Sunday, July 15, 2018

Q&A Part 1 (continued)

The quarterbacks and running backs . . .

Why are most pundits and fans so head-over-heels with Tyrod Taylor?

Probably because he is the best quarterback this club has had since, well, since they reentered the National Football League in 1999. In a relative sense, that is, considering just about everyone else who has quarterbacked this team over the last 19 seasons has mediocre at best.

There is nothing spectacular Taylor, who threw just 14 touchdown passes for Buffalo last season and only 51 in three seasons with the Bills. His value to the Cleveland value lies in his ability to, as the coaches like to say, protect the football.

The 6-1 Taylor has thrown only 16 interceptions in 774 pass attempts in those three seasons. Prolific, no. Not even close. Protective? One of the best in the NFL. He rarely makes mistakes.

About the only negative with that style of play is Taylor’s inability to avoid sacks, having been dropped 124 times with Buffalo. And the Browns’ pass protection might be the weakest aspect of the offense.

He will not win games with his arm. He will win them with his head and the ability to keep defenses honest as a potential runner in a run/pass option scheme. He will make the Browns something they haven’t been on offense in many seasons – competitive on that side of the ball.

He is not a great quarterback. He is barely a good one. But he arrives in Cleveland as the perfect quarterback to shepherd this joke of a franchise out of the morass it has occupied for nearly two decades.

He gives them respectability and provides a gravitas that should serve as a great learning experience for Baker Mayfield as he acclimates to the NFL.

So is Mayfield pretty much ensconced as Taylor’s backup?

Sure looks that way with coach Hue Jackson not budging from his stance of anointing the veteran as his starting quarterback. The brash rookie will have to wait his turn.

Unless he has the kind of sensational rookie training camp Russell Wilson had with the Seattle Seahawks on 2012 and forces Jackson to name him the starter, the overall No. 1 pick in the draft earlier this year will be a spectator this season.

He’ll get some reps in exhibition games just to get his NFL feet dampened, but they will dry off during the regular season.

What about Drew Stanton?

The 10-year veteran most likely is there to help Mayfield with his transition to the pro game. Be there when the kid has questions. Be a sounding board.

Now the running backs. Is it too optimistic to call this corps one of the strongest the Browns have had in years?

Absolutely not. Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr. give the Browns easily the most versatile set of backs in not only the division, but arguably the conference, if not the league.

That’s a bit hyperbolic.

Not really when you break it down. Let’s start with Hyde, a four-year veteran who put up some decent numbers with San Francisco the last two seasons. He is a legitimate 1,000-yard thread on the ground with a nose for the end zone and proved last season he could catch the football with 59 recep4tions.

The former Ohio State star, only 27 years old, most likely will open up as the No.  1 back after offensive coordinator Todd Haley fiddles with his rotations during training camp.

Johnson is the Swiss Army knife of the backfield. He is a slashing runner with great outside speed, owns the best pair of pass-catching hands on the team and is probably the most difficult runner to bring down in the open field.

The best position for Johnson to play, as former Cleveland GM Ernie Accorsi liked to say about Eric Metcalf, all those years ago is “just get him the ball.”

Chubb is the unknown quantity, but if he is anywhere like he was in three of his fours seasons with the University of Georgia, he will be a dynamite addition to the Cleveland backfield.

The rock-solid 5-11, 230-pounder (he has squatted 600 pounds) averaged more than 100 yards a game on the ground in 47 games for the Bulldogs. What kept him from putting up more spectacular numbers was a devastating injury (he tore three of the four ligaments in his left knee) midway through his sophomore season.

While it’s still too early to say, there is a good chance Chubb could supplant Hyde as the No. 1 back before the season und. The only negative with the kid is whether he can be effective in the pass game.

The Bulldogs did not require their running backs to catch the football, Chubb gathering in only 31passes in his four years. That will be the X factor as training camp commences later this month.

Any way you slice it, the Browns’ offensive backfield this season is a coordinator’s dream.

Next: The defense

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