Press Conference

Week 10 Browns coordinator press conferences - Priefer, Monken, Wilks

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning. It is nice to be back home this week in front of our fans and in our stadium. It has been a few weeks since we have been home. We have some work to do. We know that. We continue to emphasize playing with enthusiasm and passion. It is how we have been running practices. That is how I normally run my part of the practice. I think it needs to continue, especially when you are 2-6 and you are not playing great football. You need to understand why you are here. I was telling the guys this morning, every morning I wake up I thank the good Lord I have the opportunity to coach in the National Football League and to coach for the Cleveland Browns, and I hope they share that same sentiment when we are talking about playing in the league and not everybody gets this opportunity. I think we all have to embrace that. We have eight games to go. There is a lot of football to be played. We have to get after the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, that will be our focus throughout the rest of the week.”

On if he is pleased with being fourth in the NFL in special teams efficiency, particularly with a rookie K and P:

“The thing about the rookies is that they are so talented, and they are very coachable like we talked about before. They have played well. They have done some good things for us. They are still, as I tell them, we are only scratching the surface. That is the foundation right now. They have to continue to improve every week. Every time we go out there to practice, every time we watch tape, every time we do a drill work or whatever the case may be, we continue to emphasize building on our past successes and then go from there. In terms of the rest of it, I would like a little bit more in the punt return game. I still want to reduce the penalties. We had a dumb penalty last week on punt return. That is two weeks in a row. We have to continue to emphasize eliminating penalties. Really – I will be honest with you – when you are not winning like we would hope to be winning at this point and hope to win the rest of the season and when you are not helping your team win games, that is very frustrating. These rankings and stats, I think they tell a little bit of the story, but at the end of the day, we have to do whatever it takes to help our football team win games. That is the bottom line.”

On if RB Kareem Hunt is an option as a returner:

“No, I do not think so. I would love it to be honest with you. He is so talented. God bless Kareem, back in the spring when he signed here, he was out doing drill work in Phase II and Phase III, he was doing all the special teams drill work and I am saying, ‘Good for him. He is out here maybe getting in shape and I do not think we are going to have a chance to use him.’ He is such an elite running back in this league. I think he and (RB) Nick (Chubb) continue to do what he and Nick do so well.”

On CB Tavierre Thomas as the team’s kick returner last week:

“He has been campaigning for weeks. Like every player, even the linebackers and I have defensive ends and defensive linemen, ‘Hey coach, I was a returner in high school. I also played quarterback. I played running back.’ Probably a lot of them did. Tavierre did a little bit in college. I think he is so fast and he is explosive. My biggest concern with Tavierre is obviously taking a hit. He had not taken a hit with the ball in hand in a long time, and he did a really nice job with that the other day. I think everybody in the room saw how explosive he was coming out of the end zone, even though one was 7 yards deep. We have to kind of rein that in a little bit. He is aggressive. He is trying to make a play and I know (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) has had a good year. I think he is one of the league leaders in kickoff return average, but we are always trying to improve, we are always trying to get better, we are always trying to figure out what our next option is what the best option is and we will continue using Dontrell back there, as well, and Dontrell as a punt returner along with the other top receivers as punt return options. At the end of the day, we are always looking to get better and that is what we are trying to do the other afternoon.”

On K Austin Seibert’s performance and continuing to convert his FG attempts:

“He did. Altitude helps everybody’s confidence, I think. He had a really good week in practice just getting ready and we are always playing on grass obviously for the most part. I think he had a good week of practice. He had a really good pregame. He actually off the sticks hit a 68-yard field goal, which I have never seen before. When we were practicing with the group, the holder-snapper in pregame hit a 63-yarder. I think he was feeling good about it. My big thing with him was – I told you guys last week – when you play in altitude, you do not want to do anything extraordinary or different that is going to ruin your technique. He followed through with that and do a nice job the entire day.”

On if he was nervous on the PAT that hit the upright:

“I was only nervous when I saw it hit the upright. I saw the angle it took and I saw the officials say it was good, but they all count. I think he understood that he hit a good ball. He just did not follow through all the way through it and that is something that we will continue coaching with him.”

On the weather beginning to change and points of emphasis on special teams due to it:

“Today we are going to be indoors for practice, but we are going to go outdoors and kick, punt, snap and do our wet ball drills that we did prior to the New England game that helped our guys so much to prepare for that game. I look at our stadium – our guys went down yesterday, and it was a beautiful day yesterday – but they went down there and did some field goal work again, the holder, snapper, kicker. You have to look at FirstEnergy Stadium as our home field. That is our living room. That is where we play, and we have to have that confidence when we go down there no matter what the weather is that we are going to be prepared for it and we are going to use any weather – good weather, bad weather, rainy, cold, snow, wind – we are going to use that to our advantage. It is going to be home field advantage and we are going to be the confident group going in. To be honest with you, the New England game, we felt our specialists were more confident than their specialists and they play there because I think these guys were prepared and they were mentally ready to go into that situation. We are going to be mentally ready Sunday for whatever weather comes our way.”

On his message to the Browns about Bills WR Andre Roberts:

“I tell him that I lose sleep watching that guy return. We played him last year when I was in Minnesota. We went up to New York, and he had not really got going as a kickoff returner and then we helped him with that a little bit. He had two nice returns against us – about a 50-yarder and a 40-yarder. He had been doing great as a punt returner, and we shut him down on punt return. Obviously, our focus is both punt return and kickoff return. The thing is he was a little bit slower in the year, but he missed two games because of his quad injury. He is just now hitting his stride. The thing about Andre is he is just fast enough and just quick enough, big enough, strong enough but he has phenomenal vision. He puts that whole package together. He can make you miss if you are out of control. He will run through you if you are not ready for it. He will outrun you if you are out of position or you are not throttling down under control like we teach our guys to do. He is a very dangerous returner in that right. Obviously, he proved what a great year he had last year. He had a 66-yarder this past Sunday against Washington that you saw the old Andre. He is not hurt anymore. He is healthy. We have to get ready for him.”

On how much consideration the Browns gave to having WRs Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry return the final punt of the Broncos game:

“I talked to Odell about it. We thought about. We talked to him about it. We talked about how important it was going to be a longer drive because of where they were punting from unless we popped a big return. He wanted to focus more on offense, which is obviously very, very smart on his part because he would be out there every play to get him fresh. I thought Dontrell did a phenomenal job catching that ball. That ball looks like it was going to go out of bounds inside the five and you catch it at the six. I think he got us six yards to give us a little bit of a start. Their punter, that was his best punt of the game. He really came through for them. I do not think up until that point that he really hit the ball that well. We put a little pressure on him and he shanked a couple. Punt return, we gave our offense the ball at the plus-40 and the minus-48 on two drives. That is our job. Now, we have to get even get further. We have to go talk about scoring, talk about blocking a punt and talk about putting more pressure. This young punter they have in Buffalo is a phenomenal directional punter. It is one of those things that you have to put pressure on him to make him uncomfortable back there, and hopefully, he will line drive to us or maybe we will get one, tip one or whatever.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken:

On the impact RB Kareem Hunt returning will have on the Browns offense:

“Well we will see. Being out basically nine weeks – although, we did get him back the last couple weeks for practice so he has looked good – we will just have to see how it goes. Obviously, having (RB) Nick (Chubb) back there, he has been having a good year. Obviously, though, Kareem is an explosive guy that you would like to get involved if you can.”

On if Hunt’s skillset allows the Browns offense to play with both Hunt and Chubb on the field:

“We will have to see. Again, depending on the flow of the game, depending on what we see as we continue through the week, but sure, anything is possible. We have had (WR) Jarvis (Landry) in the backfield at time so it is just a matter of how we get our best players on the field.”

On if having two RBs on the field with no lead blocker can pose from a blocking standpoint:

“There are certain things that make it more, I would not say complicated, but in terms of what you do… We can’t get too far away from what we have done already up to this point. We have not done a lot of that so again there are some things you can do and some things you certainly can’t scrap that you do offensively just for one player.”

On G Wyatt Teller’s performance against the Broncos:

“Played fine. He had not played really extensive minutes throughout the year. You could definitely see his bulk, his strength in pass protection in terms of the pocket. He obviously has a little more pop when he comes off the ball. I think he will be better each week that we get him in there.”

On Teller’s personality off the field:

“I am not really around him as much as our offensive line guys, but I like his personality.”

On correcting mistakes in the red zone to generate more points:

“It is always going to come back to execution. Let’s start with this part of it. Scheming the ball better, running the ball better when you get down there, executing it better. Sometimes thinking players not plays. There is a lot to it, but obviously, we have to get better down there because those are the core statistics that keep you from winning games. Turning it over, being explosive, and scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Last week, we did a lot better job in some of the areas discipline wise – not turning it over and penalties – but when you do not score touchdowns in the red zone… We had seven out of ten possessions that we had opportunities and just did not take advantage of it.”

On T Greg Robinson’s response against the Broncos after not starting the previous week:

“I thought he responded really well, and I thought he handled it the way we hoped he would. Now, let’s hope moving forward that he understands what the expectation of any pro is and what the team expects from him.”

On what makes the Bills defense so productive:

“I think they have surrounded themselves with similar players by nature and makeup. They have a number of players that maybe at someplace else were not thought of as impact players that have impacted their roster. They play awfully hard. They force you to protect both edges run and pass because they will bring any of their defensive players from safeties to corners. I think that is probably the biggest thing. They play hard, they play well off each other and you have to protect both edges.”

On QB Baker Mayfield’s confidence and if he can do things from a gameplan standpoint to help Mayfield:

“Oh, sure. First of all, I think he is a very confident young man. I do not think there is anything from that end. There is a frustration, sure there is, from all of us. How do we do it better? That is what we are paid to do. Starting with us, how do we do it better each week? How do we get our guys to do it better? That is what everybody tries to do in the league. That is what every staff is paid to do. Every team has talent so that is the main goal is how do we get all of our guys on the same page to do it better. That is everybody. That is us and that is the players so we show the product on the field that we are capable of that we have shown in spirts. We just have not done it well enough consistently like we are capable of.”

On finding the balance between not forcing the ball to WR Odell Beckham Jr. but getting him more opportunities:
“When you have a great player like him, and we have a number of those guys skill wise, we are always looking for ways to involve him in the office. Sometimes it presents itself, and sometimes it does not. Obviously, we go through this every week – there is only one ball. That is the way it is. When you give it to Nick, it is not going to one of those guys, and Kareem (Hunt) adds to that. The bottom line is that frustration comes from losing and not scoring points in the red zone. I do not remember that early in the year. It will come the better we play.”

On why Beckham is not getting more opportunities in the red zone:

“Again, good question. I would refer back to some of it is that some of it is what they are doing and some of it is obviously what we are doing. I am talking about collectively schematically. It is not like we are purposely looking one way or we are looking away from somebody. Obviously, when you have that few of targets to somebody like that then you got to take a look at it and say, ‘How do we get our playmakers the ball?’ That is at every part of the field. That is really not just there, but obviously with our struggles there, we have looked at that and we will continue to look at it as we move forward.”

On WR Rashard Higgins not getting a higher number of plays or targets, given Higgins’ production last season:

“First off, it is tough for Rashard just the way the year started and in terms of I thought had a really good preseason and camp, then had a real good start to the year and then he got hurt. I would not say it was a setback, but it certainly does not help when you are not practicing and you are not out there. Obviously, last year, they also did not have Odell. That is part of it as well. You had some other guys that were more role players. All of a sudden a player’s role changes and he is trying to find a niche, and we are, too. It is a little more complicated than that, but obviously, he is a guy that Baker has real comfort in. We do have to get him more involved. We do. You are right. Have him a bigger factor in what we do. It is only so much you can do. Like I said before, one ball, but it has been frustrating I am sure for him and for us.”

On the main teaching points on the fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter:

“I take from it that we did not execute the play from start to finish from the way we did it. It did not look like what we wanted it to look like. That is the bottom line. It falls on me. It falls on us. We did not execute it.”

On Kitchens calling offensive plays and if a transition to him calling plays is ‘easier said than done as a solution’:

“It is not because I came in here knowing that I was not going to be calling the plays. It is really a non-issue. Like I always say, when you an assistant coach and you take on a job that that was discussed before I came. The bottom line is I came knowing those parameters. In the end, like any assistant, you do exactly what the head coach asks you to do, and this is what we asked me to do on a daily, weekly basis. That is what I do. At this point, that has not even been discussed. It has been discussed more outwardly than it has been inwardly, if that even makes sense. It is not part of it going into the season.”

On if he is able to have a good sense for when a player is ready to return after missing time and contribute, specifically in reference to WR Antonio Callaway’s performance against the 49ers:

“Each player is different. Each player is different in terms of their mental makeup, their ability to comprehend the gameplan and situations that arise in terms of the mistakes they make. Some mistakes come up that hurt your team more than others. In the end, a player being away is never good because if you can say you are dialed in and you are dialed into the gameplan, but unless you are playing, it is very difficult to maintain that focus. You ask guys to do that. We anticipate everybody that we play in the game to play well. Otherwise, we should not be playing them. In the end, do I think Antonio has gotten better each week? Yes, and that has helped, obviously, coming back from where he was initially, but we would expect Kareem and the things that we put him on the field for, we would expect him to execute and make plays for us.”

Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks:

Opening statement:

“Good morning. In this game of football, when you look at about 60-65 plays that we play, the game is going to be determined based upon about maybe three or four plays. You always hope you are on the receiving end of those plays. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, we were not. I thought we did some great things. I thought we played well in spurts. We stopped the run early, but we gave up big plays, which you can’t do in this league. We have to a much better job, No. 1, of tackling. Just a routine over route that went for 75 yards. That is unacceptable.”

On adjusting to having one less DB with the departure of S Jermaine Whitehead:
“I think we have been done this road before when you look at (CB Denzel) Ward and (CB) Greedy (Williams) being out. Jermaine is gone. I am looking forward to the other guys stepping up. (S) Morgan (Burnett) is going to have to play a big role. (S Damarious) Randall is back, which is a major plus for us. It is really the next man up mentality.”

On if Burnett would be the primary S to pick up more responsibility:
“Yes, he would be. Again, you are looking at Morgan as well as Randall starting back there. I think (S) Juston Burris has done a tremendous job when he has stepped up and played, as well. It is an opportunity for (S Sheldrick) Redwine to be able to step up and play for us. I am excited about the guys that we have back there, and I am not worried at all that they are not going to get the job done.”

On if social media use is something the Browns staff addresses with the team, particularly after a situation like Whitehead’s:

“(Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) has done a tremendous job of really addressing it with the team. I think the organization has handled it well. Again, my feelings for Jermaine as a player or person has not changed. I do not condone what he said or did. It is very unacceptable, inexcusable and it was very insensitive. That is the world and life that we live. Our lives, our job is scrutinized and you know what? We have to play better, and we have to tackle better. We need to put a better product out there for our fans. I am looking forward to getting back on track this week and our players are, as well.”

On emphasizing tackling this season and why it has not translated to games:
“I really can’t tell you and pinpoint the reason why. We are at the point of attack, and we have to learn how to finish. It is a point of emphasis each and every week. That is how we start our practice each Wednesday with our padded practice. Understanding the situation, we missed it out of the post, Greedy was right there to make the tackle, he was trying to go for the strip first and we can’t do that in that situation. We have to get the guy down on the ground.”

On the challenges the Buffalo running game and Bills RB Devin Singletary present:

“I think Singletary as well as (Bills RB Frank) Gore, all of those guys do a tremendous job of running the football. I think they are going to try to establish the run game. We have to do a great job of staying in our gaps and getting off blocks. When you look at their offensive line, to me, that is their strength in the run game. They do a tremendous job coming off the ball, getting to the second level, cutting guys and getting on the perimeter. The challenge is going to be trying to stop the run game and really try to get (Bills QB) Josh Allen in a situation where he has to drop back and pass the football.”

On if the Browns have any padded practices remaining:
“I assume we do. Freddie is in control of that with the number count, but I think we do have some left.”

On having to use padded practices sparingly, given the NFL allotment during the season:

“We use them pretty much every week on every Wednesday that we pad up. To make it quite clear, we work on tackling each and every day, even when you do not have the pads on. It is all about the leverage position, understanding where your hips are coming from, being in position to finish. It is not always about the physical part of it, as well. It is the minute things, the details that we have to make sure we clean up and execute.”

On NFL teams having a limited number of padded practices and its impact on tackling across the league:

“I think you have to be able to deal with the parameters that you have been given. It is part of the Players Association [CBA] so we have been dealing with it for years now. I still think there are ways around that, as I mentioned, just the details. These guys at this level understand the physicality of the game so I do not really think it is that. I think it is more about leverage, angles and positioning yourself to finish, and that has been our point of emphasis and that is what we really need to get back to is the base fundamentals.”

On Ward’s coverage on Broncos WR Courtland Sutton’s TD reception and what he could have done better:
“I thought Denzel was in great position. I thought he did a tremendous job within the down at the line of scrimmage. The one thing that is different with the point of attack right there is he needs to go back and attack the ball as we coach and we talk about all the time. He laid out for it as if the ball was coming over the top, and it allowed for Sutton to go over the top of him. The easiest thing for him to do is to come back and go up for the ball at that particular point in time. He may not catch it himself but he would not allow Sutton to catch it, and that is the key thing.”

On if the size difference between Ward and Sutton played a key factor in the TD reception:
“No, I do not think the size difference was a challenge at all. I thought Denzel was in great position. He just did not execute his technique.”

On not having any concerns about Ward moving forward:
“No. Denzel, to me has the capability and the talent to be one of the top corners in this league with his size, however you want to see it. Did you see his tackle? The guy is physical, and he comes up. That is one of the things that you do not see a lot with corners in this league.”

On getting Browns players to play their best at the most critical moments of games:
“It is just the consistency in which you play because as I alluded to when I started out and I tell this to the guys all of the time, I can’t tell you when those three or four plays are coming so we have to play each play as if it is going to make a difference in the ball game. You can’t see change of speed out there. You have to see guys going full speed on each and every play. Our guys are upbeat. They are very spirited. This is the second half of the season. We talked about it is no different than coming out of the locker room at halftime. We have to start fast this third quarter. That is the mindset that we have, and we are just going to try to take it one game at a time.”

On DE Olivier Vernon’s performance the past two game and how his potential absence may change the gameplan:
“I thought he played well. He stepped up. He has been making a difference when he is out there. It is no different with the corners. It is no different than at the safety position. I have total confidence right now in (DEs) Chad Thomas and Chris Smith and that those guys can step in there and get the job done if Olivier Vernon can’t go.”

On challenges Bills QB Josh Allen presents:

“Very big, strong, physical quarterback that can break tackles. I think he does a tremendous job in really scrambling and buying time and getting the ball down the field. Very strong arm. He can make every throw, and he is accurate. It is going to be a challenge for us. Most importantly, we have to contain this guys and you see again the same situation this past week on third down, we had an opportunity to get off the field and we lost contain. Six plays later, the ball is in the end zone. When it is an opportunity for us to get off the field, we have to make sure we do that. I think he is very talented. I liked him last year coming out of the draft.”

On what DE Chad Thomas has shown to give him confidence in his ability:

“It starts really in the run game. I think he does a tremendous job playing the 6-technique. That is going to be a major emphasis for us this week in this run game – really being physical with the tight ends trying to penetrate and knock the guy out back off the ball – and I think he has been decent in the pass rush. He is quick off the ball, and he has great acceleration. The thing we have to do this week is we have to make sure we get to the depth of the QB and counter.”

On the Broncos’ Wildcat play and how that formation changes defensive scheme:

“Regardless of the situation, you have to maintain contain. On that particular play, we have an automatic check that we go to, and that is what we got to. We just did not do a great job of as you just mentioned of keeping contain. I think it was Olivier right there and then also the safety so we have to do a great job of turning it back inside to pursuit.”

On if the Cardinals made an effort to move up in the draft to select Bills QB Josh Allen last year:
“I have moved on. That is a blur. I am not even thinking about that.”

On if Allen’s accuracy has improved since entering the NFL:
“I think he has improved just based off the things I have seen on film. He is still in his second year. Like most of them, they try to sometimes force some things in there, but I think, for the most part, you can see him with accuracy, particularly in the red zone. He does some good things down there, which has been a nemesis for us this year. We have to do a great job in the red zone.”

On Allen’s struggles with ball security and if the Browns coach a different approach with their tackling, given that factor:

“I think it is different. It is always based on the second guy in there, but when you talk about the interior line, particularly about the defensive guys, we should always be trying to go for the ball. That is the point of emphasis there. He has had some issues in the past. That is something we have been pointing out all week. I know right now we need to do everything that we can to try to create more takeaways to get the ball back to the offense. It is definitely a point of emphasis.”

On preparing for the Brills’ goal line and short-yardage run game with Allen’s involvement:

“He is a big, physical guy. I have talked to the coaches about it this week. My time in Carolina, he just reminds you of (Panthers QB) Cam (Newton) a little bit with just the physicality and how tough it is to bring him down. We just have to find a way to keep him out.”

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