Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt (6.1.22)

On what TE David Njoku can improve this season after signing a contract extension with the Browns:

“Just the details of catching the ball. He has really good hands at times, but just finishing the plays. The route development, especially on plays where he has to break down and make cuts. David is really fast and a really good straight-line runner so improvement in his route-running ability when he is not doing those things. Extremely happy for him. He has worked hard and really deserves that [contract extension], and we are happy to have him here and back in the mix.”


On Njoku’s evolution at TE:

“It has been great. It has been fun to watch to be honest with you. To see a guy who you would not label himself as a run blocker become one of the best run blocking tight ends in the league has been impressive. His toughness, his strength, his ability to understand our scheme and what we are asking him to do, he has grown tremendously. It has been fun.”


On first impressions of QB Deshaun Watson:

“He is very dynamic. The accuracy and the arm strength are two of the things that stand out the most. His football knowledge is vast. He is learning our system as we go, but you can tell he has a lot of football experience in his body. He is fun to watch, and this is just in settings of controlled pockets. Going back and watching the tape, he is obviously a tremendous player outside the pocket, as well, when he extends the plays.”


On if he sees some of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in Watson, given his time with Rodgers:

“I do. I do. His ability to escape is top notch, elite in the league and then his ability to make plays outside the pocket is up there, too. There are some similarities.”


On how Watson’s skillset opens up the Browns playbook:

“There are different things we will be able to do. I think moving forward with him we will take some of the things that he did well in Houston and implement him into our system. At the same time, obviously, we are a run-first offense, and we are never going to shy away from handing the ball off to (RBs) Nick (Chubb) and Kareem (Hunt).”


On if Watson still has rust to shake off at this point of the year:

“I think there is always rust. Whether it is just the offseason coming back into the OTAs, players have rust from that. A whole year out, there is definitely going to be rust. You can see it, but he is working through that.”


On standing with Watson during practice:

“We are just trying to bank reps right now. Our installs are pretty small so he is getting the same play maybe with a different personnel grouping or different formation variation, but he is repping the same play three or four times in a day so we are trying to build that muscle memory and bank up those reps.”


On WR David Bell:

“David is a rookie. As all rookies, when they get thrown in there, they are swimming a little bit, but he has come on. Especially in the last few days, he has made some plays with Deshaun out there. He has a real knack of knowing how to get open. I think with David, the more confidence he has and what route he has, his ability shines. It is a work in progress, and he is growing each day.”


On when teams need to see young WRs take a leap in their development:

“The guys who are going to be in the mix need to step up now. Now is the time they are getting plenty of reps in there, and as we get into the minicamp at the end, we should have a good feel about who we have at the receiver position. Those guys are working extremely hard.”


On Browns players stating Watson has been completely locked in when at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus and if that has also been his impression:

“Absolutely. I came through two or three days ago to leave the office last week about 5:30 p.m., and he was just wrapping up the day. He spends the time in the building. He puts the work in. He has great study habits. You get text questions in the evening where you know he is going through the scripts. He is putting the work in.”


On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones and WR Anthony Schwartz ability to grow into the role as No. 2 WR:

“Donovan is having an outstanding OTA session. He has really shined out there. He has done some really good things. We expect him to pick up where he left off last year. He is a guy who has been productive for us. He is an intelligent guy who can play multiple spots. You can move him around the formation. He does a really nice job in his route running. Status quo for him. He has actually been better than he has. Schwartzy now is a guy who came in last year and kind of had some ups and downs but has really focused in now. He is catching the ball extremely well. He is a guy who can definitely stretch the field for you. We are getting to see some of those things now come to fruition. Very happy with both of those guys where they are right now, but they do need to keep contributing for us.”


On the Browns using more three-WR sets and if that would be the case if QB Baker Mayfield was still the team’s starting QB:

“Yeah, it is more based on how we structure practice this year. We put more of an emphasis on situational football. That means every day we are practicing third downs and red zone. Generally, those situations require 11 personnel or Zebra personnel with three-wide receiver sets.”


On if the Browns identified a need to use more three-WR sets during the postseason self-scout:

“We needed to work on our passing game and our drop-back passing game, whether that is two tight ends and two wides or three wide receivers. That is definitely an area of emphasis for us. Going in, we are treating this camp like a passing camp, more or less. I think at the end of this we will have 350 passes versus live competition and seven-on-seven periods. We definitely focused in on our drop-back passing game as a point of emphasis this offseason.”


On Bell adjusting to reps in the slot:

“That is something that I think is a strength of his. We identified it early on in the scouting process that he is a guy who can find the holes in the zones and really understands how to work to get open. That is something that is natural for him.”


On his personal relationship with Mayfield and Mayfield’s future in the NFL:

“That is a tough one. You have to keep personal relationships personal, but I think Baker is a very good quarterback and has a good future ahead of him.”



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