Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham had to say after Friday's practice. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET
On Browns WR Travis Benjamin on the return game: "Super fast. He's made a lot of big plays, including last Thursday night. He's a threat anytime he's on the field. He gets a little bit of playtime on offense, but punt return is where he really makes the most damage. We have done a pretty good job of covering our punts this year. We are going to have a do very good job on Sunday because he's a guy that can take it the distance."
On the Lions success covering punts: "Continuing to work at it. It's a long season. We have only had five games so far. Our punt directions have been good. Our locations and hang time have been good. We have also tackled well. We haven't missed very many tackles on punt. Had a couple of big hits too. I think that speaks well for the way we go forward."
On P Sam Martin's comfort level: "That comes from any young player getting more experience. He's had ups and downs. He has had some really good ups. His downs really haven't been catastrophic. He started the season on a rough streak. He dropped the first ever hold attempt on a field goal on our first drive of the series. He has had some ups and downs, but he has also made some big plays for us. Flipped the field for us a couple of times. Has taken some returners out because of his kick hang-time and location and things like that. He's still an improving player. There is still room for him to grow and there are still things that he can do better. He's on the right path for sure."
On holding the position within the division: "Every game is important. You only have 16 of them. I think in that vein yeah, there is. You need to worry about yourself. I think I have beaten the drum many times that it's a long season and there are a lot of things that can go on. We have seen teams that have gotten off on fast starts that didn't finish especially well. We've seen teams that didn't get off to a good start that have finished well. It's about improving over the course of the year. You need to take advantage of every opportunity you have. You only have 16 of them. It's an important game for us. It's not only important because Chicago won on Thursday night, that doesn't change our game plan. That doesn't change the way that we will use our players or how we are going to attack Cleveland or try to defend Cleveland."
On the Ansah-Thomas matchup: "All our matchups upfront are important for us. They have an outstanding offensive line. (Alex) Mack the center is a really good player also. They have some veteran players in there. We are going to have to play well up front."
On DE Devin Taylor's performance since DE Jason Jones injury: "He's done a nice job. He's done a nice job on special teams too. He's one of those guys that everything we have given him, he's done a good job with. Greatest reward is the opportunity to do more. He's a developing player. We said it with Sam Martin and a lot of other guys. You have ups and downs with rookies, but he's on the right trend. We talk about improving as a team, he's improving as an individual player. That bodes well for his future also."
On if TE Tony Scheffler and RB Theo Riddick closer are to being cleared: "No. Neither guy was in the facility today."
On how long term are Scheffler's and Riddick's situations: "You never know. That's the nature of the concussions. Again, I've beat this drum too much too, it's not a situation like a hamstring or a shoulder. If your shoulder's hurt and it is pain tolerant and you can get out there and contribute, hey let's go do it. If your hamstrings tight and you're not quite full speed but you can contribute, you go out and do it. With concussions, there are no shades of grey as far as playing. We just sort of take it as it comes and plan accordingly."
On if Scheffler and Riddick have been in the facility throughout this week: "Yes. They have been here. They come and get looked at and stuff like that. They didn't stay around for practice."
On if it's too late for Riddick and Scheffler to be cleared for the Cleveland game: "There is still the protocol that they can go through. I think I'll just leave it at that."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM QUOTE SHEET
On if DE Ezekiel Ansah has surpassed his expectations at this early point in his career: "It's hard to say, but I think his future's bright, very bright. I think there are a lot of guys that come in the league that are flash players. They have a year or so that's really good and they put it on their resume, and then they get paid a lot of money on the second contract. The guys I've been around, I've been around some pretty good guys in my lifetime. They worked. I remember Leslie O'Neal after the first seven games he didn't have a sack, and then he set the rookie record and he was out for the season on Game 11. He had 12.5. And he used to laugh, he'd say, ‘Don't worry Gun, I'll get there.' And I'd say, ‘I'm not worried, I know you are.' That day's discussion, we played the Raiders I think and he had 4.5 sacks that night. Ziggy's a lot like that. He stays within himself, he's not a showboat. I think there's a lot of blessings when it comes to him."
On if Ansah and Browns LB Barkevious Mingo are always going to be intertwined because they were drafted back-to-back in the 2013 NFL draft: "It could be the case, but if I were buying guys, a 6-5, 285 (pound guy) and runs the 200 meters in 21.6, I know who I'm taking. And I think Mingo's a heck of a good player. I mean, he really is. We watched him a lot, he's a different guy. He's not as big as Ziggy and we needed to get bigger. Our division is so tough week after week when you play each other that we've been through the shorter, smaller, faster guys. Now we have some bigger guys and I like that."
On DE Devin Taylor's development and his increased workload: "One of the line coaches and I sit next to each other and when Jason Jones got hurt, I said, ‘Well, Wash, it's time.' He goes, ‘You betcha. The rookie season's over.' We were talking about Devin. Both coaches put a lot of time into him. And he seems a lot more confident in a lot of things. We had a pass-rush drill yesterday I guess it was and my god, he is making great strides. So we're excited about that and he's going to have a definite role and get more plays."
On if DT Nick Fairley has plateaued or if he is still being affected by injury: "It's like I was saying about some rookies come in and are flashes. Nick played really well early in the season then he kind of fell off, he got hurt a little bit. And this last week he got better and he's had a really good week of practice, so I think everything will be okay. People don't realize those big guys get pounded on every single play. To this day I still have to laugh about (Ndamukong) Suh's double teams and all those things are still happening and our line coaches say, ‘Well the center turns left on 35 out of 55 passes. We play them and the center turns every time to his right and our left and that's where Suh plays. So these guys get beat up and that's what happened to Nick. He came in in pretty good shape, but I think the injury he had, he worried a little bit about it and now I think he's over it, so I'm looking forward to seeing this game. I think he'll be really ready to play."
On if there are any comparisons he can draw between the Lions and Browns defenses emerging and getting more respect than they did before: "I was really impressed with Cleveland in the preseason game. They play tough on defense. There's no question about it, they've improved a lot on that side of the ball and offensively, that tight end (Jordan Cameron) is something now. He came out of the woodwork on me and I saw him in preseason and I knew what was going to happen. They have good receivers, they're playing good defense, they have a great returner. It's going to be a tough game."
On what he thinks Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings to their coaching staff: "Ray's an old husky, isn't he? I kind of raised young Jim Moore, he worked for me when I was in San Diego and got to know Ray. And God bless him, he's a heck of a coach. There are a lot of good, young coaches like that in the league and he's one of the exceptional ones. He knows what he's doing, he's tough, he's consistent. I remember a young guys like that a few years back named Mike Tomlin. I saw him coach in the Senior Bowl and met with him the next day. I said, ‘Mike, I tell you what, it's not going to be long before you're a head coach.' So every time we play Pittsburgh we have kind of a love fest in the middle of the field. And Ray's like that. He's going to be a head coach, he's an outstanding defensive football coach."
On moving DT Ndamukong Suh around on the defensive line: "If you guys look back at last year, he did that too but nobody noticed it as much. He's got so much ability and he's really enjoying the game and what you're probably seeing right now is more of an impact out of him, that he feels more comfortable doing that. We didn't do it as much, but we did do it. I didn't mean to be disrespectful to the question at all, but what you're seeing now is a comfort level. You were talking about Fairley, one of the things that made me give him a pretty high grade in the draft, I watched him against, I think it was Oregon, he was standing up as a linebacker off the ball and he came, and I went ‘My god.' He's 315-320 pounds and he could move like that and Suh does the same thing. Coach (Jim) Washburn and Coach Kris Kocurek, you don't want to be around them, they have these two giant notebooks and they're do-dadding in that thing every day. And I think what's happened with Suh is that he really likes that kind of football coaching and he's really become comfortable, so you see him doing a lot more of that that what we tried to do with him a year ago."
On the kind of problems that Browns WR Josh Gordon poses for the Lions secondary: "He's fast. He's tough, he's a clutch receiver I think. He's one of those guys you don't know when it's coming, because there are some plays that he doesn't look at good and the next one you look at, my god he's down the field catching it. But (Davone) Bess is a really good receiver, (Greg) Little's a tough guy and that tight end (Jordan Cameron), he's the real deal now. He's not just some guy, he can catch it, he's smart and they go to him. So we have to cover them all."
On if a play vs. Green Bay in which the Lions defensive line were standing up is a new play: "No, that's part of the package. They have a lot of different rushes you'll see and that's one of them. We have, I don't know how many that go in to the game with, but it's a pretty good sized wristband they have and they work them all."