ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What's it like coaching a player as versatile as ILB Zach Cunningham?
"It's pretty good. Zach, like all young guys, his first year it was tough getting used to the game and the system and all of that, but then once he got used to it, then he was able to blossom. He plays really well within the system. He understands the opponents and what it takes to win in this league. He's a good player."
Does ILB Zach Cunningham remind you of any player you've coached over the years?
"Not right off the top of my head, but he's got a good combination of size, speed and strength. So, when you have those combinations and you're willing, you can be a good player."
What has stood out to you about S Tyrann Mathieu this year?
"Tyrann has great instincts for the ball and for the game. He has leadership ability. He enjoys playing the game. So, all of those things stand out. He is fun to be around because the game is important to him and he likes to have a good time playing the game. When you've got that too, that's pretty good."
What's S Tyrann Mathieu like in the meeting room?
"He's good in the meeting room. He's sharp, he asks questions if he needs to, he pays attention. You say something, particularly when you alert him to the fact that this needs to be paid attention to, he's paying attention to the statement that's made because he knows that it might help him during the game."
What do you think of the type of roster the Browns are building?
"I think they're doing a good job of putting the roster together because they're collecting top-round draft choices. In the past, they haven't always done that, but now they've been able to collect good players and they have good ability on the team. It looks like that they have a play caller that the guys will rally around. All of those things increase their chances of winning."
What makes Browns QB Baker Mayfield a challenge?
"The fact that he can avoid in the pocket, he can make throws down the field. Like I said, I think he's a heady player from the quarterback position. He's got a tough of – we call it, 'it'. There's no real definition for 'it', but he's got 'it'. I think that you saw that when he was playing at Oklahoma and then since he's come into the starting role, the guys rally around him. I think that that helps."
Do you think QB Deshaun Watson has 'it'?
"Yeah, Deshaun took the leadership role. Deshaun has that 'it' as well. Before he got hurt, he was making plays. Now, he's recovered and he's back to what he was doing last year. So, that's a benefit to us, to the whole team because you feel good about what he can do on the football field."
What's the biggest difference you've seen from the Browns offense since Offensive Coordinator Freddie Kitchens took over?
"Well, to be totally honest with you, I haven't looked beyond back too much. I've just looked at the last couple of games where the new coordinator has been calling the plays. It looks like they're trying to establish the run. They've got a nice play-action package. They'll throw the ball down the field. They've got a quarterback that's elusive. They've got a running back that runs really hard. They've got a tight end that you have to be concerned about and they've got wide receivers that you have to be concerned about, and they have a pretty stout offensive. They kind of have it all."
RUNNING BACKS COACH DANNY BARRETT
How proud were you of RB Lamar Miller's 97-yard run?
"I think as an offense, not just myself, but everybody that deals our offense – especially in the running back room, the offensive linemen – were excited for that moment because we had been talking about the opportunity to get that t-shirt, which is a big-play run for a touchdown. We were all excited for him and as a team. It boded well for us."
Can you talk about the t-shirt? Who gets the t-shirt and who gives it out?
"Yes sir. 88 out the gate. That means we took it to the house."
Who gets the t-shirt and who gives it out?
"The whole offense."
Who gives out the t-shirt?
"Can't tell all the secrets."
How often have you given out the t-shirt?
"That was the first one this year. That was the beauty about it because we should've had one at Miami, and if you think back early in the game, he lost his footing on one of the ones out to the left side. Should have had two. So, he owes us another for that."
Can you talk about the dedication RB Lamar Miller has to the program that he is still able to run that hard for that long this late in the season?
"Well, I think one of the things you look back on is that he was able to overcome an injury early in the year. I think that was one of the smartest decisions that Coach OB (Bill O'Brien) made is giving (him) that opportunity to rest and to heal up. So, at this stage in the season, he's fresh. Alfred (Blue) did a great job filling in for him in that game, took about 68 snaps and did a great job – not because he's here, but he did – I think that's why he's at a position now, this late in the season, where he can be at full strength and be able to finish plays like that. It's a key to him and a testament to him and his work ethic, what he did in the offseason and is carrying over. His routine has been pretty steady for him week-in and week-out."
What do you discuss with Head Coach Bill O'Brien about determining RB Lamar Miller and RB Alfred Blue's workload during a game?
"Well, the only way that works is because both guys are unselfish. I think that's what we look at, they both are team football players first, as far as wanting to have success for the team. So, when we sit down and talk with them, as far as how it's going to be divvied up, it's really a feel thing more than anything else. We know Lamar is probably going to go out there first to start the game, and Alfred's ready to go. We try to look at during the series – how many plays we're looking at. Is this a long drive? We want to make sure we're fresh to finish the drive. So, sometimes we'll sub during the drive, sometimes we'll let the guys finish the drive off. But, about every third series, we know Alfred's going to go in there so we're fresh to finish the game, and I think that's been the key – to make sure in that fourth quarter that, whoever's on that football field's going to be fresh. Especially this late in the season, fourth quarter's important being able to run the football, and we try to divvy it up like that."
You've been promising the running back room the highlight tape from your days, when are we going to see that?
"One of these days I will show you. You know I'm a type of guy – and I'm going to answer your question because you've been bugging me about this here. The guy doesn't believe that I actually played the game. I've only showed him a few highlights. I want to show him a full game that he can understand, when you play in the Canadian Football League in the years that I played, they don't have access to video like they do now. We'll find it for you, though."
How hard is it to create chunk plays with the running game in the NFL?
"Well again, every week, the challenge is for the guys up front – running backs, tight ends, even the receivers – we talk about it at the start of every week. How are we going to run the football? What do we need to do to be successful? I think Coach (Mike) Devlin, Coach (Tim) Kelly, Coach OB (Bill O'Brien) put together a great running game plan and we introduce to the players. They buy into it, but it really comes down to the players being able to go out and execute. I think our offensive linemen, healthy, they're coming together, their continuity is there right now and we're doing things that we've been doing from Day 1 in the scheme of things. Our players are really feeling good about what we're doing, and they just go out and play. If one play doesn't work, that doesn't mean we give up on it. We come back to it. We make the adjustments, and guys are doing a great job during the course of the game making the in-game adjustments. I think that was the key the other night. We started off fresh, couple runs and then we came back with the same type of plays. Blocked it a little bit better, finished blocks and we were able to finish the run like we did."
Have you seen a player crash a press conference before like RB Alfred Blue just did?
"Not at all. I've never seen that. That was cool. That's the type of guy that he is. The one thing I think from – the reason why he's really having success this year is he's enjoying the game. I think that's what you see in a guy like Alfred Blue. He's enjoying the game and he keeps our room loose like that."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What's the challenge of facing someone like Browns QB Baker Mayfield?
"Trying to keep him in the pocket."
S Tyrann Mathieu said Browns QB Baker Mayfield doesn't look like a rookie. How does that hit you?
"Just like (Marcus) Mariota. Just get ready to play. The same, no different. Prepare for them like we prepare for every team. Just another one on the schedule – another big one. All of these are playoff games from here on out. So, you've got to bring them all and try to stay in the lead."
Why are all of the remaining games 'playoff games'?
"We need them all. We need to win them all to stay where we're at and try to move up in the standings. We're trying to get to the playoffs. That's what we're shooting for right now. They're next on the list, so we've got to get ready to play the Browns at home."
The Browns have a streak of not allowing a sack in a few games. The Texans have a streak of eight straight wins. Something's got to give.
"Yeah, I hope it's them. Like I said, we've got to come to play. It's another game – next game on the schedule – pretty good opponent right here. It's not a sorry team. I know everybody keeps thinking the Cleveland Browns, but they're not sorry. They've got a lot of first-round draft picks, a lot of guys that could've been first-round draft picks like Jarvis Landry, a physical wide receiver. (Nick) Chubb's a great running back. They've got a lot of good talent over there. We've just got to prepare well and get ready to play."
When you see your teammates get sacks, does that make you want to get one, too?
"I'm just trying to do my job out there. I play hard and physical every game. Sometimes I'm not making a sack, but I'm helping somebody else get one. It's all around defense. It takes 11 people to get this job done. I don't see one person that isn't doing anything more special than everybody else. Everybody's out there contributing and doing their job. For us to win these games, all of us – all 11 of us – have to come out there and play well together. Not one person. All of us have to play well together."
What did you think about DE Christian Covington's game on Monday?
"That was great for Christian. He did his job. He's doing his job – rushing the passer – that's why they put him in on third down, to get after the passer. (He's) a good interior rusher and he got to the quarterback three times last game. That was very impressive from Christian Covington."
What separates WR DeAndre Hopkins from other receivers with how he catches the ball?
"He makes it look a lot easier than everybody else. I don't see him drop too many. That's what makes him different. He doesn't drop too many balls. Other guys see a lot of drops, but he doesn't drop a lot of balls. He's always in bounds. Finds a way to keep his feet in bounds. No matter where you throw it to him, he's making the hard catches look easy. That's the one thing about him. He's a great receiver. I'm glad he's on my team."
What did you think when you saw RB Lamar Miller run 97 yards for a touchdown?
"I thought he was going to get caught. I've been messing with Lamar about his speed anyway since last year. He looks like he got a little faster this offseason. I have to find out who he's been training with."
RB Lamar Miller said getting caught was on his mind when he scored on a 97-yard touchdown.
"Oh yeah, had to be. I was waiting on him to come to the sideline and give him a little piece of my mind, but he went all the way. I had to just dap him up, tell him congratulations. That's Lamar. He's a good running back. Like I said, he works hard and comes to play and had one of his best games this year."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What stands out about the Browns defense on tape?
"They've got a lot of first-round draft picks. That's what stands out the most. Young, talented football players. Their record isn't what they show on film. They're a good team. They've been in a lot of games."
What are your thoughts on the Texans' eight-game winning streak?
"It's great, but it's not the ultimate goal. Nobody in this locker room is getting complacent. Nobody is looking at it like we won the Super Bowl because we know we have a lot of work to do."
How much fun is it to be out there when the offense is playing well?
"It's a lot of fun. Especially the guys in this locker room – even the guys we've added like Demaryius (Thomas) – just seeing everybody get a piece of what we've been working on since the offseason, since we've been in West Virginia putting things together. When you finally go out there and you have success doing it, it's a good feeling."
Is it cool to see WR Demaryius Thomas have success?
"Yeah, it is, especially in his whole career, he's always had success. He's been a player who's won Super Bowls and has been through bad seasons and that shows how he is. He doesn't get too up and down about things. He goes out every day and handles things in a professional manner."
Do you have the mindset that there's isn't a ball that you can't catch?
"Oh yeah. That's got to be the mindset, especially if you want to be the best in this game at my position. You have to feel like even if it's sometimes the quarterback's fault, it's your fault. You've got to take that mentality and just kind of take control of what you can control. I can't throw the ball to myself, but if my hands can touch it, I'm going to catch it."
How do you stay in bounds no matter what?
"That just came over time. That comes with practice and comes with feel and having guys in front of me do it like Andre (Johnson). He was one of the best to do it that I've seen on the practice field every day. Antonio Brown and the other guys around the league, that affected me."
How do you perfect staying in bounds?
"Practice. Practice it. You don't go out there 100 times and just do ballerina dances, but the chances you get you make sure you get two feet in bounds."
How much does the running game open up the passing game for this offense?
"A lot, honestly. I'm not sure what the completion rate is, but we're winning games. We're doing it not just running, but passing as well. I'm not sure what Deshaun's (Watson) completion rating is, but it's good enough for us to win eight games in a row."
How much does the balance of an offense help the productivity of an offense?
"The balance is definitely good. NFL teams always expect to run, especially if you have a running back like Lamar (Miller), who went for 100 yards a couple of games in a row. That helps us out a lot. Guys can't just double team me and leave Demaryius (Thomas) one-on-one. You have to put guys in the box if you're expecting the run."
A lot of players seem to be claiming they helped RB Lamar Miller score on his 97-yard run by giving him grief about getting caught from behind vs. Miami.
"Oh yeah, I'm with them on that. He definitely has been walked down a couple of times, but I don't think it's going to happen anymore though in his career."
What did you think when RB Lamar Miller ran 97 yards for a touchdown?
"Where's his oxygen mask? I knew he was going to need it when he got back to the sideline. I told him to do it again. I knew he had more in him. It was early in the game. I was like, 'Go do another one.'"
Did you excel at catching footballs when you were growing up?
"Growing up I played outside. I don't really know what I did growing up – just had fun. I played defense growing up, so I was never really a receiver, to be honest with you, until I got to Clemson."
Do you think catching the football is a mindset, a learned skill or a combination of the two?
"It's a combination of both. I can't give away my exercises, what I do, but it's just playing football. It's just going out there and just having that instinct that wherever the ball is, you're going to catch it."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
Browns Head Coach Gregg Williams said he tried to recruit you to come to Cleveland. What do you remember about that?
"Obviously, it was an interesting conversation. He's a guy that I've followed in the league, especially growing up in New Orleans and the different things he did with New Orleans. It was an interesting conversation, but at the end of the day, I didn't feel like that was the right fit for me."
What do you think of the Browns' roster, specifically QB Baker Mayfield?
"I think they have a great group of young guys. Obviously, they have some veterans over there as well that can play football at a high level. I think all of those guys, especially them being a young bunch, they're very confident. They believe in their abilities. I went to school with Jarvis Landry, so I can only imagine the kind of culture he's trying to create over there. We just have to be prepared for a playoff-type game. Those guys are young, but they can play football really well. Then, Mayfield, when I watch him on tape, I don't really see a rookie. I see a guy that's progressively going through his reads. A guy who takes shots down the field. Everyone talks about his legs, but I don't think he uses his legs to run. He uses them to throw the ball downfield. Really just have to be wired from the front end to the back end. It'll be a big challenge for us. Like I said, they've got a ton of weapons."
What is it about WR DeAndre Hopkins' hands that separate him from other receivers?
"We were working out this morning and I asked him that same question. I said, 'Did someone teach you how to catch or is it just your mindset that you don't want to drop the ball?' He said, 'In my mind, I just don't want to drop the ball.' I think that's what really separates him, makes him special. It doesn't have to be a pretty ball. It doesn't have to be a perfect ball. It doesn't really matter who's throwing the ball. I think in his mind he just wants to catch it."
Do the players talk about the eight-game winning streak in the locker room?
"We don't really talk about it. Obviously, we tweet about it, but we don't talk about it amongst each other in the locker room. We just try to stack days right after each other. Show up for the next game. I think any time you win in this league, especially eight in a row, I think the next game is always just as important. Like I said, we have a confident group coming in here Sunday. We're going to have to take their best shot."
How do you keep playing well as a team game after game?
"Well, I think we have a lot of different guys on our team that really can carry that torch. For instance, if I'm not there one day, I would hope J.J.'s (Watt) there, I hope (Jadeveon) Clowney's there. We're a team and we have to feed off each other. I think that's what leadership is about and I think that's what your superstars should do for your team."
Do you think about how you can fire up the defense with a big hit when you get on the field?
"Anytime I line up, I just want to play with a lot of passion, play with a lot of energy and anytime I have a chance to hit somebody really hard or make a big play, you try your best to do that. You don't really think about what it could do for your teammates. You're just hoping that that play can get everybody going. Like I said, we have a lot of different guys. One day it's (Kareem) Jack(son) making big hits. We've got a lot different guys that take the torch, and we just try to play off of each other."
Why is Browns QB Baker Mayfield so dangerous?
"I think in his mind, he's really confident. When I watch him on tape, I don't really see a rookie quarterback. I see a guy that can progressively go through his reads, get the ball downfield. He's more accurate than what I've heard people say he is. So, he's a great talent. We'll have our hands full with him. I think he has a lot of guys around him that can complement him as well."