Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mid-week thoughts

Thinking randomly today. On the docket: Austin Corbett, Bruce Arians, team speed and scraps.

When the Browns selected Austin Corbett at the top of the second round in the last college draft, a few eyebrows were raised. The first pick in the second round? For a player drafted beyond his evaluation by so-called draft experts. A reach?

But that’s how much the Browns regarded him. The 33rd best player in the lottery. What did we know?

When anyone is drafted that high, especially an offensive lineman, you expect that player to be good enough to win a starting position. The Browns’ scouting staff obviously thought so or else they wouldn’t have lobbied to take him.

Will Hernandez, a highly regarded guard out of West Virginia, was still on the board and yet, the Browns believed Corbett was the better choice. The New York Giants immediately pulled the trigger on Hernandez, who now holds down the left guard spot. Connor Williams was scooped up by Dallas later in the round and became a starter.

And where is Corbett? Good question. Maybe an APB will locate him. If that fails, send out a search party. The correct answer, of course, is chained to the bench after playing virtually every snap in the exhibition season.

It was assumed he played well enough next to Joel Bitonio, who shifted from guard to left tackle, to earn a spot in the starting lineup. Wrong assumption.

As the season/home opener approached, the coaching staff suddenly decided Corbett was not good enough to start, promoted rookie Desmond Harrison from nowhere to left tackle and bumped Bitonio back to left guard.

Corbett has fallen so low in the eyes of the coaching staff, he barely shows up on the snap count sheet in the first nine games. He didn’t show up at all in games one and four and did not log an offensive snap in two other games.

Overall, he has been on the field for 11 snaps on offense, mostly as a tight end, and 23 snaps on special teams. His high-water marks on offense were four snaps against New Orleans in game two and three vs. Baltimore in game five.

He is not injured – well maybe his ego is bruised a little – and patiently stands ready in the event someone along the offensive line goes down. But everyone has been disgustingly healthy, relatively speaking, this season.

No one has bothered to ask the brass why Corbett has become the forgotten man. It can only be guessed they don’t believe he is good enough to crack the starting lineup. But why? Is he too slow? Not strong enough? What?

Corbett was drafted so high ostensibly because the Browns thought the four-year starter at left tackle at Nevada would have no trouble assimilating to the NFL at that position, replacing the retired Joe Thomas. That has clearly not been the case.

It’s entirely possible they now think he translates better to the NFL as a guard or center, but those positions are filled now that Bitonio is back at his old stand. Thus the Harrison move.

Right now, Corbett has to be considered a draft whiff. A wasted rookie season. Granted it’s still early, but he is so far down the roster, he can hardly be seen on game day. He wears uniform #63 if you look closely.

Perhaps this pre-draft evaluation by Lance Zierlein, Draft Analyst for, answers some questions and unlocks the part of the mystery.

“Corbett won’t blow you away with any of his measurables or play traits,” he wrote, “but he’s solid in most areas. (He) is definitely sharp enough to move inside to guard or even center and has good technique, but his average to below average play strength and lack of length may be a concern.”

The last two attributes might be the answer, but we won’t know for certain until either General Manager John Dorsey or members of his staff are questioned.
*       *       *
So Bruce Arians would love to coach the Browns. He as much as told the Canton Repository that when visiting Cleveland as part of the CBS-TV crew last Sunday for the Browns-Kansas City Chiefs game.

“Cleveland is the only job I would consider,” said Arians, who retired last season as head coach of the Arizona, where he had a nice five-year run with the Cardinals.

Earlier this season, he told ESPN that Cleveland has always been special to him, having served as offensive coordinator there for three seasons when Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb quarterbacked the Browns.

 “That was the job I always wanted,” he said. “I felt like Cleveland deserved a winner.  . . . Every time that job came open, I tried to get it.”

Which begs what-if questions. Like what if the Browns had picked Arians instead of, say, Rob Chudzinski in 2013? Or Pat Shurmur a couple of years before that? Or Eric Mangini two years before that? Where would the Browns be today? Certainly not where they are now. Some revisionist history ammo for that crowd.

It’s nice to know Arian thinks so highly of Cleveland and Browns fans, but hiring him as the next head coach is not going to happen and he knows it. He is 66 years old and has had some health problems the last few years. As much as Dorsey respects him, Arians will not wind up on the list of candidates. Makes a nice little story, though.
*       *       *
If there is one thing most fans learned by watching the Kansas City offense overwhelm the Cleveland defense Sunday, it was the striking skill and speed the Chiefs unleashed. The Browns looked slow,

The KC offensive line was quick, very strong at the point of attack and almost always in position to make a play for the extraordinary skill players who make this one of the most dangerous offenses in the National Football League.

It might be hackneyed to say, but speed kills in the NFL. The Cleveland defense had problems all afternoon trying to stay with the Chiefs, most of the time arriving too tardy to make a play. The Chiefs toyed with them.

Yes the tackling was sloppy at best, but that’s because Browns defenders did not take proper angles to make solid tackles. Why? Because the Chiefs beat them to the spot all day long. The result was arm tackles and flailing-at-air attempts at tackles.

Bottom line: If the Browns hope to compete with teams like the Chiefs in the future, Dorsey needs to place much more emphasis on team speed on both sides of the football. Being a step or two slow are not ingredients for success.
*       *       *
Scraps . . . Britton Colquitt has had two punts blocked this season and each could have been avoided with a simple block. Kevin Pierre-Louis of the New York Jets blocked the first when Nick Chubb totally missed a block on the right side of the punt formation. And Damien Williams of the Chiefs stuffed the second one Sunday after Derrick Kindred flat out whiffed. Same side. . . .  Question: Why hasn’t Amos Jones been fired? His awful coaching is as, if not much more, egregious than the departed Hue Jackson and Todd Haley. Promote assistant Sam Shade and hire Josh Cribbs as his assistant..  . . . Jarvis Landry is well on his way to maintaining his 1,000-yards-a-season average, He is on pace for 1,026 yards. The fifth-year wide receiver has been inconsistent, however, catching less than 55% of the passes thrown his way. And he has scored just two touchdowns. But to be fair, he has maintained his 10-yard average gain. . . . If the Browns are without Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey, Denzel Ward and Damarious Randall against the invading Atlanta Falcons Sunday, take cover and then the over. (Updating: the Browns placed Kirksey and E.J. Gaines on injured reserve Wednesday.)

No comments:

Post a Comment