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Browns Mailbag: When will Browns break out the trickery on special teams?

Posted Nov 17, 2017

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

The mercury’s dropping and we hear snow is on the way.

Time for five questions before we experience (maybe) the first snow game of the season at FirstEnergy Stadium.

After an 0-9 start to what’s almost certainly another losing football season in Cleveland, should the Browns open the bag of tricks and maybe try a fake punt, fake field goal or surprise onside kick to get that elusive first win? -- Matthew C., Vestal, N.Y.

That’s a timely query because a question of that sort was asked at today’s press conference with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. The Browns have plenty of these plays in their arsenal, and we’ve seen them with our own two eyes on the practice field. In games, though, the situations just haven’t presented themselves. And there’s no use forcing it.

“I know to the eye we haven’t run one yet, but there have been some called,” Tabor said. “When they are called, sometimes it is a look thing. If you don’t get the proper look, then you are out of it. That happens a lot more on special teams than what people think that fakes are called quite a bit. It just depends whether you want to give yourself the option to get out of it or not.”

Matthew Dayes had a very good kickoff return against the Vikings. It seems every time Dayes gets an opportunity to play, he contributes. Isn't there a place for him on this offense? Why are his opportunities so few and far between? -- Dustin H., Hudson

We get asked a lot about Dayes, and the excitement for the seventh-round rookie is understandable. Seemingly no one made more big plays during the preseason than Dayes, who has made it no secret he wasn’t pleased waiting until the end of the draft to hear his name called.

There are just two very good players ahead of Dayes at running back. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. were, perhaps, at their best level of the season this past week in Detroit, and Cleveland is hoping to ride that duo into what promises to be a run-heavy game against the Jaguars. As the third member of the group, Dayes has to be ready. At a moment’s notice, he’d have to be ready to shoulder the load if Crowell or Johnson went down with an injury. He’s latched onto a bit of a role as a kick returner, filling in for Jabrill Peppers at the spot in the last three games. He’s also a member of a number of other special teams units.

What is Josh Gordon's contract status? -- Craig H., Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania

If Gordon, who has been conditionally reinstated by the league, is able to return to the field this season, he’d be a restricted free agent after this season and an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season, according to Spotrac.com.

Gordon is permitted to practice with the team starting Monday and could return to the field Week 13 against the Chargers if all goes as planned.

“He is doing well,” Jackson said. “He is here in the building every day, on time for everything, involved and big smile on his face. He is a pleasure to be around.”

Do you think that the Browns should go after J.T. Barrett in the next draft? I like that he chose to return for another year at Ohio State to develop himself more and that he continues to improve every season. -- Mike S., South Korea

Barrett’s been a rock for Ohio State over the past few seasons and will get a look in the NFL when his career comes to a close. As for the Browns, it’s way, way, way too early to start breaking down draft prospects, especially at the quarterback position. Most websites that cover this stuff 24-7-365 don’t even have prospect rankings up yet.

Is there a specific reason Sammie Coates has been relegated to special teams duties? The first few weeks after the trade, it was explained that he was learning the playbook, which is understandable. Is he simply not showing anything in practice?  Is he even being given the chance? -- Zane T., Ypsilanti, Michigan

Coates made the most of a big opportunity last week in Detroit, hauling in a 38-yard catch on Cleveland’s first offensive play of the game. He also received his most extensive playing time of the season in the loss. Learning the playbook was the first hurdle for Coates, and the second was a hamstring injury that dogged him in late September and into October. Coates, who relies heavily on his burning speed to get separation, appears to be back to full strength now and should be viewed as one of Cleveland’s top deep threats in the young receivers room.

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