The Cleveland Browns’ season is lost, but we’re still talking about it because they’re the Browns. This is an email conversation between Michael Bode and me regarding the Browns. We have already covered some of the “hot topics” that are currently chasing the team through the media, but we wanted to see if there was anything to be optimistic about as well.
Michael: Allright, we have been focusing on the negative thus far. And, yeah, there was plenty of meat on that bone. But, as Browns fans, we are adept to finding some positive vestiges to cling onto even in the abyss otherwise we would truly go insane, right?
I mean, I love that Joe Posnanski is a fan again writing about the Browns and his articles are actually better after a Browns loss. His articles feed off raw emotion and for whatever reason the frustration, anger, and disappointment of a loss just resonates so well. Our own Will Gibson I’ve coined as the mini-Pos after his Embrace the Absurdity, It is what it is, and Don’t give up articles. Those have been great and don’t happen with a perennial winner.
What are some of the things you have clung onto and do some of them involve actual Browns players, coaches, play?
Craig: What I’ve been clinging to is this sense that the team and all its personnel – from top to bottom — are temporary. It’s more of a philosophical take on sports than anything else, and maybe it’s the ultimate defense mechanism, but that’s how I feel about it. The Browns are a nice park in the city that I visit with my family. It’s a movie that doesn’t necessarily have a Disney ending. It’s a way for me to see my sister, brother and dad that isn’t a holiday meal. I don’t think that was really what you were going for though.
I’m really not depressed in whole about the Browns. I think this was just a really bad season for a variety of reasons including schedule, health and some mistakes, of course. Call me crazy, but I still like the Browns’ secondary. I think the defensive line still has ability and I’m not as down on Danny Shelton as I think some fans are. Shelton is playing and gaining experience and he’s still a rookie. He doesn’t feel like that guy where you’re waiting for the leap and it might never arrive like Mingo. Even Cam Erving doesn’t have me totally depressed like other fans seem to be with him.
This roster has lots of deficiencies, especially at middle linebacker with an aging Karlos Dansby and some solid backup caliber players in Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey, but they desperately need a playmaker in that spot. People focus on the QB for obvious reasons, but the Browns have really struggled almost as much since 1999 at that middle linebacker spot. They’ve had “nice” players and guys that were easy to root for, but there hasn’t been a dominant guy there. That’s a “ceiling” type of position on your defense and the Browns defense obviously has a ceiling on it right now that’s too low.
All that said, I’m excited for lots of these guys to stick around. I want the Browns to keep Gary Barnidge, Mitch Schwartz, Travis Benjamin and a lot of their other pieces. I’m hoping they can find some greater efficiencies building the roster by trading someone like Paul Kruger, perhaps, but he’s not really a problem either, per se. I don’t know if I’ve really answered the question at all at this point.
Michael: I’m with you on the secondary. I believe Joe Haden playing hurt earlier in the year explains his poor play, and with Gipson and Whitner out for extended periods of time, there is still legitimate reason to believe it is a position of strength for 2016. K’Waun Williams has really impressed me this year too adding to the overall depth.
And, I feel guilty a bit for Danny Shelton. I heaped too much praise on the guy even pre-draft for a position I realized is a tough one for any rookie to play. He had his best game of the season on Sunday, and he has not been a liability throughout the year. I believe by the end of things, Browns fans will be quite happy with Danny.
I just feel bad for Cam. The Browns did him no favors by forcing him to learn all five OL positions and throwing him out at LT in the preseason. He is still likely the Mack-insurance piece, but it was a rather rough awakening game against Pitt for him. He is better than that game though and I hope we keep finding snaps for him.
Benjamin and Barnidge have certainly been bright spots and Schwartz has legitimately played well at times too (he is at least a guy you don’t shake your head and bemoan constantly, which means he’s playing OL decently enough). It is soooo Browns that all three of those guys are UFA’s along with Tashaun Gipson. Our string of signing players to second contracts might continue to be ridiculously horrendous.
And, I feel you on those LBers. I would love to have the athletic, dominating LB corps a 3-4 defense truly needs. Jaylon Smith (ILB, ND) is my current fascination into fixing the group. He would be so, so, so, very good for our team. Or, if we do end up with one of the very top picks in the draft, there is that Bosa kid from the local school who might look just fine at an OLB spot.
Ah, now I’ve done it. My annual rite of silver lining on the Browns being creating ways to fix it through the NFL Draft. Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss) or Jared Goff (QB, Cal) or or…well, you get the idea. I have lists upon lists. Joe (our WFNY draft expert) and I will have to start comparing notes soon.
Any specific guys you have your eye on through the end of the college season?
Craig: I can’t think draft too much yet. It’s one of those things that I’ve learned that I can’t start too early on. I can look at guys and start to make myself more aware but that’s the extent of it.
I guess the conclusion for me right now is to not have another offseason like the Browns had last year. The Sheard and Skrine losses aren’t high profile, end-of-the-world types of losses in most fans’ minds, but they’re a big deal. The Browns need to keep more guys than they lose and then also find legit weapons in the draft.
I think they’ll still need a quarterback other than Johnny Manziel and it would be so Brownsish for him to play just well enough to make them second guess it. Regardless, I think this team has a baseline of talent that is better than some of the worst teams that we’ve seen the Browns have. How’s that for a silver lining?
Those are our thoughts. If you have any reasons for optimism this season, throw them in the comments.