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Mike LaFleur on the offense


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Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Mike, what was your assessment of the offense?

Not good. Anytime you only score nine points, obviously six of it being in the last minute, it’s just not good enough. I mean, this is a results-based business. Results on offense usually means points. The more points you score, the better chance you have of winning football games, especially the way our defense played. They absolutely performed at such a high level, it stinks that we didn’t get it done on our side. You look at the first half, as sloppy as it was particularly in the first quarter, and then you go in there at half time only down 10-3 and you look at it and you have 176 yards of offense, but you’re 0-6 on third down with a turnover and basically, almost a second turnover in terms of catching the ball on third and five and it getting stripped out and next thing you know, you’re kicking a field goal. So, it felt a lot worse going into halftime because you didn’t get the results you wanted in terms of the scoreboard, but a lot of stuff to fix in every single room.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Because it was so close, even though you guys were making those mistakes, not converting that third down, is that something that you can use as a teaching point?

Oh, for sure. Every game that you go through from Week One to Week 17 is going to be a learning experience. Again, it’s getting old, but there’s a lot of guys out there playing their first bit of NFL football. With Breece (Hall) and with Garrett (Wilson) and with Max Mitchell, and then you look at the second-year guys in AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) and Michael Carter and Elijah Moore, there’s still a lot of young guys out there that are learning how to play this game, so there are a ton of teaching moments.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What was your reaction when you saw, and I’m sure it’s not what you wanted, 59 pass attempts I know it happens in the game, but what was your reaction?

It sucked for me looking at that at the end of game. When you get that stats sheet, which you look at for about 10 seconds and then you put it down because you know how it kind of unfolded. When you look at it from before it got to 24 to three, I want to say we were 16 runs to 23 passes or something like that, 22 passes, not counting third down, which is semi-balanced, but still not balanced enough. In the fourth quarter, you’ve got to fight the urge to try to get it all back in one. 24-3, I know ESPN analytics would say it’s probably about a 99% chance that they’re going to win. We’ll never feel that way. We’ll always feel like there’s a fighter’s chance, but shoot, I watched my brothers game later on that day where they didn’t have the best performance that they have obviously put out the last few years and I thought he did a great job in the fourth quarter running the football just to not throw the ball every down to give the line a chance and they got some yards there in the fourth to somewhat get it back involved.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: I think you guys only had something like one throw that was down field like 20 yard or more in the air or whatever it is. Is that a product of the pass rush?

Yeah, there’s a ton of deals. I have to call the plays to push down the field. When I call them, they have to be at the right time and we have to be able to hold up to be able to push the ball down the field and then the quarterback has to make the right read and the receivers have to get from point A to point B as soon as possible. That’s a defense with what they’re doing, they’re going to make you earn it, and it’s kind of becoming a trend around this League. We’re never just going to throw it up and pray we come down with plays when there’s two guys on one. It’s just not going to happen. That’s just not how it works. We did call some plays down the field, they just happened to be in some type of two shell where it’s dome and it’s telling you to check it down. They did a very good job, I thought. You didn’t know what their tendencies were going to be because it’s obviously his first time calling a defense in the NFL. I thought they did a great job of playing their dome type quarters, which is almost like such a soft, I like to joke, it’s almost like a pre-vet quarters because they’re just forcing you to check it down. If they weren’t doing that, they were bringing some heat. The problem was, when they were bringing four-man rush, they were bringing pressure on us too. That can’t happen, that’s got to be fixed and that’s got to be fixed now.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: Garrett Wilson had a limited amount of snaps, but were productive, what did you see from him last week against Baltimore?

The game is just not too big over him. You never know going into the first game, I had a pretty good idea of how he was going to react, but I’ve also felt that way about other rookies, then all of a sudden the bright lights of a Sunday get pretty big. I won’t mention any names, but some guys that play at a high level of football in the NFL right now. For Garrett (Wilson), it’s just football for him. He didn’t get, obviously, the rep count that we all wanted. I think (Coach) Saleh has talked about kind of our initial plan going into some 13 and stuff like that. When you’re not moving the ball in the first quarter outside of two chunk plays, but again, not being able to convert on third down, we didn’t get the rotation of personnel groups that we initially wanted, but for Garrett, we can see how dynamic he is in the pass game. He is an awesome guy to coach, it’s just going to be, he is not going to be just at one position. He’s got to be at our F position, he’s got to be at our Z and just him being able to operate every single play, not just the pass plays where he knows he’s getting the ball, but also, when we’re running the ball, when he’s running the fake sweeps and stuff like that, that operation needs to get to 100% and he knows that.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: That said about 13 personnel, I think that everybody thought tight ends would be more involved. I understand flow of the game and all of that, but what did you see there that C.J. (Uzomah) wasn’t targeted? I think you had five catches from tight ends.

Yeah, I think we went in with a plan for 13. We hit that first explosive on the first play in the run game, came right back, our plan was to go right into Turbo 13. We didn’t show any of that last year, so that’s going to be an unscouted look, especially when you’re going up against a coordinator that you have nothing to scout off of except for them playing on Saturdays the year before. You’re trying to give them something they’re not going to be ready for. We called a quick game that we felt really good about. One wasn’t open, but our checkdown we thought was going to be an explosive and the next thing you know the d-line is in our quarterback’s lap. There were going to be opportunities for C.J. and (Tyler) Conklin, Cage (Lawrence Cager), but it just didn’t come to fruition.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: I know it was just against air, but how did Zach (Wilson) look getting out there back on the practice field?

It was good to get him back out there. Obviously, it’s been some time since that Philly game. I’ve seen him throw in the indoor and stuff like that, but just to be able to get out there, do some 7-on-7 is good.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: It’s frustrating when you lose. I understand that, but coming off all the momentum everybody thought you had with the changes in the offseason, first game of the season, how much more disappointing was that that you didn’t put out what you worked on?

It’s going to be disappointing regardless. I don’t really care who steps out on the field, you expect them to get the job done and we didn’t. There’s a number of reasons that we didn’t that we already talked about, but again, when you go 0-8 on third down basically throughout the first three quarters when it was still a game, it’s hard to win football games. We had two times inside the 27-yard line there in the first half and came away with only three points, and both times in the 20-yard line, we had a 3rd & 4 and 3rd & 5 – those are both on-schedule third down opportunities that we have to make. We had opportunities to make those plays and we didn’t and we got to get that fixed. Again, that starts with me in terms of getting them the right play call where it makes their life even easier.


Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: How did Max Mitchell hold up when you guys went back to watch film?

Max did a good job. Max did exactly how myself, Saleh, John Benton, the o-line coach, and all his teammates thought he would. It wasn’t too big for him. Certainly, wasn’t perfect by any means. He’s a guy that’s just ascending in terms of every single day at practice just getting better. Sometimes with offensive linemen, when you don’t notice them watching the tape, that’s a good thing. Unless you’re the Trent Williams of the world where you’re just pancaking guys left and right, you usually don’t go noticed. For the most part, he went unnoticed which, again, is a good thing.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: What did you think of Joe? What gave you the confidence to stick with him?

When everyone around was playing at their best, whatever play that might be, whenever I was calling the right plays and the pocket was there, Joe was efficient in those terms. It was a collective deal, starting with myself. For Joe, to learn from some of the experience he had during that game, I have all the confidence in Joe and I know he has the confidence in himself and the players do, too.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: What do you need to see more from him or better from him from last week?

Again, it’s no secret when you’re the quarterback in the NFL, when things go really well, you’re going to get all the praise and when they don’t go well like they did on Sunday, you’re going to get knocked a little bit. I always put it on myself first because I think execution and lack of scoring always falls on the playcaller, period. Especially, when you have the players to get the job done. I got to put them in a position to be more successful, our offense to be more successful, not put our guys in such a bind at times, and that’s the plan moving forward.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: What’s the challenges of facing this Cleveland Browns team, especially with an offensive line that has not played together very much?

Going against this defense and this defensive coordinator – I was with him in San Francisco. It’s very similar to the style of defense we play, probably even simpler in some aspects because they probably don’t do as much, I don’t think. I don’t have, obviously, their whole menu, but just based off of their tape from a year ago. So, they have a very sound scheme, but on top of it, they have very good players. I would think that maybe the top pass rush in football, at least top three to five. Myles Garrett is an absolute problem. He’s a man on a mission. You could see it least week, you could see it last year. Jadeveon Clowney is always going to be a problem, having to play him in Seattle in 2019, the year we went to the Super Bowl. He wrecked our game. I think we started out 9-0, we played Seattle and I think he had a defensive touchdown, three sacks, a strip sack that he picked up and ran for a touchdown. They’re a problem. They have an elite corner they play in the boundary. They have a sound scheme. They’re in year three of their defense. They’ve basically revamped that defense in three years throughout the Draft, some free agents, and it’s just gotten better and better every single year. I have so much respect for what they’re doing because you can see from the ground up from three years ago to now, how much they’ve improved. It’s going to be very different from Baltimore in terms of Baltimore, when you play that style of defense, it’s going to be messy because they do so much and they have a check for every different, little alignment that it’s going to be messy. That’s what you know when you’re going against the Baltimore’s and Wink Martindale’s of the world. It’s just going to be messy, but you’re going to break one here or there. Against this defense, you better earn it because they’re not going to give you anything. They had two miscues that lead to about 160 yards of offense for Carolina, and outside of that, I think Carolina had 100 yards in 52 plays. It was an absolute struggle all day expect for two major busts that I know their players and their defensive staff don’t believe they should have.


Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Mike, going back to tight ends for a second. It’s been a while since you guys have had a couple of “pass catching tight ends” around here. Is it almost, I mean everybody talks about the tight end being the quarterback’s best friend kind of thing, is it almost to simplistic to think, particularly against an aggressive defensive like Cleveland to think these guys are going to be a great safety valve?

Yeah, I mean it’s week-to-week. Sometimes they are great safety valves, sometimes the defense doesn’t allow you to have great safety valves, sometimes you need those tight ends to help out in protection with the chips and stuff like that, so they’re not going to be the primary route. I think every week is going to end up just being a little bit different. Again we, it’s like we’ve talked about I feel like since April in here. You want to get (Tyler) Conklin involved with the ball in his hand, you want to get C.J. (Uzomah) the ball, you want to get Garrett (Wilson), you want to get Corey (Davis), you want to get Elijah (Moore), you want to get Braxton (Berrios), you got one of the better returners in ball that did some awesome stuff for us last year with the ball in his hands, you want to run the ball, you want to use Michael Carter and Breece Hall in the pass game. It’s like holy crap, so every week is going to be a little bit different. You always have a plan going through that I’m not going to express what our plan is obviously for Cleveland, but every week is going to be a little different and my job and the rest of the offensive staff’s job is to put together the best plan possible and the ball’s going to go where it goes based on what the defense is doing.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How important is balance especially against this defense?

Yeah, totally. You want to be balanced against any defense you’re going against. It’s very few weeks that I’ve ever been a part of in the NFL that you’re just like we’re literally going to throw the ball 50 times in the first half and run the ball five times, that usually doesn’t work. So again, the balance might mean 50/50 run pass, or it might mean finding different ways again to get those names that I just said, get them the touches and get that ball spread around, so a defense can’t lock into it, but certainly I mean we ran the ball well there in the first half, that sack on the opening play of the second half, I think really knocked us back and knocked some momentum back too because our defense had an incredible stop. I believe that was the drive Lamar had an incredible run on 3rd & 9 and those are some of the back breaking plays to a defense that you just play great defense and there was a great call and there’s nothing you can do about it and then they ended up getting, three plays later they got the punt and that should be a momentum swinging play for us on offense like wow this defense is balling and I called a play that in hind sight they brought the pressure, I wish I wouldn’t have called that one, we had everyone locked up, we had a miscue and we took the sack and couldn’t recover from it.


Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: When you face pass rushers like Clowney and Garrett, how important is communication amongst the offensive line?

Yeah, communication no matter who you’re playing obviously is key, but more importantly is manning up. Again, are we going to put even the best of world tackles alone all day on a guy like Miles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney? No, I don’t care who you got, you’re never going to do that, but we got to switch it up, we got to keep them honest, again with just mixing in different protections, mixing different looks, getting the run game going, all those little things that can limit a pass rush, they’re going to make their plays, we know that, and again they’re going to make you earn that. I thought when you look at it and people aren’t going to want to hear this, but I thought New England did as good of a job as anyone last year and it took 16 plays for them to score on that opening drive because that’s what Cleveland makes you do, they make you earn it, so our guys got to be ready to do it every single play because the moment we have a hiccup, that’s a lot of times when against a defense like this that’s when a drive ends, so our guys got to be ready to play for 60 minutes and I believe they will.

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These guys all talk a good game.  What I want to know is where were the adjustments once it was clear that their DL was in our QB's face all game?  There has got to be moves to counter a 4 man rush getting home doesn't there?  Sweeps, screens, etc, I didn't see any of that.  

Oh wait, it was all because our guys are all too young, right?

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My view on what's really hurting our coaching staff in the eyes of the fans (not all, but a growing %) - they talk a great game but the reality is with the influx of talent to our team nothing has changed at all in terms of the product on the field.  These guys talk very, very pretty...but nothing has changed. 

Until we see a product on the field that looks different than what we've seen the last 11+ years they are going to take more and more crap...and frankly be on thinner and thinner ice.  Something has to look different.  To date with this regime nothing has really changed.

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12 minutes ago, LIJetsFan said:

These guys all talk a good game.  What I want to know is where were the adjustments once it was clear that their DL was in out QB's face all game?  There has got to be moves to counter a 4 man rush getting home doesn't there?  Sweeps, screens, etc, I didn't see any of that.  

Oh wait, it was all because our guys are all too young, right?

Or one was too old . 

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