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Orangier Things by David Burkhart

Brought over by our Bob Evans, David Burkhart gives you his take on the Browns off-season.

David Burkhart comes to us via Bob Evans. Follow him on Twitter here

Now that the mock drafts have run their course, mocking the Cleveland Browns is back in fashion. Let’s pretend that the Browns, from the Haslams down to the coaching staff, have a plan. I know this may require a certain degree of imagination for some, for those still following along let’s continue on with more Orangier Things. (A reference to Stranger Things)

After last season ended, the holes along the offensive line and limited potential at quarterback were obvious. The defense had a few bright spots, but the unit lacked an above average to elite player until trading for linebacker Jamie Collins and moving Emmanuel Ogbah to defensive line, where he and Danny Shelton began to emerge. And don’t forget Christian Kirksey’s development behind that emerging defensive line. Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun showed some potential in the secondary, while Joe Haden was “limited by injuries” for what seems like the third year in a row. And I can’t help but assume that new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams posted a “help wanted” sign next to the Safety position on the depth chart.

Besides the glaring holes, the Browns have a lack of depth throughout the roster and need some “playmakers” on both sides of the ball. Last years ridiculous amount of injuries showed how thin the Browns roster truly is and the lack of talent and experience was never more apparent than in the W column at the end of the season.

Before moving on let’s not forget that fellow rookies Corey Coleman and Carl Nassib flashed at times, but struggled after coming back from broken hands. I’m not sure what the Browns think of him, like several other players still on the roster, but Nate Orchard had some production in college as a defensive end and preferred to stay in the 4-3 defense he saw success in. Perhaps Nate Orchard, Joe Schobert, or Des Bryant, the last also returning from injury, are expected to fill roles. Or maybe they are bubble players or trade-bait.

To me, it’s a value/cost/production/variable and if you can improve their position while trying to develop them, do so. In Bryant’s case, I could see it both ways. He’s the oldest and most expensive player on the defensive line at age 31 and $4 million dollars. Shelton is nearest financially at $3.9, but Shelton is developing and in his third year. Bryant is coming off injury.

Getting back to the roster holes, that’s QB, offensive line, Safety, cornerback, and defensive line as having the most holes and question marks. Now let’s look at who the Browns have lost to see if there are any new holes…

Lost:

QB Josh McCown

DB Tramon Williams

WR Andrew Hawkins

QB Robert Griffin III

Not listed are the defensive coaches where Ray Horton and staff were replaced by Gregg Williams and crew. Which affects the draft and free agency, at least the players the front office is looking at on the defensive side of the ball.

Before adding any holes to our list let’s look at who the Browns have added in free agency….

Signed:

WR, Kenny Britt                                                        OL, Joel Bitonio (extension)

LB, Jamie Collins (extension)                                   OL, J.C. Tretter

WR, Rannell Hall (re-signed)                                    OL, Matt McCants

LS, Charley Hughlett (re-signed)                              DL, Jamie Meder

OL, Kevin Zeitler                                                      K, Brett Maher

And claimed:

Ol, Marcus Martin

DB, Tyvis Powell

WR, James Wright

The Cleveland Browns also traded a 4th round pick to the Houston Texans for QB Brock Osweiler, a 2018 second round pick, and the Texans 6th round pick. Not a bad haul for $16 million, the cost of Osweiler’s contract. Depending on the day, rumor is the Browns are keeping him to compete for the starting spot, cutting him, or trading him and paying $10 million or more of the contract. A personal thought, I know Osweiler didn’t set the NFL on fire last season after the Texans paid for handsomely for his services, but after watching Clipboard Jesus play quarterback in a Browns uniform, I’d like to keep Osweiler for a year, the year that some think the front office should pay him to play elsewhere. I’m trying to remember, wasn’t there a tall, big-armed QB that Hue Jackson had some success with a couple years ago? Oh, that’s right, Joe Flacco.

All of that is ancient history, at least in the modern era where attention spans last 140 characters and in the NFL, which stands for Not For Long, so let’s get back to the future. Specifically, the Cleveland Browns and the draft. Although it could just be a coincidence, the Browns attacked their biggest weakness, and the Draft’s biggest weakness, in free agency. Personally, I like to think of it as part of a strategy or plan. Not some random coincidence that happened to workout in their favor.

Here’s another thought, Hue Jackson has been called a quarterback whisperer. The thing I think people forget is, he’s not a wizard that can cast a spell and give a QB talent. He creates an offensive system based off the quarterback's strength while minimizing his deficiencies while working with the player to hasten his delivery and decision making. Ultimately, the players have to want it and commit. You know, put in the work, the training, the hours, the practices, learning defenses, and so many other things that go into being a successful NFL quarterback, let alone a Franchise-caliber QB. Jackson gives them confidence, belief in themselves and a system they can grow in and from.

For instance, last year when rookie Cody Kessler was forced to start by Week 3 because of injuries, Jackson used odd formations and motions to force the defense to show who they were covering. Jackson was widely criticized for this tactic as many thought the formations were too complicated for the rookie signal caller, while overlooking the advantage it provided him. Right or wrong, the formations often led to confusion amongst Browns players and penalties, and had to be refined as the season went on.

Bear that in mind when the draft rolls around. Many seem to think any quarterback could be an NFL signal caller, or that the Browns have the QB’s rated evenly across the board.

Are you tracking with David's thoughts on the Browns off-season so far?


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