New Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods fielded some questions regarding the defensive system he wants to implement. He also provided the defensive perspective of what it's like to defend the offensive scheme the Browns plan to utilize under head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Woods was first asked what he wanted to do with his scheme. While he joked initially, he did provide some insight based on his history.
“Well, if I tell you, I am telling everybody in the league (laughter). I have been on some good defensive staffs the last couple years, going back to my time in Minnesota, my time in Denver, with (former NFL defensive coordinator) Wade Phillips and then last year in San Francisco. What I am really putting together is a combination of what I feel like have been the top defenses of the last basically 10 years. It is really a combination of the things that I have done in Minnesota, Denver and San Francisco, and they all fit together. We are almost through our whole install so I feel like it is going to be a really good defensive package that is simple where the guys can play fast, but I think it will cause some problems for the offenses.”
A few of the questions were focused on teaching defense in this environment, forced to utilize virtual meetings.
“The first thing, and really in the NFL the way it has trended over the last decade or so, you really do not do things physically on the field in terms of tackling guys and bringing them to the ground so a lot of drill work and individual, a lot of group work in terms of teaching that aspect of it. I tell you what honestly, I feel like these Zoom meetings have been really good because it forces you to be very detailed with everything you are trying to put in. We have had really good conversations as a defensive staff to make sure that the exact wording is right, the picture is right and the lines are right, and the same thing with the players because everything they are getting is virtually so they are asking a lot of good questions. Our defensive staff has done a great job. We are doing things with testing and PowerPoint. We have different apps that coaches are using. I get on meetings every day with each position group, and I think they are doing a great job and I think they are learning a lot. The physical part of it, that is the stuff we can’t get. We just have to wait until we get on the field.”
The next question followed up on the idea of being able to determine if players were absorbing what he was teaching. The answer was not unlike being a traditional teacher in a virtual classroom with online testing.
“It is really the process we are going through. Right now, I will install the defense and then our coaches will have it installed that is more specific to their position. Part of it is a playbook install. Then the other part of it is a video install, which will include practice tape and game tape. The coaches have done a great job of giving quizzes. We also do stuff online, where we will ask them a question, whether it is about a defense or a play, and they have to answer through a chat. When everybody is on the same screen, one guy says, ‘Oh, it is that,’ and everybody else says, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.’ When you put them in the chat room and they have to answer individually, now you really know if they know the question that you are asking them. We have gone through great lengths to try to do as much as we can to really find out what they are learning. To me, I really think it is going well.”
Taking a break from discussing his own defense, Woods was asked about defending the offense Stefanski intends to run, the challenges it presents. It still provided some insight into his attitude when it comes to defense overall.
“Really, what it comes down to is how effective are you really stopping the run. That scheme, we played against (Minnesota) in the playoffs last year when I was with San Fran. I was with (Vikings offensive coordinator/assistant head coach) Coach (Gary) Kubiak in Denver for basically two years and with (49ers Head Coach) Kyle (Shanahan). They really want to try to establish the run. Once they get you going with the run, and you are running sideways and you are running downhill, now here comes the play action or misdirection. Part of it to me is you have to try to make those guys one dimensional. If you can’t make them one dimensional, then it is going to be a long day for you. Offensively, I view it as an easier offense for a quarterback to operate, just because the run puts them in position to have success in the pass game. Defensively, for us, it will all start and we better knock the run out.”
Woods was asked about his preparation for the AFC North, including Lamar Jackson and then what's coming in Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
“We spent some time, I will tell you that. We have done some things this offseason to help us. What Baltimore does is unique in terms of their scheme. Played against them last year so I am familiar with it and what they do, but we did do some things this offseason as a defensive staff to help us out with playing against a team like Baltimore. Obviously with Lamar (Jackson), he is just athletic, speed and he can do it all. You can have a guy accounting for him, but can that guy make the play? That is what it comes down to. We have done things to help us in terms of playing Baltimore. With Cincinnati, we know Joe Burrow and all the clout with him and what he did in college last year. Obviously, he is going to be a great player in this league. The one thing I would tell you is every week, it is something in the NFL. There are no pushovers. There are no easy games, and there is going to be a matchup issue. That is what the NFL is about, it is all about matchups. We will have our hands full every week.”
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