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Hue Jackson explains QB Pro Days strategy and 4 more things from NFL owners meetings

PHOENIX -- Hue Jackson didn’t get much of a chance to eat his breakfast Tuesday.

The Browns coach fielded non-stop questions for a full hour during a meal that included the rest of his AFC counterparts.

Here were five things that stood out.

  1. Jackson was at the center of a number of Pro Days for top quarterback prospects last year but he’s embraced a different strategy in 2017.

Jackson, who attended Ohio State’s Pro Day last week, has leaned toward private workouts with some of the top quarterback prospects of this year’s class. He explained the benefits during Tuesday’s breakfast.

“I think it's better when you get an opportunity to, one, take a player to dinner, spend some extra time with them that way and then be able to have what we call a private day,” Jackson said. “You get the player to do exactly what it is you want to see him do as opposed to him coming there with his quarterback coach, it's all scripted, it's exactly how they want it. And the players normally do exactly what's asked of them that way.”

And there’s a reason, Jackson said, behind not doing both.

“I think sometimes if you pick to do the pro day, some agents will advise their players not to do the private day because it's extra throwing. And I get that,” Jackson said. “So we kind of set out and made a decision what was going to be best for us to best evaluate the players. And the best thing for us was to do was do the private days.”

Top quarterback prospects Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and Davis Webb have already had their Pro Days. Pat Mahomes of Texas Tech will have his this week.

  1. Jackson said he understands the tendency to look at quarterback classes beyond the current one but stressed the Browns are locked on 2017.

“We’ve got to get through 2017 before you get to 2018,” Jackson said. “We have a template of how we want our quarterback to be, and how we want him to play and that’s what we’re trying to figure out. Is there a guy in this draft that can do that for us and if he can, we’ll do everything we can to get him. If it’s not, we’re not going to force it by just putting a quarterback on the team.”

Early rankings list USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the potential top options at the position in 2018.

  1. Jackson said the Browns “started out like a house on fire” at the beginning of free agency and probably aren’t quite done bolstering the roster via that avenue.

The Browns signed three likely offensive starters on the first day of free agency: OL Kevin Zeitler, OL JC Tretter and WR Kenny Britt. Earlier in the offseason, Cleveland re-signed LB Jamie Collins Sr., LS Charley Hughlett and P Britton Colquitt. Leading receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. left in free agency for Washington.

“We got some guys that are going to really help our team get better and I think we all know we didn’t get everybody we wanted. That’s just part of it. You’re not going to get everybody you want,” Jackson said. “But we got some guys that are really going to help us into the future. We’re not done by any stretch of the imagination. We’re working at it each and every day and we need to continue to do that. Any possible way to improve the Cleveland Browns, we have to do and I think that’s what we’re trying to do and I think we’ve got to continue to look at any avenue to do that and that’s what (executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown) is doing.”

  1. Jackson said he holds linebacker Christian Kirksey in a similar regard as offensive guard Joel Bitonio, who recently signed a five-year contract extension.

Kirksey, a third-round pick in the same 2014 class as Bitonio, was one of the NFL’s leading tacklers in 2016. He piled up 148 tackles and 2.5 sacks in a season that saw him emerge as not only one of the defense’s top leaders, but also one of the loudest voices in the Browns locker room.

“I think Kirko is another one of our young, talented players that we want to have back,” Jackson said. “Hopefully we'll work through that process as well. But he's another one of those cornerstone players in my opinion. Hopefully we can get things done with him, too. He's talented. Did a great job last year. Looking for him to be even better this year."

  1. Jackson said the Browns are in a good place when it comes to players recovering from injuries sustained during the 2016 season.

Bitonio, fellow offensive lineman John Greco and safety Derrick Kindred are recovering from the foot injuries that respectively cut short their 2016 season. Veteran defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, who missed all of 2016 with a pectoral injury, might be limited in terms of lifting but should be fine running, Jackson said.

“I think those guys are on schedule to be where they need to be,” Jackson said, referring to Bitonio and Greco specifically. “Now, how fast they can run and those things, but I think those guys are on schedule. I’ve bumped into these guys in the weight room. They’re working hard, excited about getting ready for the offfseason program. Maybe they can’t do everything but they can do something.”

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