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Browns Mailbag: What’s the state of Cleveland’s QB competition?

Posted Jun 16, 2017

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

The Browns’ three minicamp practices have come and gone, leaving six weeks of separation between today and training camp.

Sounds like the perfect time to tackle six of your questions.

It looks like we are deep in the secondary. We know who's playing the one corner, what does the rest of the secondary look like? - Terry G., Orrville

The Browns certainly have a lot of options and the goal has centered on finding and grooming the best overall defensive backs, regardless of position. Every defensive player has been tasked to learn multiple positions. In the secondary, that means a player such as Jamar Taylor has to know how to play both nickel and outside cornerback. Someone like veteran Jason McCourty is capable of playing at both safety and cornerback.

At minicamp, the first-team rotation mostly featured Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor at the corners and Derrick Kindred, Ibraheim Campbell and Ed Reynolds rotated at the two safety spots. McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun were with the second group at corner while Jabrill Peppers, Justin Currie and Calvin Pryor rotated at safety. Three things to consider: 1. Peppers, much like the entire rookie class, was mostly relegated to third-team duty. That could change as soon as the start of training camp. 2. Pryor, who was recently acquired in a trade with the Jets, only saw on-field activity at the last practice because he was still getting a grasp of the defense. 3. The Browns could be in a number of formations that feature three safeties and five or six overall defensive backs.

Backup center that injured his leg his first game last year was a standout. He played 3/4 of the game. He broke open holes for that running game that I haven't seen in years. I hope he's good to go this year. Outstanding pickup for Cleveland. Can't remember his name, though. - Tom H., Fairview

That would be Austin Reiter, who is still recovering from the injury. He did not see any on-field activity during minicamp. He’ll be one of a number of centers competing behind JC Tretter when training camp opens later next month.

Where do you see second-year players Joe Schobert and Carl Nassib fitting in with Gregg Williams’ defense? - Mack M., Salem, Oregon

Both of these players came up in discussion with Cleveland’s assistant coaches Thursday. To a degree, both are playing at new spots on the defense, as Schobert has moved to middle linebacker in Cleveland’s 4-3 while Nassib has been at end. Last year, Schobert saw time at both inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 while Nassib was a 3-4 end.

Linebackers coach Blake Williams has liked what he’s seen from Schobert and said he’s an ideal fit at the position.

“He is an extremely bright, extremely bright guy,” Williams said. “(He has) the ability to process what everybody is doing and all of the sudden see something and turn around and tell a safety what they are supposed to be doing—maybe they don’t know what they are supposed to be doing—and you tell them that or maybe the corner doesn’t know what he is doing and you tell him that or a D-lineman—you see him not do it and you have to go down there and physically move him—he possesses some of those ‘coach-like’ qualities that has allowed him to step in there as the spring is progressed and get a chance to do that.”

Nassib primarily worked with the second-team defensive line behind Emmanuel Ogbah during minicamp.

“He’s going to be a guy I think is going to play for me a lot,” defensive line coach Clyde Simmons said. “He’s come a long way. He’s a young guy and needs to get a little stronger. He still has to be more violent but he’s come a long way from the guy I saw on film to the guy that stepped off the field today.”

Is the QB race really a competition? Or is it Kessler by a long shot? I have faith in Kessler but I also feel like Osweiler could be a nice surprise, this is the first time in a long time that I feel pretty confident in the Cleveland QB room. - Corey G., Chillicothe

Based on comments from coach Hue Jackson and quarterbacks coach David Lee, it’s safe to say the competition is wide open heading into this stretch of the summer. Jackson said he’d settle on a pecking order at the position at some point closer to training camp, but neither coach would commit to naming a front-runner at this stage. And Jackson, who prefers to name his starter before the first preseason game, would not commit to naming his starter before the preseason opener against the Saints.

“I don’t want to rush that because I think you have to make the right decision,” Jackson said. “Faster is always better than later, but at the same time, I am not going to put a timetable on myself because there is still a process that we all must go through as an offensive unit to say this is the guy and this is what we feel comfortable with. I am not going to back off of the characteristics that I want our quarterback to exhibit. We can’t turn the ball over. We have to be able to run the team and play within our system and deliver the ball and make plays and uplift this whole organization. That is what it takes, and we will find out who that guy is.”

Have the Browns shown any interest in Dennis Pitta who was recently released by the Baltimore Ravens? He is a high-profile player and could give some leadership and advice to rookie David Njoku. - Matthew B., Springfield, Ohio

Pitta was released after suffering the third serious hip injury of his career. In a recent press conference, he did not announce his retirement but acknowledged his playing days could be over.

How is Caleb Brantley adjusting? I haven't heard any news since he wasn't charged, other than him signing. I think he is very good steal and will be one of the interior line anchors. - Brandy D., Atlanta

The sixth-round pick looks the part from a physical standpoint and has flashes of first-round potential. Simmons said he needs to improve his consistency in order to land a regular spot in the defensive rotation. Simmons said he’s tasked himself with bringing the best out of Brantley on an every-down basis.


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