Ravens' Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton Quotes 8.12.20
COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
I saw you just picked up RB Kenjon Barner. He's probably going to have to show that he can hang on to the ball if he wants to stay a Raven, just because of the high premium that Coach Harbaugh puts on ball security. He turned the ball over four times lasts season. Can you talk about that a little bit? (Kirk McEwen) "That's a great question. Our big thing – first and foremost – is ball security. So, what we saw in Kenjon, it just gives us another opportunity to bring in another guy, a veteran guy that has some experience. That is a spot that we are lacking, so it just gives us a little bit of an insurance policy. And I think that's one thing that we are going to be working on; we are going to be working on making sure that he can catch the ball [and] he can hang onto the ball, so we can be productive [in] that phase."
How challenging is it for a rookie like WR James Proche to have that job? And with no preseason, how difficult is it going to be for him to win that job in his first year in the NFL? (Todd Karpovich) "James is a good player, and he's been working; he's been working every day. But without any preseason games, I think it is going to be my job and the job of my assistants of just making sure that we put him in those game-like situations, so when he is our guy and he wins that job, he's been put in those situations to go out there and say, 'You know what? Game One, this is our guy.' Like you said, it's not easy coming in from college [and] catching turn-over balls, but he has great ball skills, he's been working and he's getting better every day."
Do you view WR James Proche as a candidate to return kicks, too? And when you are auditioning punt and kick returners, how many would you like to have? How many is too many, when you have a bunch of guys you are trying to get reps for?(Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't think having too many … You just have to make sure that the ones that you have are the right ones. I think we'll be able to get reps to the guys that we do have in the building, so we can see, and we can evaluate those guys properly. Now, your second question about if we view James [Proche] as a kick returner? James was a guy in college that did both, so he can return kicks and he can return punts, so he is a dual guy."
Can you evaluate your coverage units from last season and some areas that you think you need to improve in? (Mike Preston) "I thought early-on in the year, our kickoff coverage did an outstanding job. We finished at the top, and due to some injuries, we ended up trailing-off a little bit. I don't see that taking a dip this year. It's all effort, getting to the football, and it's everything we preach. [It's] kind of how we want to play ball. That's the identity of our football team – our kickoff cover team. So, I thought we were pretty good there. Now, our punt units – we didn't punt the ball very much. Maybe it was one game where we didn't really cover the ball particularly well. But other than that, I thought our coverage units really played well last year. Now, do we want to get better? Yes, we always want to get better in everything we do, and that's something that we are harping on."
A lot of teams look for defensive players on special teams. Are there any offensive players that can help you, that you have seen so far, as far as coverage? (Mike Preston) "Yes, of course. We have a lot of guys on our roster. Chris Moore has been an outstanding gunner for us. He has made a lot of plays on the outside. We put Justice [Hill] out there; he has made plays for us. What I'm seeing from J.K. [Dobbins] – a guy that's running, and he loves ball. There are a lot of guys – Nick Boyle. Guys that we have had out there and that have played for us. The list goes on. It's something that we preach. If you are an offensive guy, it doesn't matter. If we put you out there, we expect you to go ahead and get the job done for us."
Can you talk a little more about the rookie contributions? What are you expecting from LB Malik Harrison and LB Patrick Queen on special teams? How are these guys going to have to pick-up special teams quickly to contribute as rookies? And then, with WR James Proche, we hear a lot about him as a punt returner because he has great hands. What have you seen from him in terms of after the ball is in his hands, and how good of a returner he is then? (Ryan Mink) "All those rookies, they should be fired-up to come in here and understand that in order to really get on the field, your role is probably going to start with special teams. You have to go through our meeting room, and you have to set your foundation in there, because the special teams part of the game, it really prepares you for your offensive and defensive skill. If you are a defensive player, then all we talk in covering kicks is shedding off blocks, getting off blocks and making plays. If you are on kick return, we talk about blocking. So, all those things go into it. What we have seen from Malik [Harrison] and [Patrick] Queen, I'm excited that those guys are here. I think those guys are going to be really good football players for us, not only on special teams, but on the defensive side of the ball. So, I'm excited. [James] Proche, after the catch, he's really quick – one step, hit it and get it, is really what I like to say. This guy can catch the ball, and he can get north and south really quick, and that's what we want to see from our punt returners. So, he's done a good job at that."
What are your thoughts about RB Kenjon Barner? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Here you have a veteran guy that's coming in. When you are looking at that position, we just want to have an opportunity to evaluate, see what he can do [and] let him go out there and compete with our young guys. I truly believe, in football, everything is earned; nothing is ever given. So, if you want those jobs, you have to go out there, and you have to earn them. I think that's what those guys are going to be doing as we work through this camp."