The Cleveland Browns Are Entering A Super Bowl Window

Welcome to the Podcast AF offseason review series, astutely titled “The Probe” – the unofficial official NFL offseason review series of the Vegas Golden Knights. Here, like most NFL “writers”, I will regurgitate takes I read or heard somewhere else and pass them off as original thoughts. Will Ryan Tannehill breakout in 2018? Was Mike McCarthy abandoned by the run game as a child? Does Saturn have a playoff atmosphere? Your questions, answered! Sponsored by “Ready Player One”, in theaters March 29th!

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#4 – Cleveland Browns (0-16, Last NFC North)

This take isn’t entirely click bait. It’s more 50/50 now than it was a month ago, although I’m unsure if it’s more or less sad than the Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie. A month ago I took a look at the roster and their two top-five picks in the draft and devised a plan of how they could win a Super Bowl within three seasons. It mainly had to do with Sam Bradford. That obviously didn’t happen.

My bullishness on the Browns begins in one place: The offensive line. Prior to Joe Thomas’ retirement (following a tricep tear ending his ironman streak), a case could be made that it’s the best in the league. Last offseason the Browns were the guy who buys drinks for all the girls in the bar – maximizing the chance of future orgasm. They threw money at Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, and Kevin Zeitler. Top 3 interior line in the NFL. The only weak link on the OL was RT Shon Coleman, who will allegedly get a chance to start at LT in 2018.

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So if they had such a good OL, why did the Browns go 0-16? (Aside from that ^) Many reasons, but if I had to pick one: Deshone Kizer, who I’m sure is a great guy, threw 30 interceptions, stared down receivers, bailed from clean pockets, and criminally misplaced passes. The Browns were last in points scored but 24th in yards gained – the result of redzone turnovers. With a duo of talented RBs, a duo of young TEs, and a healthy Josh Gordon down the stretch, Kizer was set up for success. He was Hawkeye surrounded by the Avengers, but the Browns were Marvel deciding to hone on his family life and the net result was Age of Ultron.

If I were Sam Bradford I would’ve wanted to go to Cleveland – the have the best OL of all the QB-needy teams and thus could protect his knee. But the Browns went with Tyrod Taylor, who isn’t as good as Bradford but not by much, is cheaper, and isn’t injured as often. Taylor is another guy like Bradford, Mariota, and Kaepernick that is really good, contrary to what the stat-literate Twitter crowd will say.  But QB ultimately doesn’t matter here if the Browns take one in the draft, which they will – and he’ll join a cast that now includes Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde.

Defense:

Movie Comparison – “X2” – AKA “Actually Not That Bad.”

So the Browns let up the second most points in the league, but their rush defense was 7th in the NFL – not bad for a team against which the opposition was just trying to run the clock down and get home before Shameless starts. The Browns aren’t concerned about that because they all still have RG3’s cable password. A theory is that the opposition had such short fields all season that they physically couldn’t give up the yard even if they wanted to.

Side Note: Mattlo, ploppy. Those who know, know.

Great run defense, not great pass defense. The LBs – Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey – are as hopeful as the mountain-wave from Interstellar.

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Those aren’t linebackers…

(Schobert was actually pretty good tbh)

But they’re really good against the run. Although, I’d be interested to see how many tackles they made on plays they were blitzing anyway, since Gregg Williams shoots hit shot more than Brian from the Arctic Monkeys song “Brianstorm”.

To be fair, holding linebackers in today’s NFL to the standard of being able to play lights out in coverage is slightly unfair, and also very difficult to quantify. Regardless, there’s a problem. Solution? Load up the secondary. Despite trading Jason McCourty, who was really good and on a cheap-ass contract, the Browns once again employed the “buy drinks for all the girls at the bar” strategy – signing CBs EJ Gaines, TJ Carrie,  and Terrance Mitchell, re-acquiring CJ Smith after the trade with the Seahawks was nullified, and adding them to Briean Boddy-Calhoun of Tarth.

(Put the hyphen elsewhere and the meaning completely changes. “Cheap ass-contract.” See?)

The Kizer trade netted CB Damarious Randall from the Packers, who the Browns intend to move to FS. The question now becomes what they do with Jabrill Peppers, who picked grass in the outfield instead of playing FS. Peppers was atrocious to the point where he’s seemingly being replaced, although I’m sure they’ll try him out somewhere else on the defense. The Browns really should go for the Patriots’ Big Nickel D but I know they won’t.

With Derrick Kindred back at SS, the holes remain at DT and the DE spot across from Myles Garrett. It looks like free agent Chris Smith and Emmanual Ogbah may rotate at that other DE spot, and DT may be a sneaky draft need for the Browns outside the first round (especially after trading Danny Shelton to New England).

From a team-building perspective, technically every team is entering a window. But I think given what the Browns already have on their roster, their cap space and their draft capital, their’s is particularly notable. If all goes well in 2018, they do just bad enough that Hue is fired and Matt Lafleur or Nathaniel Hackett are hired in 2019 and then they have a competent coach and are the Rams.

What is the bar for “just bad enough”? -1 wins?

*MAJOR* Draft Needs: QB, OT, DT – not RB because technically not major, although they 100% will draft one at some point. I guess it’s the same for QB. Whatever we’re all going to die some day.

Reader Question:

Hey man you catch any new albums from any piano-rock trios from the DC-Metro area?

Ben from DC

Wow Ben funny you should ask, I’m actually digging Jukebox The Ghost’s album that came out yesterday. It’s called Off To The Races and between this and George Ezra’s album we’re finally getting some good music in 2018. It’s defintely very power/indie-poppy which is fine by me, some catchy hooks in there as well. You’ll be caught after the first song.

Prisco’s Pickanosis:

In honor of Pete Prisco telling me I’m dumb and that I’ll fail, here’s this entry’s edition of “Prisco’s Pickanosis,” where I highlight something the Tom Brady of acting like an infant on Twitter was completely wrong about.

What’s wrong here? Petty, but it’s the spelling. Normally I wouldn’t fuss, but he tweeted the same exact thing 11 days earlier and nailed the spelling that time. What happened in Petey’s life in those 11 days? Holiday in London?

@JohnAnders42