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Pre-Season Takeaways

Pre-Season Takeaways

What We Have Learned through Week Three

The Cleveland Browns have now gone through three exhibition games and they have not been the same kind of embarrassment that fans have been accustomed to over the past few seasons.  Whether it was the efficient passing attack against the Giants, or the pounding running game over the past two weeks – the offense has displayed an ability to execute.  Defensively, the team looks a lot more physical than they were a season ago.  Let’s look further into what the Browns are showing.

Running Attack Looks Solid

Both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb are making the most of their opportunities on the ground.  The duo has been getting chunks of yards in each of the last two outings – which is a great thing to see.  Unfortunately there have been multiple zero yards or negative plays, but those will happen in the NFL.  The goal will be to minimize these once the regular season begins.  I expect a healthy dose of rushing attempts this fall; something that has been only a rumor since Hue Jackson took over.  Additionally, Duke Johnson has not received ample opportunities with this offense.  The wildcard on offense will be utilized in the coming weeks, especially in the passing game – which can always use another target.

Waiting on Reinforcements

The wide receiver group has not stood out thus far in the preseason.  Jarvis Landry made a fine sideline catch early on, but has become a blocker ever since (I am not worried about him however).  With Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway inactive on Friday night, there wasn’t  a guy making big plays.  The only two of note to haul in passes were C.J. Board and Derrick Willies; one of the two might make the team over the disappointing Jeff Janis.  Will rookie Damion Ratley find his way on to the team with a big role?  It is trending that way, but the team still needs some reliability in this part of the roster.

Under Pressure

I have been excited to see not only that the Browns are putting heat on opposing quarterbacks, but they are doing it with multiple guys in different points on the field.  It hasn’t been as simple as Myles Garrett off the edge or Mychael Kendricks blitzing through the “A” gap.  Witnessing Carl Nassib, Genard Avery (prior to injury), and B.J. Bello find the backfield gives me faith that Gregg Williams has enough reliable players to accomplish what he wants to.  The end result is a nasty defense that makes it difficult for opponents to operate.

Improved Secondary

Last season was painful to watch the Browns try to cover opponents in the passing game.  The addition of Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and Demarious Randall are a few of the moves to bolster this  unit.  The Browns are both no longer getting burned nor allowing pitch and catches by the opposition.  Granted this is occurring in preseason, but it is still encouraging to witness.  I will feel better once E.J. Gaines comes back at cornerback to provide solid depth, but I am not terribly fearful of these guys.  At safety, Derrick Kindred and Jabril Peppers are co-existing pretty well at the strong safety spot.  It will be refreshing watching safeties being in the right place at the right time for a change.

Conclusion:  I continue to feel better about the 2018 Cleveland Browns; I still anticipate six wins by the club (at least at this point) – however they will be in most games and their physical play will be the reason for that.  Perhaps the quarterback spot improves to where they can win tight games via solid performances.  Looking forward to the opener on September 9th!

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Posted by on August 25, 2018 in Cleveland Browns Fans, NFL Season, Players

 

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What to Watch for – Preseason Game #1

What to Watch for – Preseason Game #1

Preseason Game #1 – Browns @ Giants

The time is finally here; the Cleveland Browns are hitting the field and are beginning their exhibition season.  What’s done is done from 2017 and the roster has changed dramatically (thanks to John Dorsey).  The end result is a much improved team who should win games in 2018.  Looking forward to Thursday evening’s contest, what should Browns’ fans look forward to seeing in New Jersey?

Wolfpack and Offensive Line Depth

A few days ago, the Browns shifted former University of Nevada lineman Joel Bitonio from left guard to left tackle.  Meanwhile, his college teammate Austin Corbett fills in the vacated starting position across the line.  Will this be an improvement over an offensive line featuring Shon Coleman at left tackle?  At this point, the coaches believe so.  I want to see the five starters (outside of Kevin Zeitler who will be sidelined for a few weeks) play solidly while protecting Tyrod Taylor.  Meanwhile, having a guy or two stand out in the second team would be welcomed.

Stepping Up without Gordon

The wide receiver room took a shot with the departure of Josh Gordon (and his return time is still not know); in his absence Corey Coleman has elevated with Jarvis Landry in the first team.  This is a huge season for the veteran, who can secure his place with this team with a great year.  Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, and Antonio Callaway are a trio of wideouts who can carve out roles with this franchise.  I would love to see Callaway excel and become that third starer, but perhaps Higgins will come through in his third season (the way many are hoping Coleman will).

Secondary Spots

The starting spot opposite Denzel Ward remains up for grabs.  Many felt T.J. Carrie would have been this guy, however he is not playing exceptionally well this training camp.  The opportunity is there for Terrance Mitchell – who was a part-time starter last year in Kansas City.  I would like to see him defend Sterling Shepard for the Giants.  E.J. Gaines is another guy who can have a shot to start – how will he perform?

Conclusion:  Football is back!  And while it is very exciting, there is a ton to sort out for the Cleveland Browns.  Hopefully the starters hold their own in limited time.  Following that, one would expect to see multiple reserves pushing for starting jobs (including Baker Mayfield).  Obviously a win is not important – just look at last season; but avoiding sloppy play would be a good start to the exhibition season.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2018 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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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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