THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: BENGALS – WEEK 8
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
**Coach Harbaugh said that in his opinion, Baltimore and Cincinnati are the two best special teams units in the league. Do you agree with that? *(Joe Platania) *"I certainly agree with his assessment of Cincinnati. The jury is still out on us. We have a long ways to go, yet. But they're an outstanding group. They're talented athletically. They have players in each style of positions. They have big guys that can play. They have smaller, fast guys, and they have some in-betweeners. And when you put the two returners they have, combine them with that, it's a very effective group. Numbers speak to that."
The new long snapper [LS Kevin McDermott], how well has he jumped in there with you guys? You don't really know about a guy like LS Morgan Cox, and that's how you want it, right? You want him to stay as anonymous as possible; he was really good at that. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, Morgan [Cox] was anonymous in a lot of places other than our meeting room. We value him highly in his skill and the kind of teammate he is, what he brought to the table, and his knowledge of special teams. He helped us in so many ways, and losing him was a blow to us all. We'll all miss his play, and we'll all miss the man not being out there on the field with us. And having said that, we all understand that somebody else has to pick up his rifle and go fight. And we were fortunate to find Kevin McDermott. We worked out a couple guys, and Patrick Scales is the other young man we worked out who did an outstanding job. We've had Patrick before, and I was commenting to our personnel guys after the workout, 'This is amazing. We have two guys of this caliber to choose from at this time of the year.' Kevin is someone we were familiar with. We had him here during the joint practices with the 49ers. That was very helpful. He had been here. We had seen him in person in a live situation, and I was familiar with him when he came out of the draft. So, it was based on what we saw in those practices, and what we saw on his film in San Francisco. He was the choice we made. We have been practicing for a couple days with him. Result of the practice is we still have a ways to go, real honestly. When you're replacing a guy who has had so many reps with your units, it still feels different. We're confident. We're confident in him. We're confident that our group will adjust, but it's still a work in progress. So, we're going to come out here tomorrow and practice again."
As a special teams coach, what goes through your mind when you see the kind of trick play that St. Louis pulled out on Sunday, and how do you tell guys to plan against that happening? (Jon Meoli) "It was very well executed. I give them a lot of credit. It's a play that we had seen, I want to say, four or five years ago. Chicago ran nearly an identical play, and that was also successful, if you recall the play. But unfortunately there was a foul – a ghost foul, in my opinion. *(laughter) *But we won't get into that. Chicago executed it at almost the same point part of the field. It was the same side of the field. And they had the same kind of return Devin Hester ran over there, and everybody goes over where Devin Hester is. So, it's something that has been around the league a few times, and you'd seen it, and you'd prepare for it, but until you see it in person you have to figure out, 'Well, how are we going to stop that play?' Well, there are a couple of clues, which I'll keep to myself. But I think it really speaks to the caliber of the players and the coaches in this league. And the team that had it against them, they were doing everything right. They were chasing a very talented returner, and most everybody would be. My hat is off to St. Louis. It was a great play."
Jerry, you've often preached about security in the return game, and WR Jacoby Jones fumbled on Sunday. With him being a veteran guy, is your message any different to him than say someone who, maybe a first year in the role, a rookie? (Luke Jones) "That's a very good question about the message. The message remains consistent, and that is that, 'The ball is the most important thing in the game.' We have to retain the ball. They're giving it to us. We have to keep the ball. And we have a phrase in our meeting room, 'Ball security is everybody's responsibility,' those guys that are blocking for the returner, and of course, the returner making good decisions and returning the ball. Having said that, the message is the same, and the recipient of the message understands the message. We just have to do a better job of securing the ball. That's clear."
Do you still feel comfortable with [WR Jacoby Jones] in that role, because he does have a track record? (Luke Jones) "Jacoby [Jones has] a track record that is really important to us. He has been an impact player for us for as long as he has been here. His picture is on the wall on a lot of different places. So, all the things that he brings to the table with his explosive play-making ability and his spirit and his timing – and he understands returns so well – he's an experienced guy. The reason we have him back there is because we really feel confident he's going to make a play for us if we block it well. And our players feel the same way. Based on that, we look forward to the opportunity to blocking for him again."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
With TE Crockett Gillmore, what have you seen in kind of his development since he has gotten here? (Jamison Hensley) "I think when we drafted [Crockett Gillmore], we felt like we were drafting a kid that really loved to play. And he's very competitive; you saw that throughout the course of training camp. We thought he could be a physical player for us, which he has done. But he's also … I think he's much improved in the pass game. So, he has done a good job catching the ball here the past couple weeks, and I think his role continues to expand for us. But we've been very pleased. He plays very hard and is a very accountable young man."
**Have you been surprised at how RB Justin Forsett [is] able to carry as much as he has? It's a different load than he has had throughout his career, and now he's the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL. *(Pete Gilbert) *"[Justin Forsett] actually wants it more. I can tell you that. But he has played really well for us. What an opportunity in his career. He has bounced around to a few teams, and [this is] probably his biggest opportunity as a player, and he's really taking advantage of it. So, he's a hard worker. And I think I tell you guys all the time, he's a three-down player, which is very important in the National Football League. So, he's handling his business as a pass protector, too. He has a lot to do with the fact that Joe [Flacco has] been upright pretty good this year so far. [We are] very pleased with him and the way he's playing. And I think Bernard [Pierce] and Lorenzo [Taliaferro] continue to help him out and keep him fresh."
**How important was [RB Justin Forsett's] familiarity with your offense to leap to success? *(Pete Gilbert) *"I think it sure helped. It helped us with Bernard [Pierce]. It helped us with Lorenzo [Taliaferro], too, and obviously Thomas [Hammock], our coach that we brought in here – this system was new for him. So, I think having a guy like Justin who was well versed in what we do and the language and those types of things was … A lot of people benefitted from it, not just Justin. So, I think it helped a lot."
You practice against this defense all the time. What makes it so hard in the red zone to score down there? (Ryan Mink)"They get to the quarterback – number one. You're talking about our guys, right?" (Reporter: "Yes") "They're just excellent getting there. And Dean [Pees] can rush three and still get there. That's how good they do it. But [they are] just very aggressive. And we have a lot of red zone periods during the week. And I know it's really good from our perspective to have to go against the best, because they've been extremely good this year. But just people, people up front – it starts with the people upfront. And our guys up front defensively are as good as I've ever played against."
Speaking of people up front, Gary, the two kids on the left side [T James Hurst and G John Urschel], the adulation just keeps coming. Can you put into words what they've meant? (Keith Mills) "I'll tell you, you really can't unless you've done this for a long time. This will be [John] Urschel's, what, four games? Or Urschel is two or three games, and James [Hurst is] almost four, I think. But to think to play a couple games at your whole left side being rookies – and not only rookies, but a free agent at left tackle – that doesn't happen much in this league. You have to give Juan [Castillo] and Todd [Washington] a lot of credit for getting them ready to play and then give the young men credit for staying in their books and knowing what was going on. This league is about taking advantage of an opportunity, and boy have those two guys done that."
With that said, with T Eugene Monroe and 'K.O.' [G/T Kelechi Osemele] coming back and practicing yesterday, just how big would it be for you to get them back for the game if you're able to do that? (Ryan Mink) "It's very important to get them back. I think we still work through tomorrow. They've had a good week. They took a full practice today, but we'll continue to get James [Hurst] and John [Urschel] ready to play. And I think offensively right now, you guys kind of see, it's almost like everybody's getting a chance to contribute. So, I think we stay the course right there, and hopefully Eugene and 'K.O.' are ready for a full day's work. But we'll see. We'll see how we finish up tomorrow."
**With TE Owen Daniels out these few days, what are your expectations for Sunday? And given the way he knows about your system are you… *(Jon Meoli) *"Owen is fine. John [Harbaugh] has a plan for these veteran guys. I know he has had a plan for 'O.D.' [Owen Daniels] and how he keeps him fresh and keeps him ready to go. But as far as what we're doing, game plan, those type of things, 'O.D.' will be fine."
Gary, do you get a sense from your years of experience, let's use G John Urschel and T James Hurst as an example, their intellectual understanding of the game – could you see that early on when you got around those guys that they wouldn't be overwhelmed? When they got out there, were you satisfied that would happen? (Keith Mills) "One thing I always tell young players – I tell [Keith] Wenning this and Tyrod [Taylor] all the time – nobody knows if you're taking care of your business until you get thrown in a situation as a young player or as a backup. So, what we found out really quick was these two guys are taking care of their business. We knew they were practicing well. We knew they were in the meeting every day. But really how much was it catching on? How would they react if they got thrown in a tough situation? And they reacted like pros. So, like I said, you have to give them a lot of credit, and it gives us a lot of confidence. To play the way they played and we played as a group, I think the guys around them really helped them, too. That brightens up your future, I know that, when you have young kids playing like that."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, what do you think are the elements of a good red zone defense? What do you think it takes to be a quality red zone defense? (Aaron Wilson) "First of all, just good communication – it starts with that. Whatever the call is down there, you can't have a mental mistake. When you have a mental mistake and break down in the red zone, it's usually a touchdown. Second of all, I think you have to be physical on defense, because you can't allow them to run the ball in. That's always the No. 1 priority. And three, I think you just have to have a mindset that you're not in a panic mode. It's just like when you have a sudden change. After a turnover or something, you can take two mindsets: You can either run in there or go in all upset because the ball was turned over or they had a big play or something happened, or you can go in there with the mindset that, 'Hey, we have to really hunker down and get it done.' So, I think those three things in the red area are really the keys."
What do you like about the group you have this year? It seems like they're becoming more stout. (Aaron Wilson) "I think they've played well down there. We have to continue to do that, and I think they have those three elements [mentioned above in the first quote], but you have to carry them every week. Every week is a new week, and so just because you did it in the first seven weeks doesn't mean you're going to do it in the next seven weeks. So, you can't sit back and say, 'OK, well we have a good red zone team.' Right now we're playing well in the red zone, but we have to continue to do that."
Just overall, we've talked to you before about expectations to be a Top 5 defense, and now you lead the league in fewest points allowed. Do you feel like you're kind of playing at the level that you expected going into the year? (Garrett Downing) "I really feel like we're starting to get there. I think we would be there in that Top 5 group if we hadn't given up some big plays and yardage and some games that we just absolutely didn't need to give up the yardage in – not that you ever want to give up any. But we just gave up some plays early on that hurt you statistically, but at this point, it's not about that. It's about playing as well as we can play. And I do think that we're playing at that caliber, and now, like I said, just because we have in the last couple weeks doesn't … We just have to continue to do it. That's the key to any good defense [or] good offense is being consistent – not up and down. We're really great one week and then average the next week. We have to continue to build on what we've done the last few weeks and see if we can continue to do that."
What did it mean to have S Will Hill out there and the way he was able to play so much in the game when he wasn't able to play in the preseason? (Pete Gilbert) "I thought it was … And it's a credit to him and [secondary/assistant head coach [Steve] Spagnuolo and [assistant defensive backs] coach [Chris] Hewitt getting him ready, but especially to Will to be able to sit in the meetings and … It's hard enough if you're a guy that's going to dress on Sunday, but [you're] probably not going to play a lot. Those guys even have a hard time really sitting in a meeting going, 'Yeah, I know that's what I'm supposed to do, but I'm never going to get in.' But for a guy that knows he's not even going to be there on Sunday, to stay up with us throughout this whole six weeks that he was out is really a credit to him. He knew a lot of what was going on when he got the opportunity. He did a good job."
Dean, do you see the secondary starting to kind of gel? And you guys are kind of having success in an unusual way with some safeties. What does that allow you? What does that open up for the defense? (Ryan Mink) "I think it allows you to … When you play a lot of guys and a lot of guys are involved, everybody kind of stays tuned in to the game. You know you have a role in the game, and it's on defense: 'It's not just special teams, and I might get in on defense. I'm going to actually get in the game.' I just think it makes you understand the whole game plan a lot better. It's like last week when I talked about Atlanta's running backs: All of the sudden you have four of them that know they're going to go in and play running back. They're not just going to play special teams. When you know that they have to know the entire offense, they're much more in tune to what's going on. I think that's the same way in the secondary; I think it's at any position. If you know, 'I have a role and I have to go in there,' that also helps you when, let's say, your role changes. Like [if] somebody gets hurt, 'Well, I already know what's going on in the game plan.' It's not like, 'Oh, crap. I should've paid more attention during the week.' I just think it just makes the whole unit feel a little more cohesive, too, when everybody really has a lot of roles on the defense."
Dean, the number of sacks you guys have [recorded over the last few weeks], particularly in third-down situations, how demoralizing is that to the opponent? (Jerry Coleman) "Ask them." (laughter)
What does that mean to you guys then? (Jerry Coleman) "[It's not] demoralizing to me! (laughter) So, I can't speak for the [opposing] offense, [but] I can't imagine they like it too well. But it's just good to see. I'm not all of the sudden going to change my story from earlier in the year when we weren't getting sacks, but we were getting pressures. If we can get them to hold the ball just a little bit longer, then I told you those sacks would be there. We had a lot of pressures early on, like even in the Colts game. [We had] a lot of hits on the quarterback, [but] they just didn't all turn into sacks. And now we kind of got the guy to hold the ball just a little bit longer or whatever, and maybe some patterns were a little different. We got there a little quicker, but I'm just glad to see any kind of pressure with the ball coming out early. So, it makes you feel good, and the other thing [is] it's exciting for those guys. I think they feel kind of energized a little bit when you start seeing some things come to fruition on third down. And then they kind of get a little jealous of each other getting the sacks, and that's a good thing. That's a real good thing."
Has the added depth at corner and safety allowed you to open up the playbook at all [with things] you might not have been able to do earlier in the year? (Jon Meoli) "Not necessarily. It's just that you might try to get guys in a position that maybe they can do something a little better. If you have a guy that can blitz a little better [or] a guy that can play man a little better, you might be able to do some things like that. But it really hasn't changed the scheme. All you do is you teach the scheme, and then you try to put the guys into the scheme the way they fit best."
Are you leery of a team that's coming off a game where they – the Bengals – got shut out on the road, [and] now they're back home against a division rival? (Pete Gilbert)"Yes, but you know what? It's really not that with Cincinnati. Maybe if it was another team. But look, we play Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh [often]. Who cares what happened the last game? Really, or the previous six games? It's Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh – it's a division game. And you know what? It's always going to be like … It's always going to be a battle. It's always going to be a dogfight. So really, what happened to them at the Colts is really, to us, just absolutely insignificant."