The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Jobs up for grabs as preseason winds down

- Jeff Schudel Reach Schudel at JSchudel@News-Herald. com. On Twitter: @jsproinsid­er

Unlike previous years, the Browns might have trouble sneaking players onto the practice squad, Jeff Schudel writes. Plus, thoughts on Kevin Love’s contract and James Karinchak’s demotion.

All NFL rosters have to be trimmed from 80 to 53 by 4 p.m. Sept. 1, and for the first time in memory, players the Browns hope to get to their practice squad are likely to be snatched by other teams.

The preseason game with the Falcons at 8 p.m. Aug. 29 is the last chance for players to impress head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. Berry has the final say in roster decisions, but it is a collaborat­ive effort involving Berry, Stefanski and Stefanski’s coaching staff.

“It’s been such a competitiv­e camp for these roster spots,” Stefanski said Aug. 27 after the final practice of the week. “I’m so appreciati­ve of the way the guys have worked. Those conversati­ons are ongoing. This is all part of the evaluation process. I can’t tell you exactly how many spots there are, but I do think these game reps are really valuable in the overall evaluation.”

The Browns are deeper at wide receiver than they have ever been since returning to the NFL in 1999. Stefanski is likely to keep six receivers. Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, a core special teams player, are locks. That leaves Rashard Higgins and rookies Anthony Schwartz plus Demetric Felton battling for two spots.

If Felton is penciled in as a running back, then there will be a logjam at that position after Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. D’Ernest Johnson is a grinder and he is another valuable special teams player.

John Kelly has been impressive in practice and in the two preseason games already played, but the numbers are working against him. He is one of the players the Browns would like to get to the practice squad. For that to happen, he would have to be waived and go unclaimed by the 31 other teams in the league.

Injuries to defensive players will make cuts on that side of the ball challengin­g.

The Browns are deep at defensive end after starters Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Takarist McKinley, Curtis Weaver, Porter Gustin, Cameron Malveaux and Joe Jackson all could have made the roster two years ago. Two or three of them won’t make it this year.

Making cuts at defensive tackle won’t be easy. Andrew Billings and Malik Jackson are entrenched as starters. That leaves Jordan Elliott, Sheldon

Day, Malik McDowell and rookie Tommy Togiai fighting for two or three jobs. Clowney can rush the passer from the interior of the line.

• Chase McLaughlin is the Browns kicker, for now. He and Cody Parkey were in a tight race for the job until Parkey suffered a quad injury in pregame warmups prior to playing the Giants on Aug. 22.

“It was a really good competitio­n,” special teams coach Mike Priefer said. “I was very sad to see Cody get hurt.

“I like Chase. I’m confident in Chase. I don’t make those final decisions, but this is a big week for him.”

The Browns, of course, want to beat the Falcons, but don’t be surprised if the plays Stefanski calls set up long field-goal attempts.

“We tried to do it last week and they had that sack called on (quarterbac­k Kyle) Lauletta where we were hoping to get a long field goal there. There are going to be moments where we definitely want to get some opportunit­ies for our field goal unit, not just the kicker. We want to get the guys being able to block and that type of thing.”

McLaughlin helped his cause last week by hitting from 49 yards against the Giants.

Love’s contract

If a month has a vowel in its name, that means rumors about the Cavaliers moving Kevin Love are flying around.

The Cavaliers still owe Love $60 million over the next two seasons because of the ridiculous contract extension they gave him about five minutes after LeBron James bolted to the Lakers in July 2018.

Trading Love was next to impossible when the 2020-21 season ended. That possibilit­y became even more unlikely when Love left the USA Olympic basketball team because of a calf injury that limited him to 25 of 72 games during the NBA season. Love turns 33 on Sept. 7. Unlike fine wine, he has not aged well.

As soon as the Cavs acquired seven-footer Lauri Markkanen from the Bulls in a three-way trade that

saw the Cavs ship popular Larry Nance Jr. to Portland, the hot rumor was the Cavs would buy out Love and finally turn the page on that chapter in Cavs history.

Unless something changes, the Cavs are stuck with Love and his contract.

“There have been no talks with Cleveland on a buyout, nor is there any interest from Kevin in doing a buyout,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowsk­i quoted Love’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, saying.

NBA training camps begin next month. It will be interestin­g to watch how Coach J.B. Bickerstaf­f allots playing time to Jarrett Allen, rookie Evan Mobley, Markkanen, Isaac Okoro and Love.

Markkanen is destined to take minutes from Love if both are healthy. Markkanen, from Helsinki, Finland, was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolv­es with the seventh pick in 2017. He never played for the Wolves because on draft night his rights were traded to the Bulls along with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler and the rights to Justin Patton.

• Figuring out what Cavs general manager Koby Altman is thinking is always a challenge. Altman weakened his team defensivel­y by replacing Nance with Markkanen. Plus, Nance, always unselfish, is a better passer. Markkanen is a better 3-point shooter, but that doesn’t sway the trade in the Cavaliers favor; he has averaged just 2.2 three-pointers a game in four NBA seasons with the Bulls.

Karinchak demoted

The Indians, weary of watching James Karinchak struggle since the All-Star break, optioned the once-unhittable reliever to Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 28 when they activated Bobby Bradley (left knee) from the injured list.

Karinchak started the season pitching 11 2/3 scoreless innings in 13 appearance­s. Since the AllStar break, he has allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings over 18 games — an ugly 8.40 ERA. He is 0-2 with two blown saves and an 11.00 ERA in nine innings over his last 12 trips to the mound with seven strikeouts and seven walks.

“We made the decision on what is best for James Karinchak and how can we get him back to himself,” Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said on a Zoom call. “This is a moment to catch his breath. To be able to work on some things without having to hold back because he needed to be available that night or the following day in the game.”

It has reached the point where a slump has become a trend. Karinchak gave up a three-run home run to Boston’s Jonathan Arauz in the top of the eighth inning, turning a 3-1 Indians lead to a 4-3 deficit on one pitch.

Karinchak’s woes seem to coincide with MLB umpires spot-checking pitchers for using sticky substances, which allow them to grip the ball better, which in turn increases the spin rate of pitches and makes them more difficult to hit.

Willis would not go down that road when asked about Karinchak using a foreign substance. Or, to put it another way — cheating.

“I can’t speak for James and specifical­ly on what he feels,” Willis said. “I don’t know exactly how he’s gone about things in terms of the season. I will say this. The sticky stuff, generally speaking, if it didn’t make a difference they wouldn’t have made it illegal.

“In his specific case, you’d have to ask him. I’m not really privy or allowed to be in terms of anything he may or may not have done.”

Karinchak has not been caught using an illegal substance. If he had been, he would have been suspended for 10 games without pay.

Karinchak was averaging 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings before the All-Star break. He is averaging exactly 10 Ks per nine innings fewer — 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings — since the break.

I didn’t know that

…until I read my Snapple bottle cap

Baboons were once trained by Egyptians to wait on tables…Each year, the moon moves away from Earth about four centimeter­s…A bolt of lightning can reach temperatur­es hotter than the sun…Fresh cranberrie­s can be bounced like a rubber ball…Baby bunnies are called kittens…It is impossible to fold a piece of paper in half more than seven times.

 ??  ??
 ?? TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HERALD ?? The Browns could have trouble sneaking John Kelly onto the practice squad if they cut him this week.
TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HERALD The Browns could have trouble sneaking John Kelly onto the practice squad if they cut him this week.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States