Browns DC Steve Wilks says he has no emotions before facing Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. — New team, new years, same Steve Wilks.
If there was anything we do know about the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator and former Arizona Cardinals head coach, it’s that Wilks doesn’t like to reveal his emotions.
As Wilks prepares his Browns defense to face the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium this Sunday, he reminded reporters of that when speaking to Cleveland media members Thursday.
Asked about his emotions heading into a game against the team he led to a 3-13 season in 2018 before being fired, Wilks remained unsurprisingly stoic.
“Well, to be honest I don’t really have any emotions in regards to this week,” Wilks said. “I want to win this game just like I wanted to win last week’s game just like I wanted to win the first game against Tennessee. So my focus is trying to get these guys in position to be successful and hopefully we can go out there and get a win.”
Wilks has found success as the 6-7 Browns defensive coordinator this year.
Cleveland’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) is 16th in the NFL this season, per FootballOutsiders. They’re also 16th in yards allowed per game and 15th in points allowed per outing.
If there are any weaknesses, it’s that the Browns are susceptible against the run, ranking 25th in DVOA in that category and allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game.
Those things pose concerns for Wilks as he gameplans for Arizona running out quarterback Kyler Murray, plus a stable of three capable backs in Kenyan Drake, David Johnson and Chase Edmonds.
As for Wilks, who was quite complimentary of Murray, he’s focused on that challenge.
Not his one-year stint in the desert.
“What I learned is just really how to deal with adversity,” Wilks said of his time with the Cardinals. “Again, it was difficult going through the struggles. But I thought that the guys performed and played well, and they stayed together throughout. So there’s lots of things I learned and a lot of things that I will carry moving forward.”
OT Toth suits up
Offensive tackle Brett Toth was back on the practice field Thursday after the team designated him to return from the non-football injury list (NLI).
The move adds another potential body to the tackle spot with Jordan Mills already designated to return from the injured reserve list.
Both can practice to give Arizona a good look at their health, but they must be activated to the 53-man roster before playing. Designating two players to return ends the potential for cornerback Robert Alford to return from the IR after he suffered a leg injury before the regular season began.
Each NFL team can only use two designated-to-return tags per year.
A rookie out of Army, Toth received a military waiver in mid-August, paving the way for him to ink a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles before they waived him. The Cardinals picked him up off waivers before the regular season began.
Toth went on the non-football injury list due to illness on Oct. 19 in a move that corresponded with cornerback Patrick Peterson’s return from a six-game PED suspension.
— Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said the “NASCAR” package of three outside linebackers that he flashed in last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers could be used down the homestretch. Not only does moving Terrell Suggs inside allow Chandler Jones to be joined by converted inside linebacker Haason Reddick, who the Cardinals want to get a look at, but it also might be a necessary move after Rodney Gunter hit the IR this week for an even more depleted defensive line group.
— Joseph said he saw good signs from a defensive performance that last week reduced the number of checks to limit communication issues. Though Steelers rookie QB Devlin Hodges went 16-for-19 and 152 yards, the Arizona defense did at least look competent in a 23-17 loss. Remember, seven of those Pittsburgh points were allowed by the Cardinals’ special teams unit.
“Guys played well last week,” Joseph said. “It was probably our best numbers game of the whole year. Had a couple breakdowns in the two-minute drive before half. We had a clean game last week.”