Q. LB Davion Taylor got his most action in a game so far this year. Wanted to know how he handled it and if there is a chance we might see him more down the stretch here? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, one of the reasons was they were playing so many big personnel groups, 13 where there are three tight ends and only one wide receiver, 22 where there’s two tight ends and two backs, only one wide receiver. So we were in heavy positions where we had either an extra safety in the game, [S] K’Von [Wallace] got a couple of those, or an extra linebacker on the field and it was all in an effort to shut down their run game that came out of it. Just like anybody else, I mean, you guys know I don’t like to grade players but suffice to say just like a lot of the defense had some good plays and had some bad plays, some things we need to work on and get a little bit better at.
Q. With the results the last few weeks and how the defense has performed versus the offense, and you guys not getting the results you want, how do you keep it from being a defense versus offense thing that can fester in the locker room? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That’s not even in our mentality. I think any team would tell you the same thing. Our goal is one thing and that is to win the game, that could be 7-3 or 38-37. We know that’s the only important thing is getting the win. That’s the only thing we concentrate on. Part of being a resilient team, of being a tough team is being able to persevere through tough times. It’s not all easy. It’s not all doing the electric slide. There’s going to come some times where you have to battle through some injury situations or some situations where one side of the ball is struggling or not. The offense has picked us up plenty of times. We’ve picked the offense up. We look at it as it’s our job and we can do more.
Q. I know you just said you don’t like to grade players, but LB Alex Singleton seems to have shown up with this opportunity. Has he done enough to be in the mix for you pretty consistently even if you are at full strength at linebacker? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: He’s always been a good football player. He’s still learning. I’m going to quote Bill Parcells, ‘let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.’ And I say that with a lot of respect for Alex. He plays tough and really brings some things to our defense. But he’s not 100 percent clean in his game. He’d probably be the first person to tell you that and there’s still things that he’s developing through and he’s still working at. But just knowing him and his character, he’s going to work at it to get it right. There were a couple plays left on the field and this goes to all great players, and probably any player in the NFL, they don’t really think about their success. They think about the plays that they gave up on the field, the plays that they had a chance to make, but maybe took a wrong step or looked at the wrong thing and that’s the only way you get better. That’s the only way you keep improving. You have to be critical of yourself and you have to look at the things that you need to clean up and not just sort of get drunk on your success so to speak. I really like Alex’s mentality that way. Makes mistakes like a lot of young players do or players that are playing for the first time. Gets them corrected and moves on. I think that he’s definitely earning his wings, so to speak, but he’s still a work in progress and he’s still a guy that needs to grind through and iron some things out. But I like where he’s trending, and I think it’s a nice plus for our defense right now.
Q. Are there examples from your coaching career of players whose instincts have taken a big jump over the course of their career, especially at linebacker or safety where it seems to be so important? (Bo Wulf)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think a lot of things you guys might think are instincts are really just quick decision making and I think that quick decision-making a lot of times comes from experience. And what happens is you’ve just gone through it a million times or you know exactly what to look at. Your preparation, all those kind of things. We have all seen players that might not time well, but they play fast. I think a lot of that is just that preparation and that slowing of the game down, I think is probably a little bit overtold, the slowing of the game.
But those guys that can do that, that can play, they play fast and it’s more — I mean, there is some instincts involved. I don’t want to say there aren’t, but I think that the experience and the preparation and those things, every young player that I’ve been around, those have been the things that have sort of turned them into very successful players. Instincts can only take you so far in this league. Athletic ability can only take you so far in this league. Everybody is a supreme athlete. Everybody is a good football player. Everybody has those things. It’s the little things that separate the guys that end up becoming great players and the ones that sort of mire in mediocrity.
Q. Seahawks WR DK Metcalf had a couple really big games against you guys last season. What is he doing that’s taken his game to another level this year and how do you think having CB Darius Slay can kind of offset some of the success he’s had against you guys? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, he’s so big. His arms are so long and things like that. Slay has generally been good handling guys like that, whether it’s — I mean, you name it, [Bengals WR] A.J. Green or any of these other guys that he’s been matched up on. He has those long arms and he can poke balls away and things like that. It’s a great challenge for us. It’s not just getting him covered, it’s tackling him. You have to defend every inch of the field with a guy like that. They can just throw a zero hitch to him, zero meaning it’s a zero-yard route and just get him the ball and he’s hard to handle. He’s strong and fast and he’s like a linebacker, so you have to get him tackled on that stuff. He also has the speed to be able to go deep.
It’s a great challenge for us. Just watching him and having played him a couple times in the last year and watch him develop and just getting just one day of game planning in so far, I would say this: I think he’s a much improved player in working with the quarterback and understanding [Seahawks QB] Russell Wilson’s scrambles and how to get open versus scrambles because it’s not just about running your route. When it does break down and you have a quarterback that can scramble, it’s about being on the same page with him and knowing what spots you want to get to. He seems to be a much-improved player doing that. He’s made a lot of big plays this year doing that.
It’s a lot of things, getting him tackled on short routes, getting him covered on deep balls, and staying with him on plays that are extended. We’re going to have to do all three of those things to limit him.
Q. What’s your process when you are in the midst of a season that’s not going well? Do you have an approach that you have found works best in order to get your players to respond at their best? (Tim McManus)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I have to say, I disagree a little bit with the premise of your question. I don’t think anybody looks at the season and says, ‘This isn’t going well. This is the way we have to handle it.’ You’re in the moment every week. You’re competing every single week and every single week is a new challenge. You have to keep your eyes on that, and you have to be able to persevere through great times, big wins, bounce back from a big win, bounce back from a big loss.
You look across the NFL, it’s not always just sort of all happy times for great teams. It’s been awhile since I looked at this, but there’s been a bunch of Super Bowl champions who lost four games in a row at different times and you have to be able to battle through those things and just know they are part of the game; and the ability to stay resilient, the ability to battle through those things. I think people talk a lot about like playing without watching the scoreboard. I think that’s a cliché you hear, ‘Hey, you just have to go out and play, don’t pay any attention to the scoreboard, you have to treat every game like it’s 0-0 whether you are up 30 or down 30.’ I think that also applies to the season. You have to be resilient enough to know it’s not always going to go your way and it’s not always going to be perfect. Maybe sometimes you have times where it does but that’s probably the exception as opposed to the rule in this league. This league rewards people that are perseverant, teams that can persevere. It rewards people that are tough-minded and I think we keep our eye on things like that.
Q. On the long run by Browns RB Nick Chubb in that game, DE Joe Ostman didn’t get him down the first time, but he chased him down and got him down the second try. Does that kind of effort resonate with you as something you point out as an example of his good play? (Nick Fierro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: [DE] Joe [Ostman] is one of most relentless players I’ve ever been around. The thing is for him, people generally only see it on the practice field. But everybody misses tackles. We actually missed four tackles on that play, but Joe had a missed tackle on the play and also had a tackle downfield and a tackle downfield for a defensive lineman is a huge, huge thing.
No. 1 there’s a lot of situations where you can force fumbles because you have big men hitting smaller men deep down the field and a lot of times they are not looking. I think that that was one of those plays you’ve got to dust yourself off and you’ve got to hold them again. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that on that series, gave up a longer completion on the first play, gave up a long run on the second, and then had a chance to get a fumble. They ruled it as progress, was stopped right there, which philosophically, I don’t agree with either. I get it when a quarterback is in the pocket and his momentum is stopped and you want that quick whistle and things like that. But when you’ve got these quarterbacks that are runners and putting their head down trying to shove it up into the goal line and stuff like that, they are runners. They are running backs in just my personal opinion. I don’t think they deserve quick whistles like that. But when it was all said and done at the end of the day, gave up a touchdown there and that was a real back breaker for us, and we’ve got to do better.
I would say this, not just Joe, but particularly in this game, [DE] Josh Sweat made a lot of big plays down the field and played with a lot of energy and made some big hits on some plays. We’ve seen it all year with guys like [DE] Derek Barnett. We’ve seen it from [DE] Brandon Graham. That’s sort of part and parcel to what we do and a hallmark of those guys. Nothing special that Joe did there; it’s his job in that game. He felt incredibly terrible about it and felt responsible for the play and you have to point out to players, ‘Look, you weren’t the only guy to miss on that play.’ That guy has made a lot of guys miss the whole year and has run a lot of stuff. You can’t lose your confidence over one play. Dust yourself off, buckle your chinstrap again and let’s go win the next snap. Or get off the ground and go tackle him down the field. Not just Joe on that play, but Josh Sweat I thought, just to single him out in particular, made a lot of those big plays down the field and we need to keep grinding on those things.
Q. There were several times during the game, even though your unit only gave up 13 points, the Eagles offense seemed to do something good and then the next series for the Browns, something — they had a big play, they scored points. Is that the way you saw it and what did you think was happening? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I can assure you every play we go out there, we’re trying to stop them. It’s just the way football is. There were three times in this game that we had to take the field right around midfield whether it was after the safety or a backed-up punt or a turnover, whatever it is. I think right around that midfield stripe, and all three of those I think combined, we gave up three points. I look at things like that and say, ‘We need to go out and hold them to a field goal here. Or we need to go out and get a quick three-and-out and stop them,’ and we did those. We did those jobs. I really look at that drive we just talked about as — was the one that we would obviously like to have back, and it was different things. Our coverage fit wasn’t great, and we gave up a longer completion on the first play and we missed a bunch of tackles on the second play. Looked like we had a chance to all of a sudden rally, a little bit like the first drive, or second drive when we stopped them on the goal line. Didn’t get that one and then the kid makes a great play and jumps over us for a touchdown. Can’t lose confidence over stuff like that. I think that we’re out there every single series with a mindset of, ‘Hey, we have to get this drive stopped.’
I think you do need to resist the urge, and I didn’t see it on any of those plays, but you have to resist the urge of trying to do too much where it’s like, ‘Oh, offense just scored, we need to get a turnover here.’ And then all of a sudden, you’ve got a guy cheating on a play and gives up a play. That wasn’t the case in that play. I mean, that was more so one of them was a little bit self-inflicted and the others, I sort of tip my cap to a running back that made an outstanding play. A lot of other plays in the game that we can be resilient, that we can bounce back on, but I would guard against the mentality of trying to do anything other than just do your job within a series, whether the offense just scored or the offense has turned the ball over. I think a little bit like I talked about before, keeping that mentality, keeping that grind, is important to us.
Q. You guys did a really good job of containing Browns QB Baker Mayfield’s mobility in the pocket. You face a similar test with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson this week. How can QB Jalen Hurts, based on what you’ve even on the scout team the first ten weeks, help you prepare for a challenge like that? (Mike Kaye)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We’ve always had different guys. Go back, [WR] Greg Ward a couple years ago, played quarterback with Russell Wilson. A lot of those escapes, he would give ground and things like that. I thought in our playoff game last year, we had one play we were in zone coverage and our linebackers are trying to get depth under these deep, play action routes and Russell Wilson saw that and scrambled, I don’t remember how many yards it was, seemed like it was about 50 but it was probably like 25 or 30. You have to keep track of him at all times. It’s not just your pass rush. It’s every layer of your defense and vision because not only can he scramble for yards, but he can keep things alive and make plays like we talked about before to Metcalf or any of those other guys. He’s great at finding open guys when he’s scrambling around. Adds another layer.
I’m sure Jalen will give us a good look at that. That’s in his skill set. We have had a lot of different guys that have gone and given us that. It’s different in practice because you’re not hitting anybody, and there’s not the immediacy of getting hit if you’re out there in practice so it does go a little bit more. With Baker Mayfield, they weren’t going to give us very many chances to hit him. Our opportunities were mainly coming on third downs. On first down it was boot, it was run, and it was empty three-step pass and the ball was coming out of his hand fast. We just needed to stay focused and keep battling knowing that our opportunities were going to come in different ways. And I thought that the guys did a pretty good job of that. You sort of had a little bit of a broken play on one of those third downs and Mayfield was able to scramble for a first down. Don’t know exactly what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t look like everything went the same way but he was able to tuck it and run it, so he did make plays in that game with his legs, and that’s going to be an important part of this week’s battle against Russell Wilson.
Q. In the past three years, you’ve had CB Avonte Maddox at corner, in the slot, at safety. What evidence do you have or what makes you think that the best way to use him is on the outside? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We have confidence in him no matter where he is on the field. He’s a good, tough football player. He’s had some rough patches this year, but he’s also bounced back and had some really good patches. He’s probably a lot like our defense and really he had about one bad play in that game, the pass interference and his eyes got a little bit bad and had to go chase a play and put himself in a tough position on that play.
But we have a lot of confidence in Avonte. We obviously lost [CB] Cre’Von [LeBlanc] late in that game but on the other side of that equation, I thought [CB] Nickell Robey [Coleman] had one of his best games of the year for us. We were playing a lot of man-to-man, particularly on third downs, and there were a lot of bunch situations, a lot of pick situations and we really saw Robey’s, his veteran experience out there sorting a lot of that stuff out. I thought he covered really well in this game, and I thought we saw good signs from those guys.