Just three weeks into the season, the Cleveland Browns get a chance to decompress and prepare for the rest of the season with a week four bye.
Already, there are question marks galore on this 1-2 team. Why is the run defense so porous? What's the deal with the team's special teams unit? When is Johnny Manziel going to play?
With a little bit of time to spare, Browns general manager Ray Farmer answered all of these questions on Wednesday. Farmer spoke with the Bull & Fox on 92.3 The Fan, discussing a variety of topics in a lengthy interview.
You can listen to the audio here, but I have compiled a list of ten things to takeaway from Farmer's interview.
1. Farmer feels fine about Justin Gilbert.
"We've contended all along that young corners get rained on in this league. It's part of what happens, it's part of the process. It is what it is. There's very few guys who have come into this league at the cornerback and demonstrated Pro Bowl talent right away. I remember hearing about guys like Patrick Peterson, 'He's a bust, he's not good enough.' The reality is no one can make that judgement in this short period of time. Everybody wants instant [results], and that's not going to happen right away. That's not the reality. You have to give guys a chance to mature, grow, develop, and play in the scheme you drafted them to play and that comes with time. There's no other way to get there than to give these guys an opportunity to find where there boundaries are and operate within them."
2. Manziel is developing at quarterback.
"I think Johnny's progression is coming along fine. He's learning more on a daily basis, what we want him to do and what he needs to do. He's coming along at the right pace for where he's at."
"I think Johnny has taken to heart the idea of how tough the NFL is and the things he needs to do to be successful in this league. That's a positive, and that's a credit to him. The fact that he's doing those things, that's what we continue to encourage him to do. As long as he moves in the right direction and does the positive things on the field and in the locker room, and avoids everyone else outside, then it's great. From our perspective, Johnny is doing everything we expect him to do. From his perspective, he's doing what he thinks is fun and what's exciting, and that's playing football."
3. The Browns have a plan for Josh Gordon.
"Currently, Josh is allowed in the building. Josh is allowed to attend some meetings, workout, train, rehab, and study here at the facilities. That's the league's part of it and we'll follow those instructions."
"We are all trying to help Josh. From our perspective, this is about people. We're going to commit our resources and our abilities and our knowledge to creating a plan for Josh and helping Josh attain success in life first. From there, we're going to watch him perform as a football player. It starts with the person. At the end of the day, I think Josh understands where he is and we understand where he's at, but we want him to see him get his life right and make sure that he understands that he accountable and he's going to have to continue to stay accountable to stay in this league."
4. Farmer likes Joel Bitonio a lot.
"He's another young man we had a lot of high confidence in. At the time we took him, there was a lot of discussion as to who Joel Bittonio was and why did we pick him over someone else. He's talented, he's good, he's the right kid, and he's playing to expectations. We knew we had the talent to come in right away and contribute, and he's done that, and he deserves all the credit for that: for coming in, performing, learning assignments and playing to the level he's been playing at."
5. In Farmer's eyes, the special teams unit doesn't need major upgrades.
When asked if he is happy with the kicker position, Farmer paused for a moment before saying, "Yes."
As for the unit as a whole, Farmer said, "I wouldn't say there are issues. Have guys made mistakes? Some are more obvious than others."
6. Farmer believes in Travis Benjamin.
"I think Travis Benjamin has been a very good returner in this league. Because a guy is faulty for a minute, does that mean you should replace him and get rid of him? Or should you give him an opportunity to work through whatever hard times he's having at the moment? I think that we've seen these guys perform time and time again. I would say they're getting coached and they're getting the work they need to improve on the techniques that they're having shortcomings with at the moment. That's a part of getting better as a football team."
"When Travis Benjamin played last year before his injury most would contend that he was one of the most dangerous returners in the league. Coming off a knee [injury], he has had some opportunities but hasn't been able to hit any homeruns yet this year. But I can contend going back to last year before his injury, you'd be hard-pressed to say that there was somebody else who was returning balls the way he was and putting fear into teams with his ability to change field position and hit home runs."
"From my perspective, there's different types of returners. There's guys who break tackles and run through people, but most of us would contend that that's probably not his strong suit. He's going to play to his strengths, which are speed and finding lanes, and taking advantage of those. As we play as a group, and guys get more coordinated as to what they're doing, he'll find that success in time."
7. The Browns are excited about the running back position.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't say that everybody's excited about both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. We have a a good, young running back, in my mind, in Glenn Winston. Just because he hasn't had a chance to demonstrate to everyone what he's capable of doesn't mean he's not as talented or even moreso than the guys who are currently getting reps in front of them. There's a process to getting an opportunity, and when they get it, both of them have made the most of it. When Glenn gets his, I think the fans will be pleasantly surprised as well."
8. The defense is trying too hard.
"Whenever you change coaches and staffs, guys are trying to demonstrate how good they are, guys want to make plays. When you go to make plays, sometimes you extend yourself in a way you shouldn't. A lot of it comes down to trusting and playing within the parameters you're asked and not trying to extend yourself further. I would make the comparison to the running back position."
9. Farmer would take action quickly if an abuse case surfaced with a Browns player.
"It's very difficult for me to comment on everything that's occurred [with the Ravens, 49ers, Vikings, and Panthers] because I'm not in those situations and I don't have all the facts, but I would say that we have had those internal discussions in attempt to learn from everything that occurred. Our intent, obviously, is to do the right thing. The actions that the people involved with those instances would be unacceptable for a guy who's playing for the Browns. I also believe that we would like to be accountable to the city, our fans, and those decisions must always be in the best interest of the Browns and the people of Cleveland."
10. Farmer visited the Muni Lot last Sunday and loved it.
"The thing that sticks out to me is that the city of Cleveland is rabid with fans who want to see success from the Cleveland Browns. Our fans are some of the best fans in the NFL. I would tell you that when I was in Kansas City, there were people who grill out and came before the game, but the people in the Muni Lot, I thought, were as intense, ready, passionate, understanding, knowledgeable and ready just wanting to show they had pride for the Cleveland Browns. From my perspective, I was extremely happy by the fan base and what they were showing. Some of those places they had -- the buses, the cookouts, the campers -- it was a good time. People were out having a good time and preparing for football. That's a good feeling, because preparing for football seems to be key here in Ohio and we want to be a good part of that process and giving them a product they can be proud of."
Quotes that didn't make the cut:
- Brian Hoyer is "right on par" with Farmer's expectations.
- "I'll never discuss contacts in the media," Farmer said in regards to a potential extension for Jordan Cameron."
- "I like the middle of the season byes, but those are the cards we're dealt."
- What if Johnny had to start against the Titans? "I think [Johnny] would have success."
- Who will be the starting quarterback next season? "That's way too far in advance for me. I'm worried about the Tennessee Titans."