Browns Enter Season With New Regime; NCP Talk Offseason Moves and Week 1 Preview

Since last season, @northcoastposse has been named a Top Five Twitter follow by the Cleveland Browns.  Certainly quite an achievement. To celebrate, The NCP are hosting a Browns kick off party at Four String Brew Sunday, September 11th. The League Bowlers play at noon and Browns v Eagles on the tube at 1pm. 

The NCP Answer Your Browns Questions

Q:  Let’s hope the NCP performs better in 2016 than previous top picks by the Browns. Speaking of that, Mingo and Gilbert... gone. Why?

K-Dubs, the Soldier: Yeah, the Browns continue to be unconventional in weird ways.  By moving Barkevious Mingo and Justin Gilbert for a fifth- and sixth-round draft pick, respectively, Cleveland pulled off not just one, but two rare training-camp trades.  I think the trades make sense, too, even though both of them were top-10 draft picks in recent years.  Here are two guys that just didn’t fit the system.  Mingo always seemed to be stuck between stations.  He is a pass-rush specialist that has yet to develop into a linebacker that can be on the field for all three downs, and he was not big enough to play defensive end.  He was a great special-teams player, though, and by all reports a good guy.  I wish him the best of luck in New England.

I can’t say the same for Justin Gilbert.  Ever since he arrived in Cleveland, he was a malcontent whose confidence far outpaced his effort.  The Browns secondary is fairly thin, and Gilbert had every chance to win a starting job but failed despite his potential.  He was certainly no fan favorite, and now he wears a Steelers jersey.  No love.  

Q:  It appears that the Browns two best players could be a WR who has been too stoned to play for the past two seasons and another WR who has never made an NFL roster to begin a season after converting from QB. Is this concerning?

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  Hell no!  It is exciting.  Josh Gordon and Terrelle Pryor are two of the most physically gifted players in the league.  These dudes are thoroughbreds.  It is like having Secretariat and American Pharaoh lining up at wideout (imaging for a second that a horse can catch a football).  They have the ability to go the distance at any time.  Just check out Pryor’s 93-yard touchdown run against the Steelers in 2013, it was the longest ever by a quarterback.  It was Tecmo Bowl come to life.  The same can be said for Gordon’s 95-yard catch and run against the Jags in 2014.  Sure, Pryor is not a great passer.  Any Buckeye fan can tell you that.  But he is going to shred defenses as a receiver this year, especially when Gordon comes back from suspension in Week 5. 

Ever since their return to the league, the Browns have rarely had dynamic playmakers, let alone much quality depth at the skill positions.  Now Gordon and Pryor join rookie speedster Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins at receiver, while Duke Johnson, Jr. (61 catches, 534 yards, 2 TD) adds another receiving option out of the backfield.  There is no doubt the talent is there (finally).  The question is can the line can generate enough of a running game and protect Robert Griffin III long enough to maximize the impact of that talent. 

Big$:  I’m not concerned that JG and TP are the 2 best players.  My concern is that 1 of the 2 best players is not one of the 7,345 first round picks they have had over the last 5 years.

Q:  Would you rather have Carson Wentz or RG3 starting week one?

K-Dubs, the Soldier: RG3, all day long.  He has proven he can play at the highest levels of college, winning the Heisman Trophy, and, as a rookie, he took the perennial also-ran Redskins to the playoffs.  Despite a wicked ankle injury that cost him half of the 2014 season, he is still a dual-threat quarterback that can buy extra time behind the Browns’ young—and still gelling—offensive line.  By all accounts, RG3 has benefitted from the big-ass slice of humble pie he had to eat when he was demoted to the meatball squad last year in Washington, and he has shown considerable growth in terms of leadership and preparation.  He is going to have some weapons to work with this year, too.  I am expecting a big game from RG3 on Sunday.

On the flip side, there’s Wentz—a quarterback from North Dakota State of the FCS, who the Eagles selected with the second overall pick in this year’s draft.  We have seen what a healthy RG3 can do, but the pro film on Wentz is limited to part of one game.  He suffered a cracked rib in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay’s second team and he has not seen game action since.  At 6’5”, 240 lb., Wentz has the prototypical frame for an NFL QB, but all we know about him is that he put up decent numbers in the Missouri Valley Conference and that he couldn’t last a half in a scrimmage.  Look for Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton to prey on Wentz’s inexperience by confusing him with different defensive looks and blitz packages.  It is this advantage in QB experience that makes this game one of the Browns’ best chances for a victory this season.

Big$:  NDSU is basically a more dominant version of Alabama in D2. They are superior at every position then their opponents. Wentz’s 2015 back up performed as well as he did, which is more a product of having NFL caliber O-lineman than the quality of either QB. I fully expect ole Carson and his super long delivery to be exposed in the pros.

As for RG3, here is my sizzling take. I truly believe he is a better option that Deshaun Watson moving forward. (I’m holding hope that Mentor H.S.-product Mitch Trubisky down at University of North Carolina finds his way back to the North Shore).

Q:  What is the strength of this Browns team?

Big $: My short (somewhat delusional) response is TP Sr.  My more grounded reply is youth. All of the draft picks made the roster, and several will see significant playing time. I specifically have high hopes for the young guns on defense. I think Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert, all have the capability to be quality NFL contributors within the next few years. I also have my fingers crossed that both rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman can find their way into starting OL spots.

K-Dubs, the Soldier:  I think that the Browns’ greatest strength this year is the deep threats they have in the passing game.  Like I said earlier, Gordon and Pryor can score from anywhere on the field.  They both showed that ability in the preseason, with each hauling in 50-yard touchdown catches against top-notch defensive backs.  I have a feeling that the lightning-quick Coleman will prove he has that same explosiveness. 

Throughout the preseason, the defense has struggled.  Surely, you cannot judge a team on its preseason performance (See the 2008 Detroit Lions: 4-0 in preseason; 0-16 in regular season).  Starters do not play the whole games and schemes tend to be more vanilla, so August stats do not offer much foresight on September performance.  But the Browns did give their first- and second-teamers more extensive action this year than most teams generally do, and the results were not good.  The opposing teams had an average of 11 more minutes in time of possession.  Opponents collectively gained 90 first downs to the Browns 51, and converted nearly 50 percent of their 3rd downs.   I hope that these tendencies do not bleed over into the regular season.  If they do, and the defense cannot get off the field, big-time touchdown threats are great equalizers that should give Cleveland a puncher’s chance in every game this year.  

Q:  What is the weakness?

Big$:  Ironically my answer is the same as my take on the strength. The inexperience of this roster is going to make for some painful moments on Sundays, especially against seasoned divisional foes. The key is to stay positive and focused on the future.

K-Dubs, the Soldier: The defensive front seven.  This is a team that has gone from being among the oldest in the league last year to being the second youngest.  At the start of the season, 19 of the guys on the 53-man roster are comprised of first- and second-year players.  That is 36 percent.  Nowhere is that inexperience more prevalent than among defensive linemen and linebackers.    Rookies Ogbah and Schobert are slated to start at the outside linebacker positions in Coach Jackson’s 3-4 scheme.  These guys have shown potential, particularly Ogbah who may prove to be the steal of the 2016 draft, but the fact that they are rolling with the 1’s may say more about a lack of depth than their ability to step right into starting roles.  Young players are more likely to be uncertain in their alignments, more likely to miss assignments, and more likely to hesitate.  For a team that finished in the bottom three in the league in rushing defense in each of the last two years, that is a bad prospect.  This part of the team may be a weakness, but with some of the young talent, including Nassib, it may also be the source of some electricity.  There is potential here, but the team’s success this year will largely depend on how well and how quickly this unit starts to click. 

Q:  Who should LeBron start in place of for week one?

Big$:  I’m not anti-RG3, but after watching what a physical specimen like Cam Newton has accomplished at QB, I’d like to see LBJ calling signals. For what it’s worth, I’d also start JR Smith at punter.

K-Dubs, the Soldier: I’d start LeBron over nose tackle Danny Shelton.  It is uncertain if Shelton is going to stay on the field for an entire series at a time.  When he is out there, he has not shown he can eat up blockers or penetrate the line.  At least we know LeBron is always on the floor when needed, and even if he gets driven off the ball, he can use his wingspan to swat down passes, just like he swats Steph Curry layups. 

Q:  The Browns over/under on wins is 5. Where would you put your money? What games can they win?

Big$: I am a betting man, and I would stay clear of the over. I am not altogether certain this roster is superior to the Chris Palmer gang of ‘99. The game I’m most confident of is this week, mainly because I think Wentz is a bum. If this game gets ugly, a historically bad year could be on the horizon.

K-Dubs, the Soldier: I’m thinking under, too.  The schedule is pretty rough, with games against the AFC East and NFC East, as well as the divisional games against the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals.  Also, most of the games in which they have the best chances to win are on the road, including at Tennessee, Miami, Bills, Washington, and the opener in Philly.  But I believe that they will be competitive in every game.  It hurts to think that this year will be the 18th-straight rebuilding year, but I really do believe that this time the Browns are laying the foundation for success.

    Sep 11      1:00PM * at Eagles

    Sep 18      1:00PM * Ravens

    Sep 25      1:00PM * at Dolphins

    Oct 2        1:00PM * at Redskins

    Oct 9        1:00PM * Patriots

    Oct 16      1:00PM* at Titans

    Oct 23      1:00PM * at Bengals

    Oct 30      1:00PM * Jets

    Nov 6       1:00PM * Cowboys

    Nov 10     8:25PM * at Ravens

    Nov 20     1:00PM * Steelers

    Nov 27     1:00PM * Giants

    Dec 4      BYE

    Dec 11      1:00PM * Bengals

    Dec 18      1:00PM * at Bills

    Dec 24      1:00PM * Chargers

    Jan 1         1:00PM * at Steelers