More questions and thoughts
First, before resuming with more questions with regard go the Browns and the 2019 season, some thoughts about the recently concluded minicamp and the OTAs that preceded them . . .
Do not fall into the trap of taking seriously the goings on. It’s so easy to glom onto just about everything that goes on during these workouts and extrapolate them into something special.
There is one underlying fact that should dampen any and all of the enthusiasm the media is reporting. These guys are working out in shorts, jerseys, helmets and no pads.
These are exercises are designed to make the beginning of training camp late next months that much easier and comfortable for the players. That is all. They are nothing more than indoctrination for what lies ahead.
So when we how hear how great a player – let’s use safety Jermaine Whitehead as an example here because we’ve heard a lot about him– has looked and the coaches really like him, pay no attention. That’s nothing more than blather that is lapped up by the media.
Their job is to report what they see and hear. I don’t care and give little or no credence to what coaches say at this time of the season. It’s nothing more than white noise.
For example, coach Freddie Kitchens, tickling his hyperbole gene, went a little overboard with his impressions of the offensive line following rookie minicamp early last month.
“This is the best offensive line I have ever been a part of and I have been in the league for 13 years,” he said. Yes he did. He continued, “I have never seen a group collectively this good.” Really? In 13 years?
And then there’s this after the Browns lost out recently in the Gerald McCoy sweepstakes: “I expect our defensive line to be the strength of our football team. Nobody wants to talk about them, but I expect them to be the strength of the team.”
Better than the offense? We’ll check in on that one roughly halfway through the season.
Now when the pads and full uniforms appear, that’s when my radar perks up and I start paying attention to coaches and their observations. That’s when the real competition commences.
So don’t get too excited now because those names that are mentioned now very well might either disappear or give way to those who perform much better with all their equipment on.
Oh and one more thought: Odell Beckham missing the OTAs was not a big deal. Far from it. This bonding nonsense is bullroar. He’ll be fine with his new teammates. His gravitas paves the way.
Now the questions . . .
Is raw talent enough to achieve the major goals this season?
Not really, It depends on much the players buy into what the coaching staff is trying to accomplish. The true test is whether the coaches are able to synch up and take advantage of the various talents of the players.
Baker Mayfield needs to feel comfortable running the offense. He’ll operate this season with a whole different playbook after playing last season with Todd Haley’s playbook, which was tinkered with in the final eight games by Kitchens.
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken has to figure out what plays Mayfield likes to run; what routes his receivers enjoy running; determine the strengths and weaknesses of his linemen and adjust accordingly; and generally create an offense that is unpredictable.
Last year’s team overachieved. What can the fans expect this season?
They overachieved last season because they grew weary or being the butt of jokes. This season, they will be anything but. Winning will be a little more difficult because as favorites to win the AFC North, they have bull’s-eyes on the back of their uniforms.
How do they handle a bad start, a distinct possibility given the weird schedule out of the starting gate?
That’s a situation that falls squarely in the laps of the coaching staff. Kitchens and his men would have to convince the team their talent will eventually overcome such an obstacle and to continue to believe in the staff.
Is it ridiculous to suggest Mayfield will fall victim to the sophomore jinx?
Mayfield is such a strong presence, it’s hard to think he would be hampered by such a possibility. He’ll probably be asked during training camp by some outsider and undoubtedly channel Bryce Harper with his reply: “That’s a stupid question.”
And it is. But count on it being asked, anyway. No, he won’t fall victim. He might even flourish like Dan Marino did in his sophomore season in Miami when he threw for nearly 5,100 yards, 48 touchdowns and took the Dolphins to the Super Bowl.
Denzel Ward suffered two concussions in his rookie season. What is the over/under on how long it will take for No. 3 to arrive?
Six games. I’ll take the under unless he changes his tackling technique.
Will Greedy Williams win starting job opposite Ward?
Yes. Only an injury will stand in the rookie’s way. He’ll also prove he can stick his nose in running plays.
Is the offensive line as good as some believe?
Not changing my response. Unless offensive line coach James Campen is a true miracle worker, Mayfield will spend a lot of time this season scrambling. Only Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter are reliable.
Who wins the major position battles?
Joe Schobert is still the middle linebacker; Genard Avery plays more at defensive end than linebacker and racks up a lot of snaps; Morgan Burnett beats out Whitehead at strong safety; Austin Corbett opens at right guard; Trevon Coley is the third defensive tackle; fifth-round pick Austin Seibert dispatches Greg Joseph and is the new placekicker; and Rashard Higgins is the No. 4 receiver.
Is Duke Johnson Jr. in a Cleveland uniform for the season (and home) opener against Tennessee?
That’s a toughie. If the Browns can’t get anything better than a future sixth-round draft pick, yes. If they can talk some team (New England?) into parting with a fifth, then no and Dontrell Hilliard becomes the team’s third running back.
Johnson needs to shut up now and be professional at his job. Training camps are scouted all the time and if anyone out there on the National Football League landscape believes he will look better in another uniform, something will happen.
Time now to think about whether the Indians can make a playoff run (think wild card) and who the Cavaliers will select in the NBA draft before turning our attention to the Browns the last week in July.