Browns Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt Meets The Press


Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt:

On what made him want to become Browns offensive coordinator:

“Obviously, having the opportunity to put an offense together with the group of guys was very intriguing. Another reason would be the talent that has been acquired here over the years. Obviously, the group is extremely talented, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Having the chance to work with those guys was another part of that. Then coming to the organization, the Browns have a long history as an organization and the city is another reason that I was excited to take the job.”

On his evaluation of QB Baker Mayfield and if he has spoken with Mayfield:

“We have touched base a few times now since I was hired. I have watched the season. I have watched last year. Obviously, I watched him live in the times we played against him. I loved him coming out of college. Most of the great quarterbacks I have had the chance to be around were extremely competitive to a point where they would try to beat you at darts or pool – it did not matter. I see that in his game. That is exciting. Obviously, he has the skillset, the talent, the arm, throwing the ball on the move, to escape pressure and all of those things. I think the future is bright.”

On if coaching Mayfield was among the reasons he was excited to join the Browns and if he sees opportunities for Mayfield to improve from last year following a strong rookie season:

“Absolutely. He is obviously a skilled player, a talented player. I love the fire and the passion in his game. It is our job as an offensive staff to help him and make him successful. Everything starts around the quarterback on the offensive side of the ball. We have to put him in the best position for him to have success, and that will make us all better.”

On immediate impressions of Mayfield from last season’s film:

“I think the ability to avoid pressure and escape pressure. The biggest thing that stood out probably on the tape was his accuracy on the move outside of the pocket when he had to create and escape, whether it be the play-action pass game and he is keeping the ball or he is breaking contain from a pass rush and then throwing the ball accurately down the field at all levels.”

On areas to address and help Mayfield improve:

“There are some fundamental things I have kind of targeted for him in the offseason, but that is more football techie talk and quarterback talk. Decision making and the increase of interceptions will be something that will be a point of emphasis, making the right decisions, protecting the team and protecting the ball.”

On Mayfield’s previous comments about focusing on his footwork and how much that will be a point of emphasis:

“There will probably be a change in the footwork. I have a belief and a philosophy of footwork, and it is extremely important to me and (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski), as well. It all starts with the feet. The feet never lie. They get you through your progressions. Just some of the ways that we will have him drop both from under center and in the gun will change slightly to help him.”

On if he and Stefanski discussed who will call plays during the hiring process:

“It was just as said, and it is really something we are just going to work through. Not having worked with Kevin in the past, I am sure he needs a comfort level with me as a coordinator. As we work through it, at this point, we are just trying to put together the best offense for our guys. At that point when it becomes a decision of who calls it, I think we will all know each other a lot better and feel good about whichever decision. Right now, it is nothing I am getting caught up on.”

On if he wants to call plays:

“I could easily call plays – I work for Kevin and am excited to do whatever role he wants me to do. Right now, I am coordinating and helping set this offense up with some good coaches.”

On the goal for QB accuracy, given Mayfield’s completion percentage was below 60 percent last year:

“Sixty-four [percent] is probably the benchmark we would like to get to. Anything above that, you are playing really well and efficient. All of that comes into play of are you taking advantage of your check-downs and little things like that. Sixty-four [percent] is usually the benchmark.”

On factors that may have led to Mayfield’s completion percentage being lower last season:

“There are a lot of things that play into that – some fundamentals, some of the technique and again some of the decision making. Some of it had to do with some times where he was running around trying to escape pressure. There is a lot that plays into that.”

On if he plans to work with the QBs on a daily basis:

“Yes, my plan is to be the voice in the [quarterback] room. I think that is very important. One of my strengths as a coach is coaching the quarterback so I definitely want to make that part of my job responsibilities.”

On his approach to balancing of targets for WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry within the scope of the entire offense:

“I think they are both talented players on the outside. They both deserve to get the ball as much as possible. The beauty of having both of them is you can’t tilt coverage one way or the other. I had a chance with (Packers WRs) Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson where when Davante came on board, it made Jordy a better player. I think having two guys that really make you play it straight defensively will help. As far as getting them the ball, that is our job as the offensive staff to scheme up ways to make them a top priority in the progressions.”

On if he feels QBs are more receptive to his coaching after playing for 11 years in the NFL:

“I don’t think it is necessary, but I can speak from experience. ‘Maybe let’s don’t try this footwork because I physically know that’s not the best way to do it.’ I think maybe just that, but it is nothing that I would say makes me better than any other quarterback coach.”

On if his initial evaluation indicated Mayfield was close or significantly off with his footwork last season:

“There are a lot of ways to do it. I have a personal belief of working with guys and having guys switch their feet that have not done it in the past. I have had success coaching that and I think in my opinion it is the way to go for a quarterback.”

On Mayfield stating previously he does not plan to work with an independent offseason QB coach and if there is someone the offensive staff would like him to work with this offseason:

“No disrespect to any of the guys who work with quarterbacks [in the offseason] – they all do a great job – but I would like to consider myself in that area and I would like to have him do it how we would do it here. If somebody is on board with how we do it, but I would hate to have him go somewhere else and teach him a different set of footwork or drill work.”

On if leading shotgun plays with a different foot will among the changes:

“Yes, there are three different ways from the gun – you can [start] in a balanced stance, you can have your left foot up or your right foot up. Right now, he has his right foot up. I think we are going to switch it to left foot up and see how he likes that. To me, that allows a quarterback to play with more rhythm. It is quarterback junky talk, but it is something I believe in.”

On the significance of changing a QB’s initial stance in the shotgun:

“It is not hard. Have been in touch already. Just said, ‘Hey, think about putting your left foot up and just do it in your living room.’ You work through it and you feel more comfortable with it, and then it becomes habit like anything else.”

On if starting with the left foot forward in a shotgun formation helps a QB drop back a bit faster:

“It is my opinion it helps in the three-step game, the quick game. There is more rhythm and it is not as robotic. It is more fluid. I have always used the term that I want the feet to be like Mozart and not like Metallica, if that makes sense. Not to say that he is, but with the footwork, it is just the fluid motion moving back there in the pocket as you go through your progressions.”

On how a zone blocking scheme could help a player like RB Nick Chubb:

“The wide zone scheme? It is going to help because he is a great wide zone runner already from the film I have watched. He has great patience. He does a great job of stepping on the linemen’s heels before he makes the cut. He knows the right distance to stretch. He has a great feel for it already.”

On describing Chubb as a runner:

“The more of him I have watched, the more impressed I am. He is a strong runner. He has the speed to get through the whole, but he also has the ability to break those arm tackles. Those guys aiming for his legs… He runs through a lot more arm tackles than I thought just watching. A very strong runner with width, burst and speed and has great vision and feel.”

On if there is a reason to add QB coach to his title:

“That doesn’t mean anything to me. I would always want to spend the time in the quarterback room. That is where it starts. That is where the offense should be built is around the quarterback and how you make him successful. That is a very important room.”

On if there is a Browns offensive playbook yet:

“There is. There is a lot of a playbook actually. We are going through it right now, just detailing everything up and making sure we are all saying it the same way. The beauty of this group of guys is we have all coached in multiple schemes and multiple systems so it is just a matter of do you want to speak Spanish, French or English and everybody has the same vocabulary. That is what we are getting through right now.”

On how similar his offense with the Bengals last year was to Stefanski’s offense with the Vikings last season:

“The verbiage, somewhat. There is some carryover. It is kind of West Coast based, but everybody has a different twist to it. There is enough where you can see it and go, ‘Oh yeah, I know what you mean. That is this in another system.’ There is enough carryover.”

On if he has a significant amount of experience with a wide zone running scheme:

“Yes, I do.”

On helping adjust footwork for other NFL QBs:

“(Bengals QB) Andy Dalton would be the latest one. (Bengals QB) Ryan Finley came in as a rookie last year, and I thought it help improve him once he got the footwork down. He struggled a little bit in the spring with it, but after the summer and we came back from training camp, it was a lot better.”

On if some QBs resort to bad habits with footwork or other elements when in the heat of the moment:

“Hopefully, the muscle memory over the course of time won’t allow that to happen. That is what we are shooting for. Yes, it can happen. Yes, it does early on.”

On his biggest challenge in the new role:

“That is a good question. I don’t really foresee challenges. I see opportunities more than anything else. The staff that is in that room is unbelievable and the experience of NFL football from playing to coaching and being with one of the top O line coaches in the game right now. It is awesome to go in there, learn and listen and collaboratively put together this playbook. There are no real challenges. It is probably not to have too much because we have all been through it and we all have our little favorites and to not get it diluted with too much.”

On if improvement on the Browns OL is an area of need:

“Yes, I think that is an area that is targeted for sure.”

On opportunities for Beckham and Landry to improve from 2019:

“I think the biggest thing is to find what they do well and put them in those positions. If it is something that is not in their wheelhouse, don’t ask them to do it. It is just like the quarterback. Do what he does well over and over again with repetition and muscle memory, and the timing of the pass game and all that will help. Both are extremely talented receivers and I am very fired up to work with both of them.”

On if it was difficult to walk away from the Bengals knowing they own the No. 1 pick and have the opportunity to select Louisiana State QB Joe Burrow:

“No, not at all. He is obviously going to be a fine quarterback wherever he goes, but you never know. To have an opportunity to come in and coordinate an offense doesn’t come around very often so it was an easy decision.”

On if he had previously coached with Stefanski:

“I had not. I had not had a chance to work with him. Just common friends and common coaches that have worked together over the years. Very excited to get the opportunity to get to know him better and work with him. He is obviously a very smart guy.”

On if he knew Stefanski prior to joining the Browns:

“I did not, no.”

On if the Browns offense will be based on the Vikings offense last season with some additions:

“Exactly, that is the starting point. It will start with the wide zone and the play-action pass and the movement to keep passes off of that will be a big part of what we do.”

On the statistical differences for Mayfield with play action last season and if using play action could help increase Mayfield’s productivity in 2020:

“I think so. I think that is the plan. If you are running the ball well with the guys that we have – we think we will be running the ball well – the play-action is a huge part of the game, explosive gains, completion percentages and everything that comes off of that. Play action will be a big part of what we do. It is something that I have always believed in. I was taught a long time ago by (former NFL coach) Paul Hackett who emphasized play action and the art of it or the lost art of it. I think it is something we will get back to.”

On his approach to coaching Beckham and Landry, given their talent and strong personalities:

“I am excited. I see not just talented guys; I see guys who can be leaders because they are vocal and they are voices in that locker room. It is our job to help them be positive leaders, and that is what I think both guys want to do.”

On philosophies regarding the precision of routes and WRs being able to freelance:

“You have to be at the right place at the right time every time as a receiver. The freelancing is not a big part of the system. I think there are times that you will do that to get a little creative, but the quarterback needs to know when those times are and things need to time up. The footwork, the timing of the feet and where you are in the progression is a big part of the system.”

On if he has talked with Beckham and Landry:

“I have. I had the chance to meet both of them. I am very excited. They are fired up, I think, and I am definitely excited.”

On Beckham not being satisfied with his 2019 production and if there are opportunities for strong production from Beckham in 2020 within this offense:

“I hate to speculate, but yes. I feel like that we can have a very explosive offense.”

On if RB Kareem Hunt’s versatility provides excitement with the opportunities available:

“He is very exciting to watch. You can see the passion for the game come out in his play. He seems like a team guy. Whether he is lead blocking, running routes out of the backfield or carrying the ball, he does it all well. To have two of those guys is exciting.”

On opportunities with Chubb and Hunt in the backfield at the same time:

“I think it creates unbelievable matchups. It depends on how you want to play it [defensively]. Not to get into specifics, but if you want to keep a smaller defensive group out there, then you can run the ball with two effective runners. If you want to get bigger and try to stop the run, now you have mismatch problems if you motion one of those guys out of the backfield because both of those guys are good route runners and can catch the ball well. It is interesting, but it is going to be something that I would think we would have those guys on the field a lot because of those.”

On the importance of TEs in a play-action passing game and evaluating the Browns TEs:

“Right now, have talented pass-catching type of tight end that can block well enough, as well. That is an area that we will maybe have to look at further down the road if there is a guy right now that is on the roster who is more of that in-line blocking tight end. I am not sure yet. I have not had enough time to look through that, but the tight end is obviously important in the run game and the play action.”

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