THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: PANTHERS – WEEK 4
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What has been the key to having success in blocking two field goals? Is it similar or was it different situations? (Garrett Downing) "They were similar in that they were both edge rushes. They were different in the position that blocked the kick, and how they blocked the kick were both different. Jeromy [Miles] was a power situation. And [with] Asa [Jackson], it was a highly-skilled block. He did everything right. His get-off was probably the reason he got it. [It] was extraordinary. His pad level was low, his footwork was good, his ankles were good. He launched right at the right point. It takes all of the things coming together to get a block, because it's very difficult to block off the edge, and he did all of them at the same time."
Do field goals or punts present more challenges as far as trying to block? (Clifton Brown) "I think the numbers would say that punts are more often blocked in our league now, because field goal protection rules have changed. You can't cover the center anymore. You can't push anymore. It has become more difficult to block field goals up the middle. So, the field goals that are blocked – the ones up the middle – are typically a low kick. You're seeing the ones that are blocked on the field goals are probably more in the edge rushes than the inside guys."
Is there a renewed emphasis on blocking the field goals or has this just worked out? (Garrett Downing) "There's no renewed emphasis. It's just the fact that we actually [have] finally done it. It's been a long drought, really honestly. We've had some guys that are really close and some kicks that actually didn't match up with the block. Sometimes that happens – you have a really good rush, and the wind is blowing left to right, and they kick it just inside your hands. It happens, and we all understand that. Whatever the trend is, I hope it continues."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Coach, going back to T James Hurst, what was it that you saw in him during training camp that made you feel like this is a guy that you wanted to not only potentially move into the spot where he is now, but just keep him on the 53-man roster? (Garrett Downing) "You have to give [Ravens offensive line coach] Juan [Castillo] and [Ravens assistant offensive line coach] Todd [Washington] credit when you're looking for free agents in the draft. James had a good reputation, but he had been hurt. A lot of people were concerned about that. They had done their homework and felt like he'd be ready to go, which he was. And as you go through camp, he just continued to grow. He got a lot of reps and got to play against a lot of good players in camp on a daily basis because we're so deep at outside linebacker. [We] just watched him grow, and [he's] been doing a good job. Obviously, he's on a big, big stage right now, but he has a lot of help. He has 10 guys out there playing with him, and he just needs to go out there and do his job, and everybody can help him out by how they do theirs. We're excited to have him, and we'll see how it goes. But [it's] a big stage for him."
Gary, how much do the injuries affect your offense, especially at tight end? (Mike Preston) "Crockett [Gillmore] is going to come in for Dennis [Pitta] – that's not going to change – [and Phillip] Supernaw is coming up, so we still have the availability to do all those things. But you are right. It does make you stop in some of your preparation. 'What happens in the game if this guy goes down? Now what do I go to? What personnel [groups] do I want to be in?' Those are some things that you have to look at a little bit differently when you have these types of things happen. But at the same time, we're a 'next man up' mentality in everything we do. These guys have to step in and do a good job."
How are you able to have success on the ground no matter whose carrying the football? What is it with your system that allows that with these backs? (Garrett Downing) "It starts up front. We're getting confidence up front, and our guys have played real well. They haven't had anyone miss any time other than what we're fixing to go through right now with Eugene [Monroe] being out. We've had some continuity up front, which has just helped us run the ball, period. But all those backs have done a good job. Bernard [Pierce] misses last week, and you get a young kid [to] step in on the road and do what Lorenzo [Taliaferro] did. That's exciting, but that's what we're going to be offensively all year. Everybody is going to contribute. All our receivers are playing [and] all our backs are playing. Now we have a couple of guys that [have] to step up because of injuries. How we adjust to those things [and] how our depth works out [will] probably have a lot to do with our success."
Gary, it looks like RB Bernard Pierce is getting better. How do you view the running back situation? Do you view it as a committee-type situation and go with the hot hand? Is Bernard [Pierce] still the starter? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We're watching him work this week. He worked well today. We have another day this week, but we just keep going. They're all going to play, so that's probably an easy way for me to answer that right now. But they're all going to contribute [and] they're all going to play. Justin [Forsett] and Lorenzo [Taliaferro] do play some special teams, too, so we're going to keep a fresh guy on the field. [That] is what we're going to do. If we feel like one guy has the hot hand, so to speak, then obviously he's going to go back out, but I want them all to prepare as if they're starting."
As a former head coach, does that make a team tougher to prepare for when you're not sure who's going to get the ball when you have three guys of different size? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, and they're all a little different – you're right. Lorenzo [Taliaferro] and Bernard [Pierce] are a little bit the same as far as size and how they do things. Lorenzo and Justin [Forsett] are three-down players that play in pass protection situations, nickel situations and those types of things. That's where Bernard needs to keep coming as a player, in my opinion, but he's working at it and doing that. We're going to do what we do, but hopefully we're doing what each back does best when they're in there."
With WR Steve Smith Sr. playing so well, will you see more teams roll coverages towards him, which may free up WR Torrey Smith a little bit? (Mike Preston) "We saw some of that last week. [We] saw [Browns cornerback Joe] Haden chase Steve around a little bit; Haden is a great player. That could happen. We'll have to see what happens, but I'll tell you this: Torrey had a great week last week. We had five opportunities for him to have big plays in the game. Joe [Flacco] gets hit one time and [then we] get a [pass interference] the next time. I felt bad for him coming out of the game because, really, he had a chance to make some big plays. We missed him in the end zone. But he's working extremely well. Like I said, it's going to take all of us – keep spreading around. Joe [has to get] the ball to the right guy, and that guy has to make a play."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, are you satisfied with the level of depth you have at D-line now that you've taken quite a few hits there? (Joe Platania) "I'm never happy. I'd like to have two-deep ball all the way across the board, but I like the quality of the guys we have. Sure, you'd like to have a little bit more depth, like you would at any position, but I do like the quality of the guys that we have."
Dean, S Matt Elam and several players made references to miscommunication. Is that something that's easily fixable, and what do you think some issues were on Sunday? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, 'miscommunication' would not be one of the words I would have used. I would have said, 'Very poor technique in the backend,' is what I would have said. There are a couple of them [where] there wasn't any communication. Just line up and play and play your position. There wasn't anything … We were beat on a three-deep coverage that, I don't know what communication there is there other than, 'Get your [butt] deep.' So, I would not go that route, I guess."
**Matt [Elam] was pretty upset, and he thought his play was not up to snuff. Do you think there's some things that are correctable? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Sure, it's all correctable. There wasn't anything [Matt Elam] did that he can't correct. There wasn't anything like … Sometimes a guy goes up and makes a big catch over the top of you, or something like that. A.J. Green, or anybody, Calvin Johnson, any of them make a big catch over a guy; they make a big catch over a guy. So, that's something that you say, 'Hey, the guy got you.' But everything that happened to us on Sunday big play-wise is easily corrected, and it has to be corrected."
**What challenges does QB Cam Newton present for defenses? *(Adam Vorce) *"First of all, [Cam Newton] has a cannon for an arm. And second of all, he's a very athletic quarterback who – once he gets out of the pocket – he's not only a threat to throw the ball, he's just as equal a threat to run the ball. This is one of the best athletes in the NFL, and he's a big guy. Like I said, he has gotten – to me – over the last couple years more accurate than when he was a rookie, and he has a big arm. You have to defend the whole field. There [are] some quarterbacks that can't throw an out route from the opposite sideline; he's not one of those. He can throw it on a rope. So, you have to defend the whole field, and you have to do a great job of keeping him and containing him in the pocket and making him throw from the pocket. Once he gets out, it'd be a headache."
How do you game-plan for that, not just plays for [QB Cam Newton's] arm, but his legs as well? (Adam Vorce) "Do you think I'm going to tell you the game plan? Seriously? (laughter) Next question."
CB Jimmy Smith practiced today. How much is he absolutely pivotal against an athlete the size of WR Kelvin Benjamin? (Aaron Wilson) "[Jimmy Smith is] not only pivotal because of [Kelvin Benjamin], he's pivotal, because he's a heck of a corner. It's not like we have tremendous depth back there either, and we need everybody that we can get, whether it's against [the Panthers] or against anybody coming up. Jimmy [is] one of our best players on defense, and it's important for us to have him on the field."
CB Lardarius [Webb] said he didn't feel like he has any health issue now, but getting used to game speed again is a big obstacle, and he said you guys didn't see what you wanted in four snaps, so that's why he was pulled. But do you guys feel like that's something that can come back? (Aaron Wilson) "The only way it's going to come back is to keep getting [Lardarius Webb] reps out here and getting it back. It's not going to get it back by sitting him on the sidelines or sitting him on the sideline in practice and [him] not practicing. So, we have to keep getting him back. The guy missed all of OTAs. The guy missed all of training camp. All that kind of stuff is where game speed [is developed], especially when we scrimmage and stuff like that. It's different in practice. So, he has to keep coming back, and it's not his fault. It's not anybody's fault. We felt like, 'OK, let's see how he does.' [We] put him in the slot where we thought it's going to be easier on him than outside, and we found out really quick. And I had a great talk with him on Tuesday, Monday actually, and he understands. When I saw it in the press box, I said, 'He's not there yet.' And game speed is faster than practice speed. There's no way to simulate it. But he has to keep practicing, and he has to feel very confident that he can do it. That's half the battle playing the backend; you better feel confident that you can do it."
When [CB Lardarius Webb] is back at full strength, how much does that change things for the secondary? (Garrett Downing) "I'd have to wait [to comment] until he gets back to, really, [full strength]. It depends on how everybody else is coming along at that time. 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb] has always been a really good inside player. I think Asa [Jackson], though, is a good inside player. We would be fortunate if we had both those guys, because each one of them could play, and the other guy would go outside. We have to make that determination once he's back."
It seems like opposing offenses are getting rid of the ball really quickly against you guys. When you watch film of teams you've faced against other teams, are they getting rid of it faster against you than they do with other teams? (Ryan Mink) "I don't really know it's that's really the case. Everybody is just getting rid of the ball out quickly, but a little bit of the thing right now is with us, too, is it's getting out quick because we're playing a lot of zone pressure and not playing as much man pressure as we've played in the past. And sometimes when you play man pressure and a guy isn't open right away and the quarterback has to hold the ball one more count, it may appear sometimes like the quarterback is getting it out quicker. He probably is because the guy's open a little quicker in zone coverage when we pressure. We found that to be true in the Cleveland game. [Browns quarterback Brian] Hoyer got it out quick, but I wouldn't say it was lightning-quick. It wasn't that. It's just that we didn't have real tight coverage on some of the stuff because we were trying to play zone pressure and protect some guys in some ways. When you man pressure and a guy is on the cover and the quarterback has to go somewhere else with the ball, it takes a little bit of count. We have to do a better job; I have to do a better job. We're mixing it up. The problem is a little bit on Sunday last week, I take the blame for some of the runs, because we actually were in man coverage on some of the runs that they ran on us, which now puts some of the 'backers in a bind in the running game. But I felt like I had to take a chance on a couple of those, and I give Cleveland credit. They schemed it out and moved the tight end and gave us some formations that were hard on the running game when you're in man coverage. That's hard on the linebackers, and I put them in a tough position. And basically in the fourth quarter, I said, 'The heck with it. I'm not doing that crap anymore. We're going to play base defense the rest of the game,' and you saw how it turned out. (laughter) I was dumb, dumb, dumb. Then I got smarter." *(laughter)
FB Kyle Juszczyk
On losing TE Dennis Pitta for the season: "What happened to Dennis [Pitta] is really unfortunate. And like I've said before, he's a friend first, and a teammate second. But it hurts on both ends, and we wish him a speedy recovery. But from a business aspect, [it is about the] next guy up. [The next] guy has to take advantage of the opportunity right in front of him, and we have to find a way to replace [Pitta's] production."
On how he will be involved playing the tight end position: "I don't think my role will change too much. I think I'll be doing a lot of the same stuff I've been doing, but maybe more of it."
On whether he feels good about the running game so far: "Absolutely. I think we're really confident in our running game, and I definitely think that starts with our offensive line. They have done a great job in this system, and they really lead the way. And I think you can see that [because] we had three different backs all have big days. Not to say that wasn't [the running backs'] own efforts, but I think all three of our guys can have a big day any day, and I feel like that is the case going forward."
On imitating LeBron James during his touchdown celebration: "Bernard [Pierce] was giving me trouble about it after the game. I think I had 60 text messages and 100 emails or something. It was almost as bad as when I got drafted."
On whether he can play basketball: "Yes, I played basketball in high school. Point guard."
On whether he can still dunk: "Yes – 2011 Harvard Football Dunk Contest Champion. Runner-up in 2010. But who's counting?" (laughter)
On whether he has a trophy for winning the dunk contest: "No I don't. There's a video on YouTube."
On what he did to win the dunk contest: "It was the year that Blake Griffin jumped over a car, so I pushed out a little – or I had my teammate push out a Little Tikes car – and then I threw it off the glass and caught it and dunked it." (laughter)
On getting credit for his athleticism: "I feel like I get good credit for my athleticism. I like to think so. I like to think that I have a little more athleticism than your typical fullback."
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
On what he likes about Gary Kubiak's zone offense:"It's a one-cut system. I just have to stretch and plant my foot and get downhill, which is one thing I like to do."
On playing in an offense that utilizes three running backs:"[Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak] doesn't really tell us who's going to go in during the week. In the game, whoever they call and put in, we're all [ready] to step out there and make sure we get the job done."
On if he still anticipates a role in the offense even with RB Bernard Pierce's return:"I don't know. We've all been working all week, and I'm called when I'm called. I'm going to make the most of it."
On what the Cleveland game has done for his confidence during practice:"I still go out there just as I did since I got here. [I] just make sure I do my job and compete. Even though it's during the season and not so much of camp now, we're still competing not just for each other's job, but to make each other better."
G Marshal Yanda
On the Ravens' running backs giving teams a lot of different looks:"That's the coaches' deal. Obviously, whoever is in there is going to be working hard, and we'll see what happens."
On if the Ravens' running backs complement each other well:"They're all doing a good job. They're all working hard, and that's why they're here, and I'm excited to see how they're going to do."
On how much rookie T James Hurst coming in will affect the offensive line:"Injuries are part of football – it's not if, but when it happens. Hurst is going to step in there and he's going to do a good job at it. It's a great opportunity for him, and we're going to roll. We're just going to take it one play at a time and roll."
On if it helps that the offensive line has been playing so well across the board:"Whatever happens, last week, the week before … You worry about the next day, and obviously that's today and that's tomorrow. We're going to go out there and try to put our best foot forward on Sunday, and that's with [James] Hurst." On the performance of T Rick Wagner this season:"He's doing a good job – that's for sure. I feel like everybody is doing a good job. I'm not a big analyzer, but Rick is definitely getting the job done, and we're all playing hard. That's what you want to see."