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Monthly Archives: January 2015

South Roster – Senior Bowl Analysis

South Roster – Senior Bowl Analysis

Senior Bowl – Scouting Reports – South Squad

Once again, we delve deeper into several athletes who stood out as well as some who had issues during practice week of the 2015 Senior Bowl. Hopefully Ray Farmer can dissect these performances and determine who can fit on this roster and when best to acquire these athletes. Let’s continue with the process of analyzing former collegiate athletes for the South roster.

South Roster Stock Up:

Clive Walford – TE – University of Miami – Is he the successor to Jordan Cameron? The smooth route runner flashed some exceptional moves during his escape of coverage during one-on-one drills. Size and quickness are two tremendous traits that a tight end must possess. I look forward to seeing how the Browns would want to utilize him (i.e. blocking).

Kevin White – CB – Texas Christian University – He might not be the tallest guy on the field (usually the case for cornerbacks) – but the former collegiate had closing speed and physicality that NFL coaches salivate over. The defensive backfield could be a crowded area of the team – but who knows what the Browns’ front office is thinking.

Shaq Mason – OG – Georgia Tech – It was refreshing to see the interior lineman fight off defenders all the way through the whistle. He is a bit shorter (just over six-feet, one inch) than some of his counterparts – but could be a valuable selection if he slides in the draft. Perhaps the Browns are that team, one in need of a reliable guard.

Tyler Lockett – WR – Kansas State University – Another smaller receiving threat, the nephew of former returner Aaron Lockett impressed many onlookers. In addition to potentially returning kicks at the next level, he escaped bump coverage during red zone drills. Could he be the replacement for Travis Benjamin? That’s a possibility, provided the Browns want to go in that direction.

South Roster Stock Down:

Nick Marshall – CB – Auburn University – This might be low-hanging fruit, as the collegiate quarterback is making the tough transition to the defensive side of the ball. He had his issues with footwork and staying with wide outs down the field. Frankly, the Browns are close to set in their secondary – I hope they do not invest too much (or at all) in the project.

Blake Sims – QB – University of Alabama – He is not expected to go extremely high during the 2015 draft, however Sims did not help his chances of improving upon this during the week (via mishandling snaps and missing targets). The signal caller never displayed anything, which could cause him to stand out from his fellow quarterbacks; the Browns need to look for other signal callers this offseason.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa – DE – UCLA – I’ll concede his athleticism and speed, but at the Senior Bowl that was used to his disadvantage. Offensive linemen were able to drive him up the field on occasions; many suspect that professionals will do the same. Odighizuwa also displayed inconsistency in his performance – this could be a red flag for a general manager seeking an every-down pass rusher. The Browns are in the market for an edge rusher, but they should look elsewhere.

Austin Shepherd – OT – University of Alabama – The tackle lost a few times during one-on-one drills, and it was evident to see he still has room to grow. Perhaps Shepherd could be developed into a reliable professional down the road, but at this point he does not appear to be a starter. The Browns could still use a flyer on the guy, but it would have to be at the end of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Conclusion: Once again, if a guy looks great in Mobile – that does not guarantee any type of future success. The opposite is also true, but this week was the first time that NFL teams could watch the incoming rookie class in the NFL going against top competition. Taking notes, formulating an impression, and looking for trends in future events (NFL Combine and Pro Days) are three things that all scouts should do – let’s hope those working in Berea are head and shoulders above other franchises.

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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in NFL Draft, Players

 

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Quick Analysis – Senior Bowl – North

Quick Analysis – Senior Bowl – North

Senior Bowl – Scouting Reports – North Squad

It’s Scouting season! Once again, some of the best football players in the world come to convene in Mobile, Alabama. Certainly, some guys stood head and shoulders above their counterparts – while others faltered greatly. How much will these impressions influence general managers this April? It is relatively up to the personality of the NFL organizations as well as the men in charge of personnel decisions. However, a great first impression is not a bad thing – let’s see whom the orange and brown could key on and whom they might want to avoid.

North Roster Stock Up:

Jamison Crowder – WR – Duke University – The undersized wide out displayed his blazing speed in drills. He excelled in both during out routes as well as deeper tosses from signal callers. While Browns’ fans may groan at the thought of another short guy catching passes, he could be a solid option in the middle rounds of the draft.

Danny Shelton – DT – University of Washington – The large man on the defensive line showed how exceptional he could be at the next level.   Getting around offensive linemen either by blowing by them or sliding around them were two consistent results that occurred for the former Husky. Could he help the Browns defense? Most likely, but will they select him during the draft?

Laken Tomlinson – OG – Duke University – He more than held his own against his opponents during blocking drills. I was impressed to see him stand up defensive stalwarts on multiple occasions. The Browns would be wise to give him a look, as the interior of their line is in need of upgrading.

Donovan Smith – OT – Pennsylvania State University – He possesses all the tangibles required for an offensive lineman in the NFL. Smith performed the way that he should have during Senior Bowl week. Manhandling the opposition was the norm for the star. I wouldn’t mind the Browns giving this guy a hard look this spring.

North Roster Stock Down:

Jeff Luc – ILB – University of Cincinnati – The linebacker struggled consistently in coverage during one-on-one drills. While the position is rather set (for the Browns) with Chris Kirksey, Craig Robertson, and Karlos Dansby – they could always use another reliable guy back there. Luc will have to continue to impress scouts if he wants to get chosen during the earlier in the draft.

Bryce Petty – QB – Baylor University – I was underwhelmed by the play of the prolific quarterback. He struggled with his timing when tossing the ball to receivers, and did not accurately hit his spots during individual drills. Like many college quarterbacks, he will need time to transition to playing under center. I (obviously) wouldn’t write him off yet, but he’s got a great deal of room to grow.

Devin Smith – WR – Ohio State University – The national champion came to Mobile to prove he is more than a one-trick pony. Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition – as the speedster could not cause separation during shorter routes. I have my doubts that he can translate to the professional game, but the buckeye still has ample time to refine his game.

T.J. Clemmings – OT – University of Pittsburgh – The large athlete has tremendous strength and size, but was very up-and-down in his play in Mobile. Some times he was sufficient, while others his opponent made him look foolish. The Browns might want to look at a guy who can be a starting right tackle on day one, but if they want to wait to see if Clemmings slides – he could be in their future plans. 

Conclusion: Some of the athletes looked great this week, while others did not. Along those lines, some will be exceptional professionals and many won’t. Are the guys who stood out going to be bona-fide stars, while the disappointments will be busts? Of course not, but a good start here will keep the attention of scouts on these prospects. I’m hopeful the Browns can use this week to make informed (and more importantly correct) decisions draft weekend.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in NFL Draft, Players

 

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Got a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling…Browns’ Scouting

Got a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling…Browns’ Scouting

First-Time Feeling Confident in Scouting

While there are changes (again) to be made to this coaching staff, for the first time in quite a while the general manager and his scouts remain intact for the Cleveland Browns.  Regardless of who is on the field, there are many men in charge to choose the best (former) collegiate athletes to bolster this roster.  There were several seasons where the team was partially represented or not at all during all-star weeks.  Fortunately that is not the case in 2015, and that makes me content with Ray Farmer’s plan of action.

East-West Shrine Game

The perceived “lesser of the two” contest between some of the better athletes occurs at St. Petersburg, Florida.  Typically, these guys are not drafted too high in April – but it would be wise for the Browns’ front office to still study this pool of guys.  The later rounds of the draft and free agent pickups are usually where these football players are selected.  Just looking at last season; Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel, and K’Waun Williams are three guys who the Browns scooped up following the draft.  All three were integral to the team’s success at different parts of the 2014 campaign; can Farmer make note of some under-the-radar guys and have them don orange and brown in the fall of 2015?

Senior Bowl

Mobile, Alabama is typically where most of the NFL travels to in late January.  Coaches, general managers, and television outlets (i.e. NFL Network) all converge to see which top college seniors can improve a professional franchise.  These athletes can be chosen anywhere in the draft, from the first round to a free agent acquisition.  A huge part of scouting centers on understanding the personality of a young athlete – specifically how he treats football.  Is the game a nine-to-five job where the guy is looking to collect checks?  The Browns’ roster has been saddled with those types of players over the
years.  Or, is football a passion and desire of the NFL prospect? Will the athlete study the sport (especially when few others are) and work hard to be the best in the world at his position?  Does he make good decisions, both on and off the field?  I do not want to see any more Johnny Manziel-type of players on this roster; a guy who emulates Russell Wilson would be a tremendous start.

The Browns’ Status

Ray Farmer and his scouts have now gone through an entire calendar year in their current roles with the team.  They should have a good feeling as to whom to look at and which guys should be avoided in the next few weeks.  Of course this is an inexact science, but I have faith that the general manager has the tools and resources to make sage decisions during draft weekend.  If the Browns allow him to “take the bull by the horns” and run this draft, Farmer should be able to secure solid athletes consistently.  One can debate the value of his two picks in the first round in 2014; however 2015 allows him two more shots to redeem himself (meanwhile Gilbert and Manziel still have time to improve).  All that said, I feel much better at this time than I have since 1999.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Offseason, Players

 

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Part II – A Review of 2014 – Cleveland Browns

Part II – A Review of 2014 – Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part II

Now that the team was largely assembled, it was time for the group to finally hit the field. At this point, many national pundits felt the Browns would win just a handful of games and be a large disappointment. However, with the recent draft – they would be the center of the NFL during the summer months.

Training Camp: You could not turn on any television from the months of June or July and miss coverage of the Cleveland Browns. The commentators focused primarily on the duo of quarterbacks – the hometown guy in Brian Hoyer and the rookie icon Johnny Manziel. Who looked better? Who would start the season? Both players’ actions were dissected and discussed – even the press conferences were scrutinized heavily. While it was entertaining to finally get recognition nationally, many knew it was no guarantee of future success.

2014 Regular Season: It all started in Pittsburgh, where the Browns fell behind three touchdowns to their rival in the first half. The season felt to be over already, but Brian Hoyer led a furious comeback, only to fall short. It was disappointing to say the least, but it gave many fans and players alike confidence that the Browns can hang with the best of them.

The next three contests came down to the last play of the game, two of which the orange and brown came out ahead. Hoyer led a game-winning drive, which ended on a Billy Cundiff field goal to beat the Saints. After leading much of the contest, Joe Flacco hit Steve Smith over Joe Haden, and a Justin Tucker kick sent the Browns to a 1-2 record. Another great comeback at Nashville culminated on a Travis Benjamin touchdown, and magically the Browns beat the Titans by a point to get back to an even record.

Then came the high point of the season, where the orange and brown collected five wins in six matchups. They dominated the Steelers at home, and Brian Hoyer led a 31-10 rout. Inexplicably, the team faltered at Jacksonville and gave the Jaguars their first win of the season. Unfortunately, this was a sign for things to come – not playing well against a physical defense.

Following this was the Browns’ three-game winning streak against the Raiders and Buccaneers at home and versus the Bengals at Cincinnati. The two victories at First Energy Stadium were a bit closer than expected, and the Browns were far from dominant against the lesser completion – but nonetheless they left the field as winners. For the second consecutive year, the Thursday night battle was the highlight of the year. The Browns trounced the Bengals 24-3 and took control of first place in the division a few days later. It was a great feeling, but things unraveled quickly thereafter.

A physical beat down by J.J. Watt and the Texans really hurt the psyche of the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer tossed a club-record thirty incompletions and was hit in the backfield repeatedly. A week later, the quarterback tossed three interceptions but managed to narrowly escape the Falcons – after directing another game-winning drive capped by a Cundiff field goal. This would be the final victory of the 2014 season for the team.

The Bills and Colts would defeat the Browns in successive weeks – and the play of the signal caller continued to worsen. The defense did their best to humiliate Andrew Luck, but the opponent was able to guide a game-winning score late and leave with a win. Following four underwhelming efforts, coach Pettine decided to turn to the rookie at quarterback.

Johnny Manziel was an embarrassment in his two starts; he did not find the end zone, had multiple turnovers, and inspired zero confidence that he can be a competent NFL quarterback. After an injury in the second quarter in Carolina, veteran Brian Hoyer was re-inserted into the lineup. There, he tossed the team’s only touchdown – but the Browns still fell to the Panthers.

Over the next few days, both quarterbacks were injured and unable to play in the final matchup of the campaign. Rookie Connor Shaw started the final game in Baltimore. This included a couple of decent throws, some turnovers, and another loss. The season was over and the situation at quarterback appeared to still be up in the air.

Conclusion: It ended on a sour note, but I still take away a few positives of this season. They won some games I did not expect, finished with a much better record, and have a more talented roster overall. Do they have work to do in the next couple of months? You better believe it – but the Browns are a lot closer to where they want to be than they were in January 2014.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in NFL Season, Offseason, Training Camp

 

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What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part I

Well, the Browns finally broke their streak of either four or five wins dating back to each season since 2007. They started slow, won some “easier” games in the middle of the schedule, and finished on a tough note. Let’s review what occurred for the Cleveland Browns over the past several months.

Free Agency: The two major acquisitions for the Browns were veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby (formerly of the Arizona Cardinals) and Donte Whitner (previously with the San Francisco 49ers). Both were dubbed as clubhouse leaders, whose mentality would rub off on teammates. Looking back, I am very grateful Ray Farmer secured this duo; I want to see these types of signings to occur annually (or at least until there are multiple verbal leaders already in place). The biggest decision last year to was re-sign center Alex Mack, whose mid-season injury proved the former California Bear’s worth.

2014 NFL Draft: Admittedly, I was surprised by the Browns’ activity on draft day. Instead of drafting fourth (and going for wide out Sammy Watkins), the Browns traded down with the Bills and scooped up Justin Gilbert at the eighth pick. I like obtaining the second first-rounder in 2015, but have been underwhelmed by his play. Hopefully, he gets his act together in his second season.

Many lauded the trade from the twenty-sixth to the twenty-second selection to grab Johnny Manziel. It’ s well known that I preferred Teddy Bridgewater, who put up better numbers as a rookie. The hype surrounding the kid is amazing, but so far the disappointment has been glaring. I really want him to improve (and quickly), but time will only tell.

The Joel Bitonio pick baffled me initially in the second round. News of Josh Gordon’s suspension trickled out a few hours earlier, so I was preparing for a Marquise Lee or Jordan Matthews in the second round. However, the lineman was the right call – the guard had an excellent year and I am glad Ray Farmer chose him. With the porous effort at right tackle, getting an athlete like Bitonio next year is a must.

Chris Kirksey and Terrance West were the other two picks that contributed frequently in their rookie campaigns. Both middle-round selections had their ups and downs, but I am glad that they are members of the Cleveland Browns. The inside linebacker held down the job while veteran Karlos Dansby’s knee injury caused him to miss multiple contests. The rookie rusher will be a fixture of this offense going forward; he filled in well this season, especially after the team jettisoned Ben Tate.

His running mate is one of the two gems the general manager found following the draft. Isaiah Crowell was a free agent pickup that had many great moments running the ball, and found the end zone eight times in the process. His output rivaled that of Trent Richardson, whom was a first-round pick that has declined greatly (in terms of output) since that year. K’Waun Williams is the other find by the Cleveland Browns; the cornerback accepted his role as a part-time (nickel or slot) cornerback over the season. I hope he continues to grow to the point of being a full-time starter as early as 2015.

Conclusion: It would appear that despite a few disappointing early picks; the Browns have some tremendous building blocks looking ahead. I would love to see something to rival this in 2015 – but we have to remember what went down to finish off 2014.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, NFL Season, Offseason

 

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