Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Even with the NFL on summer vacation, our Hey Tony inbox is jammed with questions about Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Owen Marecic, and, of course, the newest subject of fans’ desire, former Baylor WR Josh Gordon. One reader also is tired of hearing about the Saints’ bounty scandal.
Hey Tony: Last year the Bengals added Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and made the playoffs. Is it unfair to expect the Browns making the same jump by adding Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.
-- Brian Schorr, Frisco, TX
Hey Brian: Yes. The Bengals were more advanced in their team building. Overshadowed by Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they still had a strong roster at several positions. Dalton and Green, however, put them over the top. The Browns aren’t quite there yet, but I do expect a noticeable bump from Weeden and Richardson.
Hey Tony: Once Brandon Weeden has been signed do you see Colt McCoy being released shortly after so he can have time to get into a camp for a new team? I think it would look bad on management to keep Colt into the pre-season then release him causing him to lose that valuable time he could have had with his new team going through a full training camp. I don’t think anyone dislikes Colt as a person. May dislike him as a player but tough to dislike Colt McCoy the person. And for that reason I hope the Browns choose to release him prior to beginning of training camp so he has time to get a fresh starts with another team. I don’t see him having any trade value and keeping him around doesn’t help Weeden so just release him already and lets all move on because no one with a brain actually believes Colt is in the Browns plans for the 2012 season. Your thoughts?
-- Kriny, New Philadelphia, OH
Hey Kriny: My thoughts exactly. Some believe the Browns don’t owe McCoy anything, that it’s football and business, and that he should just compete during camp and let the chips fall. I think the Browns do owe McCoy the courtesy of giving him time to get a fair opportunity with a new team if he is not in their plans. Others believe the Browns have to do what’s best for the Browns, and that means holding on to McCoy until they get a fair trade offer for him. I just don’t believe that trade offer is going to come.
Hey Tony: I love reading your articles and I am so glad you are able to continue the Hey Tony columns. Maybe you can help clarify something for me. When the Browns drafted Owen Marecic, he was touted as the multi-talented pass catching fullback we needed for the WCO. Supposedly, not being a pass catching fullback is why the Browns were down on Lawrence Vickers and let him go. But now everywhere I read, Owen Marecic is just a blocking fullback and Brad Smelley is the pass catching option at fullback. What happened to Marecic that changed everyone's opinion on him? And judging by Marecic's blocking ability last year, are the Browns in trouble if he is considered our lead blocker?
-- Drew, Bluffton, IN
Hey Drew: Marecic was a surprise fourth-round pick in 2011, there’s no getting around it. I think the Browns hoped he had the multiple talents they desired in their fullback, but they never materialized his rookie year. Maybe they will give him – and all their 2011 rookies – a pass because of the cancellation of minicamps and offseason program due to the owners lockout that year. The drafting of Smelley, to me, indicated they sought a more reliable pass catcher out of the backfield. Smelley is not a lead blocker, however, so I don’t know how many of these “specialists” they can squeeze on the final roster.
Hey Tony: What did you hear about James Dockery's performance at last month's OTAs? What the outlook for him this season?
-- Ken, Lakewood, IL
Hey Ken: Frankly, I didn’t hear anything about Dockery. I know he was there and competed. He was mostly a special teams core player last year and I figure that his ticket to another roster spot this year. As a cornerback, he is behind Buster Skrine but ahead of rookie Trevin Wade. The fact both those players were draft picks and Dockery was undrafted gives them an edge – all other things being equal. In preseason games last year, coaches loved Dockery’s aggressiveness at cornerback – so he definitely has something going for him.
Hey Tony: I remember in one of your stories awhile back, and correct me if I'm wrong, you mentioned how good the Browns facility was in their glory days and how it might have drawn players to sign with the team. I think you referenced it even having a day care on premises and how it was great for families. Can you tell us a little about the facilities at Berea today, how it might have changed over the years, if it’s a factor with today's players signing for a team, and how it compares to other teams' facilities? Thanks.
-- Eliot Clasen, Cape Coral, FL
Hey Eliot: The Browns have spent millions of dollars updating their headquarters facility in Berea over the past 13 or so years. At the same time, several teams have built new facilities with the latest bells and whistles. So I don’t think the Browns’ facility is going to weigh positively or negatively in wooing free agents. Basically, every NFL team has a state-of-the-art indoor facility.
Hey Tony: With the NFL Supplemental Draft set for next Thursday and wide receiver Josh Gordon available, do you expect the Browns to make a bid? Is there any estimate on what round a team would have to give up to get him?
-- Bill, Campbell, OH
Hey Bill: At 6-4 and 225, with 40 times in the 4.4s, Gordon definitely is going to get a thorough evaluation from all NFL teams, especially WR-starved ones like the Browns. The flip side is he was suspended from Baylor after a drug arrest, transferred to Utah in 2011, and then quit to enter the supplemental draft. He is athletic, but raw as a receiver. Hasn’t played since 2010. Some teams automatically knock down a player in the supplemental draft one round because of such issues. Gordon has been evaluated as a potential second-round pick – had he stayed and played at Utah this year. Yes, the Browns have an eternal need at the position, but I just don’t see them making a pitch in the supplemental draft lottery for Gordon. If he had a spotless off-the-field record? Maybe.
Hey Tony: Who do you see as the primary backup running back to Trent Richardson? Personally I'd prefer Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson, but wouldn't be surprised if Heckert kept Montario Hardesty around.
-- Kevin, Upper Arlington OH
Hey Kevin: This will be an interesting decision. If Hardesty gets injured again, it’s easy – he will be gone, in my opinion. But if Hardesty stays healthy and is the productive player Heckert saw at Tennessee, I think he checks in at No. 2. Jackson, by virtue of the money already invested in him as an unrestricted free agent last year, would be the favorite for No. 3. But Ogbonnaya impressed everyone last year by coming in off the street and rescuing the position for two games. Keeping all four, I believe, is unrealistic but not out of the question.
Hey Tony: Are you still going to be on the Red Zone or the Point After or Cleveland.com? The Pats and the Giants got to the Super Bowl for just two reasons: great coaches and great quarterbacks. The Browns have neither and will be mediocre until the next braintrust (aka carpetbaggers) arrives to lament our lack of talent. The Walrus (on a Seattle station?) says”… 6-10 unacceptable”-----well, he isn’t about to resign, he isn’t about to fire his buddy Heckert, and he already said Shurmur (a.k.a. Doogie Howser) will be around for a long time, so I guess Randy is the one who better start packing his bags (we can all help him).
-- Rich, Mentor, OH
Hey Rich: Yes, we will have our regular spot on all the SportsTime Ohio shows, including Red Zone, Training Camp Daily, Berea Report and Sunday Strategy. The Point After was retired by Channel 3 last year. As for your comments, I agree the strongest factors with the Patriots and Giants are their quarterback and coach and those are question marks with the Browns. I wouldn’t hold Mike Holmgren to his “6-10 is unacceptable” statement. Calling it unacceptable and flatly stating heads will roll are two different things.
Hey Tony: We know the Browns patched up the offensive line and made great improvements to the running game, but will Weeden be able to stay in the pocket and deliver strikes with his cannon arm or will he get flustered by the aggressive pass rushes in the toughest division in football and make bad throws?
-- Alex, Orlando, FL
Hey Alex: That, my friend, is the $60 million question nobody can answer until they strap on the pads and play full speed against against an opponent that has game-planned him. And that won’t happen until Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.
Hey Tony: Am I the only NFL fan tired of hearing about the bounty thing from the four suspended players? I really don't care if they intentionally tried to hurt people. They have all said that there was a pay for play program, and they are just denying that they tried to hurt people. Am I right to think that they could be punished just for the pay for play program? Whether they were trying to hurt players or not should be irrelevant right? I just think it’s time to move on or to bring real charges against them that would dish out real punishment like jail time. I hope you can give your opinion on this cause it really is ruining my fun of trying to follow my Browns when every story is about Scott Fujita or some other bounty thing. Thanks.
-- Ryan, Dayton, OH
Hey Ryan: You’re not alone, believe me. Few fans are sympathetic to the players. I would just suggest you try to put yourself in their place. If you felt you’ve been wrongly accused of something that severely tarnished your reputation, you would not stop in trying to defend your name and honor. That is why they are litigating to every possible length. On the other hand, the NFL agrees with your central point – “intent” of the pay-for-performance program is not the issue. The fact some of the money was paid out for “knockouts” and “cart-offs” – according to the NFL – made it inherently against existing rules on the books. The league also lowered the boom on the players, and Saints executives, to emphasize the gravity of the issue.
Hey Tony: I'm encouraged by all the glowing reports about how much better Brandon Weeden is compared to everyone else in camp. I believe you said Brandon is vastly better. My question is will he give the Browns the best chance to win this year? As a rookie quarterback Brandon’s going to have to digest a lot of info, defenses are going to be set to throw various blitz packages at him, he's going to have to know the intricate West Coast Offence, plus he's going to have to have an understanding of all these various defenses. Right now Colt McCoy has a couple of years under his belt. He's seen the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, etc. up close. A lot of the info has already been studied and figured out. How about a year to figure it all out then if Brandon can win the position let him start?
-- Greg, Middletown, OH
Hey Greg: One of the reasons Weeden so appealed to the Browns was his maturity, which is a product of his age (28) and his experience competing in Major League Baseball’s farm system for five years. They feel he should be able to hit the ground running without needing a year of seasoning. As for McCoy, I believe he is 0-8 in games against the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals. Seeing them and beating them, of course, are two different things. It’s possible that if McCoy had a better record against those division foes he would be seen in a different light.
Hey Tony: Evaluating the tight ends, you do not seem enamored by Cameron Jordan. However, others seem to think he's ready for a break-out year. Vic Carucci, Senior Editor Browns Blog stated, "I do think that Cameron probably has the greatest potential to a climb to a more dynamic level. His performance throughout the offseason indicated as much. He looks bigger and stronger, yet displays the tremendous athleticism that was his signature at USC. It was easy to see why Browns coach Pat Shurmur called him his most improved player.” Is this just a case of too much preseason excitement or something more?
-- Daryl, Virginia Beach, VA
Hey Daryl: Yes, Jordan’s athleticism can be intoxicating. And the Browns have visions of Jordan following the steps of college basketball-turned-NFL tight end sensations Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. But until I see Jordan take a hit in the middle of the field, jump up, and make another player after that, I will reserve judgment on his eventual enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
Hey Tony: I like Josh Cooper as a receiver who should already have a connection with Brandon Weeden. My question is how much lobbying was done by Weeden to acquire Cooper? I’m hoping their familiarity with each other translates to production during games. I also noticed how the Browns took Brad Smelley to complement Trent Richardson. Is there some reason the Browns have gone out of their way to accommodate their first round picks, by bringing them in on a buddy system?
-- John, Silver Lake, OH
Hey John: No doubt Cooper was noticed when the Browns were spending so much time on Weeden and Justin Blackmon. In fact, GM Tom Heckert used Weeden to recruit Cooper to the Browns after he went undrafted. As for Smelley, I don’t see the same relationship with Richardson as the QB-WR connection. I think the Browns saw in Smelley a skill-set that they desire in their multi-faceted fullback/H-back role.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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