You’re never as good as you think you are, and it’s never as bad as you think it is.
This statement applies to both football and life in general. When reviewing the Cleveland Browns’ 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on opening weekend, a few positives appeared for Hue Jackson’s team. Of course, multiple breakdowns overshadowed those bright spots.
Before delving into the contest, the Orange and Brown Report recently inquired about a lingering story. Evan Krakower serves as K'Waun Williams representation. In asking about Williams’ status, the agent responded:
- “The Browns waived K’waun with an uninjured designation following his suspension. It was our contention he was injured. He was claimed on waivers by the Bears. Their medical staff failed his physical. He was not claimed again. Over 10 teams have contacted us to see when he can return to football activities. Our position is that he needs surgery to return to the field. Cleveland has refused to authorize medical treatment. A work comp claim has been filed as well as a NFLPA grievance. Unfortunately, this has delayed treatment, and the player suffers.”
- Krakower added, “This type of treatment of a player would make me hesitate to send a client to the Browns in free agency no matter how much cap space they have.”
- Those are strong words, and he’s not the first agent who expressed similar sentiments this offseason. With that said, this stance shouldn’t feed into the national narrative the Browns are still incompetent. Their approach is just unorthodox. Williams’ situation is one example. Desmond Bryant’s renegotiation is another. Both injury situations are usually absorbed by teams. However, none of this means the Browns organization isn’t on the same page from the owner down to the coaching staff. As the franchise builds toward the 2017 campaign, Jackson was right to come out publicly by stating the team’s ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
- As for this past weekend’s contest, something became blatantly obvious: Nickel is the team’s base defense. Discussions that involve which players fit what defensive front are outdated. The Browns used a true 3-4 front on 19 total snaps against the Eagles. Instead, defensive coordinator Ray Horton employed sub-packages 75 percent of the time. All NFL teams are multiple, and the Browns need to find defenders who make plays, not players who are scheme-specific.
- Carl Nassib is a perfect example of an impact defender who technically didn’t start the contest due to an arbitrary depth chart. Despite not being listed as a “starter”, the rookie defensive end was found on the field when the Eagles took their first offensive snap. His promotion to the top of the depth chart is merely recognition for a job well done.
- In fact, the Penn State product played over 65 percent of the snaps and graded as the NFL’s best defensive rookie in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus. Surprisingly, the lanky defensive end graded better against the run despite registering multiple quarterback hurries and a sack. Nassib still needs to play with better leverage and sink his hips against down blocks and double-teams, but he impressed during his first professional appearance.
- Over the past year, I’ve been particularly hard on Danny Shelton due to his underwhelming play as a rookie. He never appeared to be the difference-maker needed from a nose tackle who the team selected in the top half of the first round. Shelton played the best game of his career to open the season, and he looked like the physical force many expected when the Browns used the 12th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft to select the big Polynesian.
- As a 340-plus-pound 1-technique, Shelton became typecast throughout the draft process due to his body type. Too many wanted to invoke Haloti Ngata or Vince Wilfork comparisons throughout the evaluation period. Shelton never played like either of those former first-round picks. Instead, he fell more in line with former Boston College and Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji. Both were disruptive players better at penetrating than being asked to consistently take on double-teams. Unfortunately for former Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce, he faced the version of Shelton that warranted a first-round selection. The Washington product fired off the ball with authority, shot gaps, got into the backfield and disrupted numerous plays. Once he puts multiple performances of this caliber together, the Browns defense might finally see a difference in how it defends the run.
- As a unit, Cleveland’s defense didn’t perform as poorly as the offense did. After the first contest, the Browns are ranked 26th overall in total defense. Same old, right? But the team’s current ranking needs to be assessed beyond the surface level. Due in part to a struggling offense, the Browns defense faced the fourth-most plays from scrimmage, yet they’re tied for 17th in yards per play and 18th in yards per carry. Obviously, there are still issues on this side of the ball, but the Baltimore Ravens aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut after managing 308 yards and 13 points in their debut.
- Draft watch: Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp won’t be found among the top left tackle prospects, yet he should be counted among college football best blockers. As heavy interest swirls around Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Pitt’s Adam Bisnowaty and Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, Lamp put together arguably the most impressive performance of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide’s Cam Robinson is clearly the top left tackle prospect, but Lamp’s name should start entering the conversation among those previously mentioned. Why? The Hilltopper didn’t surrender a single quarterback hit, hurry or sack against Alabama’s ultra-talented defensive front. Speaking of which, Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen deserves recognition as the second-best prospect behind Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett. Allen might actually hold more value at the next level, because he’s equally effective as an edge and interior pass-rusher.