We're making an early exit from Berea on a Friday to get our bodies right for Sunday's showdown with the Cardinals in toasty Arizona.
Two quick questions: (1) Any updates on a potential contract extension for Joe Schobert? and (2) why in the world are the Browns going to start Chris Hubbard again at RT when they need to see how serviceable Kendall Lamm is moving forward? We already know what Hubbard brings. -- Charles C., Sheridan, Wyoming
I'll give you a couple of brief answers in return, if that's OK.
On the first topic, which we've covered a couple of times in this space, Schobert talked recently about how he hasn't yet been presented an offer but expressed a desire to continue his career in Cleveland. Schobert's in the midst of his best season as a pro and got a Pro Bowl endorsement from defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Thursday. Deep breaths. There's still four months until free agency.
As for the situation at right tackle, the Browns haven't made a decision there just yet. Hubbard missed his second game of the season last week with a knee injury and is considered questionable again for Sunday's game. Lamm, a regular starter for the Texans last season, was sidelined for the first half of the season with a knee injury and only recently became available as a substitution option. He played very well in Hubbard's absence last week against the Bengals in what Freddie Kitchens described as the line's best overall performance of the season.
"We have not lost faith and confidence in Chris at all, but Kendall did play good and we will see where it is at the end of the week," Kitchens said. "I think we are getting healthier up front. There are several of those guys that have been battling things during the course of the year, just little nick-knack things, so we will see where we are at, at the end of the week.
"Kendall had not played a lot of ball this year. I think he played two or three snaps against Tennessee and then kind of had some setbacks along the way so he is getting to feel healthy now and we will see where we are at the end of the week."
Could Terrance Mitchell play safety, as he has a knack for big plays? -- Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia
Cleveland's defensive backs bring a lot of positional versatility to the table, but that's not one I'd anticipate in the near future. A player like T.J. Carrie has talked some about playing safety in a pinch but it's yet to materialize because the Browns' next men up at the position have done a very nice job of playing valuable snaps in some tough circumstances.
Kitchens was raving about the group earlier this week when he was asked about rookie Sheldrick Redwine, who has played nearly every snap the past two weeks after playing mostly on special teams during the first half of the season.
"I think Sheldrick has done a good job. I need him to keep coming," Kitchens said. ""I think we have a pretty good rotation there with him, Juston (Burris), Damarious (Randall) and J.T. Hassell comes in from time to time too. I think we have a pretty good rotation. As long as you continue to play well, your snaps continue to increase."
What are the odds that the Browns get a legit fullback this offseason? The best running attack they've had was last year when a TE played the FB position for Nick Chubb or this year when Kareem Hunt lead blocks for Chubb. One could also argue that the best ground game they've had since '99 was when they had Lawrence Vickers blocking for Jamal Lewis. As a modern example, look at how successful the 49ers have been with Kyle Juszczyk. It just seems to make too much sense for what the Browns want to do in the ground game and that the RPO/play-action would certainly help out Mayfield. Thoughts? -- Dan N., Seven Hills
The Browns have definitely toyed around with a fullback at times since Kitchens took over. Midway through training camp, Joe Kerridge, as true of a fullback as you'll find, joined the team and appeared to be finding a niche with the first- and second-team offense. His camp came to an end after a week or so, though, after suffering a concussion, and the Browns never replaced him with a true fullback. The team has frequently used tight ends in the fullback position, though, as Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson and others occasionally line up in the position.
You're certainly right about Hunt's blocking. He's been tenacious since he returned to the field and his blocking has been one of the most pleasant surprises. It's simply another option at Cleveland's disposal without having a true fullback on the roster -- something that has become fairly common around the NFL.
Juszczyk is a great example of a fullback that can do much more than block. He's a unique talent. If there were a ton of players just like him, there'd be a lot more fullbacks in the league. The Ravens, for example, used to employ Juszczyk and now utilize Patrick Ricard at the position. Ricard began his career as a defensive end. These natural talents at the position are just really hard to come by.
"When you do not have the prototypical fullback, you have to be more imaginative in how you scheme to run the football … Are we missing the guy that can lead block? I will always take good football players. Are we missing one? I would not say so," Kitchens said in late September. "I think we have guys that can do the things that we need to do in our offense. We just need to do them better. I need to call better plays. We need to be more efficient on how we go about our business."