Monthly Archives: May 2014

Memo to Browns Fans: Embrace Manziel-Mania

Memo to Browns Fans: Embrace Manziel-Mania

Just Let the Media Hype Johnny Football

For whatever reason, Johnny Manziel cannot do anything under the radar.  Unlike his counterparts in Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater – a posse, cameras, and excitement seem to follow the athlete on a regular basis.

The latest “episode” regarding Manziel centered around the quarterback’s weekend in Las Vegas.  There he spent time with superstar Rob Gronkowski, and more importantly, a few bottles of champagne and bikini-clad co-eds.  All of which is rather acceptable for a twenty-one year-old (provided he is not partaking in illegal activities), but of course the national and local media is beating this story to death.

Ever since the signal caller from Texas A&M was chosen twenty-second overall, he has been scrutinized by talking heads across multiple media.  Additionally, many want to cover his actions on the field (and were upset when they were denied access to non-contact rookie minicamp – let that sink in).  As far as off-the-field activities are concerned, if Manziel blows his nose – a reporter with a microphone will be there to dissect it.

As a result, I have a clear message to those who support the orange and brown; just accept that everything this kid does will be overanalyzed and talked about ad nauseam.  While some can perceive this as a negative (taking away from the overall team), the Cleveland Browns are garnering national attention in a positive way – it’s been awhile since that’s been the case.  So long as he is not putting himself in real danger (there are multiple examples – vehicular accidents, weapon charges, or domestic incidents are a few) – I have no problem with a kid having a little fun before his rookie season begins.

The other aspect is that Manziel curbs this a bit when the season commences.  For all of his actions, he has shown passion and desire for football.  I believe the athlete will understand how to behave once he has to routinely perform on national television.  The quarterback knows that although Gronkowski, Matt Stafford, and Mark Sanchez like to let loose in the spring and summer; they are just another employee come autumn.

Therefore Browns fans, just enjoy the ride.  The Mothership, Fox Sports, and CBS are a few networks who choose to debate the Vegas Memorial Day Weekend trip by Johnny Football.  Personally, I’m glad the Browns are being mentioned – if he can be a solid quarterback not only will Browns’ fans look the other way regarding his antics, they will be excited to embrace him.  He is the top selling rookie jersey and shirts with his likeness are going like hotcakes.  Simply put, there’s no getting around the attention, and Cleveland fans finally have a unique, exciting individual to root for.  Of course it all will come down to Sundays in the fall – but perhaps his personality can separate himself from his twenty predecessors.

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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Players


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An Early Glimpse at Justin Gilbert

An Early Glimpse at Justin Gilbert

Player Profile:  Justin Gilbert

In case many have forgotten, the Cleveland Browns chose two athletes in the NFL Draft this year.  Unmistakably, Johnny Manziel was the second guy selected of the two – the first athlete to come off the board for the orange and brown was Justin Gilbert.  Despite being a top ten selection, the spotlight could not be any further off the rookie.

College:  The cornerback hailed from Oklahoma State University, and garnered some accolades during that time frame. This includes being a member on the second-team all-Big 12 unit in 2012 and winning a first-team all-Big 12 award in 2013. Gilbert was also an All-American in 2013; something that vaulted his draft stock this winter.  As the feats continued, the athlete held a conference record with six kickoff return touchdowns.   He has shown durability, athleticism, and an ability to dominate on the football field – but may not stand out in the NFL (at least immediately).

Post Draft:  The day after the Browns took Gilbert, he and Manziel answered questions from the Cleveland media.  A majority of those went to the quarterback, and the defender admitted he was content with all the “pressure being taken off of him”.  For the most part, it a glimpse of things to come – quarterback is the glamor position in the NFL and it’s no surprise that the guy taken at that spot for Cleveland tends to snatch headlines.  When given an opportunity to speak, Gilbert was rather soft-spoken and reserved.  Many should not be worried by this; as he could become a D’Qwell Jackson or Troy
Polumalu-type where his actions will speak for him; hopefully he can play like the latter.

Expectations:  The former Oklahoma State star has another thing going for him; Gilbert will not be expected to be as great, early on, as the way guys typically drafted at the eighth spot are.  Alongside the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, the rookie will be in good company when the Browns’ defense takes the field.  Having said that, many (fans and media alike) should anticipate a fair amount of passes to come his way in 2014.  Will he succumb to the NFL speed can give up long touchdowns?  Can coach Pettine provide ample help “over the top”, while the front seven pressures opponents?  All of that remains to be seen, but the rookie will not be expected to be Deion Sanders in the 2014 huddle.

Analysis:  Justin Gilbert has the talent to be a day-one starting cornerback in the NFL.  He has all of the tangible qualities that can make him successful.  I hope Ray Farmer did his homework this offseason and got a fair gauge regarding the athlete’s personality and type of passion he carries on and off the football field.  Personally, I would not be surprised if there are early growing pains with the cornerback.  But the faster he can pick up the pro game and remain on the outside, putting Buster Skrine, Pierre Desir, and Leon McFadden in reduced roles – the better the defense will be.

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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Players


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An early review of the Cleveland Browns’ Draft

An early review of the Cleveland Browns’ Draft

Initial Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Draft:  The Cleveland Browns

It was an up-and-down weekend for the Cleveland Browns franchise (and that’s a huge understatement).  There were trades, draft picks, and the national spotlight given from the media.  Let’s take a look at at what occurred between Thursday and Saturday of last week.

The first two selections:

After a huge trade from the fourth selection, Ray farmer dropped down five spots to ninth overall.  In doing so, the shrewd move allowed his team two additional picks in 2015 – a first rounder and a fourth rounder.  That move alone should merit praise, as the Bills now surrender two picks – their recent history suggest these will be early selections.  The Browns then traded up to the eighth spot (forgoing a fifth rounder) and nabbed cornerback Justin Gilbert.  Many scouts and pundits felt he was the best available athlete at his position.

The twenty-sixth draft position was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third-round choice.  Now having the twenty-second pick, the general manager opted for the most polarizing figure in the draft – Johnny Manziel.  While he was not my favorite signal caller of the draft, the Browns got great value for him and may have gotten a steal.  The Browns made several superb decisions and hit a home run during the first round of the draft.

Josh Gordon and the second day:

Just before the second day of the draft began, news broke out that Josh Gordon failed another drug test and will likely be suspended for the entire 2014 season.  The deflating news really took away the positive momentum the franchise built the day before.  Without the services of the top offensive weapon, many felt the Browns would select another athlete at the receiver position.

However, the front office opted to choose Joel Bitonio (an offensive lineman), Christian Kirksey (a linebacker), and Terrance West (a running back).  The latter was following a trade, where the Browns gave up their additional fourth and sixth round selections.  I believe the first two players can be immediate starters with this team, while West can rotate with Ben Tate to carry the load.  I was a bit surprised the Browns passed up talents like Marquise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Jordan Matthews – all could have been solid wide outs for this team.  However, Ray Farmer felt the guys he chose were better overall players – so I can not blame him for that.

The final day

Only two picks remained for the Cleveland Browns on the final day of the draft.  In the fourth round, the team selected Pierre Desir – a cornerback from Lindenwood.  He will likely start on special teams but could possibly start (in nickel packages) down the road.  After no picks in the fifth and sixth rounds, the Browns traded away their seventh round pick to the Ravens for a future sixth rounder.  All in all, they went from ten picks to just six (with three additional choices in 2015).  I still wished they had nabbed a receiver, but I will have to have faith in the quarterback getting the most from his targets.

Conclusion:  I really liked what the Browns’ general manager did with his first draft.  Despite omitting a now obvious weakness, the man in charge made this team better in many aspects.  Maybe a Kenny Shaw (from Florida State), Chandler Jones (San Jose State), or Willie Snead (Ball State) can make the team and produce as a replacement for Josh Gordon.  Initially, I would rate this as a very good draft (or about an 8/10) – which is obviously subject to change.

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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in NFL Draft, Players


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What will be done at #26?

What will be done at #26?

Which guy will be chosen by Cleveland?  Guessing the team’s second choice

Predicting the later first-round draft pick is even more difficult than the first one for a few reasons.  Many franchises could make intriguing moves, including trading up or down and securing athletes not projected to be taken that early in the draft.  However, I am still going to attempt to get it right – regarding what Ray Farmer will do later on during May eighth.

Under this assumption, the Browns have taken Sammy Watkins with their fourth overall selection (which is still debatable).  Taking that into consideration, the Browns will clearly not opt to select a pair of wide outs in the first round.  That eliminates Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Marquise Lee, and Mike Evans from the conversation.  Fortunately, there are ample tremendous athletes who would still be available with the twenty-sixth selection.

I feel the Browns can go one of three ways with the second first-round choice.  The first is an athletic cornerback to pair alongside Joe Haden and become a starter possibly during the opener (versus the Steelers).  Three options are Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech, Jason Verrett of TCU, and Bradley Roby from Ohio State.  Any of these three would be wise options for the franchise who need another guy to cover top NFL wideouts.

The next avenue would be to acquire the franchise quarterback.  Picking later in the round likely excludes Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles as potential options.  Should Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr still be on the board, I would anticipate the front office giving both careful consideration.  The Browns could still wait on their signal caller and go for an impactful defender in the first round, though.

C.J. Mosley, out of Alabama, is an inside linebacker who would be paired with Karlos Dansby and start immediately.  With the roster turnover from last season, it would be a smart decision to load up at this part of the roster.  However, athletes like Christian Jones and Chris Borland might make it difficult to choose a linebacker that early.

Assuming my fourth pick is correct, and the above guys are all available, the Browns ought to sprint to turn in their card for Bridgewater.  It’s no secret he is my favorite quarterback in the 2014 draft class and would be a tremendous value at this spot.  There’s even a chance the Browns would trade up (by a few selections) to get him – provided he is there.

Conclusion:  In a challenging task to guess at, securing the top quarterback (in my opinion) would be a home run for the Cleveland Browns.  Should that not be the case, I anticipate the franchise choosing a cornerback at number twenty-six.  They would likely get the third-ranked guy at his position (after Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert) – not a bad consolation prize.

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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in NFL Draft, Players


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