It'll be hard to top what Olivier Vernon did last week against the Eagles, but he's certainly going to try.
The veteran pass rusher is looking to build off the three-sack performance that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. And he'll be doing so in his second consecutive game without Myles Garrett on the opposite side of the field.
Vernon touched on that dynamic and more in his conversation with ClevelandBrowns.com.
CB.com: This is been another weird week with COVID-19 protocols changing up the practice schedule almost every day. How've you handled it personally and how have the guys around you dealt with it?
Vernon: It's really interesting with everything that's going on now. At the end of the day, everyone's going through it, some worse than others. Right now we're just trying to prevent anything bad that could possibly happen. Coach (Kevin Stefanski) is doing the best he can as far as doing everything on the fly and making sure everyone is getting prepared for this game. Everybody that's up and ready to make this flight, mentally they've got to be there as far as game plan and knowing what your assignment is and just being ready. It's a get-ready, stay-ready mentality.
CB.com: How is the team rallying behind being down so many players?
Vernon: I think guys are just stepping up. At the end of the day, the guys that are getting the reps are putting in the extra time and learning as much as they can. This is our job and you're supposed to be ready no matter what, no matter how many reps you get. The coaches expect us to be ready no matter what. I think a lot of the guys are just trying to keep things simple with the game plan and knowing what the coaches want from them. Everybody is helping each other. The teammate that's next to you has to do his job just as effectively as you have to do yours. All that plays into it.
CB.com: You've got five sacks since Week 8. Has something clicked or are you just feeling healthier or both?
Vernon: It's just a matter of everybody playing together. If the guys are doing their job of covering and staying solid and I'm doing what I have to do, and my teammates on the D-Line are doing what they have to do, everybody has an opportunity to make plays. That's how the defense functions. That's how guys are able to make plays, when everyone is on the same page and doing what they have to do.
CB.com: Was it special to you to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week, especially in a week when Garrett wasn't on the field?
Vernon: Honestly I'm just glad we got the W. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. Whatever accolades some people get, it doesn't really matter if it doesn't amount to any wins. We're able to move forward and make something special out of this season.
CB.com: What's the defense done better over the past three games?
Vernon: It's communication. If the guys in the backfield are locking things down, it just helps us because we're able to put pressure on the quarterback, which helps them. It's a balance. Everybody is feeding off each other. That's one of the biggest things we've been able to do, especially on defense. Everybody is keeping it simple and knowing their assignments, executing the way Coach Woods wants us to execute. Everything else ends up panning out the way it does.
CB.com: What do you like best about this defensive line?
Vernon: We just have more experience. It's funny because on one side it's all veterans and the other side is all young guys. As veterans, it's our job to do whatever we can to help the younger guys be ready, especially guys that haven't played as much coming into a game. as veteran players, you give as much knowledge to the younger guys and give them confidence so they can have confidence in themselves.
CB.com: After what you went through last year, how rewarding does it feel now to enter Week 12 at 7-3?
Vernon: I think it's something special that Cleveland hasn't had in a long time. It's special for us as well. We've got a lot of guys that have been here for a while and been through the ups and downs. We've got guys that have been on other teams and been through the same thing. It's a whole collective group of guys that are trying to come together and make something special out of it and trying notch wins every week at a time. Everybody is honing in and staying focused.
CB.com: When did you get a feeling this kind of season was possible?
Vernon: Honestly, I kind of knew what type of team we had when I first got here last year, as far as the amount of guys that were just hungry to win. Everybody's got talent. Yeah, we had a lot of talent last year, but as far as the hunger in guys who wanted to win, I sensed that when I got traded here last year, but things didn't pan out the way it should have. That's football. The vast majority of guys coming back for this year, you still see the same hunger from guys throughout the team. Guys want to win, guys want to be relevant down the stretch. Right now, the cards are in our hand and we control our own destiny with what we do from here on out, so I'm excited.