DEFENSIVE BACK DEVIN McCOURTY
October 30, 2019
Q: What makes Lamar Jackson so good?
DM: I’ve never seen a player like this at the quarterback position. I think, obviously, his speed. The way he’s able to throw the ball down the field. You watch some games where he’s moving around the pocket, he’s close to running, and he sees a guy downfield, and it’s like he flicks his wrist and it’s 50 yards down the field easily. So, I think it’s his ability to throw the ball down the field. But also, they come out there in empty and if it’s not there, if he doesn’t like what he sees, he’s able to make three guys miss in the backfield. Now, it’s 45-50 yards later before anybody gets next to him. I think it’s a combination of everything. If he was just a runner, then you would change your game plan and not worry about the pass. If he was just a passer, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to try to make sure you keep him in the pocket. But, I think it’s his ability to do both things at such a high level that makes it tough, and then it’s the scheme that they run. Everything is not something that you see every week, so now you’re trying to prepare for something that you can’t replicate in practice. We don’t have anybody that can throw the ball and run the ball like he can, so it’s very tough to prepare for him.
Q: How do you know when to commit to the run or the pass?
DM: We need all 11 guys to play a role and do their job. You can’t play him in the run game and be the deep guy. You just can’t this week. It won’t happen. Each guy is going to have their job to do on whatever defense we’re in, and each guy has to do it. If they don’t do it, it’ll be a big play. They’re that good. Not just Lamar Jackson, but their skill players are that good that if you don’t someone is going to make a play on you. You just have to be able, whether it’s playing a dive, whether it’s playing the quarterback, whether they have a missile-motion coming, you have to be alert to whatever your assignment is.
Q: You guys have always had someone on the scout team to step in and play that role when needed. How hard has it been this week to get a guy that can do a little bit of everything against you?
DM: You don’t. It’s just, it is what it is. It’s going to be a game where we can do whatever we want, but we’ll have to be ready to adjust to how fast he is, how strong his arm is, and I think it’s kind of across the board. You look at [Hayden] Hurst, and you look at [Mark] Andrews, those guys play tight end, but they can run. So, you can’t go cover receivers in practice and think, you know, because they don’t have the same size as those guys have. So, they have some guys that are different. I think that are kind of special for the position they play, and they can do things that I don’t think every team has a guy like that to do it.
Q: How dangerous is it to defend a guy in man that can do all of those things you just described when he puts the ball under his arm?
DM: Honestly, it’s dangerous if you’re in man or zone. I mean, there’s times where they have two guys committed to him and he just outruns them. There’s times they’re in zone and you still have a guy that’s in your zone, so you’ve got one guy that’s playing the guy in the zone, so that leaves one guy with eyes on Lamar Jackson to get him down. He makes them miss, and now he’s gone. So, like I said, no matter what, it comes down to doing your job, and then there’s going to be times in the game where guys are going to have to make tough tackles on him, and we’ve got to just do a good job of that. And I think that’s what happens when you play against a really good player. Like, it’s not going to be easy. He’s obviously going to make some of his plays, but we have to still make some of our plays in the game if we want to have a chance to win defensively.
Q: How different is Greg Roman’s offense with Jackson compared to San Francisco’s offense with Colin Kaepernick?
DM: Yep. I think you could even throw in when we played Buffalo when he was there. Whether it’s Kaepernick, whether it’s Tyrod Taylor, you know, Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, who we played against when he was in Buffalo. It’s a lot of the same things scheme-wise of doing different things. I’m sure some of that stuff will come up. You know, you play a guy a couple times in the last couple years, those games still kind of have relevance. So, it’s very similar, and I think no matter what, you’ve always got to adjust to personnel, to what guys do. Like Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor: great when you talk about throwing the ball, able to run. And I think Lamar Jackson is faster. He’s a little more elusive, so it’s very similar to those guys, but I think it’s different because he’s different.
Q: Are there more concepts with this offense that are similar to the triple option, like in college?
DM: There’s times. I think that’s what’s hard. This offense can get in a lot of different things. They can get into a triple option-type type of feel with some plays, and the very next play they’re in five-out empty, and you have two tight ends that run 4.6, you have [Marquise] Brown out there, that’s one of the fastest guys in the league, and now you’re in a drop-back passing game where they’ve got four or five verticals going. He can get it to them, or he can still run. So, I think what’s tough is schematically, this offense can get in so many different looks. They can get in three tight end personnel sets and then come out there and it looks like it’s a three-receiver set. For us, we have to really watch a lot of film. We have to study. We have to try to be as prepared as possible for this game because it’s not similar to any game we’ve played so far.
Q: In general, to spy a quarterback, do you need someone that’s about as fast as the quarterback is?
DM: I think when you say spy, it’s very simplistic. Like, we’re going to take one guy. He’s just going to watch him. Within spying, other guys have to do their job. If you put Lamar Jackson in the middle of the field and you choose whatever linebacker or defensive end, and you say, “Go tackle him”. I’m saying maybe one time you touch him. Every other time you won’t tackle him at all. So, it’s other guys doing their job. You can’t just have one guy in there and say, “Just tackle this guy everywhere he goes”. It’s going to be too tough. Everyone has to kind of – you know, we have to have a plan of where we want him to come out to, how we want to get him. And obviously, you watch the games, it’s not easy. I think all teams have that kind of plan, but it’s not easy to go out there and execute it.
Q: What’s the difference between tackling an elusive quarterback and tackling a running back or receiver in the open field?
DM: Not much. You’ve got to go through the same fundamentals as you would go if anybody breaks out into the open field. If you go there and you think you’re tackling a quarterback, you’re going to have a lot of missed tackles in the game because he’s as elusive, he’s a strong runner, he’s got a stiff arm. So, once he gets into the open field, it’s different. Obviously, with the rules, if he’s in the pocket you have to tackle him the way you’ll tackle any other quarterback. But once he gets out of the pocket, he’s like a running back. You’ve got to treat him like that.
Q: How hard is the moment when you’re trying to get to him in the backfield and he tries to shed the tackle?
DM: If you get to him, you have to just worry about tackling him. You can’t worry about trying to deflect the ball or jump. If you get to him in the backfield, I think everyone in coverage understands the problem of if you try to do two things at once, you’re probably going to lose that battle. If you get to him, you have to just worry about tackling him. You’ve got to break down, you’ve got to wrap him up and you have to tackle him. If he’s able to get an arm free and still throw the ball as you’re trying to swing him to the ground, those are plays we’ve just got to deal with. But, you can’t try to do everything. Tackle him in the backfield, because you see over and over that he makes guys miss because they’re trying to play the run and the pass. He’s just too good of a runner.
Q: Who do you think is the fastest player on your team?
DM: Probably J. [Jonathan] Jones. Yeah, I’m too old to even be in that category. The longer you get, you’ve got to throw Slate [Matthew Slater] in there. But, J. Jones also has that track speed, too, so it’s, yeah. Phil Dorsett’s probably in there too, but I’ll never choose an offensive guy.
Q: How about Justin Bethel, is he fast?
DM: Yeah, but Bethel just got here. So, we don’t know –
Q: You don’t like him?
DM: No, it’s not that I don’t like him. It’s just, we haven’t seen him just run flat-out like that, you know. You guys probably know, you’ve watched him more on other teams. I don’t watch that much football at home.
Q: How do you approach this game as it comes before the bye week?
DM: You put everything into it. We know there’s a break on the end, I would say kind of a little night light at the end of the tunnel, where you get a quick relaxation to gear back up. But for right now, I think everybody’s focusing on putting everything, and I think you have to because this is the best team we’ve played so far. It’ll be on the road, Sunday Night Football, and an environment where it’s not too friendly to us any time we go there. So, it’ll be intense, and I think this is a game where you’re going to need all the energy that you possibly have stored in you to try to go out there and try to play well.
Q: Nick Boyle said that we’ll see how good your defense is once you guys play them. Do you guys feel like you have proven yourselves already?
DM: I don’t think there’s ever such thing as that. I think every time we play somebody now – I saw a bunch of people tweeted the quote at me, and it’s like, “Oh man, he’s talking trash”. I mean, what is he supposed to say? Like, “We’re not going to run or throw, we’re just going to come and take 50 knees and concede victory?”. Like, I saw what he said. He was right, though. We haven’t seen an offense like this; we haven’t seen a quarterback like this. So, to me, any time you take two good teams and you play them on a Sunday night game, you’re going to get their best shot. We’re going to get their best shot, they’re going to get our best shot, and it’s going to be a battle. Whoever comes out on top is going to be ecstatic, and for them to have to gear up and go right again next week, we’ll have to then focus on the bye week and how to get better. But for this week, you’re going to have two teams that I would probably go out there to say probably don’t like each other very much, and go out there and try to beat each other. It’s going to be as competitive as a game we’ve had this year.
Q: The common thread with these tough Ravens teams has been John Harbaugh. What are your impressions as a coach and the way he’s continued to give you a consistent challenge over the years?
DM: I would probably say he’s very consistent. This day and age, a lot of coaches don’t get to stay at one place for a long time. So, I don’t know much about him, but I think obviously he always gets his guys ready to go. They always have a good football team, no matter what changes they go through. I would say similar to here. There’s always a lot going on. We have players leave, coaches leave. They’ve had the same thing, but it always seems like they’re talked about, they’re in the big games at the end of the year, they’re in the playoffs, they’re trying to make a push for the championship. So, I would say he knows how to prepare his team and get them ready for a long season, and obviously, getting ready for the big games.
Q: People always characterize the Patriots as being good situationally, being smart and being disciplined. Is there something that defines their team characteristically under Harbaugh?
DM: I would say they’re similar. Very tough football team. You’re not going to just go in there and beat them. I don’t care, on the road, at home, they’re going to play you tough. They’re going to smash-mouth, try to punch you in the face, and I think one thing we see is that they’re always going to be really good on special teams. So, Bill [Belichick] always tells us, the thing to any tough team is you go out there and you play well against the run, you run the football, and you cover kicks. And I think when you watch them, they do all of those things.
Q: What’s the risk in devoting a lot of resources to trying to stop Lamar Jackson and the running game?
DM: I think you saw like Week 1, when they played Miami and everyone was saying like, “He was a running back, he’s a runner, he’s a runner,” and he went out there and threw the ball all over the field. That’s what I said, what makes him good is his ability to be really good at both things: throwing the football and running the football, because if you devote too much to him running, he’s going to throw the ball. If you sit back too much and don’t think he’s going to run the ball, he’s going to run the ball. And I think his knowledge and understanding of that, like he’s not trying to be just a runner or just a passer. He’s trying to use his skill set to the best of his abilities on each and every play. So, he understands defenses and what you’re in, and I think he knows ahead of time what he’s probably going to get to, but he’s still able to react to whatever you do post-snap. So, I think because of that, and his skill and his understanding of the game, he’s putting a lot of pressure on defenses.
RUNNING BACK JAMES WHITE
October 30, 2019
Q: What makes the Ravens such a tough team?
JW: They're well coached, disciplined. They're good on offense, defense and special teams – just one of those good organizations that has been good in this league for a long time. It's going to be a great challenge for us. They're going to be ready to go coming off a bye so we have to be ready to go from the start of the game. It'll be amped up and we should be the same.
Q: Are you excited to be playing in prime time, the only show in town?
JW: It's definitely exciting. Like I said, it's what you dream about as a kid – being able to play on Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football. Everybody's watching you. Two good football teams – we've played a lot of good football games against the Ravens so it should be a lot of fun out there.
Q: Is there any onus on the offense to hold onto the ball longer for this game because their offense seems to hold onto the ball forever?
JW: It's not really a goal of ours. We want to go out there and do our job. Whatever the coaches dial up for us we want to go out there and execute that. It's not about just holding the football. It's about going out there executing and putting drives together and trying to score points, trying to help our defense out. They've been playing well all year long but we have to do our job in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams, in order to beat a team like this because they're good on every level.
Q: Can you talk about where your offense is at? Do you feel like you're heading in the right direction?
JW: I think that we're trying to improve each and every week. Obviously everything hasn't been perfect so far and never is, so for us we want to continue to improve. Obviously you're not going to be perfect each and every week so you learn from the mistakes from each and every game and build on them and just not continue to make the same mistakes. I think as an offense we're trying to get everything going – running game, passing game, play action, whatever it is, screens. Whatever the coaches dial up, we just want to execute it and be on the same page. I think everybody's working towards that.
Q: What do you see when you look at this Baltimore defense?
JW: They're good at every level. Good pass rushers, good linebackers, they're really talented in the secondary. They have a lot of guys that can create negative plays and turnovers. So we just have to protect the football against these guys because when you win the turnover battle you usually win the football game.
Q: Who do you think is your fastest teammate?
JW: That's tough. We have a lot of fast guys – Phil [Phillip Dorsett II], Phil's definitely up there, Devin McCourty's probably up there. I'm trying to think of who else would be up there… [Matthew] Slater's up there too. Brandon Bolden's up there. There's a lot of fast guys.
Q: Tom Brady?
JW: [Laughs] You can put him in that category.
Q: How do you approach this week with the bye week coming up?
JW: Our focus is on the Ravens. We've played a lot of good football so far but none of it really means anything if we don't continue to work and continue to get better and this is another stepping stone in front of us against a good football team. It's going to be a great challenge so all the focus is on them.
Q: One or two of the most important plays form last week's game were screens. How difficult has it been to get the timing of the screen-game down with moving pieces along the offensive line and at wide receiver?
JW: It's not just moving pieces, everybody has to execute the play whether it's us as running backs being in the right spots, getting the timing right. I think screen plays are a great team play. It takes everybody for them to work – quarterback selling like he's throwing somewhere else, offensive line selling like it's a regular drop back pass, receivers getting downfield blocking. That was a huge play for us last week and a great team play. It wasn't just a play by me.
Q: Obviously you don't play against Lamar Jackson but can you give your thoughts on the leap he's made in year this year and the fact that he's more than just a running quarterback now?
JW: He's a tremendous football player. He can throw, catch, run, whatever they need him to do, he's going to go out there and do it. You can see two weeks ago when they played the Seahawks that he's fired up, telling coaches he wants to go for it on fourth down, things of that nature. You can tell they believe in him and he has a lot of confidence out there. He's been doing a great job this year. Like I said, it'll be a great challenge for us on offense, defense and special teams because they have a lot of talented guys and they've been executing very well.