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Browns hire Rob Chudzinski as head coach

The Browns will announce Rob Chudzinski as their head coach today at an 11 am press conference. Here are some initial thoughts.

- After the Chip Kelly fiasco, I’m thrilled with this pick, but frankly would have been happy with any of the candidates the Browns were considering after they moved on from Kelly. The idea of watching a read option offense terrified me, and the RG3 injury last week sealed that thought, so I’m glad we’ll be running a pro-style offense.

- Chud is a very good offensive coach. He turned Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowler here in 2007, and he seems to favor a vertical passing attack that would be ideal for Brandon Weeden. There are reports that Norv Turner would join the staff as offensive coordinator, and that’s a huge plus as well.

- I could care less that this isn’t a “wow” or “sexy” hire. The teams that win Super Bowls rarely make a splash with their head coaching hire. Look it up. It stuns me how few people understand that.

- Mary Kay Cabot has reported that the Browns are likely to switch to a 3-4. I’m not thrilled about this at all, but it isn’t confirmed so I’m not going to get all riled up about it until we hear it from Chud or the Browns. It seems foolish to take a step back on defense and retool at this point. That said, our defensive linemen other than Jabaal Sheard could easily transition to a new system, but Sheard and the linebackers would present the biggest risk/challenge.

I’m curious to see how Chud comes across in the press conference. The most important quality of a head coach is the ability to lead men. We know Chud is an excellent coordinator, and now we have to rely on the ability of Joe Banner and more importantly Jimmy Haslam of identifying that quality in Chud.

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ESPN gives Browns no respect

In one of the dumber features we’ve seen from ESPN, they decided to project out the NFL power rankings for 2015. Yeah, this seems like an idiotic exercise, but that’s ESPN these days. Everyone is desperate for content it seems.

Their panel of “experts” ranked the Browns 32 out of 32 teams. Here’s the write-up, though you’ll have to be an ESPN member to see the whole article.

Roster: RB Trent Richardson should be the best running back in the league in 2015 and young stars like LT Joe Thomas, DE Jabaal Sheard and CB Joe Haden should be in their prime. But there is still a lot of uncertainty with the Browns’ roster for the long term. — Williamson

Quarterback: Brandon Weeden has talent, but Cleveland will want to play him right away. The concern is if he struggles early. He’s older, but will they be patient with him if he takes time to adjust to the NFL game like most rookies? He doesn’t have more physical experience, just years. Bottom line: This is a totally unsettled situation headed into 2012. — Dilfer

Draft: If Weeden doesn’t pan out — and they probably feel compelled to know soon — the Browns will be set back. The draft isn’t the reason they’re this low; the Browns have made some really good picks. The problem is they’re still waiting on a good QB pick. It’s been a long time since they’ve had one. Weeden needs to be the answer, or they’re running in place. — Kiper

Front office: Color me skeptical of the Browns’ front office — and this organization isn’t exactly patient. Cleveland’s front office is now directly tied to Weeden’s future success. I can’t say that is the perfect position to be in. — Williamson

Coaching: Since rejoining the league, few teams have had turnover comparable to the Browns. So if things don’t improve in the very near future, what are the chances that this current staff retains its jobs for the next few years? Brad Childress has taken over the offensive coordinator job. With Richardson now to lean on, expect Childress to run the ball much more than the Browns did in 2011. — Williamson

So these geniuses assume that TRich will be the best back in the NFL and that the Browns have been drafting well recently. But they also realize that Weeden was just picked and they have no idea yet on how he will do. Then they assume that if things don’t improve we’ll see a change in the regime, even though Tom Heckert clearly has been doing a great job. Matt Williamson seems to be the dumbest of the bunch.

If Weeden pans out, this might end up being the dumbest ESPN article of the decade.

Will the Browns consider Quinton Coples at #4?

Todd McShay has some observations from the Senior Bowl at ESPN.com in the Insider area (you need a password). He’s high on Quentin Couples and thinks the Browns might look at him at #4.

North Carolina DE Quinton Coples (Scouts Inc. grade: 95)
Coples (6-foot-5¾, 281 pounds) did not have his best season in 2011, failing to play with the consistent aggressiveness we saw on his junior tape from 2010. That’s not to say he was dogging it, just that his motor wasn’t running in its highest gear at all times. That has raised some concerns about the work ethic he’ll show at the next level, but if a team can get him to work hard, Coples can be an elite difference-maker along the defensive front.

He’s a versatile lineman who can be disruptive as an interior pass-rusher. Although Coples doesn’t have elite top-end speed, he showed the ability this week to set up offensive tackles with his hands, using his initial quickness to get into power moves and flashing quickness and fluidity on both inside and outside pass-rush moves.

Coples also has the long arms and upper-body strength to be effective against the run, and he’s one of the top three or four natural talents in this year’s class. Depending on how things shake out with the top quarterbacks on the board, Coples likely won’t last long past the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 or the Washington Redskins at No. 6, where he would find his best fit as a 4-3 defensive end.

Coples would be an amazing bookend opposite Jabaal Sheard on the defensive line for the Browns, so this has to be a consideration for Tom Heckert. If the Browns can land a another premiere defensive end in this draft or in free agency, then they’re on their way to having a New York Giants-type defense that can pressure the quarterback without relying on the blitz. The motor issue has to be the big question mark here, but this is where Heckert earns his money.

McShay goes on to describe two more DE prospects in South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram and Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw. McShay likes Ingram a little better but thinks both can be excellent pass rushers in the NFL. Both could easily be gone when the Browns draft at the #22 spot with their Atlanta pick, but McShay suggests that Upshaw might be there if he drops a little.

McShay also loves North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins used to play at Florida until he was kicked off the team, so there are some character issues. He stands out as an elite talent at corner, and we might see the Browns grab him if he lasts until the 2nd round if his former teammate Joe Haden supports him and he convinces the Browns that he’s matured.

Mel Kiper talks Browns draft needs

University of Alabama running back Trent Richardson (3) runs for a first down against Louisiana State University during the second quarter of their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Mel Kiper posted his thoughts on what the top 10 teams in the likely draft order need going into the 2012 NFL Draft.

Here’s his take on the Browns:

Top needs WR, DE, RB, QB

Scenarios: Greg Little has shown flashes, but the Browns could use another threat in the passing game. Jabaal Sheard has been as good as I hoped he’d be when I talked up that pick back in April, but they could really use someone on the other side of the formation to balance the pass rush. Then it gets really interesting.

I agree with Todd McShay that the Browns could be the rare team that is willing to pick a running back high in the draft, with Alabama’s Trent Richardson the obvious name. Peyton Hillis is likely to play somewhere else in 2012, and Richardson fills that hole. But besides that, there’s a real question regarding Colt McCoy and how committed to him the Browns are. Although I wouldn’t predict it now, the Browns could be in the picture for Griffin.

I agree with everything here. It all revolves around McCoy and whether the Browns want a QB in the draft with their top pick. I can see them going with Richardson as a running threat can open up the offense and take pressure off of the quarterback. Mike Holmgren had his own stud running back from Alabama with Shaun Alexander.

I think they will naturally take a hard look at Robert Griffin III, but I think he might not be there when the Browns pick.

Cleveland Browns defense ranked #4 in NFL

Oakland Raiders QB Jason Campbell (8) is tackled by Cleveland Browns Chris Gocong (51) and Scott Fujita (99) in a play that resulted in Campbell breaking his collarbone at the Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 16, 2011. The Raiders defeated the Browns 24-17. UPI/Terry Schmitt

After six games, the Browns are 3-3 and have the #4 ranked defense in the NFL based on yards allowed per game. The defense is ranked 9th if you look at points allowed per game.

Given all the moaning and groaning we’re hearing from the fans, this stat might be a surprise. We’ll how the entire season plays out, particularly as the schedule gets tougher, but the Browns are seeing the payoff from drafting for defense. Tom Heckert has found excellent players in the draft, with Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard leading the way. The Browns are better this year on defense, and much younger as well.

Colt McCoy and the offense gets all the attention, but the defense is important as well. So far, it looks like the Browns are building a defense that can be a force for years to come.

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