OC Alex Van Pelt (12.11.20)

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt:

On the state of the Browns now compared to Week 1 and QB Baker Mayfield’s growth this season:

“I think we are definitely a different team. Early on, all we talked about was ‘Hey, we are still trying to figure out who we are and trying to figure out how people fit within the system.’ We have done a good job of that and we have improved pretty much each game throughout the season. His play, he has done a really good job as of late of protecting the football. He has gotten better. I think last week was his best performance since the Cincinnati game down in Cincinnati, where he went on that streak there in the second half. He is continuing to improve. We are all starting to understand who we are as an offense and what we need to get done to have success on Sundays.”

On his comment after the Steelers game that Mayfield’s ‘arrow was up,’ despite the tough loss, and if he envisioned Mayfield’s improved performance at that time or if part of it was needing to give Mayfield a vote of confidence:

“No, I do not think he needs a vote of confidence. He is a tremendous player, a tremendous competitor, loves the game, very smart and does a great job off of the field studying each week. We played a good defense that day. We did not play our best, but I knew and I had a feeling inside – I think we all do within the organization – that Baker is a really good quarterback. As we grow and he continues to grow, we are starting to see some of that now.”

On if he feels more nervous or excited when a trick play is called, referring to the TD pass to T Kendall Lamm:

“You are always excited. It was a great call by (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski). I thought that was the right time. Obviously, it worked exactly how we had planned it. You get confidence as you watch those plays in practice in the prior weeks. Generally, it is something you have on the back burner and you cook it up for a few weeks back there before it is game ready. Every time we threw Kendall the ball, he caught it with clean hands. He is an athlete out there in space. Had a lot of confidence the play was going to work and thought it was a great time to call it.”

On selecting Lamm to be the Browns OL to catch the pass on that play:

“He is a guy that we have used a lot in what we call our muscle package when we use him as an extra tight end on the field so he fit right into that scheme. He is the one that goes out there first.”

On if he has ever had the same type of success as RB Kareem Hunt to get RB Nick Chubb to laugh, smile and get out of his shell more:

“I think I had him smile the other day. He had his mask on, and I was not sure. I think Baker said he did smile. I did see his eyes wrinkle up a little bit like a smile (laughter). If anybody can get someone out of their shell, it is definitely Kareem. He has a great sense of humor and a great way about him.”

On how the chemistry and relationship between Chubb and Hunt impacts the Browns offense’s success:

“It is a great room. (Run game coordinator/running backs coach) Stump (Mitchell) does a great job in there with those guys. It is two different personalities: one is really outgoing and one is really business-like. It is kind of the odd couple, and then you have Jano (FB Andy Janovich) the meat head in there that just loves to run into people. It is a really great room. I am really proud of Stump and the way he has gotten those guys to work for him.”

On his reaction when learning Mayfield was the first Browns QB with four TD passes in the first half since Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Otto Graham:

“After the game, you kind of hear those things when you read the clippings. During the game it is just, ‘Hey, next drive. What do we have on the next drive?’ and kind of stay focused and narrowed in on what is coming. To look back and reflect on what we did in that first half, I have not been around many offensive performances – I can only think of one other time – where you put that kind of points up on the board and you had that kind of success offensively. I thought he played his best game. Again, he was lights out, but the accuracy was exceptional.”

On comparing Mayfield’s performance against the Titans to the Bengals game and what made last week’s performance better:

“Obviously, going down there, the magnitude of the game, the records of the two teams and the talk during the week of how this was a playoff type game and just his ability to raise his level of play, I think it makes it a little bit better.”

On an example of how the Browns know the offense is ‘thinking faster’:

“You just see it. You get the reps over and over again. I think there is early on in a system like this, anytime you put in a new system in, there is some thinking involved. What we are looking for is total understanding of the system and then just reaction. I think we are seeing that now. It is hard to pinpoint one example, but guys now I think they understand exactly what we are trying to get done there, and it is just a matter of the repetitions in practice over and over again. When it comes to game time, it is just that quick recognition and then just reacting for muscle memory of what we have practiced. I think definitely guys are reacting quicker now.”

On some positions and players needing to have a short-term memory and others needing success to build on confidence and where Mayfield fits between those two:

“I think quarterbacks are different. You do definitely have to have the short memory, but at the same time when you start to roll and when you have success, you have to understand why you are having that success and what am I doing and what can I do to continue that success. I think that is where we are now with Baker. Really, a great feel for what we are looking for from him and his style of play. Like I said, it has been impressive to watch him grow through the season.”

On how the Ravens defense is able to be so effective with their pressures: 

“They have a unique skillset of guys who can play down lineman and linebacker in their base package and rush the passer. They have been together for a long time, too, so there is a lot of defense there. They have a good understanding of their scheme, and they are very multiple. They also pressure a ton, probably more than anybody else in the league. Across the course of a game, you are going to get about 60-70 percent pressure, which is a high number so the success rate there is going to be high for them. They have multiple schemes. There are multiple looks, multiple schemes and multiple personnel groupings. They really challenge you as an offense. Plus, they are a talented group of guys.”

On if the next step for Mayfield is beating and performing well against a top-ranked defense like the Ravens: 

“Absolutely, we strive for that every week. It is going to be a heck of a challenge, one of our biggest ones of the year to date. Yeah, it would be great obviously to see him go out and have a great performance versus a top defense and all of us offensively to go out and play well. We need to play our best game. This is a really good defense. We have to come out and play really well to have success against this defense, and that is what we are planning on doing.”

On WR Jarvis Landry’s preparation behind the scenes and how that has given Landry the ability to consistently produce throughout his career: 

“He is a great communicator on the practice field, even helping other guys with routes. His knowledge of the game and his unique ability to get himself open and make contested catches and then what he can do after the catch with the ball in his hand is unique. Just a true pro. Comes out and he works hard, and he helps everyone else around him. You can go back to the touchdown he had in the game, what a great route he ran. He had the corner trailing and he kind of used his eyes to kind of fool the guy with which way he was going. When he gets hot, really, I feel like he can beat anybody in coverage. He is really, really good. He is an exceptional wide receiver. I am glad to have him. He works his butt off to do it.”

On what gives him confidence that Mayfield and the Browns offense can handle the Ravens’ pressure better this week, given Mayfield has been protected well in their two best performances this season: 

“I think we do a great job with (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and Stump (Mitchell) do a great job. We have multiple walkthroughs on their pressure packages, and we spent extra time on it this week obviously because it is a big part of who they are. Really, it is not Baker handling the pressure; it is everybody involved handling the pressure. That really goes across the board from the line to the blocking unit to the backs understanding where we are going and the communication that comes and then it is the outside receivers winning, winning on time and being available so we can get the ball out in the play on time. It does not just fall on Baker. It falls on the offense and the coaching staff to put these guys in situations to be successful and then everybody has to win across the board when it comes to pressure.”

On how important WR Rashard Higgins has been for the Browns offense, particularly since WR Odell Beckham Jr. sustained a season-ending injury: 

“Big time. There is a guy that just goes out and works every day. When his number was called, I remember in the Cincinnati game just telling him on the sideline, ‘Hey, you got this. You have been there and done that. Just go out and play with a lot of confidence.’ He does. He is another guy that works extremely hard. (Pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach) Chad O’Shea does a great job in that room. Those guys are always prepared. He is a guy who just comes to work every day and puts the work in. I am glad to see him have success because he deserves it.”

On how difficult the Ravens CBs make it for WRs and complement the pass rush, given the Ravens also have big name CBs: 

“They really do. They are a talented group across the board. They cover well outside. Big, physical guys on the outside and some Pro Bowlers there. It is going to be critical. We are going to have to run great routes and be very disciplined. They are very physical at the same time. These guys are big, strong guys that will grab you early and at the end of the route. It is stuff that we are aware of, and we expect those guys to win.”

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