On a sweltering mid-August afternoon, the Cleveland Browns were practicing hard, looking to rebound after a disappointing opening pre-season contest, which they did on Saturday, 27-10 over Detroit. While those attending the practice might have expected a crisp-yet-hardnosed practice paced by Coach Mangini, it was as lethargic as their opening pre-season loss to Green Bay.
However, the head coach did put the team through their paces in full pads, the effects of which were blatantly obvious upon seeing a thoroughly spent David Veikune and Kaluka Maiava after their day’s work. As individuals, these two rookies continue to grow every day, looking to improve each team session, even in the broiling summer temperatures. The Orange and Brown Report quickly touched base with both once again to see how their individual perceptions have grown since the beginning of training camp.
Maiava starts the first round of Q &A…
First NFL game experience is now in the rear view mirror, can we reflect back on the emotions you experienced?
“Going into that game and playing my first NFL game was real exciting. Had to soak it in for a little bit before the game while stretching and realize where I was at. But it was a business trip like Coach Mangini said. Tried to care of business and it went the other way. Can’t do anything about that now, and we just have to prepare for next week.”
How was Coach Mangini’s temperament after the game?
“Like anybody else. All of us hate to lose. We’re not here to lose. Like I said, we just have to knock that out of the way and focus on next week.”
Any critiques on your own play?
“Average. Always room for improvement. I’m just a young pup in this game. I had a lot of mistakes and we have to grow from there.”
Watching your play throughout the contest as well as practice recently, the coaching staff does seem to enjoy using your talents blitzing. Is this something you are comfortable doing or had experience doing while at USC?
“Yes, this is some new stuff for me. Just working through the gameplan situations. Whatever the coaches want me to do…I’ll do.”
As this process continues, what specific areas are you looking to improve upon within your own game?
“Getting bigger, faster, stronger…everything.”
Is that something that can be achieved as the season progresses or will it take a full off season to achieve those goals?
“Definitely. It’s all about sacrifice, working hard every day, and learning from the veterans in front of you. Just getting better.”
The second defensive unit had its struggles against Green Bay. Where can the entire unit look to improve, particularly against the run?
“We did want to attack the run a little better, but that’s the way the game goes sometimes. Can’t do anything about it now. It’s times to focus on the Lions.”
Next in line was the versatile Veikune who spent extra time after practice by receiving coaching tips from the defensive line coach, Bryan Cox.
Watching at the end of practice, what areas was Coach Cox looking to improve upon in your game?
“Trying to make us better pass rushers in this defense. We have a lot of different techniques from college. He wants us to utilize their philosophy…the Browns’ philosophy.”
Can you elaborate what constitutes the “Browns’ philosophy” in regards to the pass rush?
“Well obviously I can’t give you EVERYthing, but from a 34 defense you really have to blitz the tackle in a different manner than in a 43.”
As was asked of your teammate earlier, can you assess your own performance during the game?
“The NFL is very fast. I have a lot to work on. That’s all I have to say. But we have great leaders who will teach me a lot. I made some rookie mistakes, and I really need to clear that up this next week”
“Just making my reads. The game is so fast now playing linebacker. I really need to slow down.”
Do you believe all the positional transitioning is hurting your overall development?
“No. I don’t think so. At first when I came in…all these positions and everything…I would have thought that, but it really hasn’t. Every day I work to get better and better and I think that’s really helped me out.”
Over the past two weeks, can we discuss the differences you are seeing transitioning to inside linebacker?
“So many reads, run/pass reads. When you have your hand in the dirt all you do is go after the quarterback and sack that quarterback. You have to think a lot as a linebacker.”
Is it coming naturally, or has it been a slow process?
“At first it was coming slow but with the leadership on this team, Eric Barton and the coaches, they are helping me come along much faster than I would have.”
When looking at the defensive unit as a whole, what areas need the most improvement?
“It was only the first preseason game. I guess that’s a little bit of an excuse. We’re just working as hard as we can in the weight room and on the field. All the leaders have stepped up.”
Now all eyes turn towards game three of the preseason.