BEREA — New defensive coordinator Joe Woods sees “very talented” players when he watches film of the Browns defense. Even better, he sees them at the “right positions.”
“Rushers and cover guys,” Woods said Wednesday at his introductory news conference. “I think our front is very talented. It’s our job as coaches to get them to play as well as they can to their ability.
“At the backend we have some young corners. I’ve coached corners my whole career. When you have young, talented corners, that excites you.”
End Myles Garrett and tackles Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi are the marquee names up front, with cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams leading the way in the secondary.
“I feel like I’m coming into a very fortunate situation where we have some pieces in place,” Woods said.
The performance of the defense, including the pass rush, fell off greatly when Garrett (10 sacks) was suspended for the final six games. New general manager Andrew Berry must decide whether to bring back veteran end Olivier Vernon, who missed six games with a knee injury, finished with 3.5 sacks and is scheduled to make $15 million in 2020.
Chad Thomas (four sacks) was the top backup at end, and Woods was asked if he needs more edge rushers.
“It never hurts,” he said. “They can keep adding as many as they want. I’m cool with that.
“We want the right people, good people that will be good for the organization and do it the right way. If they want to add more rushers, more corners, I’m all for it.”
Garrett was reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell last week off an indefinite suspension for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on top of the head with Rudolph’s helmet.
“It’s an unfortunate situation what happened,” Woods said. “I think sometimes the emotions of the game get to you. It’s something he learned from, he wants to put behind him.
“My job is to coach him. I look forward to getting him on the field to see what he can do.”
Woods ran a 3-4 scheme when he was coordinator with the Broncos in 2017-18 but has spent most of his career coaching the secondary in 4-3 schemes and will keep that with the Browns because it fits the personnel. He said his system will be a combination of those he’s worked in, and that he learned from his time leading the Broncos defense.
“It really goes back to organization, managing people, game-planning, because you’ve gone through it now,” he said. “The experience, calling the games, you feel more comfortable. It’s not something new that you didn’t expect.”
He will stress creating turnovers.
“It’s all about the ball,” he said. “And we have to find ways to take it away.”
The Browns could be in the market for two new safeties. Free safety Damarious Randall is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March and isn’t expected to be retained, and Morgan Burnett is 31 years old and tore his Achilles tendon Nov. 14. Justin Burris and Eric Murray are also scheduled to be free agents.
“We are going to have to add some pieces,” Woods said. “We lost a few guys, so we’ll see what happens here.”
** Middle linebacker Joe Schobert is also eligible for free agency, although the Browns may try to bring him back.
“Andrew’s going to have to make the best decision for the Cleveland Browns, whether that’s him being here or moving on and I trust him with (what) his decision-making is going to be,” Woods said of Berry. “But I know he’s a good football player.”
** Woods grew up outside of Pittsburgh but said most of his immediate family lives in Northeast Ohio, putting the number at more than 50 relatives.
LONG WAY TO GO
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was one of three coaches retained from fired coach Freddie Kitchens’ staff, along with run game coordinator/running backs coach Stump Mitchell and assistant special teams coach Doug Colman. The kicking units showed marked improvement in Priefer’s first year in 2019, but he wasn’t satisfied.
“We have some unfinished business,” he said. “We did some really good things last year and I am very pleased with our progress and the direction that we are going in, but we are nowhere near where we need to be to help this football team win a lot of games. That is one of the reasons I am really excited about staying.”
Priefer’s priority with punter Jamie Gillan and kicker Austin Seibert is better consistency in their second NFL seasons.
“We are going to be more consistent,” he said. “We are going to be stronger. We are going to be better kicking PATs and field goals and better situational punting. Our return games have to improve immensely. I think we have a long way to go there.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski has completed his coaching staff.
Jason Tarver was announced as linebackers coach Tuesday, with Ben Bloom (senior defensive assistant), Stephen Bravo-Brown (defensive quality control), Ryan Cordell (coaching assistant), Jeremy Garrett (assistant defensive line), Brandon Lynch (assistant defensive backs) and Seitu Smith (offensive quality control) announced Wednesday.
** The Bears agreed to a one-year contract with tight end Demetrius Harris, NFL Network reported. He was cut by the Browns on Monday after one season.