Three is always better than two
What’s better for a National Football League team than having one good running back? Two? Three?
Well after the first big round off free-agent signings, the Browns added to their infantry approach on offense by signing ex-Ohio State star Carlos Hyde, who will pair with the extremely versatile Duke Johnson Jr. in the backfield.
Good move. He more than replaces Isaiah Crowell, whose inconsistency marginalized him in the eyes of the new front office and off he went to the New York Jets.
But the depth in the Cleveland ground game does not need to end there. Hyde and Johnson together are nice, but they would be even better, more effective, with the addition of one of the strong running backs in this year’s draft class.
At the top of that position class, of course, is Saquon Barkley, who is also at the top of the entire draft class and a possible selection for the Browns ay No. 1. Possible, not probable.
General Manager John Dorsey was asked whether Hyde’s signing precluded any thoughts of passing on Barkley when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell puts the Browns on the clock six weeks from now in Arlington, Texas.
“Not necessarily,” Dorsey coyly told the Cleveland media the other day. “You can’t have enough good football players.” That right there should stop fans of this team in their tracks.
Was that a yes or a no? Seems as though Dorsey is playing mind games with the rest of the NFL in true cloak-and-dagger fashion at this time of the year. Sort of a keep-them-guessing game.
He then furthered his remarks with this tease: “Saquon would be a nice addition to the team,” he said, “another guy who can go out and make big plays. Use all the weapons you can. If he comes here, the more the better. He’d definitely be a great addition.”
Would be? If he comes, not when? A classic case of mixed signals. The man sure knows how to confuse.
And while it’s still way too early to make a definite commitment at the top, it almost sounds as though Barkley’s name will be the first of Goodell calls. Almost. Can’t be positively certain yet,
But if it’s Dorsey’s intention to completely resurrect the Browns’ offense, he needs to follow through on one of his answers to the media when he told them, “You can’t have enough good football players.”
The possibility of having Hyde, Johnson and Barkley in the same backfield in some way, shape or form seems to be what he is implying. He should listen to himself.
* * *
So who is going to replace the retired Joe Thomas at left offensive tackle for the Browns this season? Shon Coleman? Spencer Drango? Rod Johnson? Newcomer Donald Stephenson? Is that man not yet on the roster?
The draft class at that position is not strong this season. So unless Dorsey gets lucky and finds a gold nugget as he pans for that position deep in the lottery, it looks as though one of the aforementioned will be the man.
Coleman, who played right tackle for the Browns last season, most likely will get the first crack. He is no stranger to the position, having played it during his final two years at Auburn.
He is free to move to left tackle after the Browns signed Chris Hubbard as a free agent earlier this week. Hubbard filled in at right tackle and played well last season for Pittsburgh when Marcus Gilbert encountered hamstring problems.
Dorsey pointed out during his news conference that he saw Thomas working with Coleman in the Berea facility, obviously trying to pass along some of the nuances of the position that enabled him to carve out a Hall of Fame career.
Drango, who replaced Thomas when he went down with a torn triceps muscle in week seven of the winless 2017 campaign, had his problems in the second half of the season, most notably in pass protection.
Stephenson has made 37 NFL starts in six seasons, mostly at right tackle. Johnson, a fifth-round draft pick by Cleveland last season, suffered a sprain MCL in early September last year and landed on injured reserve.