Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Can you talk about LB Albert McClellan? He is obviously a defensive starter, but how special is he as a special teams guy? (Edward Lee) "We are very proud of Albert McClellan in our special teams room, he and Zach Orr. Also, Anthony Levine is contributing greatly to our defense. These guys are really good football players. That's why they were really good special teams players when they were doing just that specifically. They've grown during their time here – all of them. Albert, now, is setting the edge of our defense and rushing the passer. He has been blocking guys and covering kicks for years here. None of this is a surprise for those of us that have been around him. Zach Orr [is the] same way – different skills, but in the same way playing all of those reps on defense. You can see his speed and his athletic ability in space and how he makes tackles in space. He's been doing that on special teams now for quite a while. Then Anthony Levine going in there and playing our sub package. You can see that he can tackle and get off a block. He's been doing that for quite a while. We're really happy for him, and we're also really happy for our team, because if we can have more contributors to all three phases, we're a better football team. That's what we preach around here. That's what our scouts look for. That's what our management wants. That's what 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] wants. That's what we all want. You can see it come true and come to pass with those three players."
I guess one of the byproducts of the depth at wide receiver is WR Kamar Aiken returning to a more expansive special teams role. How has that helped?* (Luke Jones)* "Kamar, his role switched in 2015 because of the injuries we had at wide receiver. As you can see, he can go out there and play wide receiver with the best of them. He had a great year. Now we have all of the wide receivers back, and he's the best special teams player of the bunch, so he is going to get the special teams reps, because we're trying to win. He's also another guy that we're very proud of, because he broke himself in on special teams. He's just a fine football. That's another example of the same thing I was speaking [about] with regard to the defensive players."
**With the new kickoff rule and touchbacks coming to the 25-yard line, is there a consistent philosophy as far as what you want to do there or will it be tailored game by game? *(Joe Platania) *"The kickoffs are not only going to be tailored game by game, but they're going to be tailored kick by kick. As the game changes, the strategies will change. If you're going into the fourth quarter and you're facing a team that is a high-powered offense and you have a one-score lead, you're going to try to pin them down there. The 25-yard line might not be acceptable at that point in time. If you have a decent lead in the game, you might not risk it and just kick it out of the end zone. It's not only looking at the opponent and looking at what their returner is like or where you're at with your kickoff team, it's also looking at the game situation. The strategies will change, I think, play by play."
Is K Justin Tucker, out of all the kickers you have seen, the kind of guy who can adjust either way?* (Joe Platania)* "We've been practicing all of the kicks. You saw a couple of them the other day. We have deep kicks. We have short kicks. We have squib kicks. Most kickers in the National Football League have those skills or they wouldn't have been in the National Football League in the first place. That's a part of our package, and we'll use them as we see fit."
**How would you assess what you saw from WR/RS Devin Hester and the return game in general? *(Luke Jones) *"Devin did a really good job of protecting the football. We didn't block well enough, as we all probably witnessed. We also witnessed how teams are going to approach him as a punt returner. That is to try to keep it away from him. They kicked it out of bounds a number of times. Not everybody can do that on a consistent basis. The disappointing part of the game was the one return that we did have an opportunity we weren't able to get there. We'll keep working. Our players, I think, are getting more accustomed to Devin, and Devin is getting more accustomed to our system with the practice reps we had. We expect big things out of Devin Hester."
Returns are up after Week 1 compared to last year, particularly because of the new rule change. Are you surprised that more teams are returning the football? Is this what we should expect because of the rule change? (Edward Lee) "I think we all anticipated there were going to be more returns with the new rule. It has come to pass."
I know the intended effect was to reduce the number of collisions, but does this contradict that?* (Edward Lee)*"Unintended consequences, I guess, is what they call it. That's what it is. That's not what's happening. People don't necessarily want to give up five yards. We, on special teams, fight for every inch. If you're saying, 'We're going to take five yards from you,' we're going to fight for every inch, not just five yards."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
How pleased were you with the overall defensive performance? Communication was something you guys talked about last year, but it seems like it was a crisp, solid performance. (Luke Jones)"Like always, when you go back and watch the film, you're never as bad as you think you are, and you're never as good as you think you are. There are certainly some things we can improve on schematically and a couple of other things, even communication-wise. Overall, I was pleased. I thought we played hard. I thought we played fast and tried to play physical. That's the way we want to play. The communication … One of the things we tried to in the offseason was [to] really limit in some ways some of the communication. You have to communicate all the time on defense, but try to make it a little simpler and just make sure it's not complicated in any way. I thought the guys did a good job of that. The communication I really liked the best was the communication on the sideline. I've always emphasized coming off the sideline … It was a little different sometimes when I was in the press box, but I really had a good feel when the guys came off the field of some things that were going on out on the field that helped me quite a bit."
In terms of creativity, where does Browns head coach Hue Jackson rank? (Jamison Hensley)"[He] may be the master. *(laughter) *It's pretty amazing. I don't know how he teaches it all, to be honest with you. He does a great job. He did a great job at Cincinnati. He's done a great job everywhere he's been. It certainly tries your patience on defense. He's done a great job with it. When it's all said and done, he still wants to run the ball and throw it over your head. They have a quarterback now that I think was one of the best last year on third down before he got hurt. They got hurt last week in Philly because they couldn't convert on third down. I don't think that's a problem anymore for them. We have our hands full with these guys."
What is your view of the pass rush? I know OLB Elvis Dumervil isn't out there right now, but what is your overall view? (Garrett Downing) "It's OK. We can do better. We're OK. We have to get a lot better. With just a straight four-man rush, we don't want to rely every time that we can only get pressure when we put pressure – extended pressure package. We just have to keep working on it. I'm happy with where they are, especially the young guys, but we just have to keep building on it and getting better."
Are you concerned with the depth at outside linebacker with OLB Elvis Dumervil and OLB Za'Darius Smith on the injury report? (Luke Jones) "Always – really, every position. I really think when you … I've talked to other coaches around the league. I think everybody is concerned with everybody – everybody's position. We all feel like we're thin. All of a sudden, you lose two guys at the same position. That third guy probably hasn't had many reps during practice. He's been down there on the scout field. It's always a concern."
Can you talk about LB Albert McClellan? What does he bring to the table? (Edward Lee) "Albert is a tough guy. He is a physical guy. The guy plays with just absolute effort on every play. That's what I love about the guy. Really, the thing I think that goes unnoticed a little bit about Albert is he is a very, very intelligent football player. He does a lot of little things sometimes you don't necessarily see. There are certain players that have to go out, and they have to do repetitions in practice to make sure they have it. If you want to change something on the sideline and just go tell the guy, if he hasn't repped it, you have to know that maybe this isn't the best thing to do. Albert is not one of those guys. Albert is one of those guys on the sideline [where] you can tell him, 'We want to do this when they do that,' and he goes out and he gets it done – in every facet of it. He's tough, he's smart and he plays with effort, and those are the only three things you can ask of a guy."
Through OTAs, training camp and preseason, you had a really good idea of what you had in S Eric Weddle. Seeing him in a live-action game, what did he deliver for you? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, but I think 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb] is getting there, too. I really feel like I have total confidence in 'Webby' and Kendrick Lewis, all of those guys back there. Even Anthony Levine [Sr.] who has played doggone every spot for us. He's played dime, he's played nickel, he's played safety. Again, I feel like those guys are all great communicators; they're all smart. I have a really good feel with Eric. I also really felt good with Eric on the sideline, because he and I would talk about certain things at times. You have a guy that is just really in tune to it – almost like a coach on the field. Again, I just felt that way with the whole defense on Sunday. On the sideline when we wanted to make a little bit of an adjustment to something, we were able to go out there and just do it and not have to go out and rep it, and rep it and rep it. I could just show them on the board or talk to them about it, and they did it. That's a great feeling as a coach."
**Hearing you talk it sounds like maybe being on the sideline is more beneficial than you even expected. *(Garrett Downing) *"I think this year it is. You just get a feel for the staff and you get a feel for your team. We have some new faces, and we're pretty young on defense. I think sometimes being able to be down there and actually looking them in the eye and just talking to them [is crucial]. The other thing is sometimes you can just tell by looking at someone's body language and looking them in the eye how to call the game based on how we're playing and how they react. I could tell also on Sunday guys were pretty revved up after the first couple of series, so we were going to keep it going."
Is it a feel thing with OLB Terrell Suggs? He has primarily been a three-down linebacker most of his career, but working his way back from a conditioning standpoint or how he is feeling, has that been a little more of a challenge?* (Luke Jones)*"No. He's a pro. The thing about Terrell is I went to him and we talked. It wasn't me saying, 'OK, here's what we're going to do.' This is a matter of he's a mature man. I went to him, and he knows his body and what he can do better than anybody else. The thing about Suggs is he's always going to put the team first. This guy has a Hall of Fame career and could sit there and say, 'I want it to be about me,' and he's not. He and I talked and said, 'Here's probably about how many reps we have to get.' I said, 'Look, there are going to be certain situations where I have to have you and I can't have you tired.' He said, 'Absolutely.' That's just the ultimate pro right there."
Is that going to continue to be the case, or is the plan to continue to increase the snaps as the year goes on? (Garret Downing) "[It] depends on him. I can't answer that. The only guy that can answer that is 55 [Suggs]."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
Opening statement: "I can open up. There are probably some questions about last week's game. I'll start with a little overview, although we have put it far behind us at this time. We felt very good about the way we started the game. I'll give you the positives first: We were very good on first down, 5-of-8 on third down. We had 225 yards. Obviously, we stopped ourselves. We had the turnover in the first half; we had three penalties. The holding penalty set us back to where we were running the ball on third down to get a score and get points. In the second half, the positives were the fourth quarter and our abilities to … We didn't have any penalties in the second half. Certainly, that was good. We were able to run the clock and finish the game, and that was due to our defense getting us the ball back quickly. Offensively, [it was due to] just hanging in there and keeping the clock moving. I thought Joe [Flacco] managed the game very well. I thought he played really good continuity football; he understood the kind of game that was being played and the defense that we were playing. I thought he did very well. I thought our young guys up front, Alex [Lewis] and Ronnie [Stanley], for their first game, really stood out in terms of the game not being too big for them. We were pleased with that. The second half slowdown as we looked at it, we were 1-of-7 on third downs. When you are 1-of-7, you are not playing very well. Really, that started with me. I think what I said to the guys is that we really all took turns, position-wise, each and every position took a mulligan, so to speak, in terms of doing something that inhibited the play, whether it was the depth of the route, footwork, fundamentals, technique – it was all of those things. We weren't pleased with that. Overall, this is a great opportunity for us to really assess ourselves. We knew it was going to be tough to run the football. This is a team that only gave up 1,700 yards all last year on the ground. We knew it was going to be tough. With a couple more third-down conversions, we felt we could have had a little more balance and managed five or six more runs throughout the course of the game. As far as the running game goes, I just believe we will find out more about ourselves over the next two to three weeks when we really are able to assess the kind of team we will be running the football. I don't think you can do that in one game, and I don't know that you can do that in one game against a Rex Ryan defense the way they are totally focused on stopping the run against everything else. We will see down the road; we have confidence that we can do that. But, we have to do that on Sunday, and we have to continue to get better in that area. We are excited about the win. Our guys went back to work, and we know we have a lot of work to do to get better."
Is there such a thing as too much depth? There was so much rotating at all the skill positions. Ideally, would you rather settle in more or does it not matter? (Pete Gilbert)"I said over the last couple weeks that this will be interesting how this all sorts itself out. We are going to be moving people in and out as we have the weather as a factor, the fact that guys didn't get practice time, the fact that guys are coming off injury – all of that stuff. You are never going to complain about having talented players and good football players. That is a problem we love having, and we will continue to work as we work through the next month of the season and see again, how this all sorts itself out."
On Sunday, RB Justin Forsett and RB Terrance West split the reps. Do you see that going forward, or is it still a competition where someone could emerge to be that No. 1 guy? (Ryan Mink) "Going in, I think you will see us rotating them, like we did this past week. Again, time will tell. We may continue on this way, and certainly we could go with riding one back a little bit more. That will be just part of how we proceed."
How much is the running game a feel thing early in the season? You have two rookies on the offensive line and some different running backs. As a play-caller, how much of that is a feel thing? (Luke Jones) "It really is. We knew we were going against a different kind of front. You saw a lot of outside runs, a lot of flips, a lot of unusual plays, because it is just the style of their play. We did try to manufacture some good runs. We had some. We spread them out, and we had a couple of good runs spreading out as well. It is a good problem to have. Every week is different, because you are facing different styles of defense. I'm just excited to see where it goes. I know our guys feel good that we can get a lot better."
What does it say about the receivers that they are willing to share the ball and no one is complaining about getting a certain number of catches? (Ed Lee) "As I have said, if we had players who didn't want the ball, I would be concerned. That is just the nature of the position; they all want the ball. Yet, they are an unselfish bunch. They see the talent around them. They are looking at it in the long haul, too. We are going to need everybody, so the more work that we get to everybody, the better off we are going to be as we move forward. They are an unselfish group; I said that weeks ago, and I truly believe that. I'm sure the time will come where someone is going to not get [the ball] as much as they want, and they will come by and say, 'Hey, what about getting me the ball?' That is just part of it, and it could be anybody. I would expect nothing less, because that is just the nature of those players. They can make plays, and the only way they can do that is with the ball in their hands. We do the best we can to move them around and make sure everybody gets targets."
How pleased were you with what you saw from Joe, considering he only had a handful of live game reps in the preseason?* (Luke Jones)*"I was really pleased with Joe's play. He critiqued himself very hard on each and every play [on his] relative location and decision-making. But, as I said, I thought he did a great job of managing the game, understanding what we needed to do to win and taking care of the football. We had a blitz we should have picked up; he thought it was thrown away. We did live right on that particular play; the tipped ball landed on the ground, instead of in somebody's hands. We recognize that that play went in our direction. We feel fortunate that it did happen that way, but overall, I thought there for four quarters, having not been out there in real action in almost nine or 10 months, it was a credit to him. He battled. He stood in there; he made some tremendous throws standing there and holding the ball in the pocket [waiting] for guys to come open. He took some hits. I think he feels really good about that – that he can he take those hits and get back up and still play. He finished the game. He finished the game on his right knee, and that is what you want to see each and every week."