Press Conference

Kevin Stefanski: 'Week in and week out, we are trying to make sure we are difficult to defend'

Cleveland's head coach, coordinators meet with reporters Thursday

On if he agrees with QB Baker Mayfield's comment that defenses can feel an 'oh, crap' moment when WR Odell Beckham Jr. has the ball and the pressure Beckham puts on a defense that makes the offense unpredictable: 

"I do not know if I would use the phrase Baker used, but I would say he is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He is hard to get to the ground. When he is in space and has the ball in his hands, defenses have a hard time getting him on the ground because he is just uniquely gifted in that way. That is where it is our job to make sure we are getting him the ball in space." 

On if can feel the team's growth, given WR Jarvis Landry's comment that he could feel that during the drive at the end of the first half against Dallas: 

"That was our first two-minute drive of the season. It took three games to get into a two-minute. We have worked hard at it. We have spent a lot of time here at practice. The guys were on point. I do hope, though, that there is growth from us each week." 

On how WR Donovan Peoples-Jones played in his WR role in his NFL debut at Dallas following WR KhaDarel Hodge sustaining a hamstring injury in pregame warmups: 

"He did a good job. It sometimes happens in a football game where you are called into action immediately, and you have to be ready to go. You have to study and you have to make sure your nose is in the playbook. Obviously, his was because he got lined up and did the job exactly how we were coaching." 

On Peoples-Jones physical blocking: 

"He got somebody on the ground on that very first play. He is plenty big and plenty strong so that has to be a part of his game." 

On Beckham's unique skillset and athleticism: 

"You and I can't do that (laughter). He is a bouncy athlete, and he finds a way to go get footballs. It is very impressive."

On how important it is to keep the momentum going with Beckham: 

"Honestly, week in and week out, we are trying to make sure we are difficult to defend getting the ball to our playmakers. We go into every game wanting to get him involved, Jarvis, Hoop (TE Austin Hooper), the backs and everybody. We will see what this game calls for." 

On what stands out about Colts QB Philip Rivers at this point in his career: 

"Consistency. He can make every single throw. He has been doing it for a long time. The concepts that they are running – some or a lot of new stuff, obviously – he has been running those concepts for a very long time. He knows where the bones are buried on those plays, and he gets the ball to the right guy almost every single time." 

On if Rivers still throws it with the same velocity as past seasons: 

"Yes." 

On if he has asked Mayfield if he will play until 2034, given that would match how long Rivers has played in the NFL: 

"That has not come up yet, no." 

On game planning against opponents with multiple injuries at the same position, referencing the Colts' injuries at LB: 

"I do not think their scheme will change one bit, whether they have those guys or not. We expect them to have those guys. They run a very, very sound scheme. They let their guys run. I do not think it is going to change what they do it. They just go plug-and-play the next guy, and I promise you, he will be playing like his hair is on fire." 

On if he is hopeful CB Greedy Williams will be able to return to play this week and DTs Sheldon Richardson's and Larry Ogunjobi's status: 

"Yeah, I would say I am hoping for Greedy. We just have to make sure we are being smart and listen to the medical professionals, but I can promise you, he wants to be back out there very, very badly, and he is working very hard to do that. As it pertains to defensive tackles, we will see what everybody can do today. Take in information today and then really tomorrow will be a real big day to see where everybody is." 

On if Richardson and Ogunjobi will practice today: 

"We will see. I think limited, but I will get more information from (Senior Vice President of Player Health & Development) Joe (Sheehan) here in a second." 

On if the Browns considered placing Williams on IR or if the recovery process has taken longer than first expected: 

"I think Greedy would think that, too. It is just one of those injuries you can't predict it. He is disappointed. He wants to get out there. We are just trying to make sure that we are following the medical here. He is into it. He is engaged. Great to see him finally back on the practice field and around his teammates and all that, but I am hopeful that he is getting closer." 

On CB Denzel Ward playing through a groin injury and Ward's performance on Sunday: 

"He has done great. I do not know how many guys feel 100 percent right now, but he is pushing through it and he is playing well. We are counting on him, and he knows that." 

On LB Mack Wilson being eased back into the defense and if Wilson is closer this week to being fully available: 

"Yeah, I think he is getting close. I think all the guys that come back, the game sometimes dictates the reps, but the way I look at it, we are going to need everybody. We are playing a lot of guys at linebacker. We are playing a lot of guys on the defensive line. We play a lot of guys in the backend. At some point in this year, we are going to need everybody to step up and play maybe a bigger role than they have right now. As it pertains to Mack, we expect his role to continue to grow." 

On how DE Adrian Clayborn and TE David Njoku came out of yesterday's practice and their status for Sunday: 

"Kind of two different injuries there, but I would say with David, he is looking 100 percent to me." 

On CB Tavierre Thomas: 

"He does a great job. Out on the practice field, he is locked in at practice. Every rep looks like a game rep for him. He is a tremendous leader by example. I could not say enough good things about Tav."

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On CB Tavierre Thomas' performance against Dallas: 

"He was all over the field. He was tough to block. He did everything we asked him to do. He actually had five solos and to assists so out of the eight tackles that we had in that game, he was involved in seven of them. Obviously, he did a great job for us, along with playing 39 plays on defense. We played 21 core special teams plays, besides field goal block, and he had 39 defensive plays so it was an amazing effort by him. He really did a great job for us." 

On how WR Donovan Peoples-Jones played in his NFL debut and what happened on the kickoff that bounced into the end zone: 

"The kickoff, we talked about it before hand that if they kicked the squib and it was too hard and it was going to go in the end zone, we would rather have a touchback in that situation because we were in our hands team so we were not going to get much blocking obviously. We had 10 guys in that setup zone. I thought he handled the situation correctly. He did not touch the ball. I would like him to follow the ball a little bit closer down towards the end zone to make sure it goes in the end zone because obviously, if the ball is untouched – he knows the rules, obviously – in the end zone, it is an automatic touchback. It worked out for us. I would just like him to follow the ball a little bit longer." 

On the touchback rule on kickoffs recently changing: 

"Yeah, it used to be a live ball until they either downed it in the end zone or returned it and they were tackled. The only time it was an automatic touchback was if it went out in the end zone. Yeah, it changed. I think this is the third year of the rule." 

On if Peoples-Jones will continue as the returner or if WR Ryan Switzer could be used: 

"We worked with Ryan extra yesterday before practice. We are going to continue to work with Ryan. He obviously has that pedigree, he has done it before and he has a lot of experience. For right now, Donovan is going to be the guy today on punt return and kickoff return. We always have (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) and we have (RB) D'Ernest (Johnson), who is now taking on more of an offensive role. We have several guys who can do it and help us when we need them to." 

On the Colts special teams unit: 

"They are good. They are playing hard. They are probably the fastest team that we have played thus far. Baltimore is big, strong and fast and some of the other teams we played are very, very good, but these guys really can run. If you look at their kickoff team across the board and their punt team across the board, they have a bunch of guys who can run. That is going to be our biggest challenge is slowing these guys down a little bit to try to get some seams and create some seams in our return game. Their young kicker has done a nice job, the rookie from Georgia (Colt K Rodrigo) Blankenship. (Colts P Rigoberto) Sanchez is netting over 43 yards a punt, and they have three returners – they have (Colts CB Isaiah) Rodgers, the rookie from UMass has done a nice job for and him he is a threat; they have (Colts WR Ashton) Dulin, a big strong receiver that is a threat No. 16; and then of course No. 21 (Colts RB Nyheim) Hines is an outstanding punt returner. They have had a lot of success, and I think they are very, very good at what they do." 

On if the Colts special teams unit recorded a block last week: 

"They partially blocked a punt on the inside twist and man protection against Chicago. Nobody blocked what we call the No. 3. The guard should have blocked him I thought. I do not know which Chicago does scheme wise, but our guard would have blocked him. We would have that blocked up, I would hope. That was a big play for those guys. They play hard. You never know when they are going to show up. They are very well-coached. (Colts special teams coordinator) Coach (Bubba) Ventrone has done a nice job. He is a fine young coach who has paid his dues playing in the league and also as an assistant special teams coach. I have a lot of respect for him and what he has done there." 

On how RB D'Ernest Johnson stepped up when RB Nick Chubb sustained an injury at Dallas: 

"I thought he did a great job. I was really proud of him. We talk to our special teams guys all the time that, and we have a lot of veterans in our meetings and I appreciate the veteran leadership that we have that they might be starters on offense and defense but they play one phase or maybe two, if it is field goal block or whatever, but it is kind of cool when a core special teams guys who has meant so much to our special teams units the past two years steps up and does a great job on offense or defense. I am really proud of D'Ernest and what he did the other day." 

On Johnson's growth over the past year: 

"I think so. I really mean this that the more reps you take on special teams, that is NFL football, NFL speed and big strong guys running around, and the more you do that, the more it helps you prepare to play on offense or defense to get that experience. I think it is hard to show up as a young player, not have any football experience at this level and be successful on offense or defense. I think that is where special teams for these young players until they develop and grow into that type of role on offense or defense really helps them to play at a high level on special teams, and D'Ernest did that for us." 

On Johnson showing up ready to play during training camp and not necessarily being surprised by his strong performance at Dallas, despite limited reps at RB and the modifications to the schedule prior to the season: 

"Yes, and that is a great point. He showed up ready. For D'Ernest, it is little things that he does well. He is not the biggest, he is not the strongest and he is not the fastest, but he has enough of each one of those qualities that make him a quality teamer and a quality running back. Like I said, I am real proud of the way he showed up. He does the little things well. He studies the game. He watches extra tape. He makes sure that he does everything in individual on offense and whatever (run game coordinator/running backs) Coach (Stump) Mitchell is telling him to do and help him grow his running back. He does whatever I ask him to do helping him improve on special teams. For a guy like that, as a former college free agent to have that kind of success he had on Sunday and hopefully beyond, is a tribute to him, his hard work and what he has done." 

On WR KhaDarel Hodge sustaining a hamstring injury during pregame, which led to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones having an increased role on offense during his NFL debut:

"Because he was not in the coverage phases, Donovan, we knew he was not going to be gassed for the return phases. He handled it like a pro. I thought he did a nice job for us. He gave the ball back to the offense every time. He handled different situations well. Any time a guy goes down, especially the caliber of player that KhaDarel is, right before the game is hard, but the way we approach on special teams is it was like he got hurt on the first play or the very first kickoff, kickoff return or first offensive play and you just have to go on. You always have a plan. That is next man up. Guys responded and did well. We still need to cover punts better. Without him out there, it hurts a little bit, but we have our work cut out for us. Guys stepped up and did a good job."

On Head Coach Kevin Stefanski's performance as head coach and offensive play caller:

"He has a great demeanor to do that as a head coach and as offensive [play caller]. He does not get too high or too low and very even keel, which really helps him do both jobs well. The thing from my point of view, I have rarely worked for a head coach that has given me this much time. We have good meeting time. We have walkthrough, jog-through and practice time. We go over all the situations. You go back to the Dallas game in the fourth quarter and the different kickoff returns that we had to put out there, we had a kickoff return unit where we moved guys up and we got the ball out to the 25; we have the hands team where we got the ball as a touchback; and the biggest play of the game, at least the biggest play of the fourth quarter to me, was getting the ball at the 50-yard line when (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) did a great job, we showed the hands and we are moving guys around to confuse their kicker a little bit, he punches one to us and we got the ball at the 50.The reason we were successful at that stuff is because our guys were paying attention. They are understanding the importance of special. It is emphasized from the top down to the players. What has really helped us is the time, the effort and the emphasis that the head coach puts on special teams that allows me to do my job at a higher level."`

On Thomas' success in special teams coverage:

"He is fast. He is aggressive. He is smart. He learns from not only watching tape but he learns how they are trying to block him during the game. We will talk about stuff on the sideline. We will move him around, which we will need to do to keep him out of double team situations because obviously they are going to double him. He has an extreme amount of confidence in his ability without being arrogant or cocky because he knows that they can knock him out of the game or with a double team they can keep him away from the returner at any play. He is always active with his hands and his feet, and he is strong enough and fast enough to be successful no matter what he does."

On Ventrone has shared any stories from playing with the Browns:

"No, but I do like talking to him. When we scrimmaged at Indy last year before the preseason game, I got a chance to spend more time with him than I usually do at a combine or whatever. Actually, I am old enough that I coached against him so I remember when he was a player. He is a fine young coach, and he brings that energy and he brings that knowledge to the game because he was a great special teams player, and that was his primary role in New England and other teams that he played for. He has done a nice job. They have good players, and those guys are playing hard for them. You can tell by the effort that they play how they respond to his coaching. We have to match that intensity and surpass it. We have to take advantage of any opportunities that we have in the return game. We have to get after these guys."

Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt:

On how effective the Browns OL has played and if the group can still continue to improve with more reps: 

"Yeah, I think they will only get better. I agree, they are playing extremely well up front. I know (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters do an exceptional job of getting those guys ready each week. With all the drill work they do on the side, those guys are constantly working as soon as they step on the field from pre-practice to post-practice. I know that is paying off now. Really impressed with the way they have played up front, both in the run game and in the protections." 

On if WR Jarvis Landry was in the QB room this week after his TD pass at Dallas: 

"I do not know, but I would take him in at a draft if I had a chance because man, that was one heck of a pass and. I have seen him do it. He did it against the Bengals when I was on the other sideline a few years ago and he threw a dime down the right sideline. Obviously, he is a weapon. He does a great job, makes great decisions and is extremely accurate down the field throwing the ball." 

On he has grown to appreciate the value WR Odell Beckham Jr. brings to the team: 

"Absolutely, he is an extremely dynamic player. He can do a lot of different things, and he does it at an extremely high level. It is our job to find ways to get him the ball. As you can see there, going back to him again with the second time of the game on the reverse play, just putting the trust in the players like (Head) Coach Kevin (Stefanski) said. He really came through for us, and we expect that moving forward. We have to get the ball to him early and get him going because he really is a talented guy that can do a lot of things with the ball in his hands, whether he is catching it or running it." 

On if it was important for Beckham to remind everyone of his abilities with last week's breakout game: 

"I think so. He is a very prideful player. Obviously, he wants to be great. Guys like that, when they do not have a chance to show their greatness, kind of get frustrated at times. What a better stage than in Dallas to do it in a big game and then really pulled us through to a victory there at the end. That was special for him, I am sure, and does remind everybody of the talent that he does have." 

On if he knew RB D'Ernest Johnson could perform at the level Johnson did at Dallas: 

"You saw flashes of that. I have not been around him a long time, but I did see flashes in the training camp. He is a very instinctive runner. Also, very impressed with that whole group in that room really with (RB) Nick (Chubb) going down and (RB) Kareem (Hunt) kind of limited, D'Ernest thrust into that role, (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) having a big run and I thought (FB) Andy (Janovich) played extremely well at the fullback position and covered up a lot of things and made some key critical blocks. Great job by (run game coordinator/running backs coach) Stump Mitchell with the running back room last week. We expect that from D'Ernest. I know Stump did. Next man up mentality. I know he has those guys ready to go no matter what happens. That was an impressive performance." 

On what Callahan has meant to the run game: 

"It is huge. The different scheme variation that we have each week and the things that he brings to the table, he has a vast library of knowledge of different types of runs. Really faced almost every defense in the league at some point and understands how those runs affect those defenses. Just the knowledge that he brings in and the scheme he brings every week to the run game, it has helped us tremendously. Very happy to have coach on staff. Lean on him a lot." 

On how encouraging it is to get TE David Njoku back and if Njoku can build upon his success in the season opener:

"Absolutely, David is another guy that is a very talented guy. He brings a great depth to that tight end position. We have had good play out the tight end room this year, very solid performances in each of the games. Now he just adds another element to that. Another guy that it is a good problem to have having to find ways to get guys the ball. When he gets the ball in his hands, he is explosive so we have to be conscious of that moving forward, as well."

On if drawing up red zone plays is 100 percent or if someone deserves special credit for being the 'red zone wizard' this season:

"No, it is definitely collaborative. Everybody has ideas. We all go through the ideas together. The thing that stands out in the red zone is that most teams that are successful in the red zone runs the ball very well in the red zone. As you see, we have, as well. We have a lot of great passes schemed up, but if we can just run it in every time we get down there, we all would be extremely happy. It is definitely as collaborative effort."

On the Browns third WR role with WR KhaDarel Hodge out:

"It is going to be a little bit by committee, and maybe we will have another guy up this week ready to go. (WR) Rashard (Higgins) should be possibly up. We will see how things go towards the end of the week. Between him and (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones), those guys will come in and split time and try to fill that void right now until Hodge comes back."

On losing Chubb and the impact on the Browns offense:

"It is tough. It is obviously going to be tough, and there are some big shoes to fill there. Kareem is a guy that has done it in the past. He has had great success, and we expect nothing less from him. We do not expect a drop off at all in the run game with Kareem there, and then D'Ernest obviously showed that he belongs and can play in this league at a high level, as well."

On Colts DT DeForest Buckner and the Colts defense:

"It is going to be a challenge for us offensively. This will be the biggest challenge of the year, we feel. A very talented group of guys. They do not do a lot schematically, but they play extremely hard and they are very sound – fundamentally sound and scheme sound. They do a very little, but they do it a lot very well. The effort is there. You see those guys on film they finish. They run hard to the ball so we are going to have to be able to play at a level that we can match or exceed their finish and their fundamentals. We have addressed that this week. A big challenge ahead for us offensively."

On how pleased has he been with QB Baker Mayfield's decision making and how important it is for Mayfield to continue the streak of not throwing an interception:

"Obviously, that defense is talented. Seven interceptions is a ton. Going in, we have to make great decisions. Been very impressed with him the last two weeks with Baker. In the game against Dallas, he had four balls that he threw out of bounds. Those are plays that we are OK with. We are fine with incompletions. We just cannot afford the interceptions. Now we start a streak moving in the other direction, and we will see how long we keep this streak going."

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods:

On what was going through his heart and mind when the Cowboys were making a fourth quarter comeback:

"It was racing. I promise you, the heartbeat was fast. Really, I played in a very similar game against those guys when I was in Denver. We went into the fourth quarter 35-10, and we made a couple of plays and got off the field so I had that same feeling going in and it was 41-14. Really, the whole plan was really just try to be good with our coverage, rush the quarterback and maybe force him into some bad decisions and get a turnover. Unfortunately, that did not happen. We found a way to hang on at the end, but that is definitely not the way we want to play defense and finish games."

On CB Denzel Ward performing at a high level and Ward's interception to close the game while dealing with a groin injury:

"Very, very proud of the way he has fought through injuries. Proud of the way he played. When you watch the end of the game, you get in a situation when you are up that much that you kind of play cautious. When I went back – obviously, I watched it several times – he was one of the guys that stuck out that was really just playing his technique and really trying to finish, and it paid off for us in the end. Really proud of where he is, and hopefully, he continues to play this way for us."

On what it means for DE Myles Garrett to have such a strong start to the season and make big plays in key moments of games:

"Everything. You have one of those flamethrowers out there, that is what allows you to do certain things in coverage. I always try to put Myles in good situations because I feel like if we can get him one on one, I feel like he has a chance to win every time. Just what he has done over the last few games, it speaks to the level that he is playing at right now."

On if he finds himself at times on the sideline saying to himself 'come on No. 95, make a play':

"No question. That was the plan the whole way. I was a little conservative. The first thing I do when I go back is I always look at the how could I have been better as a play caller because I think that you have to look at yourself first, and then now you are evaluating the scheme and the players. A big part of me calling things a certain way is based on how we are rushing up front. When you have Myles, you feel like if you can make him hold it for a second, then he will get it."

On if it is a difficult time being a NFL defensive coordinator, given points per game is up this season around the league:

"I embrace it. It is a challenge. I think we are all going through the same things. I think maybe some offenses where as a system has been intact, especially when a quarterback has been there, they are probably playing more to their level because of that. I think for us, and not making excuses, we are really week in and week out trying to find out who we have as our playmakers and what are some of the better things to call in situations. We will continue to do that throughout the season. I embrace it and I just know that we have to do a better job defensively, but I will take the win."

On if he sees DT Sheldon Richardson still getting better at his stage in his career:

"You know what? I do. I mess with Sheldon all the time because I remember when he came out in the draft, and I came from the Tampa tree and it was always about (Pro Football Hall of Fame DT) Warren Sapp as 3-technique, and I remember when he came out in the draft, it was like, 'Man, this is the next guy.' I make sure I remind him of that and say this is the guy that we need to see all the time. If there is a big play he makes or you see him running to the ball, I always try that out to him because if we can get him playing at that level, that just helps us when it comes to defending the run and the pass."

On what does Richardson brings to the team on and off the field, referencing a video of Richardson talking with Garrett:

"Yeah, he is a character. He is really a good guy to have on the team because he is a veteran so there is a lot of wise things and a lot of advice that he gives to other players. I think when it is time when it is crunch time, he is the guy that you can look at and say, 'Hey man, let's get this thing going.' He has definitely been a positive attribute to our team, especially defensively."

On if has noticed a change in the way Colts QB Philip Rivers plays and what Rivers brings to the Colts offense:

"He brings confidence to that offense. I know the head coach that was with him prior, and when you have a veteran quarterback that commands the offense, he is putting them in the right plays, whether it is run or pass, at the line of scrimmage. You can't fool the guy. He is really a good rhythm thrower. He can still make the throws. I think this is the 14th time I have coached against him since I have been in the NFL so I see the same thing from Game 1 when I first coached against him to Game 14. We definitely are going to have our hands full with this guy."

On the challenge Colts DT DeForest Buckner presents to the Browns offense:

"I do not know if (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski has had conversations with (defensive line) Coach (Chris) Kiffin about it, but DeForest is a great player, based on all the things he has done so far in his career. That is the challenge you have, whether you are on offense or defense, is every week you are going to face a great player. I am sure they are going to try to find ways to neutralize him with what they are doing offensively, but I have enough problems to deal with (laughter). Kevin understands what he is dealing with. He does."

On his conversations with S Andrew Sendejo and occasions where Sendejo appears to have given up big plays, including one last week: 

"Yeah, the long play, Sendejo, that was that was not his play. His play was on No. 2 on the out cut. He actually covered up. We busted that coverage extremely bad. The pressure did not work for us. He was not responsible for that first long touchdown whatsoever. He is an aggressive player. I was actually there when we signed him. I worked him out as a free agent. The thing he is going to give you is he is going to play 100 miles an hour all of the time. My conversation with him is always just play within yourself. He has really been an asset for us because he gets everybody lined up in the back end, he communicates, his work ethic around the building and his film study. His biggest thing is just continuing to work on being consistent and not trying to do too much." 

On if LB Mack Wilson is still easing into or if he will be ready to go fully this week: 

"He is feeling a lot better. He is truly not 100 percent, I would say. He is still coming back from the injury, but he is getting strong and stronger every week. Again, we put him in a position where he is getting the majority of his reps in base, and we are just going to continue to evaluate how many nickel reps he gets. He is getting better, and he will continue to be more involved in our defense on base and sub." 

On if he is most comfortable with S Ronnie Harrison Jr. at SS or if Harrison could also play FS: 

"I think his natural fit is probably as a strong safety, but there are positions based on what we are calling where he will have to play in the post at times. It is just something we are evaluating week to week. He is getting better. He is understanding defenses more and more each week, and we are going to really try to get him some more reps in this game and continue to do that throughout the season."

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