Last year we talked, and Andrew Luck’s health was the biggest storyline then, but you were also looking out for the offensive line and secondary at the time. What’s your assessment now?
Breer: “Well, certainly the offensive line has come a long way. I think Chris Ballard, Ed Dodds and their staff really deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done there. To turn something that had been a years-long weakness into a strength that quickly with not only Quenton Nelson, but also Braden Smith, and finding ways to inject depth into the group, and obviously the health of Ryan Kelly, and (Anthony) Castonzo helped last year. They look like they’re setup there for years to come. Obviously there’s some question with Castonzo’s future, but other than that it looks like they’re setup for years to come. And then in the secondary, I still think you’re waiting a little bit. But Malik Hooker is a year off the ACL and Quincy Wilson is in another year here, and from what I understand Rock Ya-Sin had a really strong spring. So, I’d say if you look at those two groups I’d say one is taken care of and the other is in the ‘To Be Determined’ category.”
Malik Hooker was a ballhawk as a rookie, and then teams didn’t test him in his second year. How would you evaluate Hooker and the different ways he’s succeeded in his two years?
Breer: “I think one thing that’s gotta be a little frustrating for him — I know people who were around him in 2017 felt like he was ready to take off. I think it was three interceptions he had in three of his last games before getting hurt, they really felt like he was about to hit another level. So, tearing the ACL there had to be frustrating for him, and I think last year you didn’t see the full Malik Hooker. I still look at him as a player who’s got another level. I watched every game he played in college because that’s where I went to school (Ohio State), and I haven’t seen very many college safeties that look like that. I still think there’s a lot of growth potential there based on the fact that he’s still coming back off the injury last year and where he was there in his rookie year before he got hurt.”
Chris Ballard once said they know they’ll be headed in the right direction if they’re cutting guys that are then getting picked up by other teams. This current team looks really deep. With that said, what are some position groups on this roster where they might have to make some of those tough cuts?
Breer: “It’s still to be determined if they’ve got a true No. 1 corner, but they do have some depth there. I think one area where they’ve had a ton of flexibility over the past couple of years — especially if they want to put someone on the trade market — would be tight end. Having not only Jack Doyle, but also Eric Ebron, and they’ve just built a lot of depth at that spot. That’d be another spot where you potentially could see them maybe move a player to fix an issue at another position.”
Of course you’re an Ohio State guy. Parris Campbell being one of the flashier rookies here — you’ve seen his career up to now — what do you think is his fit in this offense?
Breer: “It’s interesting because I still remember Curtis Samuel coming out two years ago. And I think you saw this with Urban Meyer players a lot — not only at Ohio State but at Florida, too — because the way they run that offense, there are some guys who are sort of ambiguous between running back and receiver. Curtis Samuel, when he went to the NFL was a running back who became a receiver, but he’d become a guy who was a receiver who could play running back. Campbell has that sort of ability; he came into college as a running back and wound up as a receiver, and I still think he’s fairly raw as a receiver. But I think because of that you’re gonna have to find creative ways to get the most out of him early on, but the potential’s through the roof. Every time you saw him turn the corner in college, it was over. So, I think having a guy who’s a versatile weapon like that is really useful in today’s NFL. Having a guy who, when you break the huddle, you don’t know what he’s gonna do or where he’s going to be, that’s something that’s a huge, huge thing for an offensive coordinator to have. I would just preach patience with him a little bit because I do think he’s still a little raw. I think if you look at Curtis Samuel in Carolina, (that’s) probably a really good example of how it takes some time. I think he’s (Samuel) just hitting his stride as a receiver because he was an ‘H’ and he did different things at Ohio State. It took him — he’s now in his third year — he’s really becoming an NFL receiver. I think with Parris, it could take a little time, but he’ll get there.”