The Weekly Ten is a new piece at the OBR and Scout.com. Each Wednesday – or close to it, I’ll take a look at the top Cleveland Browns stories of the past week.
1. Cleveland Browns Duct Tape Available at Festival This Weekend
You may be asking – what does the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival have to do with the Cleveland Browns? Easy. Perhaps someone from the team’s PR department should grab some duct tape and wrap it around Seneca Wallace’s mouth.
Once again, Wallace has been duped into becoming an offseason headline.
2. A Meta-QB Controversy
When asked about the Browns’ current QB situation, Wallace – a ten-year veteran and competitive professional athlete – admitted the following:
OBR.com – QB Competition Continues
Wallace was asked if he thought all three players could be on the team.
“Who knows? Probably not,” Wallace said.
He was asked if he would be content if he was the third quarterback, behind Weeden and McCoy.
“Not really,” Wallace said. “The third guy isn’t active on game day. Can you say if you see all three (of us) here?”
Pretty straightforward thoughts – and reporting, at least until you read the different variations that were spun Tuesday.
A pretty lame controversy, right?
And then, Wednesday morning, things took a turn for the dramatic.
Wednesday Morning – “Will Wallace Ask For a Trade?”
Astute readers will notice this is the exact same story – only repackaged under a new title – one designed to generate more page views.
3. Debating Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy is so 2009 – or 2007 – or 2005….
In as few words as possible, it’s clear that Brandon Weeden was drafted to be a starter in 2012. Neither Wallace or McCoy were overly impressive in 2011 or are starting-caliber material. Wallace has more NFL experience, while McCoy has a relatively cheaper contract. Either could serve as an adequate backup.
End of controversy.
4. June: Where Josh Cooper Shines.
Weeden’s college teammate, undrafted free agent wide receiver Josh Cooper, has reportedly caught the attention of Browns’ Head Coach Pat Shurmur. On Tuesday, Shurmur said as much. “He has very impressive. He gets it. He understands how to get open in the slot and he catches the ball."
Considering his familiarity with Weeden and the Browns’ lack of talent at wide receiver, such comments make a lot of sense. However, it’s only the middle of June, which means that Cooper may not show the type of NFL-caliber skills the position demands. While most football analysts see a smaller-framed wide receiver and instantly think Wes Welker, it’s worth noting that Welker has impressive strength, amazing quickness and the ability to instantly diagnose defensive coverages and instantly adjust his routes accordingly.
If Cooper can eventually display similar traits – while receiving a helmet to helmet hit from James Harrison – then Shurmur’s words will truly hold some meaning.
5. How Many Slot Receivers Can One NFL Team Have?
Speaking of which, if Cooper can survive real game action and lock down a roster spot, then what happens to the other wide receiver candidates? Certainly, Greg Little and Josh Cribbs make the roster and probably become the team’s opening day starters. Travis Benjamin isn’t going anywhere and most likely Mohamed Massaquoi returns. If Cooper is truly a legitimate NFL talent, then he and Jordan Norwood would be fighting for the same position.
Of course, Little – who should emerge as the team’s primary receiving target – is probably best suited to play in the slot. And in Shurmur’s 1993-era offense, very little occurs down the field anyway.
6. And What About the Hybrid Tight Ends?
When asked this week about the prospects of his team’s wide receivers, Shurmur responded with the following:
"I think we got some guys that, No. 1, are some good players. I think they have all had a chance now to play a year in the system and then have an offseason to improve their game. Then, we have added some young players who I think are going to develop into good players. For all of those reasons I think they will be better and productive. Then I think as you get more efficient quarterback play."
Even the most optimistic of Browns’ fans could only dream that unless Little experiences a phenomenal second-year leap and/or if Benjamin becomes the next DeSean Jackson, the Browns’ receiving corps will again disappoint.
As such, the hope is that the Browns’ collection of tight ends can contribute to a dormant passing attack. Veteran Ben Watson is a steady presence some 7-8 yards from the line of scrimmage and Alex Smith is a solid run blocker. However, the contributions of Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron were slight in 2011 – primarily thanks to each player’s inability to block.
7. How Mitchell Schwartz Can Help the Passing Game.
Because of Moore and Cameron’s blocking liability, along with the presence of lumbering right tackle Tony Pashos, Alex Smith received an extraordinary amount of playing time in 2011. Smith – who is a solid but completely unspectacular tight end – was counted on to help Pashos, Oneil Cousins and Artis Hicks in blocking opposing defenders.
Thanks to this continued weakness last season, the Browns couldn’t employ many formations conducive to the passing game. Instead, Smith had to help save either McCoy or Wallace from getting crushed by left defensive ends and outside linebackers. Ideally in 2012, Schwartz is capable of handling solo blocking assignments – which means that either Moore or Cameron can use their height to take advantage of an opposing defender far away from the line of scrimmage.
8. Speaking of Blockers….
Among the OBR forums and in other places, Browns’ fans are still wondering why veteran Eric Steinbach has not signed with another team – or has returned to Berea. The answer is simple. First, Steinbach’s health is unknown. Second, his play declined in both 2009 and 2010 – before he suffered his 2011 injury.
Finally, Jason Pinkston wasn’t great in 2011 – but could have been a lot worse. Considering that opposing defenses didn’t have to worry about the Browns’ downfield game, Pinkston faced constant interior pressure from defensive linemen, linebackers and safeties. Absent a few near meltdowns, Pinkston survived and should improve in his second season.
9. A Young, Veteran Offensive Line in Cleveland is Cause for Celebration.
The hot topics in Cleveland always revolve around the quarterbacks and wide receivers, but it’s quietly remarkable what has happened along the offensive line in recent years. The Browns now feature two first-round picks in Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, a second-round choice in Mitchell Schwartz, third-rounder Shaun Lauvao and fifth-round selection Jason Pinkston.
It’s amazing that all five likely starters were selected by the Browns – albeit in a perfectly normal (for Cleveland) manner of three different GMs making the moves. Thomas, the perennial All-Pro, is the oldest of the homegrown talent at 27. While Schwartz, Pinkston and Lauvao are still evolving as NFL blockers, the current situation is far removed from the darker days of expansion, when broken down free agents were continually paraded as quick fixes.
10. Josh Cribbs Is the Ultimate Cleveland Icon.
As for something – or someone – to celebrate... Who else but Cribbs could attend the (fixed) NBA Draft Lottery one week and then charter a bus trip to Nebraska to support the Kent State Flashes baseball team?
Cribbs’ actions, along with Joe Haden and several others, makes someone like Jim Brown look even more irrelevant.