Heading into the fourth preseason game, observations about the team start to sound like an echo chamber at times. That’s why it was great to have a chance to touch base with Dawgs By Nature, our sibling site that follows the Cleveland Browns.
To see how I answered there questions, take a look at the related content below.
We sent over some questions and Mike Hoag was good enough to give us some answers.
1). From the outside looking in, I'm a fan of a lot of the moves Cleveland's front office has made to acquire picks and to stock up on talent (I loved the Osweiler trade, for example). Is there a move that fans saw as "just too clever" or where it seems like the Browns have outsmarted themselves? If not, is there a move that didn't make sense at the time but is now more accepted?
Not giving receiver Terrelle Pryor a big contract was criticized a lot at the time, but as more information came out and people came to terms with, I think it’s more acceptable now. But the future is unclear how the conversation will unfold. The Browns ended up giving Kenny Britt the contract many fans thought they should have given Pryor – a local Ohio fan favorite, but a player with only one year of experience as a wide receiver. Britt hasn’t shown very much and had a big drop inside the five-yard line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, so there is some concern they may have made the wrong decision. In the end, Pryor wanted more money than they initially offered and went looking for it, didn’t find it, and the Browns weren’t willing to negotiate any further at that point. So maybe they outsmarted themselves, or maybe they’ll look even smarter if Pryor flops in Washington this season. The fear is Pryor’s imposing size and elite athleticism wins out and he scores a big contract next offseason, and the Browns missed out on the opportunity to lock him up before it happened.
2). Headed into the draft, a lot of us at Windy City Gridiron were impressed by TE David Njoku. Is he just experiencing typical transition problems, or are there real fears that he might not meet expectations?
One thing that’s for sure is Njoku’s criticisms coming out of college have been realized early on in his NFL career. He has had focus drop issues early on, but hasn’t been singled out lately for those drops. A positive has been that he came to the Browns as advertised. He’s a big, tall, strong and incredible athlete with a ceiling that’s as high as any Browns offensive player. Like all rookies, he’s battling the transition from college to the NFL and all of the terminology and learning obstacles that come with that. I don’t know if I’d say there are fears he won’t reach his potential, yet, but it’s going to be awhile until he can be consistently relied on to be a primary option in the team’s weekly game plan. The quicker he gets there, the better for their offense.
3). It's easy for any fan of the game to love Joe Thomas. Is there a player on the Browns who might be more of a "local" favorite who is overlooked? Maybe a guy who has a chance to play his way onto the roster this game?
While just signed, former Ohio State Buckeyes captain Christian Bryant is an interesting name to watch once final cuts come along. The team just released Joe Haden and has very little depth in their secondary. Bryant is 5’9” and 195 pounds, a local of Glenville High School in Cleveland, and has a tenacious style of play that will endear him to fans. He played under Gregg Williams in St. Louis, but it’s unclear whether he was brought in as a placeholder after safety Justin Currie was injured, or whether they’re legitimately considering him for a roster spot. Najee Murray, another defensive back, played collegiate ball at Kent St., a nearby Northeast Ohio university. I think both are unlikely to make the 53-man roster, but both definitely have people pulling for them to stick, at least on the practice squad.
4). Bears and Browns fans are united by experiencing a lot of frustration and not a lot of success, recently. Is this the year that Cleveland finally turns the corner? If not, what piece is still missing?
Like the Bears, the Browns have had some pretty bad luck when it comes to the quarterback position. They have been compiling draft picks, overhauling their roster, and hoping it’ll translate to differences in the win and loss columns, but haven’t seen it yet. But it all comes down to the quarterback position for the Browns. They do seem to have some intriguing talent, but it’s going to take time. Whether the Browns will turn any real corners to be a competitive team, for division or league championships, is a better question for next offseason, I believe. Will they improve from their one-win 2016 season? I think that’s fairly certain.
5). Besides avoiding injuries, what is the one thing you want to see out of the Browns in this last preseason game?
I’m looking to see their offensive line and running game pick up some traction. No matter who’s in the game blocking, Hue Jackson’s offensive philosophy has really been lacking when it comes to a commitment to running the ball. If they can show some kind of ability to run the ball, kill clock and, as you said, minimize injuries, I think the final game will be a success.
We’d like to extend our thanks to Mike, and let’s hope that both teams can come out of the preseason without any new injuries.