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Browns coordinators press conferences - 9/8


Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams:**

Opening statement:

"It is great to get started with the season. Last night, everybody got the chance to see the Kickoff Game. I had a chance to see a little bit of it and fell asleep. No, I'm just kidding, but had time to get a little recovered and everything. It is fun to see the energy every year when the season starts officially. It has been fun to see the energy in the building here. It has been fun to see the energy on the team here when the season is getting ready to roll. Since I have been here with the players and everything from April 17th on, they have come in here with an attitude of, 'Let's get better.' It has been really fun because, like I said before, I have been in several of these situations. Sometimes in the offseason, people aren't really fired up about it. Sometimes in training camp, people aren't really fired up about it. These guys have come in every single day wanting to get better and have gotten better. I think you guys have seen some of that with how much they have worked. Today's practice was excellent. I'm excited to see the next phase, and that will be Sunday."

On filling DL Myles Garrett's role on Sunday:

"There are a lot of good players here. He didn't play all of the snaps in the preseason either. He will be fine. He will be back."

On if the Browns must significantly adjust the gameplan when a player like Garrett is sidelined:

"No, I think I mentioned a little bit about this earlier – maybe at one of the other press conferences – I think (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick does a good job with that. I have been pretty successful doing this, too is that things are going to happen in a ball game. You have to react on the next play. You have to react on the next series. We are very much served with a philosophy in our playbook of next man up. As a coaching staff, when we manage personnel, it is about the next man up. The next man up may do something better than the guy he just replaced but not as good as the guy he just replaced. We fit things to them. We have enough packages of people rotating things around. There were going to be a lot of times and you will see guys right now where we rotate a lot of guys off the field. They can't play every single play full speed the way we want them to play. There was going to be rotation plays for everybody that goes out there in our packages."

On if he understands fans' disappointment following Garrett's injury:

"Everybody… How about this? The smile on my face was when I was talking to you guys back in OTAs was for you guys to get a chance to see him cut it loose. He will. Everybody just has to be patient, but he will be fine. He really will. He is a good kid. He is a good young player, and he is a good person."

On observations of Garrett in the preseason that were exciting :

"Those are the flash things that you see with his speed and power, but more importantly, a lot of times people don't see how smart he is. He was doing things that guys who are multiyear veterans, he already understood. You don't have to say things more than once to him. He gets it, and that is fun."

On excitement to see DB Jabrill Peppers in his NFL debut:

"I am. I tried to make him pay the price, too, brought him on slowly, and I'm anxious for you all to see the instincts that he has. You will see him play lots of different positions, and you will see him do hopefully some things with his hands on the ball in the return game, and if we can get some returns on defense, if we can get the ball in his hands on defense, too. He has had a really good week of practice. He fits into what we like to do defensively with cutting those guys loose there in the back end. He is very smart. He is somewhat like a quarterback on the field. You will see him and (LB Joe) Schobert do a lot of the managing of the calls and the adjustments, and he has done very well."

On challenges Steelers WR Antonio Brown presents and who will shadow him now that DB Joe Haden is no longer with the team:

"Antonio Brown is one of the top guys in the league. You always have to go in and adjust, no matter who is on him. I have had a chance to coach several teams that have played against him. Each time, whoever that matchup is we have to know more about him than he knows about us. Our guys have done a good job of studying. Our guys have done a good job of profiling and the things we have to do in our breakdowns. I have been really respectful and thankful of what a good job the staff has done this week. The staff is ready to play a game, too. I have been pretty hard on them. You guys don't see that. You only see the players, but I have been pretty hard on the staff getting prepared. We have known this game has been coming since the schedule has been out. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes doing that and really the first quarter of our season. We had done a ton of work on that really before they could go home for the break this summer. They had to have a ton of reports to me ready to roll on our first four opponents before we even went home this summer to get a break with our families. 

On if the Browns defense carries its preseason success into to the regular season or if this is a fresh start:

"Every day is a competition, and that is good that you brought that up. If every single play wasn't important, why are we practicing? We measure every practice rep. We measure and grade wins and losses on every single thing we do, even to the point now where if you can see behind the scenes some of the guys that we measure wins and losses on arguments in the room. It is about who wins and who loses. The guys have come up with some pretty good arguments behind the scenes. That is somewhat of the personality that I try to pull out of all of these guys who get a chance to play. Sure, those snaps are important. Those snaps are important to understand who won them and who lost them. We are able to build off of every single play that we lose, too. There is a learning curve there, but there is a confidence curve when you do things right. The confidence curve is maybe I know what I'm talking about so maybe they will listen to me even a little bit more."

On the challenge starting the season against the Steelers offense:

"A big challenge. They are very, very good. Those guys, I know them very well. A lot of those coaches on their staff are friends of mine but not on game day. (Steelers Offensive Line Coach) Mike Munchak and I go way back, (Steelers Special Teams Coach) Danny Smith and I go way back, (Steelers Offensive Coordinator) Todd (Haley) and I go way back. Some of those guys we have known for quite a while and we have competed against each other for quite a while. They know me. I know them. Those players, I think they have done a very good job of acquiring the kind of players that have kept them up there and won a bunch of games. They have kept their players, and they have done a good job with that. We have our work cut out for us, but we are excited about the challenge, and we are excited about the opportunity to go out and take that next step."

On the challenges Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell presents:

"He has the power, he has the speed and he has the instincts on all of those things. He is very instinctive. He is one of the most patient running backs that is in the league. You can do a great job in handling your gap control, handling your scheme assignment and then he can make you break down in space. We have to do a good job of allowing as few as possible one-on-one plays with him. We have to be multi-swarm. Our guys have done a good job with that for the most part since I have been here on swarming and those kind of things. He is very talented. I don't know if he gets enough credit for how talented he is in the passing game. He is a very good runner, but the way they get the ball to him in the pass game, it is just another glorified run. Then he has very good run after catch once he gets a chance to get the ball in his hands."

On how good Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger is:

"He is different than almost everybody else in the league because of his power in the pocket. A lot of quarterbacks go down just because they know they are getting ready to go down. A lot of guys will go ahead and take the dive just to get away from the contact. He almost relishes the contact. He breaks tackle in the pocket. He extends plays. When he extends the play, he is the most dangerous because now he is doing things that the timing of the scheme or the timing of the play from my part is off-kilter. I know he has to be frustrating at times to his own offensive coaches because the timing is off and he has mastered that in his career. Not very many people do but he has mastered that in his career, and those are the kind of things that we have to try to control in the ball game is not letting him extend plays."

On if there is anything he would do differently schematically facing a rookie QB:


On why he would not do anything differently facing a rookie QB:

"The hardest part in really professional sports is to play quarterback when you come into this league. There is so much – the speed of the game and there is so many different concepts and looks that you don't see in college football anymore. You just don't see that. Understanding the hash mark tendencies and stuff of high school and college is so much short-field, wide-field and the spacing declares so much. In the National Football League, the spacing is harder to figure out because the ball is always in the middle of the field. Teams all of the sudden now are doing a lot of things to try to make sure that they are trying to confuse you as much as they can prior to the snap so there are things that all young quarterbacks have to get through. All of them."


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

On the importance of establishing the run with a rookie QB making his NFL debut:

"It is always the focal point of any gameplan. You would like to establish the run and control the line of scrimmage early, and this game will be no different. We have to be very efficient with what we are doing. That doesn't necessarily mean we have to run it a whole lot, but we have to be efficient when we do."

On setting the tone for the season by establishing the run game in the first game of the season:

"Absolutely, you would like to establish the run early by being physical. That is how you gain control of the line of scrimmage from the start. That will be a big test for us starting in this game on Sunday afternoon is establishing our dominance at the line of scrimmage and how we go about doing our work for the entire day."

On the benefit of having two veteran RBs for the running game:

"You would like to think going into a game when you have established veteran playmakers that the opposing team has to say, 'Hey, we have to stop A, B and C' in terms of your run game. For us, we are fortunate enough to have two of them that are not only very good runners but they are very capable pass receivers, as well."

On FB Danny Vitale returning to practice:

"Very nice to have him back out there. Anytime you have a lower-body injury, you are always concerned about the tenderness of it, if he will be able to push off of it and you can tweak that thing very early in practice, but he hasn't had any setbacks. He is full-go and we are very excited for him and for our football team and see how he performs on Sunday." 

On if RB Duke Johnson Jr. playing in the slot will affect his role on 3rd downs, and if RB Matthew Dayes or RB Isaiah Crowell will have to fill that role:

"We look at it as the next player that is in, whether he is doing something as a wide receiver or whether he is in there as the back. They all have to prepare like they are going to play every single snap. I think that is the mindset that all three of them have going into this game that they are ready to play however many snaps it takes to be successful. We don't look at it as, 'Duke, you are going to play this many snaps at running back, third down, first down.' We just prepare like you are going to play every snap."

On how to stay committed to the run, regardless of the score:

"Converting third downs and maintaining possession of the football. That will help our run game, not only in the their opportunity in attempts and the amount that we do, but it also will establish the thing that we have been talking about, and that is controlling the line of scrimmage and becoming a dominant run team that leans on the running game for success. Third down is going to be big for us."

On the challenges the Steelers' front seven provides for the running game:

"We know what to expect – a lot of violence, a lot of mayhem. They are a good front. That is not going to change. They are tough. They are going to be a handful to deal with, but I think we are up to the task. We have had a great week of practice and everyone is looking forward to facing them Sunday."

On Crowell heading into Week 1 after training camp and preseason:

"The same. He has to produce in all areas. We think he is a three-phase player. We want him to improve in everything that he does. Leading up to this opener, he has done that through training camp and the limited amount of time we played him in the preseason. We like where he is at. We want him to perform better and at an extremely high level starting on Sunday, and we think he will."

On if the Browns enter the season opener thinking Crowell must have a certain number of touches per game:

"No, I think you have to approach it as no matter how many attempts that we give him, he has to be efficient because when he is, that obviously will lead to more. We always stress the efficiency of the run as opposed to how many touches he gets. I think he understands that. He has to be efficient. He has to read the right play, he has to make good decisions and he has to put the ball in the right place every time."


Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor:**

Opening statement:

"Game 1, Pittsburgh Steelers, we have played them obviously since I have been here a lot of times so you feel like you kind of know them really well and they still pose the same problems. The thing that is really different about the first game of the year is there are a lot of unknowns and exactly who there returners are going to be. Obviously, they can always put (Steelers WR) Antonio Brown out there anytime they want and he is in my opinion one of the most dynamic football players in the league. They have (Steelers WR) Eli Rogers who is an exciting player also that we faced at the end of the year last year so we have some reps against him. In the kick return game, we are not exactly sure who they are going to put back there. Sometimes that is an advantage for the return team. Really at the end of the day, first game of the year you are going to concentrate on what you do the best and it is going to be about the Cleveland Browns and just coaching our guys and whatever problems come up, they have to rely on their fundamentals, our toughness and our grit and then obviously, being intelligent football players. If we can do those three things, that can help us win the game."

On the decision to keep K Zane Gonzalez over K Cody Parkey and the closeness of the competition:

"It was really close, and as I think we stated back in training camp, our No. 1 goal for any player that is in the special teams room, we want you to No. 1 make our roster, and if you don't make our roster, we want you to make someone else's roster. I stated that both of those guys I felt like were going to kick in the National Football League. For us, we had two of the best 32. It was a very close race and really pleased with both of them that they are going to have opportunities on Sunday to play."

On not knowing what to expect from a rookie kicker, even though he has seen Gonzalez kick in the preseason:

"Yeah, there are always going to be some unknowns. There could be unknowns that go against you, and there are going to be some unknowns that go for you. At the end of the day, you just have to stay steady on the whole thing, and whatever problems come up, you try to fix them. That is kind of the newness and the fun of coaching young guys, but I expect them to play well."

On what ultimately gave Gonzalez the edge over Parkey:

"I am out of the personnel decisions. Honestly, my job is who is in that room I am coaching. Like (Head) Coach (Hue Jackson) stated, it was very, very close and both very capable guys. Really pleased with both of them, and I am excited for Zane this weekend."

On if he believed the competition was up in the air after Gonzalez missed during the final preseason game at Chicago:

"No, I didn't. He had been striking the ball real well. It didn't show up on TV, but I have coached many times in Soldier Field and it was a windy, extremely windy night. In fact, I didn't know if it was December 24 already when we go back there again. When he hit that, what was it 53-yarder, that was a tough shot there. Did a great job hitting it and he has that ability."

On if there is such a thing as using  DB Jabrill Peppers 'too much':

"I don't think so, no. You are asking whether or not he should really play on special teams?"

On if there is any concern that Peppers would be unable to return kicks and punts and play full-time defense:

"No, there is no concern at all. I think what you are trying to do is make the other team concerned that when he has the ball, he is going to make a play, and that is why you want him back there as your returner."

On core coverage players, particularly given LB Tank Carder's season-ending injury:

"Yeah, we are going to have some new, young guys in there and I am excited about it. For example, (RB) Matthew Dayes, who is our third running back, he is a guy that through the preseason really shined and has done an excellent job for us. You can see him in the punt coverage that he is first down there. He is a guy that you have to contend with. He is an extremely smart football player. We have (LBs James) Burgess, (B.J.) Bello and Dominique Alexander still with us. Obviously, (WR) Ricardo (Louis) is playing on the outside, and the pick-up of (WR) Sammie Coates helps us also on the outside there so we will have some new guys. I will be honest with you, that is the fun part about special teams is you have some new guys and it is their opportunity to play. Put them in spots where they can make some plays and go to work."

On if he has seen Coates as a returner:

"I have. He as the returner in Pittsburgh, and we have also faced him. We have some history with him and know what he is about."

On how to deal with Brown as a punt returner:

"First of all, obviously, the punt location and the hang [time] will be critical on that whole deal. You don't want to give Antonio a ball where you outkick your coverage and then he has a lot of space, but I think the next thing is when you come down, we call it 'coming to balance.' A lot of people make the mistake of he is so good, we are going to run down there so fast and when you run down there so fast he runs right by you because you never come under control. You have to be able to play under control, and if you have to give up a few yards to do that, I am willing to do that."

On how frustrating penalties on special teams were in the preseason and if that was due to new players learning roles:

"I think it is a little bit of both. I thought that we were terrible in that area with regards to the penalties. Especially, you saw it was widely called around the league in the punt return game with regards to guys' hands and where they can place them. We have to play much better and be more fundamentally sound, and we have worked on that this week. It is a frustrating part because we do have a dynamic returner (DB Jabrill Peppers) that the room believes that he can make big plays at any time. We need to do a good job of setting up our offense. We have a younger quarterback, and it is not fair for him to start the drive on the 10-yard line. It is not fair for any quarterback in the league. We have to do a good job of eliminating that stuff so that we can set up our offense for good field position."

On excitement with Peppers returning kicks and punts:

"It is exciting. People don't see it, but when you call a punt return on the sideline, there is a little gleam in this guy's eye and there is a little gleam in the other 10 guys' eyes that my guy is not going to make the tackle. You are starting to foster that, and that is a good thing for us because that is how the return game should be. You don't want your opposing special teams coordinator to go to bed at night and sleep peacefully. I think that this kid has that opportunity and skillset to be dynamic."

On weighing the benefit of booting kickoffs out of the end zone versus popping it up and covering the kick:

"I have always stated that No. 1 it is matchups. First of all, you have to start with No. 1 can your kicker do it on a consistent basis. How far over is he going to get it? Is he going to flirt with the sidelines? If he does, it goes out of bounds and now they start the drive on the 40 so you just kind of eliminated 20 to 25 yards there, which would be bad. Matchups, wind conditions, who the returners are – there are a lot of factors that go into it. You also want your kicker to be able to do that and to have that skillset to kick it high and short, but you also want to have that skillset to bomb it deep so that you can keep the kick return off-kilter a little bit. Am I going to set short? Am I going to set deep? How fast are they coming down? Are they running guys free? How is it going? Those are all factors that go into that play."

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