Browns coordinators press conference - 12/22

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Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams:**

On if DB Jabrill Peppers will play SS, given DB Derrick Kindred was placed on IR:

“We are going to rotate several guys in that situation. I hope that you guys realize what a good job Derrick has done, where he has come from and what he has done to lead the league in a lot of different things that a strong safety has to do. One of the things that Derrick was able to do was – I smile because I think of him like one of my sons, too. By the way, he came through the meeting today before we started the meeting with his cast on and all of that stuff on. He went up and shook everybody’s hand, patted and that kind of stuff. What a great kid he is. He wishes he was sitting in that room in there, but that is just part of our business when things happen. Him to be able to move through some of those things we started earlier in the year to do and be understanding a little bit of his skillset. Then he fit right into several things that some of the other young cats that I have had play the box safety. He played so well as the box safety. Now, those are some things I think Jabrill can do eventually. We have to make sure we have somebody who can also play in the post so that Derrick could do those things because Jabrill came a long way and did some very good space-awareness type things and moved a long ways in that area. He will get some opportunity down there but we also have to try to rock and roll and do some things where you have to predict who has to be down there at what time in the ball game. That is making the offense have to recognize. We do that with (DL) Myles (Garrett). We do that with Jabrill. We also do it with (LB Christian) Kirksey. We do it with (LB James) Burgess (Jr.). We do some things where each time they line up, they are not in the same spot.”

On if Peppers feels more comfortable closer to the line of scrimmage:

“I can’t say that for sure right now, but the thing about Jabrill is he is just a good ball player. If you ask him to play – you can’t do what he can do around the ball in the return game as a punt returner, kick returner; he throws like a quarterback; we have tried to diminish a little bit, but even from the Wildcat stuff that we were doing early with him, you just can’t do everything with him. You would like to be able to do that, but this is not college football and this is not high school football where you can just go out and do what you want to do and not be responsible to the other guys on the field in a trust factor. I would hope he would only be able to play comfortably when he knows somebody has his back in the back end the way he had other people’s back in the back end. It is going to be fun to see. I am not really telling a scouting report because I would like for them to figure it out on Sunday.”

On the lack defensive turnovers:

“We have had some opportunities, and that is one of the things that has probably been one of the most frustrating things for us this year. I do not say that for me, but for them, too. From hand skills to obviously just timing, we have to do a better job timing-wise. The times that you guys are out there and you see us practice, we have themed days within our themed periods within the practice periods about doing that. Some guys just have knack better than others. Throughout the years, I have been blessed with some guys who were just always around the ball and there is a feeling of being around the ball. Other guys have struggled being around the ball. This team has really worked hard at doing that, and it is something that we have to do better. We have to take the ball away better. Even the earlier times in the year when we did do that, it was not enough because we have to balance whatever the takeaway/turnover ratio we have. We have to do that. We have to do a better job of that. We are not good enough at doing that yet.”

On if he is surprised that the Browns defense is not forcing fumbles, given the unit’s personnel like Garrett and DL Danny Shelton:

“You can see when you slow the film down that they are attempting it and not getting it done. How do you be as good of a tackling team as we are when OK you are giving up some tackling skills to tackle a ball? It is always ball first. It is find ball, see ball, get ball. We have all of those types of things where we have periods that are dedicated to just stripping the football and the skillset that goes with that. When you name those guys right there, you could follow up with – I talk all of the time about these big, strong men. Are you telling me that the running back can hold onto the ball if you forcibly snap the ball from them? What is the deal? Sometimes it is the focus deal. They have had some things that have gone very well. We have to do better at that. I am not making excuses there. We need to do better at that. How about this? Can you talk about it too much? I fight myself at times thinking about every meeting me talking about it. Not some, every meeting I talk about it. Sometimes I think, ‘OK, I am paralyzing them.’ No, I can’t think that. We have to do it. We have to take the ball away better.”

On LB Joe Schobert being named a Pro Bowl alternate:

“In these few short moments that you get a chance during the season to reflect – that is all done in the offseason, which you have to do, you don’t have time during the season to do that; we have the 24-hour rule and get on to the next game – there is a really good feeling in my heart for him because you guys don’t see how hard he has worked behind the scenes and how far he has come. I tease him and I have teased him this week from on June 1, he was a third-team middle linebacker on this roster. What he has done and he has just scratched the surface. What you don’t get to see is how much better he makes people around him. It is all middle linebackers that play in this way that I have had a chance to help them before, but he is also in charge of – he has to play at a high level but get everybody around him to play at a high level. I have had some pretty good guys do that from (former Redskins LB) London Fletcher to (former Rams LB) James Laurinaitis to (former Saints LB) John Vilma. I can list 15 guys and they have all done that. Unless you can get the other people around you to elevate their play, you’re not a true captain, you are not a true quarterback and you are not a true quarterback of the defense like the middle linebacker has to be. He has done a good job of that, too. If you were ever to have time to sit down with him and now ask him what he knows about offense, it is not that he understands what we are doing on defense, he has to understand what the opponent is doing and listen to what the opponent is saying. He becomes a sign-stealer, a voice-stealer. He hears all of those things, and he is making checks out there on the ball yard because of what they are saying on the other side of the ball. Most of the time, it is easier when you are doing that on the road than when you are doing it at home because you can hear it on the road. He has done a very good job. I’m very proud of him. It is not even close to as good as how he can be as he continues to move on.”

On Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky:

“I remember what I saw in preseason. Now, I see just through game reps that coordinator over there (Bears offensive coordinator) Dowell Loggains and I have coached together. Dave Ragone, the quarterback coach, and I have coached together. I think they have done a good job of what they have done schematically and technique wise with him. The more you play, the more comfortable you are supposed to be. He has, but it doesn’t all come right now. Ask Peyton Manning, Eli (Manning), Joe Montana and all of those guys that I have had a chance to as rookies in the league, it takes a lot to slow the game down, but you can see that progress that he has made from when I had a chance to be on the field with him in the preseason game and what I see on film now. The game is starting to slow down some for him.”

On challenges facing Bears RB Jordan Howard:

“Very physical. A very powerful, lower body. He reminds me of some of the other more powerful backs that if you think you are just going to love tap him to get him down, you are going to have to swarm to get him down. He is a downhill runner. He is a good complement to the other young man (Bears RB Tarik Cohen) that runs all over the field every different direction from returning to wide receiver to all of that stuff. He is very physical and fits into what they are doing. Their offensive line coach (Jeremiah Washburn) used to hang out in my downstairs when his dad was my assistant coach back at the Titans, so he used to hang out in the downstairs with (linebackers coach) Blake (Williams), and now he is the offensive line coach over there and I’m proud of him except on gameday this week.”

On if this is a good matchup for the Browns defense, given the Bears’ propensity to running the football:

“We hope we can play. They are physical. We have to do a good job in the run game, too. I appreciate you saying that. One of the things goal wise for our guys and how the room is we have a chance to make history on some things on how we play these last two weeks in the run defense if you haven’t checked some of that stuff. We are going to have to do a good job with that because I think they do a really good job on how they direct the run game. You will see a lot of extreme outside zone, very, very hard slide-action on how you have to be able to play those. You take a look at the other teams in the league that were pretty good going into that game getting ready to play the Bears, but they didn’t play the Bears very well and those things. We have to make sure we understand how they go about doing it and then play the way we are supposed to play in the run game. It will be a good matchup. I’m really looking forward to how our guys play in that aspect of it, and we have to force them to third downs and force them to pick the ball up in those situations, a little bit similar to we forced Green Bay to completely abort it. They were being dominant in those areas to anybody else. I get tired of all the phone calls that I have been getting since we played them on other people that are getting ready to play them, ‘What did you do? How did you do it? How did you do it?’ I said, ‘Turn the film on and look at it. I’m not giving secrets out (laughter). Take a look at it.’ We have to do a better job once they picked the ball up now and play what we know to do to play in the pass defense, too.”

On why the Bears have been successful running against AFC North opponents:

“Was it Baltimore that they had 50-plus run attempts? Yeah, I’m trying to think. All of the games come together because I have watched every one of their games in preseason and regular season numerous times this week, but yeah, the fact that you are able to run the ball 50 times in a game and someone allows you to do that. We have our work cut out for us Our guys know about that and they have attacked the week very well. They attacked today’s practice very well. There were some things in today’s practice that they really, it jumped out to me that, wow, now they understand and now we have to go out and play. We have to get this thing right.”

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Running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson:**

On RB Isaiah Crowell expressing frustration with his number of carries, specifically against the Ravens:

“I personally don’t feel qualified to answer how he feels because that is a personal feeling and a personal opinion so I respect that. As far as the carries and the attempts, whether it is five carries or 25 carries, we are always encouraging him to run hard, make the right reads, make good decisions and put the ball where it should be put on every play. We don’t get into the amount or the lack of or if it is 25, like I said, or if it is five. We just try to do the best we can with what we have and then deal with the results and get ready for the next play. Every running back wants a lot of touches. That is the nature of the position. We just keep working hard, and we go from there.”

On how he feels when Crowell mentions he feels ‘disrespected’:

“It is just hard because it is a personal feeling. As his position coach, you want the best for your players. It is sad that he feels that way. It is unfortunate, I wish it was different for him but it is football. We all have to roll and we all have things that we have to do, and we just try to do the best that we can. We don’t control any of those other things. We come to work, we do our jobs and then we get ready for the next play and the next week.”

On the Browns’ 96-yard TD drive without attempting a pass play and if the Ravens defense changed to limit the run game:

“First of all, you have to have great attention to detail in the run game. It really takes every member to do their jobs at a high level. We need the great execution for it to be successful. The runner has to do his job. He has to have a key. He has to know what he is looking at and why he is looking at it. He has to make a great decision. Then based off of that decision, he has to put the ball in the correct gap. He did that on a very high level, and our offensive unit did that at a high level for periods of time on Sunday. We like our guys up front. We like our backs. The play caller, it is his calls. No matter what he calls, our emphasis as coaches at your position is to execute whatever he calls, whether you like it or not like it. Execute because it is football. You are not going to run it 80 times a game. You are not going to throw it 80 times in a game. I know that is going overboard in my example, but we just try to teach the guys that there is no complaining. There is no whining. Whatever is called, let’s execute at the highest level we can and let’s get ready for the next snap.”

On what he tells Crowell after his 59-yard rush and how long runs can inspire the play caller:

“Absolutely, that is the benchmark for any runner. If you are going to get 100 yards rushing in a game, you need at least one and most likely two explosive runs. That was encouraging, very exciting for our football team when that happened. We thought that he would probably break one or two more because he was feeling in such a great rhythm. What takes course in the nature of the game and the calls that are selected, it is up to the play caller and his decision. We live with it. Whatever he calls, we execute it and we move on.”

On the Bears run defense:

“Employee No. 96 (Bears DL Akiem Hicks), he is unbelievable. He is unbelievable. They have some other really good players. They are solid. They execute really well. They have a great defensive coordinator (Vic Fangio) who has been there for a while and been in the league for a long time. They have a great plan and a great scheme. Employee No. 96 is unbelievable. Nobody blocks him. He takes on double teams, triple teams. He splits blocks. He sheds blocks. He is sacking the quarterback. He is tackling the runners. I am not surprised if he doesn’t move over to offense after they come off the field. The guy is unbelievable. He is a marvelous talent. You can’t help but rewind the film a bunch of times just to watch him destroy blockers. It is our turn this week so good luck to our guys (laughter). It is exciting. Our guys are looking forward to the challenge because he is such a good player. He plays really, really hard, but he gets blocked. I know it does not seem like it, but he gets blocked. Our guys are excited to 600 pounds on him.”

On if Hicks gave Browns players bulletin board material by guaranteeing the Bears would not be the first team to lose to the Browns this season:

“I am sure some guys might take it that way. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but you are trying to win every game. Our guys are hungry. I am sure some of them are going to take it a little more personally. It is fun. It is all in the name of the game and the nature of the profession. When you are struggling and you are down, people are going to kick you. We have been getting kicked. Now, we will see what we can do on Sunday.”

On OL Joel Bitonio being named an alternate for the 2018 Pro Bowl and how he has helped the Browns run game:

“He has been really a bright light for us all season long because he is so positive. He works extremely hard, as do the rest of the guys up front, but he has been a leader, especially since (OL) Joe (Thomas) went down he has kind of taken that role of being the next guy up. He is always encouraging guys, and he is never negative about anything. Whether we lose a yard or gain a yard, he is the same. That is what you appreciate by him as a professional is that he is the same and he works really, really hard. I am excited for him. I am happy for him. I think this is just the beginning for Joel and his success in the future.”

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Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor:**

Opening statement:

“Chicago Bears, Christmas Eve. They are a good unit. They have an electric returner in the (Bears RB Tarik) Cohen kid, No. 29 there. He reminds me, probably another big statement, but of a young (Eagles RB Darren) Sproles. Obviously, he is not a tall guy, but he is built well – big legs and has great balance and vision and is tough to bring down. He has had a lot of big returns this year. They have had them called back due to some penalties. He ripped off a 90-yard kickoff return against Detroit in the last game that got called back, and Detroit is one of the top cover units in the league. This guy has our attention. We did a better job last week than what we did the week before so we have to try to build on being consistent. That is a big challenge for us here on Christmas Eve.”

On how pleased he was with K Zane Gonzalez’s FG at the end of the first half last week:

“I thought that was a big kick for him, especially going into the Dawg Pound, which is typically – I don’t know the statistics on it, but it seems like my time here there are more misses going towards that end. He hit the ball really well. He has been striking the ball really well in practice. In pregame, you could tell that he was going to have a good day just by the way he was kicking. I was really happy for him.”

On his memories of last year’s win on Christmas Eve:

“That was obviously a big win because it was the first one. It was a sense of relief, a sense of excitement. If we didn’t win the game, Santa probably wasn’t coming to the Tabor house. We were glad he was able to do that. This is a new year and kind of the same circumstance again, but we have to take care of our business in our area. I hate to say it, I have kind of almost forgot that it is Christmas week from the standpoint of every time you watch this guy (Cohen) return the ball, it kind of makes you kind of a Grinch so to speak. It is a big challenge.”

On if it is hard to believe the Browns are winless heading into Christmas Eve again:

“It is – I’m not going to lie to you – but it is what it is. I think the thing that helps you is you just kind of stay in the same routine. Our players have stayed in the same routine. Trying to do things better from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint. Hopefully, that will come to fruition this weekend.”

On if there is a tremendous difference between finishing 1-15 and 0-16 this season:

“I will be honest with you, I haven’t thought of it like that. The way I think of it is I say, ‘OK, this is the next opportunity.’ That kind of consumes me. The only thing that when I step back, I go, ‘Boy, there are only two more opportunities.’ That bothers you a little bit, but if you stay in the moment and you prepare for the moment, there are going to be some good things that happen on Sunday. I know that is going to take place. There are going to be some bad things that take place on Sunday, also. I know that. It is how you handle those things, and I think that is really what we work on during the week of ‘OK, this happened. What are we going to do?’ That helps me just stay locked in on the whole deal.”

On how much it hurts seeing the stadium not full at home games:

“It hurts. I’m not going to lie about that or be shy about that because people do make statements that it is a great fan base, and it is [a great fan base]. When you don’t produce the way that you want to for them, it is like anything – you have let them down. I think the only thing you can do is just continue to, knowing that you want to satisfy them and make them happy, the only way that we are going to get through this is continue to keep our head down and work hard and try to eliminate the things that hurt us in the past. For example, I go back and it still stings me, Green Bay, we are down there and we didn’t make the play [in punt coverage]. The thing I was most pleased about with the guys was the next week, when we punted the ball to (Ravens WR/RS Michael) Campanaro there, we were down there and we came to balance, and you could see the net and he got a 0-yard return. I was really happy about that. Now, here you go with this next guy. He (Cohen) is dangerous. Can you do it again? I think that has been our challenge. When I look at it like that, if you can keep doing it again and again, then hopefully, the wins will come and then you satisfy and you help the fan base and those things. It is disappointing because obviously, being here for so long, I understand what football means to Northeast Ohio, not just the Cleveland Browns but college football, high school football and small college football. Football is an important deal around here. That is why I love coaching here because football is important. The wins are going to come. It is a bad place we are in right now, but we just have to stay the course and keep fighting through it. When you do that, good things will happen. I believe that.”

On how Browns players are handling the lack of success and how he maintains their focus each week:

“I think you handle it by having small goals with regards to ‘OK, what can we do this week?’ We said last week that we didn’t want to have any missed tackles, and we came back and we accomplished that goal. Now, you are facing another whole set of circumstances and we have set new goals for ourselves. At the end of the day, coaches, you are judged how you coach and players are judged on what they put on tape. That is reality in the National Football League. In my opinion, we have a lot of good young pros in there that are understanding that. You just keep emphasizing, ‘Your tape is your résumé.’ In my opinion, if you are a competitor, you don’t really have to say much more than that because you can’t put bad tape out there and say, ‘Well, I will do better next time.’ No, that is not how the NFL works. I think that is what we are concentrating on now, and as a coach, we are just trying to help them get better and better each game.”

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