STC Mike Priefer (9.24.20)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On the Browns’ special teams play to open the season, given it is likely not the start he hoped: 

“Yeah, it is not even close to be honest with you. We are not playing at the expectation level that obviously I have set for this unit or the guys have set for themselves. We take a lot of pride in special teams with the Cleveland Browns. We obviously have not covered kicks anywhere near like we covered them a year ago. A lot of same guys have come back – we had some new faces in there – but obviously, we are going to continue to challenge people because that is our philosophy, but at the end of the day, we have to cover a heck of a lot better. Obviously, the first game was a terrible game. I am glad I did not talk to you guys after that game. It was not a lot of fun. We did not play well. We hurt our football team in numerous areas. We played a little bit better against Cincinnati but still did not cover kickoffs very well. We have our challenges, but like anything else, I have always had the philosophy that you just go back to work. You keep working. You get the guys that you have and you get them better. They have a great attitude. They have had a good week of practice thus far this week. We plan on getting after Washington. Although they are very good, we plan on having our best game of the season so far.”

 

On problems identified with the Browns’ kickoff coverage in the first two weeks:

“We have not covered kickoffs with the same speed and tenacity that we did a year ago. We have lost leverage where we did not lose leverage last year. We have not tackled well, like we tackled well a year ago. Does that mean we need some reps under our belt before we get going? That is no excuse. Everybody is in the same boat. No one had preseason games last year so we will never use that as an excuse. We just have to play better. We have to play faster. We have to play more aggressive. We have to keep our hands. We have to keep leverage. We have to do the little things better than we have obviously been doing thus far in order to be a weapon for this football team.”

On K Cody Parkey’s performance in his first game:

“He made his PATs. That was a start. That was huge. Could he kick off better? Sure. He had a couple nice ones. The one out of bounds is unacceptable. We will never accept that. That was a mistake. Other than that, I thought he kicked off OK – good enough for us to win with. Like I said, his PATs all went right down the middle. Protection was good, and the snap and the hold were good. We have to keep going in that direction.”

On disappointment in having to make a kicking change early in the season and his confidence in Parkey:

“The thing about Cody, he is very smooth. He is very accurate. He is a veteran guy that that has been there before. That is why we brought him in on the practice squad to give us that stability. I was very disappointed to be honest with you. We had to make the change. It was a change that was necessary because it was more mental than anything with (Bengals K) Austin (Seibert). I think Austin still an NFL kicker. I think he will kick in this league for a long time if he can get the mental part of it figured out because he is very, very talented.”

On signing K Matt McCrane to the practice squad:

“I had studied Matt coming out of Kansas State, like we do all these young, talented kickers. He is somebody that we were interested in Minnesota to bring in as a college free agent. I have always kept in contact with him and had interest in him. The big thing, he did a great job in the XFL. I think he was 10 for 10 on his field goals and he kicked off well. He was very successful there. He is like Cody in that he is very smooth and he is very accurate. He needs to get a little bit stronger as he gets older here with his kickoffs especially, but he is a guy that can help us if we ever needed him to.”

On the Browns’ kickoffs not reaching the end zone consistently, if that is a strategic choice and the balance between kicking for coverage versus touchbacks:

“That was our philosophy all last year, if you guys recall. We were very good at it, and we felt like we were the best kickoff team in the NFL year ago. We wanted to start that way this year in Baltimore. They got us with one good return, and obviously, Cincinnati got us with a couple. I think it is more of a situational thing. Right now, we have to get our confidence back on kickoff. We are still going to challenge people, but we have to pick and choose our spots.”

On teaching points following the onside kick during the Falcons-Cowboys game on Sunday:

“Our guys know that the ball has to go 10 yards before the kicking team can touch it. They also know that the kicking team cannot block unless the ball is going 10 yards or if the hands team comes up and blocks them first. The big coaching point today – we are doing hands team today – was if that ball spinning and it is an easy one, just to fall on it. That is exactly what we would do. I know that is a tough situation and that was a tough play. The crazy thing is Atlanta had played great on special teams the whole day, and they are going to be remembered for that one play. They stopped two fakes, covered well and they forced penalties, and unfortunately, they give up that play at the end that really hurt them. For us, our philosophy would be to get on that ball quickly. If you think it is going to go 10 while we are still protected within that 10-yard window, we have to get on the ball.”

On evaluating WR JoJo Natson’s returns in the first two weeks:

“We have not been challenged with our kickoff return. Everybody has kicked touchbacks, as you guys have seen the first two games, because he is dangerous. I do not blame teams for doing that. That is what we did against him last year when he was with LA. He will be ready. The good thing about JoJo, he is making good decisions. He wants to make a play. He understands his importance to this football team as our return man, but he is making good decisions back there, which I am really pleased with thus far. Punt return, he had a nice 13-yarder against Cincinnati, gave us great field position and we score three or four plays later so we helped set up a score there. That has to be our philosophy – score or setup a score. Obviously, the No. 1 thing for both return units is ball possession. We have not had the great opportunities yet, but hopefully, we will get some coming up this weekend.”

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