SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement:"It's good to see everyone today. I'll tell you guys, it was a warm one, but it feels good to be back. We're three days in. Our guys are out here, we're working hard, and we're just trying to ramp this thing up and build on the things every day. I'll tell you this, tomorrow is Saturday, so it's one of my favorite days – to go down to the stadium and practice – because it gives us an opportunity to get that feel in the stadium, the fans will be in there. They will be screaming and yelling. It will be loud. [It] kind of gives us that early game feel before we actually get to it. So, I'm looking forward to it, just to get our guys in there and just having some fun; have that time with our fans because they are the best in the business. What questions [do you have]?"
How are things are going with the new LS Tyler Ott (Cliff Brown) "You know, Tyler [Ott] has come in here and done a great job. This guy is a pro. He's played a lot of football. When what happened with Nick [Moore], [special teams coach/specialists] Randy [Brown] and I along with 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] and [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis], we kind of got together. We got on the phone, and we just tried to figure out who was out there. We tried to get the best guy here that we think fits what we do well. Tyler has come in the past three days, and he's done a really good job for us."
What have you seen from WR Zay Flowers in terms of being a returner, and is he an actual candidate for that job? (Ryan Mink) "You know what? Zay [Flowers] has done a good job. He's got natural ball skills. He's got natural ability to run after the catch, and then it's like anything else, if a guy can help us at anywhere – any position on the field – we're going to give those guys an opportunity. I look forward to seeing what he can do, but it's like all the guys. We have a lot of guys back there this year, and we're looking forward to see what all of those guys can do."
How do you make decide who will play on special teams? _(Charles McDonald) _"That just comes down from the top, and whoever we have – whoever we have out there – we just kind of let them roll. We will play some of our guys I feel like, because we have some new guys who will try to fit those pieces together. We'll just work from there. Whoever is available is available, and whoever is not available, we'll just deal with it. It's part of our job. It's what we do, but that's OK because it gives another guy – a young guy – an opportunity to have his moment. Let's figure out where that young guy might be."
It seems like to make the roster RB Keaton Mitchell will need to contribute to special teams. What have you seen from him? _(Kyle Barber) _"I'll tell you one thing. Keaton [Mitchell], he's done a good job. This dude can flat out run. That's a plus. Once we get the pads on, and we start getting into a lot more team things, I'll try to put him in places where I think it fits his game. I don't think he'll have a problem with carrying the ball, running the ball, doing some kick returning for us. We're trying to develop him in that punt return aspect as well. I'm just trying to give every guy every opportunity to make this football team. As far as what he's done so far, since this spring, he's headed on the right track."
It seems like S Geno Stone and LB Malik Harrison are leaders on special teams. Who else is an on-field leader? (Ken McKusick) "As far as leaders, we have Justice Hill, we have Kevon [Seymour], we have guys that have played a lot of ball for us, and you pointed out Malik Harrison. In his fourth year, he's done a great job for us. Geno [Smith] has done a great job, and it's crazy because we've had a lot of veteran leadership, guys in their eighth and ninth year. Our true leaders, these guys are in the fourth or fifth year. These guys have done a god job since they've gotten here, and we're just going to continue to push them. We let those guys lead on their own accord. Not everybody is going to be a vocal leader. Some guys just go out there, and they just work. Work, work, work. And then the young guys get a chance to see what that looks like."
Where do you expect the biggest gains from P Jordan Stout in Year Two (Jonas Shaffer) "The biggest gain, I expect him to be a lot better in every area than where he was last year. Year One, he was a rookie. He was antsy and things like that. This guy, he's improving. We're going to expect him to hit the balls that we want hit, and we expect him to be pretty good in that plus-50 area this year where maybe we didn't do so well every game. Towards the end of the year, we got better at that. So, we're just expecting him to kind of continue that track."
It's hot out here. I don't need to tell you, but here you are in full sleeves. What kind of message are you trying to send? What are you trying to do out here? (Jonas Shaffer) "I'm not trying to send any message. I'm the same guy every day no matter. Whether it's hot [or] cold, it doesn't matter to me. I'm going to be wearing the same outfit. So, it's all good."
Why do you do that? _(Ryan Mink) _"It's just what I do. It's just what I've always done. I don't feel like I need to change, there's no reason to change. I haven't fallen out yet, right? So, we're just going to keep it going."
I know we've already heard your reaction, but for the kickoff rules change, what are your thoughts on that? (Kyle Barber) "I kind of hit on that during the spring, but it's going to be what it's going to be, right? We're going to adjust and adapt to whatever those rules may be. We'll have a plan for how we want to handle the end-game situation stuff. It will be fine. We'll just role with it. Were we for it? No, but it's OK. It's in, so we're going to have to roll with it, and we feel like we're going to be OK."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Opening Statement: "[I] appreciate you guys sticking around. Great three days so far and guys are locked in, working hard. Today is a little hot, but we welcome it if it's going to make us better. Just take it one day at a time, and we're rolling. [It's] good to see everybody, and I'll take any questions."
Do you think the temp on offense is helping you guys out in defense? (Jonas Shaffer)"Oh yeah, it's great. I mean there's a lot of things going on with that. One, it gets you in shape, and then it makes you think, it's easier to do it 70 degrees inside and make calls and things like that and walk-throughs. But when things are moving fast, and you're breathing, and you have to focus and lock in; that's going to pay dividends for us."
You've got OLB Tyus Bowser out at outside linebacker and you have OLB David Ojabo and OLB Odafe Oweh out there, is it an additional weight on them to pick up some of the responsibilities that Tyus would have had? (Ken McKusick) "Yes, maybe. Just because Tyus [Bowser] isn't having some of those snaps, but those are going to be some of those things we're going to ask all our edge guys to do. So it's really the function and the number of snaps right now, but they're attacking it right now. For being pass rushers, they want to know everything, and that's all you can ask for. There's things that we'll mess up from time to time, but they're not error repeaters, and it's just a great attitude right now, so they're attacking it."
How is S Kyle Hamilton doing in his new role? (Garrett Downing) "Kyle has had a great three days and really, we're asking our guys back there to have production on the football, and he's been there. The tempo right now prevents us from really making plays on the ball, but in games, I think you're going to be able to see that he's going to be able to get back there, and I think you see his range during practice. The game's slowing down for him for sure. He's taking a commanding presence back there making calls, so [I'm] very pleased with where he's at."
How do you feel about the defensive line and there's no pads on? (Kyle Barber) "Yeah, I think we got that question in the spring. It's a great question. It's hard, you know. You look at it right now, we're looking for technique, effort, execution, [and] that sort of thing. In terms of the pass rush – balancing the rush, executing the moves – that sort of thing, but in terms of finishing, you kind of leave that to when the pads come on and get the reps in preseason. So, that's a process that we'll evaluate as time comes along."
Where have you seen OLB Odafe Oweh and OLB Davido Ojabo improve the most and how beneficial has OLBs coach Chuck Smith been in the growth? (Rocco DiSangro) "Yeah, I just think a great spirit right now. They're very enthusiastic about what we're trying to get them to do. So, just their energy. Again, the tempo prevents you from evaluating the finish of the pass rush, so the emphasis we're making is more of a process. How's your 'get off'? What moves are you throwing? How [do] you communicate the rush to everybody? How do you communicate the line calls on early downs to everybody? Those types of things, and they're doing a great job."
Does the energy in OLB David Ojabo remind you of his Michigan days? (Garrett Downing) "Absolutely, [but] that's just him. So, it's easy. It's great to have that personality around. We have a lot of great guys with energy, and we encourage people's personalities to shine. That's coming straight from John [Harbaugh], and that speaks to our culture here. So, we embrace it; it makes us better."
We've seen CB Jalyn Armour-Davis and CB Brandon Stephens make plays on the ball these last few days. What do you see in the CB competition? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, another guy like Jalyn [Armour-Davis], after last year had a little bit of adversity. I think he's in a great place mentally. He's really attacking every day. That's the message to him is 'hey, take it one day at a time. Let's attack it [the day]. There's great opportunity out there. So, go see if you can earn a job.' It goes for the whole secondary. Right now, we've got some stalwart pieces in there, but there's a lot of opportunity as well for the guys that we just brought along. That's all we're asking them to do is just embrace it and get after it when they get out there. I think you're seeing the unit come together over time."
What's been your impression of the offense on the other side that's being installed so far? (Charles McDonald) "So, we went through it last year in an installation process. Shoot, you can see it every day. Execution is really crisp. There's an energy. Formations are giving us a lot of looks, a lot of things we have to talk about and defend after each practice. Iron sharpens iron, and I think we're feeling that on a daily basis."
One of the things the offense wants is explosive plays. The defense was inconsistent at times last year against deep passes. Do you like what you've seen so far from the defense keeping the lid on the offense making big plays? (Jonas Shaffer) "Well, that's a huge emphasis for us. We want to take the ball away, and we want to limit explosive [plays]. So far, we've done a good job of that. But again, one is too many. You're always attacking it and always trying to stay ahead. Play the plays off the plays, that sort of thing and making sure our execution is on point. Up to this point, the best thing I can say is each day has been a continual improvement. There's things we need to fix, so we'll go attack those things. But right now, I think we're on the right track."
Has there been a big difference having LB Roquan Smith here all offseason? (Ryan Mink): "Yes. He's obviously an incredible player and great personality. He's one of our top leaders, and to his credit, he was here just like we talked about in the offseason. Guys gravitate toward him. It's just fun to talk football with the guy. He wants to talk about what we're seeing. He talks about what he sees. It's just a constant communication about what we're asking him to do, how he sees it and just building how we want to play things. Obviously, if he sees it the same way we see it, then we're going to be in a good spot."
You have a lot of versatile defensive backs. How do you balance pushing their boundaries and seeing what roles they can play while also getting them ready for the roles you envision them full time during the season? (Nikhil Mehta):"Yes, that's a great question. I don't know if I have the right answer for you. Right now, I think we're just trying to see who we have and where [they fit], and then I think as training camp comes along and those battles start to get settled, as you say, then we'll start to get guys in the right spots. To your point, we do have a lot of versatile guys, and it allows you to be flexible when you gameplan to maximize your matchups and that sort of thing. I think you saw last year – we weren't planning on Kyle [Hamilton] playing the nickel. To his credit, he was able to go in there and play really good football for us. The concepts translate, so it does allow us to stay as versatile as possible."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
We saw a lot of plays over the middle of the field. What's your philosophy about controlling the middle of the field, and have you spoken with defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald about how he views controlling the middle of the field, as well? (Nikhil Mehta) "I really don't dictate if the ball goes over the middle of the field; the defense does."
Yesterday, WR Odell Beckham Jr. talked about your confidence in communicating the vision you want for the offense. How do you go about trying to create a clear picture for what you want this offense to be? (Garrett Downing) "Well, first off, execution trumps everything, so no matter what we run, the only thing that really matters is that our guys play with confidence, get lined up and execute at a high level."
QB Lamar Jackson said that you suggested that he doesn't wear the wristband with the plays on it. What was the thinking behind that? (Jamison Hensley) "One of the most important things is your ability to communicate the calls, and the best way for that to happen is to not start with wristbands. He [Lamar Jackson] has to hear what I say; he has to process the call; he has to regurgitate to the players; he has to get the cadence. We can always go to wristbands. Wristbands are easy; you just read it. Hard is learning the offense, being able to process and make the calls."
Do you get the sense that QB Lamar Jackson is more locked in from minicamp to now as he tries to learn this offense? (Rocco DiSangro) "I think he [Lamar Jackson] was pretty locked in then, but obviously, there's a different sense of urgency; I think we'd all say that. But I think he was pretty locked in then."
What are some things that you learned from your time with the Buccaneers and at the University of Georgia that can help you here in Baltimore? (Charles McDonald) "That you need good players to score on offense."
What have you seen so far from WR Zay Flowers? (Kris Rhim) "That's a fun little toy right there, isn't it?" (laughter) "I'm just fired up [that executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and the boys drafted [Zay Flowers]."
How does your familiarity with WR Odell Beckham Jr. help with the adjustment he's making to his new team? (Garrett Downing) "I think what helps is knowing Odell [Beckham Jr.'s] personality – knowing his skillset, [too]. We're also talking [about] four years ago, but I do think it helps [knowing] what Odell does well, how to communicate with him, how he likes to be coached and included, which he does [like to be]. He deserves that. He's a really good player. He wants to be coached; he wants to be pushed; he wants to be a part of a winning team and be a part of that – a huge part of that – [by] touching the football and helping our team win."
Do you sense that WR Odell Beckham Jr. has a different level of hunger and that he's more motivated than ever after the injuries? (Rocco DiSangro) "Compared to Cleveland? Like I said, guys are always motivated;
That's hard to compare – years past of being locked in or more motivated. I've always seen Odell [Beckham Jr.] as being very motivated as a player. You'd have to ask him whether he's more motivated now. But he seems to be in a really good place."
With no WR Zay Flowers today, were you pleased to see some guys get more reps? (Timothy Dashiell) "Sure. We'll have to look at the tape, but it's important for all of your players to get reps and developing the back end of your roster [is] super huge, because you just don't ever know; it's a long season. You're not only trying to figure out who the starters are, who your playmakers are, [but also] who are your backup guys, who are the guys that are capable of going into games, and then who are your practice squad guys that when guys go down, they're ready to go? So, it's imperative that they're able to get reps and good reps."
Just broadly speaking, how do you feel like the offensive installation is going to this point? (Ryan Mink) "Oh, it's good. What I like the most is our guys are locked in; they're dialed in. I like their approach. Their approach is where you want to be. We're not where we want to be yet, but we shouldn't be; that's why we practice; that's why we meet; that's why you get out there, and there are [times when] you're like, 'Wow, that's the way it looks,' and then there are others where you're like, 'That isn't anything like we want it to look.' That's part of what you do, and then you fix that, and you brag upon that, and you get better on that, and then you find what your pieces do best, and then you try to fit that within your scheme."
It seems that you guys are out of the huddle within 15 seconds on most plays, and the temp has definitely picked up compared to years past. Is this where you want it to be, in terms of pace of play and pre-play? (Jonas Shaffer) "Well, first off, whether it's … The idea is to leave the quarterback enough time at the line of scrimmage to assess the defense, make changes and be in control. I'm a firm believer that [if] you want your quarterback to play his best, you've got to empower him. It goes from here (shows level with his hand) to here (raises level of his hand). 'I'm a part. I want to help with the gameplan. I want to see things – what they're doing defensively.' If that is getting to the line quicker, then so be it. If it's a situation where we've got some sort of a run-pass option or run-run or pass-pass, then so be it. But I do believe in getting to the line quicker; I think that gives us more time at the line of scrimmage to assess – for the quarterback."
You've coached a lot of different types of quarterbacks throughout your career. How excited are you to prepare for the challenge of coaching QB Lamar Jackson? (Charles McDonald) "Oh, all of them are a little bit different. You really like the challenge of guys that – one – obviously, you have a tremendous skillset, which [Lamar Jackson] does. And I've been lucky to be around a lot of those guys – that I've been blessed to coach them; they made me a better coach. But the thing you like about Lamar is he's becoming even more diligent. He wants to be great. He wants to be elite. I do not see a guy that signed a contract and said, 'OK, I've arrived.' [It's more], 'I want to be elite; I want this offense to be elite; I want to give ourselves a chance to win every week;' that's been impressive."
You mentioned spreading the ball around all the players and throughout the entire field. How much of that has to come through scheme, and how much of it are you and QB Lamar Jackson looking to naturally create? (Ken McKusick) "Great question. So, scheme is a part of ball distribution, and having enough skill players to where you want to distribute it to them [is also a part of it], because if you don't have enough skill players, you're not trying to create ways to distribute the ball to them. Everybody earns that right to touch the football. It doesn't matter what sport; you earn the right to get at bats; you earn the right to get shots; you earn the right to get opportunities. And the better your players understand that and compete that way, and the better your skill players [are], the more fun it is to distribute it."