Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt (1.5.23)


On the biggest changes from the first half to the second half of last week’s game:

“Execution I think was the biggest thing. Guys made plays in the second half. Our third-down conversions and our efficiency. We ran the ball well in the second. We ran it well in the first half, too – we just didn’t have a lot of cracks at it. That was the biggest thing. We went in the locker room, and it was kind of a strange locker room. It was very quiet. It was different. Challenged the guys to come out and play their best football in the second half, and they did. We really did everything we wanted to do in that second half until we put on the brakes.”


On if QB Deshaun Watson’s performance in the second half gives the team a good feeling about Watson’s abilities in the future while continuing to grow within the Browns offense:

“Absolutely. He is a dynamic, explosive player who can make plays with his legs and his arm. He showed that in the second half. That is what we are expecting moving forward. We saw glimpses of it throughout the course of his time back, but now he had a whole half of it playing at a high level.”


On the best throw Watson has made this season:

“I would go back to the game on second-and-long he threw to (TE) David Njoku on the left side of the offensive formation. It was a play that we run a lot of. This is one of the looks that we get that is very rare where the ball went, and he saw it extremely well. He put it exactly where it had to be. It was a defense that is not rare but unique, I would say. That coverage dictated that ball to go there. He saw it right away and dotted him. That was probably the most impressive, other than the ones he made yesterday in practice, but that was different.”


On if Watson throws the ball harder than QB Jacoby Brissett, given it seems there have been more drops from Browns players in recent weeks:

“It is probably a little more velocity on it, but no excuses. We have to catch the football.”


On Watson going back to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones last week after a dropped pass:

“I think he obviously trusts the player. I think he trusts the system. He trusts his read on that play when he threw it back to Donovan. That is where the defense dictated he go with that ball, and he found him. I have never seen him shy away from going back to somebody after a drop. That is part of the game. I don’t see receivers stop running routes because he missed a throw. We trust each other. Everybody is going to make plays. We are going to have times when we don’t make those plays. We just have to fight through and expect to execute in those situations.”


On Steelers LB T.J. Watt potentially lining up against T James Hudson III this week, if Hudson plays due to T Jack Conklin’s injury:

“We will see how that goes down the stretch here. Jack’s health, we will see. Whoever is in there regardless, he a guy who you have to obviously be aware of and spend extra attention and extra time with and help in protection. We understand that. There are plays where we are not going to be able to do that based on situation where we have to stand up and block him. Obviously, an extremely talented player in both phases of the defense run and pass. A really good defensive front. You go onto (Steelers DT) Cam (Heyward) is playing at a high level, like he always does, and (Steelers LB Alex) Highsmith on the other edge gives us a challenge on both edges in pass protection and run game.”


On how Hudson could benefit this week from playing against Watt last season:

“That alone, just the experience of going against him and studying what his plan was against James and how he can counter that. We have to help him at the same time. We were deep in the pocket last year at times, and that made it tougher for James. Being where we are supposed to be and things like that. James is a year older. He has been through the training of (offensive line coach) Bill (Callahan) and (assistant offensive line coach) Scott (Peters) for another year, and we expect James to  play better than he played last year if he does play.”


On what QB Kellen Mond has shown during the past few months:

“Improvement. He really has. Came in late in the program there trying to learn it and catch up. Very smart guy. Attention to detail is great. Speaks up in the room and asks good questions. We do have these opportunity periods at the end of practice for the younger players to go out there and compete. He has gotten better through the course of the season in those periods. Excited to work with him in the future.”


On the impact of C Ethan Pocic returning from injured reserve and the potential for Pocic to return to the Browns next season:

“I don’t know [about next season]. I know that I am proud of the player and the person. He is a guy who stepped in and takes pride in his work. You see it in walkthroughs, everything he does is with detail. He is a really solid, solid player for us. Does a great job of running the calls up front, and his play has been very good. I think I said last week I would be very happy to have him back. Man, just what a great job he has done coming in and stepping in from Day 1 and really not missing a beat.”


On T Jedrick Wills Jr.’s season:

“Jed has gotten better. He has definitely gotten better. Fundamentally, I think his pass protection has gotten better. His run game, he has improved. There is a guy who just continues to do good work each year and has gotten better since he has gotten here.”


On if Wills has struggled at times this season:

“There are glimpses of ups and downs. I think the biggest thing for Jed is just consistency, playing at the same level and finishing every play to the end of the whistle I think are just the two areas. A very talented guy who does good things for us.”


On how RB Nick Chubb averaging more than 7 yards per carry last week allows the Browns offense to open the gameplan for Watson and the passing game:

“Obviously, it would start with the run-actions and play-actions off of those runs that are generated in the production. We started there. Hit a couple of those. Didn’t have the down-the-field throws off of the play-action last week, but did a great job at the quarterback position of taking what was there. We dropped a couple short to (TE) Harrison (Bryant) in the flats on those run-action type of plays. Gives you that. Gives you the keeper game as well off of the runs. I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Nick’s ability to break tackles and carry defenders for extra yards is impressive. I know he is close to having one of his best years as a runner. Really, you ask Nick to do something, and it gets done. That is the thing about Nick you love. You make a correction in a meeting, and it shows up immediately on the practice field or a walkthrough. He is just a true pro through and through. Really happy for the year he’s had.”


On WR Amari Cooper nearing a career-high in receiving yards and if that is meaningful:

“Yeah, I think it does. It means something to me. I want to see these guys hit their personal bests. That is important to me. I think it is important to (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski). These guys put all of the work in. Why not have their best years when we have the ability to capture those? Aware of where he is and aware of where Nick is, and (TE) David (Njoku) needs some catches to be there, as well. That is in the forefront of mind at least. They deserve it.”


On if the Browns may transition the offense this offseason to lean more on the passing game with Watson next year, given the unit has been built upon establishing the run game in recent seasons:

“That is a fair question. I think the self-scout will tell us those answers. I know that is something that we have discussed openly: ‘Where are we now with Deshaun as our quarterback?’ We will finish this game out, we will peel that onion back and then make those decisions in the offseason. When you have a Pro Bowl running back, it is hard to say that you don’t want to start with that run game. It is finding that happy medium somewhere in the middle, and we will do that throughout the course of this offseason.”


On if the Browns have accomplished what was desired in Watson’s games this season ahead of offseason evaluations:

“We are close. I think we are close. I think he would be the first to tell you some of the footwork and the rhythm and the timing that we are not 100 percent there yet, but we have gotten a lot better since we started for sure. Really impressed with his improvement each week. Kind of knew that going in it was going to be a little rough early to start until he got his football legs back, and now you are seeing what we are expecting from him moving forward.”


On the Steelers defense’s improved performance during the second half of the season and how Steelers LB T.J. Watt and defensive scheme play a factor in that advancement:

“Adding that player back into the mix is a big part of it for sure. They have gotten some different packages as of late versus some bigger groupings. They are playing a lot of those snaps, which is making it tough to run the football on. They are doing good things. They have always been sound in their scheme, and they have always been disciplined. It is tough to run on the edges. It is tough up the middle. It is a good solid defense for sure. You have (Steelers S Minkah) Fitzpatrick who is a high variance player and you are not exactly sure where he is going to be or how he is going to play from play to play. A difficult defense to get ready for. We have had success in certain areas. I think the biggest area for us is staying in manageable down and distance throughout the course of the game and then converting on short third downs like we did last time.”


On the Bills statement about Bills S Damar Hamlin’s status improving and how that may impact coaches and players:

“It is great news. Great news. I will leave it at that.”


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