Browns’ Kevin Stefanski on the Falcons: ‘We know that we have our work cut out for us’

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here’s what Browns coach Kevin Stefanski had to say to the Cleveland media on Wednesday ahead of the Browns’ game against the Falcons on Sunday (1 p.m, Mercedes-Benz Stadium):

Opening statement: “On (injured Browns defensive end) Myles (Garrett), very, very grateful that he is OK. I have spoken to him. He is staying home today resting, but we will see him tomorrow morning. Again, grateful that he is OK.

“On Atlanta, a good team coming off a big victory in Seattle. That is a very, very difficult place to play. To go get a win I thought was very impressive by their group. Even this whole season, they have played some very, very close games. We know that we have our work cut out for us. We know that it is going to have to be a 60-minute game with this team. I am very impressed with (Falcons) coach (Arthur) Smith and his whole group – offense, defense and special teams. I think when you watch their offense, it is very difficult to defend. They do a lot. They do it well. They have very big players.

“I was with (Falcons running back) Cordarrelle Patterson (in Minnesota). He is a very big football player. He run very, very hard and breaks tackles. A really good football player. On the perimeter with (Falcons wide receiver) Drake London and (Falcons tight end) Kyle Pitts, big physical football players, active and great ball skills. A very good rushing attack. Definitely have our work cut out for us.

“Defensively, it is a (Falcons defensive coordinator) Dean Pees defense, which means they do a lot, and they do it well. They can max drop into coverage. They can max blitz. They do it, and they understand the defense. I think he has speed at all levels. I have been very impressed watching his group running to the ball.

“Special teams, you have to be about your business. It is a very good unit. Obviously, Cordarrelle being a threat there as a kick returner. A bunch of good players on their team and very well-coached so we are going to have to have a very good week of practice to head down to Atlanta.”

On the Browns always taking a cautious approach with players returning to play and if the team will be even more cautious with Garrett about returning to play following the car accident: “I am not ruling anybody out on Wednesday. We will kind of do what we always do, which is take in information every single day.”

On if Garrett will practice tomorrow: “We will see.”

On the trauma Garrett experienced with the car accident is taken into account when considering availability for this week’s game, in addition to the physical effects: “Yeah, I think you take everything into account. Like we do with anything, it is case-by-case basis. Really, I have spoken to him, but get to have him in the building tomorrow and talk more in-depth.”

On if the Browns enter the week-of-game preparation with the assumption Garrett will or will not play: “I don’t think you can do that. I think you just put your plan together.”

On if Garrett is not at the (Browns) campus Wednesday because further medical evaluation at a hospital was needed: “No, just resting.”

On if he sensed members of the Browns were shaken after learning about and seeing photos from Garrett’s accident: “No. I would say just because it was the off-day, they were gone for the day, so I was not around them on those days, so I can’t speak to that. Again, these guys are a teammate and very important -- and grateful that he is OK.”

On if defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is closer to returning to play following the ankle injury: “I really think it is take it day by day on all of these guys. JD in particular, I don’t have a feel yet. As we get later in the week, I will have a better feel.”

On when cornerback Denzel Ward sustained an injury, given Ward was listed on the pre-practice injury report as a “did not practice” because of back and ribs: “Just something has popped up. Just normal things for guys. I don’t know that there was a specific play.”

On DE Alex Wright’s performance last week: “I think we have talked about Alex a bunch. I have been consistent with what I say about him because he has been consistent with what he has done. He has done a nice job when he is in there, going all of the way back to the spring when he got reps as a young player. Everything was new, and it continues to be new for young players, but I think he is growing in his role.”

On how the Falcons’ use of (run-pass options) and zone-read plays on offense affects the Browns defensive line: “Their offense really affects all three levels of the defense, not just the defensive line. To your point, they have a quarterback (Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota) who is very, very adept at the zone-read game. He has been doing it all the way back through college and the pros. He can definitely make you pay from the pocket throwing the ball. He can make you pay in the zone-read keeping the ball. They have designed keepers and those type of things. He fits with what they are doing. I think they are doing a nice job utilizing his skill set.”

On if he was surprised by Patterson’s ability to successfully transition from wide receiver to running back, given they spent time together with the Vikings: “Not surprised because I have seen him do it. He is an unbelievable football player. He is a great person, also, which probably is most important. With the ball in his hands, he is special. When we had him (in Minnesota) as a young player, he was a receiver and then kind of transitioned him into a role where we gave it to him very similar to we had (former NFL wide receiver) Percy Harvin before Cordarrelle, so we kind of used Cordarrelle in that role and gave him the ball. He is just a special player. (Pass game coordinator/wide receivers) coach (Chad) O’Shea had him in New England so a lot of familiarity with Cordarrelle. An unbelievable football player.”

On the challenges defending RPOs in the NFL as it has become more prevalent in the league after seeing success in the college game: “There is a lot of offense. In particular, Atlanta, they run a lot of offense. They are not running one style of offense. They are doing a really nice job of implementing different attacks. Whatever you want to call that element of it, whether it is zone-read or whatever, it has a lot of nuance. They have good football players. They are doing a nice job of running plays that give defenses trouble. Some plays give certain schemes trouble, so they have evolved in what they are doing week to week.”

On how the Falcons defense uses its personnel and edge players standing up in position: “They play every front. They do have a base odd front where they have stand up players, but they can jump into any front really at any moment, which makes you very, very diligent about your plan, how you teach it and those type of things because you really could see any front from this team. Fortunately, really through this season, we have seen really a lot of different fronts from people.”

On challenges defending Pitts, particularly when lining up out wide and the decision to defend Pitts as more of a wide receiver or a tight end: “It is hard because if you treat him as a receiver, you are getting smaller; you treat him as a tight end, you are getting bigger. He can line up everywhere, and you don’t know per play where he is going to line up. That is the beauty of having versatile football players, and he is a really good one. I think everybody sees the tape and sees what kind of special talent he is.”

On if running back Nick Chubb is cutting even better than past seasons: “It is hard for me to compare him year to year. I do think he is playing at a high level. He is seeing it clearly. He is feeling healthy. I think he has a good feel for our run schemes. I think we have a good feel for him as a runner. He is definitely playing at a high level.”

On Pees coaching in his 50th season: “He is awesome. He is great. I don’t know coach Pees real well. I have talked to him before games. Having coached against him, he presents all sorts of challenges. We have a lot of coaches on staff who know him from over the years. He is a really, really good football coach.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Oct. 9 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.


Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD