Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement:"Everybody has got to be fired up now. We're all excited for it – trust me. All the hard work that the guys have put in, all the preparation for this opening week … It doesn't matter how old you are – coaches, players – it's always that first game excitement. I'm sure everybody is excited about tonight's game as well, kicking off the season, and we're right along with everybody else. We're excited about the opponent that we have. Anybody that comes from that [Bill] Belichick/Josh McDaniels tree, we know they're going to be prepared. We know that they're going to try to attack our weaknesses, or what they see as our weaknesses, and it's going to be a great challenge for us. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
With all the changes that the Dolphins have made recently, does that change any of your plans or approach? _(Daniel Oyefusi) _"I think that with their changes, that's their issue of how they built their roster. All I know is this: We are really excited about our roster, defensively. Not only the roster that we have, but also our practice squad guys that we have that Eric [DeCosta] and 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] have given us. So, we don't pay much attention to that. We've all read the same book. When I say that I respect Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels and anybody that comes from that tree, we know that in the early part of the year offenses seem to go more up-tempo, try to get you running, everything else. What it's going to come down to for us is keeping low pad level and tackling. The scheme part? We're expecting quick games, screens, all that stuff that teams usually do in September. And I know they're going to challenge us the same way, because they still have a really good quarterback, which you know has given us a hard time here. They have really good receivers, and they've got two, well actually three, really good running backs. And they've got a tight end that they want to feature, so they still have those guys."
It's been clear from social media that the veteran guys have been really impressed with CB Marlon Humphrey. Have you also felt that he's ramped up his consistency and attention to detail?_(Childs Walker) _"The first part, I don't know a whole lot about the social media thing, but to answer the second part, I think they're all impressed as we all are. I think that he's going to be a top corner in this league, and every Sunday is going to be a challenge for him to prove that. But just what he's done during training camp has impressed us all."
Has anything surprised you about S Earl Thomas III on or off the field? _(Morgan Adsit) _"'Surprised' is not the right word, I think. You know he's a good player, a great player, and the surprise is, 'Wow, how'd he see that?' I guess that would be a surprise for that. But no, he's a consummate pro. Once again, everybody is getting to know everybody, and I think we're at the point where we need to be to start the season off. So, I think he's done a great job."
He's kind of downplayed his return from injury, but have you seen anything different from S Earl Thomas III this week? Or has he just been business as usual? (Morgan Adsit) _"I don't know what business as usual is for him in the regular season, because this is our first time together. But, he's been business as usual since he's been here. As a matter of fact, he's _really business, as you all know. It's all about football with him, and I think it's pretty cool to see."
Do expectations change from year to year for the defense? Or is it always to be the best? _(Garrett Downing) _"I shouldn't be standing here if we don't want to be the best. I think that there's a standard here, always has been here since way back when, but especially with 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh]. Everybody knows the stats, and we know where the standard is at. Like I said last week, I was really pleased with where we were at in the preseason. I thought that we played fast, and we were physical, and we tackled well, and that's all the staples, if you will, of having a good defense and starting off the month of September right."
Will you maybe move guys in and out more as you face a more up-tempo offense? Will the depth thing be more important to you guys this week than usual? (Cliff Brown) _"I think we have one of the deepest rosters there is, so what we do, I'm not going to say right now. But I'm confident with whoever goes into the game right now on defense, with whoever we dress on Sunday. We talk about the heat, and I think everybody wants to talk about the heat. Could it be any hotter than what it was when we were in Philadelphia? _(laughter)I saw some giraffes and elephants going up and down the sideline, it was so hot. So yeah, it gets hot down in Florida. It does, especially if that grass gets wet. That's where the humidity – you really feel it. But if it's dry down there … I don't know if it could be any hotter than what it was here during training camp, so we're prepared for that. I know that people want to say that, and coaches want to say that, 'This team is in great shape,' and everything else. We do a great job here. Steve [Saunders, head strength and conditioning coach] does a great job. 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] makes sure that we get plenty of reps. We work hard here, so we're ready to go."
Is it unsettling at all going against QB Ryan Fitzpatrick? Because you're never sure what you're going to get with him. _(Pete Gilbert) _"That's a really tricky question. You're looking for some bulletin board stuff right there. 'Fitzmagic' [Ryan Fitzpatrick], you see it early. You do. And the guy, he makes some unbelievable throws, especially downfield. He's one of the best in the league, as far as putting the ball in tight windows. It's going to be a challenge for us. It's going to be a challenge for us, but who's better for the job than us?"
What goes into deciding when to play DT Michael Pierce and DT Brandon Williams together? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"I think it depends on situations, depends on the weather, depends on a lot of different things; but it's more situational when those two go together. It's one of those things where each week it changes. Last year, it was a little bit different than this year, and I'm sure next year it'll be a little bit different than before."
What has FB/DL Patrick Ricard done to earn a bigger role on defense? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"I think he had the best training camp that he's had. We talked about that in training camp. I thought he had – I'm speaking defensively – he had the best training camp that he's had up to date, and congratulations to him. I've got a great deal of respect for Patrick, because he's come in there and won that spot. He's won this opportunity. He's worked his tail off to get to where he's at, and it's really cool as a coach to see somebody do that."
How much are you looking forward to seeing your pass rush in action, especially young guys like OLB Tyus Bowser and OLB Tim Williams? _(Luke Jones) _"Just as much as you are. Like I said before, it's a fair question. We'll see where we're at with it, and I'm looking forward to it. Because those guys have made great sides, too, during training camp. I think this is Tyus Bowser's best training camp that he's had. I think this is Tim Williams' best training camp that he's had – just specifically talking about those two. But Jaylon Ferguson – you can really see in these past 10 days even – [he's] really come on. And of course, 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee] – well, you guys don't see practice – [but] he was in regular season form yesterday, so we're excited about all those guys on the edge."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement:"We're really excited to get the regular season started. The guys have been working really hard, and we're excited about the challenge of going down and playing Miami. We've had a really productive training camp. Now, it's time to go play the regular season games. We just got done with some of the preparation for it. We're playing a team that's very fundamentally sound, well-coached, and when you watched them throughout the preseason, they played some really effective defense. So, we have our hands full."
John Harbaugh said that WR Marquise Brown is full-go without reservations. Will it still be a process working him into the gameplan full-time? (Childs Walker)"Yes. Really, no different than many teams, we start the season, and it's really a race to get better throughout the entire course of the season. We're trying to come out here today and get better – that's everybody, and certainly Marquise as well. It's good to have him in the fold, and we're just going to probably play that by ear a little bit and see how it goes, but he's been responding well since he's been out here."
Is there an intrigue to see what WR Marquise Brown can do? We've seen him in practice, but nobody has seen what he can do in an actual game. Is there an interest, on your part, of what he'll look like in a game atmosphere? (Garrett Downing)"Oh yes, I'm excited to see everybody in the game atmosphere, him included. He's doing well. Really, it's everybody, though – getting those first plays in, getting those first hits in, etcetera. It was good that he got a little time in the preseason, but certainly, you don't get the sense at all that it's going to be too big for him. He definitely belongs."
Is there an area of the offense that you're more curious to see how something will come together? (Pete Gilbert) "I think we're all interested in seeing everything, but specifically, really, just the operation of our whole unit. The guys have been working hard together. And [I'm looking forward to] individuals performing, certainly. But this time of year, it comes down to guys working in concert with one another, everybody working together. That's really the focus of us right now. I'm really excited to see how it goes. I don't think many teams really know what they're going to look like. It's pretty standard in that regard."
Rookie RB Justice Hill doesn't seem fazed by very much given that it's Week 1. Do you see that same relaxed mindset in him? Do you have an expectation for him on Sunday? (Bobby Trosset) "Justice has been doing well. It's certainly not too big for him, either, or for anybody, for that matter, who is on this team. He's doing well. This will be his first regular season game. To me, I feel like he's preparing himself really well. I'm sure he'll have a role in the game. Everybody that's active will have a role."
Players on both sides of the ball have talked about watching Patriots film to prepare for the game on Sunday. Obviously, that's not the same personnel, but what are some of the challenges in the process of using that film to prepare for this game? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"It's always a challenge when you're facing a team on opening day that has a new staff. You really have to go back and look at what they've done prior, because most teams are going to play some basic things in the preseason, but you better do your homework as well. We have definitely tried to do our homework there and just tried to lay some groundwork on the scope and what they're trying to do and whatnot. There has been a lot of time in the film room for everybody."
When you decide how to split the carries, what factors go into that decision? (Aaron Kasinitz)"We'll probably see who has the hot hand and feel it out, but Mark [Ingram] is our starter. Everybody is going to contribute, and we really like all of our backs. The more guys we can get involved, the better. I'm really excited about that group."
John Harbaugh has talked about the importance of ball-handling in this offense. It seemed like it went well in the preseason, but is that at another level now in the regular season? Are you wanting to see the progress you have made with that? (Cliff Brown)"Ball-handling is like texting when driving. You better pay attention to it every snap. It's very important. For us, we do some stuff under center, but we're in the shotgun quite a bit, so it's very important. The guys have really worked hard on that. We've really focused on that, but you better be focused for the entire totality of the game."
In recent years, the best offenses have been the ones that pass 60 percent of the time. When you as coaches were deciding how you wanted this offense to run, and you looked at the fact that you had all of these pieces for a great running team, how did you reconcile the two facts that you have a great running team, but the best offenses in the NFL, typically, have been those that take to the air? (Jonas Shaffer)"That's an interesting question. We have to be us. We're going to run it, and we're going to throw it. That will change every week – the degree of which is based on how the game unfolds. We feel confident doing both. It's always a challenge in this league. That's why everybody works so hard at it. But we feel great about the work we put in. The most effective offenses are the ones … We need to be the most effective Raven offense. However that builds itself, we'll see. It'll be a week-to-week thing, though."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement: "I'd like to start by saying congratulations to the 53 guys that made our team. Those 53 guys, they've earned it. They went out, they practiced hard, they showed up in games, and we're very excited about what we have as a team. Also, congratulations to those practice squad guys. We understand how hard of a job it is to make an NFL team. Those guys, they went out there, and they've done that. They prepared themselves in the right way, and they gave themselves an opportunity to make this football team. Moving forward to Miami, we look forward to going out and playing a regular season game. Our guys are fired up. The standard is going to be the standard. Our guys are going to go out, they're going to compete at a high level and play with great fundamentals – the things we've preached from Day One since I stood up here. So, I'm really looking forward to getting out there, and really seeing our guys, all 11, just competing at a high level."
After the preseason and watching the tape, is there anything that you would like to fine-tune and focus on going into the regular season? (Jamison Hensley)"There are always things we can fine-tune. We come out here every day, and we work on those things. I know a lot of people, they saw that our kickoff coverage is something that we stressed a lot. I told our guys that we have the best kickoff team in the league, and we're going to have the best kickoff team in the league. We have the guys in the room to do it. We're going to go out and have fun. We're going to go out and continue to compete and have fun."
What does it mean to have S Brynden Trawick back here on special teams? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's a veteran guy, a Pro Bowl player, just like we've added Justin Bethel along to our special teams roster. We did a great job of building that roster. It helps us. We understand how important special teams is around here, so having 'B.T.' [Brynden Trawick] out there, it's going to be fun. He'll show up on gameday like he's done in the preseason."
When you saw WR Marquise Brown struggle with punt return in the preseason, how much concern did you take away from that? (Pete Gilbert) "It wasn't really a concern. We always talk about … We put a guy out there in a game situation and we want to see if he can do it. So, when you put those two balls on the ground, it just told me and told our coaches [that] we just have to continue to practice him back there and continue to get him more reps. He's going to be a guy that we can put back there and give us a little bit of excitement."
What are some of the drills you go through with WR Marquise Brown for catching a punt? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We just continue to hit balls at him, get him back there catching them. There are a lot of things we can do. We put guys in his face, distraction drills, things like that. Again, there are tons of drills we do. The more opportunities he has to catch punts in practice and get himself out there in game situations, it's going to be good for him."
Do you expect CB/RS Cyrus Jones to be the primary punt returner? (Childs Walker) "Yes, Cyrus is the guy."
Have you decided on a kick returner? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We really haven't. We have guys that we can throw back there. Chris Moore has done an outstanding job for us. We love what Justice Hill brings. We gave Cyrus some opportunities in the preseason. So we'll go forward, and you guys will find out on Sunday."