Browns Focusing on the Important Things to Become a Winning Team
Browns fans are used to distractions, but said distractions have always been negative. They have endured first round draft pick quarterbacks showing up still drunk from the previous night. They have endured a head coach ordering the general manager and the owner of the team out of his office. They have endured tight ends who ride motorcycles recklessly during the season. They have witnessed highly-paid receivers literally quit playing during games.
This season, the distractions have been petty. Fox Sports personality and bloviator Colin Cowherd has a saying, “If you can’t be good, be interesting.” Certainly, he is taking his own advice with the relentless haranguing of the Cleveland Browns’s offensive skilled positions:
As much of a distraction as the mainstream media have been making about wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and quarterback Baker Mayfield, it is the Browns who themselves have focus upon team cohesion. Case in point, a skirmish broke out between two players trying to make the team. Most often than not, the players would have been separated and maybe addressed by their position coaches or squad leaders. Head Coach Freddie Kitchens made it a point to intervene with a teachable moment, stressing that we are here to learn and grow and insisted the players work out their differences like men in front of the whole team. At this point, the idea this team is “egocentric” and already out of control is only perception from the mainstream media.
Here are three thing Browns fans can take away from the first OTAs:
1. There Are Players on Defense, Too
Kitchens, an offensive specialist, will be the first to tell you not to sleep on the defense:
“I don’t know if you guys got the AP Wire. Is there an AP Wire still going on these days? Anyways, we signed some defensive guys that can play some football,” Kitchens told reporters last Wednesday. “We really did. (Defensive tackle) Sheldon Richardson, (defensive end) Olivier Vernon, (safety) Morgan Burnett, we added some pieces on defense, too. Hopefully, you guys in the fall start talking about them a little bit.”
There are some criticisms. For instance, Sheldon Richardson and Morgan Burnett may be approaching the ends of their careers. The Browns still lack an impact linebacker, despite the rise of Genard Avery, Christian Kirksey who is in the prime of his career, and the consistent Pro-Bowl play of Joe Schobert. However, with the talent in the front four, especially with the scuttlebutt surrounding Gerald McCoy becoming a free agent, and a young and hungry secondary, the linebackers might be able to feed off the excellent play surrounding them.
2. Antonio Callaway’s Skills Have Improved…
…and it very apparent, according to Mayfield:
Callaway, who already was a deep threat, has shown up to camp leaner, quicker (if possible), as a more precise route runner, and with improved hands. Kitchens, while stressing to reporters Callaway needs to put all this together consistently, is impressed with the speedy receiver’s efforts. Consistency and stamina were two of Callaway’s biggest knocks last year. Often times, Callaway seemed winded, causing him to be unfocused and undisciplined as a route runner. Because he obviously put some work in, he should have a very improved year this year.
3. The O-Line Is Deep with Talent
For those of you who may not have been aware, one of the many revolutionary practices the great Paul Brown introduced into the NFL is the concept of a rotating line. While this practice is mostly used on defense to keep defensive linemen fresh, Coach Brown famously rotated offensive lines –even third string– into games to punish weary defensive linemen. Brown believed in a strong and deep front. The Browns could do the same with this squad if they wanted to since it is deep with talent. Center JC Tretter is in the prime of his career, and it seems he is only getting better. He has some athletic young first and second year players behind him, including Kyle Kalis, originally from Lakewood, OH. With guard Joel Bitonio as the established veteran on the line, the Browns are hoping fellow former Wolfpack alum Austin Corbett can step up to the other guard position. If not or necessity dictates, veteran guards Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush are at the ready. Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard are the prospective starters at tackle; however, expect Desmond Harrison and Kendall Lamm to push these two, with very capable rookies Brian Fineanganofo and Drew Forbes learning and waiting.
The Browns off-seasons in the past have been rife drama and distractions. No one has been spared, from a practice squad player to the owners themselves, this franchise has been beleaguered, in some form or fashion, by turmoil. Unlike “Old Cleveland”, in “New Cleveland” distractions are not coming inside the building, they are coming from outside the building. This Browns team is not falling for any of them.