Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
The gift: To those who believe big and fast receivers don’t just fall from the sky … well, what about Breshad Perriman?
Rejected by two teams, including the Baltimore Ravens who drafted him 26th overall in 2015, Perriman is starting to pay dividends on what was viewed as a fairly innocuous off-the-street signing on Oct. 13.
“I worked out on a Saturday,” Perriman said. “I was supposed to leave here and go to -- I forgot what team -- if things didn’t work out. Thank God it did.
“I enjoy being here with this group of guys. I feel the vibe and chemistry here is great.”
Perriman’s speed is what catapulted him into the first round in 2015. He didn’t run at the NFL Combine because of a hamstring injury. Later in the spring, he ripped of a 4.25 40 at his pro day workout at Central Florida. He’s 6-2 and 211 pounds. He’s the biggest receiver on the active roster.
Perriman ran under a 60-yard bomb from Baker Mayfield on the first play against Carolina. He lost his footing after the catch and it went for a 66-yard play to set the offensive tone.
He didn’t have a catch longer than 17 yards in 2017 with the Ravens. In 27 career games, he had only 43 catches for 576 yards and enough drops to cause the Ravens to lose their faith in him. He hasn’t dropped a pass with the Browns, and has 10 receptions for 188 yards.
“We’re gonna try to keep getting him the ball and keep him active,” said coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
“A guy with that kind of size and speed has an impact when he has the ball. We had like a 2-yard gain on a speed sweep earlier this year, and he wasn’t afraid. He took on the tackles on the edge. Ended up being a 2-yard play, but when he had the ball in his hand, he brought it. I like physical, big guys like that that can play and enjoy it.”
After almost every game, Baker Mayfield remarks about Perriman’s speed, or that of rookie Antonio Callaway, and how speed alone affects defenses.
“Anytime that you have a guy that can stretch the field like that, it presents a whole other ball game,” Mayfield said. “It stretches the defense, and obviously, it creates that in the back of their mind, they are thinking, ‘We have to cover the deep ball.’ That allows the underneath stuff to work and obviously the run game, too.”
If Perriman turns into the player befitting a first-round draft selection, it would give the Browns a headstart on next year’s transaction season. He said he hasn’t thought about the future. But he loves playing for Mayfield.
“I mean, man, he’s a beast, in my eyes,” Perriman said. “What he does each and every Sunday is just crazy. He just puts the team on his back. We have to take on the same mindset he has.
“Bake just has everyone out there feeling comfortable. There’s nobody out there too stressed or too worried. Just out there go as the quarterback goes, and he goes with a lot of confidence and a lot of swag.”
Stats for losers: Since Gregg Williams took over as interim coach and Kitchens as offensive coordinator, the Browns are 3-2, which is the only statistic that matters.
Based on statistics, you might say the offense has shown sizable improvement and the defense has gone down a little.
Through the first eight games of the Todd Haley offense, the Browns ranked 24th overall in offensive yards and 29th in scoring at 21.1 points a game. Over the last five games, they have risen to 15th overall in offensive yards and 18th in scoring at 22.4 points per game. They have averaged 24.6 points over their last five games.
Defensively, the Browns ranked 28th overall and 24th in scoring, yielding 26.2 points per game before the coaching change. They were first with 22 takeaways – 2.75 per game. Over the last five games, the defense has fallen to 31st overall and held steady at 24th in scoring. The last five games the Browns have permitted 24.4 points per game. They have had six takeaways in those five games (2.15 per game) and have fallen to a distant second behind the Bears.
“But we are in the top 10 in DVOA [defense-adjusted value over average], which is every situation known to man defensively,” said Williams. “We have played the second-toughest offensive schedule in the National Football League. Not that I would be able to keep track of every number, but I have those numbers memorized.”
Draft bust: The NFL awarded the 2020 draft to Las Vegas, which will inaugurate the first season of the (nee Oakland) Raiders in Sin City.
The Browns had partnered with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to host either the 2019 or 2020 draft. It seemed a natural because those two seasons marked the league’s centennial celebrations.
But it was not to be. The 2019 draft previously was awarded to Nashville, TN, and now 2020 will go to Las Vegas.
The Browns issued the following statement attributed to a team spokesman:
“We remain committed to hosting an NFL Draft in Northeast Ohio and will continue to work closely with the NFL to identify the ideal opportunity for our fans, our city and the league. There are many teams and cities across the NFL who are capable of creating an exceptional draft experience for fans, including the Titans and Raiders, and we are still hopeful we may ultimately share that honor in the future.”