DC Joe Woods (1.7.21)

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods:

On LB B.J. Goodson returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list and if there is a hope that other Browns players will also return from it this week: 

“We are definitely hoping to get other players back. We just have to wait and see what happens. To get B.J. back, he has been a leader and really the quarterback of our defense. It has helped getting those other guys reps. He will come back in and we will put him in, maybe in more of a rotational basis, but it is definitely good to get back player who has played well for us.”

  

On if there is hope CB Denzel Ward can return for this week’s game: 

“We will wait and see. I do not know what the outcome of that is going to be, but we do have guys who have some experience and got some experience last week playing so I feel like we will be good either way.”

  

On how unsettling is it for the Browns coaching staff and players to be without Head Coach Kevin Stefanski this week and on gameday: 

“Just from the beginning, we have all been involved – our entire coaching staff. He kind of lets us run our side of the ball. I feel like for the guys with (special teams coordinator) Coach (Mike) Priefer taking over for him, I know Kevin will be missed, but I feel like they will be confident in his ability to fulfill Kevin’s role. I am going to do my same deal that I have always done a game day and the same with AVP (offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt). I feel like we will be fine, but I will miss seeing him on the sideline for sure.”

  

On CB Robert Jackson’s performance making the first start last week and if Jackson could significantly improve this week if needed to start again this week:
“I definitely think he can do that. That was really his first exposure. Throwing him out there under those circumstances was really a tall task. I feel like he made some plays. We all have seen the plays that he did not make, but when you go back and you watch it, it is always what I try to tell the players is ‘This evaluates your technique. Could it have been better?’ When you look at it, he definitely could have been better technique-wise on a couple of those plays, and he was a half-step away from making those. Hopefully, he can make that jump this week because I think they are definitely going to target him.” 

  

On how different the gameplan is this week when facing Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger rather than Steelers QB Mason Rudolph: 

“I feel like what they did against us last week is going to be very similar. Ben is a veteran quarterback. It is hard to fool him. It is hard to disguise against him so he is going to figure it out. We are going to have to give him some different coverage packages. We tried to do that a little bit last week with Rudolph. We will do a little bit more this week. When it all comes down to it, guys are going to have to execute their jobs and they are going to have to win one on ones. He is going to catch us a few times, and guys are going to have to step up and make plays, bottom line.”

  

On balancing the pass rush and trusting the secondary with Roethlisberger compared to what the Browns defense did facing Rudolph last week: 

“It is just something we talk about. We go through the gameplan and we look at different situations and based on each situation what is best for us to run. You have to account for last week with losing guys late and getting those guys in the fold, I was a little bit more cautious last week. I did not want to really expose them any more than I needed to and just try to get them comfortable. This week, I feel like they have the experience and they understand what we are doing a little bit better so I feel like I can have some more aggressive calls at times.”

On if DE Adrian Clayborn can take on a higher snap count this week, given DE Olivier Vernon was placed on IR: 

“We still have the ability to rotate, but he plays hard when he is in there. He comes off on the sidelines some of the time, he wants me to throw a call in there for him. I love him. I love his intensity he brings. He does not really say a whole bunch. He is definitely going to play some more this week. He is capable. I know he is an older vet, but that is good for us because he understands who he is going against and what he needs to do to have success.”

On if he could have ever imagined the scenario of what has occurred this season: 

“No, not really (laughter). I had a lot of confidence, just the previous years and the different teams I have been on and we happened to play against them when I was on the previous team, and coming here to Cleveland, I knew there were talented players on the roster on both sides of the ball so I was excited. When everything happened, I knew it was going to be a season where we had to play everybody. Now, you are seeing that really come to light with where we are right now heading into this first playoff game. I feel very confident because a lot of guys have played. They have played in big games, whether it was last week or primetime games. I feel like we will be ready to go, regardless of who we put out there on the field.”

On how much of a competitive disadvantage it is to not have normal practice time this week: 

“I do not look at it that way. I know it is obvious that it should be that way, but I feel like we have been meeting so much since the whole offseason on Zoom, just installing coverage packages, testing guys and having the feedback from the guys. With the gameplan we have this week going into the game and some things we have added, I feel like they are definitely capable of handling it. You would like to get on the field and at least get it repped and get them lined up and I hope we will be able to do that – I think that is big for us this week – but I definitely feel like we will be able to handle it. It might not be perfect, but I feel like we can go out and play well.”

On how important Vernon has been to the Browns defense this season and how Vernon is feeling after sustaining the Achilles injury: 

“He is definitely in a positive state of mind. OV did a great job. Coming in, I know just the combination of him and Myles and how they played before in the past, we had those conversations from Day 1. He knew he was going to have to move around a little bit for us to put Myles where we need to put him, and I felt he handled it really well. I felt like he took advantage of his opportunities throughout the season to really show how good of a player he could be for us on defense. It is going to be tough not to have him out there just because of how he has played really from the middle of the season on, but guys will have to step up and really make the plays that he was able to make for us throughout the season.”

On if not having Stefanski could galvanize and motivate the team even more when facing adversity: 

“I think it will. He has been so steady. His message to the team has been consistent. It is always about not making excuses. The guys understand that. It has been preached all year. It is just the next thing that we have to deal with. He is preparing us well. Again, Coach Priefer will take over and do a nice job, and I think the players will go out and just really believe in the message that he has been sending and play as hard as they can to see if we can get a win.”

On CB M.J. Stewart’s interception last week and the Browns defense having players step up to make impact plays throughout the season:

“It was definitely big. In our wins this year, we have done a good job just in terms of takeaways on defense and the overall turnover margin. At that point of the game, just getting a turnover and setting the offense up for a score was big. I feel like it might have been the biggest thing that happened throughout the game. Hopefully, we can duplicate that. Maybe it is M.J. this week or maybe it is (CB) Tavierre (Thomas). Who knows who it is going to be, but we do need to step up and find a way to get takeaways to give us a chance to win.”

On external questions about Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s arm strength at this point of the season and if Roethlisberger’s performance in the second half against the Colts shows that Roethlisberger still has the ability to make every throw:

“Absolutely. He definitely has it. He is a rhythm thrower. The advantage with veteran quarterbacks who have seen it all, they kind of know and they can figure out what we are playing. That gives him an advantage of where he is going to throw the ball, and he does a great job of looking off coverage, moving coverage and throwing it on time. You can see that he still has the arm strength. He is making accurate throws down the field. Outside, we are going to have to make four or five plays one on one to have a chance to win this game.”

On the importance of taking away the Steelers’ deep shots down the field, particularly given Pittsburgh had success with it last week:

“That is always the name of the game. It is always take away the deep shots, make them check it down and move the ball down the field and find a way to get off of the field on third down. That is always the message that we preach. Last week, we made a few plays, but they made a few plays, too. We can’t let that happen this week. If it does, we will have a hard time winning this game.”

On DE Myles Garrett not posting a sack last week and if that was a result of the Steelers’ performance or Garrett not yet being 100 percent:

“I think Myles is fine. You have to give them credit. They did a nice job with their protection. At times, we were not able to get there and get close, and [Rudolph] was able to get rid of the ball fast. That is a dynamic of their offense, especially with Big Ben. Sometimes, it is catch and throw. If he is sitting back and throwing it deep, they will protect him at times. I just have to do a good job of combining man coverages and zone coverages and bringing some pressures just to create some one on ones for not only Myles but some of the other guys to put some pressure on Ben.”

On if Jackson started at CB last week because Jackson had the best week of practice among the CBs and limited practice time this week not giving much opportunity for ‘players to audition for roles’:

“Really, there are not many people to audition (laughter). It is like we have to go with what we have to go with. All of those guys are very capable. We have the ability to have a few different combinations with the guys who we will have up this week at this point. I am totally confident in Robert and have seen what he has done. For him to go out in that game and the magnitude of that game, I felt like he did some good things, and some of the other things that he got beat on, we can get him a little bit better prepared technically to have some success.”

On S Ronnie Harrison Jr. returning to the lineup and LB Jacob Phillips and Harrison playing every defensive snap last week:

“It was good to get Ronnie back. The guys love being around Ronnie. He is just like the kid on the playground who just loves to play football. He brings a lot of energy to our defense. He was off a little bit, but that was just him getting his legs back underneath him. I feel like he will definitely play better, but having him out there is big for us. He is always around the football. Jacob, he is going to learn the whole season. He is the kind of guy who plays with his hair on fire. At times, he is not always where he is supposed to be. I felt like he made strides last week, and I feel like he is definitely the type of player who could have a big game for us this week based on what we are doing.”

On the Browns receiving notice late in the week that CB Kevin Johnson would miss the game, given Johnson would have likely replaced Ward in the starting lineup:

“Just how things have been going all through last year and early through this year, it is just something that you have to be ready to deal with. It is not like it caught us by surprise because every day we take the test, and you never know what is going to happen. We practice multiple guys. We have done that all season. It was unfortunate that we did not have those guys, but we were ready to move on with putting Robert in and       M.J. and just going with that combination with (CB) Terrance Mitchell. I hope that is not the case this week and we can just keep rolling, but we were ready to deal with it.”

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