ML: “As you look at the Browns, we knew that from a year ago, as I said earlier this week, they were a better football team really than what their record ended up last year. They are so much improved offensively with the offensive line group. Their receivers have continued to mature. They’ve brought these young guys and had the opportunity to watch them grow up, amazingly.
“Now they add (Davone) Bess, who’s been a productive guy in his roles in the NFL, particularly as a slot receiver. Their tight end (Jordan) Cameron has really come into his own as a receiver. He’s a guy that’s very fast, a fluid runner, so you have to be conscious of him at all times. (Brian) Hoyer played an excellent football game. He got knocked around a bit, but he stayed in there and won the game when it counted. He made big throws, big completions, big third downs. He had third-and-10 a few times and converted them. He did a nice job on third-and-10 and fourth-and-10 and was able to convert the drive.
“Those are big moments for them. Defensively, it’s a good group up front. They have really good rushers that have done a nice job. They’re playing the run extremely well. In the back end the secondary is a young, athletic group that covers very well.”
How does it feel to have
ML: (Laughs) “If we could comment off the record, I would. It’s good to have Chris back. It’s almost exactly to the day a year ago, and hopefully lightning strikes back as it did a year ago for us. He brings a calmness, a presence that sometimes you need. We’re not sure where we’ll end up at the end of the week injury-wise, but he’s a great insurance policy to have. We’re fortunate to bring somebody in that can cover a few different spots if needed.”
With their receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little, they’ve got pretty good quickness, and maybe a little bit physical?
ML: “Little is a big guy. He’s got some stature and strength.”
How rare is it to have a guy that can come in with no spring, no training camp, no games and plug him in for the fourth game of the year? It’s kind of a luxury isn’t it?
ML: “The phone squad can help you. It’s good. It’s not like Chris needs a lot of snaps in training camp. You’d like to have him here and move him along and matriculating with you, but we chose to go a different direction, and now we are where we are here today.”
He said he feels better physically this year because he’s not coming off rehabbing from a surgery:
ML: “Obviously he ended the season as a healthier player than he did the year before. That makes a huge difference. He keeps track of us pretty good. It’s good to have him back here. He’ll get back to work today, and we’ll continue to judge as the week goes on, and see where we are when Sunday rolls around.”
They have thrown six interceptions. Are there are opportunities to make plays?
ML: “Some of the numbers that have stuck out, yes, are interceptions and sacks. They’re running the ball for 4.2 yards per carry. They haven’t run it that much, but they’ve been productive when they’ve run it. Conversely on defense, they’re holding opponents to less than three yards per snap. They’ve gotten some sacks. You look at third down, and I’m sure they’re not where they want to be offensively, and they’re not where they want to be defensively. That’s a little bit of why their record is where it is. It’s similar to the situation we got in a year ago when we started losing games. If you don’t get those things righted, then you’re going to have a difficult time winning.”
Can you see a lot of similarities between Ray Horton and Dick LeBeau?
ML: “Yeah, Ray has done a good job, putting the defense together in Arizona and trying to duplicate it here. He’s got further ahead here because he’s fallen into some good rushers, and that’s a good thing. It makes that transition that much quicker and easier. They’re able to bring in (Paul) Kruger, and then they draft (Barkevious) Mingo. They have the kid from Pitt who was already there (Jabaal Sheard). They got good rushers, they have the kid Phil (Taylor) at the nose, you add (Desmond) Bryant, they’ve got my guy from Iowa State, (Ahtyba) Rubin, whose been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. Kind of unheralded, but if you put on the tape, week in and week out, that man plays great football. Then you’ve got maybe the best inside linebacker in (D’Qwell) Jackson; all he does is play in a different defense every year, and plays his butt off. He’s played for I can’t tell you how many different defensive coordinators, but every year he just plays very sound, good defensive football.”
With the offense they’ve got now, do you see a lot of similarities from Norv Turner’s schemes in the past?
ML: “Similar, yeah. Some things are a little different. I would say there are some similarities.”
Does it make them a little more dangerous coming off the game where they were kind of written off after the Trent Richardson trade:
ML: “Who wrote them off? (Laughs) You guys. That’s why you don’t get to coach (Laughs). You just go up and down. Write off, write on (Laughs). You’d have a hard time getting to work every day.
But it seemed like they had a real coming-together moment to go out and do what they did on the road:
ML: “They played good football. They played aggressive and attacked, and that’s what you’ve got to do. It’s no different than what I told our football team. We’re going on the road, we’ve got to go play aggressive, attacking football. They did a great job of that. They faked a punt, they made the first down, made a big play. They faked a field goal, and scored a touchdown. They did some things that you’ve got to do, and they took advantage of what they felt were some things that schematically they thought they could take advantage of.
“We’ve got to play alert, attacking and be focused on our game. No, I don’t think it’s any more dangerous. I’m happy for them to go out and win because that’s what you’ve got to do. It pushes coaching forward. Rob (Chudzinski) has an opportunity to further what he’s trying to instill in their minds and their head. Here it is. They hung in their with them together. It probably did bring them closer together and that’s what you want as a coach. You’re going to face what are adverse times throughout the football season.
“They’ve got some guys like Joe Thomas who have been around there for a while, (D’Qwell) Jackson’s been there a while. They can bring that football team together. These kids have played their butts off. Maybe they haven’t reaped the rewards of victory as much as they’d like, but they’ve been battling every week and playing good, sound football all the time. Somewhat as a coach you’re happy to see that occur.”
You mentioned that they’re holding the opponent to 2.8 yards per carry defensively, even after playing Adrian Peterson:
ML: “They’re doing some good things. They’re causing fumbles, so ball security is going to be key again for us.”
Do you see the running back rotation remaining the how it’s been the first three games?
ML: “Yes, and we’re going to quit talking about it, too (laughs).”
What’s stood out from Joe Thomas over the years?
ML: “As a young player he was excellent. The standard was set high very quickly, and he’s continued to play up to that all the time. That says a lot. To be a left tackle, to play with a number of a different quarterbacks and offensive schemes. I think throughout most of his time there, George Warhop has been the offensively line coach, so at least there’s some consistency. Some of the techniques I’m sure George is teaching are relatively what the coordinator wants. Some of that consistency is good for a player. He’s been a fine, fine player since his rookie year. He’s been very, very consistent and obviously been a great leader for their football team. You want one of those players. We’re fortunate to have one of those guys here in Andrew (Whitworth).”
Is Barkevious Mingo one of the quicker rookie guys rushing off the edge?
ML: “He is. He’s a great fit for them going to the 3-4. He’s that kind of player that if you’re putting together a 3-4 defense, he’d likely be your first pick with that kind of athleticism and ability. He was asked to do things in John Chavis’ defense at LSU that will help him translate well to the NFL game as far as playing coverage parts of his responsibility, even though he was mainly a down end there. They did so many other things that were innovative that Chavis did down there. He comes to the game and it’s an easy transition for him.”
Is the thing that’s pleased you the most on defense the low rate on third down conversions?
ML: “That and ‘explosives.’ We’ve got to keep that up. That’s the number one thing on my board, explosives. We want to keep getting takeaways, and third down as you mentioned. Red zone comes in, too. If you do those three or four things, and you keep scoring down, you’ll obviously have a better chance to win. If we keep those things up there and going in the right direction, we’ll be fine. We gave up the one explosive run last week, but we’ve got to keep that up, and make sure we continue to do a great job of tackling ,and being in the right spots coverage-wise.”
Is Cleveland a special place for you because that’s where you got your first win?
ML: “Cleveland is a special place because it’s a division game on the road. We know how difficult it is: the fans, the crowd. We know what kind of environment it’s going to be come Sunday. I had a lot of moments in Cleveland. This is a big game for us. We lost there last year. We’ll be ready.”
You had some great moments and you’ve had some real downs too:
ML: “I remember the 2010 game, I remember last year. I remember the ’04 game.
Do you draw any lessons from the ’09 game, it was Week 3, coming off a big win against Pittsburgh, and if it wasn’t for Shayne Graham’s field goal it would have ended in a tie:
ML: “The thing about it is, it’s going to be a close football game, and I know that. We’ve got to play very well. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to know that every possession is very meaningful. That’s the best parallel that you can draw from it. As I told the football team, it’s going to be a grind, so let’s go grind.”
Any update on how
ML: “Everybody’s doing a lot better than the initial Sunday afternoon prognosis. We’ll just have to go through the week and see how we do. (Brandon) Ghee will come back and get some practice in now, finally. He’s been cleared to return back to practice so that will be good. So we’ll go from there. We’re doing better. The sun came up a bit today (Laughs). I think in everybody’s case, our guys that have been injured and not been able to play and answer the bell, have a chance to be on hand this week so that’s good.”
Any improvement with
ML: “Yeah, very good. He’ll hopefully be able to practice by the end of the week. We’re doing well. Better.”
AD: “There’s been some different things that have happened in the games. I think just the stress of ball security, keeping the ball close to your body, not giving them a chance where they can punch it out. I think that’s the biggest thing. All of them have been different situations.”
Are you worried you guys will get reputation as a team that fumbles a lot?
AD: “It’s something that we have to stress and know that we have to be better at because if you turn the ball over that many times, it’s hard to win the game. For us it’s definitely a point of emphasis to protect the ball.”
Any strand of similarities with these 3-4 defenses – Pittsburgh, Green Bay and now Cleveland?
AD: “There are some things that are similar. For us, we’re able to compare the teams, compare the defenses, compare the schemes of what they’re doing. It’s been helpful for us because we’ve been able to compare them to the other teams we’ve played already. I think that’s the biggest thing so far. Some of them come from the same background of that 3-4 style of defense. There are some things that you can say, ‘OK, they did this just like one of the other teams we faced has done it,’ so it’s nice to have that kind of correlation.”
Anything different from Ray Horton that’s different from Dom Capers or Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh?
AD: “Everybody’s got their own thing that they like to do. They’re not going to just be like everybody else. Everybody has to try to find their own wrinkle, they’re own thing that they can do differently. That’s what expect going into this game as well.”
Can you tell Horton is a descendent of LeBeau?
AD: “You can see the similarities in the style, similarity in the looks that they’re giving and things like that.”
Is there anyone on the Browns you have to keep an eye on like you do Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh?
AD: “You can kind of see that with their safety, T.J. Ward. You can tell that he’s studied a lot of film and he’s trying to be that kind of style of guy, kind of roaming around. You’ve got to know where the safeties are, you’ve got to know where guys are lining up because that can change some of the things that we do.”
What makes Joe Haden such a difficult corner to attack?
AD: “He’s got such good feet and good ball skills. He’s quick. That’s the biggest thing for him, and he plays with a lot of confidence. When you’ve got all of those things, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good. He’s done a good job and he’s a really good corner.”
Have there been any plays against him where you were surprised he got to the ball?
AD: “He’s made a couple of plays. Last year he batted a ball down that I didn’t think that he would get to, that he made a good play on. He’s done well for them.”
Their front is pretty big and good, maybe toughest one you’ve faced so far?
AD: “They do a really good job. They play really hard. They’re high-motor guys. That’s why they’re ranked where they are defensively. They’ve done a lot of really good things. We’ve got to match that. We’ve got to be ready for it, and I know we will.”
Anything nostalgic about going back to Cleveland with it being the site of your NFL debut?
AD: “I mean, just to have that experience, first NFL game played there, is kind of cool. There’s definitely some good memories of playing there. Hopefully there will be many more.”
Any lesson you take from Green Bay game?
AD: “I think the biggest thing from that game is that as many ups and downs as there were, we fought to the end. That speaks volumes of this team and what kind of guys we have, whether we’re up 14 or down 16, whatever the situation was. There was no quit in us. We kept fighting. It was great to see.”
It seemed like you were grinding. What did you do to post good numbers?
AD: “You never know what’s going to happen in a game, so for us we’ve just got to keep going out and playing. We did that.”
Can you imagine what Brian Hoyer is going through as a first-time starter?
AD: “I know he’s been through a lot, been through several teams. A lot of the NFL is just opportunity. He came out and he made the most of his opportunity, and played really well and helped lead them to a win. I know he’s been through a lot, so I’m sure he felt good about what happened last week.”
What message does the Browns’ win send to you guys?
AD: “It shows that they’re fighting. Regardless of whatever happens over there, whatever guys are not playing or are not there anymore, they’re trying to win games. That’s what they came out and they did. We expect to get their best effort this week.
They are a division opponent, so you know it’s going to be a tough environment:
AD: “Like I said, we’re expecting to get their best effort. They’ve done some really good things. We’ve got to come out and match that and be playing our best.”