Monthly Archives: October 2014

Lookin’ Ahead – Browns vs. Bucs – Game #8

Lookin’ Ahead – Browns vs. Bucs – Game #8

Browns vs. Buccaneers – A Preview of Game #8

The Browns have another home contest after a sloppy victory over the winless Raiders. Will they have a letdown, similar to the Ravens defeat after the win over the Saints? Hopefully that is not the case – especially because many feel this week’s opponent is far from exceptional. All that said, the Browns still have to go out there and make plays. Let’s delve further into this winnable contest.

Offense: It has not been pretty for parts of the season, but Brian Hoyer is getting it done. He is leading this offense to a 4 – 3 record with a good shot of a long winning streak. The quarterback feeds off the energy at First Energy Stadium, and why shouldn’t this continue. The signal caller should find the end zone on at least two occasions this Sunday and put his team in spots where they can succeed. If he can eliminate the mental mistakes again, I like the home team’s chances in winning this contest.

I hope the players and coaches study last week’s game film over and over. They must make a joint effort in fixing their running attack. Not only will it make third downs more manageable, play-action passes open up much easier with a noticable threat of a run. How are carries going to be divvied up this week? Once again, I could not care less – provided the Browns’ backs perform well. My favorite tandem is Tate getting carries early to soften up the defense, while Crowell breezes by a tired bunch. None of that can happen without early success – that will be the key.

Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel have displayed abilities to haul in long passes, as well as turning hitches into lengthy gainers. Jordan Cameron will likely miss this contest with a concussion, so Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge will have a shot to make their mark. Will Travis Benjamin be employed more at wide out in this contest? I can see that occurring, as he gives this offense great speed outside. Miles Austin is left as the possession receiver; I want to see him secure a few huge receptions (similar to the ones last week).

Defense: The injury brigade continues for the defensive line; John Hughes is the latest guy who will miss significant time. Ahtyba Rubin, Desmond Bryant, and Billy Winn must hold down the fort on Sunday. Additionally, they may need an under-the-radar guy or two to fill in and make critical stops (Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Sione Fua come to mind). They are finally getting better as a unit – but all the injuries are stunting their development. Trying to take down Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey will not be an easy task; early stops in the first quarter might dictate the opposing play calls later on.

I have been rather content with the solid play by veteran Paul Kruger. The linebacker surpassed his sack total from last year already, and has been excellent in setting the edge against running plays. Barkevious Mingo has been disappointing to this point, but perhaps his fumble recovery last week will spark a run of improved play. Karlos Dansby continues to show veteran leadership, while Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey have been getting better over the past few weeks. Now, the guys on the inside need to make a play that stands out in this contest – be it a pick-six, fumble recovery, or huge sack.

In the continued theme of improvement, the secondary has been standing out in various ways. Tashaun Gipson is an interception machine, while Donte Whitner’s forceful tackles have been impactful for this defense. Will Buster Skrine and Justin Gilbert continue on their way to becoming viable NFL cornerbacks? This week should be one where they can lock down targets like Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Louis Murphy. Bottom line is they can and should intercept Mike Glennon and refrain from allowing long passing plays.

Special Teams: Who will be returning punts for the Cleveland Browns? I wouldn’t mind seeing what Justin Gilbert, Taylor Gabriel, or even Johnson Bademosi could do back there. Jim Leonhard should be used sparingly, but there has been a need to see him full-time. All other units have been fine, and I am pulling for that to continue on Sunday.

Coaching: Offensively, the Browns must use the run to set up the pass. If it’s not effective early, I still want them to go back to it for moderate stretches of the game. Defensively, they must find a way to get heat on Glennon and disrupt the pocket. When they were finally able to do that last week, Derek Carr either got sacked or turned over the football. It appears for a recipe for success.

Prediction (My Record: 5 – 2): I foresee a similar type of game against the Buccaneers (as last week). It will look ugly early, and then the Browns finally pull away late. The home team earns a 23 – 16 win and heads into a short week for a huge divisional contest.

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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in NFL Season


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Still a Good Win Over the Raiders

Still a Good Win Over the Raiders

I’ll Take a Win No Matter What

It was not pretty for most of the contest, but the Browns did their job in the second half en route to a 23 – 13 win over the Raiders. The home squad forced three turnovers while not committing any – a true recipe for success. I am glad they won the contest, but the Browns are far from a dominant team.

Offense: Brian Hoyer’s struggles continued but at least he eliminated the same kind of turnovers from a week ago. The quarterback completed nineteen of twenty-eight passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. Despite missing a few wide-open targets, he avoided a silly mistake. I look for him to improve drastically in the coming week but time will only tell for the former Michigan State signal caller. I thought Johnny Manziel would get a nod in this contest. That wasn’t the case, but fans should expect it soon – even if Hoyer continues to play well.

The lack of a running attack is beyond alarming. Thirty-nine yards on the ground is not going to win many NFL games, but the Browns were able to do it. I do not care who is caring the football (Tate, West, or Crowell), but they must be efficient in moving it forward. I understand the offensive line is going through some changes, but the rushers have got to improve going forward – and fast.

Two of the smaller wide outs were large impacts for the Browns on Sunday. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel combined for nine catches, 148 yards, and a touchdown. I like their ability to secure grabs but they must both show consistency. Another concern I have is the durability of Jordan Cameron. The tight end finished with three grabs for forty yards, but left the contest with yet another concussion. If he keeps getting hurt, the offense will not be able to rely on his duties on a weekly basis. The rest of the season is critical for the tight end to prove he is a valuable asset in the NFL.

I hope the lack of a running attack by the Browns was due to the offensive line not being as cohesive as they should be. Nick McDonald got his first start with this group, but the team could not carry the football well. I’m looking forward to the interior to gel quickly, as they have some critical contests in the next few weeks. Struggling on one or two yards to gain is rather upsetting, and the Browns must get past this.

Defense: Well it’s an improvement; the defensive line finally held a team under 100 yards on the ground. Perhaps it was the return of Ahtyba Rubin in the middle, or the solid play of John Hughes (who had four stops). Although Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden’s better days in the NFL are likely behind them, it was refreshing to see them not scurry down the field with ease.

For the first time all season long, Barkevious Mingo finally made an impactful play. The outside linebacker recovered an important fumble – setting up the Browns’ second touchdown. However, Paul Kruger was the best man on the outside; he tallied five tackles and all three sacks for the home team. All three interior linebackers played relatively well. Karlos Dansby finished with eight tackles, while Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson combined for nine stops and a pass defended. This was a pleasant site to see, and I believe the catalyst for the defense finally turning the corner.

Joe Haden and Donte Whitner were the two stars for the secondary. Not only were they the team’s two leaders in tackles, they combined for the most important play of the game. Whitner forced a key fumble in the third quarter, while Haden grabbed it and ran down the field (setting up the Browns’ first touchdown). Without that execution, this outcome could have been much different. Another game, another interception for Tashaun Gipson; the safety continues to impress this season. I thought Justin Gilbert improved as well, the rookie has a fair amount of room for growth but Sunday was a positive sign.

Special Teams: I thought Travis Benjamin got his swagger back after a nice first punt return of over ten yards. However, he fumbled the ball on the next one and was replaced by veteran Jim Leonhard. Chris Tabor has some more decisions to make this week with his return personnel. I was glad to see Billy Cundiff make a fifty-two yard field goal; his confidence should be building.

Coaching: Leading 6 – 0, coach Pettine finally made the smart move and went for the field goal instead of going for a touchdown on fourth down. The Browns took a 9 – 0 lead and never looked back. I believe he learned from his earlier mistakes and can rely on his defense to win close contests going forward. It was a job well done on Sunday, now the Browns need to keep it up next week.

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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in NFL Season


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Sneakin’ an Early Peek – Raiders @ Browns

Sneakin’ an Early Peek – Raiders @ Browns

Previewing Game #7 – Raiders @ Browns

What better way for the Browns to get over last week’s dismal performance?  The answer is to go out there and play exceptionally against the Oakland Raiders.  They have their only late afternoon
contest of the season, so hopefully the team’s body clocks are not out of synch.  Win or lose, however, that will not be an acceptable excuse for the fan base.  They expect the Browns to get back on track and dominate the rookie-led franchise with an interim coach.  Let’s look deeper into this matchup.

Offense:  It was one of those days last week in Jacksonville.  Nothing went right for the Cleveland offense and most of the issues were due to the ineptitude of Brian Hoyer.  Will this type of output continue the rest of the 2014 campaign?  That is unlikely, and he should be completing the same types of throws he was just two weeks earlier against the Steelers.  A fumble and an interception were definitely out of character, but Hoyer will succeed in protecting the ball in this contest.  I also expect to see him to complete two touchdown passes, which isn’t much, but it positive momentum for the veteran.

Where does the running game go from here?  Will they continue go with three runners, the way they did last week (which was unsuccessful)?  I foresee a steady dose of Ben Tate primarily between the tackles, and several outside runs for Isaiah Crowell.  That has been the formula for proven efficiency and yardage for this offense.  Even if they have issues running early, I want to see them sticking to the run.  The only way play action passing can work is with the threat of a run; that was non-existent last week and thus they had troubles passing as well.

Andrew Hawkins came back with a fury of a game last week, but it was all for naught.  I loved seeing him record over 100 yards receiving, including a haul of sixty-five yards.  Hopefully he does it again as a part of a victory – he continues to show he can make all sorts of different plays.  Is Jordan Cameron’s injured shoulder still lingering?  Were the Jaguars scheming to take him out of the Browns’ game plan?  Whatever the reason, the tight end is not getting involved in contests.  Like Hawkins’ last outing, I would enjoy seeing an outburst of yards and scores by the free agent to-be this offseason.

Alex Mack is not walking through that door folks (at least as a healthy player).  The offensive line was horrendous last matchup, and Paul McQuistan and John Greco underwhelmed in their first full game starting in new positions.  It might be time to see whether Nick McDonald is ready to play center and slide Greco back to guard; the unit cannot keep getting stuffed up the middle.  My eyes will be focused on this group during the first offensive drive – it may be telling to see whether they can fuel a solid win or if it’s going to be another long day.

Defense:  Despite all the injuries, there is zero excuse (that is reasonable) to explain the Browns’ run defense.  They are still very porous and are letting opponents (both larger and smaller backs)
breeze through open holes.  Will Ahtyba Rubin and/or Billy Winn finally get back on the field this week?  I desperately hope so, as those veterans might be the difference between respectable and despicable.  Garnering an early lead will limit opposing running attempts as well, as Tony Sparano would be forced to utilize the pass to try to catch up.

The three outside linebackers were nowhere to be found – Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Jabaal Sheard had a combined six stops and zero impactful plays.  The defense can get by if other athletes step up in their absence, but having little to no outside pressure has been
killing the Browns.  On the flip side, Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby tallied fifteen tackles, two sacks, and a pair of hits on Blake Bortles.  This week, the coaching staff must figure out a way to have the outside linebackers play more like the guys on the inside.  The linebackers have the potential to become a dominant unit, but it all has to come together (which is very easy to be said).

Right place, right time continues to be the motto for Tashaun Gipson. I would not be surprised to see him collect another interception this contest.  Buster Skrine has been inconsistent most of this year but I have confidence he can be solid against a James Jones or Denarius Moore.  Will Joe Haden be invisible once again?  Teams might think twice to pick on him, as the veteran is recovering well from his hip injury.  I hope K’Waun Williams returns this week as his play had added another dimension to this secondary.  The bottom line is, they must force rookie Derek Carr into mistakes – and more importantly capitalize on those with touchdowns.

Special Teams:  That’s now two returners who have mishandled punts for the Browns.  Will they use Jim Leonhard more in this role?  Should they go back to Travis Benjamin?  Chris Tabor’s only huge issue is this part of the game, but it is glaring.  The team is not good enough to overcome large mistakes like the one that occurred last week.

Coaching:  It seems like Mike Pettine has a very aggressive coaching style, some times to his detriment.  I’m always for attempting touchdowns over field goals but sometimes he has to read the situation better.  He’s got to get some of these tough decisions right – I know he has all the confidence in the world in this offense, but if they don’t execute it comes back to Pettine.

Prediction (My Record: 4-2):  Last week’s game was garbage, so let’s toss it out and forget about it.  I think the Browns play the way they should have in Jacksonville and win a game by a decent margin at home. They finish out ahead of the visitors by the score of 24 – 16.

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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in NFL Season


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Oh no…we suck again…

Oh no…we suck again…

Review of Jags vs. Browns – Game #6

What a horrendous performance all-around by the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.   Poor offense, bad defense, and poor special teams consisted of the visiting team – they were far from dominant. My faith in the Browns fell way below than they should be, but that’s what happens when you lose to a 0-6 club.

Offense: After all of the contract talk with veteran Brian Hoyer, the quarterback laid a huge egg on Sunday. Sixteen of forty-one tosses is simply not going to cut it in the NFL. Couple that with the fact that Hoyer did not find the end zone but was intercepted and it was an overall miserable performance. I am extremely disappointed in his performance – hopefully he can pick it back up next week.

Who played well for the Cleveland Browns running attack? The answer is nobody, and I have not been this disappointed in the unit in some time. It did not matter if it was Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell, or Terrance West running the football – none could move it forward. I hope this was a one-week thing and a blip on the radar, but we shall see.

Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin were the only two consistent performers at the wide out positions. Each made a few nice grabs throughout the contest, but it was not good enough for the Cleveland Browns to be in to this contest. Jordan Cameron only secured one pass for five yards – this cannot happen if the Browns want to win games in the NFL.

The absence of Alex Mack is prevalent – the Browns’ offensive line struggled mightily on Sunday. They could not get a push upfront and the coaching staff was scared to run the ball up the middle on multiple occasions. I had gotten extremely worried with this group; I do not believe they will improve greatly any time soon.

Defense: Is Denard Robinson the next Barry Sanders? The Browns made it out that way, and I was extremely disappointed in their attempt to stop the run. Even with all their injuries, it is unacceptable to allow a college quarterback to get 127 yards on the ground. No one on the front three stood out for the Cleveland Browns, again I feel this will be the team’s downfall going forward.

Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby are the only two guys who guys who stood up for the Cleveland Browns’ linebackers. They combined for fifteen tackles, a pair of sacks, and two hits on the quarterbacks. I wish other guys would have stepped up, but a missed tackle by Paul Kruger here and a whiff by Barkevious Mingo there and the Browns’ linebackers’ corps confuses (and stymies) me.

It didn’t really seem to matter who was playing in the Browns’ secondary; they did not play well enough and surrendered a few passes during this contest. Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert were expected to play exceptionally in the secondary – but they did not, however that’s not why the team lost. Hopefully the unit can pick it up going forward, but who really knows.

Special Teams: The muff of the punt by Jordan Poyer really hurt the team. It’s sad to say but some things never change. The Browns are shooting themselves in the foot during special teams and can ill-afford to do that again. Who knows what’s going to happen going forward, but turnovers are unacceptable by this unit.

Coaching: The fourth down attempt on the road (during the second quarter) would have been great if it was successful. However it was not and coach Pettine will and should be second-guessed. The coaching decisions were less than stellar, but the execution of the plays was just as bad. I am sad to break down this game, but it was am embarrassing loss and I’m ready to move forward.

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Posted by on October 19, 2014 in NFL Season


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Breaking it Down – Browns @ Jaguars – Game #6

Breaking it Down – Browns @ Jaguars – Game #6

Browns @ Jaguars – Game #6 Preview

Heading down to Florida, the Browns have their third shot to put a complete game together on the road. They have failed in their first two attempts so far, but are still 1 – 1 away from First Energy Stadium. Nothing surprises me in this league, but this could be the first time in awhile where the Browns can finally flex their muscles. Let’s lean in to see the matchup between the two squads.

Offense:  Brian Hoyer will complete more than eight passes in this contest – that is for sure. Every week is something new; the veteran is winning contests in many different ways. I anticipate both shorter and longer tosses both to wide outs and tight ends. That being said, one should anticipate the quarterback to spread it around routinely to guys like Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins. I want to see at least two passing scores by Hoyer, and a smart game plan once again.

It’s becoming a question less of how many yards the Browns will get on the ground, and more of who will do it. Ben Tate appears to be the leader of the group and gets the tough yardage – especially in the red zone. However, Isaiah Crowell covers ground very easily (and recklessly) and warrants touches as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing Terrance West back in the fold, provided he is active. He appears to be the best pass catcher of the group – and will make it even harder on the Jaguars’ defense.

Who will step up in this contest? Is Jordan Cameron the guy once again, or should Andrew Hawkins haul in several grabs for a handful of yards. The Browns’ offense has been magical in their passing game, no matter who is securing the football. Brian Hoyer shares his tosses with multiple guys and I enjoy seeing that, because it will make it that more challenging on the opposing secondary.

Next man up, it’s time to go for John Greco and Paul McQuistan. Both played well in their new roles last week, but will that continue the rest of the season? Will Nick McDonald be groomed to be the next center for this team? It’s tough to say, but if the Browns can garner a large lead – look for the team to see if they can put the youngster in the middle of the line while keeping McQuistan available as a reserve guard.

Defense: More shuffling will continue for the Browns’ defensive front. They desperately need Ahtyba Rubin to return to this contest as they have been decimated by injuries to Armonty Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Billy Winn already. This group should stop the opposing rushing attack – their leading runner last week was Bortles with thirty-eight yards. Perhaps a young athlete can come out of nowhere and make some big plays for the Browns. It would be a welcomed and comforting sight for both fans and coaches.

I am not sure what to think about the outside linebackers for this team. Barkevious Mingo has been very underwhelming, while Paul Kruger is playing through tremendous pain. Can Jabaal Sheard and Eric Martin be the two staples on the edge? I’d like to see depth at this spot, as well as production. The Browns must find a way to utilize Mingo better. On the inside, Karlos Dansby has been rather consistent and been solid in pass coverage, while it looks like Chris Kirksey is starting to figure out the NFL. If the rookie can excel on the inside, I really like the chances that this defense will be one of the better ones in the league.

I hope Joe Haden’s hip gets better before this game begins. He could have been picked on nearly every play last week. The Jaguars have looked at Cecil Shorts as their main pass catcher; the veteran beat Haden last year for the winning score, now you have to believe the Browns’ cornerback will have revenge on his mind. Buster Skrine and K’Waun Williams (if he is healthy) should hold their own with rookies Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee. All I ask from the safeties is to do their jobs; Donte Whitner to be the enforcer against the run and Tashaun Gipson to collect an interception in pass coverage.

Special Teams: The Browns put it all together last week in the special teams; I foresee status quo by these guys. I hope Spencer Lanning only comes onto the fields as a holder, but that’s not probably realistic. Forcing turnovers and winning the field position has been huge by the Browns in the past two weeks – why shouldn’t this continue?

Coaching: There’s not a whole lot you could criticize about the coaching staff from last week’s contest. Shanahan put the offense in the best spot to win, while Pettine and O’Neil made sure the defense did not give up a touchdown (when it mattered). I want to see the coaches continue down this road; attacking the opposition on both sides of the ball.

Prediction (My Record: 4 – 1): I look for this to be a close contest early, only for the Browns to finally pull away in the second half. The Browns leave Jacksonville with a 31 – 21 win and come home after a hard fought victory.

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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in NFL Season


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How Sweet it is…Another Glorious Win!

How Sweet it is…Another Glorious Win!

Game #5 – Steelers @ Browns Review

Phew, I definitely did not see that victory coming – but I am very grateful for it. The Browns fell behind 3 – 0, scored a touchdown, and never looked back. There are no arguments that should occur by the fans – with the exception of a few injuries (but those obviously happen in the NFL). Let’s remember what that sweet victory tasted like…

Offense:  Only completing eight of seventeen attempts, and one would think Brian Hoyer had a poor day. Quite the opposite, actually, as the veteran passed for 218 yards and a touchdown – Hoyer did a tremendous job leading his unit. He did not turn the football over either, I am so glad to see his confidence keep on growing. The Steelers we going all out to stop the Browns’ running attack, but it did not hurt the quarterback’s play one bit.

I was a bit surprised to see Terrance West inactive for this contest, however Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate shouldered the load exceptionally. The duo combined for over 150 yards on the ground and finished with three touchdowns. The rushing attack continues to roll, and my faith in them builds every week. I’ll forgive Crowell’s fumble as it was in garbage time – but he’s got to be ready for those big hits down the road.

Jordan Cameron was the only consistent receiving option for the Browns. He hauled in three passes for 102 yards and a score. Veteran Brett Keisel caught him from behind, or it would have been a pair of touchdowns. Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel only had a reception each, but they were at least for twenty-four yards. Andrew Hawkins, disappointingly, did not have a catch in this contest. I expect him to rebound next week, but that was a disappointing effort today.

The offensive line had a gem of a game; even with the loss of Alex Mack. The center broke his leg, and the team huddled around the veteran and provided him with words of encouragement. John Greco filled in admirably at center – he will be relied upon for a while to be that anchor in the middle. I thought Paul McQuistan did a good job at guard, and have faith he will do a respectable job there going forward.

Defense: The revolving door at defensive line did not matter – the unit surrendered gave up 138 yards on the ground but kept the opponent from running into the end zone. Desmond Bryant and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen were two forces upfront that should be applauded. They combined for nine tackles and three hits on the quarterback. Armonty Bryant’s injury hurts a bit, but hopefully either he or Billy Winn can get back on the field next week and make some solid plays.

Barkevious Mingo is the only linebacker who continues to disappoint. He has not been impactful versus the run or pass so far – and Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are the better of the outside linebackers at this point. I want him to improve quickly, but I am worrying. Karlos Dansby made some great plays in coverage – he nearly had a pair of interceptions but I’ll take what he did at face value (which included eleven stops). Rookie Chris Kirksey emerged to finally have a good game this season. He finished with six tackles and had a pass defended.

All the credit goes to Joe Haden, who played in obvious pain all game long. He did not have a tremendous outing, but was good enough to prevent Antonio Brown from finding the end zone. I hope K’Waun Williams is ok from his concussion; he has a chance to be a stalwart in this secondary. On the other side, Buster Skrine also made some nice plays – including four passes defended. The secondary upped its game in this contest; I want to see more of this going forward.

Special Teams: Jordan Poyer is not a flashy returner, but he gets the job done. Overall, the special teams units did a fine job and I am glad they righted their wrongs (at least for now). Christian Yount appears to have gotten rid of his “yips” while long snapping. Assuming that is status quo, then special teams should be of little concern going forward.

Coaching: It was great coaching and great execution by the Browns. They were run-heavy and allowed Hoyer to make the Steelers pay via the pass. On the other side of the ball, the defense prevented the big play and made it very difficult on their opponent to move the ball. This was such a great a win, and a team-win nonetheless. I cannot wait to see them take the field again next week.

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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in NFL Season


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Envisioning the Big Game – Browns vs. Steelers

Envisioning the Big Game – Browns vs. Steelers

Looking Ahead to Game #5 – Steelers @ Browns

Who would have thought that this contest is a big one for the Cleveland Browns?  Well it sure is, and the team can make up a bit for the two earlier division losses.  Will a win give the Browns the inside track for the playoffs?  Certainly no, but they might continue to be relevant over the course of the 2014 season.  Let’s break down this matchup between the Browns and the Steelers…

Offense:  There, Brian Hoyer finally got that turnover out of his system.  All joking aside, I predict another flawless outing for the quarterback – in terms of protecting the football.  One thing that the signal caller is not getting enough credit for; is trusting all of his teammates and allowing them to make plays.  The first two guys who come to mind (from last week’s contest) are Jim Dray and Travis Benjamin.  The tight end is perceived to be an afterthought in this league, while the wide out has had a tough season so far and some wanted him off the team.  However, Hoyer found both for scores in Nashville – having a leader who finds the open guy (no matter who it is) is huge for the Browns.

Heavy on Ben Tate and light on the rookies appears to be a good formula for the Browns’ running attack.  The veteran eclipsed the 120-yard mark last week, while both rookies made the most of their opportunities.  It was refreshing to see Tate carry it a few times in a row, get a breather, see Crowell garner a six-yard scamper, and have Tate back for the next play.  I would still like to see this part of the roster be more active in the receiving game – perhaps the fifth game is where it begins.  Doing so would give defensive coordinators yet another thing to think about and it would provide another advantage for the Browns.

Can Taylor Gabriel become the number two wide out for Browns’ offense?  Were the last two contests aberrations?  I am eager to find out; the undrafted rookie has made some long receptions this year.  He’s no Josh Gordon but is filling one aspect the suspended
star possesses.  Andrew Hawkins took a step back last week (three receptions for twenty-seven yards), but I look for him to get back on track in this contest.  As far as predicting the off-the-radar guy (who impresses) this week, I feel that Gary Barnidge could secure a few touchdowns in the red zone.

The offensive line surrendered a sack early on against the Titans; they ratcheted up their play the rest of the way – keeping Hoyer clean on drop backs.  They paved wide-open running lanes as well, why shouldn’t this continue at home?  I love watching the offensive line play, and many only notice them when a guy is getting either knocked backwards or is easily getting beat by a defender.  This is a contest where the Browns must come out, flex their muscles upfront, and impose their will on the defensive front seven – it can be done.

Defense: It’s safe to say the defensive front faces a major challenge on Sunday. Le’Veon Bell made them look foolish in the season opener, and it was a sign for things to come for the guys up front for the Browns. I’m starting to lose faith that Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor (if he’s healthy), and Billy Winn can corral opposing rushers at all. These guys have been stellar for no more than two quarters of a contest. Sunday would be an excellent opportunity to see the defensive front shut down the opposing rushers.

Big Ben has feasted on Browns’ linebackers missing tackles, giving the quarterback more time to heave it downfield (that was on display in the opener). Barkevious Mingo has been very underwhelming this season, if he could use his speed to at least force the quarterback into a sack by a defensive teammate – then it will have been a job well done. Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard have been much more reliable, they will be counted upon this Sunday. On the inside, is Chris Kirksey’s play warranting more playing time? He was been more active last week (just ask Jake Locker); I want to see him build upon that.

The poor play of Joe Haden and Buster Skine, as well as the demoting of rookie Justin Gilbert leaves me befuddled when it comes to the Browns’ secondary. Is K’Waun Williams a diamond in the rough at cornerback? The undrafted rookie made some plays last contest – both in defending the pass and getting to the quarterback. I don’t know if he alone can improve the secondary, but Pettine and his staff must figure out a way to get that part of the team better – and fast.

Special Teams: It took a negated muffed punt to remove Travis Benjamin from his returning duties. Jordan Poyer filled in well, and I would be content if he remained there the rest of the season. All other units were ho-hum and that was what I was hoping for. The blocked punt was a game-changer, it will not happen this week but maybe the Browns can do something else in the special teams to tilt the scales.

Coaching: The two failed fourth down attempts cannot occur in this contest. I do not envision the Browns being capable of shutting down the Steelers’ offense, giving the ball back to the offense, and driving the ball down the field for a score – multiple times. Pettine will have a small margin for error when it comes to making the right decisions.

Prediction (My Record: 3 – 1): I got a good feeling about this one and see the Browns breaking this loss-win-loss streak they are on. Some early scores and some late, efficient game of keep-away will turn into a Browns 27 – 23 victory.

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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in NFL Season


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A Win is a Win…

A Win is a Win…

Browns @ Titans – Review of Game #4

Phew, that was a close, and a lucky, one but I will more than take it. Falling behind 28-3, it looked like the Browns were going to get steamrolled. However, the injury to Locker and some second-half touchdowns and the Browns came away with a huge victory. It was definitely a team effort – offense in the first half and the defense stepping up after halftime. Let’s review the dramatic victory…

Offense: Brian Hoyer does it again…another fourth quarter victory for the veteran. He threw his first interception of the season, but was also able to toss for three touchdowns. I expected Manziel to come in to the contest, but the Browns were playing well enough that it was not necessary. Despite missing a few plays, Hoyer made it count when it mattered…once again, I’ll take it.

It was an excellent comeback for veteran Ben Tate. Finishing with twenty-two carries for 123 yards, I was glad to see him return to action. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell finished with fifteen yards on thirteen carries – I haven’t lost faith in the rookies, but they came back to earth – in terms of playing well. I still believe they will get ample amounts of yards going forward however, especially with twelve games remaining.

I might be going on a limb here, but Taylor Gabriel might be the best receiver in this group. The undrafted rookie led the way with four grabs for ninety-five yards and made several huge plays. Miles Austin was next in line with only two grabs – however one an impressive, sideline snare. Once again, this unit has not been great, but good enough to win in the NFL. I was glad to see Jordan Cameron collect three receptions – he will be relied upon heavily down the road.

Brian Hoyer surrendered a sack early in this contest, however following that – the offensive line locked down and played tremendously. I had to rewind a few plays to show others the great blocking of Joel Bitonio; the rookie is making all of us believers. I am glad this offensive line maintains their stability; they have been like good referees. You don’t realize how good they are – until they are not. I cannot wait to see them go into battle the rest of the season.

Defense: For most of the game (once again) it was not a pretty effort by the defensive front, but they did enough to get it done. Paving the way was Armonty Bryant, who finished with six tackles, a sack, and a hit on the quarterback. Phil Taylor left the game in the second half – can Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn shoulder the load during the veteran’s absence? I sure hope so; but the defensive line still has miles to go until they become a respectable unit.

As far as linebackers go; none were terrible but also no athletes were dominant in this contest for the Browns. Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey combined for fifteen tackles – they were far from excellent but I will take it. Jabaal Sheard was the only linebacker who was able to get a sack for this defense – he has been underwhelming so far in the 2014 campaign but Sunday was a solid outing for the veteran. I believe the linebackers will continue to improve as the season progresses.

I don’t know what to make of the secondary; they have more than a disappointing unit thus far.   Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert simply cannot corral receivers – is K’Waun Williams the answer? The undrafted rookie had six tackles, a sack, and a pass defended in this contest. Granted the Titans did not scout for this athlete, but he made the most of his opportunity. I would like to see more of him going forward, but still believe Haden and Gilbert will vastly improve. The safeties were rather quiet, but both Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner were not beat regularly either.   On a scale of 1-10, I would give the secondary a 3 but feel great that number could easily be higher.

Special Teams: It was a wise move to remove Travis Benjamin as a punt returner. It took a turnover (which was negated with a penalty) to take him out, but Jordan Poyer seems to be better at that spot. The field goal unit played as expected, which is much better than the group did two weeks ago. Last game was an aberration, and I do not feel bad about any of the groups.

Coaching: While many second-guessed the two fourth down attempts (which failed), I stood by coach Pettine. The offense got another shot and Hoyer took advantage – finding the end zone. The coach might not get opportunities like that more often but for now, I cannot complain. It was a shaky (but needed) win, and now they must get back to business against the Steeelers at home.

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Posted by on October 5, 2014 in NFL Season


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Looking Into Game #4 – Browns @ Titans

Looking Into Game #4 – Browns @ Titans

Browns @ Titans – Game #4 Preview

Enough of the waiting game, it’s not time for the Browns to get back on to the field for some football. They face a foe in the Titans, who have been looking rather suspect since their opening win over the Chiefs. This is still the NFL though, and the Browns can ill-afford to take their opponent lightly; especially when they are on the road. Nonetheless, lets review this matchup of two teams needing a win…

Offense: The Browns will open up the playbook a bit more in this contest, I believe. Brian Hoyer will seek deeper tosses a fair amount, it will come down to how he can connect on these opportunities. I’m not sure his interception streak continues, but this is a contest where the defense ought to rise up if the Browns give the ball to the Titans’ offense. Hoyer should easily get over the 200-yard mark in this contest, and I figure he will be a part of at least two passing touchdowns.

All three running backs must be sure they are fresh and ready to go in this contest. Tate, West, and Crowell might combine for thirty carries against the Titans. Obviously the game will dictate opportunities for this trio, but I am bullish that the Browns will rely heavily on their back while defending their lead. I would be disappointed if the Browns do not eclipse 150 yards on the ground on Sunday; that may seem like a lofty goal but the Titans have been putrid in stopping opponents.

How can Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin follow up some nice performances in the first three contests in 2014? That is the big question, as the opponent continues to be stout against the pass (but that could be because opponents do not need to throw). I want to see Jordan Cameron get going, with a week off to heal up with from his shoulder injury. A Jim Dray, Gary Barnidge, or Taylor Gabriel might come up with a big play in this contest – those under-the-radar guys typically do one little thing to tip the scales in an NFL game.

The offensive line has been more than solid for the Browns this season. I do not see how this trend stops; all five should keep the pocket clean for Brian Hoyer. There’s not a whole lot more that I can say about the zone-blocking scheme – the athletes have picked up the concepts and are executing them exceptionally. Is zero sacks allowed a reasonable expectation?   I believe it is – I have high hopes for the Browns in this contest and am confident they will perform well in Nashville.

Defense: The defensive front is beyond due for a knockout, dominant performance. Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are the duo that needs to pick their games up; each has been mediocre through three outings. They face Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey – a pair of backs who entered the campaign with lofty expectations. The home team will likely feed the ball to both rushers an ample amount of times, but it will be up to the Browns to limit them and force the Titans to heave the ball. Do that, and the Browns’ chance of winning increases significantly.

Chris Kirksey, Barkevious Mingo, and Craig Robertson are three linebackers who must play with more intensity (and intelligence) if the defense wishes to improve. All have been disappointments up to this point, and only Paul Kruger and to a lesser extent Karlos Dansby, have put some sort of fear into opposing offenses. There have been no turnovers forced and just a handful of sacks from the linebacker corps. Coach Pettine was expected to improve this unit from last year’s crew. This is not to say it won’t happen, but Sunday would be a great start for some guys to begin dominating.

The way the NFL has trending (i.e. new rules and penalties); a tremendous amount of pressure has been put on defensive backs to slow down wide receivers. Both Justin Gilbert and Joe Haden have been torched against the likes of Steve Smith, Antonio Brown, and Jimmy Graham – but the Titans do not feature a receiving option of that caliber. That being said, the Browns’ secondary is expected to hold its own against Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, and Nate Washington. If Haden and Gilbert struggle on Sunday, it’s simply going to be a long season. Donte Whitner has been invisible so far at the strong safety spot – I want to see him make a few plays this week.

Special Teams: Before the season started, I felt the Browns had a strong enough special teams units where there were little to no concerns. Some horrible decisions on punt returns and poor field goal blocking, and I have rethought my stance. The Browns must find a way to fix this broken part of their team, or they will continue to lose tight contests. Depending on how the game progresses, Travis Benjamin’s time at punt returner could almost be up.

Coaching: Will Pettine employ Johnny Manziel more in this contest? Should we envision more of an aggressive game plan? I expect an affirmative response to both, as the coaches have had extra time to tinker with their coaching decisions. Aligning their defense to dominate bettert have been a priority in the off week – I hope the unit decides to now execute. 

Prediction (My Record: 2 – 1): For the first time this season, I feel very confident in the Browns heading into the contest. I think the team gets out to an early lead only to see the home squad come back, but still ultimately fall short. The Browns win this contest 30 – 20 and return home with a 2 – 2 record.

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Posted by on October 2, 2014 in NFL Season


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