Q: Could you see a scenario where the Browns trade tight end David Njoku and receiver Odell Beckham Jr., let linebacker Joe Schobert and receiver Rashard Higgins walk in free agency and acquire two new offensive tackles in the offseason? That would be at least six new starters on a team that supposedly had the best roster in the division.
A: I could most definitely envision that scenario.
I think the Browns have lost faith in Njoku and Higgins. I’d keep Schobert, but Dorsey may not value him like I do. The new tackles seem like a done deal.
That leaves Beckham. I wouldn’t trade him and would work to make him more comfortable, but the Browns could choose to get rid of the drama.
Regardless, your point is taken. The roster isn’t a finished product and will continue to be tweaked. Where I might disagree with Dorsey is creating an unnecessary hole by allowing Schobert to leave. The same would apply with Beckham.
Q: So many questions, ugh. Can we get rid of Freddie Kitchens and bring in Mike McCarthy, or the recently fired Ron Rivera? Even HC McCarthy and a DC Ron Rivera would be OK. Would Odell Beckham Jr. stay with either as HC? Can we use every draft pick in 2020 on the O-line? Why hasn’t Joe Schobert been offered a contract extension? Is Sheldrick Redwine is a legit starting safety in 2020? I want to like Baker Mayfield because he is a Brown, but can he, ummm, tone it down a little in the press conferences on the bashing, i.e. medical staff, media, etc.? And even though Nick Chubb is currently leading the league in rush attempts and yards, why does it feel like he is underused?
— Justin Nalley
A: A lot to address here. I’m going to hit it all but keep it quick.
Yes, Kitchens could be fired. I believe that has yet to be determined. And if he is, Rivera and McCarthy should definitely be considered, if not start at the top of the list. I’m confident Rivera will be a head coach somewhere in 2020, so the McCarthy-Rivera tandem is wishful thinking. I can’t get inside Beckham’s head, but I would think a proven coach would improve his frame of mind. I’m also not convinced Beckham is unhappy enough to force his way out of town even if Kitchens stays.
Not every draft pick on the O-line, but quite possibly the first two. The Browns need two tackles.
I don’t know why GM John Dorsey hasn’t locked up Schobert and, according to a Cleveland.com report, is OK letting him leave. Schobert is a Pro Bowl-caliber player who does all the right things. I’d re-sign him.
The final three games will provide a lot of information on Redwine’s potential. The coaches have been impressed by what he’s done in his first two starts.
Mayfield doesn’t bite his tongue or apologize, but maybe he’ll mature as he gets older.
I have the same feeling regarding Chubb. The reason: He doesn’t get the ball enough near the goal line, and Kitchen tends to forget about him for stretches of games.
Q: What justification can you summon as to why GM John Dorsey provided so little at the left tackle position? Nothing proven or established behind Greg Robinson. Nothing grooming even on the practice squad? Nothing infused even after Justin McCray’s horrid performance filling in when in New England. Carrying Kendall Lamm though he was hurt and evidently not a legit option on the left side.
Such a non-approach very much appears to be professional negligence, particularly with anyone’s franchise QB needing secure blindside protection.
— Mark Leonard
A: Here’s my explanation, which I don’t think will satisfy you: Dorsey believed Robinson could handle the job for the season and would address the future in the offseason. The problem was Robinson didn’t have the same motivation as he did in the second half of 2018, got off to a rough start, was benched and missed a game with a concussion. That exposed the lack of a decent backup plan.
I do believe Dorsey thought he had options in training camp if things went haywire, but they certainly haven’t panned out. Rookie Drew Forbes seems better suited at guard, Brad Seaton didn’t make the final cut and Lamm got hurt in Week 1 and isn’t a left tackle.
I’m assuming Dorsey will fix the problem this offseason.
Q: Scott, I understand Freddie Kitchens is in his first year as a head coach, so there’s a learning curve. But If I, a fan, knows that you should come out right away and run the football against the last-ranked defense against the run, like last game, does that say Kitchens isn’t the answer?
A: I have no reason for why Kitchens didn’t run the ball more in the first half against the Bengals’ last-ranked run defense. And his answers weren’t satisfactory.
While it’s certainly an indictment of Kitchens as a head coach, for me it’s not a back-breaker. His play calling all season, failure to adequately use Odell Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield’s regression are larger problems.
Q: Can the Browns manage a disciplined pass rush with all the D-line change recently and still pressure Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson next week?
A: That’s the million-dollar question. The game against the Cardinals will be a good preview of the matchup next week with the Ravens.
I have serious doubts that a line without starting ends Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon can contain speedy, elusive quarterbacks like Murray and Jackson, let alone pressure them. The linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks will all need to be involved to have any chance. The pass rush has desperately missed Garrett since he was suspended.
Vernon practiced again this week, so perhaps he’ll be able to return against the Ravens and set an edge, but keeping up with Jackson seems impossible.
Q: When will the Browns sign a fullback?
A: March … maybe. I’m not one who believes a fullback is necessary but would definitely have one around for the offseason program and training camp to see how it fits in the offense.
Q: Former offensive line coach Bob Wylie said that former quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese was the key to the Browns’ offensive turnaround last season and not Freddie Kitchens. Was he right?
A: Wylie wasn’t that strong in comments that have been misconstrued. He credited Zampese with helping with the game plan and the development of Baker Mayfield, not being the mastermind of the offense.
I thought Zampese was fine as a quarterbacks coach, but I don’t see him as the missing piece this year. I would argue that Kitchens’ decision to part with many of the coaches who helped him get the head coaching job was a curious one. The turnaround was a group effort, yet Kitchens jettisoned many in the group. The new staff hasn’t had the same success and has struggled to put together complete game plans.
Q: Why does Baker Mayfield look different every day?
A: I assume your referring to his facial hair and overall appearance.
My only guess: He’s 24 years old and likes to keep things fresh. Remember, he’s not a cookie-cutter quarterback.
Q: Curious, what talented NFL QBs in the past were not given a chance because of their height?
A: Doug Flutie is the first to come to mind. Yes, he played in the NFL, but had to go to Canada for years and was always on a short leash.
That’s how life was for many undersized quarterbacks. They’d get drafted late and may eventually get an opportunity to play, but the coaches and front offices were always looking to replace them.
In today’s world, I think a guy like Charlie Ward would’ve strongly considered the NFL over the NBA and been given the chance to succeed.
Q: With so many playmakers on offense (and even defense, Denzel Ward), why do the Browns insist on using also-rans to return punts and kicks?
A: Great question. The grind of an NFL season is brutal, and I think the coaches just don’t want to use their best players in an additional role deep into the season. New rules make it more difficult to return kickoffs and punts, especially kickoffs, so the risk may not be worth the reward. But the Browns’ return units have been a source of frustration this season.