From the editor’s notebook …
A few quick thoughts while waiting for the Cleveland Browns to start Organized Team Activities on Tuesday …
Hard Knocks should be a hoot
It was quite the reversal last week when the news came out that the Browns will finally be featured on the HBO Series Hard Knocks this summer.
When the subject came up earlier this spring, general manager John Dorsey was pretty clear in expressing how he felt about the series, saying that he doesn’t believe “there’s anything good that comes out of Hard Knocks …”
That all changed, of course, once owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam decided that there must be something good about being featured and embraced the opportunity. It may not be what Dorsey wants, but if the Haslams are going to get involved in things, this is far better than inserting themselves into which players the team drafts.
There will be no shortage of stories to follow, as the series should help the rest of the country learn about just how good players like defensive ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah and running back Duke Johnson are.
There is also the training camp battle between Shon Coleman and Austin Corbett to replace left tackle Joe Thomas, as well as how the club handles the quarterback situation with veteran Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.
And there should be ample camera time for wide receiver Josh Gordon to highlight his personal brand of clothing.
Still, a respected “football man” like Dorsey would not have his reservations about the show if there was not something to be worried about.
The fear is that players will spend more time preening for the cameras and working on their brand and not enough time actually getting ready for the season.
Some will dismiss that, but it is a real fear and one that Mayfield talked about during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio this past week:
“For me, looking at it, and us as a team, I’d say it can be good if you handle it right. If you think about it as way to get on camera and try and show off or do certain things and you handle it the wrong way, then that can be very negative, it can be a distraction. But if you use it as a sense of, ‘OK, I’ve got to block out everything else and just focus on playing ball,’ then that can be a great thing for us, just having people within our practices, our training camp, right there.”
That is a smart answer from Mayfield and yet another reason to like the idea of him taking over the quarterback position sometime soon.
Browns starters all set?
The presence of Hard Knocks in Berea may overshadow that, barring an injury, not only are the majority of roster spots set, but the starting lineup is pretty set in stone.
On offense, the only position battle of consequence will be between Corbett and Coleman. There might be some questions at running back between veteran Carlos Hyde, signed as a free agent in the offseason, and rookie Nick Chubb, but they have a similar style and, even if Hyde starts the season at RB1, Chubb will likely take over the bulk of the rushing attempts at some point.
The same is true on the defensive side of the ball.
As long as linebacker Jamie Collins is recovered from his knee injury, the front seven is pretty well set. The same can be said of the secondary, where Dorsey has done considerable rebuilding since the end of last season.
It is a good situation for the Browns as they are installing a new offense under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and will have three new starters in the secondary.
Having a good idea of who the starters are when training camp opens means that Haley and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can spend a considerable amount of time getting everyone comfortable in their roles, rather than rotating through players in an attempt to figure things out.
Hopefully that should start paying dividends as early as Week 1, when the Browns open the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Top Browns under the age of 25
Pro Football Focus released its annual Top 25 players under 25 list and it should come as no surprise that defensive end Myles Garrett made the cut:
According to Brett Whitefield at PFF:
The only thing disappointing about the former No.1 overall pick’s first year in the NFL is that he didn’t play more as injuries delayed his start. Garrett jumped into action Week 5 and proved he belonged from the onset. Surrendering pressure to Garrett proved to be costly to opposing offenses as he converted 48.6 percent of his pressures into sacks or hits, tied for the fourth-highest rate among edge defenders with at least 250 pass-rush snaps. His 88.4 overall grade landed him just outside the top-10 among edge defenders.
Clearly, PFF could not have let the Browns dominate the list, but there are several other players who could certainly have been in the discussion.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, a force against the run and a great pairing with Garrett, and running back Duke Johnson, one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield, deserve consideration. With a little more seasoning, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, tight end David Njoku and safety Jabrill Peppers can also make a case for inclusion.
Despite the bumps of the past two seasons, the Browns are starting to stockpile young talent. If Mayfield can fix the quarterback position, and the team figures out the head coaching situation, better days may not be that far off.
(Photos via HBO, clevelandbrowns.com, cleveland.com)