Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Devin Hester has never faced the Ravens. Have you ever matched up with him before anywhere else? (Joe Platania)"No, I don't believe I have. We had him in preseason, but he didn't play – which was nice of him, I thought." (laughter)
What are the challenges in dealing with a record-setting guy like that? (Joe Platania)"I was describing him to a player the other day. We have that concept in baseball, a five-tool player; well, this is like the three-tool returner. He's got great speed, he can change directions with the best of them, and he can break tackles. That's what makes him, in my view, so special. Obviously, his numbers speak for themselves. He's a special returner, and we have to play extra especially well to keep him in check."
So, lane integrity and things like that needs to be something to really emphasize on Sunday? (Joe Platania)"Certainly. It takes a whole team to stop this guy."
Jerry, what kind of progress did you see from the kick coverage teams last week? (Matt Zenitz)"I thought that we showed a lot more … The best words that I can use to describe it is 'commitment to our responsibilities.' Guys weren't looking around; they were actually just going down running as hard as they could, and doing their job. And it sounds like a simple concept, and it sounds like it should be taken for granted, but I think in previous weeks we had a little bit of uncertainty exactly what the responsibilities were within the coverage. And I thought there was a lot more commitment to that this week, and they played much more aggressively as a result."
With the game Sunday, do you have an ideal target in mind for how close you want to get for Justin Tucker, and does that change based on wind? (Bo Smolka)"I don't really have a set yard line, because the field is a factor, and they have new sod on the field, which should be a good field. The weather is a factor, whether it's slippery or not, if there's rain in the forecast. And then the wind is a factor. And all those things play into it, and I know I've said this many times and you guys are probably sick of hearing me say this, but that's what pregame is for. We try to figure out during the pregame warm-up exactly what our yard lines are going to be for the game in each direction."
Does Justin Tucker surprise you at all yet, with the way he commands himself on the big stages and so routinely delivers? What do you see from him? (Pete Gilbert)"To answer your question, no he doesn't surprise me. But I respect the way he can handle those situations, because not everyone handles them as well as he does. He's a young man that looks forward to those moments. Some others, in all sports, in all venues, those are moments that they're not sure of themselves, they're not sure how they're going to react when that moment happens. He's very confident that he's going to react properly in those moments, and he's demonstrated that, and I think that probably lends itself to him being better in those moments. He's confident, he looks forward to it, and he's been able to deliver for us."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
Vonta Leach hasn't played a ton the last few weeks. What are the main reasons for that? (Childs Walker) "It's just personnel grouping, for the most part. He's been in for the most part on our goal-line and short-yardage [packages]. We played him a little bit from scrimmage. Last week, we got him in a couple of 'E' personnel packages. For the most part, we've been doing three wide receivers – multiple wide receivers. When we use multiple wide receivers, someone has to come out of the game. It's been Vonta [Leach] in that situation. But still, we can bounce back and forth when needed."* *
You hear people say sometimes that the blocking-first fullback is going out of the league to some degree and that it's a more obsolete position. Do you believe that or do you believe that kind of player will have a place in the league for a long time? (Childs Walker) "I think that the game always evolves, but I'm not certain that you're ever going to see a time where that position is going to be obsolete. I just think that to find a very good one is rare – like Vonta [Leach] is – and he's lasted a long time in this league. You can just count on one hand the Sam Gashes, Lorenzo Neal, and guys that have played and played a long time. Vonta is one of those guys that has played awhile. I don't think it will become obsolete, because this game is still based on controlling the line of scrimmage, and you'll find some guys that can still buckle it up and get after it at that position."* *
Joe [Flacco] talked about when teams are blitzing that you have to make them pay for it and he said that certain guys have struggled to do that so far. How much of that is on him? How much is that on the receivers not realizing that they need to be the "hot" [route] or whatever? Or is it how much protection needs to step up and pick up blitzes? When you look at that issue, how do you break it down?* (Pete Gilbert) "I look at every problem that we have, not a situation where you can assess blame … There are so many different factors that are involved. The main thing is that I'm responsible for all of that. I'm responsible for the run; I'm responsible for everything we do in terms of protection schemes. If things aren't working, it's my job to get them going, and that's what we're going to do. We're working at it; we're going to continue to work at it. I think the guys are getting better in those phases. We've just got to make sure that the 'proof is in the pudding.' The most important thing is that we become more effective – which we have not been consistently, and we're working towards and will happen." *
Jim, we really haven't gotten a look at Tyrod Taylor as a quarterback since the preseason. How is he progressing and what is his skill set as a quarterback that you guys have faith in him as a backup? (Matt Vensel)"What you referred to is the fact that he did play in preseason and we have a pretty good assessment of him. He's a guy that can certainly throw the ball. I think he threw it well during the course of the preseason. He's also one that has a unique skill set because of the fact that he's got some quickness and speed. He's a quarterback that's a good field general, a quarterback that can move the ball and down the field. I think as time goes on, he just keeps developing and getting better with the limited amount of snaps that he gets in terms of games, but you can see the growth and development."* *
Can you talk about wanting to improve in the mental part of the game and continuing to master that? How has [Taylor] done, and how tough is it for him to do it even though he's not getting as many repetitions? (Matt Vensel)"It's one of the things you look for at that position because of the fact that your starter rarely gives up any snaps. They usually take every rep in practice trying to get them prepared, because you have so much to do. You have to have a guy that not only has the talent and ability to do so, but – from an intellectual standpoint – he can learn without doing. That's a real challenge, and he can do that very, very well. He puts himself in the moment, he does a very good job just in terms of imagining what he would do in response to those situations, and he's a real student of the game. Even with limited repetitions – from a mental standpoint – he has himself ready."* *
I know Henry Melton is out for them, Charles Tillman [is too] – as far as Chicago's defense. Julius Peppers is still there, though. What else stands out about their defense? What else makes them challenging? (Matt Zenitz) "One of the things that you notice right away is that they're very, very sound in what they do. They can give you a little bit of everything in terms of a package they present. They create a lot of havoc; they do a great job creating turnovers. They're up there in the top of the league in terms of caused fumbles – I think they have 17 of them at this point. They're very opportunistic. When they get the ball in their hand from one of those turnovers, they know what to do with it. They do a great job of just rallying to the football – sometimes the numbers don't indicate that. You'll look at some numbers and say, 'Hey, this looks mediocre,' or whatever it might be. The total sum of things, it's a tough, hardnosed and rugged defense that's extremely well-coached."* *
How much can weather change your game plan, especially when you're at some place where it's worse than expected? Like if it was raining and you weren't expecting it to rain, how much does that change your game plan?* (Ryan Mink) "It depends on how badly it is [raining], how strong the wind is, and those kinds of things. You take that into consideration as you go along. In your mind you're thinking, 'What can we do in this particular weather, within our scheme without creating any real difficulties for ourselves?' Then you also can look at what kind of effect it can also have on the opponent as well. It affects the kicking game, it affects the direction in which you're throwing the ball, the kinds of throw you make – all of those things are considered every single week. Even when you look at it from a layman's standpoint, and it's one of those clear days but the wind is blowing – we take all of those things into consideration. It just depends on how hard it's blowing. The great thing about it is we have a team that's accustomed to playing outside. It was a little bit different when I was in Indianapolis and we were indoors. We didn't practice outside as much, didn't play outside as much, because eight games out of the year were inside. With us, we are a weather battle-tested team, and we have players that are built for this rugged type of weather."* **
Is there ever a multi-game strategy to play calls? Like if you use Tyrod [Taylor] on a running play and it runs for 20 yards, that goes on film for somebody else and you may not see that again for a while. Is that just in the moment, that you run that play, in that game, and in that situation? Or is there a greater scheme of things with those sorts of plays? (Peter Schmuck) "We look at each team a little differently. We try to figure out what would work best against that particular group. You have a series of plays – situational plays – that you'll utilize. You take field position and those things into account and try to make a determination on whether or not you think it'll work. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. When it does, certainly, that's great; it gives you a chunk that you needed. When it doesn't, you've got to tee it up again and go at it. We do look at those plays and try to utilize them in the best possible situation, and sometimes those things change."
You said that Jerry Hughes, the week leading up to the Buffalo game, was a player that you used to coach that you said was playing better than the numbers indicate. The Chicago defense, with maybe the exception of Julius Peppers and Major Wright, do not have any big names. Is there anybody that has stuck out to you that is playing better than the numbers would indicate or maybe that's impressed that you that isn't a big name? (Matt Zenitz) "The names that I mention are probably the guys that you know. Tim Jennings is a very good football player. He plays that corner extremely well. He's one of those guys you can tell understands what he's doing. He knows the scheme and he's settled. You can just watch him in terms of his confidence level. He breaks on the ball extremely well, and he's one of those guys that you better keep your eye on."* *
Jim, two weeks now where you've had Bernard Scott here. Is he up to speed? Does it take that long or is it at the point where maybe he could contribute? (Bo Smolka) "That's one of those things that we've been working on constantly. [Running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery is doing a great job with him, working with him every waking moment that he has. He's been catching on. He understands the system, he's been getting better, and as soon as he's ready to go, and we feel there may be some situational things that he may be able to do for us. We'll see what John [Harbaugh] looks at, in terms of the overall numbers, who's [active on gameday], and all those sorts of things to make a determination on that."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**Your pass rush seems to be getting better and better. Is that just a product of you getting better or who you're playing against? It seems to allow you to do so many things in the back end. *(Pete Gilbert) *"I just think the guys are getting more familiar with the calls, whether it be a pressure or whether it be a rush. And the more they get used to it, I think the better they become."
**Art's [Jones] brother was here yesterday and was talking about some of the MMA skills that Art has. He feels like Art would be a very successful UFC fighter if he went down that path. How do you see those skills translating over to football – wrestling, hand fighting – all of that? *(Matt Zenitz) *"The only thing I can speak of, because I was once a high school head football coach and their head wrestling coach, I thought there was a lot of correlation between the two, especially up front. You play with leverage, you play with your hands, there are a lot of one-on-one battles, and you're out there on a mat and nobody is going to help you. I just think there is a [special] mentality about wrestlers. I also think just the leverage issue when you're using your hands is a great advantage."
**Matt Forte is a guy who is a dual-threat. Does he remind you a little bit of Ray Rice, or is he not similar at all? *(Joe Platania) *"He reminds me more of Arian Foster, to be honest with you. He is that kind of a runner. He is a big, tall guy who can slash, put his foot in the ground, get vertical in a hurry, run through guys. Every time he gets tackled, if you watch him, he is falling forward. He has that kind of a body type and [is] an excellent, excellent receiver out of the backfield. This guy ranks very high statistically in the league, I know, in total yardage, whether it's run or pass. He is a big-time threat."
**What kind of challenge do Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall pose? *(Matt Zenitz) *"They're a tough matchup on anybody's defense. You've got two of them. They are big; they are physical. The thing about both of them that is just so impressive is that [Jay] Cutler – now it will be [Josh] McCown – if they throw the ball close to them, these guys have a chance of getting it. They're not afraid to throw it up even though you're covered. You can watch the film and say, 'They have got good coverage on this guy,' but it doesn't really matter. These guys can go up and get the ball. That is the biggest problem that you face with them. When it comes down to a situation of one-on-one back there, they are tough to handle."
**What is your reaction to Ed Reed now being a New York Jet? *(Adam Vorce) *"I didn't know he was. When did that happen – this morning? Congratulations."
**What does Ed Reed bring to New York? *(Adam Vorce) *"Ed Reed is a leader. And the other thing is I would assume that Rex [Ryan] feels really good about it, because he is very familiar with him. I would think that would be a situation Rex feels very comfortable with. [He has] got a guy who played for him however many years Rex was here. So, that is something you would have to ask the Jets – what he brings to them. I think a lot of Ed, and I think a lot of all the guys that played here."
Could you talk about James Ihedigbo and the work he does in the back end getting everybody in the right places? (Ryan Mink) *"James [Ihedigbo] is a leader back there. He is a guy that I even put some things on him that if we make some specific checks, he is the guy who has to make the check. I think he relishes that responsibility. I think he's playing better all the time. He is a very smart football player and a very, very serious football player. He takes it very, very serious." *
**Do you have examples of that in the classroom? *(Ryan Mink) *"I may make a check and just say we're going to check this defense to this look, and he is the guy who is going to do it. I just say, 'I'm going to put it on you to do it,' and he does it. He is just a very responsible young man, and you feel great when you have guys like that."
**Lardarius Webb was very active as a corner blitzer last week. What is it that makes a corner an effective blitzer, and what is the responsibility on the other defensive backs when he blitzes? *(Bo Smolka) *"It depends on who is blitzing. It's the same responsibility. No matter who is blitzing, the responsibility on the other defensive backs is always going to be pretty much the same. It's whatever the coverage is for the linebackers and those guys, but I think any blitzer – what makes them good is their ability to beat a block. You've got to assume you're going to get blocked. You can't always assume that every pressure is going to come scot-free. So, I think having the ability to beat a guy that is blocking you is a big, big bonus when you're blitzing. A lot of guys just run in there, and if they're free, that's great [and] they look great. If somebody blocks them, they don't look so great. Good blitzers are guys who can avoid the block and make the play."
**What did it mean to you to get off the field after that fourth-and-two in overtime? *(Pete Gilbert) *"That was great. We didn't get off at the end of the game, though. *(laughter) *We didn't finish there, but we finished the overtime, and to me, that says a lot about the character of the football team – the whole football team, but especially talking about defense. I just couldn't be prouder of those guys on that fourth-and-two and the way they played. If you watched the film and you watch the play over again at the end, when [Giovani Bernard] got tackled, there were eight purple jerseys around him. They were not going to let that guy score. And we've seen that movie before against Miami, and they did a good job. I was really pleased."
**You guys bounced back from allowing a long touchdown. James Ihedigbo took full responsibility for it, said he was out of position, and for him to be one of the guys who was critical on that fourth-down play… *(Pete Gilbert) *"It shows the character of the whole team, but particularly the defense on that play. I couldn't be prouder of them bouncing back, because everybody's heart sunk when [the Hail Mary] happened at the end of the game. But the good thing is teams fight through adversity and find a way to win."
**Lardarius Webb said that it was one of his best games. How did he look on film, and are you encouraged by what you have seen from him? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I thought he looked very good, and I was pleased with, in fact, the entire secondary. We got sloppy on a tackle right after the half – the first play of the second half on the sideline. We should have just had the guy knocked out of bounds. We gave up a big play. Then we gave up another tipped pass. We actually had double coverage on the guy, and we tip it in the air, and [A.J.] Green got it. Other than that, we had more ball defenses – I think 17 – than any game I can remember. Guys were knocking down balls. Whether it was 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb], whether it was Jimmy [Smith], I just thought the secondary played outstanding in the back end."
**Have you ever been in a game where you gave up a Hail Mary to tie or lose the game? *(Bo Smolka) *"Never. I have never … I've never had a tipped ball against me, and I've [coached] for a lot of years. It happens. Obviously, I've seen it happen to other people, and now I can say it happened to me."