Five Wins Would Be Real Progress For Browns.

The Cleveland Browns open their 2017 season Sunday afternoon at First Energy Stadium against their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hue Jackson’s crew is coming off a 1-15 season, so hopes aren’t exactly high for a playoff spot, the first since 2002 for the brown and orange.

To some fans and people in the media, anything short of a post-season berth will be considered a failure, but we feel this will be a successful season, even without extra games, that is if the Browns, the youngest team in the NFL, start showing progress, and start to develop some star players.

First of all, the organization is seeing if they indeed have a young quarterback they can develop.  Second round pick DeShone Kizer will be the youngest starter in the league this fall, and here’s hoping Jackson can bring him along slowly by running the ball and playing defense.

Gregg Williams may be the most important free agent signing of the off-season, coming to Cleveland to be the defensive coordinator.  Williams has directed six top ten defenses (in terms of yards allowed) in 15 seasons heading up a defense.

He has brought an attacking style to the unit, and he has some potentially very good youngsters to work with, players like first overall pick Myles Garrett (who may not play in the opener), Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, and first round pick Jabrill Peppers.

The defense should be able to keep Cleveland in games this season, and that will ease the burden on Kizer, so he will not have to put the ball in the air 40+ times in many games.

Isaiah Crowell is another who should help in this regard.  Crowell fell just short of 1,000 yards a year ago, and with an improved offensive line, bolstered  by free agent signees Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter.

We should learn about progress from last year’s draft class, which many considered a bust at various times during last season.

The following players drafted in 2016 are considered starters this season:  WR Corey Coleman, RT Shon Coleman, Ogbah, MLB Joe Schobert, and S Derrick Kindred.

Add Garrett, Peppers, Kizer, and K Zane Gonzalez to that quintet, and you have nine starters obtained in the last two drafts.

And that doesn’t take into account Peppers impact in the return game, another factor that should help an inexperienced passer.

We also expect TE Seth DeValve, WR Ricardo Louis, and DE Carl Nassib, three more players drafted in ’16 to get considerable playing time and make impacts.

If the Browns can get to five wins with these young players as central figures, the people hammering last year’s draft choices will have a lot of crow to eat.

The front office is still getting a lot of criticism from around the league, and we believe this is because they aren’t traditional “football guys”, and they are doing things a little differently.

For example, we’ve heard them getting toasted for making the trade for Brock Osweiler and a second round pick, the most important thing in the deal, because of the cap hit they are taking.

Then you realize the Browns are still over $60 million under that cap.

The key word for this Browns’ season is progress.  Progress in the win column, and progress of the players drafted a year ago.

The 2017 campaign could be the beginning of the rebirth of a franchise that has been down for many, many years.

JD

 

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Browns Draft Athleticism For Most Part

After all the rumors about the Browns taking local favorite Mitchell Trubisky with the first overall pick, common sense took over and they selected pass rusher Myles Garrett with Texas A & M with the choice.

Garrett was at the top of most analysts draft boards, so Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta didn’t overthink it, they took the best player available, which you should if you have the first pick in the draft.

As we have written before, we have followed the Browns for over 50 years, and they’ve never had a dominant pass rusher.  Hopefully, they filled that need today.

As for possible scenarios talked about during the day of the draft, that is trading up from #12 for Trubisky, those plans were thwarted when the Bears moved up to #2 to take the Mentor native.

There were several potentially good players waiting with the Browns’ second first round choice, but instead of taking Ohio State S Malik Hooker or Deshaun Watson, they traded with Houston, who did take the Clemson QB.

In return, Cleveland picked up another first round pick in 2018 and received the Texans’ 25th selection this year.

This gives the Browns five picks in the first two rounds next year, and infuriated fans who wanted the team to take somebody, anybody.

When they finally picked at #25, they took versatile defender Jabrill Peppers from Michigan.

We would have to classify this as new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ new toy, as we would bet he will primarily be a strong safety, but he can be used near the line of scrimmage too, and also fills a need as a punt returner.

The best thing we can say about Peppers is he’s a football player.  He can be used all over the place, and he played at a big time program which this regime likes.

There was one more move to be made when Cleveland moved back into the first round to take the 29th pick to take Miami TE David Njoku, another freaky athlete.

Our guess is it will not be long before Gary Barnidge is let go by the Browns, as he is over 30 years old, and this front office doesn’t seem to want anyone of that ilk besides Joe Thomas.

What do all of these picks have in common?  They are phenomenal athletes.  If you watched the NFL Combine, you saw what Garrett can do.  He’s got speed, power, and great leaping ability.

Peppers played some tailback at Michigan as well as his defensive duties, and at the combine, did drills with the linebackers and the secondary players.

Njoku is considered a rare athlete, with speed agility and explosiveness.  He’s only 20 years old, so he can get bigger as he matures.

As for the quarterback, remember that the draft did not end last night.  There are still six rounds to go and the Browns have a lot of picks.

Second, even if Cleveland would have drafted a QB last night, we would have started Cody Kessler at the beginning of the season anyway.  And if they draft a guy today, there is no pressure to start him right away.

If you are one of the quarterback obsessed, we understand you are not happy with the what happened last night in regards to the Cleveland Browns.

However, if you are about adding talent to a football team that needs it, you are happy today.  The Browns have helped their defense, and whoever the starting quarterback will be in 2017.

JD

Draft Week Brings Out Crazy Talk

One week from now, the NFL Draft will be over, and as a by product, so will the endless talk about what the Cleveland Browns will do in the three day selection process.

And if they don’t draft a quarterback, fans will be sentenced to three months, until training camp actually opens, of hearing about how the front office passed on the “most important position in sports”.

By the way, it probably is, but we put it in quotes because of the righteous indignation media people use when talking about signal callers.

We’ve heard people say the Browns are sentenced to another 1-15 type season in 2017 if they don’t get a QB early in the draft.  That, of course, supports their notion that Cleveland has to take one with the first overall pick if they “really like the guy”.

Consider these names:  Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Carson Palmer.

Most people would consider these players as among the better quarterbacks in the NFL, correct?

None of them made the playoffs a year ago.

Why?  Because other parts of their team were found lacking,  Either the team’s defense was poor, or they didn’t have a sufficient running game, or their offensive line had gaping holes.

The point is, you have to have a complete team to win in the NFL, it isn’t enough to just have a great quarterback.

No doubt it helps considerably.  The only team that made the playoffs a year ago with shoddy QB play is the Houston Texans, and they continue to search for their guy.

Still, having a good player at that position doesn’t guarantee that you will make the post-season.  You still have to have solid players around the QB.

Remember, the Browns were 1-15 a year ago.  Clearly, they aren’t lacking only a quarterback, that’s why we stick with the premise that if you have the first overall pick, you have to take the most talented player, which by all accounts is Myles Garrett.

Also, our opinion is that the greatest improvement for a player is between his first and second seasons, because it becomes their job.  They get to spend the off-season getting bigger and stronger for the upcoming season.

The Browns have many holes to fill, they need secondary help, a tight end, a linebacker, and maybe another wide receiver.

So, while Garrett should be the pick at #1, the Browns’ front office still should address the quarterback spot at either #12, or with the first pick in the second round (#33).

We feel one of these three passers (Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes) will be there at #12, and since they have Garrett, they can afford to reach a little to take a QB.

If one of the three aren’t there, then Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta can take solace in grabbing another blue chip talent, either someone for the secondary or Alabama TE O.J. Howard.

And if they take a QB at #12, we would still plan on starting Cody Kessler against Pittsburgh in week one.  Let the rookie quarterback observe for awhile before throwing him in there.

There will no doubt be plenty of noise, misinformation, about what the Browns are going to do next weekend.  The good thing is a week from now, the speculation will be over.

Finally.

JD

 

 

Browns Could Take QB At #1, But They’d Be Wrong

The NFL Draft is two weeks away, and things are getting downright insane.

This week, in separate reports by national writers, the Browns are thinking about not taking Texas A & M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, because either Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta want to take a quarterback, or they want to take Garrett, and Hue Jackson doesn’t.

Of course, that got the quarterback hysteria that often occurs in Cleveland going again, supporting their argument with insanity.

Our favorite is that if the Browns really love somebody at the QB in the draft, then they should go ahead and pick him with the first overall pick.

By that logic, let’s say the front office like Cal’s Davis Webb a lot.  So they should take him at #1?  Even though he could quite possibly be there with the first pick in the second round?

That’s crazy.

Let’s look at the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

Here is our top five at the most important position in sports–

Tom Brady
Aaron Rodgers
Ben Roethlisberger
Matt Ryan
Drew Brees

What do all of those QBs have in common outside that they have all played in or won a Super Bowl?

That’s right, none of them were the first overall pick in the draft, and only one of them (Ryan) were picked in the top five selections the year they were drafted.

How is that possible if you have to take a quarterback with the first pick if you get the chance?

Here are five more names to ponder–

Andrew Luck
Philip Rivers
Russell Wilson
Eli Manning
Matthew Stafford

Three of those quarterbacks were the first overall pick, but the only one who went #1 and won a Super Bowl is Manning, who has won two with the Giants.

Luck was a consensus first overall choice, and he got as far as an AFC Championship Game, while the other first selection, Stafford, has never won a playoff game.

Wilson, who has gone to two Super Bowls, was a third round pick.

The point is despite the quarterback hysteria, you don’t have to use the first pick in the draft to get a signal caller who can take you to the playoffs consistently.

We aren’t ready to evaluate the passers taken early in the past two drafts (Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff, and Carson Wentz) yet, although the first two would rank in the 11-15 range for us.

And for fans of Wentz, it is convenient they forget the 2-9 record in the middle of the season for the Eagles.  Look, he might wind up being very good, but right now, he’s a lower tier guy.

Let’s go back to the premise we have talked about time and time again.  If you have the first pick in a draft, you take the most talented player.  We said the same thing when the Cavs had the first pick in the NBA draft.

This year, the most talented player is Myles Garrett.  So, the Browns need to take him.

They have plenty of other picks in the top 100 choices to take a quarterback.  Use one of them to address that need.

JD

NFL Draft Can’t Come Soon Enough

One month from today, the NFL Draft will be history, and quite frankly, we can’t wait.

We also feel pretty confident that we will know who the Cleveland Browns are planning to start at quarterback, if not for the league opener, but at least in the not too distant future.

The biggest reason for this anticipated happiness is it will bring a close to the endless speculation as to who the Browns want at quarterback going forward.  Heck, if the franchise ever got a very good passer, sports talk radio might come to an end.

Until then, we are sure that Hue Jackson will be asked about or linked to every living breathing QB in the continental United States.  It’s just a matter of time before someone leaks on social media that Cleveland is trying to lure Joe Namath out of retirement.

And at least one sports reporter will go on the radio and pronounce they have a “good feeling” that Namath may be under center when the Browns open the season in September.

It borders on ridiculous.

By all accounts, the Browns will take pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, filling a need the franchise has had for over 50 years.  Hue Jackson has gone on record as saying they will not trade out of the pick, so they are doing the smart thing here.

Again, we have always said if you have the first pick in the draft, then you take the best player.  Garrett is the consensus best player available on April 27th.

Now, it gets interesting.  We feel the Browns are looking for a QB, so they have to gauge if any team between #2 and #11 want one too.  The Jets could be worrisome, but we feel they are in the same mode Cleveland was in last year.  They want the first pick next year, so they may stay with old favorite Josh McCown and another veteran to get through 2017.

The one argument that drives us crazy is passing on a quarterback this year and putting your eggs into next year’s basket.

First off, the Browns probably aren’t going 1-15 again, the young players will get better, so at the minimum you are looking at a four win season, although we think it could be five or six victories.

With four wins, you aren’t going to have the first pick in the 2018 draft.  For the sake of argument, let’s say the Jets plan works and they are in the Browns’ shoes a year from now.

Do you really think the Jets are going to trade with the Browns, so Cleveland can draft Sam Darnold from USC?  Of course not, so at best you will be getting the second best quarterback in the draft.

Your whole plan would revolve around a team who already has a QB getting the first overall pick so they would be willing to trade with the Browns.  That’s kind of like eating a wish sandwich, isn’t it?

It appears likely that the best quarterback this year will be available in the #5-#12 pick range.  If the Browns really love one of the guys available this year (Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, or Patrick Mahomes), they can trade up IF they don’t think they will fall to them.

In our opinion, since you are getting Garrett at #1, you can afford to take a small gamble with the second first round pick.

Anyway, in a month, all of the speculation will be done.  The crazy season will be over.

And then we can focus on the Cavs’ playoff run and the Indians trying to get back to the World Series.

MW

 

 

Browns Endless Search…For A Pass Rusher

As a follower of the Cleveland Browns since the mid 1960’s, we are acutely aware that it has been a long time since the team had a solid quarterback.

We are all aware of the great Otto Graham in the 50’s, and Frank Ryan was at the helm for the last Browns’ championship.  Ryan was acquired in a trade with the Rams, and took the Browns to the playoffs for the next few years.

He was followed by Bill Nelsen, picked up in a trade with the Steelers, of all teams, and Nelsen led the Browns to two NFC title games in 1968 and 1969, albeit on rickety knees.

Needing a replacement for Nelsen, Cleveland made the ill fated trade for Mike Phipps, dealing Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield, and you can make the argument that deal signaled the end of the halcyon days for the franchise.

Since then, there were a few seasons of greatness from Brian Sipe, including one MVP season in 1980, and then Bernie Kosar arrived and so did three losses in the AFC championship game that will be remembered forever.

However, besides quarterback, there is another thing the Browns haven’t had even dating back to the mid sixties, and that is an elite pass rusher, someone opponents have had to game plan against.

Sure, there have been single years or maybe two straight years where Cleveland has had a guy who can get to the quarterback, but they’ve never had that “guy”.

There was Jack Gregory for a year or two, and the trade in 1980 for Lyle Alzado.  Later in the 80’s, Cleveland drafted Chip Banks, who had a troubled career here until he couldn’t get along with Marty Schottenheimer, who traded him to San Diego.

Courtney Brown was supposed to be that guy when he was the first overall pick in 2000, but his knees wouldn’t allow it.  Paul Kruger had one year (2014) where he had 11 sacks, but that was an aberration.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guy you can depend on for 10 sacks every year?

That guy could be Myles Garrett.  Many of the draft gurus have compared him to Julius Peppers, and if he could be that, we’ll sign up right now.

Look at the Browns’ all-time sack leaders.  Clay Matthews is the leader with 62, but those were accumulated over 15 seasons.  Matthews should be enshrined in Canton, but he wasn’t known as a pass rusher.

The others in the top five are Michael Dean Perry (a nose tackle), Rob Burnett, Carl Hairston, and Reggie Camp.  The latter three were solid defensive ends, but weren’t players opponents were planning against.

Let’s go back to Peppers, who has accumulated 143.5 sacks in his career.  That’s more than double Matthews club record.  If Garrett can get half of that total if he is drafted by Cleveland, he would be the new record holder.

So, while we get the “quarterback hysteria”, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who can put pressure on the other team’s passer?

As former Browns GM Ernie Accorsi once said, the two most important players in the NFL are the quarterback, and someone who can get to the other team’s quarterback.

JD

 

 

Is Browns’ Plan Working? We Say Yes.

We had a smile on our face last week when the New York Jets released WR Brandon Marshall and CB Darrelle Revis.

Obviously, the grin wasn’t because the players were let go, but rather the report attached to these roster moves, saying the Jets front office were considering going with a full blown rebuilding process, much like the Browns starting in 2016.

That would kind of fly in the face of the critics of Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta’s strategy.

Brown and DePodesta were widely second guessed for what they did with the Browns roster, mostly by the media, and mainly because they weren’t “football guys”, and they were doing something different.

You have to admit it’s kind of funny that another NFL team is said to be considering the plan to strip down the roster and start over.

It couldn’t have been too stupid of a plan then, right?

Today starts the free agency period for the NFL, and we will guess the Browns will be active, signing two or three should be starters with their massive salary cap space.

It has been reported they will sign WR Kenny Britt, who caught 68 passes for 1002 yards for the Rams, another team who had quarterback issues a year ago.  In 2015, Britt averaged 18.9 yards per catch.

Britt is 28 years old and presumably will replace Terrelle Pryor, who is a free agent.

It would not be surprising if Britt is the oldest free agent Cleveland signs.

The players the Browns are targeting are coming off their first contract, putting them in the 25-26 year old range.  They are experienced, but still in the prime of their careers.

And if you can fill two or three starting spots with free agents, in narrows the focus of the draft, so you can concentrate on specific areas of need.

For example, it would seem that the Browns need two or three starters in the defensive secondary.  If you sign a free agent (Johnathan Cyprien from Jacksonville?), then you can focus on cornerbacks and free safeties in the draft.

Or like another free agent, center JC Tretter from Green Bay, 26, who is reportedly signing with the Browns.  Tretter bolsters the offensive line, providing an anchor in the middle.

Another thing that humors us is the love from the writers who cover the Browns for Myles Garrett now that they saw the impressive workout from the pass rusher at the Scouting Combine.

You have to ask the question was this the first time they ever saw Garrett?  The national guys have been saying the Texas A & M product is the most talented player in the draft since the end of the college football season.

Now that they’ve seen Garrett’s combination of speed and power, suddenly, Cleveland should look for their quarterback with the 12th overall selection, instead of picking one first overall.

This is something we have been saying all along.  It would no longer be surprising if Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson still available when Cleveland’s turn comes up again at #12.

Certainly, fans would be very happy if the Browns could get one of those guys, right?

That’s why the best thing to do is what it appears the front office will do.  Take the best player at #1, and get the QB later.

JD

 

 

 

Browns Media Continuing QB Envy

Yesterday, Cleveland Browns’ executive Sashi Brown returned to his lawyer roots and basically sidestepped any question thrown at him by the media.

As usual, what did they expect him to do?  Did they really think Brown was going to tell them exactly what the Browns were going to do in free agency and in the draft?

Brown even said the team would be interested in listening to offers for the first overall pick, and of course, he should listen.  What if Indianapolis offered QB Andrew Luck for the choice?  You would have to take it.

Now, that’s not likely, so the probability is Cleveland will keep the first overall pick, and should take Texas A & M pass rusher Myles Garrett.

To be sure, this will offend the wacky members of the media here who are obsessed with the quarterback position.  We have often said these people’s jobs don’t depend on making good choices in the draft, so they are always in favor of picking a QB.

In our opinion, one of the top three quarterbacks available this year (Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, or Deshone Kizer) will be there at #12, when the Browns have their second pick in the first round.

So, you can still get a first round passer and also get the guy most scouts/draft experts think is the best player in the draft.

Does anyone else think it’s funny that the people who believe you have to use a first round pick on a QB are also enamored with potential free agent Kirk Cousins?  Cousins was a fourth round pick.  How did he overcome that status to become a productive starting quarterback in the NFL?

We also don’t believe for a minute that Jimmy Garoppolo is off the market.  Our guess is no one is offering the first round pick the Patriots thought they could get for Tom Brady’s back up, so they are trying to drive up the price.

Remember the Patriots traded Jamie Collins to the Browns because they didn’t want to pay him big money.  If Brady wants to play three or four more years, they aren’t going to pay huge cash on his back up.

That means New England is motivated to move the former Eastern Illinois product, which puts another QB on the market.

Add to that mix, Tyrod Taylor and possibly Colin Kaepernick, although we don’t know how much interest there will be in him because of his recent performance, and now you have five quarterbacks who are out there for teams in need.

Most draft gurus say besides the Browns, the following teams drafting before Cleveland need QBs:  San Francisco, Chicago, New York Jets, and Buffalo.

We don’t believe that all four will choose quarterbacks, because at least a couple of teams will feel the same as the Browns and determine none of the college guys are worth a top five or top ten pick, and will either trade down or wait until round two.

So, in our opinion, there is no need to trade up or take a QB with the first overall pick.  Someone will be there at #12, hopefully Watson or Trubisky.

As for the Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta?  They aren’t going to say anything worthwhile.

JD

 

Our Annual Plea…Take Best Player With First Overall Pick.

Many people call the period between the college all-star games and the actual NFL draft the silly season because of all the rumors and draft speculation that is posted and talked about.

In Cleveland, the silly season usually manifests itself in many media members talking about getting a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And if you think the Browns should not take a QB with their first pick, which this year happens to be the first overall choice, then you are supposedly kidding yourself because the Browns will never win unless they get the franchise signal caller.

So, we would like to debunk a few myths.

First, we would not pick a QB with the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but there is no question the Browns need a quarterback.  Our premise is the same as it has always been, if you have the first pick, you should take the consensus best player, which by all accounts is Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett.

By the way, Cleveland has needed a pass rusher for virtually 50 years.  So, you can’t go wrong there.

Second, while it is true that outside of Houston, all the teams that made the playoffs had very good passers, having a good QB doesn’t get you into the playoffs.

New Orleans has Drew Brees, did they get in?  What about the Giants, who have Eli Manning?  The Chargers have Philip Rivers, surely they got in, right?

The answer in every case is no.

Again, we aren’t saying having a very good quarterback isn’t important, we are simply saying that you need to build around the guy too.  So, you need to have other good players besides a QB to win in the NFL.

The most ridiculous argument we hear is that if the Browns really like a certain player, then they should just draft him first overall.  They forget that the draft is like a game.  You judge where a player may be available, and take him as close as you can to that pick.

We are sure that the Patriots liked something about Tom Brady, otherwise they wouldn’t have selected him at all, but they didn’t take him with their first round pick.

Besides, the Browns have a ton of draft picks to move up if they get nervous about the player they want being chosen.

For example, we happen to like Deshaun Watson from the national champion Clemson Tigers as a QB.  No one has him being the first overall pick, so it would be a mistake to take him there.

All you are doing is pushing good players down to the better teams.

Maybe Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson can take him at #12, we would be alright with that.  But if they see or hear a team at #9 or #10 is interested, they have the picks to move up to #7 or #8 to select him.

And they would still have the consensus best player coming into the NFL this spring.

Perhaps their intel says Watson would be taken at around #25.  Then, they could take the best player on their board at #12, and then move up from the first pick in the second round to grab Watson at let’s say, #23.

You just don’t go crazy and pick the 25th best player in the draft with the first overall pick because you need a quarterback.  That’s a recipe for staying mediocre.

How many teams move up to a spot early in the draft to get a top notch quarterback anyway?

We know that Brady with a sixth round choice.  The Steelers got Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick, they didn’t trade up.

Matt Ryan was the third overall pick, but Atlanta didn’t trade up for him.  And the fourth team in the conference championships, Green Bay, got Aaron Rodgers because he famously fell to them in the draft.

The Redskins gave up a king’s ransom to get Robert Griffin III in 2012.  How did that work out for them?  The Rams and Eagles moved up to get Jared Goff and Carson Wentz last year.

The jury is still out.

The Vikings (Christian Ponder), the Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert) and the Bills (E. J. Manuel) all reached for quarterbacks in recent years, trying to get “the guy”.  How has that worked out?

We have every expectation that the Browns’ front office will upgrade the quarterback position by the end of the NFL draft, whether by taking a guy they really like, or trading for a young, up and coming player, like Jimmy Garoppolo.

They don’t need to use the first overall pick to do it.  In fact, in this year’s draft, it would be the dumbest thing they could do.

JD

 

 

Browns Get Win, Keep First Pick.

The very definition of win/win occurred Saturday afternoon at First Energy Stadium.

The Cleveland Browns avoided a winless season due to a 20-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers.  It was Hue Jackson’s first win as coach of the brown and orange, and the first time the squad won all year, including pre-season games.

The victory seemed to take the Browns out of their position to get the first pick in next spring’s NFL Draft, something many fans, including us want for the organization.

But later in the day, Cleveland got their cake and was able to eat it as well, as the 49ers, who took over as frontrunner to have the first overall pick, defeated Los Angeles.

So, the Browns got a win, and if they lose to the Steelers on New Year’s Day, they will have their choice of all the eligible college players next April.

A perfect scenario for Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown, and Paul DePodesta.

As for the game, the Browns seemed to do things differently on Saturday.  They seemed to stay with the running game more, as Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson carried 23 times combined for the game.

They ran some crossing routes, which have been absent lately.  And Robert Griffin III was efficient, although not spectacular (17 of 25, 164 yards) before leaving with a concussion in the fourth quarter.

They even controlled the ball, winning the time of possession battle on the day.

Defensively, the Browns even forced a turnover, their first in weeks, on an interception by Jamar Taylor.

There were still some warts, as you would expect on a 1-14 team.

Cleveland quarterbacks were sacked eight times, mostly because of their awful habit on holding on to the ball forever.  On the other hand, even though Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers threw 46 times, the Browns’ defense did not record a sack.

That is why many people think Cleveland should target Texas A & M defensive end Myles Garrett, the best pass rusher available in the draft.

And for those not seeing progress with the rookie class (at least two media members pan the entire draft on a weekly basis), several players stood out.

Emmanuel Ogbah had four more tackles, as did Briean Boddy-Calhoun.  Corey Coleman had two catches for nine yards, including a key third down reception for another rook, Cody Kessler, who replaced Griffin, to keep possession in the fourth quarter.

TE Seth DeValve also made a key 21 yard reception on the Browns’ second touchdown drive.

Remember, many rookies don’t hit their stride until they go through a season and an off-season conditioning program, because they don’t know how to prepare and survive an NFL season.  Our guess is we will see a lot more in 2017 from most of these young players.

We also like what we’ve seen from Mario Alford, the Browns’ new kick returner.  Alford doesn’t seem hesitant and gets good yardage when he decides to bring the ball out of the end zone.  Too often, the Browns were starting inside their own 20 yard line.

A little luck went the Browns’ way too.  Jamie Meder blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter, and San Diego’s Josh Lambo missed a 45 yarder as time expired as well.

Meder’s block wasn’t lucky, but how often do you see a field goal get blocked?

It’s likely we will see Kessler in the season finale against Pittsburgh, in what is really a meaningless game for both teams.  The Steelers are locked in an the #3 seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Hopefully, Jackson will play the game that way too.  It is better for the franchise to have the first overall pick in the spring, which the Browns will have by losing on Sunday.

JD