Forgive us for taking a bit of a hiatus at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. It's been a little busy around here.
Eight days into the new year seems like a fine place to start the 2020 edition of the Browns Mailbag. We're off to the races with four of your queries.
After decades as a Falcons fan, I now watch the Browns whenever I can. I'd like to know what the Browns are planning for OL improvements to support Nick Chubb's running game and Baker Mayfield's pass blocking? -- Jack D., Cedartown, Georgia
Welcome aboard, Jack. We're glad to have you and hope you've got all the tools necessary to watch the Browns every week of the season.
Here's where the Browns are with the offensive line with two months until free agency and three months until the draft. Cleveland is strong and settled at left guard with Pro Bowl veteran Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter, who recently signed a contract extension. Chris Hubbard has been the starting right tackle for the last two seasons and is under contract for 2020, but it can be assumed there will be some competition at the position. The same goes at right guard, where Eric Kush and Wyatt Teller essentially split games this season. Left tackle Greg Robinson, who has been the primary starter at the position for the last year and a half, will be a free agent in March.
Let's start with the internal options beyond this group.
Kendall Lamm has a year left on his contract after an injury-marred 2019 with the Browns. He started at right tackle twice, playing well in the first game before going down with another injury in the second. He's been a starting right tackle in the past and could be among the options to compete for the job in 2020. Drew Forbes, a sixth-round pick last year, spent the first half of the season on injured reserve and was mostly inactive for the second half. He came a long way during training camp and was playing very well at the end of the preseason. He's someone to consider at right guard.
Now for the external options.
Free agency comes first, and that's an unforgiving place to be when you're looking for premium options on the offensive line, especially at tackle. Most good linemen never even hit the market, and the ones who do come at a steep price. A number of the top potential options might not be available this time two months from now because their respective teams have the ability to bring them back. That group includes Jack Conklin (Titans), Matt Feiler (Steelers), Bryan Bulaga (Packers), Anthony Castonzo (Colts) and D.J. Humphries (Cardinals).
The draft, of course, is the best place to get talent on the offensive line that you hope to keep in your building for years to come. Cleveland holds the 10th pick, and there are three players constantly being projected in that region of the draft: Jedrick Wills (Alabama), Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa). The most intriguing thing about this trio? Two of the three -- Wills and Wirfs -- were right tackles at the collegiate level. You don't see that often with top tackle projections, but the Browns, considering their needs, certainly aren't in any position to hold that against them.
Check out photos of who the Browns are interviewing to be their next head coach
Where did Joe Schobert rank in linebackers for the year? -- Elmer L., Bangor, Maine
That's a pretty broad question, so I'll throw a handful of numbers and honors your way and let you decide how to rank him for the season.
On the non-numbers side, Schobert was voted a second alternate for the 2020 Pro Bowl. If he's able to make it to Orlando, it will be his second Pro Bowl honor in four seasons with the Browns. He finished the season 10th in tackles (133), which made him ninth-best among linebackers. Schobert's four interceptions put him in a tie for 11th in the league and second among linebackers. His nine passes defensed were also among the best marks for linebackers. Among linebackers who played at least 80 percent of the snaps this season, Schobert ranked 16th in tackling efficiency, second in run-stop percentage, third in coverage rating and had the 16th-highest overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
Why in the world did the Browns allow Mike McCarthy to leave the building? -- Bob K., Coventry
McCarthy, who accepted the head coach position with the Cowboys on Tuesday, was the first interview in a process that has now included six candidates. The Browns went into the process planning to be "very thorough," and that, by definition, means interviewing more than one candidate. This stuff happens when you're competing with other teams for candidates because those candidates have to act in their best self-interest. Now, with all of the remaining openings around the league filled, the Browns are in a position to capitalize on that thoroughness and pick the candidate that comes out looking like the best fit in this process.
How many ex-Browns played in the four Wild Card games? -- Elmer L., Bangor, Maine
Here's the team-by-team breakdown from this past weekend. There's a note by each player who did not participate in these games.
Bills (1): S Jordan Poyer
Texans (8): S Mike Adams, TE Darren Fells, RB Carlos Hyde, RB Duke Johnson, T Roderick Johnson, LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Phillip Gaines (IR), S Tashaun Gipson (IR)
Patriots (5): LB Jamie Collins, QB Cody Kessler (Inactive), CB Jason McCourty (Inactive), DL Danny Shelton, TE Ben Watson
Titans (3): WR Darius Jennings, K Greg Joseph, RB Dion Lewis
Saints (3): LB Demario Davis, LB Craig Robertson, DB Johnson Bademosi (IR)
Vikings (1): P Britton Colquitt
Eagles (3): LB Genard Avery (Inactive), WR Shelton Gibson, QB Josh McCown
Seahawks (2): LB Mychal Kendricks (Inactive), RB Robert Turbin