Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday leftovers (Dolphins) 

The question is bound to come up quite often now that Carson Wentz has, at least in his first three games as a professional, taken the National Football League by storm.

How in the world did the Browns pass on this guy when he was available with the second selection of the last NFL college draft?  Was this a replay of the 2004 lottery when the Browns passed on Ben Roethlisberger to take Kellen Winslow Jr.?

What’s that about lightning striking twice?

It was bad enough the Browns turned their backs on taking a future Hall of Famer – and an Ohioan, no less – in Roethlisberger. What’s worse is Big Ben was grabbed by the hated-with-a-passion Pittsburgh Steelers and has been fitted for a couple of Super Bowl rings.

The Browns have been searching for a franchise quarterback ever since returning to the league in 1999. They thought they had one in Tim Couch back in ’99 when Donovan McNabb would have been a better choice.

Now, 26 different starting quarterbacks later, they are still searching. Each year, especially those in which the Browns own extremely high picks and solid quarterbacks loom large, the big question arises and is not answered properly.

Will this be the year they finally make the correct choice for the most important position on the team? That question arrived again this past draft when Jared Goff of California and Wentz of North Dakota State topped the list.

The Browns, sitting at No. 2, said no thanks and traded down with the Philadelphia Eagles. And the reason they gave their fans came off as weak. It came through Paul DePodesta, the club’s chief strategy officer (whatever that is).

“In a given year, there may be two or three NFL-ready quarterbacks at the college level,” DePodesta told ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi at the beginning of training camp. “In another year, there literally may be zero. There just may not be anybody that year not good enough to be a top 20 quarterback in the NFL.

“Even though you have a desperate need for one, you have to resist the temptation of taking that guy just because you have a need if you don’t believe he is one of those 20 guys at the end of the day. That’s the hardest part, just maintaining your discipline because you have the need. That’s what we did this year.”

Right now, not selecting Wentz looks bad. Real bad. The Eagles are 3-0 and looking good, real good, after throttling the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-3, on Sunday. The Browns are 0-3 and heading for what could be the worst season in their history.

Even Roethlisberger criticized the Browns for taking a pass on Wentz, who is his physical equal at 6-5, 240 pounds. And that was before the Sunday loss in Philadelphia.

Some day, DePodesta’s words have a chance of landing in the Browns’ Hall of Fame of utterances that should never have been made, right up there with “best pure pass rusher” and “mad dog in a meat market.”

Hue Jackson had to be part of that kind of thinking. Can’t imagine what the Cleveland coach didn’t see in Wentz that the Eagles did to the point where they gave up their top pick next year to move up and grab him.

So far, Wentz has shown intelligence, discipline and poise, attributes that usually accompany success for quarterbacks in the NFL. And he has the size and arm to complete the package. In those three games, he has thrown 102 passes, completed 66 for 769 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

Yes, it’s only three games with the weak Browns and Chicago Bears providing the opposition in the first two. But Wentz’s performance in Sunday’s rout of the Steelers sure opened up a lot eyes and rekindled the “Why didn’t the Browns take Wentz when they had the chance?” howls.

“Again,” DePodesta said, “it comes down to individual evaluation of a player. We will not always be right on those type of things.” He got that part correct. So far.
*       *       *
Austin Pasztor stands 6-7 and weighs nearly 310 pounds. He is the starting right tackle for the Browns along the offensive line. And Sunday down in Miami, he was as offensive an offensive lineman as you’ll see in the NFL. At least he was when the play called for a forward pass.

Pasztor replaced the eminently better Mitchell Schwartz at the position when the Browns, in their infinite wisdom, decided to let Schwartz test the free-agent market without tendering an offer. He decided he liked it better in Kansas City,

So whether or not you like it, Browns fans, Pasztor is your right tackle for better or worse. And when the game was over Sunday afternoon, worse had a huge lead on better.

The four-year pro was assigned to keep Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake from getting anywhere close to rookie Cody Kessler, who was making his professional debut, on pass plays. He didn’t.

Pasztor drew three flags for holding and two more for false starts. If he didn’t have nightmares just thinking about facing Wake before the game, he sure has good reason to have them after getting up-close-and-personal with the veteran defensive end, who is a shell of his former self after an Achilles injury last season.

Pasztor accounted for 40 of the Browns’ 91 penalty yards all by himself. Kind of makes one wonder what went into the thinking by the Cleveland front office in letting Schwartz escape? In his worst game, Schwartz never put up a performance like that.

To be fair, Pasztor blocked well in the run game. But penalties slow down drives and in some cases shorten them. Five such infractions are momentum killers and inexcusable.
*       *       *
So who is this Briean Boddy-Calhoun? You know, the guy who put the Browns’ first touchdown of the game on the board against the Dolphins Sunday with a pick-6 in the second quarter in his first NFL game.

Here is what’s draft analysis said about the 5-9, 195-pound rookie cornerback from the University of Minnesota, who was nothing more than a line of agate in NFL transactions when the Browns picked him up on waivers from Jacksonville a few weeks ago.

“Bottom line: Small cornerback who played outside and from the slot, but must become a full-time slot cornerback on the next level due to his lack of strength and size. (He) allowed entirely too much separation at times and has a difficult time mustering enough closing speed when beaten over the top. . . . Gets overwhelmed by size in the red zone. Gave up a whopping six touchdowns in 2015. Tackling in the pros could be a major issue.”

Boddy-Calhoun, forced into action Sunday when Joe Haden was deactivated with a groin injury, also made four tackles, three solo, but was burned by DeVante Parker on the Dolphins’ first touchdown, a 26-yard strike from Ryan Tannehill in the opening quarter.
*       *       *
After a rough start against the Dolphins, Cody Kessler settled down and had what can be generously described as a decent game. The rookie quarterback was 21-of-33 for 244 yards despite intense pressure most of the afternoon. Not bad under the circumstances.

What we did find out is he doesn’t have the arm strength to stretch the field like Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III can, but showed good accuracy on short- to medium-range passes. He needs to work on ball security, though, showing a tendency to hold the ball in such a fashion it becomes a welcoming target for oncoming pass rushers.

He also has a tendency to take too long to find open receivers and an unwillingness to escape the pocket when it collapses. Then again, this is something he is expected to learn as he gets more comfortable with his new role.
*       *       *
As for the defense, Jordan Poyer, Christian Kirksey and Danny Shelton turned in strong games. Poyer, it seemed, was just about everywhere. The free safety was in on 13 of the Dolphins’ 65 plays, making 10 stops alone and aiding on three others.

Eight of Kirksey’s nine tackles were solos, while Shelton’s four solo tackles and solid anchoring of the defensive line limited the Dolphins to just 115 yards and only one touchdown on the ground.
*       *       *
Now that we’ve seen what Terrelle Pryor can do in his Slash role with the Browns, it will be interesting to see how Jackson incorporates him even more into the game plan against the Washington Redskins Sunday. The only difference is it won’t be a surprise this time. And you can bet the Skins will make certain shutdown cornerback Josh Norman will pay close attention to Pryor when he isn’t behind center.
*       *       *
There was a report Sunday that Jackson and his coaches wanted the club to sign veteran placekicker Robbie Gould, recently released by the Chicago Bears, to replace Patrick Murray after he was injured in practice Friday. But, according to the report, the coaches were overruled by the front office poobahs, who preferred Cody Parkey. The newcomer made half of his six field-goal attempts.

(Update: Jackson contradicted the report. “We made an organizational decision that (Parkey) was the right guy for us,” he told the Cleveland media Monday. “We felt good about watching him kick on tape. We felt good about everything he was doing. . . And we all made the decision together. . . . Any decision that’s made here about our football team we make together. If there’s anything that comes out of this building, it should come from me, okay? Not from anybody else. . . . We took the guy we wanted.”)
*       *       *
And finally . . . Jackson must get plays in much quicker to Kessler, avoiding those maddening delay-of-game penalties. . . . Right guard Alvin Bailey served as the tipster to center John Greco on when Kessler wanted the snap while in shotgun or pistol formation . . . . The Browns ran a season-high 74 plays for a season-high 430 total yards and owned the ball for a season-high 37 minutes and 22 seconds. . . . The pass-to-run ratio also reached a season high of 57%-43% pass-to-run. . . . Miami receiver Jarvis Landry was held to only one catch for four yards in the first half. He responded with six catches for 116 yards and a TD the rest of the way. . . . Ricardo Louis, it seems, has worked his way ahead of fellow rookie wide receiver Rashard Higgins with a three-catch, 40-yard afternoon against the Dolphins. . . . Where was rookie outside linebacker Joe Schobert? He was not deactivated. If he played, it was not noticeable. . . . Duke Johnson Jr. touches watch: 15 touches for 81 yards. Much better. Now keep them coming.


  1. Bailey is probably gone, which means the right side of the line no longer exists except for Paztor who takes the phrase "hold that line" way too seriously. As for Jackson saying the whole organization made the decision on the kicker, its quite an indictment of the evaluation talents of these people. Who looks at tape of a player two years ago and then expects him to be the same after an injury riddled year? Sad!

  2. Agree with you on the talent evaluation. But I give credit to Jackson for standing up and taking a bullet for the idiots in the front office. That could become a recurring theme in the future.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson, if he's still around, doesn't try some sort of power play to prevent stuff like this from happening again in the future. He needs to have more control of the roster.