Rumors attaching Ezekiel Elliott to the Browns are misguided. The Browns should be looking for a veteran backup offensive tackle.
#HeyTony: What about those rumors of the Browns signing Ezekiel Elliott?
You must have an active subscription to read this story.
Click Here to subscribe Now!
Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Hey Tony: Is there ANY chance that the Browns bring in a vet RB? (Possibly Zeke Elliott.)
-- Darrien, Cleveland, OH
Hey Darrien: Honestly, I don’t know why fans are so worried about the No. 3 running back. If Nick Chubb misses any games, which is rare, Jerome Ford would be next man up. There is a reason the Browns drafted him last year. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell has said he believes Ford will be an every-down feature back in the NFL. The Browns will find a third back in training camp. The Ezekiel Elliott rumors don’t make sense to me. He’ll probably re-sign with the Cowboys. If there is an injury to Chubb or Ford during the season, there will be a half-dozen veteran backs available. I am way more concerned about the backup offensive tackle situation. That’s the position they still need to bolster.
Hey Tony: I am a child of the 70's. I watched the drive and the fumble on TV. How do you think the current roster compares to those greats? On paper, of course.
-- Phil, Mansfield, OH
Hey Phil: On paper, this is the best Browns roster of their expansion era. I have said that three years in a row. It’s probably much better than the Browns’ division championship teams of the 1980s. But those teams had tremendous heart, toughness and character. The current Browns are lacking in these important intangibles. Until they acquire those characteristics, they will continue to underachieve.
Hey Tony: With all the new additions to the defense, who do you think will have the biggest impact and how do you see them making a big impact?
-- Jay, Cleveland, OH
Hey Jay: Renew your TLOD subscription. I just wrote about this and listed the 14 new veteran players in order of projected impact. 1. Za’Darius Smith. 2. Dalvin Tomlinson. 3. Elijah Moore. 4. Juan Thornhill. 5. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.
Hey Tony: With the quality we have at running back, tight end, wide receiver, offensive line, and quarterback, am I crazy to think that the Browns could be an offensive juggernaut this season?
-- AJ, Avon, OH
Hey AJ: That’s why I have tabbed this season as “no excuses.” The offense has everything it needs to be explosive and productive. It’s up to the coach and quarterback to make it happen.
Hey Tony: What do you think the Browns weakest position group is after the Za’Darius Smith trade? FYI, Turkeyfoot is a nice course to try on your summer tour!
-- Pat, Portage Lakes, OH
Hey Pat: No doubt the linebacker position group is the weakest. The Browns don’t invest in linebackers because this is not a linebacker-oriented defense. By the way, we reviewed Turkeyfoot Lake last season. Loved it. Subscribers to TLOD can find that show here.
Hey Tony: I'm worried the Browns could easily start out 0-5. Stefanski doesn't inspire any confidence in me. How about you?
-- Sherry, Cleveland, OH
Hey Sherry: And the haters say I’m negative? Listen, in three years under Stefanski the Browns have started a season 3-1, 3-1 and 2-2. A 0-5 start never entered my mind until you mentioned it. For the record, the first five opponents are Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Baltimore and San Francisco.
Hey Tony: Enough quality CB depth in the room? Injuries have crushed us last few years.
-- Jessie, Maryville, TN
Hey Jessie: I think the top four of Denzel Ward, M.J. Emerson, Greg Newsome and A.J. Green are very solid. Fifth-round draft pick Cam Mitchell will compete for the fifth spot, along with Thomas Graham, Mike Ford and newly signed Chris Westry. Don’t fret. They’re good at CB.
Hey Tony: Every year about this time we start getting excited, and every year we seem to get a kick in the gut. Am I wrong in thinking that this year feels different? I’m trying to control my enthusiasm but every day something new comes out of Berea and gets me lit up again.
-- Brent, Canton, OH
Hey Brent: Don’t fan scared, though I understand it. It’s OK to get excited. Think positive this time of year.
Hey Tony: My buddy has 1st pick (went in with friends on season tickets) in which Browns home game he wants to attend. Which game would you pick if you were him?
-- Andy, New Albany, OH
Hey Andy: The best games on the home schedule, in order, are: 1. Cincinnati, 2. San Francisco, 3. Baltimore, 4. Pittsburgh, 5. N.Y. Jets. If you just want to leave with a victory, choose the Cardinals game on Nov. 5. I am guaranteeing a win.
Hey Tony: If you redid your AFC North position column after the Smith trade, would the DL rank higher and the Browns be higher in the team rankings?
-- Matt, Columbus, OH
Hey Matt: I actually went back and did this after the trade. I would still rank the Browns fourth, behind Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. It’s tough to make an accurate ranking at this position group because the Steelers and Ravens play a 3-4 system. The Bengals and Browns run a 4-3 and the Browns would still be behind the Bengals’ D-line, in my opinion. But the gaps between these groups is not great.
Hey Tony: Do you see any future where Amari Cooper gets an extension before the season starts? He’s the first true #1 wide receiver since Josh Gordon. I’d love to keep him a Brown.
-- Andrew, Arlington, OH
Hey Andrew: Cooper is under contract for two more years for $20 million base salaries and cap hits of $23.776 million. An extension would greatly reduce those cap numbers, but I believe the drafting of Cedric Tillman was a tip-off that the Browns don’t envision Cooper staying beyond 2024. He’ll be 30 years old in that season. The progression might be Tillman usurping free agent-to-be Donovan Peoples-Jones as No. 2 receiver in 2024 and taking over as No. 1 in 2025. That’s assuming a steady rate of growth for Tillman.
Hey Tony: John Johnson was a good football player before he came here. Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome took steps backward. It had to be scheme. Do you see this defense make huge improvements this season?
-- Sam, Lorain, OH
Hey Sam: Yes.
Hey Tony: Do they plan on starting linebackers this season? Who would that be?
-- Richard, Cleveland, OH
Hey Richard: I project the starting linebackers to be Anthony Walker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Yes, just two of them. When they field a third, it could Jacob Phillips or Sione Takitaki.