The host Cleveland Browns were in the midst of sprinkling stardust in one of the more opulent ‘work from home’ environments when out marched the brawn of Myles Garrett, biceps testing the strength of his khaki suit jacket, to remind of ‘what we’ve got’ and further amplify an exemplary NFL Draft display.
‘Just ran into Andrew Berry here at the gas station,’ tweeted one celebratory fan, the accompanying video panning left to depict a goat. Bravo.
Before an ardent sea of Cleveland orange, Browns general manager Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski embodied a new era for the organisation, shrewd recruitment evoking long-desired identity and direction, security and reassurance.
One Dawg Pound resident could parade his ‘Macho Man’ outfit live on national television with the soothing knowledge of diligence behind the scenes. For seven rounds the Browns were calculated, clinical, conscious, methodical. Business traits not associated with the franchise too often over the past decade.
The Draft is perceived by some as a guessing game, a lottery. But Berry isn’t one to leave anything to chance. With the power to research and revise, why would he?
“Do you know this guy? Does he look like a ‘wing it’ guy?” laughed Stefanski.
Stefanski, defensive coordinator Joe Woods and linebackers coach Jason Tarver could be seen rushing to their war room whiteboard like children with a new video game to scheme different ways of deploying Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah after clinching the Notre Dame linebacker as one of the steals of the second round.
The concoction of business and pleasure was enlightening.
“We can’t help ourselves,” explained Stefanski.
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Riding the momentum of a first playoff berth since 2002 and first playoff win since 1994, the Browns handled the unfamiliar territory of being the No 26 overall pick with the self-assurance of a perennial postseason contender in waiting.
Cleveland complemented their free agency deals for safety John Johnson and slot corner Troy Hill, both formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, by nabbing the intelligence and flexibility of well-rounded Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II. In doing so setting the tone for a fine weekend, that would later see them acquire the experience of Georgia safety Richard LeCounte at No. 169, and adding to the return of Greedy Williams and second-year safety Grant Delpit from injury-stricken campaigns along with the established presence of fourth-year corner Denzel Ward in not only addressing a priority need at secondary, but solidifying it with depth.
2:30 A Browns fan dressed up as WWE’s Macho Man steals the show during the second day of the NFL draft
Defense remained the theme on day two, Berry demonstrating the conviction to trade up to No. 52 with the Carolina Panthers to snatch Owusu-Koramoah from under the noses of those similarly-surprised to see him slide so far out of the first round.
Stefanski and Berry had set out to inject speed and open space athleticism across the team, and with Owusu-Koramoah secured just that as a fluid and instinctive hunter with the ability to span the width of the field and combat dual-threat quarterbacks.
Between drafting the Fighting Irish product alongside Newsome and the free agency pickups of veteran defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney, Malik Jackson and Takk McKinley along with linebacker Anthony Walker, the once-ridiculed Browns have been ruthless with their intentions to turn a 17th-ranked defense into an aspiring top 10 unit.
As much remained evident when they sought an immediate long-term replacement for the recently-departed Sheldon Richardson in Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai with the 132nd overall pick. Togiai’s presence with the Buckeyes wasn’t quite felt until the 2020 campaign, but his small sample size entails a fierce motor in addition to the lateral mobility in keeping to the Browns’ desired athleticism.
“Versatility shows up in this game in terms of alignment, in terms of your job and what you do,” said Stefanski. “You love guys who can pass rush and drop into coverage. I think you see it across rosters these days. You want to be able to impact the game in multiple ways.
“At linebacker, certainly, the guys we were able to add this weekend – guys who can run, guys who can play the run and guys who can play in pass coverage and zone – that is a big key to our success as a defense is having a bunch of guys that can do a bunch of different things.”
The emphasis on overhauling their defense behind Berry’s influence bears the traits of his dedication to transforming the offensive line upon his arrival.
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After being appointed GM in January 2021 he went on to hire offensive line guru Bill Callahan to oversee its development, before signing Pro Bowl right tackle Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42m deal in free agency and drafting left tackle Jedrick Wills out of Alabama with the 10th overall pick to anchor a standout interior of Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter and Wyatt Teller. The result being a No. 3-ranked rushing offense along with just 102 pressures, 26 hits and 26 sacks allowed on Baker Mayfield, who was afforded a league-high 2.7 seconds in the pocket among starting quarterbacks.
In an effort to maintain that stability the Browns elected to use this year’s 110th pick on Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson, who will be the latest to reap the benefits of Callahan’s guidance. More wise and impressive work.
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Neither the Browns nor Berry forgot about their quarterback’s firepower this weekend, either, seeking to advance last season’s potency and ensure their former No. 1 overall pick has the tools to succeed. Snapping their postseason drought was a defining milestone; the organisation does not want or need to be addressing things under center any time soon.
Former Auburn receiver Anthony Schwartz, taken with the 91st pick, offers the world-class speed capable of seeing him cultivated into a jet-sweep/screen weapon, while also being utilised as a decapitating deep threat in view of carving soft spots for catch-and-run options like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt to exploit underneath. There is that need for speed again.