THURSDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: Week 3 at KANSAS CITY
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "We're going against a really good offense, so we were a little bit longer in meetings. Sorry for holding everybody up. The first thing I want to do is point this out: The last two series of the game against Arizona might be the loudest that I've ever heard the stadium. So, for our fans, you get assists in those three-and-outs at the end. It was outstanding. That's a homefield advantage, as we see it here, that we've had. But I'm telling you, it was loud. That was one of the first times with this new group … Because we've been talking about communication, I know some of you already hit on it with some of the players, that they've had to communicate in that type of atmosphere. It's like going to away games are easier for us to communicate than playing at home, and that's the way it's supposed to be. So, that was a great test, a great learning experience for us. We're looking forward to moving on to it. I'm really pleased with the fact that we didn't flinch. There were some big plays in that game. The quarterback [Kyler Murray] made some throws off his back foot and just threw it up there, and like that Hall of Famer we were talking about [Larry Fitzgerald], he went up and made some plays. Overall, we couldn't be more pleased being 2-0. It's hard to win in this league. We all know that, no matter what the situation is. We're looking forward to this next challenge."
When you're facing a great offense with a lot of weapons, and they have a world-class tight end on top of everything else, how much harder does that make your job? (Childs Walker)"World-class tight end, world-class sprinters at wide receiver. Obviously, you're talking about an offense that averaged over 35 points a game last year, and it doesn't look like there's any drop-off from last year. It's going to be a great challenge for us, because in facing [Patrick] Mahomes, everything you read about him is true. How great he is is true. You defend the first play, and then the second play during that first play is when he extends the play. That's where he makes some of his unbelievable plays with it. Like you said, it's a world-class tight end, and those receivers are legit. They're a four-by-one team."
How do you decide whether to place emphasis on blitzing and putting pressure on QB Patrick Mahomes or putting more people in coverage and forcing him to throw in tight windows? (Daniel Oyefusi) "I hope whenever I make that decision, I'm right. (laughter) That's all the further I'm going with that one. Or, that we're right."
Has QB Patrick Mahomes improved in appreciable ways from his MVP season to this year? (Jonas Shaffer) "It's sort of hard to tell because it's such a short two games. But he was really good last year, and he's really good this year. Like I said, we're looking forward to the challenge, and we'll see where we're at, too."
Does it change anything, schematically, knowing that QB Patrick Mahomes can throw off-script and all over the field? (Andrew Gillis)"Yes, but it's sort of the same thing like we were talking about last week. I'm not comparing those two quarterbacks [Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes] by any means, but that's the direction this league is going. Just as an NFL fan, as a fantasy owner, if you will, the NFL is in good hands with these young quarterbacks. And I think you're going to see two great quarterbacks in this game. We might be seeing the next [Tom] Brady-[Peyton] Manning matchup, [Muhammad] Ali-[Joe] Frazier, Magic [Johnson]-[Larry] Bird. You don't know, but the excitement of it [is undeniable]. Leading off of your question, because all of these young quarterbacks that are coming out, they can extend plays. Right now, Mahomes is extending the plays, and last year, he had a lot of success doing it."
How much is your defense aided by the fact that you practice against QB Lamar Jackson? (Ryan Mink)"I think that's a big help for us. I really do. That's helped us with the effort of chasing when they do get out of the pocket, just like I said last week. He got out of the pocket when he went to get out of the pocket. But it's helped us on the second part of it. It's helped us on the second play that I was talking about."
Last year's Kansas City game was a thriller and fun for us to watch. Did the loss stick with you guys? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It was not fun at all. It has stuck with us, yes. I'm not going to hide from that, sure it has. It has stuck with us."
Do you remember what you said after that fourth-and-9 completion? (Ryan Mink)"I can't say it here." (laughter)
CB Marlon Humphrey said yesterday he was at fault for several communication issues. Is that oversimplifying things? What did you see on a couple of those? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't think there's anything else to it. The great thing about our group is we're all accountable to each other. Marlon standing up and saying that, I'm happy that he did. He made some mistakes. He told me when he was coming off the field, and we saw them as well on the field. They were things that he hasn't done in the past. A lot of things in those series of events accumulate. It's like your kid running out in traffic – you're trying to stop all the traffic and slow everything down. We just couldn't do it during that series. Like I said, I was really happy with how all of them bounced back. We had a discussion at half time of what we needed to do and had a plan for the third quarter and the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, besides that one series, we executed. It was fantastic the way we executed."
In a game like this, do you send a message to your team that Patrick Mahomes is going to make some plays, and we have to bounce back from those plays and make the next one? (Ryan Mink) "Sure. That's what we talk about. You have to handle the series of events. He's going to make plays. We know that going in. But what we can't do is let him make too many plays, and then we have to play great red zone defense."
What kind of asset is S Earl Thomas III in the back end against their sprinters this week? (Andrew Gillis) "We talked about it today in one of our sections that we were talking about in the meetings. One of the assistants said, 'In big-time games, big-time players stand up.' And Earl Thomas said, 'It's documented.' So, it's an asset."
Have you seen the Chiefs do anything differently with WR Tyreek Hill out? (Daniel Oyefusi)"They put a guy in … Let's see, [Tyreek] Hill runs about a 4.21 40- [yard dash]. They put in a guy that runs about a 4.22 40. (laughter) So, they're fast. And Andy Reid, to me – we talk about all these young, innovative offensive coordinators – he's – I hope he doesn't get mad at me saying this – he's the grandfather. He's the O.G. of the innovators of offense. And the offense that he has there in Kansas City, everybody steals from. He's the king of the RPO. He's the king of the shots. He's the king of the screens. He runs the whole thing. And when having a quarterback like [Patrick] Mahomes, as smart as he is and making checks and things like that, it's a tough out. I think we're just the men for the job, but it's a tough out."
You had 15 quarterback hits against QB Patrick Mahomes last year. Through two weeks this season, you lead the NFL in that category. How much of an important factor is that in terms of disrupting what you can? (Jonas Shaffer) "Anytime you're playing a game on Sunday, to affect the offense, you need to hit the quarterback. That's been our philosophy since last year, and so far this year, we've had some guys that have really stood out – Matt Judon, [Pernell] McPhee, 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor]. And he [Patrick Onwuasor] doesn't have as many rushes as the two I just mentioned, but he's been affecting the quarterback. Pat [Ricard] has been affecting the quarterback. Tim Williams is right up there with 'Peanut,' as far as affecting the quarterback. And like I said, Judon and 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee], they both have two sacks each, and they're playing really well."
To that point, OLB Pernell McPhee didn't have any sacks at the Redskins last year. What gave you confidence that he could do it? (Aaron Kasinitz)"We've known him forever. I've known him, personally, forever. I know what he can do, and we know what he does best. That's what we're trying to do, is put him where he does his thing. We talked about that earlier in training camp. We match people up all the time in rushing situations, and that's what we've done with him so far. And all he wants to do is win, so he'll do whatever we ask him to do. Those are the types of players you look for."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement:"Thanks for coming out. We're very excited about the challenge this week, going into Kansas City playing a very good football team. Looking at their defense, we played them last year, but there have been a lot of changes. I think they're playing really well, really good football. They're well coached, fundamentally sound. They kind of revamped the secondary, and they've got a D-lineman [DT Chris Jones] who's playing at as high a level as anybody in the league that I've seen. So, we've got a lot of challenges. The guys are dug in, having a great week of preparation and looking forward to having a great Thursday."
What do you do to prepare for crowd noise? (Garrett Downing)"It gets loud there, for sure, so we've been working on various cadences starting, really, in the spring. And there'll be a lot of visual communication going on. We'll mix in some cadence, but we'll probably use a lot of what we call 'silent count'. There are a lot of various cadences we have in the silent count, and we've been working them for a while. We've kind of been preparing for this for a while, so I think guys have a good feel for it."
How do you feel QB Lamar Jackson handled loud environments last year and this year so far? (Ryan Mink)"I think he's doing really well with it. We're always looking to get better at everything we do, but I think we're on track. He's doing a nice job."
QB Lamar Jackson showed some frustration a few times last week. What improvements does he want to see? (Gabi DiPaula)"Lamar is – which I love about him, we all love about him – he's a bit of a perfectionist. If he misses something here or there, he's going to really focus on that. When he might not do something the way he'd like to do it, he's the first person to be critical of himself. It's a great leadership quality, really. We're always striving to get better, and that's what we're working on right now, to just play as clean a game as we can."
QB Lamar Jackson has talked about having kind of an unspoken connection with TE Mark Andrews, especially when a play starts to break down. How important is it for a quarterback to have a guy like that? (Childs Walker)"I think we've got a lot of guys like that, really all of them. We practice those unscheduled plays quite a bit, and I think he's got good rapport with everybody. But specifically, with Mark [Andrews], there have been some times when they've hooked up on some of those, so that's always big. But every week is a little bit different. Everybody has to be ready for those moments. If Mark is over there and the play flushes out this way, it'll be somebody else. So, we're constantly working to get everybody on the same page, and guys are doing a good job with it."
What's the key in the offseason for a quarterback after his rookie season looking to make a jump in Year Two? (Aaron Kasinitz)"I do think it's a bit of a natural progression, and if it's going to happen, you see it start to happen. Our instance is a little bit different in the sense that we put in a new system. So really, he [Lamar Jackson] was up against it when we got back together in March or April, I can't remember. I think it was April. The experience he had last year is invaluable though. While we created a new system, there are a lot of similarities from a conceptual standpoint that he can apply. But I just think the more you understand, the more you have experienced, that next year things will slow down for you a little bit. But it's a process, and we've just got to keep pushing at."
How much do you have to continually tweak the offense to stay ahead of opponents vs. having scheduled additions to the offense as the season goes along? (Ryan Mink)"You just kind of play it by ear a little bit. It's a good question. You're going to do things week to week that best fit your opponent and your own strengths. Every defense is a little bit different, but at the same time, you want to really focus on what you're good at, too. You don't want to get too far away from that. So, every week is a little bit different like that, and it'll just naturally evolve and progress. And also, whatever you see after the game, the plays that were run for example or the style that we deployed, that might have been totally different if the defense had chosen to do something different – the play selection or the outcome or who got the ball. So, there's a lot of stuff maybe last week we didn't use that may or may not apply this week. It's not like you're calling everything you're bringing to the game, and you might have to adjust and go back to some things that your guys are really good at."
How has QB Lamar Jackson avoided INTs as a young quarterback? (Jamison Hensley)"I just think he has good natural field vision, which is hard to coach. He can move through progressions like a lot of guys, but really, we felt this way about him since last year, that he just saw the field well – his depth perception, spatial relationships, just seeing guys, seeing different leverages out there. Some guys have it, and we've always kind of touted him as having that ability to see the field. So, it's a work in progress, and he's young and he's got a long way to go and keep experiencing, which is even more exciting."
QB Lamar Jackson does sometimes try to fit the ball in tight windows. Do you get worried and then relieved in those moments? (Jamison Hensley)"It's one of those, 'No-no-no-yes!' moments. 'No-no-no-yes-yes-yes!' I think everybody has a few of them, yes."
There was a play in the Arizona game where QB Lamar Jackson was staring down TE Mark Andrews and then opened up and threw the ball to RB Mark Ingram II at the last moment. Jonas Shaffer"That's a great example of that." (Reporter: "How tough is that play to make? And is that indicative of great footwork by a quarterback?")"It is footwork, but it's also vision and awareness. You have to be aware of a corner trying to trap a route like that, and he experienced that some in training camp in practice. So, those are all great experiences. I don't know that it's happened in a game until the other day, but it's happened in practice. And he was able to draw on that experience."
Do you think good field vision is a natural instinct? (Garrett Downing)"I do. I do think it is, yes. Some guys are just really great machines, but they can't really see things. They get surprised by things. They're very robotic and in some instances very good at that, but some guys just have good field vision. I think that is natural."
Why is DT Chris Jones playing so well, and what's the key to stopping him? (Aaron Kasinitz)"I haven't seen anybody stop him yet, so we've got our hands full. I think he's a very good player, and he's playing at a very high level. And he can wreck a game if you let him. I think our guys were watching the tape, and we have to really work hard this week and focus in on that challenge. We're excited for it."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement:"Just to recap the [Arizona] game, I thought our guys again continue to play well. When we turn on that tape, it's fun to watch. Our specialists are doing an outstanding job. Justin [Tucker] came up big at the end of the game with that field goal. It was fun to watch. Morgan [Cox] is doing a great job. Sam [Koch] is punting the ball well. Our coverage units are playing well, and that's fun to see. Our return game – outside of two penalties we had there with some things we got corrected this week – our guys are getting some yards, and that's fun to see. That's what special teams is. It's all about flipping the field, and that's what we've done the past two games."
On kickoffs, what goes into the decision of trying to kick it around the 1-yard line vs. kicking it through the end zone? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's a kick-by-kick decision. We kind of get a feel for the game, how the game's going. I talked to you guys earlier when I stood up here about how we want our coverage units to play, and our guys are playing well. I think we can utilize those guys, and those guys have done a really good job. So again, it's a kick-by-kick decision. You'll see us kick some short; you'll see us put some in the end zone. It's really based off feel. It's kind of how I feel going into the game."
Will you need a young player who maybe hasn't played on special teams to step up in S Brynden Trawick's absence? (Jeff Zrebiec)"There will be some guys that are going to step up. With his situation, who knows? But there will be some guys. And you'll see [that] we won't lose a step with those guys. The guys that we put in there, those guys have worked hard this spring to give themselves an opportunity go out and play, so whoever we put in there, we're going to expect the same kind of effort, the same kind of physicality. And those guys will go out and play."
How much do you monitor weather conditions on gameday? And does that affect strategy going into games? (Jamison Hensley)"Obviously, weather does play a big part in special teams: how you kick the ball, where you can kick from, returners fielding punts and things like that. Coach [Randy] Brown, I can guarantee you right now, he'll know what kind of weather we're going to get. He stays on top of it, so I rely a lot on him to take care of that for us."
On the kickoff vs. the Cardinals where the returner stepped out inside the 10-yard line, was that executed the way you guys wanted? (Childs Walker)"That's what we wanted. We're going to place the ball … In that situation, we're kicking off from the 50, we want our kicker to be aggressive with the ball, let the returner have to make the decision, and that's what we did on Sunday. And it worked out great for us."