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Amid deals, Browns still keeping all picks in draft’s first two rounds – Cleveland Browns Blog



The best news about the remaking of the Cleveland Browns roster on Friday: They still have two of the top four picks in the 2018 NFL draft and all three of their picks in the second round.

New general manager John Dorsey agreed to add three players at key positions of need without taking a thing away from what (on paper) should be an impactful first two rounds of the 2018 draft.

In remaking a significant portion of the roster — the trades will become official at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday — the Browns added three players at positions of need and traded draft picks and quarterback DeShone Kizer. Sending Kizer to Green Bay was a surprise, but the Browns evidently like Tyrod Taylor better as the guy to hold the position while a drafted player grows.

That drafted quarterback figures to be taken first overall, and these trades cement that likelihood. Sam Darnold is the leader on the backstretch to be the top pick, with Josh Allen a length behind. The fourth pick would lean toward either running back Saquon Barkley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick or defensive end Bradley Chubb.

Then the Browns have the first, third and 32nd picks in the second round, giving them three more chances to bring in a running back or a receiver or a left tackle as insurance for Joe Thomas‘ age and possible retirement.

Those five players in the draft will go with three new Browns who will either start or get considerable playing time for the Browns in 2018. That’s a serious addition of talent to a winless team.

It also follows the blueprint laid out by Sashi Brown, who was fired in December when Dorsey was hired. Brown always pointed to this draft and this upcoming season as the time when Cleveland would start to build and show progress after a two-year teardown. That Brown is not around to see it come together doesn’t change the reality that Dorsey is following his plan.

Or that Dorsey benefits from his plan. There isn’t a personnel guy or general manager alive who wouldn’t want a chance with five picks in the first 64 selections of the draft.

Of the players the Browns traded or acquired:

• Taylor was a target of the Browns a year ago until he decided to stay in Buffalo just before free agency started. He’s careful with the ball, but the criticism of him is he can be too careful and overemphasize the checkdown. He will serve as the guy to hold the position for as long as it takes the drafted player to be ready.

In a sense, the addition of Taylor over a player like Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron shows the Browns believe in the players available in the draft. McCarron might prefer to start for the longer term, while Taylor arrives with only one year left on his contract.

• In Jarvis Landry, a receiver-needy team acquires a receiver who has sure hands, plays hard and has averaged 100 catches, 1,000 yards and 5.5 touchdowns in his four season in the NFL. And he’s also 25, which would put him in his prime. The reported — and Adam Schefter confirmed — that the Browns will give up a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft (123rd overall) and a seventh-round pick in 2019. That’s hardly a lot to trade for a player who immediately improves the receiver group.

Landry isn’t a burner; he averaged 8.8 yards per reception in 2017, and his career high is 12.1 in 2016. But he’s a dependable slot receiver who has caught 71 percent of the passes thrown to him in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It will be interesting to see what else the Browns do at the position, because it does not seem they will be done. If they can bring back Terrelle Pryor to go with Landry, Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and whatever young receiver(s) stay with the team, they would have something.

Damarious Randall is best known in Cleveland for holding Gordon to one catch when Randall was covering him in the Packers’ overtime victory in Cleveland in December (Gordon had three catches total). The two even got into a Twitter spat about the game. Randall is former first-round pick who has had an uneven career in Green Bay. If he plays every game the way he did against Gordon, this trade would be a steal.

• The trade of Kizer was a surprise, as the Browns seemed committed to bringing him back and keeping him in the mix for the starting job in 2018. A trio of Kizer, Taylor and a drafted rookie made sense. Instead, the 22-year-old goes to Green Bay, where he will work on cutting down on interceptions and improving accuracy behind Aaron Rodgers.

How the moves affect free agency will be interesting to watch. Landry and the Browns are working on a new contract, according to Schefter. Taylor has one year left on a deal he signed last season that will eat $16 million in salary-cap space in Cleveland ($10 million in salary, $6 million in roster bonus due March 16).

But Dorsey did not risk being rebuffed in free agency and winding up empty. On a busy day, the Browns filled needs at three positions — even if at quarterback it might be a short-term fill.

This one-afternoon flurry of moves won’t take the Browns from 0-16 to the playoffs, but it did fill some holes.

Dorsey now can build on these moves with all those picks in the first two rounds of the draft.

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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson downplays matchup vs. Chiefs — ‘It’s just like any other game.’



OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens can send a message to the rest of the NFL by beating Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

On Thursday, Jackson’s statement was this: “It’s just like any other game.”

During his 10-minute media session with reporters, Jackson downplayed Monday’s game, which is a showdown of the two hottest teams in the league and the last two NFL MVPs.

In fact, this will mark the first matchup in NFL history between former MVPs who are 25 years or younger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I don’t have to focus on Mahomes,” Jackson said. “I got to focus on their defense. I got focus on scoring. I got to focus on my job and making my offense do our thing.”

When the Ravens play host to the Chiefs, it will feature two teams who hold the two longest active win streaks in the league.

The Ravens have won 14 straight regular-season games, and the Chiefs have won eight consecutive games, including the playoffs. The last two teams to meet on eight-plus game win streaks as 1969, when the Rams (winners of 11 straight) played host to the Vikings (10 straight), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

While many of Jackson’s teammates recognized the significance of this game, Jackson essentially answered questions with a shrug.

How important is it for Jackson to beat the Chiefs after losing the last two meetings? “It’s always a statement,” Jackson said.

Is it too early to think of home-field ramifications from this game? “We’re focusing on winning this game,” he said.

To take the Ravens where you want to go, do you feel you have to eventually beat the Chiefs? “Yeah, eventually.”

For Jackson, Mahomes represents one of the few hurdles in his career. Jackson is 21-3 as a starter in the regular season, with two of his losses coming against Mahomes.

“I don’t think [there’s] any more pressure than [what] Lamar ever puts on himself all the time,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s the same Lamar, week in, week out, play in, play out at practice, from meeting to meeting. He’s always excited to play; he’s ready to roll. I don’t believe he looks at it like that; I think he’s looking at it like our offense against their defense; that’s what he’s focusing on, and trying to find a way to put the best performance he can, and put up as many points as he can.”

While Jackson prefers not to hype up the game, others acknowledged that there’s a different feel between the two Super Bowl favorites. Both are listed as 4-to-1 odds, according to Caesars Sportsbook. “It’s a team that we know we need to beat. If we want to be champions, this is one of those teams that you have to get past,” Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “We all understand we can’t afford to make mistakes. We have to be at our best. Anything less will come up with results we had in the past.”

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MetLife turf ruled OK upon review after San Francisco 49ers’ gripes, source says



Representatives from the NFL, NFLPA, MetLife Stadium, the Giants and Jets, Field Turf and the independent field inspector conducted an additional review of the field surface at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday, a league source tells ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

It was again verified that the field meets all applicable standards and protocols for NFL field surfaces, the source told Raanan.

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and his players had expressed concern about the turf after his team’s 31-13 victory over the Jets in Week 2 as defensive end Nick Bosa, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas all suffered game-ending lower body injuries.

Bosa and Thomas each suffered season-ending torn ACLs, Mostert has a sprained MCL, Coleman has a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for multiple weeks and Garoppolo has a high ankle sprain.

The 49ers are playing this Sunday at MetLife for the second consecutive week, this time against the Giants. New FieldTurf was installed in the stadium this summer, and it had only been played on previously in Jets and Giants scrimmages, as well as the Giants’ season opener on Monday night in Week 1.

Multiple 49ers complained of how “sticky” the playing surface was and took to Twitter and their Zoom media sessions to vent their frustration after the game. While Shanahan acknowledged it was hard to draw a direct correlation between the injuries and the playing surface, he did say it was something his team talked about throughout the game.

“I know that’s as many knee injuries and ankle stuff and people getting caught on the turf as I have ever been a part of,” Shanahan said. “From what I saw, the other team did, too. I know our players talked about it the entire game, just how sticky the turf was. … It was something our guys were concerned about right away and the results definitely made that a lot stronger.”

On Wednesday, Shanahan acknowledged the NFL and NFLPA were looking at the MetLife turf and said he was waiting to hear the findings.

“The NFL and NFLPA is having people look at it right now,” Shanahan said. “So we’ll go with that. If they don’t find anything, you go out there and play. Other people tore their ACL in this league last week and they weren’t all on turf. So you know how we felt about it. We’ll see what the professionals say, and hopefully we’ll learn something.”

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.

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Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Ben Kotwica takes blame for onside kick fail vs. Dallas Cowboys



Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Ben Kotwica took blame for the failed onside kick recovery that proved costly in last Sunday’s 40-39 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but said he reminded his special teams players to aggressively get the ball during a timeout.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein and the Cowboys perfectly executed the onside kick, which was recovered by Dallas defensive back and former Falcon C.J. Goodwin. Several Falcons — Kotwica singled out tight end Jaeden Graham and wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus — froze up and failed to aggressively recover the ball before it rolled 10 yards, which allowed the Cowboys to jump on it with 1 minute, 48 seconds left. Then Zuerlein nailed the 46-yard field goal to win it.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, during an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio, said it was clear on tape that the players didn’t understand the rules. Head coach Dan Quinn, speaking a little more than an hour before Blank’s interview, said his players did understand the rules. Quinn said although he and Blank might have disagreed on how to talk about it, they both agreed “100 percent” that it shouldn’t have happened.

“We should have aggressively gotten on the football,” Kotwica said. “Those are smart guys. They’re intelligent. They’re hard-working. Shoot, one went to Yale (Graham) and the other one went to UVA (Olamide Zaccheaus). And so, we should have aggressively got on the ball as it got close to the restraining line.

“You know, I’m responsible for it. I’m responsible for everything the unit does and fails to do. It’s something that was looked at. We’ve made the corrections; talked to the players. And we’ll do a better job and look forward to Sunday’s opportunity.”

Kotwica insisted he reminded his players how to approach the situation during the timeout that preceded the onside kick.

“You asked about the timeout. I remember one of my last words were, ‘Hey, go get the ball,”’ Kotwica said. “That’s one of the foundations of our program here: the ball, the battle, the brotherhood. Yes, as that ball gets closer to the restraining area, we would like to get on that football.”

The special teams units go over such scenarios on Saturday on the field along with a special hands-team meeting the same morning. The Falcons have had good practice with onside kick scenarios with kicker Younghoe Koo arguably the best at them.

One thing Kotwica did mention is that injuries affected who was on the field for the hands team. One of the players injured was linebacker Foye Oluokun, who has recovered a couple of Koo’s onside kicks in games. Oluokun suffered a hamstring injury against the Cowboys and missed the second half.

Kotwica didn’t mention Oluokun by name, but he did say he would evaluate the scheme and the personnel on the unit moving forward.

Kotwica didn’t think there was miscommunication among the frontline players and the ones behind. For the frontline guys, if a ball is coming “hot” or above the head, you go block. If it’s a slow roller or something that can be fielded cleanly, it’s be aggressive and go get it.

Kotwica started his news conference by giving the Cowboys credit.

“I think first thing, you’ve got to get Dallas and Greg credit on a great kick,” Kotwica said Thursday. “In the onside kick world, we recovered a couple last year. Matter fact, I think last week we talked about the one that we recovered against Seattle. But in this case, the tables were turned.

“I would tell you this: On that play, when Greg put the ball down, and we called timeout and we were aware that he had a kick that was going to spin and roll, and I would tell you when that ball came off the foot, it’s tough to project that that thing is going to go 10 yards. I was standing there when it came off of Greg’s foot. It went along the 38, the 39-yard line. It was going parallel. Initially, I didn’t think it was going 10 yards.”

Kotwica went on to say how his players knew what to do in that scenario.

“As the ball begins to cross the 39, 40-yard line, now you get into options and decision-making,” he said. “Our players knew that they could go into the restraining area and recover the ball. But they also knew that as they went into the restraining area to recover the spinning football, that there’s a risk that if they don’t recover it cleanly, that gives the kicking team the opportunity to recover the ball because then it becomes a live ball.

“…. There’s option there. I would tell you that obviously, hindsight is 20/20. We want to aggressively get the ball.”

The special teams blunder has the Falcons 0-2 going into this week’s matchup with the 2-0 Chicago Bears.

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