Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, as an outsider, LB Zachary Orr seemed like a surprising player to make the 53-man roster. What did he do on special teams that really jumped out to you? (Luke Jones) "We have a long history in this organization, even before I got here, of developing young linebackers through special teams and then [seeing them] become starters and, in some cases, stars. I think back to guys like Bart Scott. Jameel McClain was an outstanding rookie special teams player for us [who] blocked a couple punts. Albert McClellan, Dannell Ellerbe – the list goes on and on. There are certain traits you need to have in order to develop: First of all, you have to be a good athlete to play special teams. It's a space game. Secondly, you have to be tough. All those guys, as you know because you watched them play, have those tendencies – they're tough guys. And thirdly, they have to have football instincts – the idea of fitting into a play and understanding spacial relationships. Because again, special teams … That's what it is. You're out in the middle of space and you're fitting and you're reading. Zach Orr possesses those characteristics. He's a guy that can run; he's athletic; he has good football instincts. He is a tough young man."
What are your thoughts on the Bengals and some of the athletes they have? (Aaron Wilson) "We're playing an outstanding special teams unit. Over the course of Darrin Simmons' time in Cincinnati, they've not only become a very good return unit, but they've also been very stout in their coverage teams. They do a good job. They have really good players. They're very well coached and they run schemes that are sound. Anytime you play a team that combines those three characteristics, you have a very stiff challenge. We're going to be tested this weekend. We have to play our best to be successful."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Gary, obviously you're very familiar with TE Owen Daniels, and now it's your first year working with TE Dennis Pitta. Do the two have complementary styles or have qualities that one might have that the other doesn't? (Joe Platania)"They are a lot alike in how they play. They have great receiving skills. They both work their tail off at the line of scrimmage, which is the tough part of the job for them in this league, especially when you're playing against big D-ends. I've been very impressed with Dennis. [He's] obviously a heck of a football player and great person. He has it all under control and knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. [I've been] very impressed with him, and [I'm] looking forward to getting started with him this week."
Gary, are you happy with where the offense is right now three days before the first game? (Matt Perison) "Well, it's time to go find out. I wouldn't say we've held anything back. They've handled things really well, so we continue to progress forward as far as the load in what we give them. Obviously, you're trying to put them all in position to do what they do best, but we're starting against a great group – a team that was a Top 5 defensive team last year. We have a big, big challenge this weekend, but that's part of this league. We've been working hard. I'm very excited about the way they've been working, and I know they're excited to get playing."
As a play-caller, do you hold anything back from them? (Garrett Downing) "You're trying to do what your guys do best. Do you hold things back in the preseason? I don't think you hold things back. I just think you're trying to teach. Obviously, your progression is a little bit different. [When] you're working with a lot of young players, you don't want to coach them out of doing the right thing. You want to let them go out there and be free and play. From that standpoint, everybody in the National Football League is somewhat basic in the preseason. But the things that win in this league are doing your basics really well, so hopefully we can improve upon that."
Gary, why do you think RB Bernard Pierce is a good fit for this offense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Bernard has the size. With what we try to do – running the zone, repetitions – you like to have that type of guy, but Justin [Forsett] is a great complement to him, too. I know this is a big opportunity for Bernard in his career. I haven't been with him – this is my first time with him – but I know he's worked hard. He's ready to go; he's practiced well this week. I know it's a big, big stage for him at this point in his career, and it's huge for our team that he plays well."
With FB Kyle Juszczyk's versatility, did you sense that early on or is that something that you just noticed by working with him during the offseason workouts?* (Jamison Hensley)* "When I came here, they talked about … I knew 'Juice' because I studied him coming out [of college], so I knew him as a player a little bit. But John [Harbaugh] and the guys talked to me about how excited they were about his future [and] some of the things he had done. And then we started working in OTAs [Organized Team Activities], and the first obvious thing you could see is there's a lot of athletic ability to go with sitting there blocking guys, too. He has great hands. [He's] a very smart player, which allows you as a coach to do a lot of things with him. I've been very pleased with Juice's progress, and it's important for our team that he plays well and plays like a four-, five-year guy and not a first-year starter. He's been working at it, and I know we have a lot of confidence in him."
Gary, do you anticipate any nerves before Sunday's game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Oh, yeah. If you're not nervous, something's wrong. This will be Year 31 for me, and I'm just excited. I feel excited to be a part of this organization, and John [Harbaugh] has just been awesome. It's been a great fresh start for me. You bet. It's Opening Day in the NFL. It doesn't matter what year it is; I'll be a little nervous but excited to go."
With TE Owen Daniels out, how do you see TE Crockett Gillmore fitting in with the first team? (Jon Meoli) "He's come a long way. He's gotten a ton of reps because John [Harbaugh] has rested 'O.D.' [Owen Daniels] and Dennis [Pitta] at certain times in camp. That's a positive for him. He's a big, physical player – he has to be for this team. You have to play well at the line of scrimmage. But yet, he's made some plays down the field, too. [It's a] big stage for a young player, but the good news is he's got about 200 reps under his belt in the preseason. He's played a lot of football. This is for real, so it'll be different for him, but he has as much as experience as he can have going into it."
Obviously you prepare each week for each team, but is there an unknown for the first game? (Peter Schmuck) "It's just natural. Even though you know each other and you're [in the] same division, coaching staffs change all the time. Opening Day, you're always going to get something that maybe you haven't worked on or something you haven't seen, [and] that goes across the board. You're always going to play more plays, so there are a lot more unknowns on Opening Day. The most important thing is that we line up and know what the heck we're doing and do it fast. We know we're going to be in a great game, and [we] have to find a way to make plays."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, are you concerned about only having five defensive linemen on the 53-man roster, and also do you have a formula in the back of the mind where you would like to get some of those older guys a certain amount of playing time? (Mike Preston) "Yes, it's always a concern with five guys. Although, we have a guy in there, Pernell [McPhee], that can swing, too, and give us a little time, maybe. As a defensive lineman, he has before, but I'd rather not go that route if I don't have to. But that would be an emergency situation. But I think we're still in the process of always trying to see if there is another guy, maybe, out there, too. But it's certainly a concern. Hopefully the package that we have will dictate [playing time for veterans] and take care of themselves, because we have several different packages [where] we can get a lot of different guys playing. A lot of it depends on the offense that we're playing and the kind of style they are and what kind of personnel they're in, whether we want to match it or not match personnel. But we have to do a good job, I think, of regulating snaps. But at the same time, I think we're in pretty good shape physically, and I think guys can play quite well."
Dean, how tough is it to get a read on WR A.J. Green in terms of things he does to get down the field so quickly? (Aaron Wilson) "The last time it wasn't so much down the field quickly. He just ran straight down the field and ran right by us. It wasn't anything really mysterious about that, the one that he got behind us on. He's a great talent. They do a great job of moving him all around so that you can't ever really say he's going to line up as he acts. He can be the 'Z,' he can be the slot, he can be all over. He can motion; he cannot motion. So, they do a great job, just like most offensive coordinators do when they have a player of his type. The thing you have to think about Cincinnati though is [that] it's not all A.J. Green. They have a lot of talent on offense. [Jermaine] Gresham is a good tight end. [Tyler] Eifert is a good tight end. The running back [Giovani Bernard] is a tough matchup in any down. He can take the ball anywhere. Everybody on defense is at the point of attack when he [has] the ball. We've seen circle defenses before. He tried to do it on the last play last year in the overtime out here. No. 12 [Mohamed Sanu] is a heck of a receiver. They have a lot of talent besides Green. He is extremely talented, probably one of the best in the league, but at the same time, we have to focus on a lot of people in this offense. And No. 14 [Andy Dalton,] especially, because the bottom line is he's the one that's going to get him the ball."
As a coordinator, in the preseason you run more of your base [plays] to get it down, but when you get to the regular season, do you look forward to being able to open everything up and have the insider playbook at your disposal? (Garrett Downing) "You do, really, whatever the offense dictates to you. You look at everything that they do. In preseason, a lot of times guys have a tendency … You want to show quite a bit, especially in that third game, because you want to see where it is. It's hard if you don't ever do it against live bullets. It's hard to tell if it's really going to work. Early on you want to play a lot of base [defense] in the first couple of preseason games and then in the fourth game, because you want to see how guys are playing fundamentally. But you do a little more in that third game. I think we all do. To tell you everybody shows everything – they don't show everything. Nobody shows everything. So, you have to figure it out on the fly."
**How has CB Lardarius Webb looked in practice and how much does it help him being a veteran, a guy who has been around here for a while, to overcome not having really any of training camp? *(Luke Jones) *"Well, that certainly is an advantage, the fact that he is a veteran. If [he] was a rookie with no training camp, you'd really be concerned. But being a veteran … I've had other vets, [like] Willie McGinest [and] other guys, that didn't go through much training camp and lined up and played in the first game. But at the same time, to tell you that we wouldn't have rather had him out there and had more time with him, that wouldn't be the truth either. So, well see how it goes. We'll see if everything fits on Sunday and go from there."
Dean, is there a great unknown the first game versus other games throughout the season, not completely knowing what you have or what they have? (Peter Schmuck) "It is. You can study the personnel, because the personnel doesn't really change. You can even watch a guy that maybe played on another team and now comes over. So, you know what the guy can do, whether he's good getting off the line as a receiver, or if he's not good getting off the line. That doesn't change. What changes is you don't really know the scheme. Hue [Jackson] is now a new coordinator, so it's different than when [Jay] Gruden was there. But they've had a lot of success, so you have to measure how much they are going to change. If you change a lot and you had a lot of success, [and then] you don't have a lot of success, everybody is going to say, 'Why did you change?' But at the same time, he's a new coordinator. He's going to do the things he wants to do. So yes, it's always a little bit unknown by everybody I think in the first game."
Dean, before CB Asa [Jackson] got injured, what really stood out to you about him and the amount of progress that he made over the offseason? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, he has always been really … I always thought he had a lot of athletic talent. He's very quick and has done a good job that way. What I think is really … I really felt good about him and still feel good about him [and] the amount of progress he has made in knowing the system and being able to play the system and know the calls. It doesn't really matter how quick you are if you're not really sure of what you're doing. The difference is, I think, he's doing a lot more quickness in this camp, because I think he understands everything that he's doing so much more and stood out even more. It's easy if you go out there and play one or two coverages all the time – everybody can start to look better – but when you do multiple stuff, multiple pressures, checks, all those kinds of stuff, it takes a while to learn it. So, I really give him a lot of credit. He has come a long way and I think that's why he's playing well."
Dean, are you optimistic about the defense's ability to create more turnovers this year and if so, why? (Clifton Brown) "I think we're faster than we've been. I think anytime you have a faster defense, you have a chance of creating more turnovers. You're going to get to the ball a little quicker, you're going to get there a little more physical, maybe. I think that's one thing Seattle was really good at last year. They created a lot of turnovers and they were fast. I can remember a few years back to New Orleans Saints when they went to the Super Bowl that one year, they were really not statistically a great defense. They were probably ranked in the 20s, but they had a lot of turnovers, because they were very fast. They weren't very big, but they were very fast. And I think anytime you have a fast football team, you have a chance to create more turnovers."
Dean, have you sensed this notion of a point of emphasis on defensive holding, illegal contact? From your point of view has that changed anything, have you noticed it this preseason? (Bo Smolka) "All that has changed, really, is [that] you have to be more cognizant of the fact that 5 yards is 5 yards. They used to give you a 'dirty 5' before. It could be 6, and now it's 5 and that's the thing. But holding should have always been called. If you're grabbing a guy, you're holding the guy. That has been illegal and maybe they got away with it a little more; but that was the rule. So, that really hasn't changed. The contact thing is really the same rule. It's just that they're emphasizing 5 yards. So, we have to do a good job of making sure we live within those boundaries, because before you could get away with it at 6 or 7 a little bit sometimes, and now you can't. The rule really hasn't changed. We have to do a great job of coaching it better and making sure we emphasize it."