Cleveland Browns: Gregg Williams Should Love Front Office

Nov 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams looks on before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams looks on before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams may have come to the Cleveland Browns because of his respect for Hue Jackson, but the front office may be what makes him happy.

When Gregg Williams had his presser to officially announce his hiring, the first thing Williams did was talk about the amount of respect he had for his new boss, Hue Jackson. Williams was effusive with his praise of Jackson, talking about his toughness among other qualities he admired in Jackson as an offensive coach.

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Both in that press conference and the Senior Bowl, Williams has laid out what he wants in players as well as what he brings to the table as a coach. The combination of those factors is an ideal match with the Browns front office and their analytical approach to scouting.

When he introduced himself to Cleveland, Williams said the following about what players can do and what coaches can do.

"“What we as coaches—and I am serious about this, I do not want it to appear real bad yet, yet—is I can only affect what mom and dad gave him in the gene pool about that much, and how I do that is not accept what mom and dad says has been alright their whole life. I have to butt their head up against the cap of what the genes say that they can do and can’t do.”"

Williams touches on genetics here as well as saying that he can get the most out of players. Certainly, that’s the hope for a Browns defense that finished dead last in just about everything, even if some young players improved over the course of the year.

Later in the press conference, Williams brings up genetics again while bringing up an interesting point.

"“First off, it will not be working for, it will be working with. It will be working with, and I do not know. Some of them have been around some really good coaches. There were some really good coaches here last year. I am telling you that. There were really good coaches here, and again, we want to blame coaches because mom and dad’s gene pool?”"

Williams defends former Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton and his staff by saying they had players that were simply incapable of doing the job. Again, he touches on genetics  as the reason. Williams is saying that the talent here was not and is not good enough as it is currently constituted. This is not exactly a huge revelation. He’s also trying to argue that whatever talent it does have, he has the ability to maximize it.

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This gets back to the genetics. To this point, between the 2016 NFL Draft, free agency and trades, Cleveland’s front office has been looking at “what mom and dad gave them in the gene pool.” They’ve targeted players that run fast and jump high in addition to being clean off the field and productive on it.

Williams has a history of working with players with less than stellar content. Some of that is having worked for Jeff Fisher, who simply never cared about character, whether it was with the now Los Angeles Rams or Houston Oilers turned Tennessee Titans.

It’s unclear as to how Williams feels about so-called character questions, but one can infer it’s probably not a big deal to him as long as they produce on the field. To this point, Hue Jackson and the front office have emphasized good character as something they want and that seems unlikely to change. The focus on genetics and sheer physical ability is something Williams will no doubt approve of.

Jamie Collins is the prototypical player that fits what the Browns want and they not only traded for him when the opportunity arose, but they also were proactive in getting a contract extension signed with him so that Collins will be a big part of the Browns defense for the next several years.

When Williams was asked about Collins at the Senior Bowl, one of the things he said was this:

"“You’ll love this,” he said. “I’ve been hired to be a ‘motor coach.’ He had that conversation the other day (with Collins). I’m if not the top guy but one of the top guys in the league about motors. Yep.”"

This is certainly important as it relates to Collins, but it’s notable on a larger scale as it goes back to his points about genetics and what he can get out of players. In effective, Williams is stating on the record (and has undoubtedly said behind closed doors) that if the Browns get him physically talented players, he will get the most out of them.

The Browns are going to focus on physical talent, production and character. Williams wants all the physical talent he can get and it’s not going to hurt his feelings if they were productive collegiate players and reliable off the field.

Sep 19, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) defends against Nevada Wolf Pack offensive lineman Austin Corbett (73) during the game at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) defends against Nevada Wolf Pack offensive lineman Austin Corbett (73) during the game at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The most obvious player this points to is Myles Garrett, the defensive end from Texas A&M and overwhelming favorite to be the top overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Athletic testing is likely only to confirm what has already been surmised from his play on the field. He’s really big and really fast. He was also extremely productive for the Aggies and to to this point has no off field baggage that is going to cause him a problem.

Some will criticize Garrett for his motor. It’s really the only criticism for Garrett. Detractors will argue that he takes plays off while those defending him will argue he was simply bored as he was looking ahead to the NFL and trying to avoid getting injured. Regardless of where the truth lies (probably somewhere in the middle), the motor coach is confident he can get every bit of potential out of his genetics and keep the motor running.

Garrett is the most obvious example in this upcoming draft class, but he is definitely not going to be the only one. USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson stands out as another ideal candidate for what both Williams and the Browns want in players.

Jackson is a two-time long jump champion in the Pac-12 as well as having run a 10.38-second 100-yard dash. There is little doubt that Jackson fits the mold of players that can run fast and jump high. Jackson has also been a productive player for USC, even if he’s still raw as a technician. He’s an incredible returner and while he gets beat in coverage at times, he has the ability to locate and make plays on the football.

Adoree Jackson 2017 NFL Draft
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

In that respect, he could have the playmaking ability of Janoris Jenkins, now of the New York Giants. Jenkins came out of Florida as a polished cover corner, which Jackson is not, but he fell to the second round because of character concerns, including a number of drug related issues during his time in Gainesville. Williams coached Jenkins with the Rams before he left for the Giants this past year in free agency.

On the interior of the defensive line, the player that stands out with this criteria is Michigan’s Chris Wormley. Wormley is enormous. Everything about the Toledo Whitmer product is big; hands, arms—even his head is big.

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At 6-5.375, 297 pounds, per his measurements at the Senior Bowl, Wormley wasn’t carrying around bad weight. Genetically, whether he ever played football or not, he was always going to be a huge person. As a result, he moves well and is extremely light on his feet.

Wormley is an effective run defender and has consistently done well in that role for the Wolverines. The issue is his ability as a pass rusher, which really hurts his overall production. It’s not a lack of ability, but something just seems to be missing in that regard. At the Senior Bowl, Jeff Risdon had a team scout use the word “uncreative” when it came to Wormley.

Production will likely hurt Wormley when it comes to this front office, but his athletic testing combined with his size should be a positive. If Williams pounds the table for Wormley, suggesting that he, along with defensive coach Clyde Simmons can get him to be more creative and more productive as a pass rusher, he could become an option to play the 3-tech defensive tackle between Danny Shelton and potentially Garrett.

Many Browns fans are hoping that somehow they can get Malik Hooker of Ohio State or Jamal Adams of LSU at safety. As much potential as they might have, they could be gone before the 12th pick comes up, so they may want to turn their eyes toward Connecticut.

Obi Melifonwu is a name that many are just getting to know as the Huskies had a disappointing season, so he was someone many had simply not seen. Melinfonwu’s athleticism was on display at the Senior Bowl.

In an article from November, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network got this quote from an anonymous NFL executive on Melifonwu:

"“The UConn safety is really intriguing. He’s freaky athletic and he’s going to put up big-time testing numbers. He’ll run low 4.4s (in the 40-yard dash) and jump over 40 inches. He can play in the slot as well. Huge upside.”"

Melifonwu is unique with his size at 6-4, 219 pounds, as measured at the Senior Bowl. There simply have not been many really tall safeties to be very effective in the NFL. George Iloka of the Cincinnati Bengals is one of the few. Also 6-4, Iloka has been impressive in Cincinnati. If Melifonwu can be that type of player, it would be a terrific pick for the back end of this defense.

The flip side of the coin is Taylor Mays, a second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. At 6-3, 230 pounds, Mays ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, had a 41-inch vertical and a broad jump in excess of 10 feet. He even had a good 3-cone drill, but it just never clicked for him in the NFL and he’s been limited to a role player.

These are just a few examples of higher profile players that could be attractive to Williams, given what is likely to be an impressive athletic profile. The NFL Scouting Combine takes place in March this year, but along with Pro Days, are a critical part of the evaluation for the Browns. Obviously, the medical is the most important aspect of the combine and interviews matter, but the athletic testing will be integral to who the Browns target in the draft and free agency just like last year.

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The analytical approach the Cleveland Browns front office is taking with scouting in an effort to maximize physical potential fits exactly what Williams wants on his defense. If they get him the athletes with the ability to do the job, he’s extremely confident that he and his staff can get the best out of them. They’ve shown the willingness to do their part and if Williams can deliver on his, the Browns should have a young, talented defense in the next year or few.