Browns assistant coaches break down position groups

Included below are select quotes from interviews with the following Browns position coaches during today's media availability:

  • Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi
  • Inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland
  • Offensive line coach Hal Hunter
  • Defensive line coach Robert Nunn
  • Senior offensive assistant Al Saunders
  • Tight ends coach Greg Seamon
  • Outside linebackers coach Ryan Slowik

Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi:

On how DB Joe Haden has been playing, especially given defensive coordinator Ray Horton's comments that he is playing average given the high expectations for him:

"I think everyone is probably not happy with how we have played this year. I think we can all do better – the coaching staff included. I have the unique privilege of having been with Joe twice, and I will tell you this about Joe, he is one of the most competitive guys I have ever been around. He prepares during the week. We typically match him on the team's best receiver, and the one thing that is different this time around with Joe is he has actually grown in the area of being a mentor to some of these younger guys. With our roster, we have a lot of good young talent that we are developing. He has been instrumental in that. He is bringing guys along like (DB Briean) Boddy-Calhoun so in some areas, I think he has actually grown as a football player and I am happy with him. He has worked through some injuries and I am looking forward to the future of this team."

On if Haden is still a 'bell-cow corner:'

"Absolutely. Absolutely. Like I said, week in and week out, we match him on the team's best receiver in hopes that he can eliminate that player."

On how DB Jamar Taylor has been playing this season:

"I think he has been an unbelievable acquisition for this organization. You talk about a pro, a guy that has played both positions for us – corner and nickel – and played them well. He is actually having one of his best years in the league, and I look for him to continue to grow the same way. I really expect big things from him next year and the rest of these last four games."

On Browns young safeties' play, specifically DBs Derick Kindred and Ed Reynolds II:

"I think this has been – again, with them playing this year and them rotating in and out and everything – and I know we are playing, right now we are playing (DB) Ed (Reynolds II) and we are playing DK, but all those guys are young players and this is going to be invaluable experience for them moving forward. We had a meeting the other day, I think we have played 20 of our 20 – 20 of our players on defense have played for us, either started or played significant reps, so this is going to be excellent for these guys moving forward. DK continues to progress, and I think right now with him and Ed back there, that is our best tandem because you have a guy that has some skins on the wall. He has kind of settled it down back there, guys making checks and making calls and the coverage has been better in the last few weeks. Those guys, we put a lot on them. They are like the quarterbacks of the defense so it is a good combination. Like I said, these last four games I am looking forward to.  * *

Inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland:

On if LB Christian Kirksey has exceeded his expectations:

"I kind of expected that from Kirksey just from watching his tape from last year. He's very athletic. He can run. I always said if a linebacker can flash some stuff – he may not do it consistently, but if he has it in him I feel like as a coach that's my job to get it out of him all the time. He's been able to do it. Kirksey, when I came here, he said, 'Coach, I want to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL.' I told him if he's willing to work and buy in and listen and do what it takes that he can be because he has athletic ability. He can run and he can hit and he's a smart player. I expected that from him. He's a very confident, and he's gaining more confidence in himself now. The sky's the limit for him."

On if Kirksey has taken on more responsibility and more of a leadership role this season:

"Yeah, because he's our every-down linebacker right now. He's on the field all the time. So, he has to communicate in his headset. He has to make the calls. (LB) Demario (Davis) has done a good job with him of letting him have more control of making calls in our base defense and setting the front. He's done an excellent job with it. That was something that we didn't know for sure if he could take that role in training camp, but he's proven that he can communicate and take that leadership role. He's definitely stepped up."

On how LB Jamie Collins Sr. has adjusted after being traded to the Browns:

"He's fitting in really well. I think (LB) Demario (Davis) and Kirksey and the group has done a great job with him. He's in (outside linebackers coach Ryan) Slowik's meeting room, as well. He's fitting in well. I think he feels comfortable with our guys. Football players and football players. Once they get to know each other, they become pretty tight. Jamie, he fits in great with our group and he's starting to communicate more, run our defense more, communicate our defense. That is huge. He's a very sharp guy, a very smart guy, gifted athletically. He brings a lot to our team. He's been on a winner. He's won a Super Bowl. He knows what it takes to win. That's what he brings to our group."

Offensive line coach Hal Hunter:

On the challenges in having to make so many changes along the Browns OL due to injuries:

"The difference between offense and defense is offense is more unit oriented. The offensive line is the ultimate unit. You have five guys trying to play together, plus the running backs have to be in sync with what is going on upfront, and then the tight ends are part of it. I think the big challenge is one, if you do not have everybody at practice, that is hard because you do not develop that continuity then. When it is different week to week, you are not playing with the same guys so when you are playing, you are playing with different guys every single week. You do not really develop any continuity in terms of who you are doing it with. The No. 1 thing is it always starts with the center, and the center (OL Cameron Erving) was making good progress and then he got that bruised lung in the second game and he missed a bunch of time. Then he is back in, he is back out so he is back in now, but all of the sudden, now we have differences at guard so it is a real challenge. The seasons that I have had the most success with the groups have been the seasons that you have had a lot of continuity and those guys just got used to playing together, and when they are playing together, the back sees the same thing happening if he is behind the same [offensive linemen]. Basically, if there are different players playing next to different people, the back is always going to see something different or you are trying to zone certain pass rush games and you are not used to the guy you are working with so it is a challenge. That is the NFL in this day and age. The NFL unfortunately is a game of injury, and everybody has injuries. The teams that are the most successful are the teams that either one, are lucky and do not have any injuries or two, when they do have injuries, they are able to plug other guys in there and still perform at a high level. It is unfortunate that you have to change a lot of people, but you can't make an excuse. There is no excuse either. You still have to be able to put five [offensive linemen] out there each week that you can win with. That is the bottom line in this league."

On how he Erving has played this year:

"Playing a rookie center is like playing a rookie quarterback. This is his first year playing center, and I am not making an excuse for him but it is a hard position to play. It was hard last week. He was playing against a guy that literally weighed 373 pounds. Man, that guy is a big dude and he is a good player so you are playing against really quality people upfront. He has a lot going on. He has to make as many mental assignment calls and checks as the quarterback does. He is trying to do a lot mentally, trying to do a lot physically, playing with different guards, playing with some young guards right now, but he is making progress. I think what you are hoping is from Year 1 to Year 2 – that Year 2 is just like a rookie quarterback – that Year 2 is significant improvement. I am hoping that year is going to be an improvement with him. He is into it. He meets, he is in there early, he is there late and he meets extra. He is on top of it all. He watches a lot of tape. Upbeat at practice, really knows what is going on, but the bottom line is when the rubber meets the road out there on the field, you still have to be able to perform, and that is always going to be a challenge is to get him to play with the type of pad level that he needs to against a lot of 340 pound nose tackles that are 6'2" playing at 6'0". He is 6'5" and a half, 6'6" so he is learning to play with better pad level and he has been playing with better pad level, and I think that will always be his – it is two sides of the sword, his size and length gives him leverage which is great, but it also makes him play at a higher level than any center that I have ever worked with."

On who the next man up may be for the Browns given the most recent injury to OL John Greco:

"Right now, we are going to take a look at (OL) Jonathan Cooper at guard. He was in there today with the first group. I am going to give (OL) Alvin (Bailey) an opportunity, but Cooper is going to get an opportunity to see what he can do. He was a good player coming out of college and I know he has had some injury issues both at Arizona and had some injury issues up at New England, and now, we have him. We have had a chance to work with him, and I am excited. He is athletic. He is tough. He is smart. Like I talked to him today about, what a great opportunity. You get a four-week window to really build your résumé and really prove that this is where you belong to be so I am excited for him because one man's misfortune creates another man's opportunity. It is not different than over at left guard. It was hard losing (OL Joel) Bitonio. He was a tough dude. He was a good player. He is a good player, but then all of the sudden, it gives you an opportunity to work with (OL) Spencer Drango and see where he can go, and he is improving and getting better. That is just the way it has to be in this league." 

Defensive line coach Robert Nunn:

On if DL/LB Emmanuel Ogbah is settling in now that he is receiving more reps at DE:

"Yes, I do. I am excited about where he is right now. He is starting to affect the quarterback more and more. He has been a little bit unlucky as far as the sack numbers. He had a couple of things that weren't really his fault. A lot of times, sacks are overrated, but he is affecting the quarterback and he is getting close. He has to continue to do what he has been doing. He comes in every day, goes to work, listens, is very coachable and is being a professional and it shows up. He is improving at things that if he continues and finishes this year on the path he is on and comes back in the offseason, I really am excited about where he is."

On how DL Danny Shelton's improvement has impacted the defense, specifically LB Christian Kirksey:

"That is where it shows up. Going back when I was at Miami and we had (Dolphins LB) Zach Thomas and those big tackles, and when those big tackles weren't there, Zach wasn't making those tackles like that. That was one of my first jobs in the league. You can ask Kirksey about that. When Danny is playing at a high level, he has to have a lot of attention and those guys can run through and make the plays. That is how it works."

On Shelton's biggest area of improvement this year:

"I don't know if there is one thing that is more impressive than the other. The first time I met Danny, we talked in my office and we didn't talk much about football. We talked about his approach in the offseason, his plan in the offseason and his gameplan going into the season and maintaining it throughout the season. That has been as impressive as anything. The thing that I told him is the first thing he has to do is get his mind right, and he has done that. I have dealt with a lot of big guys in this league, and that is not an easy thing to do. What he has done is put himself in a position to be an elite player and an elite run stopper in this league. He is not finished yet, and we are going to keep building and trying to keep adding to what he can do. I cannot say enough good things about him. The football part of it and the off-the-field part of it, it has been impressive and it has been a fun thing to be a part of."

On if DL Carl Nassib has plateaued this season, given his fast start:

"Obviously, it has from looking at it stat-wise, but the thing is Carl came in here and he had the injury in the OTAs in the offseason, and that set him back. A young guy like that, it sets them back. Then he came back, he was having a really good game – I don't remember what game it was – and he was really doing some good things. He was just getting back going, and he breaks his hand and he couldn't do any work out here [on the field]. Basically, when he was released to work out here, he was released to play so he has missed a lot of that. Yeah, he jumped out there and had some great stats in the preseason and was doing some great things, but I like where Carl is. He is not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination, but his motor and his toughness and his energy never changes. If he continues to do that and has another offseason in the weight room getting stronger in the lower body and doing those things, he is a guy that is going to have a chance to be a really good player."

Senior offensive assistant Al Saunders:

On WR Terrelle Pryor Sr.'s production this season:

"I think we all realize what a unique story that is and the accomplishment that he has made, making the transformation from really – I see him as a basketball player/quarterback that all of the sudden is one of the leading receivers in the National Football League. That is quite an accomplishment. He has dedicated himself from a time standpoint to learn everything he possibly can about the position. He has a great passion for the game. He certainly has the qualities and the characteristics of someone who can be very successful in this league at that position. The No. 1 quality of a wide receiver is to catch the football, and he has tremendous natural ability because of his hand-eye coordination and because of his athleticism. He is learning the position. He is learning the details, the fundamentals and the technique and all of the intricacies of how to be a route runner. He is just really dramatically improved his ability to do that and to separate in a short area. He is a long-striding receiver, and some of the short-area change or break quickness kind of routes are typically very hard for those guys because they can't drop their weight, accelerate and change direction, and he has done a tremendous job of that if you ever watch him run those comebacks, those short tight turns that he runs. To be able to make that transformation and be really disciplined in what he does is not an easy thing. I was talking to somebody else about it, here is someone who has been a quarterback who every snap gets the ball in his hands and does something with it, and now, all of a sudden, you are a receiver and you are kind of a way out of there. You are standing there by yourself and you don't have control over where that ball goes, and he has played with five different quarterbacks and every week in our offense is very intricate in terms of what we ask our perimeter players to do and it is a new learning process every week. He has adapted to that unbelievably. Part of his learning process and growth process is learning about the wide receiver position and what it takes to do it on a week-to-week basis. Every week, you see improvement in that area. I am just really thrilled and excited to be part of his development at a young age because he is a special guy."

On how difficult it is for a young receiving corps to develop when QB changes occur and if it has hampered development:

"I wouldn't say it has hampered their development and progress because they have to do what they have to do, regardless of what the circumstances are form the quarterback position. The passing game itself is timing and rhythm. Anytime you change pieces to a puzzle, it creates a little bit of anxiety in terms of the consistency of the timing, rhythm and anticipation that you have that goes together with the quarterbacks and receivers. I don't think it has hampered their development in any way. They still have to be able to get out of breaks. They still have to be able to beat man-to-man coverage. They still have to be able to catch the football and run with the ball after the catch. All of those things are worked on regardless of how the ball is coming to them."

On WR Corey Coleman's development and how missing time impacted his progress:

"Corey as we all know is a very talented player. He can run and he can catch the football. He has great change-in-direction skills. You saw the touchdown that he caught last week. That route was something that we have worked on for a period of time in terms of his ability in terms of that you stick your foot in the ground, change direction and get a defender to move one way. Seeing those things, he has that kind of skill. The injury, my gosh, he missed three weeks in training camp and three games, and he was just really starting to go when he came back. Injuries to young players, it always is not as much a setback as it is a hurdle to overcome to make up six weeks of inactivity. It is not just the physical part of it. It is the emotional and mental part of it. It is the opportunity to prepare for a game every single week, and our gameplans change dramatically. For him, it is the whole phase of being a receiver in the National Football League. It is the physical part of it. It is the emotional part. It is the mental part. Right now, he is coming back real strong. We would have liked to have had those nine or 10 weeks to build on what he has right now, but I think in these next four weeks when he comes back, we are going to see a really special player."

Tight ends coach Greg Seamon:

On what he's seen from TE Seth DeValve this season and what he likes most:

"The fact that he's progressed. Seth came to us from Princeton where he was used primarily as a slot receiver or a wing back. He possess outstanding speed. He's a 250-pound guy that people don't realize that he does have the size and strength. That's just how they decided to use Seth. His development here was inhibited a bit by the fact that he missed time in the summer and a short period of time he missed again during the season, but he's a hardworking, earnest young man who has unusual in terms of his ability to run at that position. The future is very, very bright for him. I'm pleased that he's coming along as a blocker. I had expected that we would see him emerge as a receiving threat because of his background, but he's going to have to be able to play in the run game, too, and he's doing that. This last game he was more involved. He's making great progress. It's good that we have him out there every day now. The future is very bright for Seth."

On TE Gary Barnidge's ability to get open in the seam and over the middle of the field and if he is having trouble doing that this season:

"I think it's a combination of things. Gary has an unusual awareness of body position, kind of like if you think of a really good low post player in basketball. He has the ability to get on the correct side of a defender and give the quarterback a place to throw the football. Those kinds of things, those are thread the needle throws, and it takes repetition. With all the upheaval we've had, it's difficult to be as pinpoint accurate as you'd like to be. I think also that we've been in some situations where people, as we sometimes get behind in games coverage softens up. If we're not running the ball as well as we'd like to sometimes, the linebackers have greater depth in their drops and some of those throws require other things to be happening in the offense to open up the seams in the defense. We've hit some of them, and we've missed a few. If we get to where we want to be, offensively, we want to attack people down the field. That will be a big part of what we want to do going forward. We're just not quite there yet, but we're working on it."

On how far back he goes with Head Coach Hue Jackson and how the season is impacted Jackson from his perspective:

"Hue Jackson has and always has since I knew him when he was 18 or 19 years old the strongest will to win and help those around him be successful of anyone I've ever met. That will happen here. It's a terribly difficult time for him because he feels a responsibility to everybody in this building right here and everybody who follows the team and comes to the games and listens or watches the games. He carries that weight sincerely, and he wants us to be better as fast as we can be. I think that there are times in the wake of a loss where it's emotional, but that's quickly replaced by 'OK, what do we have to do? Let's get this fixed. Day by day, let's find a way to make this whole situation better.' We will, but his strongest quality is his strength of will. That will never waver. I'm sure of that."

Outside linebackers coach Ryan Slowik:

On what LB Jamie Collins Sr. adds at OLB:

"Athleticism, speed and he finds a way to get around the football. He's got a natural ability. Everything that he has out of the stacked position he'll find a way to get around the football and do those type of things out of base defense."

On how good Collins could be as a 3-4 edge rusher all the time:

"He could be good. Jamie is so athletic I don't really think there is anything he couldn't really do on a football field. With him and his situation, it's just a matter of getting comfortable, getting more reps, seeing the role, experiencing the role, and seeing how he takes off from there."

On plugging in a number of OLBs in throughout the season:

"They've responded well, as far as they understand the nature of the NFL and that position and our situation, as far as we need to try to get more pressure on the quarterback. We're just going to keep competition and keep plugging away and keep letting them have a chance. If you're here you're going to have a chance and keep seeing if you can bring some production."

On what he sees from LB Joe Schobert:

"Joe has been solid for us. He has had a little bit of different roles, whether it be special teams, base defense outside linebacker, sub defense defensive end. It's a little bit with the rookie, you see how they grow and how they develop, and it'll change as the season has gone. That's how it's been for Joe a little bit. I think he's starting to get back to comfort playing football, understanding how to use his body to make plays in space. Those have been positives recently."

On if it's special that Collins is able to go back and forth between inside and outside linebacker seamlessly throughout a game:

"Yes, that's very special and it's very rare, let alone for him to do it as soon as he did it, in the middle of the season picking up a completely different language, completely different position, playing it a completely different way. The fact that somebody can play base defense on the ball, sub-defense off the ball, it's remarkable. It tells a lot about his football IQ and his athleticism."

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