SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement:"Good to see everyone; [I] hope everyone is doing well. Just a quick little recap of the Pittsburgh game: I know for our guys, it felt really good to go out there and just get a win in Pittsburgh. I think we all understood how much that game meant to us, and what that meant to our players. We have our eyes set moving forward on the Cleveland Browns. Our guys are playing well. Calais [Campbell] went out there; he made a play. We talk about it all the time; we don't really care who makes the play, but we just know that there are plays to be made. Calais went out there, and he got the job done. We have some other guys that are really just playing lights out. [I'm] really encouraged – I know I said up here a couple weeks ago – we talked about Kyle [Hamilton] and his impact, and the impact that he has playing for us on special teams. He's covering punts very well, and there are a lot of other guys out there who are just really getting the job done. I think our guys are just ready to continue to take that next step. Questions?"
DE Calais Campbell said it was your decision to move him into the A-gap on his blocked field goal – something he hasn't practiced since last year. What went into that decision? _(Jamison Hensley) _"I think it just comes down to one of those things … After the first one [Pittsburgh field goal attempt], you kind of look at the card, and you kind of see and just make adjustments, just being able to move guys around. I believe that you should be able to make adjustments in games as the game goes on, [and] just kind of look for certain things and just kind of see what's happening. He's tall; he's a big guy, he's long. You put him in there, but he's been good for us in other places [too]. It just kind of worked out; it was just a timely play. [We] put him in the right spot, and he got his hand up and it was a huge block for us."
We saw P Jordan Stout on the injury report yesterday, which we don't normally see with specialists. Is that a concern at all for Saturday? _(Childs Walker) _"Not at all. He was out there; he was out there today. He's doing well."
We saw RB Justice Hill take two kickoff returns on Sunday. Is the returner position unsettled at all? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"It's kind of one of those things I think we talked about a couple weeks ago … 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay] is playing a lot on offense. I've said that before, we have a lot of guys who we can put back there to return kicks for us. So, I think it's just throughout the flow of the game, the course of the game, we just kind of work with our guys to make sure that we're taking care of everybody."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Opening statement:"Alright, good to see everybody. [We're] just on a short week but trying to get ready for another big AFC North battle. [I] expect it to be a great game, and we've got a great challenge ahead of us. So, I'm looking forward to Saturday."
What do you attribute your run defense to? It's been playing at a really high level for a number of weeks now. What's clicking so well with the run defense? _(Ryan Mink) _"It's a tribute to … I'll start with the guys up front smashing the inside. If you've got no inside of the defense, you've got no chance. And then, obviously, the guys on the edge are doing a great job as well. But the run defense is all 11 [guys], in terms of run fits, disguises, some sort of pressures that we have up on a per-game basis. So, just overall execution … I think the guys are sticking to the standard that we have. It's really no surprise on how we expect it to look. So, I'm just pleased where it's at right now, but this will probably be our biggest challenge since the last time we played [against] Cleveland. So, we've got our work cut out for us."
Along those lines, is there an added emphasis on the run game this week, just knowing how the Browns want to run their offense? _(Garrett Downing) _"Yes, yes. Like you said, it's every week. But the old adage of, 'You have to earn the right to rush the passer' is really the truth, otherwise, you're just going to get gashed the whole game, and that's probably the worst feeling ever in the history of football. So, our guys know what's at stake and the task at hand. So, this team probably more so than most teams, they're a little bit more committed to the run than most, so I'd say that's true."
How has getting QB Deshaun Watson back changed the Browns' offense? _(Noah Trister) _"Yes, just the threat of him [Deshaun Watson] running the ball is obviously the biggest difference; more of the gun-run game has showed up since he's taken over. But the whole offense is there, so [it's] definitely an added dynamic with him being able to pull it both on the designed runs and the extended play. I think Jacoby Brissett was an underrated runner, as well."
You kind of knew what you were getting with ILB Roquan Smith, but sometimes when you're dealing with someone more often, you kind of learn some more things. Has anything surprised you or jumped out at you that you might not have known about Roquan before? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Well, he [Roquan Smith] is not afraid to let his personality shine, which is great, and I think that's a tribute to 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] and the culture we have here of just, 'Hey, we want you to be your best self, man.' He's obviously comfortable in his own skin, and we love him for it. Just his personality on a day-to-day basis … He's just a great guy to be around."
You guys talked a lot about overcommunication in the preseason. Is ILB Roquan Smith kind of the epitome of that? _(Childs Walker) _"Yes, I would say so. I'd say so. Yes, it's what we expect once we get on the field, right? It's just calling out things that you see. There's nothing too dumb to say out there – what you see – whether you see a tight end in a certain position … [If] you want to call it out, more power to you. It helps everybody else out and we always say it could lock in something else to somebody else's mind – by you calling things out. So, I think that helps us, for sure."
Do you have any examples of ILB Roquan Smith's personality shining that you can share? (Ryan Mink) _(laughter)"He [Roquan Smith] challenged me to name all the oceans the other day, and I nailed it. _(laughter)But apparently there's a Southern Ocean now that I was not aware of, so he's giving me crap for that. (laughter) I said, 'Well, when I learned the oceans, those are the ones that I knew. This new Southern Ocean – I don't know.' (Reporter: "How did that come up, though?")"Well, he said he was a big geography buff, and I was like, 'Oh, yeah? Let's see what you've got.' (laughter) The inner workings of a defensive team room." (Reporter: "So, that's legit? The ocean that he named was …")"He did Google it, and there is one, yes. I guess it's the Antarctic Ocean. I don't know. Who knows? I wasn't studying the oceans the last few years." (laughter)
If you look at the end of halves, opponents have gained a lot of yards and had a lot of successful drives. It looks like they're all doing different things, but is there any reason why opponents have had success against your defense in those situations? _(Pete Gilbert) _"It's definitely frustrating when you give up yards in those situations. We're obviously trying to … We're not trying to play prevent defense, per se. When you get into a two-minute situation, you've got to identify how many downs does the offense have to work with? So, at the end of the half, they have three downs, otherwise, they've got to punt it; at the end of the game, obviously, it depends on the score, so we call it a three-down or a four-down situation. So, the guys are in-tune to that on how aggressive we have to be defensively. Are we playing the clock? Are we playing the offense? It's something that we have looked at, because it's a situation that I think we need to improve on, in terms of our results. In terms of our process in those situations, I think we're on the right track. We do gameplan it extensively, and when you look at the results on a per-drive basis, it's hard to kind of pinpoint one or two things. So, I think we've just got to keep chasing it and making sure our execution and communication is on point. And hopefully, we'll get in those situations as the season comes on and come away with the wins."
When you talk about process and results, looking at the big picture of why teams have had success throwing deep, is there anything that sticks out? Are you confident that there's going to be some positive regression for you guys in that way? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"When you look at the deep passes and the big-play pass route, again, it's hard to attribute it to one or two things. Last game, it wasn't Marlon's [Humphrey] best game, but he's a guy that I think [is] an elite corner, and we're going to keep putting him in situations where he's going to be man-to-man and in one-on-ones, and we're confident he's going to win those. I think you just looked at three separate situations and kind of happen to string them together in one game. And then there are some other things where … I think we've actually done a good job of keeping the ball in front over, probably, the last half of the season, so I'm curious on those stats. But the game that sticks out is this last game, and we're confident that he [Marlon Humphrey] will make those plays moving forward."
Did you like what you saw from S Marcus Williams in his first game back from injury? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Heck yes. You have to be careful; if a ball is up there too long, he's coming down with it."
Is part of the fun of coaching ILBs Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen that they do so many things well that they're almost interchangeable? _(Ryan Mink) _"I just think it speaks to just their talent. Anytime you get great players on the field, you let them try to do what they do. I think that kind of augments itself, and just has an effect over the whole course of the defense. Like you said, we can do a lot of things with those guys out there. They both know both spots, so they both can play both positions. Obviously, it's paying dividends for us right now."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG ROMAN
Opening statement:"Good afternoon, everybody. It's a short week for us, which is always a full sprint. We have a really challenging opponent with some really good players, starting with their D-line. They are extremely disruptive up front. The more you watch them this season, I really feel like they've improved as the season has gone on. I've really liked the last couple days of our preparation coming off the Pittsburgh game. Guys were really tuned in; they know the challenge that's in front of us and guys are working hard. We're really focusing on ourselves and getting ourselves where we need to be, but the Browns pose a very good challenge with their defensive scheme. They're well-coached. Then, obviously Myles Garrett, [Jadeveon] Clowney, those guys … Those guys are playing at a really high level right now. If you watched the tape, you'd agree with me. Any questions?"
What went into the decision to have your third-string quarterback – QB Anthony Brown – throw a pass on his first play from your own one-yard line? (Jamison Hensley) _"Isn't that the obvious thing to do? They'd never expect it, right? _(laughter)I saw the terrible towels waving, it was pretty cranked up on defense, so I felt that was the best way to get us to the five-yard line and then go from there. What it really comes down to is I had faith in Anthony [Brown] in that situation. He really did a good job stepping in like that. [He] really hadn't taken any real reps with the first team, so it's a real credit to him. [It was] really exciting for him; we're really proud of him."
What have teams been doing against TE Mark Andrews to try to take him out of the game? _(Todd Karpovich) _"They're paying a lot of attention to him. There are times where he's just purely getting doubled – there's a lot of ways to build a double [team] – but he's getting doubled a lot, a lot more than he ever has in a lot of variety of different ways. It's that simple. There are times where you can design some things to beat a double team, and there are times where the ball has to go elsewhere, or else you're asking for … Now you're playing with fire trying to throw it into the defensive coverage, but Mark's [Andrews] having a great year. I thought he played incredibly this past week – in terms of playing football – not stats sheets and all that. He blocked really well; he had a lot on his plate in that regard. We have all the faith in the world [in him]. Mark's one of the best tight ends in the game."
It looks like TE Mark Andrews is still getting open sometimes, but the ball hasn't come his way. _(Ryan Mink) _"That happens; that's happened some. In all fairness, that has happened some. We're going to continue to push the envelope with him."
When you have a quarterback like QB Tyler Huntley who is in concussion protocol but is out there at practice, how does that affect your week of preparation? _(Childs Walker) _"Really, as he [Tyler Huntley] goes through the protocol, we're allowed to do certain things. I'm not a doctor – I only play one on TV – but 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] seems really good to me. He seemed great after the game, and once he clears that protocol, I think [we'll be] all systems go. Then, we'll just kind of make some decisions after that. It really doesn't affect you that much because he's in good shape."
What kind of dimension does RB J.K. Dobbins bring to your run game, and what attribute about him really allowed him to take the run game up a notch last week? _(Pete Gilbert) _"I thought he did a great job of reading the holes, a little bit of patience – not too much – but just enough. J.K. [Dobbins] is a really good player. I think after that procedure he had, I really think it visibly has helped him. So, he's physically closer to where he would like to be, but he does a really good job of finding the hole. [He] has good vision, and explosion or whatnot, so he's a really good back. I think he should just keep getting better from here on out."
There was some debate online about a scramble that QB Tyler Huntley had in Sunday's game where the left side of the formation was congested with routes, and he took off to the right. Is calling a designed scramble something that you're comfortable doing, or was that a situation where he saw the opportunity? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"When you play certain coverages that match and you take everybody on this side of the field and run them to the other side of the field, then there's nobody left on that side of the field. So, if you have a quarterback that can run, that can be used as a weapon."
Do you sometimes have to watch QB Tyler Huntley because he has taken some bigger hits? _(Ryan Mink) _"Yes, we had a nice little chat about that, and it's something that he's keenly aware of. We have to do a much better job in that area – and we have to emphasize it more. He's definitely more aware of it now."
We've seen a lot of quarterbacks go down around the league. How much of a blessing is it to have two quarterbacks in QBs Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown who can do what you need them to do in this offense, compared to some of the other quarterback rooms around the league? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Yes, it was built with that in mind, so we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Each guy is a little bit different, so we will definitely do certain things differently with them, but [I] feel really good about those guys. 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] has a lot of experience; Anthony [Brown] – it was pretty remarkable getting thrown in [and] your first snap in the NFL is with the first team offense in the closed end of Pittsburgh on your minus-one yard line. I thought he played with ice water in his veins, so [I'm] really excited about him and his prospects."