Alex Van Pelt Spoke to the Media today 1/6/22

On if he has sensed any tension between Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and QB Baker Mayfield, given external reports of frustration:

“No, absolutely not. I have seen zero of that. Kevin is in our meetings every day. He comes in, and we talk through everything that was installed every day. I know the line of communication is wide open between those two guys. I know they have met weekly on Tuesdays to make sure everything was good. I do not feel that at all. I do not. Kevin has always been open and very communicative with all of the players and coaches, as well.”

On Mayfield’s toughness this season and the disappointment for Mayfield that he will be unable to play in the final regular season game:

“I feel for him. I really do appreciate his effort this season. The guy was definitely in pain a lot of the time. (QB) Case (Keenum) said it well yesterday with talking about Baker and how tough he is. I have been around some tough guys, but he is up at the top of the list with the stuff he endured and went through this year. I appreciate his efforts. I know he wanted to be there for his teammates, but at some point, you have to make the decision that in this situation his health is most concerning to keep him healthy and get him right for the offseason for next year.”

On how Mayfield read the field and made decisions this season, specifically referring to a third-and-short against the Steelers that resulted in a sack when WR Donovan Peoples-Jones was open for a first down:

“That was a bad play for him, and he would be the first to admit it. A lot of things played into performance as the years go on and as this year went on. That will be something that we take a look at hard in our self-scout and see where we are. Statistically, did not have the year he had last year. Was not the same bodied, healthy person he was last year either so all of that is taken into consideration. On that particular play, yeah, it did look bad that Donovan was there, but Baker would be the first to tell you. I think he was just a little late to it, and then by the time he got there, he felt like the DB was driving on it.”

On if Mayfield can improve with decision making and reading the field:

“Absolutely. I think the third year in the system where you have complete, full understanding of everything, I think that ball would come out. It should have come out and we expected it to come out, but yeah, you always grow within a system. The more you are in it, the more understanding you have for the scheme and obviously, the more comfortable and better you will be within it. Definitely always room for improvement, and that is with every player.”

On the process of identifying areas of improvement this offseason without overcorrecting:

“There is always room for correction and always room for improvement. That is kind of where we are. In the offseason, we will dive deep, deep into that and see, as we do every year. Even during the bye week, we really took a dep dive into what we are doing, and we will always adjust, adapt and try to put our players in the best position, but there is always room for improvement. The top offense to the bottom offense in the league, you can always get better.”

On the challenges establishing a consistent offensive rhythm this year, particularly in the second half of the season:

“You would expect us to do so obviously. We had good stretches at times. We did not play well enough to get to the position where we wanted to be at the end of the season. We all acknowledge that and take accountability to a person for that. Disjointedness, injury or you can blame it on a lot of things, but ultimately, we have to play better. We have to be better in leverage situations, third downs and red zone. We have to do it all better. We did not do it well enough this year. We will dive in and see why not moving forward in the next few weeks and months. Everybody has to step it up. We can’t just roll our team out there and expect to be a playoff team. We have to put the work in. We have to detail our work, our fundamentals and everything that goes along with it, and I expect these guys to fully do that.”

On if there is any truth to a report that he would speak with officials at the University of Pittsburgh about a potential position with the team’s football staff:

“No. Not at all actually. My phone started to ring around that same time, and I have no idea where that had come from. I have not spoken to anybody at the University of Pittsburgh. I am very happy they had a heck of a season as a fan. I followed and watched, but definitely have not been contacted by anybody from there.”

On if there is a consideration for him to call plays in this week’s game:

“I work for Coach Kevin, and I am happy whichever role that would be. I think Kevin feels most comfortable calling the plays, and I do not know if I would disagree with him if I were in his shoes, as well. We do a lot together. Hopefully, as usual, we all have voices in the play calling as it goes forward, but I do not feel the need like I need to call the game. I think Kevin does a great job, and I am very comfortable in the role that I am in now.”

On why Mayfield continued to play despite battling injuries:

“We felt that he was healthy enough and gave us the best chance to win at that position. A big year for Baker as far as learning how to play through injury. Really proud of him. It is not uncommon in this league that guys play with things throughout the course of the year and get repaired in the offseason. It is kind of the ways it goes. It was his non-throwing shoulder. He was harnessed up and protected to the point. The game that he was not healthy enough to play, we started Case. It is a medical question. Each week if he was cleared medically to play, we thought it was in the best interest to the team to play him and give us the best chance to win.”

On if the Browns offense became ‘stale’ with returning players knowing their role:

“I hope not. I felt really good about where we were last year coming into the season with the returners. I know it is a comfort level, yes. I do not think anybody got complacent, no. A lot of people played who were not the original starters at the beginning of the season, and that is the way it always works in the NFL. I know we have to be better next year, and we have to find a way to improve in a lot of different areas.”

On T Jedrick Wills’ performance this season and if Wills made all of the desired improvements in the second year:

“That is a tough one. I know he got better. He got better as a player, I know that. He had as rough go early with the injuries and then with COVID. He was a guy who was not feeling great throughout that deal. To get him back, it probably was not the year he wanted to have, but I know he got better. I know working with (offensive line coach) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line coach) Coach (Scott) Peters for another year is only going to make you better. Hopefully, knock on wood, next year we can come back healthy, stay healthy and be very productive at that left tackle spot because he definitely has the ability to do it.”

On TE David Njoku’s performance this season and Njoku can continue to develop with the Browns, given Njoku is finishing a contract year:

“I think so. Personally, I like David and the way he played this year. He was productive for us and explosive in the pass game. He is very good at the point of attack in the run game. That is tough to find in tight ends. We are lucky to have three who can do both of those things. He did it at a high level. I was very proud of his season. He did some good things on both sides in the pass game and the run game. I definitely hope he is a part of us moving forward.”

On not having RB Kareem Hunt in multiple games impacted the Browns offense:

“It definitely would help if we did have him, there is no question. He is a star player. Very explosive. A very violent runner. Good in the pass game. Brings a lot to the table for second and third down for us. Unfortunately again, that injury bug stuck up and bit him, and it was one of many injuries we dealt with throughout the course of the year. Ultimately, you would like to have him for all 16, 17, 18 or 20 games, but we just have to find ways to keep winning when we do not have him in there. Again, it was that kind of year, just disjointed at times and did not have all. We were not loaded for bear every week as we were most of the time last year, but no excuses – still have to find ways to win.”

On RB D’Ernest Johnson’s performance this season:

“Very, very happy with D’Ernest. Never doubting him. He has always produced when his number has been called for us. He is very good in third down protection – understands the protection schemes and is physical in his blitz pick-up – and catch the ball out of the backfield. D’Ernest had a really good year for us with the things we asked him to do.”

On how Njoku developed this season and where Njoku can still improve:

“Without getting into great detail, I think he got better in the pass game. I think that was an area of improvement for him. Always room for improvement there. He is a who that has great straight-line speed as he may be getting in and out of the breaks at the breakpoint. Then just his ability to be physical in the run game, I think that has improved, as well. Again, he has had a very solid year for us.”

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