Skip to main content

5 things we learned from the Browns coordinator press conference

It was another busy Wednesday in Berea with the introduction -- and re-introduction -- of the team's three coordinators under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Before delving into these topics on a deeper level, we're highlighting the five most notable storylines from what was said by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

1. Van Pelt stresses importance of footwork

When it comes to developing and sharpening the skills of his quarterbacks, Van Pelt considers himself to be big on footwork. He shared the catch phrase he often relays to his quarterbacks during Wednesday's media session, which was heavy on discussion on how Van Pelt will look to get the best out of Baker Mayfield in 2020.

"I want the feet to be like Mozart," Van Pelt said, "not Metallica."

Van Pelt said he's already touched base with Mayfield multiple times throughout the offseason and is excited to work with a player he's thought highly of dating back to Mayfield's days at the University of Oklahoma. Though he acknowledges Mayfield had a disappointing second season, when he threw for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, Van Pelt sees the necessary tools and traits of a successful NFL quarterback and, most importantly, fixable areas in his game.

"There are some fundamental things I have kind of targeted for him in the offseason, but that is more football techie talk and quarterback talk," Van Pelt said. "Decision making and the increase of interceptions will be something that will be a point of emphasis, making the right decisions, protecting the team and protecting the ball."

Van Pelt indulged reporters a bit on the "techie talk," focusing heavily on a potential adjustment to Mayfield's footwork.

"There are three different ways from the (shotgun formation) – you can [start] in a balanced stance, you can have your left foot up or your right foot up," Van Pelt said. "Right now, he has his right foot up. I think we are going to switch it to left foot up and see how he likes that. To me, that allows a quarterback to play with more rhythm. It is quarterback junky talk, but it is something I believe in."

2. Van Pelt excited by Browns' weapons

It took just two sentences before Van Pelt said the T-word in regards to the offense he inherits. He said it again in the next sentence.

"Obviously, having the opportunity to put an offense together with the group of guys was very intriguing. Another reason would be the talent that has been acquired here over the years," Van Pelt said. "Obviously, the group is extremely talented, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Having the chance to work with those guys was another part of that."

On top of his praise for Mayfield, Van Pelt was particularly complimentary of the team's two-headed monster at running back (Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt) and wide receiver (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry).

Van Pelt looked back on his time with the Packers when discussing Cleveland's talented tandem at wide receiver.

"I think they are both talented players on the outside," Van Pelt said. "They both deserve to get the ball as much as possible. The beauty of having both of them is you can't tilt coverage one way or the other. I had a chance with Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson where when Davante came on board, it made Jordy a better player. I think having two guys that really make you play it straight defensively will help. As far as getting them the ball, that is our job as the offensive staff to scheme up ways to make them a top priority in the progressions."

Van Pelt said he was even more impressed with Chubb, who finished second in the NFL with 1,494 rushing yards, after watching film of his previous season. Pairing Hunt with Chubb could provide Cleveland with some "unbelievable matchups," Van Pelt said.

"Not to get into specifics, but if you want to keep a smaller defensive group out there, then you can run the ball with two effective runners," Van Pelt said. "If you want to get bigger and try to stop the run, now you have mismatch problems if you motion one of those guys out of the backfield because both of those guys are good route runners and can catch the ball well. It is interesting, but it is going to be something that I would think we would have those guys on the field a lot because of those."

3. Woods on the 4-3

When the Browns announced Woods as their new defensive coordinator earlier this month, Woods acknowledged he'd be sticking with the 4-3 base defense even though he ran a different scheme when he had the same position in Denver.

The reason stems from what he's seen on film since taking the job.

"I think we have the right personnel," Woods said. "I think it is a natural fit. For me, it is very easy to do."

Woods was matter of fact when explaining how his defense would be different than the one Cleveland utilized last year under Steve Wilks. At the end of the day, "everybody really runs the same stuff," Woods said.

"It's just how you do it," Woods said. "Everybody is going to run three-deep, everybody is going to run man, man pressure and fire zone, but I think it is about how you put the package together. I want to make sure I give offenses a lot of the same looks but play different coverages and make them figure it out at the line of scrimmage. That has always kind of been my mindset so that is what I am going to try to do here."

4. Woods raves about Stefanski

There are few on Cleveland's staff with more insight on the Browns' new head coach than Woods, who spent eight years with Stefanski in Minnesota.

Both Woods and Stefanski were hired in 2006, with Woods leaving Tampa Bay to become a defensive backs coach and Stefanski landing his first NFL job as assistant to the head coach. Woods watched Stefanski rise the ranks as a position coach during that stretch before departing for Oakland in 2014.

Woods said he and Stefanski, at some point during their time together, may have talked about one day coaching together in this kind of capacity. It just happened to come together at the right time in 2020 after Woods finished up a successful season with the 49ers.

"The one thing with Kevin, I know he says he is authentic, but he is very detailed, very organized, obviously very smart and he has great people skills," Woods said. "He can talk to anybody, and he is going to really demand respect just because of who he is. He is a flat line person, but people really are going to learn just to respect him because of who he is as a person."

5. Priefer emphasizes return game improvement

The Browns made plenty of improvements on special teams during Priefer's first season, but there weren't enough for his liking in the return game. And though recent rule changes have made it more difficult on kick returners, Priefer doesn't see that as an excuse to have the kind of production Cleveland did in 2019.

The Browns ranked 16th in the league on punt returns (7.1 yards per return) and 20th on kickoffs (21.8). It certainly could have been worse, and the Browns were able to pop big kickoff returns in their Week 6 game against the Seahawks and the season finale at Cincinnati, but it wasn't good enough in Priefer's eyes. Asked if it was the blocking or the returning that held Cleveland back, Priefer said it was a "little bit of both."

"Obviously, those were the two bigger plays that we had," Priefer said, "and we had a lot other returns that were not very good."