The Weekly Ten is a new piece at the OBR and Scout.com. Each Tuesday – or maybe Wednesday, I'll take a look at the top Cleveland Browns stories of the past week.
1. Scott Fujita is on a Quest to Clear His Name….and Other Stuff That Doesn't Truly Affect the Browns' Tenuous Linebacker Situation.
I'll readily admit that I truly don't understand just who is offended by the entire Saints' Bounty scandal. For weeks now, it seems that only high-ranking NFL officials, media members and some former and current players (i.e., players who have or will become media members) have displayed outrage regarding the Saints' performance and injury bounties of past seasons. Of course, since the league is dealing with an untenable and unwinnable situation involving traumatic brain injuries, any chance to provide a distracting scapegoat (i.e., Jonathan Vilma, et all.) is welcome.
For most logical thinking fans and media members, it goes without saying that the league is hypocritical in fining or suspending any of the players involved with the Saints. After all, professional football is inherently a billion dollar showcase of high speed collisions. However, according to reports like the one above, Fujita now finds himself twisting in the wind of the unfortunate reality that both football and labor are cold businesses.
Regarding Fujita and the Browns – and not the Saints, who Fujita nearly gave a pre-playoff pep talk to in January – it's worth again stating that football is a business. Simply, Fujita is trying to protect his own. However, in a business sense, Fujita is not reliable for an entire season at his accelerated age. There is a reason the Browns (finally) drafted two linebackers in April. Add Kaluka Maiava – finally healthy – and Fujita becomes expendable.
Maybe now Fujita can become a full-time Saints' cheerleader.
2. Mary Kay Cabot is Either Super Optimistic About the 2012 Browns or is Worried About Her Competition.
Is it just me or has the PD's Mary Kay Cabot been really positive with her reporting lately?
Q: Hey, Mary Kay: Do you believe a harder-thrown ball will, or could, make the Browns' receivers get a better grip and not drop as many passes? -- Mike Edwards, Sandusky, Ohio
A: Hey, Mike: All the receivers are saying that Weeden throws a very catchable ball, so I do expect fewer drops. Even though it's hard and fast, Weeden has great touch.
Q: Hey, Mary Kay: Now that we have "Chris Weinke" at QB, should we draft another QB next year to groom to be ready when "Chris Weinke" retires? -- Jeff House, Orlando, Fla.
A: Hey Jeff: I won't tell Weeds you feel this way. . . . The Browns are on the lookout every year for developmental quarterbacks. You can bet they'll draft one in 2013. They also like their current fourth-teamer, Thad Lewis.
Weeden hasn't even thrown a pass in live game action and he already has a cutesy nickname. Just wait until August's training camp when the Oklahoma State rookie garners a Tebow-esque following from Berea's press faithful. While not much can truly go wrong in a non-padded practice, MKC's cascading tones are either genuinely inspirational or suspiciously look like a ploy to garner as much front office access as possible.
After all, it was only a year ago when Colt McCoy was the apple of everyone's eye.
3. Late May is the Season of Redemption….and Best Time for Coach Zingers.
Speaking of things somewhat journalistic….
Back in December, I thought about contacting Marcus Benard for an interview. At the time, I thought that the Browns fans could be interested in an update on Benard – who all but disappeared after a sluggish training camp and in-season motorcycle accident. After playing tag with Benard's representation, both the story idea and the season's momentum kind of fell aside. Now a few months later, I realize that this time of the year is ideal for such feel good fodder.
Many just stay off the freeway, Marcus.
And leave it to embattled, yet perpetually swaggered Browns' head coach Pat Shurmur to offer a subtle jab at Benard.
"He looks like a different guy, physically, to me as well. He's much leaner, he looks much more fit and he's flashed just in the little bit you can see from defensive linemen. He looks to me like he is putting himself in position to have a good camp and that's good."
TRANSLATION: "He didn't show up to camp weighing 280 lbs. this year."
4. In Two Months, No One in Northeast Ohio Will Ever Think About LeRoy Kelly Jr. Again.
Again, it's late May/early June in Berea, which means stories like LeRoy Kelly's son are simultaneously inspirational, nostalgic and quickly forgotten. The chances of a rookie in his late 20's breaking into the NFL are…..wait a minute.
Anyway, what's most impressive about this story is that Hall of Fame running back Kelly was 45 when Leroy Jr. was born.
5. There's a New(er) Free Safety In Town.
It doesn't receive the sad notoriety of parading 16 different starting quarterbacks, signing a string of broken down right tackles or not featuring even a slightly athletic outside linebacker – but the Browns' recent history at safety has been a bit depressing.
1999 - Corey Fuller, Marquez Pope
2000 - Percy Ellsworth, Marquis Smith
2001 - Percy Ellsworth, Earl Little
2003 - Earl Little, Robert Griffith
2004 - Earl Little, Robert Griffith
2006 - Brian Russell, Sean Jones
2007 - Brodney Pool, Sean Jones
2008 - Brodney Pool, Sean Jones
2009 - Abe Elam, Brodney Pool
2010 - Abe Elam, T.J. Ward
2011 - Mike Adams, T.J. Ward
Any game-changing plays jump out at you? How about at least some consistency?
While the Browns didn't target their secondary in April's draft (with the exception of a seventh-round pick), 2011 choice Eric Hagg could become the team's latest safety starter alongside T.J. Ward. Ward – who is by far a better run stopper than pass defender – should bolster the team's porous run defense. The hope is that Hagg figures out that successful free safeties in Cover-1 and Cover-3 types of schemes rely on their quickness, range and instincts above anything else.
And how fun would a duo of Boss Ward and Boss Hagg be?
6. It's About to Get Real….Like Dmitri Patterson Starting at Cornerback Real.
Is anyone else concerned that Patterson is likely going to start at cornerback – if not be on the field constantly against three-receiver sets? This is still the same player cut from the Eagles and recently signed to a hefty free agent deal by the Browns. Patterson is also the protection against Sheldon Brown's age and Buster Skrine's inexperience.
7. The Winner of the Dmitri Patterson OTA MVP Honors Is….
In some respects, this could make Patterson one of the defense's most valuable players. Or, considering that Joe Haden is asked to mirror each opposing team's best receiver, maybe the future All-Pro is a better choice? But then again, think of how valuable Ahtyba Rubin just became after Phil Taylor suffered a torn pectoral. Throw in Jabaal Sheard as the only semi-proven pass rusher and D'Qwell Jackson as the most reliable tackler and the debate ensues: Who's the most valuable defensive player on the current roster?
8. Brian Schaefering Is a Measuring Stick for Organizational Progress.
But at least we know who is not.
Sure, Brian Schaefering is a nice guy and a seemingly hard worker. However, the entirety of the Browns' rebuilding process can be measured by Schaefering's presence on the roster. When the undersized Schaefering is pressed into defensive line duty, this means that the Browns' defensive depth is still a work in progress.
As for the defensive ends, I'm still curious if Jabaal Sheard remains at left end. If not, look for his pass rushing production to even out against better left tackles.
9. The Great Debate Begins Anew.
Another seasonal tradition is the annual poll asking whether Josh Cribbs should play wide receiver or some other position. At this point in his career, it's probably a bit late to shift Cribbs to safety – which I still feel is his ideal NFL position.
Anyway, more importantly for Cribbs is a return to complete health. After suffering through nagging foot injuries and draconian kickoff rule changes, let's hope Cribbs can continue to make an impact as one of the best all-around special teams players in NFL history.
As for wide receiver, it may not be surprising to see Cribbs again win a starting job – and then again continue to be ignored in Shurmur's uninspiring offense. But at the moment, Shurmur has nothing but faith in his current crop of receivers.
I'll concede this to Shurmur – GM Tom Heckert has spent 2nd and 4th round picks to try to improve the position. While A.J. Green couldn't have been had last year, at least the Browns steered clear of Justin Blackmon.
10. So You're Telling Me I Have a Chance!?
Finally, according to the Sporting News, Shurmur is the league's 26th best head coach. The rankings were out of 32 head coaches, or 27 – considering that all of the league's new coaches finished behind Shurmur.
This kind of ranking can only mean one thing for the still novice Shurmur:
Leslie Frazier must be a terrible head coach.