Cleveland Browns notes: defensive coordinator Joe Woods absolutely trusts Ronnie Harrison
BEREA – Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods expressed absolute confidence that safety Ronnie Harrison, who was ejected for pushing the Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach in the opener, will be back on the field Sunday against the Houston Texans.
“Absolutely,” Woods said when asked if he trusted Harrison.
The NFL has thus far elected not to address the issue, but it lingers as a topic of discussion. Woods said he talked to Harrison after the game.
“Ronnie is fine. We really do not condone that type of behavior. We want to be composed in those situations. When the game is going, things get heated. We just want to make the best decisions,” he said. "Unfortunately for Ronnie, he got ejected from the game, but I am sure he will learn from that. Our whole defense will learn from that and our whole team will learn from that. Hopefully, it does not happen again.”
He also said that opposing coaches not putting hands on players is a common sense matter in the league.
“That is just known. That is just part of what we do,” he said. “We want to do things the way they are supposed to be done. I do not want to comment on anything that happened on their sideline. I was not over there. We do not talk about that. That is just something that we would not do.”
Harrison’s ejection forced safety M.J. Stewart into service and off of at least one special teams unit, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. He did not condone Harrison’s behavior either.
“I would not hit Ronnie Harrison – have you seen the size of that guy?” he asked. "Ronnie was in a tough spot. Obviously, none of us condone what he did. I have never been in a position where I would push a player ever. I do not care how mad you are at a guy.”
Anthony Schwartz delivers
Count offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt among those who were not surprised at the effort rookie wide receiver Anthony Schwartz showed against the Chiefs.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield targeted Schwartz five times and the speedster came up with three receptions for 69 yards. He played 31-of-56 offensive plays. The former Auburn star played a lot due to the absence of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“There was a fair amount of that, for sure. We needed to have that position. He came in,” Van Pelt said. “He was scheduled to play a fair amount anyway. With Odell being inactive, it just upped his reps.”
Schwartz took advantage of the opportunity and Van Pelt was not surprised.
“We expect all our guys to play well. That's how we practice. That's why we prepare them,” he said. “It was good to see that it wasn't too much for him. He came right out the gate and made a big catch on a crossing route that converted for us on a third down and that just got his day started.”
He offered a simple explanation for Schwartz’s ability to come in and contribute, considering he missed significant amounts of training camp time.
“He was on top of his game for sure. That was one of his areas of strength – intelligence and his ability to study and learn the plays,” he said. “We're really glad to see him make those plays. You can see the speed on the field and he'll continue to get better as the season goes along.”
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry said he was proud of the way Schwartz stepped up.
"I don't know if he even had a mental error in the game," he said. "He had pretty much a perfect game and he really showed his speed and his presence is definitely felt. I think people now, as we move forward here, will really get a good understanding about what he can do and we have a better understanding of how he can help us as an offense as well."
Rashard Higgins saw little action
Van Pelt said the Browns ran a significant number of three-receiver sets with Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones filling the first two slots and Schwartz the third. That left Rashard Higgins as the odd man out. Higgins played just four snaps.
“He was our fourth receiver going in. We played a lot of three receiver sets. He came in and spelled guys when the time was right. His play will increase as the year goes along,” Van Pelt said. “He was coming back from a little injury, little tightness from a couple of weeks back. So it's just getting him back into the groove now.”
Browns have left tackle issues
After one game, the Browns are dealing with injury issues at left tackle. Starter Jedrick Wills is day-to-day with an ankle injury and his backup, Chris Hubbard, injured his triceps against the Chiefs.
That leaves rookie James Hudson, 6-foot-5, 313 pounds, to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans. Left guard Joel Bitonio said there will be adjustments made.
“I’ve worked with Jed all of training camp [and] you’re most comfortable with him but now, since Joe Thomas has not been here,” he said. "I’ve played with a lot of tackles so it’s always a new adventure, but you get reps in practice, and you get work. I think guys are going to be prepared and as long as you got the playbook part of it down, I think we can communicate on game day and figure out where we got to go and block guys.”
Someone else who could be considered as a replacement is Blake Hance.
Hance signed for the playoffs last season and filled in at left guard in the playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and then was forced to play left tackle after Wills and former Brown Kendall Lamm went down against the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Demetric Felton’s learning moments
Priefer said running back/wide receiver/kicker returner Demetric Felton is still learning.
Felton, a rookie from UCLA, missed an opportunity for a decent gain on a kick return because he planted the wrong foot in the direction he was running and there was more needed in another situation.
“When you are cutting to the left, you have to plant off of your right foot. When you are cutting to the right, you plant off of your left foot,” Priefer said. “He tried to cut to his left by planting off of his left foot, and he stumbled. I think he learned a lesson. He was probably nervous.”
The other moment?
“The punt return at the end of the game, we need more from him on that one. It was a line-drive punt,” he said. “[Thomas Townsend] is a good punter, but we just put a little bit of pressure on him. It worked out exactly how we thought it would. We needed about a 15-20 yarder. We needed to jump start that drive, and we did not do that, and that is what I was very disappointed in.”
Grant Delpit coming along
Woods said safety Grant Delpit has a chance to play Sunday.
“He has been out there going through individuals, but he had really his first live team reps,” he said. “He is looking good. He is figuring things out. Hopefully, we can get him in the game and get him a few plays.”
Back on the field
Right tackle Jack Conklin and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai returned to practice Thursday. Wills (ankle), center JC Tretter (knee) and Hubbard (triceps) remain sidelined. Tretter rode the exercise back during the portion of practice open to the media.
Greg Newsome II update
Woods said Greg Newsome II's biceps injury should not keep him out of the game against the Texans.
“Yeah, he will be fine from what I know,” he said.
Reach George M. Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas.