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Monthly Archives: May 2013

2013 Regular Season Preview – Cleveland Browns – Part 4

Cleveland Browns 2013 Regular Season Schedule – Analysis (Part Four)

Sunday, Dec. 8 at New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  The last portion of the schedule for the Browns begins with a tough meeting in Foxborough, Massachusetts, against the consistently great Patriots.  This is the time of year when the home team gets into “playoff mode” – where they tend to play with more tenacity and urgency than they may have in mid September.  Unfortunately, this begins with future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady.  He is a career 41 – 6 in December (over an 87 percent winning percentage), which is higher than any other month for the signal caller.  Compare this to his 24 -11 September record (just over 68 percent winning percentage), and things do not look good for the Cleveland Browns.

The visitors must be prepared for a high scoring game – and executing (relatively) on pace with the Patriots’ offense.  The opponent ranked no worse than seventh in the league in offensive categories like touchdowns, yardage, points, and turnovers allowed.  On the flip side, the Browns will face a defensive unit that was porous at best – rated 25th in total yards allowed, 21st in passing touchdowns, and 25th in first downs allowed.  It will be up to Brandon Weeden to get it done through the air; the Patriots do have deficiencies on their roster and hopefully the Browns can find the end zone several times as a result.  The signal caller can not get baited into making a poor throw, as the strength of the home team’s defense is recording interceptions as they were ranked 5th in that category in 2012.

I hope the depth of the Browns defense will be on display in this contest – the Patriots run an up-tempo offense that could require multiple defensive substitutions.  Doing so may be the only opportunity to score the huge upset, although it still seems unlikely.  The Browns were able to use the knowledge of Eric Mangini to defeat his former mentor the last time these two teams played.  Can Michael Lombardi (who worked with Belichick nearly twenty years ago) pull off the same feat as a General Manager in 2013?

Sunday, Dec. 15 vs. Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. ET 

Breakdown:  It will be interesting to see how the Browns matchup with their NFC North opponent late in the season.  One storyline in the contest centers around Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman, who was a Browns’ former assistant (in the late 1980s).  He has been a coach in football since 1981, but never a head coach in the NFL – until now.  The Bears’ defensive coordinator is Mel Tucker, who used to occupy that position with the Browns in 2008.  However, with so much change with personnel and philosophies – neither of the duo will likely be able to recognize their former franchise.

The Bears, in terms of offensive and defensive rankings, are the complete opposite of the team the Browns play a week earlier.  The visitors are coming off a year ranked 28th in total yards, 24th in first downs gained, 22nd in passing touchdowns, and 18th in rushing touchdowns.  This was part of the reason why the team went from a defensive coach to an offensive one – outside of a healthy Matt Forte; the Bears struggled to consistently move the football in 2012.  A part of their woes were due to the inept offensive line; the team chose two a guard (Kyle Long) and a tackle (Jordan Mills) to help fill the void though.  Will they pan out?  Or can the Browns blow by these “green” professional athletes?

On the other side of the ball, the Bears were (once again) dominant on defense.  Last year, they ranked no worse than 8th in the league in points allowed, yards allowed, and turnovers.  Their main issue will be trying to replace a few veterans (like Brian Urlacher) on a unit that was deemed as aging.  I look forward to seeing the Browns (especially Davone Bess and David Nelson) run under and crossing routes, in order to see how the linebackers can keep up with the speedsters.  Should the wide outs be successful in doing this, can Weeden utilize the deep ball to Josh Gordon and Greg Little effectively?  This could lead to a great deal of pressure on Jay Cutler and the opposing offense.

Sunday, Dec. 22 at New York Jets, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  The makeup of the home squad could be entirely different in this contest than what it could have been early in the season.  The Jets drafted rookie quarterback Geno Smith in the second round – will he replace Mark Sanchez late in the 2013 season?  It has been speculated that head coach Rex Ryan is on the “hot seat” and will need to have a great season to save his job.  Will he still be coaching the Jets in December?  These two questions are obviously reliant on the team’s success, and if Geno can supplant Sanchez and play well, it would look good for Ryan.  Regardless, the Browns’ defensive game plan will be hard to determine until just a few weeks before the matchup.

If the Browns can be as successful as the visiting team’s opponents were last season, they should employ multiple carries of the football.  The Jets are coming off a campaign where they were 26th in both rushing yards and touchdowns allowed.  Personally, I would love to see the Browns open the game with several Trent Richardson carries and finish in the same fashion.  The remainder of the game will be up to Weeden to take what the defenders will allow.  The signal caller might not throw for several touchdowns or have a great deal of yardage, but if he can prevent interceptions (the Jets only ranked 23rd in this category last season), the odds of a victory are very strong.

Michael Lombardi’s philosophy of getting out in front early in contests is merited for three reasons.  One, it allows linebackers to run freely and do what they do best – which can possibly put the team in position for more success.  Therefore, whoever is quarterback for the Jets will now see frequent pressure.  Will Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez be able to make the correct adjustments and beat the blitz?  The Browns would bet against that.  Finally, all NFL fans know about Jets’ fans – they are unruly and do not want to be disappointed.  Falling behind early could lead to a disastrous atmosphere where the home team cannot make a comeback.

Sunday, Dec. 29 at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  For the second season in a row, the Browns finish off the regular season at Heniz Field – whether the situation is the same as in 2012 will remain to be seen, though.  Following injuries to the first two quarterbacks, third-string signal caller Thaddeus Lewis got the nod against the Steelers.  He played well, completing twenty-two of thirty-two passes for 204 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.  However, it was not enough as the Browns fell 24 – 10 to a team recently eliminated from playoff contention.

Was this a one-year misstep, or will the Steelers have nothing to play for in the 2013 regular season finale?  Depending on how this question is answered, the Browns could be in for a very tough matchup.  Otherwise, the Steelers may hold out several members who are nursing injuries – thus giving the Browns an advantage (provided they are not doing the same).  This would be great if this contest would determine either a playoff spot or seeding, but there are many variables that must happen first.

Offensively, the Browns will not have to see James Harrison and Keenan Lewis don the Black and Yellow uniforms they have worn the past few seasons.  Now, in addition to veterans Larry Foote, Casey Hampton, and Lawrence Timmons, the Browns will have to see the development of rookies Jarvis Jones and Terry Hawthorne.  Hopefully, there will be some drop-off and the Browns will not see as great of defense as they are accustomed to.  Defensively, Le’Veon Bell and Markus Wheaton are going to be called upon for the home squad.  The Browns were able to corral their opponent’s running attack last season, and now they avoid Mike Wallace (who they play in the season opener).  Optimism could be had for Browns’ fans, let’s hope they play the way that some expect.

Recap:  Another tough four-game stretch to close out the 2013 season; there will likely be multiple, new starters implemented here by all teams.  Breaking the eleven-year drought (where the Browns have not qualified for the playoffs) will likely require at least two wins here.  It will not be easy for the team, but doing so can garner momentum that will follow the franchise into the rarely-seen postseason.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in NFL Season

 

2013 Regular Season Preview – Cleveland Browns – Part 3

Cleveland Browns 2013 Regular Season Schedule – Analysis (Part Three)

Sunday, Nov. 3 vs. Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 p.m. ET 

Breakdown:  Hopefully the Browns are not overlooking their showdown against the Ravens, as the contest precedes their bye the following week.  No doubt, this will be a physical contest – but the young roster will have time to heal up before traveling to another division foe.  This matchup could prove how important free agency was this year; depth in the defensive front seven will allow for more rotations and “fresh” personnel late in contests.  The Browns had their issues against Ray Rice and Bernard Scott last season; limiting this duo is a good start for a potential upset.

The overhaul of the Ravens defense could finally pay dividends at this point of the season – if the opponent can rely on their offense early, the new defensive athletes can get the proper time and experience to gel together.  Elvis Dumervil must be accounted for; as a member of the Broncos last season, the linebacker accounted for eleven sacks.  If Matt Elam can play well at safety in his rookie season, as well as Courtney Upshaw making the most of his opportunity at linebacker, it could be more of the same for the Cleveland Browns (which no fans want to hear).

Last year, whether it was the coach or player’s decision, there were rumors that Brandon Weeden was not willing to take chances in the passing game.  The end result was five field goals, in a contest where they were defeated by just ten points.  If the team would have found the end zone two or three times (instead), the entire complexion of the contest could have been different.  It’s believed that Chud and Turner will allow their signal caller to take risks.  With personnel turnover (including a defense without Ed Reed), I anticipate the offense being more successful in 2013.

Sunday, Nov. 10 BYE WEEK

Sunday, Nov. 17 at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  Getting over the hump in the division is something the Browns hope to do in 2013; winning games like the one in week eleven is imperative for this to occur.  Andy Dalton and his receiving threats have been the difference in the past two contests between the teams in Paul Brown Stadium.  In 2012, four wide outs had over fifty yards receiving – including Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, A.J. Green, and Andrew Hawkins.  Throw in a Tyler Eifert, and the Browns’ secondary will have to account for another playmaker.  Will Leon McFadden be able to shut down a portion of the field?  Can Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, or Tashaun Gipson be able to step up in coverage?

Trent Richardson had a tremendous outing last season in his first meeting against the Bengals.  Eclipsing the one hundred yard mark on the ground, gaining nearly forty yards after catching the football, and garnering a pair of touchdowns highlighted his day.  I hope the coaches can employ him more than the prior staff did (nineteen carries) – the former University of Alabama star has an ability to worry defenses.  Additionally, I would like to see how the running back complements perform as well; Hardesty, Ogbonnaya, and Lewis could see opportunities to make a dynamic play or two out of the backfield (via rushing or receiving).

Perhaps the time off will have been good for the franchise – resting up and focusing on their remaining opponents.  Last year, the Browns traveled to Arlington with a Joe Haden-less unit, and were a few pass interference penalties away from defeating the Cowboys in the game following their bye week (they then won their next three contests).  Although the Browns are still rather young, I anticipate them being prepared for their final seven matchups.  It will not be an easy task, but a break beforehand could be vital. 

Sunday, Nov. 24 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. ET 

Breakdown:  Unlike last season’s meeting, the opponent will (more than likely) have their starting quarterback on the field against the Browns.  The home team took advantage of Charlie Batch last season, forcing eight turnovers (three interceptions and five fumbles lost).  The game was not pretty but a 20 – 14 victory was the end result; if the Browns ever want to renew this rivalry with their neighbors to the east, consistently winning is paramount.  Last year, the home team played old-school football – just twenty-six passing attempting and thirty-four rushes (this formula might be repeated again in 2013).

This will be a great test to determine how well the defense has improved from last year; the Steelers offense can (easily) score by the pass or run, all game long.  The new additions in the defensive front must shed off their blocks and spend a fair amount of time in the offensive backfield.  Additionally, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo will face a tall, strong signal caller who will be tough to sack.  Fortunately, Kruger has seen Ben Roethlisberger before (while playing in Baltimore), so hopefully he can share some wisdom with his younger teammates.  Leon McFadden (and the young secondary) could come across issues as well.  While the opponent can buy time on passing plays, the Browns’ secondary will have to stay with the wideouts for several seconds.  There will be little margin for error by the secondary – multiple deep touchdowns have been surrendered against the Steelers over the past few seasons.

If the Browns cannot put the contest away, Roethlisberger has had a knack to pull out late wins in his nine-year career.  Ideally, I would like to see the offense getting out in front and handing the ball off to Trent Richardson to seal the win.  Any kind of win would be great though, whether it’s a 35 – 0 route or a 17 – 16 squeaker.

Sunday, Dec. 1 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  On paper heading into the season, it appears that the Browns should defeat their opponent in the twelfth game of the season.  Despite an injury-shortened season, Maurice Jones-Drew has had an excellent career up to this point; including three consecutive 1,300 yards + on the ground.  The front seven will have their hands full against the run; throw in the fact that Luke Joeckel will be added to the Jaguars’ offensive line, and it could be tough sledding.  The Browns must force their opponent to use the pass more than they want to.

Blaine Gabbert has failed to live up to his tenth overall draft selection status; the former University of Missouri star is coming off of campaigns with 50.8 and 58.3% completion percentages, twenty-one touchdowns, seventeen interceptions, and nine fumbles lost.  His passing totals of 2,214 and 1,662 yards are not spectacular either – this might be his final season as a starter in the NFL if he fails to improve.  Rookie Denard Robinson could help the passing game greatly – pairing him with second-year target Justin Blackmon gives their offense some viable options.

The Browns should employ a steady dose of rushing attempts this contest; the opponent is coming off a year ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed and 31st in touchdowns surrendered on the ground.  They did not make any significant moves in the draft or free agency to bolster their front seven either.  However, the Jaguars’ front office did acquire five members who could play in the secondary – it will be interesting to see how they progress through their first twelve contests.  I hope Davone Bess can teach the younger wide receivers ways to confuse rookie defenders; this was a part of the reason why many clamored for the team to sign a veteran receiver.

Recap:  This stretch is obviously the most important part of the Browns’ schedule.  They face all three division rivals and finish with a perceived less-than-great franchise.  Victories are a must here, especially if they ever want to leave the cellar of the AFC North.  I am pulling for a miraculous 4 – 0 run, but I do not think are going to win more than two here (but that is subject to change).

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2013 in NFL Season

 

2013 Regular Season Preview – Cleveland Browns – Part 2

Cleveland Browns 2013 Regular Season Schedule – Analysis (Part Two)

Thursday, Oct. 3 vs. Buffalo Bills, 8:25 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  For the first time in four years, the Browns will get to host a night game (the last time was a 13 – 7 upset over the Steelers in 2009).  The home team will get a chance to avenge their 24 – 14 loss to the Bills in 2012, one where they faced Ryan Fitzpatrick.  However, in April the Bills traded down in the first round of the draft and then selected quarterback E.J. Manuel; the Browns may now be facing their first rookie signal caller of the year.  One would expect the opposition to rely heavily on their rushing duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson (who were very productive last year before Spiller’s injury).  I would assume the defensive game plan for Ray Horton would be similar to that of when they face the Vikings just two weeks prior.

Although he was not the largest free agent acquisition of 2013, veteran David Nelson will seek revenge from the franchise that chose not to re-sign him.  The undrafted wide out from the University of Florida had a solid season in 2011 (sixty-one catches, 658 yards and five touchdowns), before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the first game of 2012.  Hopefully after successful rehab, the receiver can warrant his contract and find the end zone against his former teammates.

I have much more confidence that this year’s offense for the Browns can do a better job than last year’s unit.  They face a defense that did little to upgrade itself over the offseason (only a pair of mid-round defensive backs were added) – the Bills’ defense ranked tenth in passing yardage but thirty-first against the run.  Limiting the opportunities of the Bills playmakers (including rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin) could be the difference in this matchup.

Sunday, Oct. 13 vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  A 38 – 37 Lions’ victory (on the final play of the game) occurred the last time the Browns met up with their rivals to the north in the regular season.  Four years later, they play each other again – two regimes later for the Cleveland Browns and ample roster turnover for both teams.  Two holdovers from that contest are Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.  The former is coming off a respectable year (4,967 yards passing, twenty touchdowns, seventeen interceptions, and a 59.8 completion percentage), following a tremendous 2011 season with forty-one touchdown passes, sixteen interceptions, 5,038 yards and a 63.5 completion rate.  Johnson nearly eclipsed the 2,000-yard receiving mark (1,964), but it still earned him the most all-time by an NFL wide receiver.  Clearly the Browns’ secondary will have their hands full in this meeting.

This matchup can be a barometer for the pass rushers on the team – have Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, and Jabaal Sheard picked up this 3-4 system?  If they can flush Stafford out of the pocket consistently, the quarterback will have to release the football quicker than he would have wanted.  Due to the fact the Lions put it up a ton (most in the league in 2012), opportunities to create turnovers and dire situations might be abundant.  Doing so will only help the inexperienced secondary – outside of Joe Haden and T.J. Ward.

In terms of yardage and touchdowns allowed last year, the Lions’ defense never ranked below eighteenth.  Brandon Weeden must be careful in his decision-making but still look for big plays down the field.  Also, I would like to see several innovations from the offense – including employing multiple backs (i.e. Dion Lewis) and getting the quicker players like Travis Benjamin the ball with room to run.  I believe this offense finally has a great deal of speed – it’s time to take advantage of it.

Sunday, Oct. 20 at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  After a couple of seasons that included matchups in the exhibition, the Browns finally head to Lambeau Field for a regular season tilt.  Outside of a few division meetings, this may be one of the most difficult games for the Browns in 2013.  Facing one of the best quarterbacks in the league (who just signed a new, expensive contract extension last month) for a perennial Super Bowl contender, and most feel the visitors will have little chance for success.  However, although they may have to play perfectly in many aspects, it might not be impossible to score the upset.

In 2012, the Packers started their season at 3 – 3 before winning nine of their next ten contests; perhaps this game might be at the right part of the season for the Browns.  On the other hand, they went 8 – 1 at Lambeau Field last season; including the Wild Card playoff game.  Offensively, Brandon Weeden must focus on avoiding the pass rush.  Clay Matthews will try his best to make a few plays and create havoc for the Browns’ quarterback.  While some felt the Packers’ defense was not great last year, they were ranked in the top half of the league in every statistical category (in terms of yardage, points, and touchdowns allowed).

Aaron Rogers got a couple, new teammates to fill the running back position with Eddie Lacy of the University of Alabama and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA.  This is on the heels of an offense that was ranked 5th in points, 13th in total yards, 2nd in passing touchdowns, and surrendered the fewest interceptions in 2012.  Barkevious Mingo and the rushers must perform a difficult task of taking down Rogers – even his hurried throws have produced solid results.  This is what Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi envisioned when they took a pass rusher over a cornerback in the first round –opponents are capable of picking their spots when standing upright.  Even the best of the best can struggle against the Packers’ passing game.

Sunday, Oct. 27 at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  A great deal has changed from when the Browns last faced the Chiefs in 2012; a new coach, general manager, and quarterback are just a few of the modifications of the reigning worst team in the league.  Perhaps the Browns will take advantage of the regime that has had so much turnover where the Chiefs will not be on the same page.  Quarterback Alex Smith has had an up-and-down eight-year career –the Browns will attempt to catch him on a Sunday where he is less than stellar.  One thing is certain; the Chiefs’ roster will be nowhere nearly as talented as the 49ers ones of the last two campaigns.

The 2013 Draft was not a flashy one for the Browns’ opponent – they took a few offensive linemen (one being left tackle Eric Fisher), a linebacker, and a backup running back.  Their front office clearly believed they had many pieces in place and just needed a dependable guy behind center.  The third round selection – and Cleveland native – Travis Kelce looks to have a productive rookie season at tight end.  Jamaal Charles should be the Browns’ primary focus however; he proved he could still be a huge playmaker in their last meeting (opening the contest with an eighty yard touchdown rush).  If the front seven can limit the runner, I like the Browns’ chances in this contest.

The Chiefs’ defense was just as putrid as their offense was last year; they have invested in a few first-round defenders like Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, and Glenn Dorsey over the past few seasons – all of which have not lived up to their potential.  I envision the Browns being able to move the ball effectively, beginning with running back Trent Richardson.  Their secondary was upgraded with the acquisition of Sean Smith, but with just he and Eric Berry as solid defenders – the Browns should utilize their multiple targets in order to move the chains.

Recap:  This four-game stretch will be critical in determining the team’s overall success.  Three of the four contests are definitely winnable, and the Packers’ game is not a guaranteed loss.  Should the Browns do the unexpected and sweep the second quarter of the season – national attention will follow.  Realistically, the franchise will probably split this quarter of the 2013 schedule – possibly scoring an upset and losing a game they should not have.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2013 in NFL Season

 

2013 Regular Season Preview – Cleveland Browns – Part 1

Previewing Cleveland Browns 2013 Regular Season Schedule – (Part One)

Sunday, Sept. 8 vs. Miami Dolphins, 1:00 p.m. ETs

Breakdown:  A fair amount of storylines will surround the beginning of the 2013 regular season.  First centers around the signal callers for each squad – Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins and Brandon Weeden for the Cleveland Browns.  Each is entering his second year in the NFL; the visiting quarterback is following up on a season that included twelve touchdowns, thirteen interceptions, 3,294 yards, and a 58.3 completion percentage.  Meanwhile, Weeden put up fourteen touchdowns, seventeen interceptions, 3,385 yards, and completed 57.4 of his passes in 2012.  It’s easy to see that these two had very similar statistics – the guy who can elevate his game more during the offseason will likely give put his team in a better situation to win the opener.

Another similarity between the two franchises occurred during the April draft, as defenders Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo were both selected in the top ten.  There will, no doubt, be a comparison between the duo of pass rushers during the contest – perhaps one of the rookies can make a game-changing sack or turnover.

Finally, Browns’ fans will not forget the team’s opening day record since returning to the NFL in 1999.  It currently stands at 1 – 13, and has included defeats of all different magnitudes.  I hope coach Chud can explain (growing up a Browns’ fan and former assistant) the importance of the contest and how getting to 1 – 0 could be paramount for the franchise.  After owner Jimmy Haslam’s problems arose with his business (Pilot Flying J), securing an opening day win might deflect from the off-the-field distractions.

Sunday, Sept. 15 at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  After opening up on the road, the defending Super Bowl Champions return home to face the Browns.  They will be coming off of a ten-day layoff as well, as the Ravens start the season on a Thursday night.  Since this format began in 2004 (with a single primetime game to start the season), the champs won all eight contests before the Giants dropped their first game to the Cowboys last season.  Granted, the game will not be the season opener, but there will be a great deal of emotion within the stadium.  This includes the handing out of Super Bowl rings for the members of the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

One of those athletes is veteran outside linebacker Paul Kruger – who agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns in March.  The spotlight will definitely be on the player before and during the contest; I anticipate he will (more than likely) play well but will not dominate around the line of scrimmage.

The Baltimore Ravens (and Joe Flacco, specifically) have been a thorn in the side of the Browns over the past few seasons.  Since 2008, the opposing signal caller’s rookie campaign, the home team has never lost a head-to-head matchup.  Both contests last season were very close (23 – 16 at M&T Bank Stadium and 25 – 15 at Cleveland Browns Stadium) in 2012, but the Browns were unable to score the upset.  Hopefully 2013 is a new season, a new mentality, and the beginning of a new winning streak against the “old” Cleveland Browns.

Sunday, Sept. 22 at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  Beginning in 1982, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has been the home to the Minnesota Vikings.  However, 2013 will be the last campaign where this will be true – demolition will begin next February and the team will have a new home going forward.  Following a pair of intra-division contests at Detroit and Chicago, this will be the Vikings’ home opener.  Once again the Browns will face a tough task of going on the road against a playoff team from a year ago.  However, as fans can recall, the NFL goes through many changes each year – rosters can improve or become worsened, and the same goes for individuals within the organization.

After a 2011 season that ended with a torn ACL and MCL, Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson lead the league with 1,898 rushing yards the following year.  No one anticipated him to garner the MVP award while carrying his team to the playoffs, let alone have a productive season.  That being said, he will be even healthier in September and continue to be the franchise’s focal point of their offense.  In the offseason, the Browns loaded up in their front seven (including a few athletes who can rush the quarterback effectively).  However, while this is extremely important, if they cannot slow down the rusher, they could have a long afternoon.

There is no clear edge at quarterback in this contest, as third-year pro Christian Ponder has not had a great career up to this point.  He totaled fewer passing yards than Weeden (2,935), and had eighteen touchdowns and twelve interceptions – while completing 62.1 percent of his passes.  Many believe that the former Florida State star cannot handle pressure well – defensive coordinator Ray Horton must find a way to force mistakes and give Weeden and offense more opportunities to score.  Keeping Peterson off the field would also be a nice strategy for the Browns as well.

Sunday, Sept. 29 vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. ET

Breakdown:  In 2012, the Cleveland Browns broke their two-year drought against their AFC North foes; they did it against the Bengals at home.  At (the newly named) First Energy Stadium, if the Browns can play how they did in the second half against their in state rival a year ago, they can finish the first quarter of the season with a victory.  After scoring twenty-seven and twenty-four points (along with 439 and 328 total yards) against a tough Bengals defense last season – I can see a jump in their totals this season for three main reasons.

The acquisitions of Davone Bess and David Nelson give the Browns’ offense two additional receiving targets that were not there in 2012.  Additionally, Dion Lewis (whom the team recently traded for) may not get a ton of carries at running back, but his returning ability – coupled with Travis Benjamin’s – should improve upon an area of the team that was dominated by Josh Cribbs for eight seasons.  Also, after suffering growing pains in their rookie seasons, I anticipate Trent Richardson (who was not completely healthy last season), Josh Gordon, and Brandon Weeden to improve upon their output from a season ago.  A large portion of this growth can be attributed to the new coaching staff.

I have confidence that coach Chud and offensive coordinator Norv Turner can adapt their playbooks to the personnel on the team, this is something that has not been done by previous regimes.  This includes more rushing attempts for Richardson (not relying primarily on the pass), taking more shots downfield (which has been Josh Gordon’s forte), and getting many athletes involved.  I understand that the offense will not resemble that of the 2007 New England Patriots (most points scored in a season in the NFL), but they should be much better than they have been as of late.  If that holds up, it will be up to the defense  – specifically the secondary – to slow down the tremendous targets of A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, and rookie Tyler Eifert.

Recap:  With the limited success of opening day and within the division, its hard to be bullish on the Browns during the first four games of 2013.  However, while this team still appears to be unpredictable – they can pretty much play with anyone.  One or two wins over this span is the likely favorite, but hopefully the team can surpass this and excite the fan base.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in NFL Season

 

Cleveland Browns – 2013 NFL Draft and Free Agent Breakdown

Final Breakdown of the 2013 Draft (and Free Agency) – Cleveland Browns

Following last year’s draft where the team held thirteen picks going into the first day, the Browns only selected five members to their roster in 2013.  These included Barkevious Mingo (Defensive End/Outside Linebacker from LSU), Leon McFadden (Cornerback from San Diego State University), Jamoris Slaughter (Safety from Notre Dame), Armonty Bryant (Defensive End/Outside Linebacker from East Central Oklahoma University), and Garrett Gilkey (Offensive Tackle from Chadron State University).

Analysis:  Looking at the selections, and many pundits feel the team has (at most) two opening day starters for the 2013 season.  (This has been a focal point of why many felt the Browns had a poor draft – I will reserve judgment until the season plays out though).  However, Mingo may be behind Paul Kruger and either Jabaal Sheard or Quentin Groves on the depth chart at outside linebacker.  It will be interesting to see how the rookie develops in the coming months; I believe he will not start immediately unless he consistently “wows” the coaching staff this spring and summer.  Likewise, McFadden will be given an opportunity to compete with Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi, Chris Owens, and Kevin Barnes.  Hopefully, one from this list can hold down the second cornerback position, while a dependable nickel cornerback emerges.

After releasing incumbent Usama Young, the Browns entered the offseason looking to fill the free safety position.  In the 2012 season, rookie Tashaun Gipson and second-year veteran Eric Hagg also filled that role; both of who played decently but were inconsistent at times.  They will now work with Jamoris Slaughter opposite T.J. Ward.  The rookie is coming of an Achilles injury (a major factor in him being drafted in the sixth round) however – it is unknown whether he will be able to compete at the level the team is expecting.

Both seventh round selections (Bryant and Gilkey) are currently perceived as projects and will not be expected to play right away.  However, both Division II athletes might be a part of special teams; provided they make the active roster.  Both are large athletes, each at six-feet six-six inches tall and over 310 pounds.  The NFL is a new level of competition that neither has ever seen though – they must adapt quickly if they want to be on the field during Sundays in the fall.

Additionally, the team acquired eighteen players to mini camp who went undrafted:

Jamaine Cook, Running Back from Youngstown State University

Travis Tannahill, Tight End from Kansas State University

Dave Kruger, Defensive Tackle from the University of Utah

Ricky Tunstall, Defensive Back from the University of Delaware

Aaron Adams, Offensive Tackle from Eastern Kentucky University

Josh Aubrey, Defensive Back from Stephen F. Austin University

Braxston Cave, Center from University of Notre Dame

Perez Ashford, Wide Receiver from Northern Illinois University

Dominique Croom, Wide Receiver from Central Arkansas University

Cordell Roberson, Wide Receiver from Stephen F. Austin University

Chris Faulk, Offensive Line from LSU

Mike Edwards, Wide Receiver from UTEP

Garrett Hoskins, Tight End from Eastern Michigan University

Martin Wallace, Offensive Tackle from Temple University

Justin Staples, Defensive End from University of Illinois

Paipai Falemalu, Defensive End from the University of Hawaii

Caylin Hauptmann, Offensive Line from FIU

Keenan Davis, Wide Receiver from University of Iowa

Analysis:  It’s extremely difficult to determine how many, let alone which, of the undrafted free agents make the roster in 2013.  Typically it is just a few and is dependent upon team needs (i.e. a position lacking depth).  Will Paul Kruger’s brother have a leg up on other defensive linemen, due to his bloodline?  Can either of the tight ends become a complement to Jordan Cameron?  Are the Browns deep enough at Wide Receiver, where they forego signing an undrafted athlete?  If a few of these guys are willing to assume a lesser role or try a new position, their chances of sticking around should increase greatly.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Free Agency, NFL Draft