Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cleveland Browns 2017 Season Preview: The Coaching Staff

By Katelin Marshall, @KatelinKnowsCLE

The 2017 Cleveland Browns preview. Where to begin? Well the best place to start is at the top, which is the coaching staff. A coaching staff that went through some changes during the off-season, of course. What kind of an off-season would it be without some type of coaching change, but unlike years before these changes seem to have already paid off and might have jolted this rebuild.

Head Coach/Offense: Hue Jackson. Jackson is entering his second season with the Browns, as we all know. Last season's 1-15 record doesn't do him justice. He basically did all he could. Multiple injuries at key positions, quarterback, offensive line, and receiver, didn't truly allow him to call the type of games he wanted too. Going into the 2017 season the Browns are expected to be a run heavy team.

They committed a lot of money to the offensive line this season and brought in a new offensive line coach Bob Wylie. Wylie brings almost 40 years of coaching experience from the NFL, College, and the Canadian Football League. He's familiar with Coach Jackson, serving as his offensive line coach in 2011 when Jackson was Head Coach of the Raiders.

Along with Wylie, the Browns brought in David Lee to coach the quarterbacks. Last year's QB coach Pep Hamilton left the Browns to take the offensive coordinator position at the University of Michigan. Lee also bring in a ton of experience to the staff. Lee's been a coach in College and the NFL for over 40 years.
He's coached up guys like Drew Bledsoe, Chad Pennington and was part of the Buffalo Bills the past two seasons, and helped mold Tyrod Taylor into a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. Outside of those two changes the Browns offensive staff remained the same. Al Saunders is still the Sr. offensive assistant/wide receivers coach, Kirby Wilson stayed as running backs coach/running game coordinator, and Greg Seamon remained as the tight ends coach.

Overall Offensive Outlook: The Browns will be a ground and pound football team this season. No matter who's taking the snaps behind center. Its not crazy to predict guys like Isaiah Crowell to have monster years. Plus, with a vastly improved defense the Browns should be able to "Feed the Crow" and protect the quarterback from games where they must throw the ball over 30-35 times.

Defensive Coaches: The defensive side of the ball is headlined by new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. Gregg Williams comes to Cleveland as arguably the best defensive coordinator in the League. He's coached five top five defenses in the league, won a super bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009. Yes, he was part of bounty-gate but don't ask him about it...The last three seasons he was with the Rams, and helped them rank in the top 10 in defense during his tenure. Everywhere Williams goes the defense improves, and Cleveland shouldn't be any different. Williams is known for running a 4-3 base defense but he's all about playing to his players strengths. So we should see him using multiple fronts and a bunch of different combinations in the secondary. Williams brought in an entire new staff with him to Cleveland, headlined by two time All-Pro defensive end Clyde Simmons.

Simmons played in the NFL for 15 years and finished his career ranked top 20 in career sacks. He's spent the past five seasons with the Rams as an assistant defensive line coach. Simmons has helped coach up star defensive linemen like Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, and Chris Long. Simmons is here to do the same thing. Help with the development Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and many others as true defensive pass rushers with four down linemen.

The secondary is coached by DeWayne Walker. This is Walker's fourth NFL team, where he's coached the secondary. Walker coached the secondary under Gregg Williams back in 2004-2005 with the Washington Redskins. He spent the last four season with Jacksonville helping to develop guys like Johnathan Cyprien, Jalen Ramsey, Josh Evans, and Davone House. With the Browns, Walker will work with young guys like Derrick Kindred, Jabrill Peppers, and Briean Bobby Calhoun just like he did in Jacksonville.

Last, but not least, the linebackers are coached by Blake Williams...Gregg Williams' son. Blake was the defensive coordinator the Rams in 2012 and has spent the last few years as defensive coordinator in college. From 2013-2014 he was the DC for William Jewell College and in 2015 was the DC for Southeastern Louisiana. The Linebacker room for the Browns is one of the strengths of this team. Lead by Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. Both will be playing a ton of snaps in many different types of sets and positions.

Overall Defensive Outlook: The defense is projecting to be the most improved area on this team. For many seasons it been our Achilles heel. The lack of run defense has forced the offense into becoming one dimensional. If the defense can force timely turnovers and keep deficits manageable, it would be hard to see how this team won't be one of the most improved teams in the NFL. But it starts on the defensive side of the ball.

Special Teams: Its not a Cleveland Browns' coaching staff without Chris Tabor as the Special Teams coach. He's been with the Browns since 2011 and has coached some of the best special teams players in recent history (Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson). The last few seasons though the Browns have struggled. An inconsistent kicking game and a return game that hasn't recovered from Cribbs absences and newer rule of kicking off at the 35 yard line. But this year should be different. Both the punt and kick return game have new faces. Mario Alford was brought in late last season to return kicks and immediately made a difference. Along with Alford, Jabrill Peppers will see some time at punt returns which is one of the many things he excelled at in college. And with the inconsistent kicking game the Browns drafted Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State in the seventh round to come in a compete with Cody Parkey.

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