JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2017 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
ESPN-NFL Nation Cleveland Browns writer Pat McManamon on the Browns as they enter Sunday's game against the Jaguars at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio …
Question: The Browns are 0-9. It's obviously a brutal start to the season, but how do the Browns see themselves entering Sunday?
Answer: I would say they are shocked by the record – maybe not shocked, but disappointed. But they still see themselves in the middle of what they call a multi-year rebuild – and the rebuild will not really be complete or come close to fruition until they have next year's draft when they have five elections in the first three rounds. They knew it was rebuilding. They tore it down to the ground; they tore it down to the studs. They didn't re-sign some veteran free agents. They committed to the draft and young players. I think last year caught them by surprise going 1-15, but I think this year they really thought at this point they would have three or four wins and would be showing much more sign of being competitive – although [a 38-24 loss Sunday to] Detroit was a little bit of an inkling of that. They played a little better than they had.
Q: Are they better than last season – record aside?
A: Anything you would pick out with these guys would be very small steps, and any sign would be small; the overall record is so bad. But [rookie defensive end and 2017 No. 1 overall draft selection] Myles Garrett looks like a player and [defensive end] Emmanuel Ogbah is in his second year and he looks like a player. Those two defensive ends should be good for years to come. Their defense against the run has been pretty good all year. The big problem they had when the season started was they weren't sure about the quarterback and they didn't have any dependable receivers. In a passing era, that's really egregiously bad.
Q: Are they doing anything to give themselves hope offensively – or is just rough every week?
A: I would use [Browns Head Coach] Hue Jackson's words on that one and he's right: to win a game or games for this team, they have to play perfect. They just don't have enough talent on offense. If they make a mistake here or there ... any mistake they make is magnified 100 times because their talent level is so thin on offense. If they feel decent this year about their defense growing up, they're going to have to address the offense in the offseason.
Q: Are they still fighting? Are they still showing juice?
A: Definitely – and I wouldn't even hesitate on that. I would base that especially on the way they played Sunday (against Detroit). You come out of 0-8, you almost trade for a new quarterback (an aborted trade for Bengals A.J. McCarron), everybody's on your case and people are talking about people getting fired …. and they came out played probably their best overall game of the season. They made mistakes, and that's what happens because they're so young. But they played hard from the get-go. They competed. They were ahead in the third quarter and tied in the fourth. That's a Detroit team that could go to the playoffs, and it was on the road. Playing hard and sticking with it is not an issue for these guys. They don't have a ton of talent, but they did draft good people and good character and it shows.
Q: You say the Browns played with emotion and purpose Sunday. When you're struggling, that can be difficult to do in back-to-back weeks. Do you anticipate them doing it again Sunday?
A: It will be interesting to see what happens. They're not getting people to turn out for the games. They announced the last home game as full, but there were probably 35,000 or 40,000 people there at kickoff. They don't have a great home-field advantage because of all the losing, but I just think they've been pretty consistent as far as giving effort all year. I'd be surprised if they didn't (show up). When your best game of the season is a 14-point loss, it's all relative.
Q: You talked about the defense. Are the Browns close to putting together a good unit on that side of the ball?
A: I think they're getting there. With growth and with normal additions, they could be pretty good here in the coming years. They're going to have to address cornerback – that's a need – but the two ends both could be very good players in the coming years.
Q: What's the Browns' scenario for winning? How do they have to play to make that happen?
A: They have to run the ball to win. It's an odd thing to say in a passing era, but for these guys to win games they have to run the ball, possess the ball and not throw interceptions. Early in the year he (rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer) was throwing too many picks and they weren't running the ball. That's a challenge for Hue, because he's an offensive-minded coach who loves to throw. But these guys need to run the ball and avoid turnovers and play defense. Then you take your shot and see what happens.
Q: Seven games remain … do the Browns win by the end of the season?
A: I think they will – based on the way they played Sunday. I came out of Sunday thinking that if they had played that way all year, they'd still be 0-9. But the narrative would be a little different and it wouldn't be as painful as it is because you'd see positive signs. I think based on that, they will get a win or two the rest of the year.