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Browns coach admits late draw play a ‘bad call’

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CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens admitted that it was a “bad call” to try a draw play on fourth-and-nine during Sunday night’s 20-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Browns had the ball at the Rams’ 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, with a chance to take the lead. But instead of trying to get the first down with a Baker Mayfield pass, Kitchens called a draw to Nick Chubb, who was stuffed for a two-yard gain.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, no NFL team had attempted a draw on fourth-and-nine or more since at least 2007, when ESPN began tracking such calls.

“It just didn’t work. It was a bad call,” said Kitchens, who is Cleveland’s offensive playcaller. “We’re trying to win the game and we’re on their side of the field. Bad call.”

With solid field position, the Rams drove down to kick a field goal and extend their lead.

Mayfield was also asked about the playcall, as well, but blamed execution for coming up short.

“I know what you guys are gonna try and do is talk about the playcalling,” Mayfield said. “But you know what, that’s why I said execution’s the most important thing. Whatever we have called, we have to do our job.”

The Browns still had a chance to send the game to overtime late, with Mayfield driving the offense to the Rams four-yard line with 43 seconds remaining. But after three incompletions, Mayfield’s desperation heave was picked off in the end zone, sealing the victory for Los Angeles.

Considering the Browns still had all three timeouts, Kitchens was asked why he didn’t try to run the ball with Chubb then.

“I should’ve run it one time,” Kitchens confessed. “I should’ve — that’s why I’m kicking myself in the ass for it right now.”

Kitchens, who took over as Cleveland’s interim offensive coordinator midway through last season as the Browns surged down the stretch, went on to take responsibility for Sunday’s loss, which dropped the Browns to 1-2 on the season.

“I gotta do a better job during the course of the week, putting these guys in better situations and then on game day,” he said. “So, if you’re looking to blame somebody, blame me. Don’t blame any of our players; don’t blame any of our other coaches — just blame me, because I can take it.

“Go write your article and say I messed the game up. Go write your article and say it’s my fault things [are] not looking like it did last year. Because it is.”

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Steep price for Jalen Ramsey doesn’t fix Rams’ issues on offense – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams are no strangers to blockbuster trades.

On Tuesday, the Rams made a series of transactions that once again captured the attention of the NFL, as they sent cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens and, later in the day, acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Rams also sent an undisclosed 2021 draft pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for offensive lineman Austin Corbett.

The moves addressed long-term concerns on the defense, but they leave the team without any first-round draft capital until 2022, which could be cause for concern after a 3-3 start this season, and an offensive line that appears in need of established reinforcements.

In exchange for Peters, who was playing this season on an expiring rookie contract, the Rams received linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick. By trading Peters, the Rams receive compensation for a player who did not appear to fit into their long-term future and cleared salary-cap space to bring in Ramsey.

The price tag for Ramsey, an All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowl selection, was significant. In exchange for the former first-round pick, the Rams sent first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021, to the Jaguars.

Ramsey, who intercepted nine passes and has returned one for a touchdown since he entered the league in 2016, remains on his rookie deal, which runs through the 2020 season and is scheduled to pay him $2.35 million this season and $13.7 million in 2021.

A source told ESPN that the Rams intend to sign Ramsey to a long-term extension and that Ramsey, who has been inactive the past three games with the Jaguars because of a back issue, is expected to pass his physical and could be available as soon as Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Though Ramsey’s presence could immediately bolster a defense that also includes two-time defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, the compensation to acquire him means the Rams could go five years, unless they are able to trade up, without a first-round draft pick.

Quarterback Jared Goff in 2016 was the last player the Rams selected with a first-round pick. Their 2017 pick was sent to the Tennessee Titans as part of a trade that allowed them to move up the board to select Goff, and their 2018 pick was sent to the New England Patriots in exchange for receiver Brandin Cooks. Last April, the Rams traded out of the first round.

A lack of first-round selections could mean that the Rams will explore trade options to further bolster their offensive line, though enticing trade capital could be thin. Or, perhaps, the Rams intend to develop their own young players to protect Goff and create space in the run game.

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Jack Del Rio likes the Rams’ acquisition of cornerback Jalen Ramsey, likening his on-field impact to Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey.

So far this season, the line has appeared to struggle, and questions remain about the development of young players selected in mid-to-late rounds, including center Brian Allen and left guard Joe Noteboom, who replaced veterans John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold.

After tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee, Noteboom has been lost for the season. The former third-round pick from TCU also is the heir apparent to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is in his 14th season and playing on an expiring contract.

Backup guard Jamil Demby started in Week 3 in place of right guard Austin Blythe and took over at left guard in place of Noteboom last Sunday in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Rams coach Sean McVay said the position would be evaluated going forward, but that the team would look to fill it internally, while bringing in outside veteran depth.

Rookie David Edwards, a sixth-round pick from Wisconsin, is a candidate take over as the left guard starter.

Rookie Bobby Evans, a third-round pick from Oklahoma, is on the roster but coaches have expressed that his development has proceeded at a slower pace. The Rams also signed center Coleman Shelton, an undrafted free agent in 2018 from Washington, earlier this season.

Corbett, listed as a center with the Browns, is expected to provide backup on the Rams’ interior. A second-round pick in 2018, he appeared in 14 games with the Browns.

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Wise use of picks from Jalen Ramsey trade could power Jaguars for decade – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cornerback Jalen Ramsey had the potential to be one of the greatest players in Jacksonville Jaguars history. Instead, his departure could change the direction of the franchise for the next decade.

With the addition of the Los Angeles Rams’ first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 as well as a fourth-round pick in 2021, the Jaguars now have 18 draft picks in the next two years — including four first-rounders. Using those picks correctly, whether taking players or packaging the picks to move up, could set the franchise up for a run of sustained success that hasn’t happened since the late 1990s.

The biggest question: Who will be making those picks?

It’s not a lock that it will be executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell. Owner Shad Khan said after a disappointing 2018 season that ended with a 20-3 loss in Houston he was “far from content with the status quo, and while it’s best to put 2018 behind us, I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start. There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season.”

The Jaguars haven’t exactly hit on their first-round picks under Caldwell and Coughlin. Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (2013) is out of the league. Quarterback Blake Bortles (2014) was cut in March, one year after signing a contract extension (he’s costing the Jaguars $16.5 million in dead money this year). Defensive end Dante Fowler (2015) was traded to Los Angeles last season.

Khan hired Coughlin to be the team’s vice president of football operations in 2017 and gave him final say over all football decisions. Coughlin selected running back Leonard Fournette fourth overall that year, and after a rocky sophomore season, Fournette seems to be headed in a good direction. Coughlin took defensive tackle Taven Bryan at No. 29 overall in 2018, and he has made minimal impact.

Plus, there’s this: The Jaguars passed on drafting quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, all of whom are having significant success. Mahomes was the league’s MVP in his first season as a starter.

Though coach Doug Marrone deserves significant credit for keeping the team focused despite a mountain of distractions (Telvin Smith’s abrupt departure, Yannick Ngakoue’s holdout, Nick Foles’ injury, Ramsey’s trade request/back injury saga), the team is 2-4 heading into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

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Grading the Jalen Ramsey trade from the Jaguars to Rams

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The Rams rebuilt their cornerback depth chart on Tuesday. In addition to placing veteran Aqib Talib on injured reserve, they traded away one former All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens and then acquired another in Jaguars standout Jalen Ramsey. It’s clear that they didn’t get what they wanted when they traded a second-round pick and a swap of selections in 2018 to the Chiefs for Peters; is this trade likely to go better?

I’m not surprised that L.A. traded Peters and made a move for Ramsey. I suggested last week that they could make both these moves, though I put them together as part of a swap sending Peters to Jacksonville. Over the past few years, the Rams have repeatedly used their top draft picks to target talented players still on rookie deals. If the draft is full of uncertainty, the Rams’ solution is to wait and see who pans out and trade their picks accordingly.

The problem with that philosophy, though, has already begun to rear its head for this team in 2019. As constructed before the Ramsey trade, this Rams roster had major holes along the offensive line and at edge rusher and cornerback. Injuries have deprived them of several key contributors in Talib, Clay Matthews and Todd Gurley, but those are also two 33-year-olds and a running back with knee issues. Building a roster in which a team is counting on those guys to stay healthy is a risky proposition.

In lieu of drafting and developing a cornerback with a first-round pick, the Rams have now committed two first-round picks and a second-round pick to solving a point of weakness on their roster. Cornerback was a problem for them, and Ramsey should be a major upgrade on Peters, whose inconsistency had grown exhausting. It’s one thing to get overmatched by a superior receiver; it’s another to stop running against Mike Evans in man coverage.

Trading for Ramsey could transform the Rams defense. According to ESPN’s coverage analysis from the NFL’s Next Gen data, the Rams have played some version of a man-to-man concept in their secondary on just 34% of their snaps in 2019, down from 41% in 2018 and 53% in 2017. Ramsey’s desire to play in a man scheme and take out the opposing team’s No. 1 wideout is well-known. I would suspect that trading for Ramsey will encourage defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to send more pressure and play tight man coverage behind.

In a vacuum, should you want Ramsey on your team? Of course. He’s a 24-year-old cornerback with Hall of Fame-caliber ability. For whatever complaints some might have about his attitude after showing up to camp in an armored bank truck, I don’t recall guys like Deion Sanders or Ty Law acting like choir boys when it came to their contracts, and their teams still won plenty of games.

Ramsey might not be at Sanders’ level, but since the start of 2017, the former first-round pick has allowed a passer rating of just 56.2 on throws in which he was the closest defender in coverage. The only corner with a better rating over 400-plus coverage snaps is his former Jags teammate A.J. Bouye. Ramsey is first in average yards allowed per target and sixth in Coverage Success Rate over that time frame. He’s capable of playing both on the outside and in the slot. The Rams are getting a superstar.

Right now, though, I’m not sure what the Rams need is a superstar. They already have as talented of an inner core as any team in the league, but after trading away so many high draft picks over the last few years, what they lack is depth. Even after trading for Ramsey, they have a question mark on the opposite side of the field at cornerback in Troy Hill, who will presumably be filling in for Talib. The Rams could Talib back for the postseason, but he’s a free agent after the season. L.A. has 2019 third-rounder David Long on the roster, but if it was confident Long was going to step in and be an immediate contributor, it wouldn’t have traded two first-round picks for Ramsey.

When the Rams made previous sorts of trades to go get Peters, Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, they were in a fundamentally different financial situation. Watkins was acquired before the Rams had paid Aaron Donald. Peters and Cooks came before Gurley and Jared Goff were locked up on massive contracts. Cooks has his own deal now. The Gurley deal looks to be a major mistake, and while it’s still impossible to make any sort of declaration about the Goff deal, the early returns have not been promising.

Ramsey, who’s under contract through 2020, will require his own massive extension, and after trading two first-round picks to acquire him, the Rams won’t have a credible case for holding out on a deal. He will become the highest-paid cornerback in football history, either now or after the season. The team was already going to have issues building a useful roster around its core. That core is about to get much more expensive.

By trading two first-round picks, though, the Rams lose out on the two best ways they could have supplemented their roster with the sort of cheap, young talent every team needs. They have no clear path to replacing star left tackle Andrew Whitworth, whose decline in 2019 has badly affected the offense’s viability. There’s no way for them to draft a top-tier edge rusher to either supplement or replace edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., who will be tough to retain. A first-round pick would have come in handy to replace Talib or safety Eric Weddle. All of that assumes everything goes right and the Rams don’t ever need or want to replace someone like Goff, Ramsey or Cooks.

This is the sort of move a team makes if it’s one star cornerback away from winning a Super Bowl. The Rams probably think that’s where they are, even after their three-game losing streak. Investing assets on the defensive side of the ball and trusting Sean McVay to figure out the offense makes sense, but it’s a little too late after they spent most of the last two years investing their money in offensive talent. It wouldn’t shock me if Ramsey helped turn around a defense which ranks 31st in Total QBR allowed over the last three weeks, but they realistically have to win a championship for this trade to pay off.

As for the other side of this deal, it’s clear that the Jaguars finally gave in. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan didn’t want to make this deal. After the initial disagreement Ramsey had with coach Doug Marrone and the subsequent disagreement Ramsey had afterward with a member of the Jaguars staff which led to his trade request, Jacksonville publicly supported Ramsey and encouraged him to return to the fold. It was only after Khan met with Ramsey and publicly said Ramsey would play in Week 6 — only for Ramsey to sit out against the Saints — that the team made its move.

There’s no joy in trading away star players. Ramsey was the best player Dave Caldwell selected during his time as general manager. Ramsey was a Florida State product and a building block with the sort of attitude which resonated with fans in the state. Jacksonville’s defense has allowed a passer rating of 81.7 with Ramsey on the field and 89.9 without its stud cornerback since he entered the league. Trading him away gives the Jaguars more financial flexibility as they prepare to re-sign pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, but the chances of these draft picks delivering a player as good as Ramsey are slim. The Rams needed depth, not another star. You might argue the opposite for the Jaguars.

Jacksonville will move forward with Bouye and Tre Herndon at cornerback, with the latter drawing plenty of attention from opposing quarterbacks since taking over for Ramsey. Gardner Minshew has drawn plenty of plaudits since taking over for Nick Foles, but it’s still too early to say anything about his long-term viability. Foles still has more than $21.1 million in practical guarantees remaining on the his current deal with the team, but the Jags now have four first-round picks over the next two years. If they fall in love with a highly regarded quarterback and want to move up, they have as much ammunition to make a deal as any other team in the league outside of Florida.

After committing significant resources via the draft and in free agency to building a dominant defense, the Jaguars can now also reposition and commit more toward finding pieces on the offensive side of the ball around breakout wideout DJ Chark.

I also don’t love the move to simultaneously deal Peters to the Ravens for a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young, who started three games this season before being benched. Young gives the Rams a backup linebacker with some potential, and Phillips has a track record of turning unproven linebackers into stars, but the legendary defensive coordinator could turn a typical late-round pick into a similarly-impactful contributor.

Selling low on Peters doesn’t do the Rams many favors. It’s hard to figure that he would have been less valuable to the 2019 team than Young and a future fifth-round, especially given Talib’s injury. It’s possible that the Rams were just over the oft-frustrating corner and wanted to move him at whatever cost, but having him on the roster as a third or fourth cornerback seems like it would have been worth it for a team with championship ambitions.



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