"The Browns are improving and improving quickly."
That's what a former player which is directly involved in player personnel for an opposing team in the league tells theOBR, after watching both Browns preseason contests this past week.
In a 30-minute picking of the brain, the player personnel executive provides his opinion and thoughts on what he viewed when focusing on the Browns and specific players.
"Let start by saying, I believe Mike (Holmgren), Tom (Heckert) and Pat (Shurmur) have done a very good job in getting talent and organization in Cleveland," the personnel executive said. "If they (Browns) hit on the young talent they are amassing, this will be a tough team very soon."
(On rookie Brandon Weeden)…….People must remember Weeden is a rookie regardless of his age and maturity. He is going to make mistakes, and he has the skill-set and physical stature to become a good quarterback in this league.
We watched film on him and viewed his workout prior to the draft and came away impressed. Weeden can make every throw imaginable due to his arm strength and how he can spin the ball. This is an area which the Browns have struggled for some time.
Defensing the Browns hasn't taken any special concerns. The quarterbacks didn't have a gun, the receivers were not really vertical threats, and so we would throw some masked looks at them and attack the box.
Give the young man time to grow in the pro game and the Browns will once again have a true talent under center that can change the complexion of a game. In our evaluation of Weeden, he is a first round talent and would have been a much higher selection if not for many being concerned about his age and longevity potential.
Take the mistakes in his rookie season with a grain of salt, it's a learning experience and all the great ones started somewhere.
(On rookie Trent Richardson)…….Arguably the best player that came out of the draft. Generally you don't see a running back thought of so highly, but Richardson has all the tools, all the toughness and ability you want to see in a running back, especially in the AFC North division.
The addition of a potential dynamic at quarterback and running back leads me to believe if the Browns don't blow everything up again, the opportunity is present to build a nice group of offensive weapons around these two potential star caliber players.
His knee surgery wasn't a concern to us due to the minor nature of the scope. He checked out fine for us following his initial surgery. Now, the Browns must not rush him back from the minor procedure he just had, or he will most likely struggle throughout an already demanding rookie season.
Based on talent alone, Richardson could be in the same caliber of Ray Rice.
(On Josh Gordon)…….Big, strong, fast and talented young man. He moves very well for a receiver his size.
The problem comes whether he has his head on straight and wants to play football or just play. From what I have viewed, the young man is maturing and could become a very interesting receiver, especially with a quarterback that has the arm strength and mentality as Weeden.
At the collegiate level he (Gordon) displayed excellent athletic ability and could get by with that due to not playing against top talent every week. You can see he can't get away with that at this level. He needs to really work on his route running, how to use his hands to fight a defensive back and learn to get his hands out.
You can see his (Gordon's) athleticism and it will only be a matter of time until the lights come on for him.
If you watch the Browns two preseason games, he is just a little late in getting into breaks and he hasn't shown the knowledge of selling a defensive back on a route. The worst thing a receiver can do is run routes short/long, rounding them off and not being in position to make the catch.
Now, he (Gordon) is like a thoroughbred, turn him loose and let him run…..he'll make plays.
(On the Browns offensive line)…….Most teams would be happy to have a Joe Thomas or Alex Mack along their offensive lines. Now, the other three components of the offensive line vary in inexperience, skill-set and overall talent.
We graded (Mitchell) Schwartz as a mid-second round to top third grade. He is a powerful, straighter man type lineman, which fits what the Browns are doing.
The other two, (Jason) Pinkston and (Shawn) Lauvao are young, so you expect mistakes. Both players have areas of weakness in their game and the Browns actually mask some of this. Pinkston does not show good feet and he can be beaten at the point due to this. Anyone that plays the Browns do not have to focus on the guards pulling often, they simply don't make it to the level in time for the play to succeed.
There is no Eric Steinbach type sitting at guard for them (Browns) now.
Lauvao has the ability to be a good run blocker, but appears to be heavy-footed and shows to be a little slow in getting into his sets in pass blocking. He is a mauler type, but is has been inconsistent in our reviews of him when doing our scout work.
What I see from these two preseason games is basically I remember then a season ago, though Pinkston appears to be stronger in pass protection and looks leaner and is the better prospect, in my opinion.
(What impresses most about this Browns team?)…….The determination they show and this Browns team plays hard. It was more difficult for them compared to many teams a season ago due to the lockout, which robbed them of critical offseason work and installing new offensive and defensive schemes.
The entire combination of a strange offseason, new systems, new coaches and players, they were competitive, especially when you look at them and see they have been deficient of top-type talent over the past few seasons.
Coach Shurmur did a better job than most realize. He had one of the most difficult challenges in front of him, and the organization identified weaknesses within the roster and acted accordingly.
His (Shurmur's) may have taken on too much in that first season. Going without an offensive coordinator in his first year, coming off a wiped-out offseason and new talent? That's plenty to handle and the Browns not only persevered, they have gotten better due to it.
(What area within the Browns has made the greatest improvement?)…….The influx of young talent with speed, quickness and athleticism will improve this team quickly. You can teach a player how to play the position, play the game, but you cannot teach speed and quickness.
Any time you add speed on the perimeter of the offense, the defense is forced to respect the offense – which hasn't been the case with the Browns.
I see a significant change at linebacker spots. Three young guys jump out when watching the tape, #40 (L.J. Fort), #47 (Craig Robertson) and #50 (James-Michael Johnson) all display quickness, awareness and discipline. What I like most at linebacker are players that can make plays and tackle.
These three young players have those tools.
In the defensive backfield there are a couple young guys outside of Joe Haden, (Sheldon) Brown and (T.J.) Ward that look like they can contribute for the Browns.
(What is the greatest weakness within this Browns team?)…….If you can't stop the run, history says you will not win. The same can be said about getting to the quarterback, if you don't get to them, you likely lose.
The Browns have not displayed the ability to stop the run and they have added some players in hopes to solidify the issue.
With the Browns you have great youth at defensive tackle, high potential types in (Phil) Taylor, (Ahtyba) Rubin along with the two rooks (John Hughes and Billy Winn). We had both of the rookie tackles on our board, but both are better served in the 4-3 (Dick) Jauron runs.
I know many people outside the game criticized the selection of Hughes, but I will tell you this, the young man will play for a long time if he stays healthy. He is one of those country strong type guys, he can play.
Until you see if the rookies can make an impact you never know.
The acquisition of Frostee Rucker will help against the run. The other defensive end, (Jabaal) Sheard can create pressure, though he needs to learn how to finish, but he doesn't play the run very well. It's a learning process and I would expect him to be better this year.
What it comes down to is, if the young players come through (defensive line and linebackers), the Browns run defense will be improved. Until they show it, teams will continue to run the ball endlessly at them.