Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What’s to make of Browns D-Line after addressing other positions in NFL Draft?

Five questions sound like the proper amount to tackle on the first Tuesday in May, doesn’t it?

What’s the story behind the Browns picking Takitaki in the 3rd round? Don’t get me wrong, he has potential, but he’s not someone I expected any team to pick up that early. Was another team targeting him, or were the Browns just so enamored with him that they felt the need to snag him when they could? -- Dug S., Cleveland

I think it was a combination of both, Dug. Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf got a close look at Takitaki during the early part of his senior season during a trip through a Utah. It was Takitaki’s first and only season as a linebacker, and Wolf saw a player with the kind of toughness, “violence” and upside the Browns are coveting from their linebackers. A big part of the draft process -- as detailed in the Monday Morning Quarterback article about the Browns’ sixth-round selection of offensive lineman Drew Forbes -- is identifying which other teams are most interested in the player you want and locating the best possible spot where you can get the player before someone else does. Needless to say, they wouldn’t have taken him in the third round if they believed he’d be available in the fourth. The Browns are confident Takitaki’s best years at a relatively new position are yet to come.

“I was excited to get my name called in the third. But you know, that's not the end, I still got to come here, I still got to show them why they were right of drafting me,” Takitaki said. “I still got to put in the work. I can fall over tomorrow and hey, he's a bust. Definitely got to come here, I got to get to work and prove them right."

Rookie minicamp is complete. Take a look at the best photos from the weekend in Berea.

Drafting fifth-round K/P Austin Seibert (Oklahoma) and signing UDFA P/K Jamie Gillan (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), aka "The Scottish Hammer," leads me to believe the Browns are considering completely re-thinking the NFL special teams paradigm. Rugby stud Gillan can run/kick sideline to sideline (punting on the move) and dropkick from anywhere. Plus, he'll knock your face off in coverage. This is no knock on K Greg Joseph or P Britton Colquitt (who had a another really good season in '18), but are special teams coordinator Mike Priefer and John Dorsey rebooting traditional NFL special teams strategy from the ground up? -- Kevin A., Cleveland

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but the acquisitions of Gillan and Seibert give what the Browns believe to be the best possible competition at two vital positions. Cleveland viewed Seibert, the four-year starter at Oklahoma, as its top kicker in the draft and deemed him worthy of a late-round selection. There’s only room for one kicker on the final roster, and Priefer emphasized to Seibert the moment he called him during the draft that nothing would be handed to him. 

In regards to the signing of Gillan, the Browns showed they don’t believe any player on the roster is above a little competition, even someone as accomplished as Colquitt. The veteran punter is entering his 10th NFL season and was one of the league’s most consistent at the position. Signing Gillan, a Scottish-born former rugby player who handled punts and field goals at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is no different than what the Browns did last year, when they added Justin Vogel, who started the previous year in Green Bay, around the start of OTAs. 

OK, the 2019 NFL draft is behind us. Can you quickly tell us what picks the Browns have available for the 2020 draft after all this wheelin’ dealin’ has passed us by? -- Greg P., Peveley, Missouri

The Browns currently hold all of their picks in Rounds 1-7 and have an additional sixth-rounder from Arizona (Jamar Taylor trade) and a seventh-rounder from Buffalo (Corey Coleman trade).

What a great pick CB Greedy Williams was. Paired with CB Denzel Ward, you have two guys with 4.3 speed that can cover. Could they be the new Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield from the 80's playoff teams? Which CB will take the other teams’ No. 1 WR and what roles do you see CB T.J. Carrie and CB Terrance Mitchell playing? -- Philip H., St. Clairsville

Before we start anointing Williams and Ward as the next Dixon and Minnifield or identifying who’s taking the opponent’s No. 1, let’s see how OTAs and training camp unfold. That’s the way Browns coaches are looking at it because Cleveland has some legitimate options at the cornerback spots. Mitchell won’t give up his job without a fight after arguably his best season -- albeit one limited by a major injury -- as a pro. Carrie got better as the season unfolded and brings valuable experience and versatility to the position. There’s also a veteran like Phillip Gaines, who has 22 starts over the course of his career. The key will be finding who best fits as the nickel -- which is basically a full-time player in today’s NFL -- and identifying who will make up the five or six Cleveland entrusts to start the season. Every team needs at least five they can count on, and that’s the ultimate goal at the moment.

“Football is a game about one-on-one matchups in a team setting,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “Greedy needs to win his one-on-one matchups. When we are playing man coverage, the person doesn’t need to catch the ball on Greedy. If balls are getting caught on Greedy, just like Denzel, it needs to be zone coverage.”

Can you please tell me why the Browns did not draft a DT or DL? How will the team address this issue moving forward? -- James J., Las Vegas

The simple answer is the Browns addressed their defensive line in a major way through free agency (Sheldon Richardson) and trade (Olivier Vernon). When you add two likely starters to the team, that’s considered pretty significant, right?

The draft was absolutely loaded with defensive line talent, but the top end portion of it was quickly wiped off the board by the time Cleveland was on the clock at No. 46. From that point forward, the Browns opted to address other areas of need and the makeup of their board fell in a way that defensive line didn’t make sense. The Browns are in pretty good shape along the line, especially at the projected starting positions -- Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Richardson and Vernon. At end, Chris Smith and Anthony Zettel played some good football for the Browns last year and are poised to fill valuable depth roles. There’s an expectation Chad Thomas, a third-round pick last year, will take on more of a role in his second season. Behind Ogunjobi and Richardson in the middle, Trevon Coley brings two years of starting experience to the table while Brian Price comes back from a season in which he logged some valuable snaps in every game he was active.

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