RSS

Monthly Archives: June 2012

Post OTA/Minica​mp Thoughts – 2012 Difference​s Part II

Post OTA/Minicamp Thoughts: Why 2012 is Different for the Cleveland Browns from Other Years:

Part Two:

1) – Higher probability to see multiple changes within the NFL in 2012:

The heated debates surrounding concussions and players’ health have become more apparent compared to those in previous seasons.  There have been rumors that in order to reduce concussions, the NFL may eliminate kickoffs entirely – an important aspect of the game of football.  The commissioner, Roger Goodell, has continued his cracking down on any possible actions that could cause physical harm for players.  An example of this occurred a few weeks ago, when the  Seattle Seahawks were mandated to forfeit team practices as a result of players coming in contact and colliding during the non-contact OTA sessions.  Had this occurred a few years earlier, only a possible warning may have been given by the league.

When referring to the franchises within the AFC North, there appears to a possible transformation between the two franchises who have won consistently as of late and the two who have not.  Cleveland and Cincinnati have the third and second most salary cap space, respectively, for the 2013 season (per ESPN.com).  This will give them the flexibility to sign their own free agents, as well as the ability to pick up a few solid veterans next spring.  Couple this with the fact that the two Ohio franchises will have younger rosters (25.5 years old per player for Cincinnati, 25.7 years old per player for Cleveland in 2011 – “Browns By the Numbers Part II of II” blog), and it appears that the future looks brighter than the past has been.  The opposite can be said for Baltimore and Pittsburgh in terms of their financial situations going forward – the two franchises will (currently) be eighth in cap space in 2013 and over the 2013 salary cap, respectively. Also, having older rosters forces the front offices to make shrewd moves to remain competitive in the future – Baltimore had an average roster age of 26.5 years old per player in 2011 and Pittsburgh  had an average roster age of 27.0 years old per player in 2011 (“Browns By the Numbers Part II of II” blog).

2) – Media (both locally and nationally) have been more positive now than I can remember:

The local outlets that have daily and weekly coverage of the Cleveland Browns, (i.e. Plain Dealer, Canton Repository, WKNR, WKRK, etc.) for better or worse, see improvement with this team both in terms of more talented individuals and the team overall (cohesion, speed, etc).  Granted, this is the time of the year when hope springs eternal, but in past years the coverage typically had positive vibes with exceptions (i.e. lack of depth, few highly touted players, slower and/or older personnel, etc).  It appears that the 2012 roster does not include (as many of) these shortcomings – obviously the team still has to go out and perform, but at this point those who watch the team regularly envision the Browns finally being a better football team in 2012.

Those who have been skeptical regarding the local media’s unjust favoritism can scour the internet to find national pundits who also agree the Cleveland Browns are presently a better team.  ESPN.com writers John Clayton and Jamison Hensley have written several articles during and following the OTA/minicamp sessions stating the team is looking better and on the rise.  Obviously, they both state the franchise is not a finished product or a Super Bowl contender by any means, but they seem confident the tide is turning in 2012.  NFL.com analyst and former potential NFL Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp sees the Browns as the most improved team in the league.  Regardless of whether all of these experts are right or wrong, the of positive level in the media is stronger currently than I’ve notice in a long, long time.

3) – The shift in the Browns fan base’s beliefs in the last few months is unprecedented:

During the middle and towards the end of the 2007 NFL season, Cleveland Browns fans were happy and excited about their team – they finally had a winning record and a shot at the playoffs.  Ultimately, the Browns finished just short of the postseason while going 10-6; despite this, the 2008 campaign included increased expectations by the fans.  This change of attitude felt pretty large from the 2007 opener (a 34-7 loss to the Steelers), but noticing many fans seemingly going from one extreme to the other during in the past few months has become more prevalent.

During the end of the 2011 season and the months following, many Browns fans were upset and vocal against the franchise and front office.  Before the draft, a majority felt there was little hope for the near or distant future and those in charge had no idea how to improve the football team.  After free agency came and went with only signing two defensive lineman, the fans’ negative sentiments seemed to intensify.  An example of this is the Mike Polk Jr. video where the Browns fan was debating whether to send his money to the team for season tickets (he basically felt the franchise has not been good enough to warrant paying full price to watch the games).  This changed after the 2012 draft, which included several offensive talents that can improve the team immediately.  Fans (for the most part) have changed their tune – they tend to believe the selections will improve upon a few of their deficiencies from the 2011 campaign; likewise they see a team who can finally compete on a weekly basis.  Expecting to win a couple more games this season as well as being more successful in the future is extremely rare for Browns fans in the offseason, but it seems to have occurred since late April.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Offseason

 

Post OTA/Minica​mp Thoughts – 2012 Difference​s Part I

Post OTA/Minicamp Thoughts: Why 2012 is Different for the Cleveland Browns from Other Years:

Part One:

1) – The coaching staff and front office seems extremely frank during interviews:

Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren have both been with the team since 2010, so the team’s past history of being straight with fans (in these departments) has not changed.  When Heckert was interviewed regarding the draft, free agency, or the teams’ plan for the future, etc. he has remained consistent in telling us about the Browns’ building process and creating a sustainable winner.  The actions that followed have agreed with his words – picking up draft picks and avoiding free agency, for the most part.  The same style of communication can be found with Mike Holmgren; the President of the Browns stated that 2011 incumbent quarterback Colt McCoy would have a chance to compete for the starting job in 2012.  Holmgren also told McCoy the team would bring in an additional signal caller in the offseason – this came to fruition after the drafting of Brandon Weeden.  Once the competition plays out, which was also promised by head coach Pat Shurmur, the team will name its opening-day starter.

Last week, Tony Grossi (via espncleveland.com) sat down with newly hired offensive coordinator Brad Childress for the coach’s first formal interview as a staff member of the Cleveland Browns.  Childress’s sentiments echoed those of the front office and fellow members of the coaching staff; he agreed with the management’s assessment of  McCoy and felt the position must be upgraded this offseason.  When given an opportunity to embellish on players’ roles (even fringe members) Childress candidly spoke of the running backs and how backup Chris Ogbonnaya must excel at special teams to remain on the roster.  This has been a very refreshing change for Cleveland Browns fans – it helps them feel closer to the franchise while gaining a new level of trust for those in charge.

2) – The team’s mix of younger athletes with older “team guys” creates a very close-knit group:

The recent NFL collective bargaining agreement created a new slotting system based on draft position (in terms of salaries for rookie contracts) that will, for all intents and purposes, lead to the end of training camp holdouts.  This will naturally lead to teams being together and on the same page with little, to possibly no, resentment among teammates may have developed in the offseason.  In previous seasons, (i.e. 2007 – Brady Quinn, 2005 – Braylon Edwards, 2003 – Kellen Winslow, etc.) Browns’ rookies did not always show up for the beginning of training camp while they remained unsigned.  In addition to missing learning lessons, the younger players could have been perceived by veterans as having a sense of entitlement.

The 2012 draft class will have anywhere from three to five opening-day starters for the Browns (Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, and possibly John Hughes and James Michael-Johnson).  These members will all be on the field next month and join their teammates – this should alleviate a good deal of potential hostility among players (outside of position battles, which occurs on every team).  Fortunately, the Browns have a veteran leader at almost every position group (i.e. Sheldon Brown in the secondary, D’Qwell Jackson at linebacker, Aythba Rubin at defensive line, Joe Thomas at offensive line, and Josh Cribbs at wide receiver) that possess personality traits (like selflessness and humility) to help the younger, inexperienced athletes.  The only exceptions are at running back and quarterback where both groups include youthful players (sans Seneca Wallace) vying for playing time.  I feel the team’s makeup will only help the franchise going forward – the days of “me first” guys in the Cleveland Browns locker room are behind us.

3) – The OTA/minicamps and training camp schedules will promote learning:

This is the first full offseason with three separate weeks of OTAs and a week of minicamp before the standard training camp begins.  There is approximately a month-and-a-half in between the end of the non-contact learning sessions and the beginning of the full contact practices.  During the OTA/minicamps weeks, the team installs and reviews plays, formations, techniques, etc. with several days off in between sessions. This is obviously more conducive to learning than just one, longer OTA/minicamp period with a smaller window of opportunity for instruction between coaches and players.

Additionally, athletes, while giving their bodies rest before the grueling NFL schedule, should have plenty of time to study their playbooks to enhance their roles on the team.  Members of the Browns will be given ample opportunities to ask questions to coaches and veterans while learning and processing the teams’ systems implemented in 2011 – for both offense and defense.  Since this is the first non-lockout season following the new OTA/minicamp and training camp schedule, learning for all players (collectively) should be easier than it was in the past.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Offseason