Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (9.9.21)


Opening statement:

“Obviously, an exciting week for our team, for our fans, for our organization and everybody heading down to Kansas City. Outstanding football team. Very, very well coached. They have really good players, an outstanding kicker and excellent young punter. They have a ton of returners they can choose from, and their core guys play hard. It is a great test for us. They are already keeping me up at night the way Kansas City plays the game. It is going to be a great test. Looking forward to Sunday afternoon.”


On evaluating RB Demetric Felton as a kick returner at Atlanta:

“Demetric has a chance because he has good vision – like that running back vision, the running back reps in college and of course the NFL have helped him. He has a chance to be our returner. (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) is there. (RB) D’Ernest Johnson is there. We could put (WR) Anthony Schwartz back there as a kickoff returner, as well. We have a few good young guys who are working hard, and we will see where we are. The head coach and I will have that discussion right before the game, and we will figure it out, probably who is going to take both or one or the other.”


On how far along Schwartz is in developing to join the return game:

“He is probably not a punt returner right now, but as a kickoff returner, I think he has the ability now that he is healthy, he is getting more reps in practice. We are using him on different phases, as well because we are going to utilize his speed as much as we can.”


On K Chase McLaughlin:

“He has had a good camp. As I told him – he and I have had good discussions – he has not had a great camp, but he had a good camp. I think he is a solid good kicker who has bounced around the league a little bit as kind of a fill-in for guys when they were hurt. Now, he has had his opportunity – some people say that it might be by default, but I figured he was well on his way to winning that job anyway. I think he has done enough to win the job. Now, he has to keep getting better every week. He has to make the kicks when we need him to make them and kick off well. I am excited about where he is. Hopefully, he can come through for us.”


On if the K situation will be similar to last season when it was a week-by-week basis:

“I do not think so because we expect Chase to be very successful. Last year, like I said before, our kicker had a very poor camp and so Week 1 was kind of the last straw type thing. I think Chase has had a good camp. I hope we are not going to pull the trigger. I hope he goes out and kicks well and he is our kicker for the entire year.”


On if there was a mechanical issue for McLaughlin on the missed PAT in Atlanta:

“Yeah, it was weird. He pushed it right. It was almost like the game was over and he lost focus, which as I told him, ‘I do not care if it is a preseason game or a playoff game, it does not matter, and anywhere in between. If you are a kicker or a punter, you are punting for your job or you are kicking for your job every single rep.’ I think he understands that. He is a young guy who made a mistake. It was a good snap and a good hold, and he should have made it.”


On evaluating McLaughlin’s near miss on a 57-yard FG attempt at Atlanta:

“He hit it pretty good. It was weird – not to make excuses because they would never make excuses – I saw it after the game and I went on to the field and walked in Atlanta’s stadium, and the way they painted the falcon, there was no really hash marks. It was hard to tell, and usually, they are painted there and that is what you use as a reference point so we were a little bit off. The lace was a little bit off. (P) Jamie (Gillan) did a great job of turning them, and Chase gave it a ride. When you attempt anything over 55, it has to be a near perfect operation, and it was not. I think we needed to be [perfect] if we are going to make that kick.”


On if the 57-yarder shows McLaughlin’s leg strength:

“I think he has plenty of leg strength for that kick. He made a 60 or 61-yarder in pregame with no problem.”


On the Browns signing K Chris Naggar to the practice squad:

“I did the Zoom interview with him. Really liked him coming out of SMU. He was kind of a one-year wonder because he had been a punter and backup kicker at Texas. He graduated from there and wanted an opportunity to kick at a major program in SMU. Put him on scholarship for the year, and I thought he had an outstanding year. He is still young, and he is raw, but he has a big leg. I think he is a very good young developmental kicker.”


On if the point of emphasis is always to protect the ball over other aspects on special teams:

“To me, it has always been my philosophy. Even when I have coached on teams where offenses may not be as good or we are not as good as a team, we are always trying to make plays, but you can make two or three great plays and then turn the ball over and lose the game. The No. 1 thing for us is ball possession. I tell them after, everything else is a bonus. We have to do a great job of playing ball possession football, and we have to make sure we are not penalized.”


On what area of special teams would an offensive shootout have the most impact:

“I think it is everything because everything you talk about complementary football, we are kicking off and punting; we have to be a weapon. We either have to pin them inside the 10-15-yardline on punts or anytime inside the 20 when we get that opportunity. On kickoffs, they are very aggressive bringing balls out so we have our work cut out for us there. If we have that high hangtime kick 2 or 3 [yards] deep, we have to cover that and get it inside the 20. On the flip side, to help our offense because they have a very good defense – they have good players across the board and Coach (defensive coordinator Steve) Spagnola does a great job as their coordinator – I think at the end of the day, we have to put our offense in the best field positions possible and making good decisions. If that means taking a touchback on kickoff, then we get the ball at the 25. Our punt return game, last year, we did not force it. Our defense is so much better than it was a year ago, we expect to hopefully get a few punt return opportunities so we can help our offense in that regard.”


On if McLaughlin has the ability to hit kicks straight through the back of the end zone:

“When he missed his PAT in Atlanta, I was not very happy with him so I told him that he better put it out through the back of the end zone, and he did. He does have the ability to do that. He has a nice leg.”


On if he believes Peoples-Jones is better as a returner this year compared to last:

“I do because I think he has a lot more confidence. He is very smart. We all know what an intelligent football player he is. We know he is going to make good decisions back there. I think he is healthier to be honest with you. I think he got banged up a little bit, and I think he is in a really good spot. I know he has had a great camp on offense. We have him more involved in different phases of special teams, not only returner, so you can see him grow as a player. I think he is better than he was a year ago.”


On if he has a sense of a collective mindset of the team heading into Sunday:

“I think our guys are excited. What I like about this team is it has enough veteran players, like (S) John Johnson (III), (LB) Anthony Walker Jr. and those types of guys that we brought in to mix with the (DE) Myles Garretts and (QB) Baker Mayfields who we have already had here and the veteran guys. We have a lot of leaders. We have a good offensive line and good defensive line. I think we have a good special teams. Our defense will be better, like we have said. Our offense will continue to score points. I think we have a quiet confidence about us right now. You know me, I am not going to make any predictions. I just feel good about our football team. I think we have a confident football team. We have a long way to go, and like (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski always says, ‘We have a lot of work to do.’ Today is another big workday to help us prepare for Sunday. This is not a good football team but a great football team we are playing on Sunday.”


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