Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, Andrew Berry (10.4.23)


Opening statement:

“Okay, so first of all, good morning. I want to just say at the front end, I’m going to ask you guys to bear with me. I actually got a fair amount to say that I want to cover on the front end. I will make sure that you guys have enough time to ask the questions that you need, but I’m going to be a little bit longer than I typically am, so I just ask for a little bit of patience there. Okay, so going into week five, I think the bye week comes at a really perfect time for our team. And to be truthful, I’ve never really been a fan of the early bye, largely because you’re playing less than a quarter of your regular season games before you get a break. But I think for us and this specific team, it comes at a good point. Not just because it gives us an opportunity to get healthy, but it gives us this deliberate pause that allows us to lean into an identity that would allow us to play games of relevance, games of consequence late in the year. I should say this not just play in them, but have the opportunity to flourish and win in those competitions.


As I think about the first four weeks of the season, just kind of going into each phase – defensively, we’ve been very good, and I would like to give a ton of credit to Jim (Schwartz) and the defensive staff. They’ve done a fantastic job of preparing our guys, developing our guys on a weekly basis. I think it’s been really cool to see the aggressive mentality that side of the ball has played with. And honestly, quite honestly, the level of joy and fun that they’ve had on a weekly basis playing together. I think our stars, they’ve really delivered. And then you see players like Mo Hurst (Maurice Hurst), JOK (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah), Grant Delpit, Martin Emerson, Ogbo (Okoronkwo), playing in much bigger roles than they have at any point in their career and performing at a really high level for us. So now our challenge on that side of the ball coming out of the bye will be to have the appropriate counterpunches as our opponents respond and adjust to the things that we’ve done well early in the season.


Going to the kicking game, you know, Bubba (Ventrone) and Bravo (Stephen Bravo-Brown), they’ve done a nice job of stabilizing the kicking units. Kevin (Stefanski), he has a saying that he always uses. He says, ‘If the map is different than the terrain, go with the terrain.’ And I think about that a lot with special teams, because if you look at it, we lost Jakeem Grant for the year, with Nick’s (Chubb) injury, it has a ripple effect in special teams, right? Jerome Ford, is no longer on the coverage and return units. You lose arguably our best special teamer for the first part of the season in Jordan Kunaszyk and then we made personnel changes at the kicker position. So the way that we’re playing in the kicking units is much different than we envisioned going into the season and Bubba and Bravo have done a nice job of adjusting and leaning into our coverage units. While Dustin (Hopkins) has done a nice job of turning possessions into points for us in some pretty difficult circumstances.


And then offensively, we’re really looking forward to using this bye week to really return to the level of consistency and the standard that Kevin has really set there on that side of the ball since he’s been here in 2020. And no doubt with having Deshaun (Watson) for a full season, losing Nick, losing Jack Conklin, that it’ll look different than we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the first three years. But we have no doubt that not only that] we’ll be able to meet, but kind of exceed the standard that we’ve seen the first three years that Kevin has been the head coach here.


Thinking further, I guess on the offense – before we get into anything schematic and any personnel review that we do, as is our custom during the bye, really the number one thing that we have to do is something that Kevin has preached since the day he got the job, and that’s protect the football. We’ve turned the ball over ten times this season and we’ve lost the turnover battle in all four games that we’ve played this year, and quite honestly, that’s not a sustainable way to win football games in the NFL. So that’s really the first thing that we have to get corrected. I do think that we’ve seen what this particular group is capable of, namely in the Tennessee game. And I think we’ve also had some bright spots with setbacks creating opportunity, whether it’s the performance of Jerome Ford or the entrance of Dawand Jones into the starting lineup. but we still have work to do to get back to the standard that we need to meet.


A couple of things culturally, we have a really good group of players who are incredibly hardworking and want to do well for our fans, the city and the team. I think about David Njoku playing this last Sunday, literally with his face painfully blistering and the skin peeling just so he can be there for his teammates. I think about like the last ten months with AWalk (Anthony Walker Jr.) and Taki (Sione Takitaki) and JOK, competitively rehabbing so they can beat all the medical estimates and be ready for the start of the season. I look every day out in practice and watch Amari (Cooper) and Elijah (Moore) and Donovan (Peoples-Jones) do extra skill work, run wind sprints so they can be ready for the no-huddle attack. And even, honestly, our younger players, like Mohamoud Diabate and Tanner McCalister competing for nutrition goals as they kind of like bide their time for larger roles. And then even within our young veteran group, you know Grant, Greg (Newsome II), Martin (Emerson Jr.), Juan (Thornhill), embracing their role on special teams because they want to do anything that can allow our team to win. And this group of players has been personally rewarding to see this group of players come together in that manner and really kind of embrace that mentality in an environment that our coaches and support staff have really created.


The last thing I want touch on – just to our fans, I really want our fans to enjoy and lean into this process of watching this team become fully formed throughout the year. Yesterday I was talking with AWalk and Rodney (McLeod) on their podcast and the question that came up is, what is it that makes Cleveland Browns fans special? And for me, it’s the loyalty and it’s the passion. And so a quick story about that. When Nick got hurt during the Pittsburgh game, that Wednesday, I came into the office and Debbie Krasinski, who’s our longtime travel manager, provides personnel and coaching support, she came into my office, she was like, ‘Hey, you know, Andrew, I got this call from Grindstone elementary, which you know, right down the street in Berea. And they basically said they had classes that they made these get well cards for Nick Chubb and they wanted to see if they could send them to the facility and there would be a way that he would get them.’ So later in the day, she comes back and she walks into my office and she has this huge stack of probably like maybe 30 to 35 get well cards with handwritten notes, drawings of Nick Chubb, maybe one or two autograph requests. And I was like, man, this is really cool, right? This is really cool. And to me, it’s not just emblematic of our young fans, but that’s what it’s like with the Cleveland Browns in Northeast Ohio. There’s this love, there’s this passion, there’s this loyalty for the team. And those characteristics are what allows me to know that Cleveland Browns Stadium can really be a hornet’s nest for our opponents when they come in. But in order for us to do that, in order for us to create that environment, we really have to earn it. And so for me,  I think the one defining characteristic of really good teams or teams that play late into the season is this ability to overcome in-game adversity. And I have no doubt that our group is physical, is tough and is competitive. But our job in these moments that are going to happen to every team is not only just to compete, but perform at our highest capabilities. Not just when the wind is at our back, but when also we’re facing a really, really strong headwind. And I think the beauty of the 17-game grind that it’s in the NFL season, it’s a really long season, is that you are afforded these opportunities to develop this callous as you go. And we’re still working to develop that callous to overcome. But I feel really good about this group and when we have that seminal moment when we’re able to accomplish that, that’s the point where I’ll feel like we’re fully formed as a team. So I know that was a lot. I know that was really long. I know Tom’s (Withers) eyes are already glossed over, and there may be a little bit of drool in the corner of Tony’s (Grossi) mouth, so I’m going to open it up right now for any questions that you guys may have.”


Is there any concern that the shoulder injury will affect Deshaun’s ability to pass going forward? 

“Jake (Trotter), good question. We don’t view it as a long-term injury. I think Kevin mentioned earlier in the week, there’s nothing structural. We are optimistic that it’ll heal in the short term and he’ll be ready to go.”


It’s a little bit kind of a communication issue in terms of whether or not you guys expected Deshaun to play on Sunday and then whether or not he should have played on Sunday. Can you just kind of take us through that thought process?

“Sure, Tom (Withers). Yeah, so we were optimistic that he would play. He was optimistic that he would play. He worked his tail off during the week to rehab and be ready to go. When we got out on Sunday and when we took him through the pregame workout, it became obvious to all of us that he couldn’t throw or drive the ball well enough to perform in the game. It just wasn’t at a level where we felt comfortable that he could ultimately perform the duties of his position. If he was a running back or a defensive tackle or something along those lines, it’s something it wouldn’t have necessarily affected his job requirements and he would have been okay. But this is your quarterback and his job is to throw the ball anywhere from 30 to 35 times a game. And if he can’t push it, if he can’t drive it, if he can’t throw it down the field, which became very evident early in the workout, it became a very easy decision for us not to put him out there.”


Andrew, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you deliver a State of the Union like that to open a presser, so I’m just curious why you wanted to do that today?

“So we talk about with our players oftentimes, like self-improvement, right? Like the idea of how can you do your job better and quite honestly Dan (Labbe), I look at myself the same way. Just candidly, I don’t think that I’ve done in these settings – because to be honest, public speaking and talking in front of you is not my favorite thing in terms of the job. But taking these opportunities to really do a better job of pulling back the curtain on the really good things that are going on within the organization, as well as some of the things that we have to make improvements. So hopefully a turn for the better or at least a turn for the more interesting for you all, but that’s really all that prompted it.”


Can you revisit the trade of (Josh) Dobbs? Why was that a good idea in your mind? And was the coach ever aware that it would be a possibility? 

“Yeah. So let me answer the second question first, Tony. I’ve never believed in surprising the coaching staff with roster moves. We always have a ton of communication before anything happens, really any transaction, Tony. In terms of trading Josh, obviously we had a high opinion of Josh. He had been here for two seasons. I’ve often talked up here about the general manager’s role, having a foot in the present and a foot in the future and certainly that consideration and that transaction has elements of that. Thought it was the best decision, we’re really excited to work with Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) and see him progress and develop. But thought was the right move for the organization both short and long term.”


Dorian was kind of in a little bit of a tough spot Sunday. A lot of guys said the game plan wasn’t altered. It was basically if Deshaun would have started. Just how do you evaluate how he played and how comfortable are you with him as the number two, being able to step in there at some point and having to win a game for you late in the season if he’s called upon?

“Darryl (Ruiter), there is a saying that I love, it’s experience is a hard teacher because it gives the test first and the lesson afterwards. And I felt like certainly any rookie quarterback could probably attest during their first start that that is the case. Certainly challenging circumstances, but I know Dorian’s not making any excuses for it. That is the role of the backup to be able to step in at a moment’s notice. I think just realistically, when you lose a game 28-3 and you don’t play well on offense, we all look at what we could have done differently to support him. But we’ll continue to work, we’ll grow from it, we’ll learn from it, and we’ll move forward with him.”


The thing is, you don’t have a veteran backup quarterback. I kept forgetting you had (P.J.) Walker on the roster. Pure second guess, easy in the rearview mirror to see it. if it’s a guy you got to throw in quickly. I think he started five games for Carolina. numbers weren’t terrible. Why not him in a situation? 

“Yeah, I think – so, a couple of things, we feel good with Dorian, we feel good with PJ. He was one of the first roster transactions we pursued when were building the practice squad. We do feel good about the group, and I would say, number one, ultimately that’s going to reside in our coaching staff decision in terms of how they’re prepping guys and how they’re doing during the week. We do feel good about both players if they’re pressed into action. I think just the other part of it is Dorian had been with us throughout the entire spring, the entire summer. He had done good work, he had a good practice week. Look, just didn’t play well. He just didn’t play well.”


Will DTR be the number two quarterback going forward? 

“Yeah, I don’t envision any major changes in the room, Jake.”


You talk about no long-term concern with Deshaun’s shoulder, but considering the style he plays, how much running is part of his game, is that something in the back of your mind that – could it be something that lingers because the number of shots he potentially could take? 

“Yeah I mean Deshaun’s been very durable throughout his career, and although he is mobile, he really is a passer first. So I guess really the short answer is, again the bye week comes at a good time. We’re, I’ll say optimistic, that it’ll resolve and we’ll be moving forward.”


Have you guys checked in on Jonathan Taylor’s availability?

“Let me get this right, because of the tampering rules I know I can’t touch on specific players. You guys have heard me say before, we’re always active seekers, participants in the trade market. But I would say we’re pleased with the running back room.”


You talk about protection, obviously, in your opening statement, but just how do you feel about the tackles and the offensive line and obviously losing Jack and how that impacted things? 

“You know I think that just overall the offense has been a bit up and down. I think when you think about protection, it’s not just the offensive line. It’s really everybody. It’s the quarterback’s depth, it’s the route combination, it’s the backs, it’s the tight ends. And that’s something that among several other things that we haven’t been as consistent with.”


I’m a little off on this, did the game plan change when you put the kid in the front quarterback compared to the first, whatever ten scripted plays or whatever? 

“Honestly, Terry (Pluto), that’s probably a better question for Kevin, at least in terms of the specifics. I mean the short answer is, it’s not the same thing as if you have your veteran quarterback in there as if you would have Dorian in there. Maybe the degree of change is different just based on when we declared Deshaun out. But I think the idea that there were no adjustments, I think that’s an unfair comment.”


I think he threw seven straight passes or something after that. I’m watching that, just as a layman going, ‘You’re not helping the kid here.’ That was my thoughts.

“I’d say this, kind of maybe going back to I forget who asked the question earlier, I actually think it was Darryl – when you lose 28-3 and don’t play well on offense, there’s a lot, with the benefit of hindsight that we would have done differently.”


What you said about Watson, he didn’t throw all week, so why did they come out and throw him? He didn’t throw all week. And the game plan was pass-oriented with the rookie quarterback. So where’s the disconnect there I mean, if your number one quarterback didn’t throw all week, why wasn’t there a concerted effort to run the ball? 

“I think probably part of it, Tony, is that once you’re down two scores, you do have to play a little bit more aggressively. But also the other thing is, if you’re a quarterback, you are going to have to pass the ball. And that doesn’t mean that the balance may not change. But again, I’ll touch base on what I said earlier, we didn’t play well on that side of the ball. There are things that we would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. But you look at everything when you have a loss like that.”


Do you feel like you guys will be able to get a bunch more out of Elijah Moore going forward? And maybe will you continue to try to run him or will he better served in the short passing game? How do you see the whole Elijah Moore pitch? 

“Yeah, Elijah, we view him as one of the better playmakers on the roster. I know that we’re excited to get him the ball in a variety of ways. I do think that there’s an element where whenever you get a new skilled player in a new offense, sometimes you don’t want to necessarily discourage some of the tinkering. And sometimes the results will be good, sometimes the results won’t be as good. And the biggest thing is adjusting and ultimately allowing your playmakers to kind of find their niche within the offense. Again, we’re four games into this thing. We do want to get them the ball, but I think that’ll evolve and grow as we go.”

Do you feel good about your receiving core, the way that it stands right now, or is this one of those areas where you might have to kind of look around a little bit? 

“No, we feel good about our pass catchers.”


Andrew, when you’re talking about that running back room, what have you seen from Jerome (Ford) since Nick (Chubb) went down? And do you really feel like he could be that number one guy? And then do you expect Kareem’s (Hunt) role to grow as he gets more reps, not having been in the preseason? 

“Yeah, we think what Jerome provides us – he provides us big play ability. We’ve seen that over the first month of the season. His speed and strength is a real asset. And then also, he’s a real contributor in the passing game. We saw that against Tennessee. We’ve seen that in the screen and check-down game. But we think Jerome’s ability to actually split out and run routes, that’s something that’s pretty hard to find. And then with Kareem, we do look at getting him ramped up more heavily. Obviously, him coming in without camp, without a spring with us, there is a little bit of a ramp-up period for him. But we really do look at that position as more of a platoon position. Scott (Petrak), as opposed to hey, this is your one, this is your two, that type of thing. It’s probably a little bit more role-based and in fairness, again, we’ve been spoiled by having Nick, but that’s probably more where this position is trending with us and has certainly trended around the league.”


You mentioned you’ve been spoiled by having Nick (Chubb). How much pressure is on Deshaun (Watson) once he’s healthy to really carry this offense to get you where you need to go? 

“Yeah, I think probably number one, there’s always pressure or spotlight on any starting quarterback across the league. We don’t look at it as that Deshaun has to carry the offense. We feel like there’s plenty of support. We have a good O-line. We have backs that play well in a role. Amari (Cooper) and David (Njoku) are featured pass catchers and then obviously with Elijah (Moore), Donovan (Peoples-Jones), Marquise (Goodwin), like, we have enough players to lighten the load. But obviously, your quarterback’s a big piece of it and we think he’s super talented and obviously, he can do a lot of things for us, but we feel like we’re going to be good on offense.


How do you think Watson has played?

“I think we saw what he’s fully capable of against Tennessee. Thought he did a really nice job of managing the weather and the environment against Cincinnati. And we had a game where really we didn’t play well in Pittsburgh. But feel like he’s really coming into his own, getting comfort. Obviously having the shoulder injury and not being able to go against Baltimore is a bummer, but feel really good about his progress.”


I meant to ask you too, has he had a shoulder thing before? Is there any shoulder injury problems in his past? 



Touched on it earlier, in what ways has (Jim) Schwartz impacted the mentality of the defense? 

“Yeah, I think that his approach of aggressiveness, disruption, generating and quite honestly dictating to the offense is awesome. It’s refreshing and it’s a style of football that our guys really embrace and probably just as importantly have fun playing in. I think the other thing about Jim is he embraces personality. I think we see that on a weekly basis because our defense may have no less than 100 choreographed celebrations. I don’t even know where they come up with it. So I think that’s really cool because that’s something he wants guys to play with passion and be themselves and I think that’s something that really endears him to the guys, quite frankly.”


(Grant) Delpit is off to a good year. We know his contract’s up. Would you like to get him done this year or let things play out? 

“I appreciate the question. I think you know what my response is going to be to that one, Tony (Grossi). I’m not going to talk about contracts in this setting. Very pleased with Grant’s start, though.”


Is there an understanding through the locker room that Deshaun (Watson) couldn’t go out there?

“Yes. It was pretty obvious what he had done to try and get ready throughout the week. And he really was here 24/7 and doing stuff at home, and it was obvious that he couldn’t throw the ball on Sunday. He couldn’t throw the ball well enough to play.”


Did he try to drive any throws at all or he never even got to the point where he could attempt that?

“It got to the point, Tom (Withers), where it was obvious to all of us that even just kind of playing catch and trying to put the requisite zip for velocity, even from, I shouldn’t say short distance, because that’s probably a relative term, but shorter distance, we didn’t even think it made sense to get them into probably the more extended work.”


Andrew, I know you guys go one game at a time, and one game is only 1/17 of a season, but how do you weigh the loss to Baltimore? The health that they were in, to come in here and slaughter you 28-

  1. You’ll never get that game back. It’s a tight division race. How big of a setback was Sunday? 

“It’s one game. And you always hate losing division games, Tony (Grossi). And you always hate laying an egg on Sunday, but at the end of the day, it’s one of 17. We’ve got 13 more to play. If that’s going to stay in our mind throughout the next 13 weeks, then quite honestly, we have bigger problems. It’s a week-to-week league, and the reality is we’ve got to be able to control what’s in front of us and make sure that we’re playing our best football in November and December.”


If you had a couple of key things that you really want to see change after the bye week, what would they be? 

“Number one, two, three, four and five would be ball security. Number one through five would be ball security. Like, that is the number one thing that we have to correct – the primary focus. Again, ten turnovers in four games. We put five more balls on the ground that weren’t recovered by the opponent. That alone, and that doesn’t mean that we’re perfect in every area, no different than any team at this point in the season, but that alone, minimizing that or getting that back to an acceptable standard will make a huge difference.”


How do you do that? How do you rectify that? 

“Yeah, so I do think a big part of it is it could be just like our decision-making when you have the ball in your hands. Decision-making with the quarterback, shoring up protection. All those things play into it. Kevin (Stefanski) has a saying that if you have the ball in your hands, whether you’re a skill player, whether you’re a quarterback, whether you’re the center, whether you turn the ball over, the fate of the organization is in your hands. And ball security is a heavy emphasis at practice. I know it’ll continue to be ratcheted up after the bye, but we’ve talked a lot about winning the turnover battle internally, and just we haven’t done it.”


Are you okay with the way (David) Njoku is used? Are you getting your bang for your buck out of him?

“I think, you know, David’s one of our best pass catchers, Tony (Grossi), and I think Kevin (Stefanski) will be the first to say that we want him to be a big part of the offense. The passing game can bounce from week to week in the sense of what the opponent’s taking away or what they’re weak at. You know, I think as we get to the end of the year, probably no different than last year, we’ll look back and say that David’s been incorporated well into the offense.”


We don’t talk about contracts, but I thought maybe this is an exception. Is Nick (Chubb), the fact that he’s coming into that last year and we all know, I think we know what some of the numbers are, like, does the injury complicate how you’re going to handle that? Is that something that you’re going to have to deal with moving forward? 

“Yeah, to be honest, Scott (Petrak), our focus with Nick is ensuring that we are supporting him and enabling him to be as healthy as possible in this early rehab period. We want him to get off to a good start so he can be the Nick Chubb that we’re accustomed to seeing when he gets over this. I’m not going to bet against Nick Chubb in terms of all the other stuff. Honestly, our focus is on the season and making sure that he’s healthy. There will be plenty of time to figure that stuff out and talk about that stuff, but that’s really not the focus right now.”


Do you know when the ACL surgery is going to be?

“No, but honestly, Jake (Trotter), if I did, I probably wouldn’t say in this setting.”


Just to follow up again on the Deshaun (Watson) thing real quick, when I talked to him at his locker on Friday, he was convinced he was playing on Sunday. He basically unequivocally said, I’ll play, I’m okay, with his shoulder. There was, like, no doubt in his mind on Friday. So do you think it’s one of those things where a player who’s used to playing hurt just can’t possibly fathom that by Sunday he’s not going to be ready or what do you think was kind of going on? 

“Yeah, I think Deshaun, like I said, he was truly doing everything in his power to play. We were all optimistic because he made a ton of progress throughout the week, going from really not being able to raise his arm to where he was on Sunday. And he is super competitive. Right. This is a guy who bused 12 hours so he could play with a punctured lung as a starting quarterback. So there’s no doubt in terms of his resolve or his toughness or his desire to be on the field with his teammates. And honestly, I want guys who are wired that way, I think about David (Njoku) last year when he had his high ankle sprain, he was convinced he was going to play the Miami game. He didn’t necessarily make it or Juan (Thornhill) earlier in the year when he was convinced he was going to make the Cincinnati game because of his calf injury. Like, you want guys who want to be on the field with their teammates, but there also is an element where you have to be realistic in terms of, hey, can they go out there and perform at a level that would allow you to win a game?”


Seems like a pretty important year for you guys. Feel the sense of urgency around here. With the trade deadline coming up. What’s your take on what you anticipate the opportunities might be? And does that impact your decision-making process of feeling like you maybe need to add something or fill a need that popped up?

“To be honest, Daryl (Ruiter), like I kind of mentioned in the opener. We’re less than a quarter of the way through the season. Number one, I actually don’t think the trade deadline I wouldn’t categorize it as being soon, necessarily. We’ll always be active in the trade market. If there’s something that makes sense, we’ll pursue it. But I’m pretty aggressive and I like roster movement. But honestly, it’s probably pretty early across the league to comment in that regard.”


What impact have you seen Za’Darius (Smith) and Ogbo (Okoronkwo) make in (Jim) Schwartz’s scheme? And then how do you assess the individual improvement? We’ve seen from some of the defensive backs, Denzel (Ward), MJ (Emerson), Greg (Newsome) and (Grant) Delpit in particular? 

“Yeah. Z and Ogbo – they’re awesome. They’re you know energizer bunnies in terms, like, on a daily basis. They love playing, they love practicing. They both work incredibly hard. They love playing in the scheme because they get to pin their ears back and go. I think it’s been pretty neat to see the synergy, not just between those two, but that whole defensive line group. Z gives us a ton of flexibility with his ability to rush inside and outside. Ogbo gives us flexibility because he can rush on the edge, he can come from a two-point stance, and they’re a little bit like thunder and lightning. Z is really more of like a power rusher, and Ogbo can really win with speed. So they’ve really added a lot up front to us, and then really just with our secondary, Jake (Trotter), we really do have a young, dynamic group. They can smother in man coverage. They’re physical. They give us a lot of ability to match up with different styles of pass catchers. And I think Jim has allowed them to really play into a system that they enjoy playing in. It goes to their strengths, and those guys have really done a nice job so far this year.”


(Deshaun) Watson is in Houston this week. How is he getting rehab? 

“I’m sorry?”


Are you comfortable with that? I mean, isn’t he (Deshaun Watson) supposed to be getting rehab?

“I didn’t quite catch the beginning.”


 I understand he’s (Deshaun Watson) in Houston. 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t confirm his location.”


So is he (Deshaun Watson) getting rehab by the team? 

“He is definitely getting rehab, definitely resting, doing everything he needs to be able to play.”


How do you trust the state of your offensive line? Jed (Wills) is just taking a beating from everywhere, it seems. And then you’ve got Dawand (Jones) coming along really nicely, especially in the pass-blocking rounds. So can you kind of just give us a little update on where those guys are?

“Yeah, I think Jed would be the first to tell you that he hasn’t played as consistently as he knows he’s capable of playing. He’s capable of playing better. He will play better. He’s obviously going to be an important piece for us moving forward. And Dawand’s done a nice job coming in some really challenging circumstances. The first half of the first game in his rookie year. He hasn’t had a chance to catch his breath. Right. He’s played some really good pass rushers and he’s done well. I’m actually glad you asked about Dawand because I actually want to touch on this. Dawand has taken advantage of every resource that we’ve had within the organization and I think particularly for that young man, the way he came into the organization with a lot of the, what I would say, like anonymous criticism, kind of attacking his work ethic, his character, things like that. He really has been fantastic. He’s done a really nice job for us, and he should be commended for coming in and being prepared when his number was called much earlier than any of us anticipated.”


If the opportunity presents itself to add a significant salary and you can make whatever number you want. Are you comfortable doing that or how cognizant do you have to be in rolling over to make next year’s books?

“I think one of the things that we pride ourselves on from a front office perspective is maintaining the flexibility to do what we need to do to improve the team. So I wouldn’t rule out any style of transaction for us, Jason (Lloyd). We’ll do what makes sense for us organizationally. It’s probably the simple way to put it.”


I know this week is a week for you to evaluate kind of where you’ve been in the first four games and where you need to add and do that kind of thing. What kind of a challenge is it, though that the bye week is early? I know you mentioned it comes at a good time, but what challenges does it present that you only have four games to kind of. 

“Yeah, it’s more of a challenge because from a data perspective for your coaching staff, the situational samples, the tendency stuff, it’s really noisy just because you’re dealing with such a small number of plays when you just kind of slice it up. So you have to be careful and probably take some of the items with a little bit of a grain of salt. Usually, when you get middle of the year or later in the year, you have just kind of like this nice, robust set of plays or situations where you can really analyze it and get something a bit more prescriptive so that nuance is a little bit more challenging. Just like at the quality control levels of your coaching staff and with your analyst group. But like I said on the opener, again, I wouldn’t have said this in the beginning of the year, but I typically hate the early bye, but I do think it comes at a good time for us.”


Said you like to be aggressive, but right now it’s just a little bit too early. Is now a time where you kind of look over the NFL landscape, see who’s on the trade market and bookmark those guys? 

“We actually do that all the time. We actually, it’s usually starts middle of August. We have a weekly trade, we’ve done this actually for all four years, we have a weekly trade meeting within our front office group. We go through different ideas, go through different situations for opportunities that may or may not present itself. That’s what prompted the trade for Pierre (Strong) earlier in the season, Dustin (Hopkins), things like that. So when I say that we’re always canvassing and thinking through the trade market, it really is true. But in terms of maybe how you become a little bit more targeted or where those calls go or how aggressively you pursue, sometimes there is a bit of a timing element.”


What do you feel best about overall after the four weeks and then secondly, other than ball security one through 12,000, what’s your other concern? Your biggest concern? 

“Yeah, Terry (Pluto), what I feel best about is the group of players and coaches that we have. Through four weeks, we’ve had a number of, I would say, kind of stop and start setbacks right? Whether it’s key injuries, whether it’s playing with the backup quarterback, whether it’s coming off a bad loss and to see how the group has responded on a daily basis and focused on the work and focused on making the necessary changes and improvements on a weekly basis, that steadiness and that focus is going to serve us well as we go through the ups and downs of a long regular season. The big thing is, and this may sound, you guys may get tired of me saying this, but coming out of the bye, I think early in the season you’re going to throw a couple of jabs that miss, right? Like as you try different things, as you adjust to different things that happen in games. And I think the next several weeks are important for us as we adjust to the early learnings of the season. And as we get late into the year and we figure out our formula in each phase. It’s going to be really important that we lean into those strengths, and I’ve said that a thousand times: lean into those strengths so we can play our best ball.”


Going back to the run game, but kind of the bigger picture as you come out of the bye week, obviously with losing Nick Chubb and all the changes you guys have gone through, but what are you envisioning in the run game for the latter half of the season? 

“Yeah, I think that one of the things that’s interesting to me, when we got here in 2020, we largely started off as a wide zone under center team. And as the run game has evolved largely with the players that we had up front and then obviously having an all-world back in Nick, our run game has been really diverse. We’ve done a lot more gap scheme. Obviously, when we got to Deshaun (Watson), we added a QB run element. So over the past four years, we really have a pretty broad menu to draw from. So probably the short answer to your question is, I think we’re going to be able to be multiple moving forward based on the opponent, how we looked in the run game versus Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, that really had to change when we played Tennessee, which was arguably one of the best run fronts in the league. We tried to have more of a perimeter game, perhaps without as much success, and then you pivot to the passing game. So for us, it’s not necessarily about, okay, hey, we’re only going to do this. We have to be variable enough that we can adapt to our opponent.”



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