Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
With Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick being elevated to the 53-man roster, what can they add to the coverage teams? (Aaron Wilson)"Anytime you add defensive players that have the abilities that they do, you hope that they would improve your special teams. Those are guys that we've been working on since the start of training camp for these types of roles. They're both backup safeties, and they're both good football players, and we'll see how it plays out on Sunday exactly what their role might be. But yes, we expect them to be good special teams players. That's why they're on the roster."* *
With those additions and then the health of players like Jameel McClain and Josh Bynes, it's almost like you have all hands on deck almost. And Jacoby Jones as well. How nice is it to have all those guys at your disposal? (Matt Vensel)"It's always good to be healthy on all sides of the ball, because even if an offensive player is injured, or a defensive starter is injured, it affects special teams, because perhaps the backup is one of the core guys on special teams. So, it's always good to have your roster as healthy as you possibly can, and coming off this bye we're relatively healthy, and we look forward to a lot of energy on Sunday in covering kicks and returns and all other phases."* *
Jerry, I know in the past sometimes you've taken kickers out onto a piece of chewed up turf out here to simulate Cleveland's turf and the mess out there. Will you do that this week, and do you anticipate problems on that surface? (Bo Smolka)"There hasn't been a game … They've been out on the road the last two weeks, and the weather has been good there. I'm sure they have a plan to get the grounds crew out there and working on it, and they have a good grounds crew, I'm sure. So, I expect it to be good. It is early November; it's not early January. The weather has been good as far as I know, but part of pre-game warm-up is to acclimate yourself to the wind and the field conditions, and that's what we'll do prior to the game, is go out there and find out what cleats are the best, and find out which way the wind is blowing, and that'll be part of it. It's real difficult to replicate exactly what you might see, because you really don't know what you're going to see. So, we're practicing with the idea that when the game starts, in pre-game, we'll have to figure out exactly how we treat the surface. We expect a good surface though."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
Bernard Pierce looks like he's getting healthy. With him and Ray [Rice], if they're at their peak level in terms of their health, what can they be as a 1-2 punch out of the backfield? (Garrett Downing) "Obviously, I think we've seen glimpses of that, and we certainly know from what they're able to do from last year – that both guys give you a unique package. Ray [Rice] is quick, but not only quick, he's also powerful and catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield. [Bernard] Pierce is a little bit more of a downhill back who does a tremendous job with power and can catch the ball as well. A 1-2 punch with a lot of quickness and power is not a bad package at all."
With a guy like [Bernard] Pierce – who's an explosive guy – how much can an injury like a hamstring injury hinder what he's able to do? (Garrett Downing) "It really depends on the individual. He would probably be able to assess what it has done to him in particular. I think it affects everybody a little differently. Anytime you're a ball carrier in this game, [injuring] anything that helps your lower extremities is going to limit your effectiveness for the most part."
How do you see Bernard Scott fitting into the offense as a third option behind [Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce?] (Luke Jones) "He's learning the system right now. He just arrived, and we can see that he's got a good skill level. Right now, we're just trying to – as much as we possibly can – cram as much information into him as possible. It's a lot to learn. It's a little bit different when you've gone through the spring with us and mini-camps and in training camp. When you come in at this point in the offseason, there's a lot of information because there is growth and development through a system and it expands exponentially. If you don't have a real good sense of the base of it, it can be quite overwhelming. He's a smart guy, [Running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery is doing a great job with him. We're trying to catch him up to speed as fast as we possibly can. It's much like we did with Eugene [Monroe] to see if at some point we could get him out there and get him rolling as quickly as possible."
With Cleveland, [they are] highly-ranked defensively. What do they do well? What kind of challenges do they pose? (Matt Zenitz)"They do a great job stopping the run; I think that's quite evident. You look at them statistically, almost in every category, they are somewhere up in the Top 10. They do a great job, they're physical group up front, and they're big. Phil Taylor does a great job of not only just being a great run stopper, but this guy can rush the passer and push the pocket. He's active and agile up and down the line of scrimmage. You saw him make several plays against Kansas City, just moving down the line and moving that 335 pounds as fast as you'll see any big man. The outside linebacking corps is very, very good – [Paul] Kruger and [Jabaal] Sheard. Their inside linebacking corps is tremendous. All around, [T.J.] Ward from the safety position – in terms of the run game – is having a tremendous year."
One area where Torrey Smith has improved is just in catching the ball. What has been the difference with him that he's been able to improve from last year to this year in terms of hanging on to the ball? (Matt Vensel) "I've been here not quite two years, and from what I've been able to see from him, he's always been able to catch the ball. I remember the year before there was some talk about how his hands were a bit inconsistent, but I didn't see that. I've only seen the guy that's been able to catch it because he works at it. He stays after practice and he works. He's constantly challenging himself in that area. He's been extremely dependable. He's been able to make some big plays for us and certainly runs extremely well, which gives people a lot of problems. I haven't seen those inconsistencies that folks have seen here before. But I know one thing: He works at it. He works to improve."
John [Harbaugh] talked yesterday about feeling that the team is poised to catch fire at this point going into the second half of the year. Do you feel that way about the offense just based on some of the progress that you saw against Pittsburgh? (Matt Zenitz)"I'm an eternal optimist. I believe the Chinese proverb, 'Be careful how you think; you might be shaped by your thoughts.' I'm one of those that have always believed in our guys, what they can do and what they can get done [since they] work so hard. It's impossible to work as hard and practice as well and not show it on the field at some point. It's impossible; it cannot happen. That kind of work and that kind of commitment, I think at some point in time, is going to pay off. When is that going to happen? I'm thinking yesterday, right? (laughter) Nevertheless, I do feel that our guys feel good about where we are and what we're doing in terms of our development. We're trying to develop as quickly as we possibly can, but I think you'll see our effectiveness improve as well."* *
How much progress did you see offensively versus Pittsburgh? (Matt Zenitz) "We did some things well. But, the bottom line is winning – that's what it's all about. Regardless, from a statistical standpoint, we've seen some improvements here and there. Maybe our percentage of completions was a little bit better – things of that nature. All in all, the fact of the matter is this game is based upon wins and losses and we didn't win. So, obviously, we've got a lot of work to do."
It's been awhile since Brandon Stokley has been able to get on the field. What kind of role do you see for him once he's able to get back? (Garrett Downing)"[Brandon Stokley] is one of those guys that has a real good sense of spatial awareness. He's got good quickness. His ability to catch the ball is pretty special. The guy has been around awhile and been in a number of different systems. His ability to play inside in the slot position and be able to match up against nickelbacks is something that I think we anticipate that he'll be able to do. He's also a guy that is real good in terms of blocking against the run. He's smart and he can adjust very well to different looks that he's given. You're not going to fool him a whole lot in terms of coverages and things of that nature. He does that a lot to our group because of the fact that he has experience and he does pass that information along quite a bit. His matchups inside against the nickelbacks would be one of the things I think we'd be looking for."
With the NFL possibly talking about altering the taunting rule, how does that affect this team in terms of discipline? (Adam Vorce)"Our team has not had a problem with it. John [Harbaugh] sets the standards around here. He takes care of the disciplinary things. He communicates extremely well with the guys. They know what he wants them to do and how he wants them to act and conduct themselves. I understand that there have been some issues with the taunting and things that happened in the game the other night. I'm sure that it's a highly-discussed topic at this point in time, but we have to be focused on the things we can control within our group and focus on winning games. We'll let the policymakers – John, Ozzie [Newsome] and all those guys – handle that. We're down in the trenches." (laughter)
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**What kind of flexibility does Elvis Dumervil give you when paired with Terrell Suggs, and what kind of season do you think he's having? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Well, I think he's as advertised. I think he's doing a great job for us, especially in our sub package. He's given us flexibility with really two outside rushers with him and [Terrell] Suggs. We've tried, in some ways, not to move him around as much as we have other people, especially being kind of new in the system. We also want to try to get him in a position to do what he does best, and that's not covering backs and dropping into coverage. That's going forward. I'm very, very pleased with what Elvis [Dumervil] has given us on defense. Like I said, I think he's what was advertised. He's a good player."
**He has long arms and a low center of gravity. That's pretty unusual. Most guys don't have both of those attributes. *(Aaron Wilson) *"A lot of times we get caught up in the Combine and the Draft and sometimes with numbers. Sometimes, it can be speed of a linebacker, and the guy could be real fast and never make a play, and another guy is not real fast and seems to make a lot of plays because they're just good football players. I think the same thing could be true of not only pass rushers, but even just outside 'backers in general. I think sometimes you don't take into account not only the long arms, but also the leverage that a guy has. I'm not saying that you want to go out and you want to draft a bunch of guys who are short. But I coached James Harrison in college, and I tried to tell everybody, 'This guy is powerful. I know he's 5-10 or 5-9 or whatever the heck he is, but you never can knock him down, and he's a powerful guy.' Well, Elvis is similar – not the power-type thing maybe against the run, but similar in his pass rush. You've got a 6-5 tackle, and this guy gets underneath him. You always say lowest pad wins. Well, if you're 6-5 and you're 5-10, I know which pad is going to be lower just by standing there. And then when you add the fact that he's got long arms, and he's quick and can anticipate so well – that's what makes him a great pass rusher. I think sometimes you've got to take numbers with a grain of salt. Is the guy a football player? And Elvis Dumervil is a football player."
The Browns have a new quarterback, running back and have Josh Gordon back at wide receiver. How rare is that in your preparation when you see a team twice and there's so much turnover at those positions? And how do you prepare when the team's schemes haven't changed much but their personnel has? (Matt Vensel) *"Really, it's not sometimes as rare. The quarterback thing is maybe a little more rare than a running back, because when you go through the course of the season – even when we play all these teams twice – there's always injuries involved. So, a lot of times you face two different types of backs. And almost every team now, if you really look at it around the league, it's not like it used to be where *this guy is the running back, and he's in there every down. You've got third-down backs. How many backs ran against us against Pittsburgh? Everybody's got multiple backs. We have multiple backs. So, you've got to just get ready for the system. It's Norv Turner's system. When it's all said and done, it's still his system. [He's] probably not going to ask the quarterback to do things that he can't do. He's got enough of a package over the years that he's got a lot of things that he can go to [Jason] Campbell with. I don't think it will be much different than what he did with [Brandon] Weeden. The difference I think in this game for us is the fact that No. 12 [Josh Gordon] is back. Here's a guy who can take the top off of a defense in a hurry, where we didn't play against him the first time. And you can't focus all the attention on him because, to me, they have one of the best tight ends in the league – if not the best. That guy is a go-to dynamic tight end in my estimation, and I think he's really a good, good football player. So, the system is what the system is. And the fact that Willis [McGahee] is in there … Willis is a lot like [Trent] Richardson in a way. This isn't a bounce-out, try-to-get-the-edge runner. This is a downhill thumper, which is what Richardson was. So, I don't see a great deal of difference. It's different names, but I just don't see a whole lot of difference in the offense." **
**Where have you seen Brandon Williams make progress over the course of the season? *(Ryan Mink) *"Well, he knows what's going on – that's the biggest progress. As a rookie, a lot of times it's just getting lined up and knowing where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to do and what gap I'm supposed to hit in this blitz and that sort of thing. And the more he's around it, the more he sees it, the more he does it, the more he screws it up like all of us, the more he learns. I just think the guy has made great strides. We know he's a powerful guy, he's a tough guy, he's a strong guy, [and] he can hold the point. When he got in trouble was when he wasn't holding the point because there was indecision in how he was playing. I think there's less and less indecision, which makes you play faster and stronger."
How much did the development of Brandon Williams and other younger defensive linemen factor into moving on from Marcus Spears? (Luke Jones) *"That's a personnel question. I think you'd need to ask John [Harbaugh] and not me. But obviously, we wouldn't get rid of somebody if we didn't have somebody else that we thought was coming up and playing pretty well. Brandon Williams is doing a good job. DeAngelo Tyson is doing a good job. They're a couple good, young players." *
**Terrence Cody said yesterday that he thought the bye week came at the perfect time for him. Could you explain how his return would help this defense? *(Bo Smolka) *"It always helps [with] depth up there in the inside, especially if we're playing a game where we're playing a lot of base defense. The more you can roll those defensive linemen and keep them fresh for the fourth quarter … That's what you don't want to do is get worn down in the fourth quarter, and then you can't stop them because you're doggone tired. We've had five or six defensive linemen up at a time [and] been able to roll those guys. That helps us, too, with the outside guys because we have Elvis [Dumervil], you have [Terrell] Suggs, you have [Courtney] Upshaw, and you have [Pernell] McPhee, so you can kind of roll those guys, too, and keep as many guys as you can fresh. I think the bye week came at a good time, really, for all of us, for the coaching staff to be able to sit down and assess where we were and what we need to do and how we need to get better and where we're not playing well and keep doing the things we are doing well – keep improving on those, but really make up for the things that we've lacked a little bit, even as a coaching staff. In Terrence's [Cody] case, I think even just health-wise, it gives him another week to kind of come back. So, I think that's what he alluded to."
**Jameel McClain started at Pittsburgh with Josh Bynes out. With Josh back, what's the challenge for you in figuring out playing time and roles for those two guys? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I don't really see it as a challenge. I think it's a good situation. With Jameel [McClain] back – he played 28 plays against Pittsburgh – we didn't really have a snap count on him that we thought, 'OK, this is how many we want.' That probably figures out to about what we thought it might be – maybe a few more than what we thought. But with Josh [Bynes] back, it just gives us more flexibility, kind of like the D-line. It gives them an opportunity to roll guys. All those guys are very active on special teams, and how much we're doing there can affect who we put in the game. If you get a little bit tired – and I don't really see [either] of those two guys getting very tired – but there's a great comfort level in that if you just want to take Jameel out and sit him just to get him a break and put Josh in, there's a comfort level there that doesn't bother me. The guy has just played how many games for us and did very, very well inside. So, to me, it's a flexibility [strength] now that we didn't have. I was scared to death in those first seven games – first six games really – of losing a linebacker. At any point in time, we could have been hurting, and we didn't, thank goodness. So, now I feel pretty good about our situation inside there."
**Will Jameel McClain be the starter at this point? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Yes, he will be."
John Harbaugh mentioned Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick. In addition to the special teams, he said they have tremendous upside defensively. What do you see from them as safeties? (Bo Smolka) *"Omar [Brown], No. 1, is just an instinctive, instinctive football player. He's kind of that guy I was talking about before where you don't want to always go on measurables. I think if he ran a 40-[yard sprint] out here, I don't know what he'd run – probably fast enough – but he's got great instincts for the ball. He really can add to us in the secondary at safety and allow us to maybe do some things with Matt [Elam] and James [Ihedigbo] that maybe we couldn't do before because we couldn't take them out of there. So, I think he's going to really add to our situation in the secondary at safety. As far as [Brynden] Trawick, he's got a ways to go as a rookie, but the thing about him is he's big, he's fast, and he's strong. And those are good qualities to have in a safety. He's just got to learn the system. He hasn't done it because he's kind of been on the practice squad, special teams, and hasn't gotten a lot of reps. So, he just needs to soak in the defense a little bit before he really probably sees a lot of playing time." *
**Could you talk about what you've seen from Jason Campbell and how he played so poised against Kansas City's good defense and the weapons that they have? *(Jim Corbett) *"He really did a great job, I thought, against Kansas City. The other thing I noticed is that one of the knocks that's always been on him a little bit is that he held the ball too long and waited until guys got open to throw. I didn't see that in that game. I think Norv [Turner] and whoever is coaching him did a great job. He got the ball out quick; the ball was on target. He's always been able to spin the ball very, very well; that's never been a problem with [Jason] Campbell. He throws a pretty ball. He's a big guy. The two things that I really noticed in that game, though, was that he got the ball out quick, on time and got rid of it, didn't take sacks, didn't hold it, did a good job, and the second thing in that game he did a great job of was avoiding the rush. He's a good athlete, and he can get out, and he can run. He's not necessarily a [Ben] Roethlisberger-type that he's trying to avoid the rush and [make] impromptu plays. But he can get out, and he's good enough to run and hurt you, and he's elusive in the pocket."
**What is DeAngelo Tyson's skill set, and what does he bring to the table? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Really, he's kind of the utility guy in there. He is kind of all spots. His best spot is really three-technique and five-technique outside, not necessarily nose. 'C.B.' [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] has got those guys where they play all [positions], especially the young guys because you kind of want to find out … Let them be utility guys as backups until they find their niche and maybe become a starter, and then that's kind of what they are. But if you really look at all our guys up along the board – Art Jones – he plays them all. Haloti [Ngata] plays them all. [Chris] Canty is probably the only guy who doesn't play nose, but 'C.B.' does a great job teaching those guys everything. DeAngelo [Tyson] – he's another guy, to me, who has really progressed here lately and has shown signs of really being a contributor."