Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Opening statement: "[It's] a little toasty. Good morning, guys. It's good to see everyone. I appreciate you guys being here. Just to start [with] a little recap on Carolina, I thought our guys went out there [and] practiced hard. From Week One to Week Two, we showed a lot of improvement in in-game situations. I just think our guys are playing hard. They're playing well, and we're just going to continue to work on execution and getting that really to where we want it to be before we get to [Las] Vegas. Questions?"
Where have you seen K Jake Verity make the most progress since training camp started? (Ryan Mink) "I've seen a lot of him. I talk about … He's a big story, man. This kid just came in, he put his head down, and honestly, he went to work. He's going to work every day, and he's getting better. He's making his kicks. He's not only doing them in practice, but he's showing up in games, which is big, because you get a lot of exposure. A lot of teams get to see you, and he's making the most of his opportunities. He's been coached a lot by [special teams coach] Randy [Brown], and he's got a lot to learn. He's learning from Justin Tucker. He's learning from those guys. So, he's in a great place. If you're a specialist, this is a place you want to come to, because I can guarantee you one thing – you will get better. There will be opportunities for you; if not here, then somewhere else."
Related to that, when you get a guy like K Jake Verity, or Saints K Will Lutz, or even P Kaare Vedvik, they come in here knowing they're not going to get the job kicking here. So, who gets the credit for convincing them to come spend the summer here? (Bo Smolka) "I think it's a big picture of everyone. It's the type of guy that we go out and we look for [that is] just able to come in and help us and try to get better in training camp. So, it's a combination of both. Now, if you're worried about not winning the job here because Justin Tucker is here, Sam Koch is here [and] Nick Moore is here, then you're thinking about this thing all wrong. It's an opportunity to come in here and learn from the best guys, and then give yourself an opportunity to go out and compete for a job in the National Football League. I give a lot of credit also to [special teams coach] Randy [Brown]. Randy does a great job with these guys and making sure that they are prepared [that] if not here, they can go somewhere else and play."
K Justin Tucker said the other day that K Jake Verity belonged on the starting roster opening day. Do you see that? That should carry some weight coming from K Justin Tucker. (Kirk McEwen) "It carries a lot of weight. Again, any guy that's here on this football team, they are developing skills and fundamentals that are going to allow them to play other places if they're not playing here. I think we do, as a coaching staff, a heck of a job with our guys and just developing those guys to give them opportunities. They learn a lot of football [and] a lot of technical things that they can carry on and take other places. 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] is exactly right. This kid is showing himself, and he deserves an opportunity to play in this league."
Heading into the final preseason game knowing the big cutdown is next week, how much do you emphasize for a lot of those players that special teams can make a big impact of whether you make the team or not? (Jamison Hensley) "It's [from] Day One. When you show up here, it is ingrained in those guys who are on this team. You just look across the board … Yes, everybody wants to be the starter. Well, we know that's unlikely. There are only going to be 11 guys out there that are going to start. [If] you're a 'down the line' guy, then you make your way playing special teams, and it starts from Day One. I just try to do a good job of instilling that in those guys early. You come out, you play well, you compete, you give great effort [and] you execute the way we want you to execute, you'll give yourself a great chance to make this team. And don't worry about it, because we can't keep all the guys – we understand that. I've been cut. I've been in that situation. I'm living proof of just being able to tell a guy, 'Hey, it's OK. It's not the end until it's the end. Just keep working. Just go out there and just get it done.'"
A guy like RB Ty'Son Williams, he's generated a lot of interest and probably is going to have a special teams role if he makes this roster. I know you don't speak for who makes the roster and who doesn't, but specifically when you watch him on special teams, what are you looking for? (Bo Smolka) "I just want to see how he goes out, how he executes our gameplan and the things we're asking him to do. Is he being physical? Is he running? That's just a really big part of what we do. If you can do those things and you earn a spot on this team, well then you know what? We'll find a role for you and we'll make it work. Similar to what we've done with some other guys on our team, it's not just him. There are a lot of guys who are working hard, executing and doing the things that we want to get done."
K Justin Tucker was asked about his retirement on Monday. He said [he'd retire in] probably 20 years and that this is just the beginning for him. What does that tell you about the kind of mentality of a player that's been around for so long? (David Andrade) "Oh man, it's outstanding. The guy is just … He's a legend. He knows his body, [and] he takes care of his body. He'll kick as long as he wants to kick in this league, because he's doing it at a high level. He's still playing at a high level. We have a lot of respect for him, and I think his peers across this league have a lot of respect for him."
I think we talked about OLB Odafe Oweh last week about his participation on special teams. You guys have invested a lot of defensive players in those roles … What goes into the decision-making process to use someone who's going to have a big role on defense as a rookie on special teams or not, considering what kind of workload they might have? (Jonas Shaffer) "Really, it's a lot of things. It's not just one thing that goes into it. It's my job as a coach to really just say, 'OK, how much is he playing on defense?' I kind of keep track of these things, and if I think he's playing a lot of defense, then I have other guys to fill in on those spots. But he's going to be a guy that he's going to contribute and he's going to help us, and he wants to. That's where it starts - if a guy wants to, then I'll put them out there and they will help us."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "We've got the pros here today, huh? (laughter) It looks like some of us went to see the athletes who are playing at the top of their game right now at Caves [Valley Golf Club] – that BMW Championship. I don't blame you. I'm going to get out there, too.
"I'm really excited with where we're at. We had the last game; it's like this crew is starting to build a chemistry together. In the first game, you have six takeaways; the last game, in the second half, you don't give up a first down. So, we're starting to click, and the thing that pleases me the most is it's everybody, it's in the room. I know [head coach] John [Harbaugh] spoke on it earlier; there are going to be some tough decisions made here, and this game coming up is going to have a lot to do with it, as well. So, we're really excited with where we're at and looking forward to getting ready to go play Washington."
It seems like ILB Patrick Queen is playing even faster this year. Are you seeing that? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, he's getting very comfortable at the MIKE linebacker position. The thing that impresses me the most about Patrick [Queen] right now is how well he's tackling. He's getting some really good one-on-one tackles. We've just got to keep building on that. I think, in the last game, the entire defense only had one missed tackle, so any time you can come out of a preseason game saying that, you're going the right direction, you're on the right track."
Where have you seen S DeShon Elliott take the biggest steps from last year? (Ryan Mink) "Well, he's another year away from the knee surgery – is No. 1 – and that's what he told me, because I said to him, 'DeShon [Elliott], you're moving so much better.' And all credit to him and Chuck [Clark], because they both are [moving so much better]. I don't know enough about it. I didn't pay attention in those classes or [know] why they're moving better, but I think it's their core strength and their athletic ability and their confidence. Just working together, I think everything is clicking faster for them, and you're seeing that on tape."
We see OLB Justin Houston, almost after every practice, working with the young guys. How much of an impact can a veteran guy helping out the young guys have? (Jamison Hensley) "You think about the great ones, and just like guys that we've all worked with, Ray [Lewis] and C.J. [Mosley] did the same thing at the MIKE [middle] linebacker position; Elvis [Dumervil] and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] did the same thing here, with the rushers. The corners – I can remember Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson – and those type of guys – [Brian] Dawkins at safety. The great ones know what they need, because all the great ones want to do is win a championship, so they want to help bring along these young guys that they know can help us, and I think that's what you're seeing. Justin Houston, he's had a lot of great things in his career, and I know what he's chasing, and you can see the importance to him. He's a great leader, he sets the edge in the run game, he runs to the football like he's a rookie. He's doing everything that we ask him to do, and that's just another thing that you guys see – of how he is as a teammate."
With the injury to ILB L.J. Fort, what does that mean for your defense, specifically at inside linebacker, and what about those younger guys like LB Kristian Welch? (Bo Smolka) "What it means is … L.J. [Fort], to me, is what this league is built on [and] the player that this league is built on; those guys that come in and have the careers that they've had just by working their tail off and doing everything right. The thing we're going to miss out of him, in that room – the linebacker room itself – is just leadership and experience. He'd always talk to the younger guys in helping them along – last year, for example – and he would calm things down when he'd go in the game. So, we're definitely going to miss that. But you're seeing these younger guys starting to step up, and it is definitely going to be an opportunity for Kristian Welch, since L.J. went down. But we're definitely going to miss him."
What does it tell you about DT Justin Madubuike's speed, when last game, on a play, (Martindale: "On a bootleg?") we saw him run faster than the linebacker, (Martindale: "Yes, on the bootleg?") and you have to do double takes? (Gustavo Salazar) "I'm glad you didn't name the linebacker. (laughter) Trust me, on the tape, I did. (laughter) He's rolling. He's getting ready for the season to start, and [if] everybody has that mindset, you're going to have a really good defense. I'll tell you this now; we're going to see more screens, reverses and all those kinds of things, because everybody sees how fast our defense is. So, I'm really excited for Justin [Madubuike]. He needs to keep working on execution of the defense and things like that, and he'll be a dominant force."
You have spoken glowingly about how well your guys have practiced and how well they've played in preseason games. What is your experience as to the next step when the games start? Does this translate? (Mark Viviano) "Sure, it does. Sure, it does. And that's our expectation, that's our standard, and that's our level. Will it be a half when there are no first downs [allowed]? I don't know. I hope so. Those are fun ones to coach in. But I think that how hard they work is what you guys see on TV when we do play, whether it's preseason or not. We went in with the mindset of, 'Hey, they're keeping score. Let's go win,' and whatever we've got to do … The fourth down stop, that was fun to watch, and I think it was fun to watch for you guys, as well."
It seems like OLB Jaylon Ferguson has elevated his game in the preseason. What has impressed you? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think he knows that this year is important for him. The thing that impresses me is how he hasn't changed, personality-wise. It's not like he's walking around with the pressure of the world on his shoulders. What he's done is, he's come to practice, and he's come to these games and these situations, and he's played with the confidence that we all have in him, and he's played with a lot better hand placement. [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell is not going to call and stop the game, but there were times he just got tackled out there. I mean, their [offensive] tackles had more tackles than our [defensive] tackles, alright? That's the preseason. But he was rushing really well. I said last week, in front of the whole defense – I said – 'You just had your two best practices as a Raven.' And he just keeps building on it, so we're expecting him to flourish again in his role."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Good morning. It's good to see everybody. I think we had a very productive week, last week, in Carolina, practicing against a different style. We had a chance to really work on some things [that] we felt like we needed to work on – mission accomplished. And once that game took place, our shift as an offense really moves towards the regular season, refining. A lot of time is spent upstairs, really looking at everything we've done, things we need to change. We're adding some new stuff; we're kind of putting some other stuff to the side and really moving forward, so it's a transitional period for us. At the same time, you're building the team, seeing who is going to be out there, and at the same time, you're trying to get better, fundamentally, at all times, because expertise is what wins in this league. So, that's where we're at. The guys are working hard, and I really like where we're at. The guys who aren't out here practicing are working hard to get back out, and everything is important right now. So, any questions?"
We know how important availability is and guys being available to play. With that in mind, at left guard, G/T Tyre Phillips has missed some time, G Ben Cleveland has missed time. What are you seeing from G Ben Powers, as he's kind of been, recently, getting the bulk of the snaps at left guard? (Luke Jones) "Ben [Powers] is doing a nice job. I thought he had a good game the other night. Ben is a tough guy. [He is] really, really dialed in. He's more experienced now, so I think he's improving and doing well. Right now, I think he's taking advantage of the opportunity bestowed upon him."
Someone made the observation that QB Lamar Jackson has thrown more spirals. Has he done anything mechanically or technically done with his throwing motion or hand placement over this past year? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he's really been working hard this offseason to improve in a lot of areas. [He's] constantly looking to get better, and he's definitely worked on some mechanical things. Is the ball spinning tighter? I think it is. So, I think you see some real empirical evidence that the work is paying off. He's working hard at it, though."
How eager are you to show your whole hand? You've been very vanilla. (Roman: "Hey, vanilla is OK. I like vanilla ice cream.") Don't you want to show everybody what you've been working on? (Roman: "Not right now. No, no.") It's got to feel good when you get closer to being able to show your hand. (Kirk McEwen) "I just like this process of just setting it up, just keep setting it up. Right now, in preseason games, we are working on fundamental things. We want to see a guy get open. We want to see somebody block somebody. If we give a guy a great angle every play to block somebody, or [for] a receiver, we're going to use two screens for him to get open, what are we really gaining? Now, in the regular season, different deal – we'll take angles, numbers and leverage everywhere we can – but the preseason is not about that. It's about, 'Alright, go get open, catch the ball, make a play. Make a throw. Make a block. Can you deal with the snap count variations? Can you focus in? Are you lining up correctly? Who are you?' That's what the preseason is about. Meanwhile, we're building all this other stuff for the regular season, where we're looking to gain as many advantages as possible. So, it's very different, very different. It's kind of unique. I've been doing this a long time. This organization has won so many games in a row in the preseason, but we do no game planning. We probably have a walk-through getting ready for the game. So, it's a real credit to the guys and the organization."
TE Josh Oliver is somebody who has had a real opportunity this summer. What stands out to you about what you've seen from him? (Garrett Downing) "I've seen Josh [Oliver] get a little bit better every day, and that's what we're seeing. He's got, really, a good skill set. He's got good length. He's stronger than you might think he is, so he can hang in there blocking pretty good. He just needs to continue to keep improving. But we definitely see some potential there, and you see things that … When you watch him, you can envision using him in certain ways, and that's really, as a coach, what you're looking for – when you see a guy, 'OK, now, what can we do with him? Oh, wow.' Things start popping into your head. He's made those kinds of favorable impressions, so he just needs to keep working at it."
When QB Lamar Jackson was out at the beginning of training camp, you said the train was going to leave the station and he was going to have to catch up. With the wide receivers now missing practice, do you have to kind of put the brakes on the train? Is ACT practice enough for those guys? How do you deal with that? (Ryan Mink) "The train never stops for anybody – it just doesn't. It never does. … I think back to that situation around Thanksgiving last year, the train keeps pushing. But no, we have to get these guys back out there. It's very important that we start building some real-time chemistry and timing. The situation is the situation. You have to adapt, adjust, and do the best you can and evolve as you go. The sooner we can get them out there [at] 100%, the better, so we can get some real quality work, timing and chemistry."
This is more of a head coach John Harbaugh decision ultimately, but in your experiences over the years, and I know every team treats the preseason differently, but how valuable and how important is it for your starting quarterback and your franchise left tackle to at least get some live game reps before the regular season? (Luke Jones) "I think we value that. Every situation is different, and you have to really try not to make decisions based on clichés. You have to really kind of dive down into each person individually and put it on the scale, so to speak. But playing live football, that's where it's at. If we can get some of that done, I think it would be a real benefit."
Can you talk about having the backfield really loaded with RB Ty'Son Williams and RB Nate McCrary and how you evaluate them? (David Andrade) "They're doing a very nice job – a very nice job. … I'll tell you what; they're really making a case for themselves. They keep coming out every day and get better. They make plays and show up. This is the ultimate meritocracy; you do a good job, you get rewarded. So, they're making a strong case, and we really like them as players."
You obviously would want QB Lamar Jackson to be available every snap through the regular season. What has QB Tyler Huntley done in terms of showing you he's apt to replace QB Lamar Jackson if necessary? (Mark Viviano) "That's a good question. We really felt good about him last year. He's a young guy. The more experience he gets, the better off he'll be, because there's nothing like real football. He has gotten tons of experience this training camp. So, we've gotten a much better feel for him. Everybody is working on things to improve at all times – that's a never-ending chase. But Tyler [Huntley] has shown that he can be very accurate, he can really run the offense well, inspire confidence among his teammates and he brings a really good athleticism, too, as well. So, we don't have to reinvent our offense when he gets in there."
A lot of times in the preseason game, teams will have maybe even four quarterbacks. Right now, you have two quarterbacks practicing. Do you have things up your sleeve if you need to go to a third or fourth option? (Jamison Hensley) "I mean, it's called emergency. It's called [an] emergency situation. But yes, you definitely have to get ready for that possibility."
Fans don't come out to training camp consistently, so they don't see the kind of days that WR James Proche II has been stacking. They focus on the preseason where he hasn't been as productive. I guess, how do you kind of parse what we see during camp versus what he's doing in preseason games? (Jonas Shaffer) "We look at everything. We factor in everything; practice, the games, how many opportunities has he had [and] what is he doing with those opportunities. As a receiver, you can't make the quarterback throw it to you, but are you open? Did you do the right things? Those are the things that we're looking at. And then, when you have your opportunities, what are you doing with them? He's done a really good job this offseason. … In the practices against Carolina, you probably saw them, he made a bunch of plays, too. So, we factor all that in."