of the ball. I just can't be more elated for a guy who gets a contract like that. I don't know the details. I don't know the specifics. I know he's really happy, and I'm happy for him. It's one of those things that we've talked about before; you want all your guys to succeed, almost like they're your kids. He's a guy who has worked his tail off since he's been here. [He] takes pride in his job. It's one of those guys you want to see be rewarded like he was."
Was there talk? I don't know if you guys have met collectively since CB Marlon Humphrey signed the deal. I'm sure some of the teammates may have been asking for a loan or something of that nature. (Jerry Coleman) "I had no idea this was going on. I stay out of the money end of it. Like I said last week, the thing with Marlon [Humphrey] is he's one of those players who could play in any era. He's got elite cover skills. He's got elite tackling skills. He's got a knack – I know he's spoken on this before – but he has a knack for getting the ball off of people and intercepting the ball. That's contagious with the defense. Like I said, I had no idea that this was going on at this particular time, no."
From the time that CB Marlon Humphrey showed up and the way he punches the ball out, always trying to get his hands on it, was that something that was naturally just there and then you just kind of fine-tuned it? Or right from the get-go, 'Hey, you're a great athlete, but maybe you could do much more?' How did you come to see him to get to where he is now? (Pete Gilbert) "I think that there is some natural to it, but we talk about it as a defensive staff and as a defense. We have takeaway drills that we do, but there's some natural ability that goes in there as well. And just a desire – not necessarily ability – desire just to get the ball off of a guy. He has perfect timing when he usually does it."
Not to put a downer on the CB Marlon Humphrey conversation, but what do you see when you review that game from Monday night? (Bo Smolka) "It's not putting a downer on it at all. There are some things that when you're going against a great offense like that, they'll bring out some details of what you need to focus on and what direction you need to go with your own package, as well. One of the things that stood out to me was third down. We have to get off the field on third down, and they exploited some of those things. This isn't the first time we've had a game like that in the three years that we've been here. We've got all eyes forward to Washington. It's a regional rivalry, if you will. I know that people, probably all of you guys, have neighbors that are Washington fans. We understand the importance of this game, and we're going into it just like I said, it's a regional rivalry."
I know you've been asked this over the last few seasons, but what's your assessment of the pass rush? Are you pretty happy with the pressure you guys are able to get on the quarterbacks or are there areas to improve with that? (Todd Karpovich) "I don't think it's a happy or sad question; I think it's a work in progress. You have people who … Like when we took over after 2017, when we were in the middle of the pack of defense, you read about, 'You need this. You need that. You need this. You need that.' We basically took the same group and they were Number One in 2018. Then the following year, 'You need this. You need that. You need this,' and we ended up [ranked] fourth. It's one of those things that the grass isn't always greener, sometimes you just have to water your own grass that you have in your own yard and just work every game. Every game has a different challenge. Obviously, the way that Patrick [Mahomes] got rid of the ball faster than I've ever seen him do it, that was something that they did different. But also, our execution needs to be better in our pass rush. Whether it's a defensive lineman, whether it's a safety, whether it's a linebacker, whatever – we need to execute better."
The commentators Monday night were mentioning that they were wondering why the 'DBs' [defensive backs] weren't a little more physical at the line of scrimmage, maybe respecting the speed a little too much and giving them a cushion. What are your thoughts on that? (Kirk McEwen) "I think everybody has an opinion on how you should play them and what you should do and if someone plays well against them, then you've cracked the code – whatever it might be. I think that when you have a guy who's running a 4.2 40[-yard dash] at you, it's real easy to say, 'Go up there and collision him.' Then, all of a sudden, he's running by you. I think they mix things up well. I think we did the same thing. Like I said, we have things to work on. We know it, and it's not the first time we've been in a situation like we were in after Monday night's game. We're just looking forward to Washington."
Can you talk about the level that DT Brandon Williams is playing at so far this season? (Ryan Mink) "I think with every great defense, you've got to have a centerpiece – and he's definitely the centerpiece. It's statistically proven that we play better against the run when Brandon [Williams] is in there. When I said there were some things that we need to work on from last week, that's at all three levels. He knows the things that he needs to work on, but I think he's a dominate player. I think he's a dominate nose, and we want to get him back to the Pro Bowl level that he was two years ago as a nose. That's what he's working for, but I've been really pleased with Brandon overall."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Obviously, you guys always review tape after every game. As you look over tape from that game, do you personally look at certain things, like potentially getting away from the run too early? Do you feel like that occurred? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Anytime you lose, you're going to have laments. I always look at myself first, so … Honestly, in wins, I think you always look back and say, 'Hey, maybe I would've done this better,' or 'We could've done that.' But really and truly, we're going to be who we are. We're going to be us. We're going to run it. We're going to throw it. We just have to make plays and execute. I think after any game that you don't win, you're always going to look back and kind of do an after-game report on what we did, what we're going to do next time differently, et cetera. Then, obviously, you have to really focus on where we can improve."
QB Lamar Jackson averaged 3.5 yards per throw. What were some of the challenges he was dealing with? Why was he checking down so much against the Chiefs? (Todd Karpovich) "It was one of those disjointed type of games where we just really didn't make any plays. We have to try to create some easier completions as coaches, and we have to execute better. There were plays to be made; we just didn't make them. We've made those plays before. Those types of things change, really, the course of the game. Lamar [Jackson] is working hard and getting better, and there's a lot to be learned from that game."
How much was it that some of those guys just had an off night? Or how much was it what Kansas City was doing to you guys? The drops from TE Mark Andrews and WR Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown, and some throws that weren't quite there – plays that had typically been made. How much do you … Was it just a bad night or did they really disrupt some things? (Pete Gilbert) "They're a good team; they did a good job. We have to do better. We have to coach better. We have to play better. But we know that, and I think everybody understands that. That's why we got back to work and really started to focus on what's really important right now, for us, which is the game against Washington this weekend. They have five first-rounders on the defensive line. They have aggressive linebackers who are playing really, really well. So, once you turn on the Washington defense and watch their first three games, we understand where our focus needs to be, and it's on Washington."
QB Lamar Jackson has yet to lead a comeback when you've trailed by at least 10 points in a game – he's come close. Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned the other day that, maybe, you can pick up some things from the Chiefs and how they do things. What do you feel it's going to take to finally just get over a hurdle in some of those games? (Jamison Hensley) "We just have to get back to work, go to work and maintain a great attitude. We have great people here that we believe in. It's certainly something that will happen – I've got all the faith in the world. But it really is a function of us getting back to work; it's that simple. Those things will happen. I don't know that he's had a lot of opportunities in his limited starts to be down by 10 points, so there's a small sample size there. And really and truly, our job on our end of things is to answer the question, 'Why?' When we look at things, we really look at why something did or didn't happen, and we try to move forward based on that."
The last couple of weeks, RB Gus Edwards has run the ball very effectively in the second half – he's averaging over seven yards a carry. But each of the last two weeks, he's only had one carry in the first half. How do you kind of explain that breakdown? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Every week is going to be a little bit different. We really like all of our backs. We believe in them, and depending on what kind of runs we're running … Is it quarterback driven runs where the quarterback might keep it? Are they straight handoffs to the back? There's nothing wrong with having a closer, either, like they do in baseball, where a guy is fresh coming out of the bullpen, throwing 102 miles per hour when everybody else has kind of worn the defense down. So, that could be a factor as well."
Head coach John Harbaugh mentioned that WR Devin Duvernay could have a bigger offensive role. What have you seen from Devin so far, and do you feel like that is something he's deserving of? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, Devin [Duvernay] is doing well. With the limited offseason and whatnot, the rookies really haven't had a chance to go through the normal progression of things. So, I'd say he's exactly where he should be, and I definitely think he'll continue along this trajectory. He's certainly going to get more playing time, as well as James Proche II, another young guy who is really practicing well. So, these are all things we look at every day, and it will evolve really as the season moves forward."
Teams are onto TE Mark Andrews, it seems, after the two touchdowns in the first game, but there are dynamic tight ends all over the league that people know about. What can you do to get Mark sprung a little bit better? And he's got to hold the ball when it comes to him, but how can you fight against people taking him out of your gameplan? (Kirk McEwen) "I don't think there's really a function of that for us, so far. There are certain teams that say, 'Look, we're going to double this guy, and he's not going to beat us.' We really haven't seen that to this point, maybe a time or two. We just have to keep working. We really believe in Mark [Andrews] and really all of our players. [We have] full faith and confidence that we're going to keep improving. But that's kind of a week-to-week thing. Some teams are hesitant to really double a guy. Some teams really, really, it's part of their philosophy. We really haven't seen that yet, but it's coming for sure."
CB Marlon Humphrey
Congratulations on your new contract. Can you take us through what it means, not just to get a new deal, but to be amongst the Top Two highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL? (Pete Gilbert) "Thank you. To getting a new deal; it was cool. It's great to sign that deal and know that for the next couple of years you're going to be a Raven. Talking about it and this-and-that … Since I've been here, I've really enjoyed this organization, this city, these fans [and] the people around me, so it was really big for me to stay a Raven. So, I was really excited to sign that extension."
How quickly did it all come together? We just spoke with your defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale; he had no idea. Was this something that you knew was in the works as you talk with your agent? Or did you just get a phone call in the middle of the night? (Jerry Coleman) "It kind of went pretty quick, so I didn't really say much. I said some subtle jokes to some guys yesterday, and they thought I was kidding – about money – but other than that, it went pretty quick. So, I didn't really have time to really tell many people until everybody kind of new."
Were you concerned, or did it matter to you to be paid as one of the top cornerbacks? Or did you just want to be treated fairly? (Kirk McEwen) "For me, being the highest paid never really was a factor. The biggest thing for me was just staying a Raven. I remember when I first got here, me and Chris Moore used to joke around saying that we're Ravens for life. And it's a very good feeling to actually be one."
How do you plan to spend that first big paycheck? (Garrett Downing) (laughter) "Man, I don't know. It would have been … There's no telling what would have happened if I would have gotten this during corona[virus]. That might have been the worst timing to get a lump sum of money. But I'm not really sure. My dad is still going to be on me. Shoot, he calls me … [Matthew] Judon ordered a pizza on my account from Houston, and he was like, 'Hey, I saw a charge from Domino's in Houston?' So, he's always looking at my financials, and if I do anything too crazy, he'll be on me probably trying to get me to take it back. So, I have a pretty good supporting staff.
"I also want to say some thanks; thank you to [Ravens owner Steve] Bisciotti and [executive vice president & general manager Eric] DeCosta. [Executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] got me here; DeCosta had me stay. Coach [John] Harbaugh, [defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink' [Martindale], [pass defense coordinator] Coach Chris [Hewitt], [defensive backs coach] Jesse [Minter], [coaching analyst – defense Brian] Duker. Even my high school coaches – [Hoover head coach] Coach [Josh] Niblett, [former Hoover defensive coordinator] Coach [Shawn] Raney, [former Hoover assistant coach Aryvia] Holmes, [former Hoover assistant head coach Adrian] Abrams. I remember when I was in high school, one of my coaches told me, 'Man, you know, if you just continue to do what you do, use the abilities you have and stay out of trouble, in a few years you could hit the lottery. And I put that in my Twitter bio, and I kept it in there the entire time, just because it was crazy that at such a young age he had that confidence in me, that one day … Basically saying, 'If you just keep your skillset and just stay out of trouble, you can do some big things.' So, thank God, for sure. I wouldn't be here without him. And thank my family. Growing up, in my house, any time I needed someone to lean on, I had an older brother, older sister and a mom and a dad who have always kept me really good aligned. Honestly, my dad … My dad; he's kind of been able to be … My dad, even at a young age, he's really … My dad has kept me in line. Since I was young, I told my dad I wanted to play in the NFL, and he never really let me slip. Getting in trouble here and there as a 'youngin,' my dad never just kept his foot off me. Decisions, things I wanted to do, he was able to tell me, 'No,' and didn't really share explanations. But as I grew older, I was able to understand so much as to why he did those things. And my dad has been so much more than a father; he coached me as a kid. He's actually been my everything for me, along with my mom. And so, I really thank him a lot for what he's done, and I know he'll continue to be a great father to me. And hopefully one day, [when] I get a family, I can treat my sons and my daughters the way my dad has treated me and my brothers and sisters."
I see you getting emotional when you talk about your dad and your family. What was the call like when you told them about the new contract and all that it entails? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It was good. My brothers and sisters were all happy – happy for me. I said the contract negotiations and things went pretty quick. And yesterday, I kind of talked to them – or no, maybe the day before – about just how things were going. Mom and dad, and it was … My dad knew a lot, because he was working firsthand with my agent, Joel [Segal]. Thank [you] Joel, too, and Geoff [Garmhausen]. So, he [my dad] was working that firsthand. But my siblings kind of knew; they were kind of in the mix. But I just come from a great family. And the biggest thing that my family has done; we've kept God in the mix. Even sometimes when I was steering left and God wanted me to go right, I think God stayed by my side. And my parents definitely made sure God was in the mix at all times. Those Wednesday night Bible classes as a kid; you never really wanted to go, but my parents, just … They stuck with us – made you go [to Bible classes]. You're a kid, [and] you say you're sick, well, you're going to be sick in church. So, it was just so much, and I just can't thank God enough for how he's kept me aligned. And now that I've dedicated my life to Christ, it's opened so many doors and opened my eyes so much."
When we talk to coaches and teammates about you, they talk about how you play like a linebacker. Where does that aggressive style of play come from? (Jamison Hensley) "One of the things that I started to know at a very young age of playing corner is … If you look-up Deion Sanders highlights – well, not highlights – but if you look-up every game, he's going to get the ball caught on him. If you look-up Richard Sherman, he's going to get the ball caught on him. If you look-up all these top corners, eventually the ball is going to get caught on you. So, the thing that I try to do is try to get the ball out after it gets caught on you and try to show other things of your worth – as far as, like, tackling. A lot of corners don't want … Deion said he was a cover-corner, but I've always tried to put both things in my game to make me a little bit more valuable as a skillset. And it also didn't help [that] my high school coach used to tell me I was a 'track guy,' which basically meant you weren't trying to hit anybody, and that really … It was a joke, but I didn't like that, and I would be lying if I didn't say it affected me."
What is the feeling when you sign a contract that really sets you up for life like that, and makes such a huge difference for you financially, personally and for generations to come? You talked about kids down the line and whatnot. (Ryan Mink) "It means a lot. I haven't really thought about it too much – about that – but I know for generations to come it will be good. The way my dad said it; 'The first contract you had is good enough to create generational wealth.' So, I've kind of already had that mindset, that if I just can kind of keep doing what I'm doing with what I already have, I would be able to be successful. But I definitely got a little bit more, so it'll be good. The biggest thing – not the biggest, but – one reason that I'm just so excited to be locked-in here is how I can do things more in the community, just because I do a lot back home in Hoover, [Alabama]. That's my home. I volunteer; I was coaching track – helping those kids – and now I'm just really excited to do some of that same stuff and bring it to here and help out Baltimore a little bit."