Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
How did Tandon Doss handle both punt returns and kickoff returns last weekend? (Luke Jones)"He did well. I thought Tandon exhibited veteran knowledge of situations. I think that was evident in the pooch punts; he made a couple real smart plays in the pooch area that led to touchbacks by the opponent. When he had an opportunity to return the ball, he did. And he made a couple of big plays for us that got us some field position. On kickoff return, we had a couple of touchbacks, but on the squib situation where the ball went through, he let it go in the end zone, and I think that's a guy that's been paying attention. Even though he hasn't had a lot of experience as a returner, he really demonstrated game savvy."
What has Justin Tucker's mindset been this week coming off of the couple of missed kicks and having to overcome some adversity? (Matt Vensel)"You're accurate in that his attitude has been great, like it always is, but I think the thing I've noticed is he jumped out there yesterday right away and just got to work. Even before the horn blew, he was kicking. So, he was anxious to get back to work, he had a very good day of practice, and we expect him to be right back where he started."
Was it just a technical flaw that you think can be corrected? (Matt Vensel)"Every kick is a little bit unique, and the first one he just didn't hit it well. The second one, I thought he hit pretty well, he pushed it a little bit, and perhaps he didn't play it quite right. He was setting up for the opposite hash, and it ended up on the right hash. I thought he struck the ball well on the second one, he just didn't make it. The first one, I just don't think he hit the ball very well."
Are you concerned about Tucker overanalyzing the misses? (Mike Preston)"No, honestly I think the overanalyzing would take place in between his ears, and the thing that he's done is he's gotten his body in action. He's been out there working, and he kicked a lot yesterday; he wanted to kick a lot yesterday. I expect his practice to carry over into the game. He had a very good practice yesterday."
Tucker said that one of his issues is that sometimes he thinks too much and does overanalyze. He said he had a coach tell him once to just go out drinking with the boys and he'd be in a lot better shape sometimes. Have you talked to him about that? (Pete Gilbert)"I don't recommend that part of it. *(laughter) *I think we can stay away from that kind of training. *(laughter) *That'll be helpful if he stays away from that. Every player has to deal with their own psyche, and I think the kickers perhaps are looked at as having to do more of that, because there is more time on their hands, and every play is so pivotal in the course of a game. But I don't think it's unique just to kickers, myself. I mean, all players have to deal with the mental aspect of the game. We pay a lot more attention to kickers, because they're kickers. He's got a great head on his shoulders. He'll handle this just fine. He'll be solid from this next game forward – I'm real confident of that."
You had mentioned field position was a big key against Cleveland. It might not be so easy to get against Shane Lechler. Is he still what he's always been? (Joe Platania)"He's an outstanding player, and his record speaks for itself. He's now kicking back home, so to speak, and he's obviously adapted well to his new environment. He's had two very good games, particularly in the pooch area. He's got eight punts inside the 20-yard line already, and one that just barely rolled in. So, yes, he's a very good player, and he has been for a long time. So, it's not a surprise that they're getting production out of Shane."
It seemed that Sam Koch was more consistently hitting the ball well and getting the most out of his punts last weekend against Cleveland? (Pete Gilbert)"Sam was a big, big factor in that ball game. He had a number of different scenarios he had to deal with [in] field position, and he handled them all very well. [It was] just one of those games where your practice really takes over, because you try to practice as many of those things as you can, but they don't usually all happen in the same game. And real frankly, he hit two excellent balls in the pooch area, and they both bounced well for us, which is always nice. It's nice to get that bounce. He really did a great job of taking away a very dangerous returner on the other punts as well."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
How important is it to get the tight ends established in the passing game? Is it also on them to make plays whenever their number is called?* (Matt Vensel)* "I think you can tell within our scheme that those guys are an integral part of what we do. Joe [Flacco] has done a nice job of spreading the ball around. He gets everybody involved, and that position is no different than any other. They're going to get their opportunities. I think you're going to keep seeing them get better. It's a big part of what we do."
Ed Dickson was one guy who was kind of hard on himself. He said: "I need to play better." What is he capable of? You see all these athletic tight ends across the league, and he certainly seems to have the skill set to get it done. (Matt Vensel) "You've seen him perform and perform well, throughout his career. Last year, towards the end of the season in the Super Bowl run, he made some tremendous plays for us. I think that's what he's capable of. He runs extremely well. He's smart, he's tough, and he's got good hands. That's what he's working on, and I think you see how hard he works. He's working to improve upon that; I think you will see him improve."
If Ray Rice is not able to go, is Shaun Draughn up to speed with this offense? Is he able to split time or at least fill in there as a No. 2 back? (Bo Smolka)"He's been here a short period of time, but [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery is working really hard at making certain that he's getting a good feel for an understanding of what we do. I think he's getting better. Obviously, he's not going to be able to come in and do everything that the rest of the guys can do who have been here a number of years. He's going to play a role for us, that is for sure."
Are you surprised how quickly Marlon Brown has picked things up when you consider the fact that he missed a decent portion of training camp as he was coming back from a knee injury? (Garrett Downing) "[I'm] not really surprised, because he's a very smart guy. He does a very tremendous job in terms of grasping things quickly, at multiple positions no less. He's done a very, very good job at it. He works hard at it. I think anybody that works hard at it … Not only that, he has aptitude. You tie those two together and you have a guy that's going to be able to step in play pretty early for you. Physically, he certainly has the talent. He's doing a nice job, but he's still got a lot to learn. [After] a couple of games in this league, you'll learn your lessons. Each and every week you've got a new challenge, and this one will be a new challenge for them as well."
What was the point where you started to think that Marlon Brown could make an impact for you this year? (Garrett Downing)"Once he was back out at practice with us, as you mentioned, there was quite a while where he was sidelined recovering from his injury. When he was released, it didn't take long. You can see that he can certainly run, catch, and he was a big target. Not only that, but he was a guy that could catch on quickly. As soon as he was out there – in just a short period of time – we had a pretty good indication that he could be someone that could help us this year."
Can you talk about the challenges when [Dennis] Pitta goes down, Jacoby [Jones] goes down and Joe Flacco is relying on guys to step up and how much that changes what you do as an offense? (Pete Gilbert)"One of the things you find out in this business is it's week-to-week – it changes anyway. It changes because of the dynamics of the opposition. Maybe they have a real strong suit somewhere, which may require you to go a particular personnel grouping or stay out of a particular personnel grouping. We're always sort of juggling and taking a look at where we can best assert ourselves in a positive way. Injuries aren't any different. You'll hear me say time and time again, 'That's why we have a 53-man roster,' because of the fact that guys are going to get hurt. Guys are going to be out for a length of time. Those guys that are in the subordinate roles have to be able to step forward and do their jobs. It's that old saying, 'Next man up.' That's what we expect and anticipate."
I know Tandon Doss was brought in here primarily for special teams, but he did get in a few snaps with the offense. Do you see him being able to contribute in the offense in the near future? (Matt Zenitz)"I do expect him to play, as you mentioned. He played for us last week. He was in and out quite a bit, and I think you're going to see the same thing this week, as well. He certainly did have an impact in terms of our special teams. He set up a touchdown for us, which was a heck of a return. Also, I think you'll see him get involved a little bit more offensively."
How does Deonte Thompson factor into the offense once he returns from his injury? (Matt Zenitz) "We'll have to wait and see what the doctors say and how quickly they'll release him fully and all those kinds of things. John [Harbaugh] will probably hit on those things with the help of the team. He's working; he's getting his hands ready to go. He's out there participating in things they'll allow him to do, and hopefully, we'll get him to full speed at some point. We expect good things from him."
Do you have any concern with the lack of production in the vertical passing game, or do you chalk it up to being just two weeks? (Luke Jones) "In this business, we're concerned about everything. There's not anything that we feel we're doing extremely well, at this point in time. That's another one of them that we haven't connected [on] enough times. What we have to do is try and continue to work on it, try and get a little better in that area. It's a challenge, and I think our guys are up for it. The big thing is getting completions, and the big ones will come at some point in time."
What conversations have you had with Joe [Flacco] about facing Ed Reed? (Garrett Downing)"Because of the fact that he's knows him well, we haven't had any out of the ordinary conversations that we would about any other safety. He's a great one, he's been here, and everybody knows him. It's kind of a given. He's not someone we have to discuss and say, 'Hey, this is what this guy does.' We know what he does; we know how good he is. We know how talented he is, and we know how smart he is. He's a very, very, clever guy back there. Maybe some unspoken conversations have been had, but everybody is aware of him, and he presents a great challenge."
Is Bernard Pierce a player that could be a workhorse running back if given the opportunity to be a full time starter? (Garrett Downing)"I do think he does have that potential. He's a skilled back with some power and speed. He's been a guy that runs extremely hard, and when you look at our situation right now, he's going to have to carry a little bit more of a load. We fully expect him to step up and do the job."
All the talk has been about Ed Reed, but what about the rest of the Texans secondary? They have players back there, and Ed Reed still hasn't even played for them. Can you speak about their secondary? (Bo Smolka) "Danieal Manning is a guy that's been around. He's made a lot of plays in this league. He can run, he's smart … He does a great job just in terms of getting everything set back there. He's a very, very good tackler, but then he also defends the pass the very, very well. Tipped balls don't usually hit the ground when he's in the neighborhood. Then also [Johnathan] Joseph on the corner [is] a very skilled and capable guy, who runs extremely well. He typically matches up with the best receiver on the opposing team, and he does a great job of shutting them down. Kareem Jackson [is] a young guy who can just fly. He's got speed to burn. They present quite a problem, and then with Ed [Reed] back there leading the charge … [Shiloh] Keo stepped in for Ed and did a nice job as well. Across the board, they are a very good secondary. When you couple that with an unbelievable pass rush, with [J.J. Watt] and the rest of that crew coming after you … [Brian] Cushing there in the middle, who is also a very, very fine pass rusher who loops and adds on in different situations – they don't have to cover a very long time because of that pass rush."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**Did you think a lot about the press conference this week? *(Pete Gilbert) *"No, not so much this week. I think about Houston." *(laughter)
**How satisfying was it for you to see a really good defensive performance? *(Luke Jones) *"Guys played hard. They did a nice job, and it was nice to get the win. I thought we played better. Like always, when you watch the film, just like on the week before when you get back and watch the film, and I told you there were nine plays [that beat us, and] the rest of it was played pretty well. It's like this when you get back and you get a win, and you hold a team without a touchdown and stuff and you think, 'Oh, hey, this is going to be really pretty.' And then there's always stuff you find in there. There's nine plays in there; it's just they weren't big plays. We played better, and we played much better. We've still got a lot to work on. There are still some things that we need to get touched up, but it was gratifying to see us play better, and certainly to hold the score down and play better in the red area – those kinds of things, better on third down, just kind of general."
Given the challenges that Matt Elam faces as a rookie free safety, what have you seen from him so far? (Aaron Wilson) *"The biggest challenge that he faces is learning the system, because this is not a vanilla system where we play two coverages and two fronts or something like that. We do a lot of pressures, lot of different coverages – much more than most teams and certainly a lot more than in college. So, to me, that's his biggest challenge. His physical attributes, he has – that's why we drafted him. The guy can run, he can hit, and he is smart. He's a smart football player. It's just it takes a little while to try to get all the pieces together. It's OK if a team just goes out there on offense and just lines up in a vanilla formation that's in the playbook, but all of a sudden, as the guys start moving, shifting, changes – things like that – that's his biggest challenge. But he's getting better every day, and he's like everybody: The more you see it, the better you get at it. Even Daryl Smith, who is a veteran pro and plays very, very well for a veteran pro, [he] still had to learn our system. And the more he sees things, the easier it is for him to play them. He's just got the experience of playing in the league for many years. I've been very happy with what I've seen so far." *
**What have you said to your offensive players or offensive coaches about playing against Ed Reed? *(Garrett Downing) *"I haven't said anything. I didn't mention his name. He plays for Houston now. He's a good friend, and he plays for another team."
Because Houston is so balanced offensively, does it get a little overwhelming when you look and don't see weaknesses in them? (Pete Gilbert) *"This is a very, very balanced football team, and it starts with the running game. You've got two good backs, you've got a great scheme, and the thing about these guys is you've got to remember that [Texans head coach Gary] Kubiak has run this scheme forever. This is Denver back when [Redskins head coach Mike] Shanahan was there and Kubiak was there, and it hasn't changed. The running game part of it, it's not that, it's not that you don't know the four or five running plays they're going to run – it's defending them. Then, the play-action [passes] that are off of that, and then they've got talented wide receivers [and] Owen Daniels the tight end. They're a very, very talented football team. I think when you play a team like this … It's like almost every week, but maybe even more on a team like this that's so balanced and so many weapons. You've just got to pick your poison, and then say, 'This is what we've really got to try to defend and stop.' If you try to do it all, you're just chasing. By the time you've figured that out, they're running something else. You've just got to say, 'These are the plays we've got to stop in the run game. These are the pass plays we've got to stop.' And the rest of it, we've got to defend and do a good job of it, not give up big plays, tackle well, and just really go back to fundamental football." *
**Is Ben Tate grabbing more of your attention with how they're splitting carries? *(Morgan Adsit) *"I'd heard something once, and it almost appears to be true, that [Ben] Tate was going to try to prove to everybody that he ought to be the starting tailback. He sure looks like he's trying to prove it. Here are the two things about these backs: Even though they're a little bit different in style, the thing that really grabs your attention is when these guys make a cut, they can get to full speed faster than most backs. There are a lot of guys that make jump-cuts or do this or do that. This offense … Every year in Denver when Kubiak was – I'm going way back, but same thing – I think they've always had a 1,000-yard rusher, and sometimes they were guys you've never heard of before, and all of a sudden they come out [of nowhere]. It's kind of like Shanahan last year with the Redskins. All of a sudden, a back you've never heard of has 1,000 yards. It's kind of the system. The thing about these two guys is once they make the cut, they can get to full speed in a hurry. They're both very, very talented."
**Jimmy Smith has faced a lot of scrutiny as a first-round pick. How would you assess his play? *(Luke Jones) *"The thing about Jimmy [Smith] is he's just got to become consistent. I thought he had a really good camp. He's had his moments in games where it wasn't so good, and he's had moments in games where it really was good. I think, again, he's a young guy learning how to play back there, and I think he's got to keep growing into the position and just become more consistent. He's got the talent, he's got the tools, and when he does it right, he's as good as anybody. When he does it wrong, he's not. He's just got to learn to be consistent. I think that comes a lot of times with maturity. I've been around a long time and seen a lot of really good defensive backs, and I've coached in the secondary quite a few years. And I would guess that if you went back and watched Ty Law his first couple years in the league or Asante Samuel, who I coached, you'd be surprised what they looked like after the first couple years. But, [considering what] they became … So, I don't get too caught up [in the criticism]. He'll get better and better, and he's got the physical talent to do it."
Could you talk about the depth of the defensive line? (Bo Smolka) *"They played very well up front. We had a couple little runs in there that we were a little soft on. One of them probably wasn't a great call on my part. But I thought those guys played really well. I give a lot of credit to [defensive line] coach [Clarence] Brooks. Clarence Brooks has done a really good job of rotating those guys and knowing that they're getting into a rotation. Players don't really like surprises. So, if you're in a game and all of a sudden, you get taken out and you don't know why you were taken out – 'Did I do something wrong?' or whatever – they don't really like that at any position. So, we always tell them ahead of time, 'We're going to rotate you and in the next series, you're going in and you're going to play, you're going to play, and you're going to play in these packages.' So, it's not a surprise. They're not out on the field and all of a sudden, get taken out. And Clarence does a really good job on the sideline of doing the rotation and trying to keep everybody fresh. So does [linebackers coach Ted] Monachino. It's the same thing with the outside 'backers. Guys, if you looked at their play time, one was like 40 plays, one was 42, one was 45, one was 50. It wasn't like one was 60 and the other one was 20. So, guys know that ahead of time. They know it's good for us. It develops depth, keeps guys fresher, and the other thing it does is everybody who's sitting in that room now knows I have a role in this game. 'I'm not just a backup sitting here, and I might get in if a guy gets hurt or tired. I've got a role in this game.' Hopefully, it will pay dividends for us down the road." *
**How have James Ihedigbo and Josh Bynes played in the first two games? *(Matt Zenitz) *"[They're] doing really well. Josh [Bynes] – the guy is an overachiever. I think he's done very, very well. The thing is that Josh is very smart, [and it's] the same thing with [James] Ihedigbo. I think both of them are the same kind of guy, but in different positions. They just play hard, study hard, and I love guys like that. It's fun to coach guys like that. I don't know if they're the most gifted, but it doesn't really matter. Those are the fun guys to coach because you trust them. When you put them out on the field, there's a big trust factor as a coach of putting a guy on the field, and those two guys I trust totally."
**What did you see on the Chris Ogbonnaya play as far as the breakdown and how to fix it? *(Luke Jones) *"The wheel route? That was just a miscommunication. You can always say that should never happen, but we've corrected that. We've got to have that corrected. Houston will definitely … We'll see that one again."