Browns OTA notes: Mike Priefer identifies fatal 2018 special teams flaw

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has Baker Mayfield figured out

Daryl Ruiter
May 22, 2019 - 4:58 pm

Daryl Ruiter - 92.3 The Fan

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Berea, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was candid in his assessment of what led to the Browns having one of the worst special teams units in the NFL in 2018.

It didn’t require much in-depth analysis for him to figure out what went wrong and why.

“It looked like some of the better players on special teams were on the sideline on some of these plays, which I don’t understand,” Priefer said. “You have to put your best players out there and sometimes your best players are starters on offense or defense.”

That’s going to change in 2019.

“I don’t like to criticize what they did in the past, I know they weren’t allowed to use some of the personnel that was necessary and I think that starts with the head coach,” Priefer said. “I know that Freddie has done a great job of saying, ‘hey Prief, whatever you need that’s gonna help you win. If you need starters on offense, starters on defense to help you in some of the phases, then use them.’”

Special teams play cost the Browns three to four victories last season and head coach Freddie Kitchens made it known from the day he took over in January that greater emphasis would be placed on the unit going forward.

“If he’s going to give me the time we’ve got to execute,” Priefer said.

Preifer is further ahead with the Browns working with his unit because of the time that Kitchens has allowed during practices this spring.

Often the special teams unit is comprised of draft picks from that spring, undrafted free agents or the bottom of the roster but now some starters on both sides of the ball will be included, but Priefer won’t overextend players.

“I wouldn’t use them a lot,” Priefer said. “That would be dumb on my part.”

When asked who has stood out so far this spring, Priefer mentioned that he’s been impressed with Sheldrick Redwine, Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and Willie Harvey among others.

Business casual – It hasn’t taken offensive coordinator Todd Monken long to get a feel for his new quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“You can certainly see the competitive spirit,” Monken said. “The best way I can put it is he likes having fun, but he's not a clown. I think people misconstrue how much fun he likes to have playing the game and around people. But I'm telling you, when you're in the meetings and when you're out here, he wants to be coached.

“He wants to be great. He's a serious guy when it comes to the game of football.”

Even though Mayfield hasn’t been working with his full complement of receivers it hasn’t impacted his ability to make plays in practice, and Monken has noticed.

“Tremendous arm talent,” Monken said. “He really really has a unique knack once he gets outside the pocket to see receivers down the field and throw it accurately.”

Roll call – Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Duke Johnson Jr. did not attend Wednesday’s fifth OTA session, but they weren’t the only players not participating.

Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Antonio Callaway also did not practice while Juston Burris, Donnie Lewis Jr., Morgan Burnett, Derrick Willies and Brian Price worked on the side with trainers.

Quick practice hits – With Garrett and Vernon out, Chris Smith, Chad Thomas and Genard Avery got extended work with the first-team defense. Kyle Kalis - a St. Eds product - took the reps at right guard with the first-team and Austin Corbett worked at center with the second unit. Greedy Williams received significant reps opposite of Denzel Ward at corner. Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert were the top two linebackers. Kirksey and Sheldrick Redwine had interceptions. Sionne Takitaki’s lateral ability to move side to side quickly is quite evident in practice.  

Fined – Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks had a little fun when a reporter’s cell phone went off in the middle of his availability Wednesday.

As the phone rang Wilks, while in mid-sentence, dropped a “that’s a fine.” After he was done speaking, he playfully joked with the reporter, “you can give me cash or write a check.”

Coaches corner – The Browns hosted nearly 40 local high school football coaches Wednesday in Berea for OTAs.

The group watched practice from the sideline and after practice head coach Freddie Kitchens spoke with them about the team’s practice script, drills, strategy and more.

Among the attendees were Browns youth football ambassador and St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle; Browns alumnus and VASJ head coach Elvis Grbac; Nordonia head coach Jeff Fox, who coached cornerback Denzel Ward; Willoughby South head coach Matt Duffy, who coached running back Kareem Hunt; and St. Edward Head Coach Tom Lombardo, who coached center Kyle Kalis.