We talked to Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature ahead of tonight's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Pokorny was kind enough to answer our questions about Cleveland's team, Robert Griffin III, Josh Gordon and a lot more. Check it out!
1. How has RG3 looked so far? Is he going to be the solution for the Browns, either a temporary or long term one, or will he be on the bench by mid-season again?
The excitement has been building for Robert Griffin III in Cleveland. Even though head coach Hue Jackson didn't officially name him the starting quarterback until right before the first preseason game, Griffin took all the first-team reps this offseason ahead of veteran Josh McCown. I think of Jackson as being a miracle worker of sorts when it comes to quarterbacks -- case in point, just take a look at what he turned Andy Dalton in to during the 2015 season. The way Jackson achieves that is by carefully catering the system to Griffin's strengths. This camp, one of his assets has been throwing the deep ball, and we've already seen him connect twice with Terrelle Pryor this preseason along with hitting tight end Gary Barnidge on a 29-yard fade route for a score. He's also used the read-option to pick up chunks of yards and then sliding at the appropriate time. With the way he is going right now, Griffin has the look of a long-term guy, but that statement will always come with an asterisk because in the back of the head of every Browns fan, I think we're already convinced that he'll suffer an injury at some point to put the position right back into disarray.
2. Will Josh Gordon entertain us for a full season this time?
He's suspended for the first four games of the regular season, but if you're counting everything after that as a full season, then I'd say, "Yes." I am not out to make excuses for Josh Gordon, as he's violated league rules in the past to lead to his multiple suspensions. But at the same time, when you look at the offenses, they really are a bunch of small things that make it seem like Gordon was cherry-picked out of the apple tree to make an example out of. The reason he was banned all of last season was because he had a drink with the rest of his teammates while he was on probation.
Now that he's finally back within the organization, it'll be easier for the team to monitor and reel him in if he's ever straying off course. When Gordon last played at the end of the 2014 season, he was a detriment to the team. Getting to be a part of training camp will ensure he's comfortable in the offense, and now that the team has a first-round pick in Corey Coleman and a promising adaptation in Terrelle Pryor, there isn't that same pressure on Gordon to be a No. 1 receiver. Imagine putting him on the field in three- or four-receiver sets, with teams' lesser defensive backs being forced to guard him. I think he'll be here for the whole year with no other suspensions, but he'll be a No. 1-caliber receiver who is not put in that position.
3. How happy are fans with Hue Jackson? Is he the savior, the guy who will turn this offense into a monster, or will this turn out to be a disappointment once again?
We're thrilled with Hue Jackson. The team's past three coaches -- Rob Chudzinski, Pat Shurmur, and Mike Pettine -- were all seen as the team settling for a candidate because nobody else wanted to come to Cleveland. Jackson was as hot-of-a-candidate as one could get, and I also felt he got a very raw deal with only getting one year as the Raiders head coach despite going 8-8. Hiring Jackson set up a nice trickle-down effect, meaning the team was also able to get better assistant coaches to come to Cleveland. Through these first two preseason games, I've seen Jackson utilize the read-option, pulling linemen in the running game, spreading the field, and shifting the entire formation before the snap, all without any significant blunders or miscommunications by the personnel. Not only do I appreciate that type of creativity in an NFL offense, but I'm encouraged even more by the fact that the team looks so comfortable running it, which is a testament to the offseason program that Jackson instilled despite this being his first year with the club.
4. How good will the Browns be this season? Are they a playoff team?
The Browns' offense will be a surprise this season if RG III is able to be healthy. However, it's doubtful they'll be a playoff threat because the talent on defense still looks to be well below average. They've drafted some potential core components the past two years in NT Danny Shelton, DE/OLB Emmanuel Ogbah, and DE Carl Nassib, but they aren't far enough along yet and the team's run defense remains a big liability. I also question our kicking game, which could swing a couple of tight games against Cleveland.
5. Can you name an under the radar player we should watch out for in offense? What about defense?
On offense, it's tough to pick because none of the team's first-unit guys are really under-the-radar. If the second-team offense receivers a fair amount of playing time in the second half, then RB Terrell Watson could be one to watch. He's a 6-1, 240-pound back who is looking to establish himself as the third running back on the depth chart after having spent some time on the practice squad with Hue Jackson in Cincinnati last year. On defense, I'll go with DE Carl Nassib. I don't know how under-the-radar he is considering he was the 65th overall pick in this year's draft, but he has stood out as an impact pass rusher who can get to the quarterback during these first two preseason games.