On Saturday, the Cleveland Browns will take on the St. Louis Rams for their third preseason game of the year. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to 3k from Turf Show Times and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "I don't know if you've heard, but the Browns replaced Bernie Kosar with Solomon Wilcots for preseason telecasts this year. Although they denied it, I believe it has everything to do with Jeff Fisher's remarks about his commentary last season. I guess this isn't really a question, but I just wanted to say how much I've grown to hate Fisher because of that."
3k: "Hehehe. I think this is part of what makes sports fun. The non-sports stuff often trumps the actual sports stuff (looking at you, baseball). That aside, Fisher's a very respected guy inside the Shield circle. He's on the competition committee and as a former player, he's got the ear of players, league officials, referees, owners...he's an NFL insider through and through. That's part of what has endeared him to Rams fans after the tenures of Scott Linehan and Steve Spagnuolo. He's got statue and experience, and those aren't without merit. But I'd say this. If I was a Browns fan, I'd probably feel the same way you do."
Chris: "Who are the expected to be the top four receivers on the depth chart, and is Kenny Britt projected to contribute this season?"
3k: "Ugh, who the hell knows. The Rams receiver chart has been a mess since the end of the Greatest Show. There's an argument to be made that we're closer than ever to getting it figured out, but it's certainly not written in stone. Here are the candidates:
- Tavon Austin - He's in. Just too damn quick and fast. Hands are an issue, and obviously at his size he's not going to be able to body people out of the way...but you can't teach speed. And he's got it in both aspects.
- Kenny Britt - Yeah, he's expected to contribute. Only because the Rams have room for him to do so. Yes, Rams fans are excited about a "veteran" receiver who racked up a whopping 11 catches for 96 yards last year...sympathy helps.
- Brian Quick - He came in a small school 2012 draft selection full of promise and hope. He's now a 2014 option full of promise and hope. For a second round pick, he's taking an awful long time to find the field. Rams fans are torn here. He's big, and that shows. You can't get around 6'3", 220 easily. But that's something that's been missing from the field for the Rams for a long time.The fact it's taken this long...is worrisome.
- Stedman Bailey - Tavon Austin's college teammate has a dedicated fan base. I understand why. For a sub 6' option who's not quick or fast, he's easy to like. But his athleticism and understanding of space keep him in the mix in the NFL after a career as a college standout. But 17 catches for 226 yards in his rookie season have Rams fans awfully optimistic.
- Chris Givens - Explosive in year one (five straight weeks of a 50+ yard catch), disappointing in year two. He went from 42/698 to 34/569...and led the Rams' wideouts in yards with those 569 yards in 2013. This year is a question of whether he can find his previous form or if he's sliding into a permanent supporting role.
- Austin Pettis - Scarily, he showed the strongest rapport with Sam Bradford early last year. He's not outstanding at anything, but he's got a knack at being available in key moments. For someone who's not all that overwhelming physically, that's problematic...
...and so here we are. We're six deep with an interesting cast. Austin's easily the most explosive and highlight-ready, but he's not anyone's template for an NFL receiver. Britt and Quick could help quite a bit, but that's asking for something they didn't provide last year. The other three...Rams fans might love em, but nobody would be running to sign them up."
Chris: "Before Jordan Cameron had a breakout year in 2013, I wanted Cleveland to sign Jared Cook during the 2013 offseason. Instead, Cook landed with the Rams, but my impression was that he didn't live up to the type of season I expected to have. What did Rams fans think about Cook's 2013 season?"
3k: "Solid, overall. He led the Rams in receiving yards, so it's hard to come down on him overall. Sure, there's a feeling that he didn't do as much as he could have, but I'd suggest that's less on Cook and more on Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and the overall performance of the quarterbacks than Cook himself. He's got receiving skills well beyond anything the Rams have had at TE, so I wouldn't sleep on him despite his suboptimal 2013."
Chris: "When I just looked at the Rams' depth chart, I was surprised to see that Greg Robinson is listed as an offensive guard. Is that where he is going to start, and if so, is that what St. Louis fans expected when he was taken at No. 2 overall?"
3k: "Oddly enough, yes. The Rams actually made it clear during round one of the 2014 NFL Draft after taking GRob that the plans were to stock him at guard. It's fair to wonder if that's because of Jake Long's injury history as well as the fact that the Rams, who by all indications want to lean on the running game at which GRob is damn impressive in, haven't had the LG position solved in a decade. What's stranger is that in Jeff Fisher's entire history as head coach of an NFL football team, which is now entering it's 20th season, had never included a first round offensive line selection in the draft until Robinson.
Making things perhaps more interesting is that in Long's absence from the first two preseason games (though it sounds like he'll return to action on Saturday), Robinson saw plenty of action at left tackle. Suffice to say, Rams fans will be watching him closely...as we did previous #2 pick overall Jason Smith who busted his way out of the NFL and early second round pick Rodger Saffold who entered as a left tackle and has jumped over to RG. History repeats itself, you know."
Chris: "Tell us about a player on the Rams who Browns fans might not know about, but who has had a big impact in camp."
3k: "That's easy - Ethan Westbrooks. He's been a HUGE standout among the depth, albeit at perhaps the Rams' strongest position -- DE. Coming from a school the Rams have pipelined, West Texas A&M, it's easy to assume he's had a fast track to making the team. But his play in both preseason games to this point has a sizable contingent hoping the Rams expand the DE position on the final 53-man roster to keep him included. Two notes...one, this is the first opportunity we've had to get into the depth of the team which figures to take up a decent portion of the game. And yes, Westbrooks has a lead on starring among the group once the first runs head to the sideline. Two, I'm at the end of five questions about the Rams in the preseason, and I haven't had to answer for Michael Sam. More than anything, that's a reflection that he's been incorporated as a regular late round pick. I'll leave it at that.
As for a conclusion and a segue out, I'll leave you with this. I went to the University of North Texas. Back while I was there, we had a DT named Brandon Kennedy, the brother of former-Ram turned general NFLer DT Jimmy Kennedy. He wasn't all that impressive physically. If anything, he was the opposite. Short and fat, and the kind of physique you'd generally see at a local bowling league instead of D1 college football. Hell, his nickname was "Booger." But he moved like a damn cornerback. He wiggled through offensive line gaps like a running back. He starred at UNT, and probably should've played somewhere else. His frame didn't give the slightest impression of his football skills. I feel the same way about Aaron Donald. Donald, on the other hand, looks like an NFL player. Thing is, like Booger, he's undersized...and that's not a problem.
Donald played at Pitt and developed underneath the banner headlines and accomplishments elsewhere. He doesn't play like a DT. He plays like a LB who happens to blitz every play into a gap ready made for him. The difference is, Donald creates those gaps. He's not ferocious with his hands; he's Hollywood with em. On every play, he's a ball of action to get to a place where he's got a lane to get into the backfield, whether it's a QB or a RB with the ball. It's a long story, sure, but as a blogger that's the license I carry. Booger was a forebearer of sorts that told me that the DT position for four-man fronts was to be made of two archetypes: an internal dreadnought (see: Michael Brockers), and someone who could force offensive coaches to modify their plans by simply making their presence known beyond the line of scrimmage. Booger taught me that. Donald exemplifies it. He's gonna be fun."
Thanks again to 3k for taking the time to answer my questions.