Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns draft room, Haslam’s woes, defense and UDFAs

2013_03_browns_lombardi_talkGrantland published an interesting article today about Chuck Klosterman’s visit to Berea to get a look inside the Cleveland Browns draft room during last month’s NFL Draft.

It is a good but not very revealing read, primarily because of the absurd level of secrecy that envelopes Browns headquarters. The new brain trust has apparently determined that operatives from Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati are working overtime to steal the secrets of a perennial 5-11 team. (Mike Lombardi went as far as erasing Barkevious Mingo’s name from a white board before a member of the Browns IT department was allowed to enter the room.)

Other tidbits included Lombardi questioning Klosterman about which font would be used for the story, telling an inane story about the kind of typewriter author Robert Caro uses, and going on about “the candle problem.”

Joe Banner was smart in all of this. He used Klosterman to distract Lombardi so that Banner could get some real work done. The best part of the story comes when Klosterman describes how coach Rob Chudzinski was falling in love with an unnamed offensive lineman that wasn’t good enough for the Browns to draft and Banner shut it down.

“What does a bust look like before it happens?” Banner asked. “It looks like four guys sitting in a room, trying to convince each other that some guy is better than we think he is.”

Maybe there is hope that the Browns can finally get this thing going in the right direction.

***

Could his ongoing legal issues force Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to sell the team?

That is the contention of Mike Freeman at CBS Sports, who cites unnamed “team officials” who believe it may be “extremely difficult” for Haslam to hold onto the Browns if he runs into mounting legal fees from the lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J.

Even if Haslam does run into financial problems his family’s company, it seems likely that any ramifications to the Browns would still be a ways down the road. The legal system doesn’t work quickly in this country and it is not like the bill collector is going to show up on Haslam’s front door any time soon (at least we hope not).

The NFL is a cash machine for every owner not named Art Modell, so the Browns should be able to generate enough revenue on their own to keep the lights on in Berea and at the stadium.

Haslam even said he was sorry this week during an appearance with the local media, so what more does the NFL want from him? (Other than not being under federal investigation, of course.)

***

It only took Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton one press conference to have us buying what he is selling on defense for the Browns in 2013.

We’ve bought into it even more after reading Brendan Leister’s latest at DraftBrowns.com where he takes a look at what Horton did on defense with the Cardinals in 2012. (Although we may have to speak to Brendan about those French periods.)

We particularly liked this part:

With the growing use of the slot receiver and the declining use of the fullback, offenses have become more and more dependent upon 11 personnel. With offenses continually evolving, defensive coaches have been forced to adapt if they want to keep up. Enter Ray Horton’s 2-4-5 defense. With the 2-4-5, Horton has the luxury of adding more speed to the field while keeping a strong front seven. The alignment requires two versatile and athletic linemen that can play multiple techniques along the defensive line while still being stout enough to hold up against the run. For the 2-4-5 to be successful, the entire defense must play fast, aggressive and physical.

Aggressive? Physical? Versatility? Speed? On a Browns defense?

We like it.

***

The Browns signed 18 undrafted free agents this year and the one that caught our eye is offensive lineman Chris Faulk from LSU.

Faulk was considered by many to be an early round draft pick before blowing out his knee following LSU’s first game of the season, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

The Browns were reportedly one of 16 teams looking at Faulk and Cleveland seems like a good spot for the 6-6, 325-pounder. The Browns may look to switch Faulk to guard as they are obviously set at the tackle position with Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, and don’t have to rush to get Faulk on the field, giving him time to rehabilitate his knee.

If Faulk’s leg can hold up, he could (at worst) be a versatile backup at guard in 2014; if he is as good as speculated he could even challenge for a starting spot at one of the guard positions.

That is probably stretching things a bit because its more likely an undrafted free agent will be cut than turn into an NFL starter, but in Faulk’s case there’s no harm in the Browns giving him a shot.

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