Monday, April 17, 2017

Around the NFL: Pierogis, predictions and a draft approaching like big thunder

Cleveland Browns nose tackle Jamie Meder (98) and Danny Shelton (55) celebrate after a win over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday, December 24, 2016.

By Steve Doerschuk
April 17, 2017

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the home team’s part of the house every creature was stirring.

“The Pierogi Prince of Parma does it again!” big Joe Thomas beamed, with words strangely capturing the entire mood.

Nearby, Jamie Meder savored the blocked field goal that saved a 20-17 conquest of San Diego. The pride of Parma Valley Forge High School grinned as if he had just thrown a silver dollar across Lake Erie.

This was no ordinary victory. It was the only one.

Now it is Easter, and the Christmas Eve surprise stands as the Browns lone win in the last 490 days.

The win before that was on Dec. 13, 2015 against San Francisco. There is no asterisk after 490 — the Browns lost all of their 2016 practice games.

Euphoria doesn’t last. Job security is scarce for most who shared in the win. Consider where the exultant players were that day, and where they stand as the draft rolls in like big thunder.

The ones who played the most snaps against San Diego (71) were the starting offensive linemen, Austin Pasztor, Jonathan Cooper, Cam Erving, Spencer Drango and Thomas.

Pasztor is a free agent who can’t find a team. Cooper was cut two days after Christmas. Drango was a 2016 draft pick who is back, but for how long? Erving was a Ray Farmer first-round pick who has gone through three head line coaches (Andy Moeller, George DeLeone, Hal Hunter) and is on his fourth (Bob Wylie).

Robert Griffin III played 61 snaps against San Diego before leaving with a concussion. He is gone to the realm of Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer and Jake Delhomme. Everyone wonders what quarterbacks will be on the roster by the end of next week.

Big wideout Terrelle Pryor played 66 downs and was targeted just five times. He took his plus-sized ego to Washington, leaving room to wonder whether Josh Gordon can return from oblivion.

Tight end Gary Barnidge played all but three offensive snaps and caught five passes. Age, not ego, is his issue. He is older than everyone on the roster except Thomas.

Barnidge must wonder where Sashi Brown has Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in his mock draft, and what’s up with Seth DeValve (seven snaps against San Diego), another 2016 draft pick.

Wideout Corey Coleman put in 61 of a possible 71 snaps in the victory. You wouldn’t have known it by his production (two catches, 15 yards). Coleman racked up 1,363 yards and 20 TDs in 2015, but that was at Baylor.

Ask Ozzie Newsome what spending a No. 15 overall pick on Coleman last year necessarily means. Travis Taylor, a former top-10 pick, averaged 35 catches across five nondescript Ravens seasons.

Hollywood Higgins and Ricardo Louis, two of the four wideouts stockpiled in last year’s draft, played a combined 16 snaps in the Dec. 24 win. Neither looked promising.

Isaiah Crowell (38 snaps) and Duke Johnson (33) split the work at running back. A pocket of Browns fans would love to see more juice at the position.

On defense, linebacker Jamie Collins played all 68 snaps against San Diego and recently signed a $50 million contract extension. Who knew this was coming last October, when he played against the Browns as a New England Patriot?

Safety Ed Reynolds was one of two other Browns (Christian Kirksey) to log every down of defense. Reynolds looked better than one would have thought of a guy cut by the Eagles in September.

The Browns handed the Eagles Carson Wentz last April. It might take more than Reynolds to smooth out those repercussions.

Cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, cut by the Jaguars in September, played 52 snaps.

Veteran cornerbacks Tramon Williams (63 snaps) and Joe Haden (39) had roles then. Now? Williams has been cut. Haden needs to snap out of a career funk.

Meder (43 snaps) and Danny Shelton (40) split time at nose tackle in the win. Pierogi Prince Meder may be different, but former undrafted free agents out of Ashland usually don’t play more than former first-round draft picks.

Everyone is wondering how new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will shuffle the deck.

Tracy Howard, undrafted out of Miami (Fla.) last year, logged 25 snaps against the Chargers as a utility defensive back. Ibraheim Campbell, a 2015 fourth-round pick, was supposed to break through at safety, but all 22 of his snaps against San Diego were on special teams.

There is a clamor to find a way to Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, although he is projected to be taken between the Browns’ scheduled picks at No. 1 and No. 12.

A fuss was made when linebacker Demario Davis, who had started 48 straight games for the Jets, arrived as a 2016 free agent. He logged only 23 snaps against San Diego and is another guy beholden to Gregg Williams’ evaluation.

Williams is a headstrong guru who has been promised big authority. It will be interesting to see whether he features last year’s second- and third-round picks, front-seven defenders Emmanuel Ogbah (57 snaps against San Diego) and Carl Nassib (53).

The mysterious Browns never explain who among Sashi Brown, Andrew Berry, Hue Jackson and 2016 defensive coordinator Ray Horton had the most say in picking Ogbah and Nassib.

Good luck deciphering how “Moneyball Paul” DePodesta fits in. Or Jimmy Haslam, who has watched the Browns go 5-11, 4-12, 7-9, 3-13 and 1-15 since he bought them.

Everyone is curious to see what the nebulous blend of deep thinkers will do in the draft.

Wouldn’t it be something to find old Joe Thomas and the Pierogi Prince doing a little dance months before the 24th of December?

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