RAVENS MANDATORY MINICAMP: DAY 2
Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator/Wide Receivers David Culley
First-round pick WR Marquise Brown hasn't been very active on the practice field. What have you seen from him behind the scenes? (Jamison Hensley) "He's been attending every meeting. He's done everything here except practice. He's in every meeting. He gets a little extra meeting time because he doesn't get to do the stuff on the field that some of the guys get to do. He spends a little bit of extra time going over those kinds of things. For the most part, he gets extra film work in, just watching everything in practice. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't get to see himself to be able to correct things. [He's] just watching other guys. But, I think he's coming along very well. He's picking up what we're doing. He has a pretty good understanding of what we're doing. He's been fine through this point."
How excited are you to see WR Marquise Brown on the field, in terms of what he can bring to your group? (Garrett Downing) "When I think about what I saw when we drafted him from Oklahoma, I get really excited about it. Hopefully, he can do some of those same things that he did. He was a big-play guy for them, and one of the reasons why we got him where we got him was because of his big-play ability. We're looking forward to him bringing that to us."
You've had a significant hand in putting the new offense together. How would you assess your progress? (Childs Walker) "We're not where we want to be right now, but I think we're progressing very nicely. Basically, what we've done is, we're doing some things that Greg [Roman] has already done previously. We're doing a lot more of two- and three-man concept-type stuff. That's a little different than what they've done in the past, but other than that, it's still basic football. It's still pitch and catch, basically. The guys are doing the right things. We're headed in the right direction right now."
Do you like going against a world-class secondary? Does that sharpen the knife, so to speak? (Childs Walker) "It doesn't do anything but make you better. Every day in practice, we go against [a defense that is] as good as we'll go against during the season. Especially for these young guys that have been here, this is as good as it gets. It only gets you better. It only makes you better."
How different is it to coach a receiving group when you have QB Lamar Jackson, who can throw from anywhere on the field? (Shawn Stepner)"The one thing that you have to be aware of with quarterbacks like that, is that they keep plays alive. The play is always alive. From a standpoint of when the plays break down, getting into scramble mode and being in a position where you're always available, he will keep plays alive that a lot of quarterbacks in the league, they don't keep alive. So, we have to always be alert. When he's out of the pocket, you have to be working with him, always with him, and where he's going. If you do, there's a good chance that you'll get a ball thrown to you."
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"Where we're at right now, obviously, you can see out there at practice, we are a fast, fast defense. I'm really pleased with the progression that we've made through camp. I think that there are a lot of exciting young guys out there that are really taking this opportunity and running with it, and we have a lot of key veterans. Obviously, having everybody back is a great feeling for this minicamp, and we're just hitting the ground rolling. So with that, I'll leave it open to questions."
When this thing is over, what do they have to do between now and training camp to get better? Do they study the playbook, stay in shape? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, they're going to do all of the above. I think it becomes more individualized. Each guy knows what they have to do, like a veteran like Brandon Carr. He knows exactly what he has to do to get ready for training camp and where he needs to be coming into training camp. The rookies stay here a little extra, and that's good, too, for their conditioning and where they need to go for the next level. So, it's just the next progression before you get into training camp."
With the restrictions that you have because of the rules and everything, how much do you feel like you can get accomplished in three days? (Jerry Coleman)"I think we can get a tremendous amount accomplished, and you're only talking about two guys that have missed OTAs, so this is our 11th practice. And you guys can see, an OTA is no different than a minicamp practice with all the rules and everything else. It's come along really well."
What's your impression of your secondary, just the skill, the experience, the speed they have out there? (Ryan Mink) "What did we have, six picks today? (laughter) I think that, obviously, there's no secret that we're going to lean heavily on our secondary with the group we have back there, especially with the addition of Earl Thomas. You're starting to see him more and more get comfortable in the system and make plays, and you can see things on tape, and you get what he actually sees and then pulls off because you don't want any collisions or anything like that. So, we're really excited about our secondary."
We all wrote about DT Michael Pierce coming off the field yesterday. Were you disappointed that he wasn't ready to practice, and did you talk to him yesterday? (Childs Walker) "Yes, of course, you're disappointed. I think what I said to him, and I said it in front of the whole defense, 'Life is about choices. Just don't make that choice make your life.' We're expecting him … He's a dominant player, and he has a challenge to get, from here until training camp, to hit a certain stage, and that's to the trainers and Eric [DeCosta] and 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] on where they want him to be at, and I know he'll be there. I know he will. I think we piled on enough yesterday. I saw some of the things my son sent me through Instagram, but let's don't forget what a great football player that he is, and he'll get back there. I can't tell you when, but he'll get back there. He'll get back to that."
What's your concern level about the pass rush. You lost a lot of sacks through free agency. (David Ginsburg) "Sure, I'm excited about it. It's a different group, and actually, we can become even more multiple because it is a different group and their body types and their styles, so I'm really excited about our pass rush."
Teams change in the league all the time, but when you lose players like ILB C.J. Mosley, S Eric Weddle and OLB Terrell Suggs, during this period, is there a transition time, or is it so much part of the game that it's just the next man up? (Jamison Hensley) "I think 'transition' could be substituted for 'mourning.' It's like 'Avengers,' that Thanos guy who snapped his fingers, and I'm like, 'Where did everybody go?' (laughter)It's one of those deals. Those guys are great players, and I'm not going to sit up here and say, 'Next man up,' the typical coach talk. We're going to miss them. You're going to miss a Terrell Suggs. Everybody here is. Everybody in the city of Baltimore is. They're going to miss Terrell Suggs, and I'm not going to sit up here and act like it's just the next man up. There is a transition period, and the biggest transition, really, is just the communication of the defense. But that's all coming together, so that's exciting to me. That has recharged our energy, our batteries, of attacking the new season, and we're looking forward to it. Because really, nobody one cares who we lost. Nobody cares who we lost. I know that, so that's our next challenge, and that's what we're looking forward to."
How much do you say to guys, having lost those guys, the guys who are here wanting to prove that, "Hey, we're still one of the best defenses, if not the best defense, in the league?" (Cliff Brown) "I think that's been the conversation with all of them, and that's nothing that I'm pushing, either. It's just the standard of Raven football, Raven defense, John Harbaugh defense. We know where we need to be. We know where we're expected to be, and we're excited to accept that challenge."
I don't remember the last time we talked to you, but this offseason, how it played out, you were mentioned as a guy who could get some head coaching positions. I don't know how much it materialized, but were you disappointed that you didn't get an opportunity to talk about a head coaching job? (Jeff Zrebiec)"No, I wasn't disappointed. It's all cyclical on how the different hires happen and everything else. It's really a credit to how well our guys played last year that I got my name mentioned with that. But this is my eighth year here; I love it here. My family, this is our home. We've won a Super Bowl. We've had a lot of success, so I don't even look at that. I think that just happens if you do things well. I think that opportunity will come if it's supposed to be, if it's meant to be. If it's not, that's OK, too, because the way I look at it, I'm working for the best head coach in the National Football League. So, I just take every year, and it's a great learning experience for me, and if it happens, it happens."
What has been your impression of the inside linebackers, those guys kind of stepping in for ILB C.J. Mosley? (Ryan Mink) "I think that you really can't make the final evaluation until we get into the pads of what's going to happen. I've been really pleased with 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor). I think if you all sit out here and watch, you can just hear the difference of his vocal leadership, calling plays and everything else. He's really come along, and Chris Board and Kenny Young, they're in a battle for the WILL spot, just like it's been in the past. I think we have one starter in Peanut, and the other ones, we'll see."
S DeShon Elliott was out there making some plays. Can you talk about – he didn't play last year – his development? (Cliff Brown) "To me, he's just picked up where he left off right before he got hurt, and it's just going to be another fun piece. We play a bunch of different personnel and everything else. I know we have two really good safeties right now, but we can … We'll find spots for the good football players, and obviously, specials teams plays a big part in that."
What about CB Terrell Bonds? He had a good day today. (Kirk McEwen) "Yes he did, didn't he? And he's one that came out here as a tryout guy, and we signed him. And the thing that he's done, for a rookie especially, is he's playing different spots, which is hard to do for a rookie, and he's executing well out there. Like you said, he's showing up."
Related on the inside linebackers, ILB Patrick Onwuasor was undrafted, and there's been this long line of undrafted linebackers. Here comes LB Chris Board. What does he do well, and do you see in him guys like LB Zach Orr, LB Jameel McClain, some of these other guys that have come through here as undrafted guys? (Bo Smolka)"Yes." (laughter) (Reporter: "What does he do well?") "He can run. I mean, my goodness, he can run. He played out in a lot of space at North Dakota State really as a nickel, and now he's starting to … His instincts are really showing up as an inside 'backer. All he does is he just puts his head down and goes to work every day, and he's battling for a spot. He's battling for a spot. And for any linebacker here to make it, they're going to have to play great on special teams first, and then play great on defense. That's just the way it is. That's where we're at, and that's why we've had so much success, is undrafted free agents, because they know that going into it, and it all carries over to defense."
You brought in an intriguing guy in OLB Shane Ray. What stood out about him and what has intrigued you about him? (Jamison Hensley) "What intrigues you about Shane is his pass-rush ability and the success he had early, before his injury. Now, he's healthy, and he's really a man on a mission, with he and [Pernell] McPhee. It was great getting McPhee back. It's that old-guard leadership that's been here before, that's seen it. The difference of when we had McPhee in here on his visit, I said, '"Phee," I need your leadership.' He said, 'You want me to come back and lead the dogs?' (laughter) I said, 'Yeah! Yeah, I do.' And he said, 'OK, let's do it.' Really, that's the difference. Some guys like that challenge, and some guys don't, and that's who he is, too. He and Shane Ray have done a great job, and all it has done is create more competition, which is what you need when you have a young defense, and you need some veterans in here to do that."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Everybody has done a really good job – staff, coaches, players – this spring. We're really trying to maximize our time. I think it's been productive, and I'm really excited about what this group can become on offense this year. It's our goal this time of year … It's kind of like a blank canvas, and we get to throw a lot of things on that canvas and test this out. 'That might not be us,' or, 'Wow, that really is us.' We're really not competing against our defense as much as we're competing against ourselves and trying to get everybody prepared for training camp. That's the goal. I think we're accomplishing that. We have one more day. We need to just take advantage of that and come back to training camp ready to roll."
There's been a lot of talk about the re-vamped offense. Could you tell us the difference between this year and last year? What is the difference for QB Lamar Jackson? (David Ginsburg) "We had to go back and look at everything from the ground up. [We had to] look at where football is, where we are, the vision we have for ourselves and really start from square one. How we call everything, the terminology we use, how can we best utilize Lamar, and the entire offense's ability. A real thorough house-cleaning took place starting in early January. It was a long process. We like where we're at. We're always streamlining and tweaking it, though. We have a lot of different boxes we can pull things out of. You're going to see some elements of things you've seen in the past. You'll see some new stuff, some new stuff that looks like old stuff. We would like to be pretty multiple in the problems we can try to create for a defense. From our end, it was a more efficient, behind-the-scenes, streamlined offense – quicker communication, the ability to play more quickly at the line of scrimmage. We can play slow; we can play that game, as well. But, we wanted to be able to really delve into making things as streamlined as we could."
It sounds like you shortened the verbiage of the offense. Is that accurate?_ (Mike Tanier)_ "That's part of it. That was definitely part of it."
Play calls were about 25 words in the past. Now they're much shorter. (Mike Tanier) "Back in the day, teams would be together for long periods of time. You would have a group of players that were pretty much [always] together, and that's when a lot of these offenses were … [They] have been spawned from [that]. But, it's a little more transient these days. You get new guys in, and you want guys to get acclimated as quickly as possible. So, we really tried to re-think it."
How is QB Lamar Jackson taking to the new offensive concepts? (Childs Walker)"He's working hard. I think every day is a step forward for him. Our defense has been doing a great job. I don't know if we'll see any looks this year, this entire season, that we haven't seen. And we haven't even been to training camp yet. He's doing a great job of progressing, staying on schedule. [These are] great learning opportunities. I'm not looking to win the practices. I'm looking to get ready for the training camp and get ready for the season. Every opportunity, whether a good result or a bad result, on a play this time of year, is a great thing, because it gives us an opportunity to grow from it."
How beneficial has it been to get input from other coaches on the staff when creating the new offense? (Jamison Hensley) "We'll take information from anybody. If you have something that can help us, bring it on. (laughter) It's been a true collaboration, and our staff has done a great job. We've all reached out to other people in the profession who we think might have some different ideas that we could explore, but our staff has done a great job collaborating. There are several coaches on our staff that have always wanted to do this. 'What would I do if I could start from square zero?' So, we've been granted that opportunity, and we look forward to taking advantage of it."
As you take the new offense from conceptual ideas to real life, where do you feel like you are further along? Where do you think you have the most work to do? (Childs Walker) "In the springtime, we're not in pads. All the rules give you a great opportunity to work different facets of your passing game more than your running game. When we move into training camp, there will be more of an emphasis on our running game. But, I really like where we're at. I think all the different situations, we have to continue to push the envelope on. Generally, the guys have done a really, really good job of picking this stuff up quick. We have to keep grinding, keep trying to mine for gold, as far as technique and being precise."
What is your process of transmitting all this new information to your players? (Adam Kilgore)"A lot of thought gets put into that, and hopefully we came up with the right answer. I think you have to really paint [a picture]. You really want to show everybody the perimeter of what things are going to be in the end, the whole. You want to show them what the whole offense is going to look like, and then you want to start drilling into the details, into the individual parts. So, when we get together the first day, we want to paint the picture and show the vision for what we're trying to build. That's when you have to really dive down and dig in deep. We'll meet as a whole offense and go through a lot of things big-picture. Then, everyone will go to their position rooms and really drill down. That's where the detail work takes place."
Do you use a PowerPoint presentation? (Mike Tanier)"Sometimes you use a little PowerPoint in there. I definitely think you want every player that's on our offense to understand what we're trying to do and the 'why' of what we're trying to do – why this is important. Today, we worked on a lot of third-and-long situations. [There is] a lot of learning to be done from that. Yesterday, we worked on a lot of totally different situations. To somebody just watching practice, it probably looked a lot different. But, they were both equally valuable to us."
How important is ball security with QB Lamar Jackson? (Jamison Hensley)"That's a big, everyday thing. That's like brushing your teeth. That's going to happen every day. That's for all of our quarterbacks."
A lot was made about the offense getting faster after the NFL Draft. Do you see that on the field? (Childs Walker) "Yes. We have a couple of guys that haven't been able to participate like we'd like, but I do think that. We're playing faster, if we want to, and all that injection of those new players … I think those first couple weeks of training camp will be really good for us to just explore and see where we can go with each of those new pieces."
In what areas have you seen QB Lamar Jackson make the biggest strides since the end of the 2018 season? (Jamison Hensley)"If you would divide all the different things that go in to playing quarterback, I think it would be amazing to many people how many columns there are. He has raised his level in every column, to a certain extent. Lamar is the kind of guy that, the more he does something, he's going to get better at it. Whatever he does, he's just going to get better at it. He's just that kind of guy. We've been really trying to focus on certain things, but I think everything has really elevated. It has to keep elevating, too, for every player."
Your love of tight ends is well known. To us, the tight ends are looking like some of the best players on the field. Have you been impressed over the last few weeks with their abilities? (Childs Walker) "They're doing a really good job. We're looking forward to deploying all kinds of different personnel groupings. I think we have the ability to put a lot of tight ends out there on the field and make it look non-traditional at times, too. I think we can put people in a lot of different places. That's a lot of fun."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement:"How are we doing today? It's good to see everyone. I would just like to start by saying the first two days of practice have been really good. The guys are competing at a tempo at which we like to see. I couldn't be more excited about what I've seen these past two days. We have one more day. I really want to see our guys take another step, build forward as we move on, and move into this offseason and get ready for training camp."
Do you think P Kaare Vedvik is trying to get back to where he was last summer? Where do you think he is in his progress? (Childs Walker) "I think Kaare is right on schedule. He's where he needs to be. Every day we're dealing with a lot of technical things with him, and he's trying to come out and work those things with Coach [Randy] Brown. He's right where he needs to be."
Can you explain how your position is different now as head of special teams? You're talking to us now, that's one thing. (Aaron Kasinitz) "That is one of the things. You have to come out here and stand in front of the media. I haven't done that in a while. It's been a long time. That's really the biggest difference, outside of just standing up in front of the guys every day running the meeting, giving them a positive message, and helping those guys understand what the standard is around here. That's not going to change."
What is former special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg's current role with his upcoming retirement? (Bo Smolka) "Jerry is the overseer. He's a guy I can count on for a lot of insight if I have questions. Jerry is there. I turn over to the side, he's around for every meeting. He gives me feedback. He tells me things that I could correct, or maybe, 'Say it this way,' or, 'Say it that way.' Having Jerry around has been a blessing, real honestly. It's helped the transition go smoothly."
Do you expect the competition to be fairly wide open between the returners going into training camp? (Childs Walker)"Yes. That's every position. Every position is wide open. That's why we play football. No job is guaranteed to any guy. You have to come out here; you compete; you work. Whoever wins that job as a returner, you'll see him out there."
While CB/RS Cyrus Jones has been out of practice, has anyone stood out to you for a punt return spot? (Aaron Kasinitz)"There have been a few guys going back and forth. Tyler Ervin has done a pretty good job for us. We have some other guys … Willie Snead is back there. We have a ton of guys. We're just trying to figure out who's going to be that main guy for us this year."
Do the players come to you to express interest in returning punts, like CB Tavon Young? (Bo Smolka)"Early on in Tavon's career, we had him back there returning for us a little bit. So, we put him back there. We wanted to see how he does in practice. He's caught the ball fairly well, so we're going to give him an opportunity. Again, that job is open for any guy that can go out there and compete and win that job. That's football. It's all about competition."
Are there any traits beyond the obvious ones that you look for in potential returners? (Adam Kilgore)"The obvious one is just catching the ball. Who's going to catch the ball consistently? Other than that, what you do after the catch, you see those things on the field. A guy with the ball in his hands, what kind of skillset he has. But, the most important thing is the obvious one: catch the football."
Does having a left-footed [tryout] punter help returners prepare for left-footed punters they will face during the regular season? (Vinny Cerrato) "No question. I think that's been a big thing around here, is trying to get a guy that is a lefty. I think six of the seven games, we're going to face a lefty, to start the year. Having those guys get all those reps off a lefty, it's valuable."
S Tony Jefferson
On how he feels returning to the field:"It feels great. It's been since Jan. 22 since I put the cleats back on again. I got to put the Raven helmet back on, got to fly around with my guys and not watch. Today I got more reps and finished out the practice, so it felt great."
On how big of a challenge it is to lose multiple core defensive players from last season:"In the NFL, these types of things happen. Like you said, it's a business, so you have to be ready and prepared for all types of moves and things that could happen, and the more you dwell on it, the more time you're wasting. Like I said, we were all hurt. We loved those guys dearly, like brothers, like family. So that portion of it, that hurts. But, in the football aspect, you have to move on. It's time to move on. It's time to prepare ourselves for the upcoming season, because it will be here before you know it. I believe it's 87 days from now until we're in Miami, so we're all looking forward to that. We have a lot of time in between that to get better. [We] have a few joint practices to prepare with, so we're focusing on that, and not so much more of what has been going on."
On how the offense will be helped by going against quality defensive backs:"I think the offense is doing a much better job this year of changing things up. They're definitely not a predictable offense. Obviously, I'm not going to give our intake of what we have on offense right now, because I'm loving it. I'm loving what Lamar [Jackson] is doing. I'm loving our receivers. We have some big-body receivers, some unknown receivers, too, who might make a name for themselves this preseason, which we're all excited to see. So, we're excited. Mark [Ingram II] is doing well. Obviously, the receivers who came back, Willie [Snead IV], [Jordan] Lasley, all them, they're doing a great job. It's a good time in Ravenstown to see the offense moving like that."
On his impression of S Earl Thomas III and playing together in the backfield:"I've mentioned it before: We have two safeties back there who like to read and react. Earl has obviously been one of the best in the game for a very long time, which he still is, and his instincts, I believe, are some of the best I've seen, being on the field with someone. We're going to use that to the best of our abilities, to the best of the defense's ability, and continue to grow. We're just going to continue to build chemistry, continue to grow. That's why I was so anxious to get out here, because I want to build chemistry with my guys. It's been a great two days. We'll finish up strong tomorrow and train really hard in the offseason, come back and be ready to go."
On if S Earl Thomas III is businesslike with the team:"A little bit, but we get the lighter side to him. It took him a second. We were like, 'Hey, bro, we love you!'_ opens arms, laughter)_ But, it's always like that for somebody who's coming in new, to a new program. He's been in one spot for nine, 10 years, so obviously, when you come into a different scenery on the opposite coast, it's not always easy. He's Earl. That's how he is. We're not here to change anybody. You are who you are, and we're glad we have him. We love him."
On if he spoke to DT Michael Pierce after practice yesterday, and how he involves himself as one of the veteran leaders:"I talked to him. Weight is weight. If that's what the predicament is, then it is what it is. But we love Mike. We're glad to have him back, but he knows what he has to do, and he's working his tail off. That's all we can really talk about on that. I'm excited to have my guys back. Not seeing him for the offseason, it is what it is. He has his situation, but as long as the guys are back, I'm happy that we're all together."
On how long it takes to build chemistry and communication with the defense, and how they go about doing it:"Each practice, we have to get better with communication, but also, I think what's changed over the years of when I've been playing in the league is we talk a lot in the film room together. I think 'Wink' [Don Martindale] opening up the room and letting us be able to talk inside the room while we're watching film, the open room, that gives us another opportunity outside of coming out and playing on the field to communicate and everybody getting used to hearing each other's voice. That's just kind of how it's going to have to go. Each day, we're just going to have to get better and better at doing that. I think we're doing a fine job. I think we're getting better each day, so I think we're right on course. We just have to continue to keep going forward. No steps back." (Reporter: "In the film room, do you just pause after a play and talk about it?") "If somebody has anything to say, you just speak up, and I think that allows anybody … There are no restrictions. Nobody has a dumb question. There's no such thing. If you have a question, that question may be a question someone who didn't want to talk wanted to ask, so now they have their question answered. Now, the whole room is getting better. Like I said, communication breeds understanding, so that's kind of our motto."
On how motivated the defense is to prove that it can still be the No. 1 unit:"I feel like last year, they were saying that our defense was too old, and that we couldn't do anything and blah, blah, blah. Now, those guys are gone. Now, they're saying … We're not really worried about that. We're trying to be the best in the league, so whatever that takes, whatever that holds, we're trying to do. 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] said it best: 'How good are you trying to be? You just have to be the best in the world.' That's what we're trying to do."
On if he has ever been in a secondary this deep, and how big of an advantage the depth is:"Huge advantage. I've been in some pretty good secondaries, too, in Arizona. We had 'Pat P.' [Patrick Peterson], Tyrann Mathieu, but I'm going with this secondary, for sure. Just across the board, you could look at our starters, and it's very eye-opening. But you could also look at our depth and who we have behind each starter, and they also, I believe, are starters in this league as well. Our safeties are playing great. DeShon [Elliott], he's flying around making plays all over the field. Chuck [Clark], we call him 'Little [Eric] Weddle.' He has the brains and the brights and the smarts to line everybody up and do that, and he's a playmaker as well. Our corners, they're doing a great job. Brandon [Carr], 'Tay' [Tavon Young], Jimmy [Smith], Marlon [Humphrey], then we have some young guys [like] 'Mo' [Maurice Canady] and 'TB,' [Terrell] Bonds. I don't know if you guys saw that, but he had a very good day today. Having depth like that is only going to make competition better and our defense better."
On if he thinks CB Terrell Bonds' path through the AAF helped prepare him to play in the NFL:"Yes, I was actually liking the developmental league. It was a good time to watch some contact football when football wasn't in session, so I got a good opportunity to watch some guys, even some former guys I played with in college. That was a terrible situation that it folded, but 'T.B.' [Bonds], he's come in, and like you said, I think he's had some experience with some former NFL players, so it's kind of helped him out a little bit. We'll see in training camp when the pads come on. Obviously, sometimes some people look good in shorts, and some people look great in pads, and that's when you find out who the real football players are. But, he's off to a great start. I'm excited to see him, too."