Saturday, August 18, 2018

Exhibition #2 leftovers

 Now that Josh Gordon has decided to rejoin the Browns, the big question is whether the pursuit of Dez Bryant is worth resuming after the veteran wide receiver departed Berea Friday without signing a contract.

Gordon announced his return to the team Saturday after taking a self-imposed sabbatical just prior to the start of training camp in order to straighten out some complexities in his personal life.

According to reports, Gordon must apply for reinstatement to play this season pending final approval from National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. He is expected to begin practicing once cleared by the medical staff.

If Gordon is permitted to return and is placed on the final roster, it represents a roster dilemma for General Manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson with regard to Bryant.

If healthy and ready to go, Gordon joins Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins to form the best wide receivers corps this franchise has had since, well since the team that departed for Baltimore in 1996.

Would there be any need for Bryant, whose brash and egocentric personality could clash with the relatively peaceful landscape in Berea? That is not what Jackson needs at this point of his head-coaching career, which clearly hangs in the balance with how his club performs early in the season.

What’s next with regard to the former Dallas Cowboy? No one knows for certain whether any other team is interested in him. Right now, it appears as though the Browns are the only team on his plate.

He appeared to have a good time in his brief time with the team, but his departure without signing creates doubts whether he is serious about Cleveland. Or whether Cleveland is still serious about him now that Gordon is back on board. The next move is up to Dorsey.  
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Lost in the afterglow of Friday night’s 19-17 exhibition loss to the Buffalo Bills was the Browns’ inability to cover punts well.

Now this might register as low on the importance scale to some fans, but covering punts is just as important as any other aspect of the game of football. It is a small part of the complete package and should not be ignored.

The Browns punted eight times with only three returns, but two of them resulted in runs of 39 and 29 yards and short fields for the Buffalo offense. One resulted in a field goal; the other in a missed field goal. It’s small missteps like this that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Special teams coordinator Amos Jones arrived in town with a questionable reputation following five very average seasons as special teams boss in Arizona. He was so disliked in the desert, a Web site (Fire Amos Jones) strongly suggested his departure.

The Cardinals ranked near the bottom of the NFL in special teams statistics the last few seasons. Hard to figure out what about Jones attracted the Browns, who finished 27th in the NFL in special teams last season, one slot ahead of the Cardinals.

A message from Cardinals fans on the site accompanied Jones to Cleveland. “To those in the Dawg Pound: We’ll track the progress of the Browns’ special teams. I suspect it will be a new Factory of Sadness for the City. Godspeed.”

Definitely an area of the team that bears close scrutiny as the season unfolds.
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Those who thought the Browns might have erred by drafting running back Nick Chubb in the second round of the college draft following his dismal début against the New York Giants in the exhibition opener probably have a different view now.

The Giants’ defense completely flummoxed the Cleveland offensive line and Chubb never had a chance to display his wares. The Nick Chubb the Browns thought they drafted showed up against the Bills.

Clearly attempting to prove the ground game against the Giants was not a true reflection of how much it has improved this season, that aspect of the offense was featured heavily and churned out 164 yards. Chubb was a big part of it.

The rookie is a slasher whose best running comes when he heads north. His 53 yards on 11 carries were accumulated with a series of plus runs on which he showed quickness to the hole and deft jab steps in traffic that gained him extra yards.

And once he learns how to harness and then use his brute strength to fight through those holes and subsequent tackle attempts, he should be in the mix for even more reps. The depth at the position is one of the club’s strengths.

Make no mistake, though. Carlos Hyde is clearly the No. 1 back for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but after watching Chubb work against the Buffalo defense, he now knows he can call on the rookie without hesitation.
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Count on Haley and his coaches to quickly clean up the problems of offensive pass interference. Officials correctly called it three times in the Bills game, once negating a touchdown that later became a field goal as a result of the penalty. It was the difference between winning and losing the game.

Offensive pass interference is rarely called. Three times in a game is a truckload. Most of the time it is flagged when a receiver rubs (picks) a defensive back to open up a lane for a fellow receiver. A receiver cannot engage a defender as a blocker until the ball is delivered or else flags will fly.
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Jackson hinted this past week that Drew Stanton might be his No. 2 quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. It’s nothing more than bullroar.

Taylor’s backup will be Baker Mayfield. Period. Stanton’s role on this team is to shepherd Mayfield through the growing stages of his professional football career. Nothing else.

It’s nice to have him on the bench in case injuries mount, a distinct possibility with the Browns. But let’s be honest. The Browns’ hierarchy wants to see Mayfield develop quickly and slotting him at #3 in a three-quarterbacks room is not the way to do that.
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Finally . . .  Callaway and Landry were virtual spectators in the Buffalo loss. Callaway, who played the entire game against the Giants, was not targeted once and gained three yards on an end around. Landry was targeted once with no catches. Each man played only 23 snaps. . . . Rookie guard Austin Corbett played the entire game again at left guard. . .  Jamie Collins received more snaps than any other linebacker. With strength and solid depth at that position, could the Browns be showcasing the veteran for a possible trade?

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