JC Tretter doesn't see the need for a radical overhaul of how the Browns attack opposing defenses.
Instead, the veteran center sees opportunities for the team to simply execute at a higher level.
The next opportunity comes Sunday, when the Browns travel to Cincinnati, and ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Tretter as the team wrap up its preparations for another big AFC North matchup.
CB.com: With all of the outside noise this week, how have you seen the team lock in and get ready for such a big game?
Tretter: I think we've done a good job. We know this is a really important game. We're in a big part of our schedule where a win is extremely important for how the season is going to go. I think everyone understands what's at stake and how important this week is. I think we've all dialed in and had a really good week of practice so far. We're dialed into the game plan and making sure we're ready to go and play well on Sunday.
CB.com: This team always seems to bounce back after tough losses. What's the recipe for it?
Tretter: I think a lot of it is just flushing when we come off the loss and not worrying about what happened the week before, but instead getting back to what we do well, focusing on the work that week and making sure we're ready to go when we get out there the next week.
CB.com: From your perspective, what are some areas where the offense can make improvements?
Tretter: When we stay ahead of the sticks, when we're really efficient on first and second down and get it into third-and-manageable, it makes everything go easier. The defense then has to play a little less what they want to do and have to be more reactive to what we're doing. We get a 6-yard gain on first down, get to second-and-4 and all of a sudden that opens up a ton of things we can do. The defense has to play a little more on their heels. I think that's really the big focus, making sure we start off with no negative runs and no-gain runs. Get some positive yardage, get a completion, make sure we're moving the chains as early as possible.
CB.com: For a lot of teams, 96 rushing yards isn't a bad day at the office. It seems like for you and the offense it's something that you think can be way higher.
Tretter: We can always be better. We watched that film and realized there are yards out there. We have to finish better. I think we had some holes and they closed right as Nick (Chubb) or D'Ernest (Johnson) would get through them. We need to do a better job of finishing our blocks. We know if we can get just a little bit of space with those two, we can have huge plays come from it. We have to finish better and make sure we give our talented backs the opportunity to go make plays for us.
CB.com: How tough was it to watch Jack Conklin go out the way he did, especially with all of the injuries the offensive line has dealt with?
Tretter: It's tough. You feel so bad. Those are scary injuries, and hopefully Jack made it out fairly well for what happened. We're excited to get Jack back when he gets healthy and that's always tough when you have guys missing time. We have Blake (Hance), who has played really well for us stepping in at a bunch of different positions. He'll continue to do well for us.
CB.com: How tough is it to do what Blake has done?
Tretter: It takes a lot of preparation to be ready and be adaptable. He's done a hell of a job of always being ready, whether it's stepping in and starting at left tackle or right tackle or coming in midway through a game at either of those positions. Being that swing guy is a tough position. I think it's mentally exhausting always being ready and kind of being on edge and being prepared on that sideline to go in there and play at a high level. Blake deserves a ton of credit to be able to do it this year.
CB.com: Did you know him very well when he stepped in for that playoff game last year?
Tretter: He's always been focused on the work. This is probably not the position he expected to be in. Obviously we had Hubb (Chris Hubbard), who got banged up and was going to be that swing tackle guy. He's just all about being ready. It shows you what kind of guy Blake is of being ready and being adaptable and ready to step in to whatever position is available to him. He's done a heck of a job doing that.
CB.com: This was the week last year the team had off. Now, you've got four more games before the bye. How much of a challenge does that present?
Tretter: The late bye is nice. I honestly think our schedule is laid out pretty well this year. You look at that Thursday game, and everyone looks at the front end of that week with a quick turnaround. But the really good thing about Thursdays games is you get that mini bye week at the end where you get three days off to let your body recoup and recover. Having that when we did and now we've got a four-, five-week stretch before the bye week, that's a decent layout. You get a mini bye week, another four-five weeks and then the full bye week. I don't mind that type of schedule. If we get rolling again, we get some wins under our belt, we should have some momentum going into that bye week. Then we get healthy for the stretch run.
CB.com: Everyone looks back at how much the team fixed during the bye last year, specifically on offense. Is that possible to accomplish now without a bye?
Tretter: I don't think anything has really changed for us. We know what we need to do better, we know what it takes to win. It's about going out and executing it. There's no kind of figuring this out. We just have to play better. We have to execute better. We know what we need to do. We just have to go do it.
CB.com: You've got a lot of experience going up against Larry Ogunjobi. What have he and the Bengals done well defensively to improve this year?
Tretter: They brought in a ton of good football players. They had a bunch of good guys there and they brought in a bunch in free agency. It's going to be a great battle for us. They kind of play a five-down with a bunch of one-on-one battles across the front. Larry's playing really well and doing what he does best, which is penetrating the front and getting push. It will be a really good battle for us. They're a really talented group and we'll have our work cut out for us.
CB.com: Is this just the new reality in the AFC North? Everyone's good?
Tretter: There's no weakness in this division. Whenever you're playing an AFC North team, it's going to be a bruising battle. That's kind of stayed consistent for decades now. When you hear AFC North, it's going to be that old school football, run in the trenches. It's going to be a battle and that's kind of how every team is built.