Each year, Dawgs By Nature asks five questions to Football Outsiders to gain some insight on the way they view the Cleveland Browns, or players on the team, from an analytical and statistical perspective. Rivers McCown joined us for this year’s Q&A, and I hope everyone enjoys!
Chris: “Cleveland made the decision to cut ties with JC Tretter this offseason. What had your assessment of Tretter been during his time with the Browns, and is Nick Harris up to the task of replacing him in favor of saving money?”
Rivers: “It’s always tricky to understand when an older lineman is losing a step or otherwise not playing up to how they used to, but we didn’t note anything wrong with Tretter last season. HIs blown block numbers were on par with the other interior line players. We’re sure the team has their reasons – particularly with how early it went down in the offseason and how much the potential cap savings could have worked out in some scenarios. I’m not surprised that he hasn’t been picked up yet because there seems to be a trend of older players not wanting to do a full camp, but I expect someone will pick him up before the season starts. We were high enough on Harris to put him in the top 10 of the annual Top 25 Prospects list (of third-round picks and below) but it’s still an open question how good he’ll be.”
Chris: “Amari Cooper was the Browns’ biggest addition on offense aside from quarterback – was it a good move to acquire him and let Jarvis Landry go?”
Rivers: “Sure. I think Cooper has some dings on his resume that keep him from being a top-flight and easy WR1, but he’s a great fit for Cleveland’s play-action passing game. Landry was getting older and didn’t have much of a market this offseason after the Browns let him go. Cleveland came out ahead on this one in our book.”
Chris: “Austin Hooper seemed like a relative disappointment over the past two years, while David Njoku kept getting better and better from the eye test. Does Football Outsiders’ review agree with the decision to cut Hooper and extend Njoku, hopefully giving him more reps in the process?”
Rivers: “I’m more of a fan of Harrison Bryant than I am of keeping Njoku at the salary he got – that was one of the most curious moves of the offseason to me – but I’m very open to the idea that the Browns have seen more or something different there than we have. Njoku’s blocking has gotten better, for sure. I have my doubts that a player with almost no history of it is going to become a No. 2 option in this offense, but that’s certainly what they’re paying him like.”
Chris: “Even though he had some injury issues, fans were enamored with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah last year. How did FO assess his rookie year?”
Rivers: “Owusu-Koramoah had the second-best success rate on his targets among qualified linebackers in the NFL, at 71%. The run defense was more, well, hit and miss. While our numbers are less certain about a Browns defensive breakout, I think the eye test is clear that they’ve got a lot of players who could take a major step forward. Between JO-K, Greg Newsome, Grant Delpit, Greedy Williams … I think you can even argue that Denzel Ward hasn’t had the knockout and obvious top-5 CB season that all his underlying traits say he can. I’m subjectively optimistic about Cleveland’s defense.”
Chris: “What is an interesting analytic wrinkle about the Browns that you can give us that appears in the Almanac?”
Rivers: “Cleveland led the NFL with 58.8% DVOA on passes at or behind the line of scrimmage (7.8 yards per pass), but was 25th at 39.7% DVOA on passes beyond the line of scrimmage (7.5 yards per pass). No other offense in the league was more efficient throwing behind the line of scrimmage compared to throwing past it. This wasn’t just to Jarvis Landry, by the way – he only had four first downs on 16 targets behind the LOS.”
Thanks again to Rivers for all of his insight from Football Outsiders!