Surprise! Instead of your usual mailbag delivered by our wise senior writer Andrew Gribble, I'm stepping in for him while he's enjoying a week of much-deserved vacation. I'll do my best to meet the high standard he sets as he answers your questions each week. Let's get it started!
How many tight ends will the Browns carry on the 53-man roster and does Baker Mayfield have a preferred TE? - Tom V., Chattanooga, Tennessee
In the lead-up to training camp, we're answering the nine most important questions about this team. We tackled tight ends on Thursday, which you can read by clicking here.
For the first time in a long time, I think we could at least realistically consider the prospect of keeping four tight ends on this roster. There's just a lot of talent in the group and it will be difficult to separate between the final 53 and the practice squad.
David Njoku leads the way, and I maintain that Browns fans will be pleasantly surprised by the play of Demetrius Harris, a former college basketball player whom general manager John Dorsey unearthed as an undrafted free agent back when he was running the Chiefs. Granted his first chance at free agency after five years spent behind All-Pro Travis Kelce, Harris followed him here for what he saw as a better opportunity. He's extremely athletic and can also block effectively.
From there, it's an all-out battle. You have Seth DeValve, who has steadily improved since the Browns selected him out of Princeton in 2016. Fellow Tiger Stephen Carlson is on the roster, too, and looks a lot like DeValve on the field. Pharaoh Brown is a tower of a tight end and a local kid, and Orson Charles offers H-back potential as a hard-nosed veteran.
I haven't noticed a favorite for Mayfield, in part because he's only had one year to work with these guys. I am confident he'll come to like Harris and target Njoku plenty.
After listening to Freddie Kitchens interviews during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, it’s clear to me he’s putting the pressure on the defense to do their jobs and not give up big leads. His conviction to confidence that the offense will score and score a lot is evident. Do you sense the same confidence in the head coach? - Ronnie B., Harts, West Virginia
It's funny you mention this. Beau Bishop and I just discussed this during Thursday's Cleveland Browns Daily in reviewing the latest episode of Building the Browns (you can watch all of them here). In that edition of the Emmy Award-winning show, the focus was trained on the offensive side of the ball, where we saw Kitchens be his usual jovial, funny self but also witnessed him get on the cases of offensive players who weren't performing up to his standard. He quickly switched from joking around to being a tough coach, telling interior lineman Kyle Kalis to "get in your book" when he made a protection mistake.
It all reinforced one very evident point: This offense is Kitchens' baby.
Because of how he rose from position coach to interim offensive coordinator to head coach, it makes sense. The offense's performance will carry a big portion of how he is judged as a head coach, so it must succeed. I think that unlike your observation, he likely trusts the defensive staff he's assembled to do its job. Steve Wilks isn't new to his role and the roster appears to have the type of personnel that should succeed in Wilks' defense. I think Kitchens is confident in them and knows the offensive responsibility is on his and Todd Monken's shoulders.
Is there another rising star/talent evaluator in John Dorsey’s front office? Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith are known from their Green Bay days. Is there anyone new? - Gurjit S., Rocklin, California
Before revealing another name of note, we need to heap some praise on the two you mentioned, even if they were already known from their Green Bay days (Dorsey was known from those days, too).
After years of seeing the Packers find a way to keep him with the organization, Wolf has flourished in Cleveland. He had his heart set on Sione Takitaki after accidentally finding him during preparation for a Utah scouting trip and managed to pick him in this year's draft. Wolf is very clearly an excellent right-hand man to Dorsey, who will be the first to tell you the construction of this roster is a total team effort. Highsmith is a guy you'll find digging deep for prospects (see: Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi) and it's very clear that this is his calling. He enjoys the grind of scouting and roster construction -- they all do. There is little wasted time inside the facility, and it shouldn't come as a surprise if one of or both eventually landed GM jobs elsewhere. They're deserving of such opportunities.
The Browns also found a gem in their director of college scouting, Steve Malin. He's another who embraces the grind of scouting while searching for the prospects the organization thinks will help them win football games. In talking with him before the draft, I could tell this opportunity with the Browns is one that was coming for him for some time. Dorsey managed to lure him away from Sean Payton, to whom he held a strong loyalty, and the results will be seen in the coming months and years.
Above all, it's very encouraging as a team employee to see the cohesiveness inside the personnel department. They all come from a familiar scouting background and are very much on the same page.