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Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil transcript - June 18, 2015

Opening statement:

"When we met earlier in the spring, we talked a lot about our goal for the defense was to win the offseason. Talked to the guys a lot about it this morning. I can't be more proud of where we are as a defense. I think the guys have done a great job on and off the field, and I really feel we've taken a jump defensively compared to where we were at this point last year. The attendance has been great. The guys' attention to detail in the meeting room has been great. Their work ethic on the practice field has been great. As a coaching staff, what we stress to them is today does not represent the end of the offseason. We have five more weeks of hard work left, and our defense needs to do a great job in these next five weeks of continuing to work hard, continuing to stay in the playbook. They know when they come back for training camp we need to start on fire."

On what the Browns can learn about how the run defense improved during OTAs:

"The true test will be once we get the pads on, but I think just being able to go back and show the guys where the mistakes were made [is beneficial], whether it was technique, alignment or schematics. I think the position coaches have done a great job emphasizing it in their individual work in the meeting rooms. We've emphasized it a lot as a coaching staff. We got beat up a little bit in Phase II because the players aren't allowed to go against each other in Phase II. The coaches have to be the dummies. I had some bruises on my chest from those guys rolling off on me. It's definitely been a point of emphasis for us. I'm happy with where we are with the pads not being on right now, but we'll really know in a couple months."

On if the Browns defense will look noticeably different in Year 2:

"I do think it will look a little different. We are different every year just schematically because we are going to build the scheme around our players. What our top three or four calls were last year might not necessarily be the top three or four calls this year. Obviously, we have some new pieces to work with, and we've been able to throw a lot at these guys in Year 2. There will be some more pressures. There will be some more base fronts. We've thrown a couple extra coverages at them. There will be some things that look different."

On expanding on the need to improve the defense's alignment, particularly in the running game as noted by LB Karlos Dansby:

"We do a lot in our base defense front-wise, pressure-wise. Just alignment-wise and knowing where the down safety is or knowing where the free hitter or the free player is coming from can really help those inside backers on how to attack the line of scrimmage. With Karlos, he's so instinctual and he makes a lot of plays because he does such a great job gathering pre-snap information or listening and learning as the game is going on to what the quarterback is saying or what the offensive line is saying. I would say 80 percent of the time it ends up being a positive, and then because of that, it ends up hurting us at times. As long as he continues to make more plays than he's giving up, you're OK with it, and he did last year. There were times that it did hurt us, and showing them those clips and explaining it to him and then just him being in Year 2 is really going to help him. He had a phenomenal year for us, and that wasn't the reason we struggled in the run game – because of Karlos Dansby's alignments – but it was just one of the things that we needed to get better at."

On potentially using more four-man fronts on running downs with the Browns personnel this year:

"Yes, we base out of a 3-4 personnel, but we really play a lot of five-man fronts because it is a lot of under fronts where our SAM and rush linebacker are up on the ball. I do think we'll be able roll more guys up front, and that's a good luxury because if you can keep those guys up front fresh, that will really help us in the later part of the game."

On if that will affect the roster makeup by potentially keeping an additional defensive linemen:

"We had a pretty long meeting last night just to discuss personnel with our whole defensive staff and then (General Manager) Ray Farmer and his staff. The thing I love about Ray's and Pett's (Head Coach Mike Pettine) philosophy is we're going to keep the 53 best players, if we're one or two heavy on the d-line or we're one or two heavy at corner or one or two heavy on the offensive line. I think that's a great philosophy because if you try to match your roster to 'We have to have this many guys at this position,' you're cutting good football players, which I don't think you ever want to do. Are there going to be some tough decisions that probably have to be made, especially on our side of the ball? Absolutely. Absolutely. We're probably going to have to cut a couple good football players when it is all said and done at the end of training camp."

On members of the Browns secondary saying their position group could rank among the top of the NFL this season:

"I'm glad they're confident. I'm glad they're making those statements. I'll say last year was last year. I'll say I think we have the potential to definitely be the best secondary in the NFL. We've got to prove it every year. The best secondaries in my opinion are usually playing in January."

On DL Danny Shelton's progression given his schedule this offseason:

"We were obviously a little limited because of the NFL rules, when he was allowed to report and Washington being on the quarters system. He showed up and he did a great job in the rookie minicamp. (Defensive line) Coach (Anthony) Weaver and (defensive quality control) Coach (Tony) Tuioti have done an unbelievable job meeting with him over the phone, FaceTime, making sure he's on top of the playbook. Obviously, that's very different than actually being here, but Danny is a very, very smart kid. He's a very smart football play. I think in two days, he's only had one bust, and we've thrown the whole playbook at him. We've thrown everything at him. He's done a great job mentally. It takes a little time to get in football shape and get caught up to the speed of the game, but for the amount of time that he's missed and what he's done in the first two days, I can't be happier."

On what the Browns are now able to do after acquiring a player like Shelton:

"Time will tell. We've got to get the pads on. You draft a guy like that, you hope that he's going to eat up two blocks at the point of attack, which might allow you to play in lighter spacing, maybe play a little more two high safeties instead of loading the box up. The thing that we're excited about is his ability to push the pocket in the passing game and get the quarterback off his spot because we feel that is going to make the rest of our pass rushers better. When the quarterback is moving instead of just being able to stand in the pocket like a statue, when you have guys who are good at fighting what we call the 'soft shoulder' and really do a good job of getting around guys like (DL) Armonty (Bryant), guys like (LBs) Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger, that's going to really help them, (DL) Des Bryant. We think that having that guy who can push the pocket and the quarterback off his spot is going to make everybody around him better."

On LB Scott Solomon's work with the first team:

"Scott is very quickly becoming one of my favorite players on the defense. He embodies everything we talk about when we say 'Play Like a Brown.' I think the offense calls him 'Bloodbath' because it's like a heat-seeking missile coming off the edge. I do see him competing with Armonty Bryant once he's full go at the rush linebacker position. I see him getting a considerable amount of reps on early downs. He's going to have to earn his reps in later downs in passing situations, but he is definitely going to help us on the edge in the run game."

On LB Barkevious Mingo's role and if he thinks Mingo will be healthy when training camp opens:

"I do. When we came out of training camp last year, we thought Mingo was one of our best outside backers. We all know about the injury he suffered in play two of the season. He is going to have to compete for playing time on early downs. He's going to have a role in our sub-packages. No one is guaranteed anything on the defense. (DB) Joe Haden knows that, (DB) Donte Whitner knows that and Karlos Dansby knows that. You're going to have to earn playing time. We're deep in every position group. Mingo is going to have to come back ready to go, and he's going to have to earn it."

On a younger, under-the-radar player like DB K'Waun Williams last year:

"I'll just go position by position: d-line, I think (DL) Xavier Cooper is going to be a hell of a football player. I think he's different than anything we have, his ability to get off the ball. I think he's going to cause offenses a lot of problems, especially in the pass game. Outside backer, I'd go with Scott Solomon. I think that he brings something to the table that we were missing last year, especially on early downs. I think (LB) Tank Carder has had an unbelievable offseason at the inside backer position. We never really got an evaluation on him last year because he had the should injury and then he had a foot deal to start training camp so he came on very late for us, and then he spent most of the year just as a special teams player and a practice squad guy. I could envision him having a role in our defense as a blitzer. He's one of our best blitzers on the team. Now, that's a hard room, obviously, to earn playing time because you've got (LB) Craig (Robertson), Kirko (LB Chris Kirksey) and Karlos in that room, but I think Tank has had a great offseason. If you ask me just one guy in the secondary, I really think (DB Jordan) Poyer has opened my eyes to the type of player he is. He has really taken advantage of the reps that he's been given, and he's done a great job. His pre-snap communication has been outstanding. He's improved in man coverage. I know he'll tackle. He's been a guy who has really stepped it up this offseason, and I'm excited about all those guys."

On if Poyer has an inside track to receive first-team reps due to DB Tashaun Gipson missing OTAs and beginning minicamp with an injury:

"I'm not worried about the depth chart to start camp. I'm more worried about it for the New York Jets. Those guys all know that they need to earn it. It doesn't matter what you did last year. It's what you're going to do this year. I'm excited to have Gip back in the building. He's right in the front row. I know he's been away, but he's done a great job staying in his iPad, staying in his playbook. He's talking in the meeting rooms like he hasn't missed a beat. It's good seeing his face."

On if more NFL teams may take advantage of the decreased presence of larger, run-stopping LBs due to recent pass-oriented offensive transitions:

"Definitely, the league has shifted to more of a pass focus so I think everyone is looking for a more athletic player that can play in space. The days of teams running power and leads on your linebackers and it's three, four yards and a cloud of dust, those days have gone by the wayside. It's much more of a zone running attack, very similar to what we ran last year and what we'll run this year. I think that smaller, quicker, faster guys are better against that scheme and are better against the pass, but there's no doubt that those 'old school, come downhill and knock your head off' linebackers are a dying breed in football today."

On if there's an issue with Mingo, based off of his earlier comments:

"No, not at all. He's done a great job. I think where Mingo has really taken a step this year is he's been able to participate in all of the passing stuff, all of the 7-on-7 drills with the red shirt on – I'm sure you guys have seen him out there. Coming out of LSU, he had no experience with that stuff. Right now, he's by far our best linebacker in coverage, our best outside backer. Now, we're going to see where he is when we get back to training camp and the pads come on of how he is at outside backer setting the edge, how he is as a defensive end rushing the quarterback and that kind of stuff. We were very optimistic about Mingo coming out of training camp last year. We've improved the depth, we've improved the competition in that room with a Scott Solomon, a Nate Orchard, like we have in every room. Guys are going to have to earn it. We don't care where you were drafted, when you were drafted, how much you're getting paid; the best 11 guys and the guys who earn their roles are the guys who are going to play."

On what Solomon provides that was missing last year:

"Just his ability. We talk about aiming point, hand placement, his ability to set the edge in the run game. He's very good at it. His ability to wreck a running play versus a down kick-out block, an aggressive block coming at him, whether it's a pulling guard, a fullback. It's going to be a car accident when Scott Solomon meets a pulling guard or a fullback. Being unselfish and being willing to take on two blockers at the point of attack, sacrificing your body so an inside backer can scrape through over the top and make a tackle for a loss. Those are things we've had other places I've been. We had them at times last year. It was inconsistent. Scott is going to give us a very steady player on the edge doing those kinds of things."

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