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Notes from Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

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Despite being on the other side of the ball, Baker Mayfield was a big reason Wilks picked the Browns.

On Thursday, all three of the Cleveland Browns’ new coordinators held their first press conferences since joining the team. Here is a reader’s digest of what defensive coordinator Steve Wilks had to say:

Being Removed from Arizona So Quickly

  • Wilks had nothing but good things to say about the Cardinals organization, despite only getting one year to be a head coach there. “This is a production-based league,” he said. “We did not win enough games.” He would have liked to have more time, but has moved on and excited about winning with the Browns.

Picking Cleveland First, and Baker Mayfield a Big Reason for That

  • He had opportunities to interview elsewhere, but he took the Cleveland interview first because this is where he wanted to be. He looks forward to working with Freddie Kitchens, and thinks his one year of experience as a head coach can be an asset to him:

“I think I can. That is the communication coming in daily on the things we are doing, whether it is scheduling or whether it is the pitfalls that come up as a head coach. I talked to him about some of the things already that you are going to get pulled away with things that really don’t have anything to do with football. Our makeup as coaches, we want to be in there scheming, talking ball, getting with the coaches and being around the players, but there are so many other things that may come up. Being around him, I can definitely help him out with those things.

  • Despite him being on the other side of the ball, the fact that the Browns had QB Baker Mayfield was a big draw for Wilks wanting to come to Cleveland:

“When you look at the personnel, and not just personnel but young personnel, and then the head coach, as a former head coach, I think you have to look beyond just the defensive side of the ball. You can’t win in this league if you don’t have a quarterback and we have a quarterback. We have a quarterback. Not only do we have one, we have one that I consider to be from my studying and the things I learned from him coming out of college is he is an alpha male. He affects not only the offensive side of the ball but this team, and that was very attractive coming here. When you look at Myles, you look at Ward, you look at Peppers and young players that I think can have a major impact on the defensive side of the ball, it is very exciting. You look at the direction as I mentioned before with Dorsey and how he is building this team and the things he is doing and Freddie – young, energetic, new head coach – excited about the things he is trying to do. It is good. It was good. It was a good fit for me.”

Where Do the Browns Evolve?

  • Although it’s very early to say, when asked about where the Browns can evolve, he said, “I can really tell you this, you can never have enough pass rushers and you can never have enough guys that can cover based off what this league is about. I know this is a pass-happy league and it is about scoring so you need guys that can get to the quarterback and most importantly, you need guys that can cover.”
  • Asked about their high defensive draft picks, Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, Wilks said the key for Garrett is establishing consistency week in and week out, and Wilks believes his background in coaching defensive backs will be an asset in developing Ward. More specifically on Garrett, here is how he praised him:

“Very athletic. Very fluid. Quick off the ball. Great skillset. I was very excited when I started watching tape and just his ability to be able to anchor and play the run. A lot of time when you have guys with that skillset, it is just a mindset of really trying to get after the quarterback. I know what I just said earlier about this being a pass-happy league, but there is nothing more demoralizing to a defense than having a team run the ball down your throat. That is the one thing we have to pride ourselves in is stopping the run first. I think he does a great job of doing that. We just have to continue to add to his repertoire for pass rush.”

4-3 Base Defensive Scheme

  • This is a generic, prototypical answer, but you always like to establish with the fanbase what the base defense will be:

“We are a 4-3 base. We are very multiple in what we are doing. I think you have to be in this day in age with all of the different things you are seeing. It can change week to week. I am aggressive by nature, but it is all about trying to put your guys into the best position to be successful. It could change. Quarterback is getting the ball out quick, therefore now you have to be more creative in your coverages and things that you are doing on the back end because you are not going to get there. It is all about trying to create negative plays on first and second down so you can get exotic in some of your third down pressures and things you want to do.”

Liking the Browns’ Combination at Safety

  • Wilks likes the range that S Damarious Randall provides, and then the versatility he has with S Jabrill Peppers:

“When you add Peppers along with (DB Damarious) Randall, I really love that combination and the range we have in the back end making plays on the ball. With Peppers, I think he gives you that element of a guy who can play closer to the core, has the athleticism and the skillset to be able to play out in space and can cover a slot receiver, as well as a tight end. I’m very intrigued to work with him and see if we can really get him going in the system and the schemes that we have done before, whether it has been (Cardinals S) Budda Baker at Arizona or (Panthers LB) Shaq Thompson at Carolina. I think he has that same skillset.”

Rest of the Presser

To hear the entire press conference, check out the video below: