Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Are we any closer to figuring out how Browns RBs will be used?

It’s the second, full day of rest for the Browns as they look ahead to their first game week (preseason, I know) of the season.

We’re tackling a few of your questions before we enjoy the off day ourselves.

Third-year offensive lineman Spencer Drango has gotten the call while Kevin Zeitler deals with a calf injury. Drango’s been one of the team’s most versatile players on the O-line ever since he arrived in 2016 as a fifth-round pick. He’s played every position but center and done it with a good face. The team’s move of Joel Bitonio to left tackle actually benefited Drango when it comes to securing that “sixth man” spot. With Bitonio switching from left guard to left tackle, versatile rookie Austin Corbett is now the starting left guard rather than the sixth man. Over the past two seasons, Drango started 19 games and appeared in all 32.

I’m real excited about our new running back from Georgia. What’s your prognosis of him and Duke Johnson. I also love Carlos Hyde. I am very excited. -- Tom M., Massillon

I think the excitement you’re feeling is mutual with the players who have been going against these running backs in practice. Nick Chubb, in particular, has drawn rave reviews from not only the players who are tasked with tackling him, but also the running backs who are competing with him for snaps. Hyde referred to Chubb as a “beast” while Johnson has coined the nickname “old school” for the no-nonsense, second-round rookie.

“The way he carries himself, the way he dresses in practice, it drives me crazy,” Johnson said with a laugh. “He’s in the wrong era, wrong generation.”

Through a week and a half of camp, Hyde and Johnson have both received plenty of work with the first-team offense while Chubb has primarily handled the load with the second group. It’s still too early to tell how all three will be deployed when the games start to count, but running backs coach Freddie Kitchens has vowed to ride the hot hand. On the plus side, he has no shortage of options.

“You can pick your poison,” Chubb said. “We have talented running backs. It’ll be hard to stop. For defenses, it’ll be hard to scheme and plan on it.”

When will the Browns receive the “stripes” for their helmets? And will there be a ceremony? -- Jack C., Hampshire, Tennessee

Jackson was vague about this topic when he was asked after practice last week but did clarify that it would be a “team” event, whenever it is. The way he described it, post-53-man cutdown day could very well be the time for it to be captured by HBO’s cameras.

“We are close to getting some candidates,” Jackson said. “Not where we want to be, but I think I can see a couple of guys bubble up to the top. That is what you want to see.”

What does the DT depth chart look like heading into next week’s preseason game? Will Jamie Meder get reps with the first-team defense? -- Ryan R., Canfield

Meder and Trevon Coley have received the bulk of the repetitions with the first-team defense throughout training camp. Second-year tackle Larry Ogunjobi has picked some up here and there. Coley, though, will be sidelined for a while with an ankle injury, providing opportunities for others to step up. In Friday's scrimmage, Jeremy Faulk worked in Coley's spot with the first team. Keep in mind the Browns show a lot of looks where players typically considered to be defensive ends -- Chris Smith, Carl Nassib and even Myles Garrett -- are lined up in the middle of the line.

Will the Browns keep seven wide receivers? Landry, Gordon, Callaway, Higgins, janis, Coleman, Louis or Ratley -- Christian C., Cleveland

Seven would be a lot but it wouldn’t be unprecedented. It all depends on the team’s strengths and weaknesses at other positions and the moves the team believes it can make when the waiver wire opens the day after roster cuts. As for your list, I can already strike one from it, as Ricardo Louis has been ruled out for the season following offseason neck surgery. From what we’ve seen at practice, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman and Antonio Callaway have received the bulk of the repetitions with the first-team offense when it presents a three-wide look. Rashard Higgins has had a very good camp, making a number of big plays with the second-team offense. Jeff Janis is working his way back from a knee injury and looks to be a valuable cog on special teams. Damion Ratley has also been a second-team fixture. If the Browns go with six or seven at the position, keep an eye on C.J. Board or undrafted free agent Da’Mari Scott, who have both made a number of good plays.

Have any of the players competing for punt/kick return duties stood out above the rest? Also, on that note, what is the status of Jabrill Peppers? Do you think he will make a big leap this year, or does he need more time to learn and adjust? -- Jordan G., Youngstown

It’s hard to get a true look at the special teams units on the practice field because it’s hard to simulate at full speed. That’s where the preseason games will be valuable. The player to watch at these spots is Callaway, who was a star as a returner in his brief time at Florida. Special teams coordinator Amos Jones described Callaway’s style as running “as if he was a running back” because he’s able to get quickly vertical upon catching the ball.

Peppers is definitely in the mix but was on the sidelines for the team’s first four practices because of an offseason groin injury.

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