Transcripts: 9-16-2021 Press Conferences 

Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly

Can you talk to us about the challenges Browns DL Jadeveon Clowney presents?

"Yes, he's as disruptive as ever. From the moment he got here, he was a guy you had to know where he was every single snap, or he has the ability to wreck every play. So that hasn't changed. It didn't change last year when he was at Tennessee. We didn't see him when he was out in Seattle, but getting ready for him these past two seasons brings back a lot of memories of him on the field, and you still see the playmaking ability that he has. He's still sudden, he's still strong, he's still explosive. He's a guy we're going to have to take care of here if we're going to have a good game on Sunday."

What about Browns DL Myles Garrett, too?

"They're both very talented. They have similar traits. The fact that they're both very, very long, play with good length, they have really good explosion and athleticism. Playing styles are a little bit different, but they're both very dangerous off the edge."

Does it feel like you're building off last season with the offense, or does it feel more like you're starting from scratch?

"Probably a little bit of both. Obviously, there's going to be some carryover with this system. With the personnel turnover and with this offense from week-to-week, no game plan is going to look exactly the same. So our philosophy hasn't changed, in terms of how we're going to try to find different ways to get favorable matchups and find ways to get our playmakers the ball."

What has the process been like with WR Brandin Cooks, in terms of identifying ways he can be of value to this team with the new personnel sets?

"Obviously, I think both of us are more familiar. He kind of has a feel for how we call games here, and we have a really good feel for what he brings to the table and the things he really excels at. Again, just continuing to find different ways to take advantage of his skillset, and as we continue to grow here, hopefully we can keep putting up good numbers."

Can you talk about Browns LB Anthony Walker?

"Very instinctive, smart player. He's able to run, he makes a lot of plays. But yeah, the one thing that jumps off the tape is really how instinctive he is as a football player. The same thing goes back to last year when he was with Indy. Again, their defensive unit is littered with guys you've got to take care of every down. He's got good playmaking ability, and again, his instincts and awareness really put him in a position to come and make plays."

What has RB Mark Ingram II brought to the offense, and can you describe his personality around the team?

"Mark's a fiery dude. He's brought an edge here in the offensive room that I'm not sure we've had for a while. He's a physical runner, he's a great leader, he comes to work every day and prepares and takes care of his body. He's everything you want as a person from that standpoint, and then when he straps it on, he's got an edge to him. And again, I think that's contagious with the type of person he is and the way he goes about his business."

Throughout last week, you talked about how you'd be creative with your personnel groupings. How do you feel like it opened up things throughout that game? Do you think there's still more to that?

"Sure. I think every week, again, you're going to look to try to find different ways to mix and match and to find a way to keep people on their toes. If you feel like you've found something that's working, hammer it. So yeah, I think we're going to continue to try to mix and match it, and again, figure out what's going to give us the best chance to score as many points as necessary to win the game."

Did you feel like you got into a rhythm with QB Tyrod Taylor with the communication that you had in the first game?

"Yeah, I thought the communication, the operation was good. Again, he's seen so much. He's so experienced, so nothing really makes him blink. And that's the type of person he is, too. Very even-keeled. I thought the operation and the communication with Tyrod was really good."

On Sunday, did you feel like after the three-and-out on the first drive, was the rushing attack that set you guys up to take some of those shots downfield what led you to be successful?

"Yeah, I think any time you're able to run the ball, it opens up the ability to put the defense in conflict, and I think we had some success running it. And yeah, I think that was able to translate in us being able to get over the top."

With receivers and tight ends able to win the jump ball, how does that factor into how you call a game?

"It really comes down to the guys that you're asking to go out there and execute. For us on this past Sunday, Brandin (Cooks) made two really big contested catches. The one on third down that set us up for our first score, I think, was huge. He went up and basically wrestled it away and played really big there. And Pharaoh (Brown), first of all, Tyrod (Taylor) gave him a great ball, bought enough time there on the blitz zero. Pharaoh was able to adjust to it and make a great play on it. It really comes down to those guys being able to go out and make plays. We love to sit here and tell you that's exactly how we drew those plays up, but you and I both know that's not the case. It was those guys who went out there and did a really good job of taking advantage of those opportunities."

What about the game plan against Browns DB John Johnson III and DB Denzel Ward?

"Obviously, we didn't play Denzel last year. He's got really good speed. He's really good at the catch point. He's got good length, but he's got really good ball skills. He's just got a knack for getting the ball, knocking the ball out, playing through the basket. They're playing him predominantly to the boundaries. As a boundary corner, he's as good as we've seen. And then with Johnson in the middle of the field, again, a guy who's got good range, he's a good tackler, he makes every play that comes his way. Very rarely do you see him miss and opportunity to miss a tackle or miss a line. He's very reliable and does a really good job of running the show for them there in the back end."

How does it affect your playcalling having a guy as experienced as WR Danny Amendola?

"Any time that you've got guys out there that you trust, it makes it feel a whole lot better. Again, he came in here, learned really quick, really kind of learned a handful of plays. Obviously, his familiarity with the system helped, but he had a little package that he mastered. Again, similar to those other guys, he was able to go out there and make a couple plays for us. Caught a first down, ended up catching a touchdown at the end of the first half. So he, like Brandin (Cooks), like Pharaoh (Brown), like all those guys on Sunday, when the ball found him, he made the play."

How do you think QB Tyrod Taylor is in the pocket, and how are you all working with him there?

"Just continuing to talk to him. Him and I, and Pep (Hamilton), having conversations about how we see the intents of the plays, and what exactly we're trying to get when we call a certain play. A lot of times with that, everybody's on the same page with what we're expecting and what needs to happen, and I think he's doing a good job here for us of operating within the system and doing what we're asking him to do."

You touched on this before, but what is your philosophy on load management?

"Yeah, load management seems to be a popular term since the NBA, right? Again, you go into a game with a plan and you have an idea as to what plays you want guys to run. But when you get going and you figure out what type of game it is, at least from what happened on Sunday, Mark (Ingram II) had the hot hand. He was running hard, he was finishing runs, he was dragging defenders. So when that happens, it's kind of like 'Okay, this is the type of game, this is what's going to end up giving us the best chance to win,' and you kind of ride the hot hand a little bit. Again, like in Week 2, I don't think load management really comes into play. I think that's probably going to be a little bit more prevalent once we get into November, December. But for me, at that position especially, it's riding the hot hand." 

Would you say what we saw in Week 1 was more reflective of your personal philosophy on offense, or is it a matter of adapting to the personnel?

"I think it's kind of adapting to the personnel. My whole experience on the offensive side of the ball before this season was with Coach O'Brien. Everything I learned in terms of philosophy and how to attack a defense, or how to view a defense, I learned from him and I was fortunate to do so. Any tricks or anything you saw the other day was something that I learned from him. Like I said, I was very fortunate for the opportunity to learn from him."

Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross

What did you think about how K Joey Slye kicked the football this past weekend?

"Especially for coming in after a short week of working with a new snapper, new holder for him, the operation kicked the ball well. Definitely pleased with where he started off here for his first game as a Texan."

What about his kickoffs going out of the end zone?

"Yeah, you mentioned that last week. Obviously, we play the game to the situation, and the opposing team has a guy like Jamal Agnew. We're going to try to limit his opportunities in that instance there. Every kick in every quarter of the game will determine how we're going to play that, but his leg strength is good to generate touchbacks."

Is this a situation where if K Joey Slye does well week-to-week, there might be an option to let him kick?

"Yeah, sure. Like you said when he first got here, everybody's competing and making sure that they're taking full advantage of their opportunities, and I think he's done that so far."

What did you think about the return game with WR Andre Roberts, and how it worked out for you guys?

"It's exciting to see him back out there. We worked with him after coming back from a few weeks of not practicing with us, so he's excited to kind of get our return game going for us. We had a nice little opportunity there for us last week. Of course, the yards didn't generate, and we're going to continue to build on that. Every single week you're going to get new opponents, new matchups, new hold-ups, et cetera. We're going to continue to take advantage of his skillsets."

Do you sense a depth of knowledge when you watch WR Andre Roberts in the return game?

"Oh, yeah. Look, he's got more experience than most, and his input's invaluable. So we're going to take that on a weekly basis."

How important is it for a return guy to get practice time, considering how much time WR Andre Roberts has missed, but he's got all the experience?

"Sure, but at the end of the day, everybody is trying to sharpen their skillset and their tools. Just because you're not necessarily repping a full one at some point during training camp, say when he was limited then, catching jugs, always working extra with his hands, defending against different certain types of punters. We're giving them those looks after practice or whatnot, so we're trying to make sure everybody is prepared for their roles on Sundays."

With five running backs on the roster, how do you determine which of the running backs will play more on special teams?

"It's not just running backs. It's a great question, but it's not just running backs. It starts with this: we're all football players. Whatever we have to do on a weekly basis to win that down, that play, if we have to ask somebody to come in and do that. If you remember in the old NFL return rules, there was offensive lineman in the back three all the time. So it's football player first, whoever is back there, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Mark Ingram II, doesn't matter. Anybody's willing to help out to win on that down, that role, per game plan."

How do you guys view balancing between using a weapon like P Cameron Johnston to pin an opponent deep and being aggressive on fourth-and-short situations?

"When you're working anything throughout the game, it's complementary football the entire all three phases of offense, defense and special teams. Whatever things you have to your disposal on a weekly basis, but also what we're trying to go up against and what's defended against us. We'll make those decisions in game, for sure."

How do you feel about P Cameron Johnston's direction and hang time?

"A situation that a game calls for a certain type of punt, and he's going to go out there and hit it to the best of his ability. One thing about Cam Johnston, if you guys have interviewed him, this guy is full of energy and he's such a good person, but humility is part of his game. So whatever we're asking him to do, 'Yes, sir, I'll do it to the best of my ability, whatever you ask me to do, let's go. Whatever is best for the team,' and individual punt, because we've seen when he can launch the ball. Whatever we're asking him to do, he's willing to do the best of his kicks there."

How much emphasis do you use through special teams to kind be a catalyst in the culture you are trying to build on the team?

"If you're going to be a young guy in the NFL, your shot is to make it through. This is truly a developmental engine of good football teams. Starting, cutting your teeth in the kicking game, and as you develop, the longer you stick around, maybe you become a starting receiver, et cetera, whatever it may be, whatever position you are. But if you're asking me, personally, as a special teams coach, yeah, toughness, playing fast, playing physical, playing aggressive, those things help in culture. Hopefully we're a representation for that for the Texans in general, yes."

Is it fair to say that this being a somewhat older team helps develop some of the younger players?

"Of course, yeah. That's a good question. I think that if you're ever able to play in the kicking game, you understand space, you understand leverage, et cetera. So just because there's a younger guy developing in an offensive or defensive role in our phases here, doesn't mean older guys can't do it as well. Because it takes an understanding and experience in itself to be able to kind of feel those things out. Play with leverage, having those instincts, reading the returns early, getting outside of the football, et cetera."

Cleveland's supposed to have nice weather, but it can change overnight. What kind of advantage does P Cameron Johnston have after punting in Philadelphia all those years?

"If you're going to be a specialist, you want to play in the AFC South. You get to play multiple domes, good weather, Nashville's not so far north. I grew up there in northeast Ohio, and I know how fast it can change. Having experience in that, ball handling, practicing through the winds, those are important things that will hopefully benefit him, and anybody who goes to play in any of those northern cities, especially as the season continues on and gets into the later months of the year. But we're going to play the game to whatever direction the wind is and make sure that we know we have a good beat for that going into pregame."

When the schedule comes out, or when you all are looking ahead –

"I know what you're going to ask. Specialists are looking ahead, they're going to start at 17 and work backwards and see where they're playing. That's the nature of those guys, yes, sir."

What's it like for a lot of guys on your roster, including yourself, returning to Cleveland?

"There are a lot of connections, especially my phone, all my family members and everybody that's texting me. All my John Carroll buddies, yeah. My first Browns game ever was with Mike DiCillo, Monday Night Football, and he took me over to my first NFL game. So it'll be a treat to get to a place that I'm from personally. But the guys on our roster, they played there. At the end of the day, this is Week 2 of the NFL. We've got to make a big jump, got to perform every individual week and prove ourselves on that individual play. So it's a great opportunity for us as a special teams unit to continue to grow."

Is there anything that stood out to you about the special teams unit from the game, whether it's positive or negative?

"No, I think every week you're trying to build. There's going to be things on wins and things on losses that you're going to try and pull that information out of and grow from. So it doesn't matter whether we made the extra point, missed the extra point, you're going to grow from that rep. It doesn't matter whether you return it for a touchdown or got a stop, we're going to grow from that rep. Every week, that's what we are going to do. We're going to reset and focus on what we can do the next rep."

Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith

Opening Statement

"Life's good, Week 2. We did some good things last week. Of course, with the first game you don't really know where you are till you play that first game. History has kind of told me that big improvements happen from week 1 to 2. We will need to do that playing a good Cleveland Brown team. Just talking about them offensively, stars at every position seems like, will be a big challenge for us. When you're are building a program like we are doing right now it's good to see how you match up against one of the best teams in our conference."

What challenge do they present with their balanced offense and their run game?

"You don't want to be an offense that is one dimensional, that can only run it or pass it. When you have balance it keeps the defense, makes you play them honestly. Most defenses you start off trying to stop the run, and they have two excellent running backs, real good offensive line, three good tight ends and there is commitment though. When you say a running football team, is there a commitment to running the football. We offensively have a commitment to running the football. Cleveland definitely has a commitment to running the football."

What have you seen as the development of the balance of the run game and QB Baker Mayfield as a passer?

"Well I think in order to be balanced you have to be able to do them both. I'm talking doing both well. I talk about how they run the football, but they have excellent receivers. I don't know if Odell (Beckham) is playing or not but even without him, they have excellent receivers. I mentioned the tight ends. Tight ends are not only good blockers, but they are big part of the passing game to."

Can you talk about TE David Njoku and how he can stretch the field?

"I mean, he is a good player. But I think all of them can stretch the field, all of them can block. That's when it's tough, when you are playing tight ends, just like we talk about having balance as an offense, when you have balance as a tight end. I'm talking about being able to block and also whether its spreading out. They like their tight ends, so much sometimes they don't go three receivers. They keep both tight ends and that really causes problems when you can do that. Again, it will be a challenge, but we like our matchups too though."

What did you think about the pass game in week one? What did you think about LB Zach Cunningham and how he is progressing in coverage? Can you also talk about how other players handled zone coverage?

"When you talk about zone coverage, you have to talk about the front first, and that's making the ball come out on time. But we got pretty good pressure throughout, which as far as a coverage part, the back seven, Zach (Cunningham), Christian Kirksey, Kamu (Gruiger-Hill), we rely on our linebackers. We have athletes we feel like that need to be able to be comfort in space. So, we like what they were able to do. Corner wise, when you get a lead you can play a lot more zone which leads to opportunities to intercept the ball. Vernon Hargreaves to get on the board, Christian Kirksey to get on the board, Justin Reid to get on the board as far as getting picks, its big. But first game we saw some things, but we left an awful lot on the field."

You talked about the tight ends and how they run the ball too. In what unique ways does it present the option to try and get pressure on QB Baker Mayfield when they have all those options?

"I don't if I say unique ways. You know, first, second down, it opens up a play action game along with the run which keeps you off balance a little bit. Besides that, it's a traditional offense that believes in you know mixing the run and the pass up together. And that in itself to me makes you play all things, all downs and that's what really hard about what they do. And it would be one thing if it was a traditional offense that just lined up in one formation and played it. But I mean there is some type of movement every play, so you have to be sound first and not let them get you off balance before the ball is snapped."

Cleveland is one of the most aggressive teams on fourth down. How does that impact you as a defensive play caller?

"It's just that, it doesn't effect. We play every down, first, second, third based off what that down says. But knowing that they do go for you just have to have your fourth down packet set up, and we have our fourth down packet set up. We talk about a balance offense, it's all of those things that make you cover the entire football field and of course all downs too."

How happy are you to be able to see your team leading the NFL in interceptions after one week?

"Well, I mean, I'm not going to belittle it when we had three all of last year and we have three after one game. You have to acknowledge that. But we have put an emphasis on it, it's a part of what we have to do to have success defensively. So that part is good. And as a coach you start looking at what other opportunities that you have. We haven't played our best game, so we will need to be able to do that. In order for takeaways to come, you have to do other things right though. You have to get in positions where you can intercept the ball. We had a lot of favorable third down situations last week. In order for that to happen, you have to take care of the run on first and second down. It all goes together. And again, I can't wait to see if we can have that normal first to second game growth."

How do you feel about the tackling this season compared to last season?

"You know, I am a guy that never lives in the past. I can't tell you a lot about old girlfriends, anything like that. So, I'm just going on what we are doing right now. The team has tackled pretty good. We expect to tackle well again. We'll need to. When you talk about, two great running backs like they have, you got to be able to get by these first. Running to the ball, pursuit comes into it. As many as people as possible to the ball and wrap up on them. You just look at last week, I mean, the team played a good football team last week. Kansas City didn't really stop them so that's the challenge we have at hand."

I know you don't like talking about things in the past, but Sunday DL Vincent Taylor got hurt. How well was he playing?

"Oh, I like talking about good things from the past."

How good was he playing up until he got hurt and what did you think about the players like DL Ross Blacklock and DL Roy Lopez?

"Vincent Taylor was playing very good football. He's a force inside at our nose guard position, especially against the run. But as you mentioned, Roy Lopez, since he got here, he's caught our eyes, made plays throughout, not just as a run defender but giving us inside presence to rushing the passer. Ross, same thing. Him and Maliek Collins, you have to throw him in there too, we have a little bit of depth. We really liked it with Vincent. And when you have an injury like that, it can really knock you back, take a step back but Jaleel Johnson played good football for us. It was a tough decision on who we even kept. So, for him to be able to come back, we'll need all hands- on deck defensive line wise. You saw, we said that everybody we dress are going to play. All the guys played last weekend. We'll need eight plus guys, defensive line man, to be able to hold down the run and get a pass rush this week to."

What would you like to do better this weekend than you did against the Jaguars?

"First we gave up some big third downs. We gave up a third and 18, we gave up a fourth and 11. And the obvious is, we gave up three touchdown passes. Three touchdown passes that just don't feel like we are in the perfect position to play those. It's one thing when they go up there and make a great catch, a great play. I don't feel that was the case with those three touchdown passes that we gave up. Most of those defensive guys will say that."

You guys played zone at the second highest rate in the league in week one. I know you played with a big lead but in an ideal world, week to week is that the sort of distribution you want to have?

"God you know, I can't hardly talk on that can I. You think I could talk on that a little bit? Well, you know it's up to me to not talk on that, what we are going to do game plan wise. But what you said in your question, we had a big lead. If we have a big lead, there's a chance we will play more zone than man."

What did you see about LB Whitney Mercilus, it's his first time he's had his hand in the dirt since he's been here?

"I think it comes back to you pretty quick though. I think that's a natural place. One thing we want our defensive lineman to do it get off the ball. I've been to a lot of workouts, you ask a guy to run a 10-yard sprint, 20, 40-yard. I've never seen one of the two point stance doing that, they get in a three point. So, it means you can get off better with your hand in the dirt, hand on the turf, whatever you want to say. Whitney's done it before. He's comfortable doing it. You're not going to see our guys standing up very often, they are probably going to be down."

I'm not sure how far you go back in the tape but over his career, QB Baker Mayfield has gotten more accurate. What have you seen in him that makes him a more difficult quarterback to rattle?

"As far as how far we go back, not real far. I mean I kind of go, this is who a player is. We talk about what has happened here in the past, we don't go off it a lot. Same thing with players, they have a history. And I know Baker's history. He's been all play maker all his life and I don't know what all happened early in his career. But I know right now, he's one of the better quarterbacks playing in our league and that's one of the challenges we have."

How did DL Charles Omenihu stand out to you this weekend?

"All the guys did some good things. There's a reason why he's one of our guys. He's excellent against the run. As a six-technique, he's going to be stronger, stouter versus most of the tight ends he's going to play against, and he can rush the passer too. We like his flexibility. Decent start and anxious to see the guys take another step this week."


What's the best thing about being back in your hometown and playing in the NFL?

"Family and friends and Pappasito's. It's a blessing to be here."

When you were here playing a Superbowl in 2017, did you ever think you would be back here as a member of a team in Houston?

"it would have been tough to kind of put that together. You know, obviously I am thankful for this opportunity. I know a lot of people in this building that I've been prior to with so it kind of end up working out. Very blessed to be here."  

How many plays did you know from being familiar with the system and how do you feel you played on Sunday?

"I'm familiar with a lot of the formations, a lot of the motions obviously, and the packages I am in. Some of the verbiage and play calling is something that I have to do a lot of learning, get in the books and learn like everybody else did this year. Obviously, they had a lot longer in training camp to do that but lot of studying on my part and just getting familiar with my teammates, trying to build comradery and try to put the best product on the field."

What was it like scoring that first touchdown for your hometown team?

"It was great. It was great. It was part of a two-minute drive. Defense got us the ball back, obviously. We had a great opportunity to get points before the half. And then we tend to put three receivers on the field when we are going into a two-minute situation. Luckily, I was part of that group and we got it done."

What are your first impressions of RB Mark Ingram II, it seems like he has a really big personality?

"No doubt. He's a leader in the locker room. Great dude. Obviously, I've been watching him play for a long time. Got to talk to him pretty much every day, just get to know him. Great dude, we have a lot of mutual friends. It's an honor to play with him. We got to talk about his Heisman trophy and where he keeps it." 

Where does he keep it?

"I can't tell you."

What are you expecting from the Cleveland defense?

"They fly around. They are well coached. They got a bunch of great athletes out there, going to play hard. You know had a tight game last week, They are going to be juiced up this week, at their house, at their place. Going to be a hostile environment. We got to match that intensity. Got to have another good day tomorrow and get ready to go."

Did being familiar with so many things and the systems help in your decision to come play here?

"Absolutely. Absolutely. I know handful of guys in the building. I knew some players and some staff members, obviously. Anytime you have that familiarity and you get in the locker room with them, you can communicate well with those types of players and it just makes your job on the field that much easier. It's all about communication and being reliable."

What was it like seeing your three running backs score a touchdown last weekend?

"Good players man. I know they are focused on the Browns this week, trying to get ready to go, trying to do it again. We are trying to stack them up week by week, one game at a time. We got some good players in the building and we are all excited to be out there making plays." 

You've watched WR Brandin Cooks play in this league for a long time. Were you impressed with what he did last weekend?

"I'm always impressed by Brandin. He's a great player. He's an ultimate professional. He attacks every single day with amazing intensity and focus, and he's a great teammate."

What was your impression of this franchise from afar and has it changed now that you've become a part of it?

"I've played a lot of football games against the Texans, and every single game in the NFL is tough. Doesn't matter what your record is, everybody is good in this league. Everybody can play football. Everybody is fast. Everybody is strong. When I got to the building, it's no different either. Everybody here is good. Everybody is flying around. We're eager to get on the field each week to try to prove to the city, prove our fans, prove to the coaches that we can play football and score points, play good defensive and play good special teams. We have a lot to prove."


Can you talk a little about the energy you bring to the team?

"I just love playing ball, and I love playing ball with my guys. When we're making plays and winning, that's always fun. That energy and that excitement just comes out when you're playing ball, and you're winning, and your guys are making plays, and you're just in a dog fight and you're just trying to make things happen. That's just kind of the energy and personality that happens when good things are happening on Sundays."

We saw the video of Head Coach David Culley coming over to you on the sideline and thanking you for being such an important presence on this team. How much does that mean to you?

"It means a lot. Like I've always said, he's always been consistent with who he is, his words and his messages, and that's just something he's always done with me. Even in 2019, even last year in Baltimore, he's always just encouraged me and emphasized that it was more than just the stats and stuff. Just who I was and what I bring to the table, and I appreciate that. He's always encouraged me that way. Like I said, he's always been consistent with who he is, and he's told me things like that before. I appreciate him and I'm thankful for him."

When you think about Head Coach David Culley in your life, is there a specific moment with him that stands out to you?

"Not necessarily. He's just always been a guy who's been the same. When I was having a Pro Bowl year, one of my best years as a pro in 2019, he was always encouraging, always pushing me to be better. Last year, when it wasn't a year that I'm proud of or it didn't go great, he was always encouraging me, saying positive things and encouraging me. Telling me to remain positive and just keep working. Ever since I've been here in Houston, he's been the same. He hasn't changed, he hasn't switched up on me, whether it's a Pro Bowl year or a down year. He's always been consistent with who he is and his message and his encouragement of me. As a man, I respect that. As a man, I appreciate that, and I just know what I'm getting from Coach. He's going to be a guy that loves his players, that encourages his players, and I'm thankful for him."

With the energy, enthusiasm and personality you bring to football, what do you feel like instilled some of that into you growing up?

"I think just my dad, my grandpa, they both played ball. And just coaches instilling in me the desire to work hard, the desire to want to be the best, the desire to do your best. I think that's something that just burns in me, and that's what pushes me. People can analyze and get statistics for a lot of things, but you can't measure somebody's heart. You can't measure what's in somebody's chest. That's just something I take pride in."

How big was it for you to be able to start the season strong after not having the year you would've liked to have last year?

"Obviously, I wanted to get off to a fast start, and I'm thankful that I was able to make some plays and be able to help us be successful in that game. I just wanted to, whenever my number's called, whenever my name is called, go out there and perform to the highest ability that I can, and do things to help us have success on whatever play it is, and do things to help us win the game. So I'm happy that I was able to do that. Obviously, there's some things that I can work on that I can continue to improve on and continue to get better at. I think we're all striving to do that with this game coming up on Sunday."

You seem like you're always having a lot of fun out there. Is it something that sometimes people have to be reminded of, like yes it is a job, but it's also a game to have fun with?

"Yeah, I mean it is a job. It is a business, and you just have to learn the business and you have to learn to thrive in it. When you don't have fun with it, if you lose the love of it, I think you get exposed. I just love playing ball, I love being with my guys, I love seeing them make plays, I love making plays, I love putting up points, I love watching the defense have turnovers, love hearing the crowd, love silencing the crowd on the road. It's just fun. It's a kid's game, and I'm just thankful that the Lord has blessed me with the ability and the talent, and the ability to overcome adversity to be able to still be playing this game in my 11th season. So I still have fun with it, especially on Sundays when we're winning and we're making plays."

Do you envision yourself getting that many carries every game, game-in and game-out, or is there a number in your mind?

"I prepare myself for whatever the load may be. I always prepare myself to carry the ball 30 times if needed. I prepare myself and I'm ready to get 15 carries, five catches, whatever it may be. Whenever my number's called, I'm just ready to go out there and perform and do the best of my ability. It's nothing more, nothing less. If I'm getting 20 carries a game, I'm happy with that. If I get 30, I'm happy with that. If I get 10 and we win, I'm cool with that, too. So whenever my number is called, I just try to go out there and be an asset to the team. Be a confidence booster to the team and help us be able to move the chains and make plays."

Beyond being healthy this year, is there anything else that gives you some more juice this season?

"No, nothing more so than any other year. People say what they want, people say what they think, but it really don't matter. I know what I'm capable of doing. I know what I'm capable of bringing to the table when I'm healthy and when I'm given opportunities. So just my desire to be the best, my desire to want to help the team, my desire to want to be a champion, my desire to put my best foot forward every single time I step foot on that field, to make my family proud, to make all those people who believe in me proud. Those are things that I take pride in, and that's what motivates me."

What have you seen from Cleveland's front seven?

"They get after it. Obviously, those two defensive ends, you've got to find ways to neutralize them and to make them not have a heavy impact on the game. You don't want them to take over the game, because they can and they will. The secondary, they're opportunistic. The linebackers, they fly around, they fly to the ball. They just play well on defense. They're a well-coached defense. I played them for the past two years twice a year, and they just always do a good job. They're well-coached and they get after it. So you just have to make sure you're sound on your assignment, sound on your execution, know what you have to do, how you have to do it and execute it. And you have to do that for 60 minutes, you have to be physical. You can't turn the ball over and you have to make plays, because they're going to contest you, they're going to challenge you. So when your number's called and the ball is headed to you, you've got to take care of the football and you have to make the plays. They're a good defense and it's a challenge that we're looking forward to."

What's something that we wouldn't know about Head Coach David Culley or something that we'd be surprised to hear?

"He's always joking around, you know what I mean? He's always kind of cracking some little jokes, whether it be about something at home with his wife, or anything. He's just funny. He's a funny dude, always cracking jokes. He's a country dude, so he's always just cracking jokes. I don't know if y'all have seen that side of him, but he's always got a little something. When he's in a team meeting where he's throwing little sly jokes or little sly hints here and there and have everybody laughing. So he's a little jokester on the side."

How does that set the tone for this team?

"I think it's just a down-to-earth type of atmosphere, just an atmosphere where people can be themselves. People can thrive, and you don't have to try to hide behind a mask or fake who you are. I think that when he's like that, and how he has relationships with his players and everyone on the team, I think you just be yourself. Be true to who you are and just go out there and work your butt off. I think it just makes everybody play free, makes everybody confident when you have that kind of freedom to be who you are. And just to be a pro and go out there and go about your business, from your head coach I think that's an asset and something we all benefit from."


Since you last played Cleveland a lot has changed on this team, how much better do you think you are as a defense and a tackling defense?

"Yeah, I don't even want to talk about the game last year, that was just ugly on all sides. But a lot more confident. Like I said, I've been saying the same thing over and over just about how I love the aggressiveness of this defense just how guys attack downhill. I think that the reads are easier in run game. I think that guys are flying to the ball and I think when you have that type of effort, which I think the effort level is way higher as well. When you have that type of effort it falls into place easier."

What do you think of how QB Baker Mayfield's improved his game?

"That comes with experience. I still remember when it was his first, second year, he was aggressive and trying to force everything in every window. He's been seasoned with some more experience. Picks his windows a little better. He has a lot of talent around him to help take the load off his shoulders. Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb, I know Odell (Beckham Jr.) is down this week but Jarvis Landry and (David) Njoku and Austin Hooper. So, he has a lot of allstars around him to help him be successful as well."

Can you talk about how good Cleveland's tight ends are with David Njoku and Austin Hooper?

"I played with Hoop (Austin Hooper) in college, so I know a lot about him. (David) Njoku, a very athletic guy. And it's just going to be a smash mouth, old school type of game. They are going to try to run the ball down the hill. They are going to have some gimmicks. I'm sure they have something prepared for us. So, it's going to be a lot about eye control. This game will be fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Eye control and attacking your gaps, and then making the tackles. That's what this game is going to come down to."

Can you talk about how David Culley has changed the culture and vibe here inside the locker room?

"The locker room is completely different. It's a lot more team first attitude. That's the emphasis. I feel like I hear it every day in the team meeting. But it reminds us to keep that first and foremost because that's what good teams are. Good teams don't have selfish players that put themselves before the integrity of the offense or the defensive, because that's how you have a stronger unit as a whole. He preaches that every day. He's been a complete leader for us. His birthday is coming up soon too. So, that will be big time for him. But we've really taken heed to his leadership and what he's preached to the locker room."

You said that 'Team, Team, Team' has been preached a lot in the meetings, how?

"It's hanging up. I mean we have it written on the walls. But it's also on t-shirts. It's also in messages that he delivers with guys being accountable to each other, with being on time and if you're not able to make something, making sure you tell the people you need to tell so that way everyone can be prepared for it. Just being team oriented as far as showing up to treatment on time. That type of stuff."

RB Mark Ingram says Head Coach David Culley is a jokester. How would you describe his sense of humor?

"(David) Culley or (Mark) Ingram? Because they are both some cats, man. Ingram needs to be mic'd up every week. This dude is hilarious. But Culley has some funny stories too. I can't say them off the top of my head, but he'll just tell a story about some of the experiences he's had in his life, and he's had a ton of them. So, he's shared some stories with us and keeps the locker room light."

As a defensive player do you have to change your approach when you play a team that goes for it a lot more on fourth downs?

"I think that puts all the more emphasis on taking care of first and second down. Teams are not going to go for it on fourth and ten you know what I mean, unless it's the end of the game. But also, you just have to play third down twice. If it just happens to be third and short, just got to have that have that mentality. Like at that point when it's fourth down, for me that's a turnover chance. You know what I mean, you can get turnovers with fumbles, picks, and if offenses are going for it on fourth down, in my mind that's a turnover opportunity as well."

You said it's all about eye discipline. Are they going to invite you with looks to look at the wrong thing, take a step in the wrong direction?

"Oh, absolutely."

Can you explain that to fans who may not understand that a bit?

"So, they have a lot of downhill runs, but they are going to do stuff with their tight ends, with their tight end alignments. Maybe try to sneak them out, have a tight end act like he is blocking, sneak out late, run across the formation. Sometimes have tight ends flash behind the line of scrimmage where they are in the off technique and run back around in the other direction. A lot boots. Play actions. They are going to run the ball and if they have success with the run, it's going to open up the boots to where we are going to be attacking to stop the run and they are going to be play action it. It's a simple but effective philosophy. It's kind of the same thing my college team did in college. It's old school, it's old school. It's get your jersey dirty and get ready to play."

Teams have done more play action year-over-year the past few years. What do you think is the defensive counter for that?

"Eye control. Eye control, man. That's what it is. It's really simple and difficult at the same time, because if you have good eyes, then it should be easy because you know exactly what you're looking at, and you're able to play it effectively. But if you don't, you get caught looking in the backfield not reading whatever your key is, then that's when you see guys end up being wide open."

Can you talk about your front seven last weekend and the pressure they put on Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence?

"Oh, as a defensive back, I love pressure. I mean, football, those guys in the trenches, they do all the heavy lifting. When you have pressure upfront, it makes the entire defense work. It speeds up the clock, it allows us on the back end to read routes better because the quarterback can't hold the ball. So, now we're able to be more confident and being aggressive because we don't have to worry about the pump fakes because we know the ball is coming out. Tremendous job by our front unit, the front seven as a whole, but especially our D-line getting pressure to the quarterback, because that makes everything go on the defensive side of the ball."

Can you talk about playing tendencies as opposed to just matchups, because those can change throughout the game?

"I don't think that they're exclusive. You play tendencies to matchups, so you have the matchup on the field, you know No. 10 on their team can run a 4.25, so he's extremely fast. And if we see he has a matchup that's favorable to him, the tendency is they're going to throw a fade to him. So, I don't think that they're mutually exclusive in that regard. But it all comes back to just playing the defense and reading your keys. Me playing back in the middle of the field a lot of the time, I feel like that's my job to recognize formations and be alert for those."

How often do you still talk to your brother, and how much does he help you with your game?

"We talk about every time we're in person together. Mainly, we talk about family and how his baby girls are coming up and everything like that, so I like to see photos of how they're doing. But we talked a lot of ball over the years. If he still has some notes on Cleveland, I might dive into them and see if he has any tendencies that we haven't gone over."

Is the feeling around the team any different now that you've won a regular season game and gone through the preseason together?

"I feel like we know each other better. I feel like we have a better sense of chemistry and knowing what each other's strengths and weaknesses are, but that hunger hasn't changed, man. We focus on ourselves in the locker room and we know what we've got. I don't think anyone of us is immune to knowing what is being said outside of the walls, not that it's important. But it still feels that hunger, man, that we've all got inside of us. So, we're going to keep that chip on our shoulders and be ready to play."

What would it mean for this team to start 2-0?

"Man, that's all we're shooting to do. I don't know what it'd be like until I get to that point, but that's what we're out here to do. We're not rolling over for anybody, so teams are going to have to come out and play us and they're going to have to see us, and see what we got."

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