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Latest Before Training Camp

Latest Before Training Camp

What’s Going on Just Prior to Camp

Well, we are about a week and a half from the Browns beginning their training camp practices in Berea.  The excitement continues to build as articles are trickling out with positive reviews regarding the roster.  Meanwhile, an in-depth interview with one of the Browns’ owners makes me feel a little better about what has gone down over the past two seasons and the direction of the club.  Let’s take a gander into the two points.

Top Half of the League

In an article written by the four-letter network (which I continue to be arm’s length with), all thirty-two NFL teams were ranked by the strength of offensive skilled position personnel – excluding quarterbacks.  Therefore, looking at wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends – the sports mogul puts the Cleveland Browns as the thirteenth best group in the league.  I could argue a higher ranking, but the fact they jumped from the worst at this ranking a year ago (by a county mile) to better than middle of the road speaks volumes about what John Dorsey has done to this roster.  This gets me (and I’m sure many Browns’ fans) excited about this fall; as we look for long plays, touchdowns, and ultimately wins.  Obviously, they will have to prove it on the field – but I have faith they will live up to this ranking in 2018.  Exceeding it will be great, but that might have to require excellent quarterback play.

Discussion with Dee

Cleveland’s Business did a sit-down interview with Dee Haslam, wife of owner Jimmy Haslam.  In the piece, she admitted that the last two seasons (littered with losses) consisted of a tear-down approach of the roster in order to rebuild for the future.  Well, they succeeded in that plan, acquiring a pair of top draft picks (Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield), in addition to accumulating a significant amount of salary cap space.  This was mainly used to acquire players like Jarvis Landry, Demarious Randall, Carlos Hyde, and Mychal Kendricks (to name a few).  Now that the talent has been improved, it’s time to look forward.  Dee came across as remorseful for the “sins” of the past and stated that she would not wish for any kinds of those mistakes again. Knowing this, I am hoping she and Jimmy can avoid poor decisions to build a solid franchise going forward.

Conclusion:  In just before the window of the Browns putting on the pads and getting ready to gear up for the season, a section of the roster gets reviewed and an owner speaks up.  The Cleveland Browns are starting to get a little bit more respect nationally; something that has not occurred for quite some time (and justifiably so).  Being able to admit mistakes and to learn from them is a sign of growth from the Haslam family.  I am not ready to say they will be great owners of the Browns for years to come, but a significant improvement would be welcomed.

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Getting Work Done

Getting Work Done

John Dorsey Putting in Work

The Browns announced a pair of signings earlier this week, which was music to my ears.  Following the overhaul of the roster a few months ago – general manager John Dorsey acquired a solid free agent and re-signed a reliable pass catching running back.  Not to belabor the point (but I will) – I am finally glad to see a front office acquiring and keeping talent as opposed to letting them walk out the door.  Let’s look into these signings a bit more.

Mychael Kendricks

The Browns added a fourth member to the linebacker corps and a good one at that.  Coming off a Super Bowl championship, Kendricks should help this franchise with his pass rushing ability.  I am eager to see how the rotation will go for this unit.  Will the newcomer supplant the team’s lone Pro Bowler from a season ago (in Joe Schobert)?  Could the Browns put all four linebackers on the field at the same time?  One thing is certain – depth was much needed for this group, and it was the only spot of the team that this was previously not the case.  It’s a shame to see Tank Carder being released as a result, as he was a tremendous special teams’ athlete.  However, upgrading the roster is the name of the game.

Duke Johnson

It was announced that running back Duke Johnson signed a three year contract extension, keeping him on the roster in a short-term window.  While the Browns have Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde already in the running back room (a pair of capable backs), nothing is given at this position.  Injuries and underperformance should be accounted for – thus by having three options here, the team is hedging their bets that at least one guy will work out.  Historically, offensive coordinator Todd Haley utilizes a single back a.k.a. “bell cow” in his offense to carry (and catch) the load.  I am not sure this will be the case in 2018, as Johnson ought to be on the field as a receiver, while either Chubb or Hyde will be getting carries.  Whether that is the actual scenario or not, I am excited to see how the team’s offense shakes out.

Conclusion:  The signings continue for the team, and still might not be over (as there is over a month until training camp).  However, the infusion of talent and the reports that the locker room is drastically better than it was a year ago continue to give me faith that I will enjoy games in the fall.  I hope to make it out for camp next month, but more importantly to not hear about player X getting arrested or suspended for something avoidable.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2018 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Latest Browns News

Latest Browns News

What’s Going on in Browns Town?

In the months following the NFL Draft but prior to training camp – the Cleveland Browns get together and practice on the field.  Granted it’s not what we will see this fall, but at least fans and reporters can get a first glimpse of the 2018 squad.  So what occurred during this time frame?  I discuss below plus give other thoughts surrounding the orange and brown.

OTAs in Session:

The Browns recently completed a weeklong session of Offseason Training Activities, which will continue for several more weeks.  A few things I took away were the increased expectations of both Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry, possible depth at offensive line, and intrigue in the secondary.

It is appearing that the connection from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Jarvis Landry is nearing pitch and catch.  The duo appears on the same page and are completing a high percentage of passing plays. Having “inside” routes lends itself to a shorter passes and a higher percentage of completions – but there still needs solid players in order for the executions to work.  I believe that Josh Gordon will get in synch with Taylor this summer, however the longer routes centered around timing will need a high number of repetitions first.  I did not hear a tremendous amount of glowing reviews surrounding wideout Corey Coleman.  I firmly believe 2018 will be his final one with the orange and brown – provided he does not improve substantially.  This is a year where he will not see one of the top opposing coverage players,so he will get his shot to prove his worth.

I enjoyed hearing the rotations of both the offensive line and members of the secondary during the OTA practice sessions.  Left tackle is the big question mark, but Shon Coleman and Austin Corbett should put on a solid competition during training camp.  Chris Hubbard appears to be the front runner for the right tackle position, but there will be multiple players attempting to steal his spot.  For the first time in years, it appears that the Browns have a solid unit upfront as opposed to a Joe Thomas and an Alex Mack.  Meanwhile, the Browns have T.J. Carrie, Denzel Ward, E.J. Gaines, and Terrance Mitchell (to name a few) working at the cornerback positions.  I’ll take my chances with these guys, as opposed to groups in the past.  The two favorites at this point would likely be Carrie and Ward, but there could be some shuffling throughout the season.  The safety spot features Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Jabril Peppers, and Demarious Randall – three very capable athletes who can anchor the back end of the secondary.

Gaining Respect for Baker

In a short video which featured several NFL rookies attempting to draw the helmets of their current team, Browns’ signal caller Baker Mayfield was included.  It’s no secret that he had the easiest task, as the Browns do not have a logo on the side – like the other thirty-one clubs.  However, his response to his final drawing what what I took away – “I didn’t draw the stripe because I haven’t earn it yet”.  That says everything you need to know about Mayfield’s mindset heading into training camp.  I believe he is sincere and not just saying what many think he should.  I give him respect for this response, but clearly his play on the field is what matters most.

 

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Looking Forward to the Season

Looking Forward to the Season

Message to Browns’ Fans:  Buckle Up

The NFL Draft is in the books and rosters are being finalized heading into the minicamp sessions. After the dust settled, the Browns added nine members from Thursday to Saturday night.  Additionally, multiple undrafted free agents chose to sign with the orange and brown.  So, what does this mean for the Cleveland Browns?  Well for starters, they will secure at least one win and should be vastly improved.  Let’s look at a few choices.

Day One Picks:  Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward

My reaction to both the first and fourth overall selections were the same, a one word phrase of “woah”.  This is not to say I was extremely positive or negative about the choices – I was rather surprised that both were taken that early.  I admit I am a prisoner of reading NFL “experts” (over the past few months) who had Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb rated as superior prospects.  However, thinking about it rationally – there is no guarantee that those “experts” are right.  Likewise, John Dorsey might not get these choices correct either.  Mayfield was probably my second choice for quarterback but I am willing to give him a chance (once the team does).  Meanwhile, I really like Denzel Ward – sure the team could have solidified their defensive line, but their secondary was embarrassing last year.  I would rate these two as solid choices with a ceiling of two routine Pro Bowlers and a floor of a pair of mediocre athletes.

Day Two Picks:  Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, and Chad Thomas

A trio of large, tough football players were acquired on the second day of the NFL Draft.  Corbett is a left tackle who will be given a shot to compete with Shon Coleman to replace Joe Thomas.  I will admit that I have not heard of the lineman, but that doesn’t mean he can’t excel in the pros.  I like the selection of Chubb, who should tote the football between tackles for the orange and brown.  Could he take the lion’s share of carries from Carlos Hyde?  That remains to be seen, but I would not put it past Chubb.  The running back competition should be a fun one to watch this summer.  Thomas is another guy who I had not heard about prior to the draft weekend.  It appears that he is a solid in run defense but can also be a force as an edge rusher.  He will be eased into this lineup, as Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah do not appear to surrender  playing time soon.  Overall, I would label these choices as boom or bust – the team could find two reliable starters and a quality rotational guy.  Or the worst case is they have three backups who make little impact.

Day Three Picks:  Antonio Callaway, Genard Avery, Damion Ratley, and Simeon Thomas

Rounds four through seven of the draft typically see reserve players, special team athletes, projects, and risks.  That was the case for the Cleveland Browns as they selected four members during these rounds and all fit into at least on of the above categories.  Callaway and Thomas have had troubles with the law and missed time in the NCAA as a result.  The difference between the two is Callaway has a longer rap sheet but also has tremendous upside (provided he keeps his head screwed on).  Avery is destined to be a special teamer for the Browns, but might get his opportunity at linebacker some day.  Ratley did not finish his collegiate career with eye popping statistics, but he should focus on hanging around on the roster until he learns the wide receiver position at the pro level.  My conclusion is these four guys are strictly question marks and I am pulling that at least one actually contributes to this team for several seasons.

Final Analysis:  The cliche is that “the team got better” after draft weekend.  For once, I actually think this might be true for the Browns.  I read criticisms that Ward might be the only day one starter – to which I ask, why is that a bad thing?  It would be refreshing not having to see a rookie quarterback, safety, and tight end forced into action prematurely as there was little competition on the roster (as this was the case last season).  Perhaps the veterans on the Browns actually have talent and can help this team win games.  The bottom line is that fall will be fun again and things will be different in 2018.

 

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The Hay is in the Barn – NFL Draft

The Hay is in the Barn – NFL Draft

All Ready to Go for April 26 – 28

The Browns have done their homework, talked to prospects in person, and made transactions to both acquire guys who can help this franchise as well as gain value for members who would have likely been released in the coming months.  It appears that they are ready to go for the NFL Draft that is just under three weeks away.  We take a deeper look into their recent activity.

Turning Over the Quarterback Room

A few weeks after former starting quarterback DeShone Kizer was traded away, now the remaining two signal callers met the same fate.  Cody Kessler was shipped to Jacksonville for a conditional seventh round pick next year.  Also, Kevin Hogan is now a member of the Washington Redskins, who agreed to swap sixth round selections later this month.  Looking back at it, the Browns got relatively nothing for either guy.  Clearly John Dorsey saw little value in either guy and was happy to get whatever he could.  Having only two quarterbacks currently on the roster would lead me to believe that they will get a pair more prior to training camp beginning.  Will it be the first overall selection and one in the later rounds?  Or, will the Browns scoop up another veteran in the coming months?  The latter is the more likely option, but one thing is for certain.  Whomever the Browns choose as their franchise quarterback will have a dearth of knowledge to bounce ideas off of and questions to ask in the quarterback room.  This was clearly not the case in 2017 and it showed.

Another Pickup

The Browns recently added wideout Jeff Janis to the roster.  The former Packer is expected to perform well on special teams and might get some opportunities as a wide receiver.  Granted he had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, but Janis did make some spectacular plays a few seasons ago.  He will not have that luxury here, but perhaps he can still perform well.  I’m tired of seeing poor special teams play by the Browns and expect Janis to help in this area.  Any help on offense would be a bonus.

Draft Talk

All the headlines appear to gravitate towards former college head coaches and announcers not vouching that “their guy” gets selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns.  Whether I am referring to Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, people appear to have taken their sides (as to whom is better) and are using the aforementioned comments as to reasons why the Browns should take a certain player at number one.  I am still on board with not caring which quarterback the team takes – as long as it is the right guy.

At number four, I simply want to see the team take an outstanding playmaker.  I appreciate what Saquon Barkley can do on a football field, but taking a running back that early would not be my choice.  The Browns have solidified their secondary in free agency, but there are still two great options to choose (Ward and Fitzpatrick).  Meanwhile, the defensive line is still far from set and adding Chubb to the mix would not be a terrible idea either.

 

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Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Latest from Berea:  What the Browns are Doing

The NFL offseason is in full swing, as free agency kicked off last week.  Guys are signing with new teams and franchises and swapping picks in the NFL Draft.  Let’s review a few things that pertain to the orange and brown.

More Acquisitions

Following the four trades that occurred last weekend, the Browns signed seven (you read that right) free agents.  Some are expected to be starters, while other will simply provide depth and experience on the roster.  Looking at the seven guys, Chris Smith, Terrance Mitchell, and Donald Stephenson are not going to make headlines during contests – perhaps they can overachieve here though.  Darren Fells will be doing the dirty work along the offensive line; the blocking tight end might help the unit move past the Joe Thomas era.  The Browns will more than likely be tipping their hand when he is in games versus David Njoku, but it won’t matter if the offense can perform (regardless of who is in there).

As of now, T.J. Carrie, Chris Hubbard, and Carlos Hyde are slated as game one starters for the Cleveland Browns.  Obviously things can change following the draft, but I see all three as solid selections for the team.  Carrie and Hyde appear to be upgrades from their predecessors and improvement is vital for this franchise.  Hubbard will likely be the starting right tackle, pushing Shon Coleman to take over on the left side.  There will definitely be a drop-off from the past eleven seasons at that position, but you can bet that the players, coaching staff, and management will try to minimize it.

Big Trade Early

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts traded picks yesterday; in surrendering three second round picks in the future, the Jets moved up to secure the number three selection.  It goes without saying that this type of move signals a choice for a quarterback early in the draft.  To reset, the Browns are likely to take a quarterback with the first overall selection and now the Jets are all but guaranteed to do the same thing two spots later.  That leaves all eyes on the New York Giants with the second pick – they could take Saquon Barkley (the top running back), the second quarterback of the draft, or trade back with a handful of teams who will likely take a signal caller.

Regardless of what occurs, the Browns will be in a pretty good position with the fourth selection (provided they do not trade away the choice).  I am tired of seeing the team forgo talent in order to get future draft picks, which don’t always pan out.  Therefore, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward, and Bradley Chubb are my early three frontrunners for the Browns’ second draft selection.  The only trade down that I could get behind is one for a spot or two – where they can still have the aforementioned trio to choose from.  I would be hesitant to trade the fourth pick to the Bills.  I understand the value of multiple draft picks but I agree with John Dorsey’s assessment that the team needs “real football players”.

Conclusion:  The excitement for the 2018 Cleveland Browns continues to increase as they are completely overhauling a roster that went winless a season ago.  Also, the trade for the third pick makes puts the Browns’ choices more in the spotlight.

 

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Here Come the Moves!

Here Come the Moves!

Browns are Active in Free Agency

In an eventful Friday evening, the Cleveland Browns made a trio of trades to bring in some talented veteran football players.  Granted, these cannot be made official until the league year begins next Wednesday – but many fans of the organization appear to be excited.  I completely understand this line of thinking for two reasons:  the Browns are getting guys under contract (not simply castoffs) who are still young enough to be productive for many years, and they are the franchise being aggressive and acquiring talent as opposed to letting their own free agents walk.  Let’s look at the three moves.

Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver

What has been the knock on the Cleveland Browns for the last handful of seasons (if not longer)?  The have been ranked at the bottom or close to that, in terms of the wide receivers’ output.  Trading only a fourth and a seventh round draft selection for a productive veteran appears to be a shrewd move, but going the veteran wide receiver route has underwhelmed in the past.  I believe Landry has a better head on his shoulders than Dwayne Bowe and Kenny Britt – so I think the Browns were the winner in this trade.  That said, upon hearing the news I was excited but noted that he needs someone good to throw to him.

Tyrod Taylor – Quarterback

Not much longer after the Landry deal was announced, the Browns gave up their third round draft selection to acquire a playoff signal caller from last season.  In a bit of a surprising move, the team has their bridge quarterback – and in that a guy who has one of the lowest turnover rates at that position over the past two seasons.  This was a huge detriment to the 2017 offense, who frequently gave the ball to the other team (especially in the red zone).  Personally, I am ok with this move – Taylor is not my favorite option as a veteran signal caller but the team could do a lot worse than him.  The only concern is that Taylor might be a different style of player than the guy they draft.  This begs the question, will there be issues with the rookie’s development?

Demarious Randall – Cornerback

The final move of the day left the Browns with a new starting cornerback in exchange for DeShone Kizer and swapping positions in the fourth and fifth round selections.  I hate to see the team give up so quickly on Kizer, but I have to believe John Dorsey knows what he’s doing.  They have already upgraded at that position and will fortify it furthermore in the draft.  Back to the trade – Randall should be familiar to Browns’ fans as he blanketed Josh Gordon last season.  He’s not a lockdown cornerback but at the very least he fills the void left by Joe Haden (who was released last season).  I expect another secondary member to be added to the franchise, but it will be interesting when (in what round of the draft) and whether it’s a safety or cornerback.  I am in full support of this move and hope Randall is a cornerstone of Gregg William’s defense for years to come.

Conclusion:  The Browns got better by a handful of transactions.  I know they have nowhere to go but up from last year, but if this is any indication of John Dorsey – I expect a solid draft.  Next week could further this excitement or be anti-climactic, but this was still a great start for the 2018 Cleveland Browns.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2018 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, NFL Season, Players

 

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