Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Deshaun Watson, analyzing the 2016 WR class and more

Twelve days into 2017 and the Browns are 12 days away from their first practice as the coaching staff for the South team at the Senior Bowl. [



Yet another example that the term "offseason" can be a tad misleading.

On to the questions!

How many NFL coaches call their own plays? Maybe Hue Jackson is taking on too much. What good OC would accept losing this responsibility? -- Jim C., Centerville

Last week, as he fielded questions about the hiring of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Jackson confirmed he would call plays in 2017. That hasn't changed in the wake of Pep Hamilton's departure to the University of Michigan.

"I don't know why I would not," Jackson said. "Until I get this organization where I need it to be, I need to continue to do what I think I have done in the past to play winning football. Obviously, we didn't do it as well this past year. Trust me, I have looked at myself, too. Hue Jackson has to get better as well as anybody has to get better. I don't run from that. I am not taking it off my head. I get how all of this works. I have been through these things before, and I know what we have to get done. I can see it. I just have to go make it happen."

As for the rest of the NFL, that total is always fluid, but it grew in a big way last year. Jackson was one of six -- yes, six -- new hires who vowed to call plays, according to Some other, notable head coaches who call plays are Arizona's Bruce Arians, Houston's Bill O'Brien, Green Bay's Mike McCarthy and Kansas City's Andy Reid. Some others lend their hand to the defensive side of the ball.

After watching the College Football Playoff National Championship, do you think the Browns draft Deshaun Watson at No. 1? And perhaps defensive help with the No. 12 pick? -- Jay J., Orlando

Simply put, Watson was incredible against an Alabama defense that was considered to be one of the best in recent college football history. He recovered from a sloppy start and led his team to victory with a mix of smart running and accurate passing. He's on the radar as one of the top available quarterbacks in this year's draft and has a chance to be the first at his position selected.

But does that mean he's worth the No. 1 overall pick? It's too early to tell. At this point in the process, most draft analysts believe it would be a reach -- but the same things were being said about both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz at this time last year, and they went first and second, respectively. Watson will have a big opportunity to impress Browns coaches if he accepts an invitation to the Senior Bowl and can use the next few months to show them he hasn't hit his peak as one of college football's best all-time quarterbacks. Even though the Browns and the rest of the NFL have been analyzing him for years, the next few months will be vital in that decision-making process.

As for the 12th pick, it's impossible to say whether Cleveland will go offense or defense. The draft appears to be top heavy with defensive talent, so it'd be a mild surprise if the Browns didn't use at least one of their first-round picks on that side of the ball.

I like the hiring of Gregg Williams as the new DC for the Browns. I feel that a 4-3 defense better fits the players the Browns have better than a 3-4 defense. I never did like trying to convert a true 4-3 DE (Ogbah, Nassib, Myles Garrett) to a 3-4 OLB or 3-4 DE, it just doesn't work out well (ex: Mingo). When healthy, I think the Browns have the defensive line that has the talent and depth to make that change work very well. Thoughts? Thanks! -- Dan N., Seven Hills

A lot has been made about the potential shift from a 4-3 to 3-4, but it's somewhat misleading. Cleveland played the majority of its snaps in nickel last year and, throughout portions of the second half of the season, used a traditional 4-3 front. Also, Williams hasn't exclusively used the 4-3 in his years of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator. As Jackson said, Williams "has done a little bit of it all" and will be charged to design a scheme that maximizes the ability of the players on his unit.

A big deal was made of the Browns selecting five WR's in the 2016 Draft. Excluding Coleman and DeValve, who was obviously drafted to be a TE, have the other three -- Louis, Payton and Higgins -- done anything to show they belong on a NFL roster? -- Eric N., Marysville

The emergence of Terrelle Pryor Sr. as the team's top receiver and reliability of Andrew Hawkins made it tough for this trio to crack the rotation and earn consistent snaps. If any of the three want more playing time in 2017, they'll have to earn it on the practice field in the coming months.

Louis received regular work during Coleman's six-game absence but was relegated to mostly special teams work during the second half of the season. Louis got better and better as a special teams weapon as the season progressed and definitely has a future in that aspect of the team. The next step will be utilizing his gifted athleticism more in the passing game. His best game was against the Titans in Week 6, when he was targeted a whopping nine times and finished with five catches for 65 yards.

Higgins' playing time was mostly limited throughout the year. Near the end of the season, he received a look as a big slot receiver of sorts and played well. He finished with six receptions for 77 yards.

Payton's playing time was even more sparse and his season ended with a four-game league suspension. He had one catch for 3 yards.

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