Catching up . . .
Back from a two-week respite from the rigors and nonsense of the National Football League after a journey down a couple of German rivers from Zurich to Paris and ready to tackle the 2018 season.
Received way too many condolences from folks along the way after informing them I blogged about the Browns, but was quick to alert them a sleeping giant was awakening and Cleveland will cease to be the butt of NFL jokes.
That said, time to play a little catch-up as the new-look Browns with a new attitude prepare for the exhibition season. Starting with . . .
The trade of Corey Coleman to the Buffalo Bills for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 college draft. Seventh round. Year after next. That’s how valuable the wide receiver became in just two seasons.
The fact it happened before the first exhibition game tells you General Manager John Dorsey couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He saw enough of Coleman last season to know he was not a fit with this team.
Reportedly tried to and couldn’t unload him via trade during the draft. It was only a matter of time before Coleman switched uniforms. Call it addition by subtraction.
Sashi Brown’s first draft selection as the Browns’ boss in 2016 proved beyond a doubt that the blind was leading the blind the two seasons he was in charge. Of the 24 players Brown drafted, 17 remain, but at least six are in jeopardy.
Brown’s team is slowly but surely disappearing off the roster. The only sure-fire starters are defensive ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, middle linebacker Joe Schobert, tight end David Njoku and strong safety Jabrill Peppers. This is rapidly becoming Dorsey’s team.
Coleman’s fate with the Browns was determined early. Scouting failed to reveal he had no idea how to run the route tree, the 10 routes a wide receiver must negotiate as a bridge to success. He was fast. And had questionable hands. That was it.
It didn’t help that he is also known as the first piece of the ill-fated Carson Wentz trade, a strong candidate to be remembered as the worst trade in club history. Neither did a couple of injuries that limited him to only half the team’s games.
It didn’t take long for Dorsey and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley to discover that Coleman was a liability. So he was shuffled off to Buffalo for what amounts to be a bag of scraps. In 2020.
Another reason would be the development of fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway, who was immediately rewarded starting status with a strong camp so far with Coleman’s departure.
The return of Josh Gordon from his self-imposed absence to take care of off-the-field problems, right now more of an if-come situation, will help strengthen the receiving corps.
And don’t forget Duke Johnson Jr., who led the club in receptions last season. With the addition of Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde at running back, Johnson very well could see plenty of action either in the slot or split wide.
Why not take advantage of arguably the best hands on the team and the ability to be a dangerous threat in the open field.
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Why it took so long for the offensive coaches to realize Joel Bitonio is the best candidate to replace Joe Thomas is puzzling. Should have happened sooner. At least the move to ease the guard over one slot came early enough to enable him to get enough reps to be ready for the regular season.
Now second-round rookie Austin Corbett can concentrate of replacing Bitonio at left guard and solidify that side of the line. And once right guard Kevin Zeitler returns from a calf injury, he will team up with newcomer Chris Hubbard at tackle to shore up the right side.
On paper, this looks like it could be a better unit up front than last season, especially with veterans like Shon Coleman, Greg Robinson and Spencer Drango as backups.
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It still looks as though the strongest unit on the entire team is the linebackers corps. Newcomer Mychal Kendricks has worked his way into the rotation, displaying enough versatility to play either outside or in the middle.
And with outside backer Jamie Collins apparently fully recovered from his season-ending knee surgery, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams should receive quality play from that unit.
Rookie Genard Avery has opened some eyes with a strong camp performance and should see some action on the outside.
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No big surprises in the first depth chart for the exhibition season Thursday night against the New York Giants.
Terrance Mitchell gets fist crack at playing opposite rookie Denzel Ward at cornerback. TJ Carrie and EJ Gaines will get their chance in the coming weeks.
The only real surprise is Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who played some nickel and a lot of cornerback last season, is listed at free safety behind Damarious Randall. And it looks as though Peppers and Derrick Kindred will slug it out at strong safety.