Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
With the weather this week, head coach John Harbaugh said really the only limitations with practicing inside is with punts. Does that hinder you at all, when you guys have to go inside with special teams? (Todd Karpovich) "It maybe hinders us during our punt period, but our guys are so diligent about, 'You know what? Whenever we're done, we're going to go outside and we're going to get our work in in the weather.' It really doesn't affect us that much, because our guys are pros. They go out and they'll get the work in in the rain."
I think three or four weeks ago, I asked you about what kind of luxury it is to have so many guys who have proven they can play gunner. Now, you've lost two or three of them to IR or to injuries. How challenging has it been, especially when a bunch of guys that play special teams are the guys who wind up getting some of the injuries? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a good question. We have guys that are in the building, guys that practice with us all the time [and] guys that we trust. It's football – it's next man up mentality. I think I've said this before, whoever we put out there, we're going to expect those guys to come out and play to the level of which we want to play at. So, whoever that is out there this week … It's unfortunate that we've lost some guys, some really good players, but we've got some young guys who are just waiting to get their opportunity. I'm sure that they're going to be ready to go and go out and play."
ILB Malik Harrison got some nice attention last weekend for the way he stepped in for ILB L.J. Fort on defense, but he also had a bunch of tackles on special teams. How has he sort of progressed in special teams, in general? And what are his best qualities in terms of what he does for you? (Childs Walker) "Malik [Harrison] has done a great job since the time he's gotten here. This didn't just start last week; this started the second he was drafted. His understanding of knowing that, 'You know what? Playing special teams is going to be a big part of what I do.' He's been playing well all year. I think, finally, he had an opportunity to go out there and get more than a couple tackles. One of the best qualities that he does have is he loves ball. He plays hard, and he's physical. He's got great length. He runs well, and he has a knack for the football. So, those traits really make a really good special teams player, and he's done a great job for us. I'll tell you this; we're fired up about him."
I'm wondering if you and "The Wolfpack" rate the favorability of away fields like Gillette Stadium? Compared to Heinz Field, which is notoriously tough, and M&T Bank Stadium, K Justin Tucker said is one of the toughest in the league, whereas a dome would probably be easier. Where does Gillette Stadium fall? (Kirk McEwen) "I haven't had an opportunity to talk to those guys about that. But just knowing those guys, they're prepared to kick wherever, whenever, however. Rain, snow, sleet, hurricane weather, those guys, they'll be ready, and they're pros. They approach it the same way every time; we catch the ball, we punt the ball, we kick the ball through the uprights, we snap the ball over the spot – those little things. It really doesn't matter to this group of guys. They are true professionals."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "First of all, sorry about the delay. We went virtually with the guys in the team meeting and defensive meetings, and some of the guys were doing it from home, so we had a delay, and I apologize for that. I know your time is valuable."
Looking at QB Cam Newton, how different is he from the last time you guys faced him when he was with Carolina? (Pete Gilbert) "He's an MVP player, you know what I mean? And he's a quarterback that's taken a team to a Super Bowl. I just think that he's a threat every time he has the ball in his hands – whether he's getting rid of it throwing it, whether he's running it. He's, obviously, a gameplan guy that you have to attack."
We've asked you about some of the challenges with the secondary given the injuries, so how pleased were you to bring in CB Tramon Williams, and how do you see him fitting in your secondary? (Luke Jones) "Any time you can bring a veteran in of his caliber to actually plug and play … And he's smart, and he's tough, just like the other people we were able to bring in. He's ready to roll, and obviously, it's a great acquisition that [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] was able to get us this late in the year."
With DE Calais Campbell dealing with an injury, there's a lot of attention on the other guys – specifically the young guys. What have you seen in terms of DT Justin Madubuike's development over the last couple weeks since he's gotten back? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He had a great game against 'Indy' [Indianapolis Colts]. He was hustling all over the field – as they all were – flying around to the ball, but he really jumped off the tape. He made a great play on the screen play, and he's just getting better every time he puts on his helmet. He gets challenged by Calais [Campbell] and by the veterans every day, and he's been answering the challenge every week. So, I just see him getting better and better. He's a big, strong kid, and he's playing that way."
With all the moving parts last week, how proud are you of your defense for the way they played? (Todd Karpovich) "My heart is getting ready to explode, I'm so proud of those guys. Because it takes a lot of discipline, and it takes a lot of mental toughness each week to prepare to play 60 plays and then only play three – because we have guys playing different roles and everything else. After you've been doing that week in and week out for seven weeks, and you finally get that opportunity, and everybody saw the success that they had, I think it's gratifying. You said, 'proud;' I'm proud, because like I said, this game always has been and always will be about the players. A lot of those guys should be proud, too, for how well they played. But like I said, it takes a lot of mental toughness and character to study every week. And sometimes you get six plays, and sometimes you get 30 plays, sometimes you play 60 plays. It's just one of those things that it all depends on how the game unfolds."
Is it strange to be preparing for the Patriots with so many changes? Obviously, QB Tom Brady is not there. Just how much different is their offense as you're preparing for them this week? (Garrett Downing) "I think [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick, he's the smartest football coach in the history of the game, so that part doesn't change. And he's going to attack what he perceives as your weakness. It's one of the greatest self-scout weeks you can have, because after you get done playing New England, you know, 'Here's how he wanted to attack you,' and you go back and look at it, and you go from there. But like I said, it's the challenge of playing New England. New England is New England with or without Tom Brady."
What do you perceive as the weakness that you think Coach Belichick might go after? Might it be the rookie ILB Patrick Queen? (Kirk McEwen) "We don't know. We don't know. That's the beauty of going against [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick. And I'm not going to tell him. (laughter) I'm not going to tell him, because trust me, he'll attack what he thinks is the weakness. It's always a fun chess match playing against those guys."
CB Jimmy Smith stepped up again on Sunday and played every snap. Do you feel like you've ever seen him play better all-around football than he has through eight games? (Childs Walker) "I think Jimmy [Smith] is having a Pro Bowl season – I really do. And what he's done, and the versatility that he's shown us week in and week out, it's been awesome. It's one of those things that I'm happy for him, and like I said, I think he's playing at a Pro-Bowl level."
One of the guys who did play a lot more on Sunday was ILB Malik Harrison. When you broke down the film, what did you see from him? (Aaron Kasinitz) "You saw why we drafted him. He played with a lot of power, and he was getting off blocks, and he made a lot of tackles. He made 11 tackles – six on defense, five on special teams. I was happy for him, because he got more plays, and he showed that he deserves more plays. [Coaching analyst – defense] Zach [Orr] did a great job preparing both him [Malik Harrison] and 'PQ' [Patrick Queen] during that week. And it's one of those things that [outside linebackers coach] Drew [Wilkins] did the same thing with Tyus [Bowser], and [pass defense coordinator] Chris [Hewitt] and [defensive backs coach] Jesse [Minter] did the same thing with the guys in the secondary. So, I'm happy for those guys, but like I said, it gets back to these players. Malik is a physical linebacker. He plays the game the way you're supposed to play it."
It seems like every year, you guys do such a great job of getting depth at corner, and it seems like every year, there's always a run of injuries for you guys. Is it just simply bad luck every year that it seems like cornerbacks keep getting hit with injuries? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, because when you do the studies of it, every year, throughout the league – I'm not just talking about us – it's different injuries. Why is it this? Why is it that? Is it because of this? Is it because of that? And I just don't think that has anything to do with luck. I think it's just things that happen during the … It's one of those where you just have to handle the series of events, and the teams that handle the series of events the best way are the ones that usually succeed."
Looking back at your time in Denver – that 2010 season, you played a lot of what used to be called "pro-style" quarterbacks. Now, with New England going from QB Tom Brady to QB Cam Newton, more and more every year there are these dual-threat guys. As a defensive coordinator, what has that transformation done for you in terms of how you go about preparing the team, and what does it mean for what offenses can do nowadays? (Jonas Shaffer) "First of all, it's a completely different package than what we ran in Denver. It's the way of the world in the NFL right now – with these young quarterbacks who are coming out – and you better stay up with the times. One of the things is you would go back in the offseason, and you would study college offensive coordinators, because a lot of the NFL coordinators are taking college plays. [Assistant coach, offensive coordinator, running backs] Tony Elliott at Clemson, he does a great job there with them, and I'm just using that as an example. It's one of those things that you have to continue to study, and you know it's going to help you down the road, because eventually you're going to face those quarterbacks of the teams that you're looking at college-wise.
"Did you ask me, 'Did it help me?' Was that the original question?" (Reporter: "I'm just wondering what it's meant for you as a guy preparing to stop an offense that has one more dimension to it?") "It's been pretty enjoyable actually, because it gets you back to your grassroots and where you started before you even got to the NFL. And in this league, you've got to be able to adjust, because the game will pass you by if you don't. I hope that answered your question."
Closing statement: "Like I said, I'm really proud of those guys of how they prepared last week. I just told them yesterday, I said, 'This thing is far from being over, but I didn't think it was going to be the next day that you had to go virtual again.' But it's become, in 2020, the way of life. I just hope everybody stays safe and healthy. And wear your mask, wash your hands and do all that."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
I know it is what it is, and you guys dealt with it last week, but how challenging is it when you think your day is going to start one way and then you're in these protocols again and have to make the quick changes? Just how tough is that this season? (Morgan Adsit) "It's kind of something that was discussed and planned for early in the season. We all knew it was probably inevitable that we would end up in the protocol at some point. I just want to give [credit to], starting with Coach [John] Harbaugh, but the whole entire organization, our facilities people and whatnot, and obviously, the players. For example, last week, nobody even blinked. Everybody just went about their business and really kept the focus on what we needed to keep it on. So, credit to, really, the entire Ravens organization. We're just going about business as usual."
QB Lamar Jackson said yesterday, on The Rich Eisen Show, that defenses are calling the Ravens' plays when he's at the line. Has he told you this? And how much of a problem is this really? (Jamison Hensley) "With no fans in the stands [and no] bands or music playing, you can hear a lot right about now – some of it I can't repeat. But Lamar [Jackson] is one of the great competitors I know. I define him as a winner. He only wants to win every game, every play. Game [or] practice, that's what drives him. He definitely gives me feedback on when people are calling something out and whatnot. That's definitely part of what we talk about. Now, calling out plays on the defense is nothing new. I can talk about Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, every play, they're trying to guess what play you're going to run based on what they're seeing – that's the chess match. That's kind of where it gets interesting, because if you're not good at anything, you have no tendencies. So, you really want to work to be good at everything. If you're in the best possible situation, you can do basic things very well and people still can't stop you. I think that's what you're always striving to do, but that doesn't always work in the NFL. That doesn't work all the time; you have to change it up. So, we work hard at changing it up. We're very aware of our tendencies. We're aware that there are some right now, and that's, again, like I said, where it gets interesting. When you're good at something and you can keep pressing that button, then you have the opportunity to flip the script at some point moving forward. So, I think there's a little bit of a chess match there with how that goes. But as far as defenders guessing what we do; they're going to be right sometimes, [and] they're going to be wrong sometimes. I think we know that, but it's definitely an element of the game. It always has been, and probably always will be."
Does QB Lamar Jackson have the freedom to call an audible to call out of a play if he sees something the defense is doing? (Todd Karpovich) "There are definitely some plays where audibles are available and built in. I'll just say this; when … And again, it's pretty stock NFL, 'Let's line up in a formation, see what they're in and call an audible.' That happens. That's part of everybody's offense – some people more than others. Then you have teams, such as ourselves, and maybe the [San Francisco] 49ers, that we're going to be multiple formations and motions and whatnot. You try to, basically, have the ability to call and run plays. So, there's definitely a blend of that by [the] situation in play. Some quarterbacks audible or have the freedom to audible every play. Sometimes, that works out well for them. Sometimes, it doesn't. Some people really don't do it at all. I'd say we're somewhere in between there."
TE Mark Andrews got a lot of positive attention for that block that he threw in the Colts game on QB Lamar Jackson's touchdown run. At the same time, he has not seen the ball a ton as a receiver over the last three games. Is that because he's getting a lot more attention defensively? Is it sort of natural game-planning stuff? Do you guys need to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball, I guess? (Childs Walker) "I think there's a little bit of everything involved there. It's a little bit of what we're seeing defensively. It's a little bit of who the open guy is on a play. They're favoring him, certainly, in certain situations. Two come to mind, right now, in my mind, that they were just doubling him. They just chose to double him, and obviously, the ball can't go there. Right? It has to go somewhere else. But Mark [Andrews] is definitely a guy that we're always looking to get involved in the gameplan and on gameday. So, he's doing a really good job. We're halfway through the season. We know where we're at. I think Mark is going to figure in big as the season moves forward. But having said that, as important as Mark is to us – and everybody is important – because you never know where the ball could go on any particular pass play. If you release five guys into the route and they cover four of them, or double two of them, that ball is going to go somewhere else. So, we have to be prepared for that – that's just NFL football."
Not to harp so much on what QB Lamar Jackson was saying with Rich Eisen about the play-calls, but I'm curious. In the first half, play-action didn't work very well against the Colts. They seemed to certainly be on it. Second half, it was far more effective. Was that communicated at halftime about getting them back on their heels, more so, where that conversation changed some of that? That's what it looked like. (Pete Gilbert) "I think, really, as halftime came around, we just weren't being very productive. So, we certainly had to make some adjustments based on what we were seeing. They changed it up a little bit on us from what we expected. Quite frankly, our execution wasn't as clean as it could've been on certain things, which got us off the field, and we weren't able to sustain drives. I thought the guys did an amazing job adapting at halftime and just really executing consistently in that second half. Play-action became a bigger part of it in the second half, due largely to what we were seeing, but it was a great job by the players."
You're a highly respected offensive mind going up against a defensive genius like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Does that bring out a little bit extra in you? Or is it just another week? (Kirk McEwen) "Going against Coach [Bill] Belichick is always an extreme challenge. When you look at their defense right now, they're extremely fundamentally sound. They play very physical, as they always do on the front. The secondary is very … They have every adjustment in the book as far as how they can play certain things, and they can change it up on the fly. It's a great challenge from that standpoint. I think everybody knows what a legendary coach he is in this league, and everybody has a lot of respect for that. At the same time, we're just focused on … Once you recognize that, you focus on, 'Hey, it's time to get ready to play this game. It's time to get ourselves ready to go.' I think that's what we're focused on, really, is getting ready for those three hours on Sunday."
You guys seemed to have some success when you went to the no huddle, kind of up-tempo style after halftime. I know you don't want to tip your hand, but what do you see as kind of the benefits and the drawbacks of playing in that increased tempo style? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, we definitely mixed that in. I thought that it really kind of helped jumpstart us a little bit in that particular game. My experience with it over the years is varied, like it is probably for every coach in this league. Sometimes, it's the right thing to do. Sometimes, not so much. But it's a good change of pace, and it's definitely something you can do to kind of kickstart yourself at times. So, I think the important thing is that you have to practice it, which we do quite a bit, and you have it ready – another club in your bag, so to speak, that you can pull out when you need to. I thought the guys did a really good job of implementing that and executing it, really, the other day."
You mentioned you have tendencies because you're successful at something. But just looking at the stats, you guys are running more often on first down than you did last year, even though you haven't been as productive. What kind of goes into the calculus of all that when your passing game on first down has been more successful than it was last year? (Jonas Shaffer) "It's a long season. It's a long season. Depending on how the flow of certain games goes, we kind of make those decisions [of] what's best for the team in the immediate game, and sometimes, in the big picture as well. I think we definitely are going to continue to run the ball and throw it. We'll mix up, at times, when we choose to do it – certainly. But the big thing is we execute, we keep improving and we really focus on our own improvement. As far as what we do and when we do it, I think it'll definitely change from week-to-week, game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter, series-to-series."
RB Gus Edwards
You've had a touchdown three weeks in a row. You've never had more than two in a season. What's up? You're on a scoring role. Do you tell the coaches that? Do you let them know, "Keep feeding me, I've got a touchdown streak going?" (Kirk McEwen) "No, that's not really me to go out in the coaches' faces and say that. I've been just trying to do what I can to help my team win, and scoring points is a big part of that. It's been great, and hopefully, I can keep it going."
You had the fumble on the goal line, and then the next time you get down there, they go right back to you – in fact, three carries in a row. How important is that to know that they … You look at the other side of the ball, and Colts RB Jonathan Taylor didn't get the ball again after he fumbled on a carry – they went right back to you. What does that mean to you as a player? (Pete Gilbert) "They definitely show that they have trust in me. I couldn't take the fumble back. I wanted to make up for it, and they gave me three chances. I appreciate them for that, and I've just got to make sure that that doesn't happen again."
The other day, QB Lamar Jackson said that he could hear defenses calling out plays – calling out the plays that you're going to run. Have you heard that? How much of a challenge is that when defenses kind of know what you're doing? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know too much about that. A lot of things go on [out] on the field. Defenses are always talking – whether it's trash talking, whether they think they know what you've got going on. At the end of the day, we've just got to execute the plays that are given to us."
Just how good is it to have RB Mark Ingram II back in the room? How much does that bolster the unit overall? (Ryan Mink) "It's great. He brings the juice. He keeps everyone going. He's been doing a great job staying around the team as he's worked himself back in. It's great. He's been looking good at practice. He's going to be out there on Sunday, and I know he's going to make some plays for us."
What do you see as the benefits – or maybe the drawbacks – when you guys play an up-tempo, no huddle-type style that you showed in Indianapolis last week? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We keep the defense on their heels. It gives them less time to process what's going on, to process what guys we have out there, what we're lined up in. It keeps them on their heels."
Are you saving the footballs when you score a touchdown? If not, how are you capturing these amazing moments? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Well, the only one I've kept was the one from my first touchdown my rookie year. That was the only one I've kept, pretty much. I still have that at home. I keep it in a safe place. It's important to me."