Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Who's next to help boost Browns WRs?

How about six questions as we look ahead to Week 7?

Is something wrong with Cody Kessler? Why is he always inactive for game day. He's got time with Hue and knows the system as well as Hogan or Kizer. Why not give him a crack at that first win? -- David P., Corry, Pennsylvania

Nothing at all is wrong with Cody Kessler. The second-year quarterback entered training camp as the first player in line to claim the starting job. He struggled in a handful of areas, most notably when it came to getting the ball out in a timely fashion, and was ultimately passed by the likes of Brock Osweiler -- who has since been released -- and DeShone Kizer, who eventually won the job. Kessler made the 53-man roster and was placed third on the depth chart behind Kevin Hogan, who came on strong at the end of the preseason. When Kizer needed to step away from the field for a bit, Hogan was called upon in relief. Now that Hogan is dealing with a rib injury and Kizer is refreshed and refocused heading into his sixth start of the season, Kessler is ready and able as the team's backup. This is the opportunity Hue Jackson said he'd get this season. And no one knows better than Kessler, who entered 2016 as the third-string quarterback but was starting by Week 3, that anything can happen during the course of a season.

"He has never quit working. He has never complained," Jackson said. "He has never let any of that bother him. He just kept doing what he needed to do, and I told him that day when I made the decision that Kevin was the backup that at some point in time you will get your opportunity, too, and that is what I am going to do."

Why don't we use Duke Johnson as a runner? Isaiah Crowell missed a couple of cut-backs early. He is just running into back of linemen. Duke is a better overall back. -- Doug S., Huber Heights

The Browns are getting more out of Johnson in his current role than they did during his first two seasons in Cleveland. He's been Cleveland's most consistent playmaker, with most of those plays coming in the passing game. After a slow start to the season, Crowell has been solid in Cleveland's past two games, especially when you consider the Browns faced a big deficit during a large portion last week against the Texans.

"Duke has a specific role and we go into every game plan every week trying to get him his touches and he does a great job with his touches," running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said recently. "He plays sometimes 40, anywhere from 40 to 55 percent of the game depending on what kind of packages we are in, the score, the situation, so he is getting his opportunities."

Since the wide receiver position has been one in question, do you see Rannell Hall being activated from the practice squad, seeing the success he had during preseason as a legitimate deep threat down the field? Do you see Kasen Williams take over the No. 2 wide receiver position with his sure-handed catches? -- Robert C., Bronx, N.Y.

It's certainly a possibility at some point, especially with both Kenny Britt and Sammie Coates listed as questionable for Sunday against the Titans. He has plenty of experience in Jackson's system and has made plays when called upon.

As for Williams, he's played a significant number of snaps in the past two games and come away with some of his better catches of the season. If Britt returns, Williams' playing time figures to dip but he appears to have established a regular role.

Why don't the Browns trade for a big-time receiver to help the offense? They have the picks to do it. -- Jason K., Risingsun, Ohio

Big-time receivers unfortunately don't grow on trees, and the teams that have them aren't necessarily willing to part with them, no matter the offer. A trade like the one Cleveland made last year for Jamie Collins Sr. last year isn't the easiest to pull off. The Browns would be looking for that kind of player, one whose best football remains ahead of him, to part with a valuable pick.

Could we use David Njoku as a RB on the short-and-goal (inside the 2)? He has the strength, speed, height, weight, and leaping ability to go up and over. -- David C., Wapakoneta

I'm not going to rule anything out, and Njoku is officially in the books with one carry for 1 yard this season. So, anything is possible. But with a team-high three touchdown catches, I think Njoku is proving he's quite a dangerous target near the end zone in the traditional sense of his position.

We have a ton of cap space. Why are we being so stingy with our money? Why not pick up some players who can help guide our young roster? What are we saving for? -- Nolan S., Massillon

Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta was asked a question along these lines at the NFL owners meetings in March. He pointed to the Browns strategy of managing the cap not just with the present season in mind, but future ones down the road. Cleveland hopes to dole out more, rewarding extensions like it did with Joel Bitonio and Christian Kirksey this past year. Players such as Danny Shelton and Duke Johnson Jr. would be in line for something of that nature in the upcoming offseason and then, down the line, the numerous other draft picks Cleveland hopes turns into long-term, cornerstone players.

"It is incredible how quickly that cap space can disappear and we want that we want to be able to use that going forward, we want to be able to do deploy in '17 and '18 and '19," DePodesta said. "To some degree, we have to be good stewards of that space."

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