The Cleveland Browns waived J.T. Hassell, but shouldn’t have
The Cleveland Browns waived safety J.T Hassell Thursday, much to the surprise of this fan, who had hopes that he would be the perfect player to become the spybacker on Lamar Jackson, who the Browns will see on Opening Day on September 13.
Lest anyone needs to be reminded, the dual threat offense of the Baltimore Ravens has been virtually unstoppable the past two years, with only the Cleveland Browns and World Champion Kansas City Chiefs able to post two wins against them. Face it, the entire AFC is looking to the Browns to come up with a blueprint to defeat Baltimore who has otherwise been unstoppable, mainly because of Lamar Jackson.
Who better to be the spybacker against Jackson than a guy who can run a 4.3 40 yard dash, and who played linebacker in college?
Last season it was a mismatch to use the much slower Joe Schobert in that role, despite Schobert’s head smarts that allowed him to cut off Jackson’s running lanes with some degree of effectiveness.
He had good grades from Pro Football Focus last year in limited reps, and crushed his Pro Day last year, with a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 42-inch vertical, 23 reps on the bench press and a 6.84 in the 3-cone drill. Are you kidding? How can he not make the team?
Chasing Lamar Jackson has to be a top priority if your team plays in the AFC North.
Supposedly the NFL is an armball league now, with everyone scoring with precision long distance passing. However, the Ravens of Baltimore did not get that memo, embarrassing the rest of the NFL by gaining an absurd 3296 yards on the ground, led by dual threat Lamar Jackson with 1102 rushing yards. The Browns were able to slow him down by using a player — often Schobert — to “spy” him. Schobert was able to compensate for the difference in footspeed because he understood the Ravens’ tendencies so well, but to this reporter’s eyes he was really too slow for this job.
It’s not rocket science. Operating out of the spread formation, Jackson will hand off to the running back, but he has the option of pulling the ball pack and passing or running it himself if he chooses. If he runs, he becomes one of the fastest outside runners in the NFL. The inside backs include Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill all of whom are dangerous, and this year they are joined by The Ohio State University stud J.K. Dobbins. Someone has to cover Jackson in order to beat this team.
Still, the Browns have some capable talent, even without Hassell. They just traded for a very good safety in Ronnie Harrison from the Jaguars, who may be the guy, although he will have only a week to get it together with his new team. That may not be enough time to game plan for Lamar Jackson. They might have a special teams player in mind who could adapt that search-and-destroy skillset to spy Jackson.
It is going to be all the more difficult because Jackson is in his third year with the same coaching staff, whereas Mayfield is learning his fourth pro offense in his brief professional career.
It may very well be that the Browns will miss Joe Schobert and even J.T. Hassell, against Lamar Jackson and the running Ravens.
If Hassell clears waivers, he would be eligible for the Browns’ practice squad. Will he clear waivers? Usually that is a no-brainer, but this player may be special.
The Browns have a tradition of donating up to four starting players to the New England Patriots every year, for example, so it cannot be certain that Hassell will clear waivers to be on their practice squad. It’s a risky business, for sure.