Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
What can that punt return touchdown that Tandon Doss had do for his confidence going forward? (Aaron Wilson)"Anytime you have success, you think about success when you go out there the next time. I suspect that Tandon will feel good the next time he has an opportunity to return a punt. I think the other thing that goes along with that is that the blockers now have seen what Tandon can do, and they feel good about it, too, so their efforts will be rewarded. Tandon made a play that we've seen so many times in practice against ourselves when he's running the scout punt return, so our guys have seen that before out of him, and now we all got to see it. It was really a great play."* *
Deonte Thompson is practicing again. How could you see him fitting in as a kick returner? (Luke Jones)"He's practicing as a kick returner; he's practicing in the other phases as well. The decision will be made on Sunday as to exactly who we have up and what roles they're going to have. Deonte demonstrated a year ago that he has the skills to do that. If I'm not mistaken, he had the second-leading kick return average in the league, but he didn't have enough reps to qualify. So, he's had success, too, and he understands it. I think he'd probably be pretty excited about that opportunity should it come his way."* *
You added a safety this week in Jeromy Miles. How does he factor in to what you guys run on special teams? (Garrett Downing)"We've had to block Jeromy Miles for the last few years. We've had him blocking us the last few years. We're excited he's on our team doing those things for us, because he's been a force in our division, and we're really happy he's on our team."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
In terms of the identity of the offense, do you see that starting to evolve, and do you feel like as the season goes on there will be more things you can do to incorporate some of the other plays you do have? (Aaron Wilson) "I think it's kind of an on-going process, because a lot of things you do … How you look at that kind of depends on what you're seeing from an opponent, and there are a lot of circumstances that dictate that. I think we're evolving, I think we know who we are and what we want to do. The fact is that we have to do it more consistently."* *
You've been running more of the ball and guys say that they feel like the runs are close [to getting big gains]. What do you see? (Aaron Wilson)"No question about it. I think that often times you find in the run game that you have to be a little patient. Sometimes, there's just one thing here or there that may be a little off that keeps you from getting some of those big gains. It's typically a grind in this league against the teams that you face. They're tough, and they're hard to handle, but we just have to keep working at it, and I think you'll continue to see us get better."* *
Is it an actual thing when you undergo some personnel changes that it will take more time to jell. Maybe the offense you have now, by the end of the year, maybe will look a little different and you'll have the production you desire even more?* (Aaron Wilson) "I think so. We have to just continue to improve, and I think you'll see our production go up a little bit more. I think you're going to see guys get a little bit more comfortable with one another, in terms of what we're doing. We face a tough team this week that is going to present a unique challenge for us. We have got to get better. We have to better than we were last week, that's for sure."* **
Can you talk about Dallas Clark and the comfort level that Joe [Flacco] has with him, with seven targets [against Houston] and three for first downs? (Jim Corbett) "Dallas is getting a better feel for our offense. He's doing a much better job of feeling the space that he's given. The spatial awareness is good, but he's also creating some opportunities for himself in one-on-one situations, just in terms of making himself available to Joe [Flacco]. Joe's getting a better feel for him. That just takes time; that takes work. They work before practice a little bit, and he works some individual routes with him. I think you'll really see those guys develop a rapport."
Is there any carry over from Dallas [Clark] and the Colts to here? (Jim Corbett) "There's some. It's not like we revolutionized football or anything. It's a lot of similarities in that regard. There's something here and there that I think he's fairly familiar with."* *
The way that Joe [Flacco] has seemed to be very patient, he's not trying to put up any giant numbers and is just doing what it takes to win right now. You've got to be very satisfied to not have to worry about a guy who's going to be selfish in that regard. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I think that's the unique thing about him. There's one thing that he knows how to do. He knows how to win, which he's demonstrated since he's been here. Not only that, he's a guy that's more concerned about the team; he isn't concerned about any individual accolades. A lot of guys will say that, but in actuality, they really don't believe it. He certainly lives it, breathes it, and he is what he is. It's what makes him a tremendous leader."* *
How is Bryant McKinnie doing? I thought there were some plays where he got his hand placement too high and picked up some penalties. How is he moving his feet? (Aaron Wilson) "There isn't anybody on our team that can't get better, myself included. There's always a work in progress in that area, and I think he's working at it, trying to get better at what he does. He's a professional and he's trying to improve every single day. [Run game coordinator] Juan [Castillo] does a great job with those guys. They work and they work extremely hard, and I think Juan is getting him to the point where he's moving in the right direction."* *
Ray [Rice] practiced yesterday and he said he feels like he could play on Sunday if everything goes well this week. How much would having him back give you guys a boost and open things up with all the things he can do? (Aaron Wilson) "Anytime that you have Ray [Rice] on the field … He's a game-breaker. Not only in terms of being able to run the ball, which we all know and understand, but also in the passing game. He's like lighting in a bottle. Having him certainly opens things up. You have to be concerned about him, and he feels good right now, so things are going well."* *
What do you think it's going to take to get the deep passing game on track and making more of those big chunk plays? (Ryan Mink)"It'll come. Oftentimes, you'll find where you start forcing some issues, and the most important thing we're looking at is trying to get first downs. If we can get first downs and keep putting this together … Obviously, you want some chunk plays in there, but I think you saw Torrey [Smith] caught one down the field that was a pretty good distance, and we've had a couple of others. But, we haven't had some of the volume that we had toward the end of the  season. I think you'll see that start to develop. Teams are looking for that aspect as well. These guys spend a lot of time looking at the opposition, and they understand that we do have some speed out there on the flanks. They work hard at not trying to let us get behind them."* *
Offensively, you've done much better in the second half. Is it a coincidence or are there some things you can do to get off to a faster start? (Clifton Brown) "We need to get off to a better start. There have been a couple of games where maybe we've had a really good first drive and then maybe after that we've kind of stalled a little bit. We need to certainly put it together and be able to perform like we've been performing in the second half."* *
You obviously don't know what's going to happen when the game starts, but when [slow starts] happen, how much do you focus on saying, "Maybe, these plays will work in the second half?" I'm just curious about that thought process.* (Clifton Brown)"You don't go into the game with a plan [like that.] You look at what you'd like to do against them, and you go after it. You find out whether or not it worked as you're going through it and you make adjustments accordingly. We make adjustments at halftime to see what we want to go back to, what we want to utilize. What you have to do changes when that whistle blows, but you have to stick with your plan early on and adjust where needed."* **
Has there been a bit of a learning curve with [run game coordinator] Juan Castillo coming in, as far as making some adjustments for the offensive line?* (Luke Jones) "I'm not certain that I would consider it a learning curve. You have to get accustomed to anyone that's new. I'm sure they're still getting used to me. I haven't been in my role a long time with this group, so I think there is a bit of that. That's what the spring was for, that's what training camp was for, preseason games. I think everyone has got a pretty good feel for one another, but it's just kind of developing and improving on the little things. That's where we are right now."* **
I know you've said before that you've faced good pass rushers every single week, but how big of a test is this week with Mario Williams and the guys that they have? (Matt Zenitz) "Mario Williams is certainly a force, with 4.5 sacks leading the team. He got the great majority of those in one ball game, but he can really turn it on. I had the pleasure of playing against him twice a year when he came in the league when he was in Houston. I saw what he can do, what he's capable of. He's a guy that has speed and power. He can get up the field and create some problems on the edge, but he also has enough power to really knock you out of the way and get to the quarterback. Jerry Hughes is doing a very good job. We had him in Indianapolis, and let me tell you something: He is playing well. You may not see it show up in terms of the statistics at this point, but he's pressuring the quarterback, he's knocking guys back into the quarterback, and he's got speed and quickness. He's creating some problems. The inside pass rushers they have, as well, are guys that are very capable."* *
What's the value of a guy like Tyrod [Taylor] who ran the read option in college and is a mobile quarterback to prepare the team the team for playing EJ Manuel? (Michelle Gordon)"It's a great value to have someone like that on your team. I know Dean [Pees] has probably spoken to that a little better than myself. It's very hard to emulate guys with that kind of athleticism if you don't have a guy that can do it. Tyrod [Taylor] is exceptional and does a tremendous job. He gives our defense a picture and certainly does prepare them for a guy like we're facing this week, who is also extremely mobile, a very capable passer and smart. It's a great luxury."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**This is the first time since the Super Bowl that you've faced the read option. What do you do to prepare for it? *(Pete Gilbert) *"Well, you definitely have to devote some time to it. You can't ignore it. We've got a good quarterback here that gives us a good look at it, so that helps, with Tyrod [Taylor]. When you're looking at their whole offense and everything that they do, especially their running game being fourth in the league and all that, you've got to spend some time looking at it."
How much time in the offseason did you spend trying to figure out how to stop the read option? (Matt Vensel) *"Well, we really had a … I think John [Harbaugh] had organized it so that, I think it was every other day in OTAs and about every other day or so in training camp, we actually had a period called 'read-option period' [or] 'read-zone period.' Whether we carded it or whether the offense just ran it, basically with Tyrod [Taylor], so we practiced really quite a bit against it in the offseason and in training camp." *
**Talk about Stevie Johnson and their running backs as offensive weapons. *(Aaron Wilson) *"It's kind of like last week. I felt like Houston was coming in here with two really talented running backs, and it's no different this week with Buffalo. This team could easily be 3-0 instead of 1-2. These two backs are very, very dangerous. Coming from New England, I've got a little history with Buffalo and with some of their running game. So, they're different styles, but both very, very dangerous – both really good backs. The thing of it is, when you creep up and everybody starts playing against the run, you've got a chance to get burned over the top; they've got fast wide receivers. The quarterback is a talented guy. He's young, but he's very, very talented. [He's] got a great arm. This is a scary football team we're playing."
**It seems like Jimmy Smith is playing more physical. Have you seen the same thing, and how has that helped him? *(Garrett Downing) *"We talked about him about a week ago or whenever somebody asked me a question. I thought he was playing well, and the thing he really had to keep working on was just being consistent. When you're a big corner, that's quite a tool you have when you can play physical and get your hands on guys. Every receiver, you go in each week, there are some receivers you can get your hands on. Some you don't want to try to jam, because they're going to slip you at the line and get on top of you and build speed. You've just got to know who you're playing against. That's one of his physical talents is being physical, because he is big, he's got long arms, and you've just got to keep working on that."
**When you're facing a rookie quarterback, do you do anything differently to try to rattle him? *(Jamison Hensley) *"I think you look at two things when you're looking at any quarterback. I don't think it's the rookie thing as much as the No. 1 thing is you can't get caught up in that and lose fact of who you're playing and the scheme that they're playing. You've got to stop the run, [and] you've got to do the things that they do best, regardless of who the heck the quarterback is. You could come in and the backup could be playing the whole game – you really don't know. To me, you've got to stop their offense [and] what they do best first. Then secondly, look at what this guy does well. I don't think you ever really look at it too much as rookies or veterans. It's more just what do they do well. What does this offense do well? That's what we've got to stop. The guy that's calling the plays on the other side, he isn't calling it based on a rookie. He's got certain schemes that he's got in mind, and that's really the guy you're trying to beat."
How much fun is it to game-plan with so many new faces and the defensive depth? (Ryan Mink) *"It's always been fun. I've never had a time where I thought game-planning wasn't fun. It's unique, I would say, along with fun, just to try to put guys in different spots and do some different looks and do some different things, whether it be Elvis [Dumervil], whether it be Courtney [Upshaw] – no matter who it might be. We've moved some guys all over the place. But we did that last year. Last year, we kind of did it out of necessity. This year, we're doing it because we kind of want to do it. It's a lot of fun. The other things is [that] it gets boring to me as a coach, and I think it gets boring as a player, if you go out and every week it's the same doggone thing. Sometimes, you may run the same blitz and just tell these two guys to switch. That's not a whole lot, but to the offense, that might be a lot because one, they know where [No.] 91 is, they know where [No.] 58 is, and all of a sudden they're out of place. Sometimes, it didn't confuse us because it's the same blitz, but it might [confuse] them. Also, it just keeps everything fresh every week. It's not like, 'OK, we're going to run the same thing this week,' and you get bored. As a defense, you like new things. Not go overboard and not change the whole scheme, but just put in little tweaks and things here and there, and I think the players like it, and I like it." *
**In defending the read option, your defenders talked about being disciplined and not trying to do too much. What exactly do they mean by that? *(Matt Vensel) *"Have good eyes. That's the No. 1 thing, is when you're playing any kind of option team, when you start looking at things you shouldn't look at, that's when you get beat. All of a sudden, a guy is supposed to close tight because the 'backer is scraping. Well, all of a sudden I can't be looking at the quarterback. When I see the scheme, my eyes have got to go to where my eyes have got to go. If I've got the quarterback, my eyes have got to be on the quarterback. That, to me, is the biggest thing. It's a little bit like in coverage. Most of the time when a guy gets beat in coverage, it's because of the eyes, not sometimes because of their body position, [but] because they're looking at the wrong thing. They're in man coverage, and they're looking at the quarterback, or they're in zone, and they're looking the wrong way, and they're not looking at the quarterback, whatever it might be. Same thing whenever you play any kind of zone read or option football. Everybody's eyes have to be right where they need to be."
**How satisfying was it to not give up any big plays against Houston? *(Pete Gilbert) *"It was great. I told this team that that was one of the most gratifying wins in my career, and not necessarily because it was Houston, but because I can't recall the last time that I played a game and didn't give up one big play. A big play to us is a pass over 20 [yards] and a run over 15 [yards]. There were no runs over 15 [yards], and there were two passes for 18 [yards] or something like that. I don't know the last time [that happened], so that's the difference. The other difference was [that] they had 25 completions [and] 35 yards run after catch. That's phenomenal. And 10 of those yards were on a swing pass out of the backfield and a screen pass. They were five and five. Those were the longest runs after catch was a six-yard run on a swing pass. Basically, when they caught the ball, if they caught it, they were tackled right away. To me, if you go back to the Denver game, they break one off on us for 40 [yards], they break another one on the sideline for 35 [yards], they break a screen pass for 80 [yards]. It was really gratifying to see that. I told the team – I said, 'It wasn't so much that we didn't give up a touchdown. It was that we played the game like it's supposed to be played on defense. We got off the field on third down, we didn't give up big plays, we tackled well, [and] we stopped the run.' [If] you do those four things every week, you've got a chance to be pretty good."
**Haloti Ngata had a sack last week. He seems like he's been healthy. What have you seen from him? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Well, I think the thing is [that] I really like the way that [defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks is doing a good job of rotating those guys and keeping some guys fresh so they're not getting worn out. Nobody played 65 plays in that game. Same thing with the outside 'backers – we talked about it a little bit last week. I think the longer those guys can stay fresh and get a break and then get out of there and then get back in there, I think you're going to see that more and more as long as we can keep that going. I think that's a great thing, because it keeps Haloti [Ngata] healthy, it keeps him fresh, and hopefully, [gives] more production."
**Daryl Smith had a big game. What have you seen from him? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I told you way back when that we felt like when we got this guy and finally when we signed him – I think it was probably almost at the end of mini-camp – just going through training camp, this guy is just such a great pro and just studies and just really into it. Here's a guy who didn't know anything about our system, and for him to catch on so quick tells you a little bit about him. I think what he means to this defense is … Clarence Brooks said it the other day in the D-line meeting. He was talking to the D-linemen, and we were watching film. He says, 'We've got a tackling machine playing right behind you. When that guy grabs you, you go down.' He's just a fun guy to be around, fun guy to coach, and I can't say enough good things about the guy."
**How helpful is it to have Corey Graham and Michael Huff as a veteran presence to substitute in certain packages? *(Luke Jones) *"Absolutely. It's vital to have that, because you can't play with everybody young back there. You need somebody to be able to line things up and make adjustments and do the things that rookies are always going to have a tough time with. It's not their fault; they just haven't seen it enough. Having Corey [Graham] around, being a smart football player, Michael [Huff], 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb], all those guys … We're young back there, but there's enough veteran leadership back there that they're doing a good job of communication . It's been very good. Hopefully, it will continue to be good. Every week is a new challenge, that's for sure."
**How confident are you that you can be a take-away defense this year? *(Clifton Brown) *"Well, I hope so. I don't think we've done enough of that. We played a good game, we played a solid game, and we did the things we needed to do. But there were a lot of things in watching the film that we can still improve on – a couple runs in there. And then, the other thing was – really, I can't recall – that maybe was our first turnover of the year. I don't recall if we had another one or not. We're not going to be a great defense if we don't get the ball off people, whether it be caused fumbles [or] whether it be interceptions. It was great to have an interception for a touchdown, but we need a whole lot more of that. Hopefully, we can build on that, but we need to improve in that area."
How did Matt Elam improve last week compared to his first start? (Matt Zenitz) *"I think every week is going to be a little better for him as far as just recognizing things. It's not so much … Most guys, even rookies, when you go in and you draw up a defense for them and you show them on the board and you do all that stuff, and if you ask them to take a quiz on it, they could probably answer everything exactly right like you told them. But until you go out on the field and you actually do it and see it and see parts moving and things like that … I've seen quarterbacks that look great on the scout team because you draw up a card and circle the guy to throw it to, and he slings it in there. Then, all of a sudden, you put a pass rusher in front of him, and everything goes blurry. The same thing can happen in the secondary a little bit, so I think the more he plays, the better he's going to be. I'm very pleased with the direction he's going, and he's just got to keep going that way."
LB Daryl Smith
On if his newborn child is a boy or girl:"Girl – number three. We're done now, though." (laughter) (Reporter: "Three girls?") "No, no. I've got two girls and a boy."* *
On if he was excited that his newborn daughter and head coach John Harbaugh share a birthday:"Yeah, it's cool (laughter) – he told me about it, but I didn't even know. He texted me to let me know, and I was like, 'OK, I know she'll be something now then.'" (laughter)
On the way defensive coordinator Dean Pees game-plans and what he likes about it:"First of all, just watching film, the way we break down film here and the way they organize it for us to watch, I love it, and I know the players love it. I don't think that it's a big difference in how a coordinator goes about a game plan as far as knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses, coming up with a game plan to attack. But, just the way we learn it and go about it in practice, and then taking it to the game [is special]."* *
On how important it is to not allow any big chunk plays by opposing offenses:"After the Denver game, we just talked about playing technique – technique, sound ball and just focusing on the small things. In this league, it's hard to get the ball as an offense and drive 80 yards every time without a penalty, big play and all that. So, we know that and we've just got to take it into the game, and take it in every week. These last two games we've been able to do that, and it's just about, like I said, playing technique and everybody just trusting each other. We're communicating better, and hopefully, we'll continue to do that."* *
On if limiting big plays is important as they prepare to face the Bills' read-option:"Definitely. You've got to see what you've got to see and be in position to make a play when it's time to. Especially if [Bills RB C.J.] Spiller plays, he can take it in a second to the house. They've got a lot of weapons, and we've just got to be on point with that – make sure we're talking, playing the same defense, and we'll be fine."* *
On what the biggest challenge was for him joining this defense as a veteran player who was with one team for a long time:"I guess the biggest thing was just … We were talking about the same things, I've been in different concepts, and Chris [Canty], [Michael] Huff, [Elvis] Dumervil, the new guys, we've all been around enough to [have] been able to play different concepts and everything. It's just that where we were, we probably used different terms. Here, we've just got to make sure we're talking about the same thing, using the same terms and making sure we're understanding each other. The playbook is pretty thick, too, here. So, just learning all the plays and being able to communicate with each other, I think, was the biggest thing."* *
On how good he feels at this point:"I feel good. It's a week-to-week thing, and obviously, in this league once the season hits, you won't ever been 100 percent until the season is over with and you've had a chance to recover. But, the only thing you can do is be as close to 100 [percent as you can be] on game day and go out there and let it roll."* *
On why he thinks he's a good tackler and why some guys are better at tackling than others:"Just the work that you put into it. Even in practice, a lot of what we do, we're out here countless hours on the field doing a lot of different drills and everything. And even in walk-through, or anytime that we're out here on the field, you just make stuff a habit. Just make sure you're getting in proper position all the time and all that, and it's just habit. It's just muscle memory, so you get on the field and it's just what you always do. So, I think for anybody, it's just continue to work."
On if, in general, some guys don't put the proper amount of time in to tackle well:"I don't know; I can't speak for them. But I just know if you work continuously on anything, you can be decent at it, or pretty good."* *
On if facing a mobile quarterback impacts what you do with the pass rush knowing the QB can escape more easily:"You just definitely have to make sure we can contain him every time. If whoever is coming off the edge, whether it's an end or linebacker, if they take the inside move, [the quarterback] definitely can escape and has the speed to get out and get a first down or do whatever he wants to do. So, we've been talking about it this week and definitely have a plan to make sure we always have edges on the defense."* *
On the value of having QB Tyrod Taylor in practice when you're about to face a mobile quarterback:"It's huge. He can definitely give us – and he's been giving us – a look that we'll see Sunday. A lot of times in practice, it is hard to simulate some of these plays or some of the situations we may face on Sunday, but this week, having a guy like that has been huge."* *
On if allowing several big plays at Denver and then not allowing any last week has been a matter of the defense getting more acclimated and having more snaps together as a unit:"We just had to get back to playing like we had been playing during training camp, and just focusing on all the small things. Really, we just made it an emphasis after [the Denver] game; we watched the film and made it an emphasis that we can't allow these things to happen. Whatever it takes, we've got to do it. Those things were correctable and hopefully we continue to get better at it."* *
On if he's playing better because he's healthy or playing with another team:"I'm just embracing it all, and I'm glad to be here, I'll tell you that much. Just being able to show people that I'm healthy and be a productive part of the team and help this team win, that's the only thing I want to do."* *
On if it's been a challenge moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive scheme:"Not really. I've had the opportunity to play in different defenses in Jacksonville over the time that I was there. So, it was just about coming in and learning the playbook and learning to play with guys up front – [Terrell] Suggs and Haloti [Ngata] and all those guys. So, just learning to play with them and learning the defense was bigger than making adjustments on 3-4 or 4-3."