Initial comments ...
"It's an exciting week for us. It's our first chance to play Cleveland. We finished off those other two teams in the division, so it's our first crack at these guys. The guys are excited for it. It's a chance to go on the road and work (toward) our first divisional win. That will be big for our season. They've had the right attitude today. We've moved on from the last game. It's time to focus on these guys and move forward. We're excited about that.
From an injury standpoint, Sam Hubbard and Brandon Wilson, we'll take care of them these next two days to get them through the week and expect them to play. John Ross is back. We brought him off (Reserve/Injured), so he's eligible to play this week. We made a roster move yesterday to get him up, so we're excited to see what he can do and bring another element to the receiver group. That will help us. We're excited to see that."
How helpful was it for Ross to get reps with the scout team rather than only walkthrough or rehab workouts?
"It was good. He really got a lot of reps two weeks ago because Stanley (WR Stanley Morgan) had an illness and Auden (WR Auden Tate) was going through the concussion protocol. We were really down at receiver. John took a lot of those reps, so he's gotten plenty. He's roaring and ready to get back at it."
Was it beneficial for Ross to catch passes from QB Andy Dalton while practicing on the scout team?
"He's been healthy for a couple weeks now, and he's felt good. He's been doing his own stuff, and he's excited to get back in there. He and Andy have good chemistry."
What is your approach to evaluating players with an injury history?
"You just have to look at (their performances) when they're healthy and what see it looks like. You try to tune out the part that they've been hurt, played hurt or missed weeks. We feel like we've seen a good sample size of John early in the year when he was healthy – what he can do, what he's capable of and the things you can ask him to do to really help our team. There's no easy answer to that. We've seen what he looks like when he's healthy, and we're excited to get him back out there."
What does Ross add to the team?
"Well, certainly speed. He's a talented — he's first-round pick for a lot of reasons. He cares about football, cares about winning and cares about his teammates. He's a good guy to have out there from a chemistry standpoint. One of his top traits is his speed, and defenses are always concerned about that. He certainly has it."
Will the tight end position see more utilization in coming weeks?
"It's good to get everybody back and healthy, and start to add weapons to the offense. It's never a bad thing. It makes everybody's job a little bit easier, whether it opens up running backs, tight ends, receivers, or whatever it is. It's exciting to have out there, and more pieces to add to the puzzle."
Do you have an injury update on WR A.J. Green?
"Nothing more on A.J. for this week."
Do you think Green will play this week?
"No, I don't."
DE Carlos Dunlap won AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Sunday. What has led to his increased production over the last three weeks?
"It was good. He was able to finish off some of those plays and get to the quarterback. Like we said, not to take away credit from Carlos, because he earned those and that was awesome, but coverage on the back end leads to (sacks) as well. We had tighter coverage. As each week passes, those guys are doing a better job. It leads to half of a second, or a second more for those guys up front to work against their man. These last couple of weeks, these pressure packages by Lou (defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo) have done a good job of getting some one-on-ones for some guys. They win that one-on-one battle and they go affect the quarterback."
How intense are the conversations to place Green on Reserve/Injured?
Why are those discussions not intense?
"Because we feel like he's going to be able to play this year. He's doing everything he can to get himself back on the field. If he can do it, we'd love to see what he looks like and get him out there. He'll help the team. We just want to win. We feel like he's a guy that can help us win, if he is able to play when that time comes. We're just taking it week-to-week and giving him every opportunity to get healthy."
What will Green's rehab schedule be like this week?
"The same as it was last week."
Dunlap has been put into a better position to pressure the quarterback in recent weeks by playing with the lead late in games. What are your thoughts on that?
"You look at it over the course of the year, and we have to score more points on offense because that always takes the pressure off your defense. I've seen good moments from our guys on defense, where they put together a good half. You need to have that consistency over the course of a game, but this is one game where we were finally able to score some points early and take that lead. Now our defense can play the way a lot of these defenses play – they get a lead every now and then and they get to go pursue the passer when guys are throwing the ball down the field a little bit more. It opens up more opportunities for more turnovers, No. 1. You look at the teams that lead the turnover margins, and typically they play with a lot of leads. Those guys are just hell-bent on getting to the passer and creating turnovers on the back end. Credit to all those guys."
What do you see when you watch the Cleveland Browns' defense on tape?
"When you see the Cleveland Browns, period, there's a lot of talent out there. They have a lot of talent on offense. On defense, they're good. They're tight. They run man coverage. Those two corners are really fast. They have a good linebacker group and they can really get after the passer up front, even without Myles Garrett, who's a great player. They still have a lot of talent up front that can be concerning if you don't have a great plan for them. It's a really good team, and it will be a tough test for our guys."
What do you see from Cleveland's offense, particularly from QB Baker Mayfield?
"Baker does a great job creating and extending plays. He's got a quick release and can get the ball out of his hands from a lot of different arm angles. He has some weapons with Jarvis (WR Jarvis Landry) and Odell (WR Odell Beckham Jr.). With some of those receivers, the two tight ends and their running backs, it's a really dynamic offense that has a lot of potential."
Does Cleveland LB Joe Schobert get enough credit from around the league?
"I don't read too much to know what the national perception is, but he shows up on tape. He's a solid player. He's been consistent for a while. He does a really nice job over there."
Do you see more positivity and energy from the team coming off of a win?
"You do. You certainly do. There's a little more pep in everybody's step, because all the things you've worked for have finally come to fruition because you have that win. But it doesn't change what our approach needs to be. We had a chance to enjoy it, but we have no room to have a big head about it. It's just one win. We have to be consistent from week to week and start stacking games like that, and stacking wins."
Do you feel that the rushing defense has improved in recent weeks?
"I certainly do. There are games you can look at — and this is 'Coaching 101' — you always look at that one big run and say, 'If we didn't have that one run, we held them to this many yards.' That's not the way it works, but there have been a few missed tackles here and there that have tacked on the rushing yards. This week, we tackled much better. That's going to be critical in this one as well because of the running backs they have. Overall, guys are doing their jobs. They're in their spots. They're pinning the hip in the run game when they're on the back side of things. They're making a lot of good tackles there. It's limiting the run game for some teams we're facing. We're going to need more of that down this back stretch of the season."
How do you approach the creation of defensive game plans with defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo?
"I always watch tape of the other team's offense and give my thoughts to Lou on things I'm seeing from an offensive perspective, maybe why they're doing it. We always watch our own tape with the staff, and I give my input there. Lou does a great job of coming to Brian (offensive coordinator Brian Callahan) and I both for our perspective on some things. There's ongoing conversation every day about things on defense."
Was Dalton playing with a chip on his shoulder against the N.Y. Jets?
"No, but it's hard to speak for someone. I'm sure there are some unknowns. 'Am I going to get to play again this season and go get that win and help my team win?' You probably just appreciate another opportunity to get to go do that. Whether it feels different or you act different, I don't know. It's good to have him back out there. The team felt really good about him, and he certainly deserves a lot of credit for how we played on Sunday."
Is this an opportunity for Dalton to prove that he's still "the guy?"
"That's how everyone looks at all the positions right now. We still have a lot of things to play for this year. We need to go get a divisional win. We want to finish with some momentum here. It's not just Andy in the quarterback position. That's all of our players. We're trying to carry that momentum in to the end of the season."
In terms of your relationship with Dalton, is it helpful that you come from a quarterback background?
"I don't think it hurts. I did not play at this level, so let me start right there. (NFL players) go through a whole different list of challenges. But you can relate, to an extent. Like all coaches and players have, you have your trials as you go through it as a player. You remember different ways that coaches handled you, whether it was you or another player. That stuff sticks out. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I remember my junior year of high school and struggling, thinking I was going to get benched. My coach told me, 'We're with you. You're our guy through the end of the year. I remember the confidence it gives you. You think through those moments. As a coach, those are things you take with you. You take the best of the things people have said to you over the course of your career. You need to be genuine with how you act. You can't be false. The players see right through that. That's just part of the growth as a coach through your experiences – your playing experiences, your coaching experiences – it all factors into how you handle these guys."
How much of being a good head coach is about being good with people?
"That's a pretty good life note, just in general: 'Treat people with respect.' Everyone's got a job to do. They're trying to do it. Sometimes, business is business, but it doesn't mean that you can't develop relationships with people. That's where you're able to coach from. How I see it is you're able to be critical. I'm not a screamer and I'm not cussing guys out, but you're able to be critical because they know it's coming from a place of wanting them to be better, and you respect them because of the relationship you've built. They know that you genuinely care about them. That allows you to coach the way you want them and be real with these guys."
Does your players' happiness validate your coaching philosophy?
"We have long way to go for validation and all that stuff, but it is a start. When we talk about the culture and how important that is, I think that's a sign of it – that everyone is playing for each other. That's something that we said in April: 'You're not playing for yourself, you're playing for the guy next to you.' Once you get to that point, great things can happen. We've seen it over the course of the season, with guys buying into that. Again, it's just good to show it in the win column. It speaks to the culture that's growing here. Guys really love and respect the guys that are next to them. They're playing for each other."
What emotions were you feeling after defeating the N.Y. Jets?
"It was a good feeling. It has taken us a while to get that first win. With everything that I've gone through, it was a good moment."
What did you take away from being in a reserve role for three weeks?
"It's not like I lost any passion for playing the game, but it just gives you a sense of, 'OK, I want to be out there. I want to be the guy. I want to be the one that's helping this team win.' To have it taken away from you for a little bit, it's one of those things where it's like, 'Man, I really want to be out there.'"
When was the last time, in any sport, that you didn't start a game that you were available to play?
"I haven't. No."
Is the team's current available personnel more representative of the overall talent of the team?
"We've had some guys that have gotten healthy. That's big. At this time of the year, you want to be as healthy as we can. We've had some injuries this year. It's good to have John (WR John Ross III) back and have Cordy (OT Cordy Glenn) back, and have some of these other guys playing."
What does Ross bring to the team?
"The whole speed factor. Regardless of what he's doing, wherever he lines up, they're going to know that he's the fastest guy in the league. His ability to play at that level and to have that speed on the field helps us out a lot."
How has Ross improved?
"He understands what we're doing and understands this offense and understands how and when to use his speed. The best thing you can have is experience and playing games. Early on, he showed some of the potential he has. We're hoping to get him back going and get him back into this offense because he can help us out."
How big of an impact can the tight end group have for the rest of the season?
"We feel like we have a great group, with C.J. (TE C.J. Uzomah), Tyler (TE Tyler Eifert), Cethan (TE Cethan Carter), and bringing up Mason (TE Mason Schreck). We feel like we have a talented group with the size that those guys bring to the game. C.J. had several catches on early downs that were big (vs. the Jets), and Tyler had a third-down conversion. Things like that. It's a group that we definitely rely on."
Is Cleveland LB Joe Schobert a complete linebacker?
"He is. He's really good. He shows up on tape all over the field. You can see what he's done in his career. Like you said, he's put up a ton of stats — a ton of tackles. He's in the right spot. He has a couple interceptions. He's a really good football player."
What goes into making your teammates more comfortable with play calls?
"For me, I'm trying to do everything I can to make them feel comfortable, whether it be tips before the play, or little reminders on what we're trying to do, making sure they know the situation that we're in, I think there's a lot that goes into it. As much football as I've played, it just comes with that time and experience of playing. That's the whole goal — to get everyone feeling comfortable. It gives you the best chance to be successful."
Throughout your career, you've been known to get the ball out of your hands quickly. Have you needed to quicken your release even further this season?
"It's just how it's been during my career. That's just part of the style of offenses that I've been a part of. Part of what we've done this year is you want to get the ball to your guys when there is space, and get it out quick. It's just how I've played my whole career. I wouldn't have been able to tell you this year was faster than any other, but I think there's something to it."
Does your history in Cleveland give you confidence heading into this week's game?
"Yeah. You have to have confidence in yourself. Confidence is contagious. It's one of those things where, if you practice well, if you go into the week, guys are in the right spots, you're talking about everything, you're giving everyone else confidence that you're going to get a win on Sunday. That's the way I'm going to go about practicing for these last four games and these last four weeks and do whatever we can to make sure guys are feeling good for the games on Sundays."
Have you heard from people saying that you should have been the starting quarterback the entire season?
"Some people have said that. It hasn't been my focus. I wanted to win and I wanted to play like I know that I can play. I was glad that we were able to play well and get a win this past week. It felt good."