Hue Jackson was among those watching Duke Johnson's pro day at the University of Miami before the 2015 draft. His quickness allows him to run outside and be a weapon in the passing game. His 61 receptions set a Browns rookie record for a back, and were the second-highest total by any Browns rookie. Only Oakland's Amari Cooper -- a receiver -- had more receptions as a rookie.
Jackson sees Johnson as an every-down back. The previous coaching staff actually felt the same. They started training camp intending to make Johnson the starter. But a hamstring pull set him back, and then he was sidelined by a concussion.
The overall season was disappointing for the running game, but the Browns and the backs can point to the final four or five games when a greater commitment to the run led to more production.
Isaiah Crowell averaged 5.2 yards over the final five games, when he had three of his four touchdowns. Johnson averaged 5.6 yards in the final four.
Crowell outscored Johnson in standard formats, but Johnson (61 catches) had the edge in PPR, finishing #24 on the year. We can glean new HC Hue Jackson's playcalling tendencies from his usage of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill last year in Cincinnati. When the Bengals were trailing by a field goal or more, Bernard saw 33 touches to Hill's 32. When the Bengals were trailing by two points or less, tied or leading, Hill saw 206 touches to 170 for Bernard. Since the 2016 Browns are likely to be trailing far more often than the 2015 Bengals, Johnson has a chance at an even larger share than Bernard, who finished #17 in PPR formats last season. Given Johnson's 6th-round ADP in early PPR drafts, he looks like a nice target for the "wait on RB" crowd.
After selecting four receivers in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns cut ties with a veteran.
The move shouldn't be a surprise. The 29-year-old receiver struggled to gain separation the past several seasons and was a below-replacement-level wideout on one of the shallowest pass-catching groups in the NFL. Hartline compiled 523 yards on 46 receptions, with two touchdowns in 12 games last season, his only year in Cleveland.
The Browns are making room for the four receivers they selected in the draft. They are in full rebuilding mode, so holding on to a 29-year-old receiver was not in their plans.
Hue Jackson hasn't seen enough of Robert Griffin III over the past month to declare him the Browns' No. 1 quarterback, but expects to name his man long before the season opener Sept. 11 in Philadelphia.
"It's too soon,'' Jackson said after rookie minicamp practice during Fan Fest at FirstEnergy Stadium. "We haven't gotten into OTAs yet. We just have had off-season and voluntary veteran minicamp and now we've got the rookies in and I think that's way too soon. I would never do that. Again, every position is earned. There's always competition and there's a reason behind it."
"I don't have a timeline," he said. "Obviously, we're going to do it way before we play. If we can do it after OTAs, great. If it has to be at another time, great. We'll do it then, too. Whatever's best for us, that's what we'll do."
"Those 2 guys are as good as I've seen in a while,'' Jackson said on the Browns draft review show Tuesday night that aired on 92.3 The Fan. "Their talent is extreme."
"I've been getting so much mail or phones calls with people saying, 'Well wait a minute, why don't you guys have a running back?''' he said. "I really think Isaiah Crowell is a really good running back. I think he's going to have a sensational season, I really do."
In Johnson, Jackson sees an elusive runner and dynamic receiver in the mold of Cincinnati's Gio Bernard, who rushed for 730 yards (4.7-yard average) and two TDs, and caught 49 passes for 472 yards and no TDs.
"I think he's going to have a great year as well," Jackson said. "Duke has suddenness and quickness and he can go catch the ball with anybody. He does so many different things that gives your offense a boost.''
Crowell outscored Johnson in standard formats, but Johnson (61 catches) had the edge in PPR, finishing #24 on the year. We can glean Jackson's playcalling tendencies from his usage of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill last year in Cincinnati. When the Bengals were trailing by a field goal or more, Bernard saw 33 touches to Hill's 32. When the Bengals were trailing by two points or less, tied or leading, Hill saw 206 touches to 170 for Bernard. Since the 2016 Browns are likely to be trailing far more often than the 2015 Bengals, Johnson has a chance at an even larger share than Bernard, who finished #17 in PPR formats last season. Given Johnson's 6th-round ADP in early PPR drafts, he looks like a nice target for the "wait on RB" crowd.
He can apply for reinstatement later in the year.
PFT: Per source, Josh Gordon can apply for reinstatement August 1.
We'll know more in August, but we wouldn't recommend anyone hold their breath waiting for word that Gordon will play in 2016. It doesn't help that Gordon has reportedly moved in with known partier Johnny Manziel.
There's a reason why Roger Goodell hasn't reinstated Josh Gordon yet, and it has to do with a recent misstep that has muddled the process for Gordon.
The suspended Cleveland Browns wide receiver, who missed the entire 2015 season after testing positive for alcohol, failed an NFL-administered drug test last month, sources have told FOX Sports.
Gordon's sample, which was collected in early March, tested positive for marijuana and dilute, according to a source informed of the results of the test. The source added that both the "A" and "B" samples collected were positive for marijuana and dilute. Though the level of marijuana was below the 35 nanogRams per milliliter required for a positive test, the diluted sample is considered a positive test.
This development is a red flag for Gordon but it doesn't necessarily mean he will miss yet another season. He applied for reinstatement in February and, if all went well, could have been reinstated within 60 days. However, the league has said Goodell wasn't required to make a decision within that timeframe and it's clear now the positive test has at least given him and the experts who evaluate Gordon's case pause.
The article leaves open the possibility that Gordon won't be punished for another failed drug test, but it's hard to believe that the league will ignore yet another misstep. Even though the test was below the 35 nanogram threshold, the presence of the dilute is an automatic positive test. Gordon and his fantasy owners wait in limbo.
Sunday, April 3, 2016, 1:01pm
ESPN's Rich Cimini offered the following on the Jets-Ryan Fitzpatrick situation:
Ideally, the Jets would like to resolve the contract stalemate by April 18, the start of the offseason program. Unless another team emerges from the weeds, Fitzpatrick's only options are to take the Jets' low-ball offer (about $7 million) or not play.
I don't think Fitzpatrick's pride would allow him to cave quickly; he could try to slow-play the Jets. They could try to pressure him by flirting with Brian Hoyer or Josh McCown, but they'd better be careful. If New York ends up with one of them and loses Fitzpatrick, it's a loss for the Jets, even if they save a few million bucks. They need him, he needs them. Get it done.
Now, the former Washington Redskins quarterback is focused on just one thing: Coming to the Cleveland and competing to become the team’s starting quarterback.
Griffin, a free agent, made it official Thursday when he signed with the Browns.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to join the Dawg Pound and help build something here in Cleveland,” Griffin said. “Coach Hue and Pep, I had a great meeting with them. I really believe in what they preach and how they can help not only me as a player but this team win games and that's what we're all about.
“I'm just excited to come in and compete. Nothing's ever been given to me in my life, so I just want to go out and compete with the guys and grow with this team. I feel like that's all I'm really focused on.”
RG3 will have the opportunity for a fresh start after an up-and-then-down stint in Washington. We're not immediately writing off the Browns potentially having a few quality fantasy players in 2016 with Griffin, Duke Johnson, Gary Barnidge and maybe Josh Gordon in the fold. Griffin's short-term upside depends largely on the presence of Gordon, who is a game-changer in the passing game.
First, he has to be reinstated, which is no sure thing. Then, they have to see where his head is at.
They know where his body has been -- in the same vicinity as Johnny Manziel's a lot lately, but they're claiming that's not an issue at this point.
And now, the NFL is making it clear that the 60-day timeframe to rule on Gordon's reinstatement from his indefinite drug ban is a guideline and not written in stone.
Owners drafting early may want to slow their roll with Gordon given this language. It sounds as if the team isn't terribly optimistic about his return, and there's no telling when the league will rule on his request for reinstatement. He's currently being drafted at the end of the 3rd round and that's a steep price to pay for a player surrounded by this much uncertainty.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 3:17pm
Friday, March 11, 2016, 11:40am
Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 7:28pm
Journeyman Thad Lewis is joining the 49ers’ ever-curious quarterback corps, agreeing to a one-year contract, the NFL Network reported.
Still in that quarterback unit, for now, is Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers’ deposed starter who’s requested a trade through his agents last month. Blaine Gabbert is the presumed incumbent starter, while their other quarterback is Dylan Thompson, an undrafted rookie last year who got called up from the practice squad Nov. 21, upon Kaepernick getting placed on injured reserve.
Lewis, 28, has been with six teams and played sparingly since entering the league in 2010 as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams. He’s 2-4 all-time as a starter, including a 2-3 mark in 2013 with the Buffalo Bills. He’s also been with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.
Lewis spent time with the Eagles last year as well when Chip Kelly was the coach.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 7:14pm
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Gipson will sign a five-year deal worth up to $35.5 million with the Jaguars.
Gipson was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014, when he finished with six interceptions in 11 games. He had two interceptions in 13 games last season, when he played under a second-round restricted free agent tender.
With Malcom Floyd's retirement, the Chargers are losing a field stretcher and they found a good replacement in Benjamin, who managed to produce 68 catches for 966 yards and five touchdowns with a three-headed quarterback throwing to him in Cleveland. He averaged 7.8 targets per game, however, while Floyd averaged just 5.2 T/G after the arrival of Keenan Allen. Stevie Johnson is also under contract and the team figures to re-sign Antonio Gates and/or Ladarius Green, so Benjamin's targets are likely to have a lower ceiling that they did in Cleveland. On the plus side, his quarterback situation will be much better, so he'll certainly be fantasy relevant heading into 2016 fantasy drafts.
O'Neil, 37, takes over the position that Eric Mangini held on Jim Tomsula's staff last season. The 49ers ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed last season and 18th in the league in points allowed at 24.2 points per game.
O'Neil served as the defensive coordinator in Cleveland for the last two seasons. In 2014, his unit finished 9th in scoring and 23rd in yards allowed. Last season, the Browns defense finished 29th and 27th, respectively. Given Kelly's penchant for up tempo offense, his defense is usually one to target in fantasy matchups.
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