WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.

–In a surprise Monday (July 23), wide receiver Josh Gordon tweeted that he will not be in attendance when the Browns open training camp. General manager John Dorsey responded by saying the player would be placed on the non-football illness list.

In a message broken into several tweets, Gordon said: “To my Cleveland Browns and NFL Family,

“I am reaching out to you all personally and letting you know that I am not only doing great physically but mentally as well. You will notice that I will not be in Cleveland for the start of training camp. Rest assured, this, too, is a part of my overall health and treatment plan. I appreciate the awesome support I have received from teammates, friends, fans, and the Browns organization. Just like you, I am excited to start the season and I have every intention of being ready and available to join my teammates soon to help bring winning football to our fans.

“With the help of the NFL, NFLPA, and the Browns’ organization, I have been able to utilize the resources available to me that will ensure my well-being on and off the field. By continuing to follow the plan set up by our medical director and his team and taking this time before this season starts, we believe it will help me maintain the progress I’ve made for not only today but for many years to come.

“Thank you all for your patience, love, and support! Go Browns!
Sincerely, Josh Gordon”

Dorsey’s response: “We will continue to support Josh as he receives the care needed to maintain his progress. We are going to respect his privacy while he is away from the team. Josh will be placed on the non-football illness list until he is ready to return.”

–Pressure is going to be on head coach Hue Jackson to produce early after going 1-31 the past two years. The schedule-maker did him no favors. The Browns host the Steelers in their season opener and then play the Saints in New Orleans on Sept. 16. Their next three assignments are a home Thursday night game against the Jets, a game in Oakland and a home game with the Ravens on Oct. 7. Jackson could be on thin ice if he isn’t at least 2-3 by then.

–Linebacker Mychal Kendricks was a late addition to the Browns roster. He was signed on June 3 after most of OTAs had been completed. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams isn’t worried about Kendricks playing catch-up in training camp.

“I think he fits in perfectly here,” Williams said. “One of the things that we do here is every player has to play more than one position. That’s how we have the flexibility of the ‘next man up’ during the season and how you play the next best athlete, not the next best on the depth chart. It’s the next best athlete. Kendricks fits into that role. He’s a multiple-position player. He’s able to play inside and outside.”

Kendricks played the last six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

–The Browns signed Donald Stephenson on March 15 hoping he could compete for a starting job at left tackle. He never practiced with them. He was suspended by the NFL for two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Stephenson chose to retire instead. It isn’t a critical blow to the Browns, but they wouldn’t have signed him in March if they didn’t think he could help.

–Rookie Damion Ratley might have to make an early impression in training camp to get significant playing time in preseason and thereby increase his chances of making the final roster.

“He’s made some plays,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “He’s still a young guy who’s learning how to play, learning how to line up. Again, that’s to be expected right now, but I think he has talent,” Jackson said. “He can catch. He can run. I think once he figures out that part of it of where to be and when to be there, then his athletic ability will show.”

Ratley has size going for him. The 6-foot-3 product of Texas A&M was a sixth-round draft pick by the Browns in 2018.

TOP THREE GOALS IN CAMP

Establish starting secondary. The Browns traded starting cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty in the offseason and all they could get for each was a sixth-round draft pick. Denzel Ward was taken with the fourth overall pick and is projected as the starting left cornerback. Other jobs are up for grabs. T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines will battle to be the right cornerback. The other will likely be the nickel back. Damarious Randall is set as the free safety. One of the best battles of camp will be fought between Jabrill Peppers and Derrick Kendrick for the job of starting strong safety.

Find a role for Mychal Kendrick. The Browns signed Kendrick in early June. He is primarily an outside linebacker, but those jobs are filled by Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. Joe Schobert made the Pro Bowl as a middle linebacker last year. Kendrick is flexible enough to play inside or outside, but the Browns play a 4-3 base defense. That means a starting linebacker will be stuck on the sideline. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is confident he can juggle his linebackers and keep them all happy.

Share the ball at running back. The Browns signed Carlos Hyde in free agency and drafted Nick Chubb with the 45th overall pick. Duke Johnson Jr. is versatile and can line up as a slot receiver and he is dangerous when he gets a mismatch against a linebacker in passing situations. He led the Browns with 74 catches last year. Tight end Seth DeValve was second with 33 catches. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is working with a full toolbox and one football.

TOP SUMMER BATTLE

–Left tackle. It is no exaggeration to say the success or failure of the Browns in 2018 hinges on finding an adequate replacement for retired Joe Thomas. Thomas made the Pro Bowl 10 straight years before a triceps injury in mid-2017 hastened his decision to give up football. Shon Coleman, the right tackle from last season, took the majority of snaps at left tackle in OTAs and minicamp. He will get competition from veteran Greg Robinson, and rookie Austin Corbett, the 33rd overall pick in 2018. If none of the three pan out, head coach Hue Jackson might be forced to move left guard Joel Bitonio to tackle. Jackson is reluctant to make that move because he doesn’t want to make changes at two positions. Whoever wins the job will need quick feet to successfully keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor upright in pass protection.

 

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