G Joel Bitonio (12.17.20)

G Joel Bitonio:

On NY Giants TE coach Freddie Kitchens calling plays on Sunday and if either team will have an advantage based on it:

“I heard that. I just saw that. (C) JC (Tretter) sent it to me. He called plays for us for a year and a half so he has some experience there. I think that is just the logical next man up. He has some head coaching experience and OC experience. I think they run a little bit different offense than they were running here. I am sure they are using the same plays and stuff that (NY Giants offensive coordinator) Coach (Jason) Garrett had in. I do not really know if there an advantage or a disadvantage. I know guys know some of the plays that he would call here and that he was prone to call. They might know some things, but I am sure he is going to change that up, as well. It is a little cat and mouse.”


On if it excites him when Head Coach Kevin Stefanski is aggressive with play calling and is not afraid to go for it on fourth down or two-point conversions:

“We want to try and use all our opportunities that we have in a game. I think if you look at the analytics behind it, most of the things that he is doing are technically the right move, if you go from a research [perspective], at least from what I have seen, like you are supposed to go for it in those fourth down situations and you are supposed to go for two down 14. We took a one-point lead with that strategy so there are cool things that happen. I think it is kind of a new age. You want to be aggressive. You feel like you have the chances. If you are in that kind of [range where] you might not be able to kick a field goal and you might have to punt and you know you have four downs to get a first down instead of only three, you can be a little bit more aggressive on the early downs and you can maybe run it on third-and-3 or 4 instead of just having to pass it every time. I think it just gives you more opportunities. As an offense, we enjoy taking our chances and trying to go get points when we can.”


On if Stefanski ever explains his decisions behind the aggressive play calls:

“No, he has not talked to us. He told us we were a four-down team in certain situations when we kind of get in that 40-to-40 or even like a little closer to 30-to-maybe-30 range and there is a chance we are going to go for it on fourth down if it is reasonable. Just things like that that we have kind of grown to know it. Maybe if we have a timeout before a third down or something of that nature, they might say, ‘Hey, we are going for this if we come up short,’ but there is nothing guaranteed like, ‘Hey, this drive we are going for it or last drive we are not.’”


On if QB Baker Mayfield has been different since the bye week, given Mayfield’s increased production since that time: 

“Same guy mentally. I have not seen really a huge difference from day to day practice and meetings. Again, we are not around each other as much, but he has been the same guy mentality wise. The whole season, he is trying to learn. I do think there is a comfort and understanding with what we are trying to do in the offense for everybody. As we continue to grow and continue to learn, it has been good. I know we had a few of those games where it was monsoons out there and we had a bunch of rain and wind where we could not be as aggressive on offense, and that probably hindered some of the numbers. If you look at it, three games in a 16-game season is actually quite a big percentage of games that you see where the numbers could be skewed slightly. Mentality wise, he is always trying to learn and always trying to grow and just trying to be the best version of himself each week. You kind of see that. I think you get more comfortable in the offense, like we just talked about, you understand kind of what Coach Stefanski, (offensive coordinator) Coach (Alex) Van Pelt and all of these guys are trying to accomplish with our offense. The more games you play in it, the better you feel. You look at a guy – obviously, it is way down the line – like a (Buccaneers QB) Tom Brady who was in the same offense for 15-20 years and understands all of the checks, you just get more comfortable with those things and it gives you a chance to grow as a player.”


On the Browns taking it one game and one week at a time while entering the final three games of the season in playoff contention and potentially ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought: 

“We have been focused on each week, and we have a tough challenge coming in. They have won four out of five. They are fighting for a playoff spot themselves. It is a big challenge. Their defense has played well. They have kind of been the catalyst for their success. We have a huge challenge this week. We understand if we take care of our own business, everything else will play out. Right now, we are thinking about beating the New York Giants on Sunday night. That is the most important thing for us. If we handle our business, everything else will kind of fall into place for us. That is a nice place to be in. We have been in places where it is like, ‘Oh, if they win the last six games and everybody else loses, they have a chance to make the playoffs.’ If we just handle ourselves and we handle our business this week, I think things will fall into place for us.”


On how valuable T Chris Hubbard’s versatility has been this season: 

“All season long, he has been pretty money coming off and being that sixth lineman for us. It has actually been pretty impressive. I know he was banged up going into the season a little bit, but then that that second week, (T) Jack (Conklin) had a little injury, and he came in and played right tackle. We missed (G) Wyatt (Teller) a little bit earlier in the season, and he played right guard. This last game, he got like three or four snaps at left tackle. It has been impressive what he can do. Having a versatile piece like that where you do not have to switch linemen over and do bunch of different changes, you only want to change one position really when you have an unfortunate injury, and he has done a great job. He is ready to go at really any of the positions. I know he has played center in his career, too. He is ready to go. He is a vet. He has played a lot of games. He has started a lot of games in Pitt (Pittsburgh) and here. It just brings a presence. He understands he knows what he is going to do on a play, he is going to go out there and compete and he has been in the fight before. It is all of the things you kind of want with an experienced backup offensive lineman.”


On what RB Kareem Hunt’s receiving ability adds to the Browns offense: 

“It elevates it just a notch more. Obviously, we are banged up with (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr,) out at receiver and young guys have had to step up. When you can put the running backs in the passing game and screen games if you spread them out wide, he is making plays. That last drive, he had two big catches to score a touchdown. He is just dynamic. I feel like Kareem is that guy that he is just a football player. I am sure when he grew up, he probably played running back, receiver, safety, linebacker… Any position on the field, I feel like if you gave him enough time to kind of learn it, he would be a guy who could go out there and play. He just makes it a dynamic offense. You have (RB) Nick (Chubb) and Kareem back there and then you have some more receivers. He can line up in the slot. He can line up wide. He can play running back. It has been pretty impressive to see. I felt like that last drive if we got the ball back with enough time, I thought we were going to score again. Obviously, we only had two seconds left. It just gives us a lot more opportunities and it really opens up the field for us.”


# # #