On Tuesday, some of Cleveland’s position coaches met with the media for the first time all season to answer questions. Here are some notes from the offensive coaches that spoke; we’ll follow up with a post on the defensive coaches later.
Offensive line coach Hal Hunter
- The offensive line is most important position group on the team to have continuity at, so the injuries this season have disrupted that.
- The key to the offensive line begins with the center. He thought that Cameron Erving was making good progress before he suffered the bruised lung. When he returned, the team had injuries at the guard position, which “presented a real challenge.”
- The constant changing of offensive linemen makes it difficult for the running back to pass protect too. They need that continuity in order to get familiar with who is going to do what, and obviously that hasn’t happened. Zone blocking schemes are also difficult to successfully work in with all the change.
- To replace OG John Greco (now on IR), former first-round pick of the Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper, will get the first crack at the job. Alvin Bailey, who has played the position at times this year, will be in the mix if things don’t go well with Cooper.
- Here is the long response he provided on assessing Erving. He tried to be optimistic, saying that this is Erving’s first year as a center, and rookie quarterbacks often struggle. It’s the year one to year two improvements that will be key.
“Playing a rookie center is like playing a rookie quarterback. This is his first year playing center, and I am not making an excuse for him but it is a hard position to play. It was hard last week. He was playing against a guy that literally weighed 373 pounds. Man, that guy is a big dude and he is a good player so you are playing against really quality people upfront. He has a lot going on. He has to make as many mental assignment calls and checks as the quarterback does. He is trying to do a lot mentally, trying to do a lot physically, playing with different guards, playing with some young guards right now, but he is making progress.
I think what you are hoping is from Year 1 to Year 2 – that Year 2 is just like a rookie quarterback – that Year 2 is significant improvement. I am hoping that year is going to be an improvement with him. He is into it. He meets, he is in there early, he is there late and he meets extra. He is on top of it all. He watches a lot of tape. Upbeat at practice, really knows what is going on, but the bottom line is when the rubber meets the road out there on the field, you still have to be able to perform, and that is always going to be a challenge is to get him to play with the type of pad level that he needs to against a lot of 340 pound nose tackles that are 6’2” playing at 6’0”.
He is 6’5” and a half, 6’6” so he is learning to play with better pad level and he has been playing with better pad level, and I think that will always be his – it is two sides of the sword, his size and length gives him leverage which is great, but it also makes him play at a higher level than any center that I have ever worked with.”
- The team has a good blocking scheme, but a bunch of technical issues are leading to sacks:
#Browns OL coach Hal Hunter said on giving up NFL-high 45 sacks: Schematically we're good, need to be better technically, it's discouraging.— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 29, 2016
Senior offensive assistant Al Saunders
- In terms of the good for WR Corey Coleman, Saunders said, “He has great change-in-direction skills. You saw the touchdown that he caught last week. That route was something that we have worked on for a period of time in terms of his ability in terms of that you stick your foot in the ground, change direction and get a defender to move one way.”
- There was nothing but praise for WR Terrelle Pryor:
“I think we all realize what a unique story that is and the accomplishment that he has made, making the transformation from really – I see him as a basketball player/quarterback that all of the sudden is one of the leading receivers in the National Football League. That is quite an accomplishment.
He has dedicated himself from a time standpoint to learn everything he possibly can about the position. He has a great passion for the game. He certainly has the qualities and the characteristics of someone who can be very successful in this league at that position. The No. 1 quality of a wide receiver is to catch the football, and he has tremendous natural ability because of his hand-eye coordination and because of his athleticism. He is learning the position. He is learning the details, the fundamentals and the technique and all of the intricacies of how to be a route runner.
He is just really dramatically improved his ability to do that and to separate in a short area. He is a long-striding receiver, and some of the short-area change or break quickness kind of routes are typically very hard for those guys because they can’t drop their weight, accelerate and change direction, and he has done a tremendous job of that if you ever watch him run those comebacks, those short tight turns that he runs. To be able to make that transformation and be really disciplined in what he does is not an easy thing.
I was talking to somebody else about it, here is someone who has been a quarterback who every snap gets the ball in his hands and does something with it, and now, all of a sudden, you are a receiver and you are kind of a way out of there. You are standing there by yourself and you don’t have control over where that ball goes, and he has played with five different quarterbacks and every week in our offense is very intricate in terms of what we ask our perimeter players to do and it is a new learning process every week. He has adapted to that unbelievably.
Part of his learning process and growth process is learning about the wide receiver position and what it takes to do it on a week-to-week basis. Every week, you see improvement in that area. I am just really thrilled and excited to be part of his development at a young age because he is a special guy.”
- Head coach Hue Jackson has somehow maintained a healthy work environment despite all the losing:
#Browns Al Saunders on Hue Jackson: So proud of way he's dealt with this situation. Every day everybody enjoys coming to work. That's not EZ— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) November 29, 2016
Tight ends coach Greg Seamon
- Why hasn’t TE Gary Barnidge been as productive statistically as he was a year ago? Seamon blames it on all the injuries at the quarterback position, which has made it difficult for quarterbacks to understand Barnidge’s subtle strengths.
“Gary has an unusual awareness of body position, kind of like if you think of a really good low post player in basketball. He has the ability to get on the correct side of a defender and give the quarterback a place to throw the football. Those kinds of things, those are thread the needle throws, and it takes repetition. With all the upheaval we’ve had, it’s difficult to be as pinpoint accurate as you’d like to be.”
- With respect to TE Seth DeValve, Seamon says the injury he had in training camp slowed the development plan they had wanted to implement for him. He sees bright things ahead for DeValve, though, and thinks he can be an asset as a run blocker too.
“The future is very, very bright for him. I’m pleased that he’s coming along as a blocker. I had expected that we would see him emerge as a receiving threat because of his background, but he’s going to have to be able to play in the run game, too, and he’s doing that. This last game he was more involved. He’s making great progress. It’s good that we have him out there every day now. The future is very bright for Seth.”
- Why hasn’t TE Randall Telfer been involved with the passing game very much? As it turns out, he’s been dealing with a thumb injury and just had surgery on it.