Connect with us


Notes: Steve Wilks downplays facing Cardinals, who fired him after one year as head coach

BEREA — Steve Wilks hasn’t been gone from Arizona long enough for the wounds to heal completely.

He got his first NFL head coaching job in January after a year as defensive coordinator for the Panthers. Less than a year later, after a 3-13 season, he was fired by the Cardinals and quickly replaced by fired Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Wilks found a new job in a hurry, as rookie Browns coach Freddie Kitchens hired him as defensive coordinator. Wilks is back in Arizona this weekend, as the Browns (6-7) meet the Cardinals (3-9-1) needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“To be honest, I do not really have emotions in regards to this week,” Wilks said. “I want to win this game just like I wanted to win last week’s game, just like I wanted to win the first game against Tennessee. My focus is trying to get these guys in position to be successful. Hopefully, we can go out there and get a win.”


Wilks comes across as stoic, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t churning on the inside.

“If he’s got a personal vendetta, there’s just more juice to it, hopefully the play calling, everything he calls hits home,” defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. “If there’s a hidden agenda there, he hasn’t shown it, but if not, we’ll hold it down for him.”

The Browns defense ranks 15th in scoring (22.4 points a game), 16th overall (346.0 yards), 26th against the run (128.2) and eighth against the pass (217.8).

Wilks, 50, believes he grew during his year in the desert.

“What I learned is just really how to deal with adversity,” he said. “As a head coach, trying to prepare each and every week, trying to get your guys up to perform at a high level. It was difficult going through the struggles, but I thought the guys performed and played well and they stayed together throughout.

“There were a lot of things I learned and a lot of things that I will carry moving forward.”

Middle linebacker Joe Schobert said it’s not Wilks’ style to make a big deal of his reunion with the Cardinals.

“He’ll have a little emotion in his head, but he’s not going to say it out loud, he’s not going to make it about him,” Schobert said.


The Browns ruled out defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) and defensive back Eric Murray (knee) before traveling to Arizona. Vernon will miss his fifth game in six weeks, and Murray will miss his seventh straight following knee surgery.

** Center JC Tretter (knee) and right tackle Chris Hubbard (knee) were listed as questionable. They were limited in practice Friday.

** For the Cardinals, inside linebacker Joe Walker (ribs), left guard Justin Pugh (back), receiver Andy Isabella (shoulder) and cornerback Kevin Peterson (shoulder) were listed as questionable.


The Arizona specialists should look familiar.

Punter Andy Lee was with the Browns in 2015, and kicker Zane Gonzalez was a seventh-round pick of the Browns in 2017. He was cut following Week 2 last season after he missed five kicks in the first two games, a tie with Pittsburgh and a close loss to New Orleans.

“I worked Zane out when he was at Arizona State and he had all the talent in the world,” Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “Maybe he was not ready. Some guys when they get to the league, they are not maybe mature enough or they are not quite ready for the bright lights of the NFL or whatever the case may be. I do not know what it was with Zane, I do not know him that well but I do know he has done a very good job this year.”

Gonzalez is 27-for-30 on field goals and 23-for-24 on extra points this year. He’s third in the NFL in field goals and has made 17 straight.

 Lee is second with a 48.5-yard gross, 12th with a 41.5 net.

“Yeah, he still has it,” Priefer said. “When he has a little bit of time back there, he really bombs a good ball. He is having a real good year.”


Pass rushing linebacker Chandler Jones gets a lot of attention on the Cardinals defense, and deservedly so with 14 sacks and six forced fumbles. But Arizona has playmakers on every level with inside linebacker Jordan Hicks and free safety Budda Baker.

Hicks is third in the league with 120 tackles and has three interceptions.

“Another really good football player,” Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “Volume tackle guy. Gets them lined up, smart. Obviously very instinctive getting around the ball.”

Hicks was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness last week for a helmet hit against the Steelers, then wasn’t penalized for a hit that knocked off a helmet. Monken and running back Nick Chubb don’t think there’s a pattern.

“I haven’t seen that, honestly,” Chubb said. “He’s a great player. He’s always over the ball, high-motor guy, plays hard. And he loves the game of football and it shows.”

Monken also raved about Baker, who has 118 tackles, six pass defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“One of my favorite players to watch on film is Budda Baker,” Monken said. “You talk about wanting to watch a guy that plays football with heart and passion and plays it the right way, there is a guy right there.”


The Cardinals released linebacker Terrell Suggs in what Kingsbury called a mutual agreement. He had 19 sacks and nine forced fumbles in 29 games vs. the Browns in his time with the Ravens. He’s ninth in NFL history with 138 sacks.

He’s expected to sign with another team.

** The Browns got a quick scare on the Bengals’ late onside kick Sunday, as the ball bounced off KhaDarel Hodge before TJ Carrie pounced on it.

“The last thing I told KhaDarel and T.J. Carrie was, ‘Do not let the ball hit you,’” Priefer said. “He was supposed to get out of the way. I think he had enough time to get out of the way and D’Ernest Johnson was 20-25 yards behind him ready to recover it.”

** Priefer said kicker Austin Seibert’s range Sunday was 53 to 55 yards toward the west end of FirstEnergy Stadium. He made a career-long 53-yarder.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


More in Notes