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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Browns Roster Turnover – Breakdown

Browns Roster Turnover – Breakdown

Free Agency Recap

Well, there were multiple changes to this roster that occurred over the past few weeks. Some veterans were not expected to be back, and that was indeed the case. Meanwhile, the team signed a couple of athletes with experience as well. Are they a better team now than they were to end the 2014 campaign? Time will tell, but let’s review what occurred for the team.

Key Departures 

Offensively there were two impactful guys who departed for other franchises. Those were quarterback Brian Hoyer and tight end Jordan Cameron. The former was far from a surprise, and his play late in 2014 all but guaranteed that the Browns were not going to re-sign him. I wish him all the best in Houston, but have my doubts about his future success. The Cameron thing was a little perturbing, with him signing then not re-signing. However, the team is moving on from the veteran with an injury history. I would have liked him back, but now they must get a stalwart via the draft as his replacement.

On the defensive side, the Browns lost three prominent figures via free agency. These athletes are Ahtyba Rubin, Jabaal Sheard, and Buster Skrine. Inexplicably, both Rubin and Sheard’s production had declined significantly over the past few seasons. I am glad they were here and hold no ill will, but I believe Ray Farmer can find solid members who can pickup right where these guys left off. I really felt Skrine was coming into his own as a nickel cornerback, but his price tag appeared to be too high for the Browns. I would love to see Justin Gilbert play up to his capabilities and have Trammond Williams fill in at the nickel spot.

Veteran Pickups

It was a pair of signal callers and two wide outs who were signed by the Cleveland Browns. Josh McCown and Thaddeus Lewis were brought in to compete for a role with this franchise going forward. I still don’t know if they are going to draft another guy early or not, so I’m holding off my negative slant (at the quarterback position) for the time being. Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe are now members of the orange and brown. I think they can be reliable number two and three options for the offense, and if the team can get a DeVante Parker or Jalen Strong in the first round of the draft – I would really like this improved passing offense.

To supplement this defense, the Browns added Randy Starks and Tramon Williams last week. Both are a little older than the guys they are replacing, but I believe they can still be viable rotational guys. I anticipate at least a defensive lineman to be added by the second round of draft, and maybe a guy in the secondary a few rounds later. Overall, neither areas took a big hit – the scouts must make sure they can make solid improvements in areas where losses occurred.

Conclusion: While the Browns did not get a whole lot better during the free agency period, I am not freaking out the way many fans have. The team got solid veterans at reasonable prices, and lost members who the front office did not feel were “franchise players”. Though we may not know if these decisions are correct or not for a few years – I have a hunch that this part of the NFL season will not make or break this franchise. It will all come down to (finally) getting that little thing called a franchise quarterback.

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Concussion Talk and the Cleveland Browns

Concussion Talk and the Cleveland Browns

Do the 49ers Recent Actions Impact the Browns?

In an unprecedented move, the San Francisco 49ers lost three starters on defense to retirement. While that sounds unlikely, remember the fact that only one was deemed to be old enough to be able to retire (by NFL standards). The fear of concussion issues and possible CTE effects definitely hit this locker room – how it manifests itself throughout the league remains to be seen.

Linebackers by the Bay

Patrick Willis and Chris Borland each called it a career over the past few weeks. One played for eight seasons and the other just one. It would appear that the former could not withstand multiple hits to the head, while the latter does not want to be exposed to any in the future. While some are scrutinizing these athletes – labeling them as quitters – I understand and support where they are coming from.

Going Personal

Being a recipient of two concussions (only one was diagnosed – the other I got back on the field a few minutes later), I know one or two more shots might affect my quality of life going forward. Fortunately, I’m slow and was not nearly talented enough to play past the high school level. That said, football is much different than baseball or basketball in terms of the types injuries one can sustain – could professional careers become even shorter for those in the NFL?

Browns Concerns

Thinking about the current roster, K’Waun Williams and Tashaun Gipson are the two who come to mind in terms of receiving concussions recently. The former had at least a pair in his rookie season, while the latter incurred at least one during his Pro Bowl run in 2014. Going forward, both (and the team as well) must be aware of potential issues down the road.

Recently departed Jordan Cameron is a tremendous athlete, but also one who has been oft injured. In a business decision, the team appears smart to not have to worry about one of their guys being a hit away from a possible shortened career – despite being a matchup nightmare for defenses.

Conclusion: While there does not appear to be many guys on the surface who have sustained head trauma for the Cleveland Browns, there is a possibility that there could be some on the roster who might be concerned about potential issues in the future. As far as the athletes are concerned, I have nothing but respect for them and cannot take anything away from their decision to walk away from the game.

As far as the franchise is concerned, due diligence becomes even more vital in scouting. It may sound crass, but the front office must consider guys who are literally willing to “leave it all on the field”. While this may lead to guys who might not be as talented, teams could secure guys who would be on the roster for a much longer period of time.

There in lies the moral dilemma for fans – the rationale of players versus what teams need to be successful. It is clearly the fiercest sport with the highest possibility for long-term injuries. However, football is still the most entertaining event on live television. Reactions to “big hits” might be an indicator of people’s thoughts on the love of the game as well as what could lead to the sport’s downfall.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2015 in Offseason

 

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Why aren’t the Browns Trying?!?

Why aren’t the Browns Trying?!?

It’s Annual Freak-Out Time!

Ah, yes – it’s that time of year where fans and media are vilifying the Cleveland Browns for not making every transaction during the open free agency period.  I understand that free agency is a part of the NFL season, and all thirty-two teams use it.  But to what degree each franchise utilizes this period is what is important.  Let’s review what is causing many to display obvious signs of petulance.

No “Big Name” Guys Signed on Day One

Perish the thought that the Cleveland Browns did not acquire Ndamukong Suh or Darrelle Revis, let alone trade for the oft-injured Sam Bradford.  I will agree that both of the defenders are tremendous talents; however they will be the highest paid athletes at their position in NFL history.  That’s just not smart football – I look
forward to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets to be extremely financially strapped to make additional moves.  The Browns are wise to improve at these spots using diligence.

Yes, Sam Bradford would immediately be an upgrade at the signal caller spot, but I don’t even want to think about what the Browns would have had to surrender to get a guy who will not likely finish the campaign healthy.  More than likely, the team will draft a developmental quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft – and work with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel.  Simply put, the risk was too high and the reward was likely not worth it.

Didn’t the Team Prepare Us for this?

Ray Farmer and Jimmy Haslam both said weeks ago that the team was not going to be major players in free agency.  So far, they have not – I do not understand the miscommunication by some Browns’ fans and media.

Additionally, what do the Packers, Steelers, Giants, and Ravens all have in common?  They are all perennial winners – and they don’t spend like crazy in free agency.

Now what do the Dolphins, Redskins, and Raiders have in common.  They tend to lose more than win, and none have made a deep run in the playoffs in decades.  Oh yea, and they all spend top dollar in free agency.

Granted the first group has franchise quarterbacks associated with them, while the second does not.  The Browns currently are in the second group in terms of not possessing a great signal caller. Therefore, I am content in the team not throwing away gobs of cash at guys who are very expensive and will only make the team marginally better.  Until they get their guy under center, the team has little to no shot at success.  So why throw away money at other spots, when they can get cheaper players of relatively equal value?

Conclusion:  This microwave society is getting out of hand – everyone wants the Browns to get the best guys in the league (who are available) and now.  I thought last year’s free agency was excellent – two viable starters were acquired on defense and played well, and I anticipate those types of signings to occur again in 2015.

As far as losing free agents Brian Hoyer, Buster Skrine, Ahtyba Rubin, and possibly Jabaal Sheard and Jordan Cameron – the front office simply did not value them high enough to lock them up long-term. Farmer believes each is not the caliber of athlete as are Joe Haden and Joe Thomas.  Could the team be wrong?  Of course, but I would like to see some youth brought in during the draft – players with upside who can help the Browns for many years.  As far as free agency goes, remember the quote a friend named Aaron once said; “R-E-L-A-X”.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Free Agency, Offseason, Players

 

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The Roster Changes Being – 2015 Edition

The Roster Changes Being – 2015 Edition

Latest Free Agency Chatter

The ball has begun rolling for the Cleveland Browns, who are beginning to re-tool their roster (and hopefully improve it). The first move was an acquisition, and a difficult decision, at the quarterback spot. The next was bringing in a veteran wide out to bolster this team’s corps – provided he signs on the dotted line. While I may not agree with all their personnel decisions, I give the front office credit for being proactive and not sitting on their hands.

Josh McCown Signing

Ultimately it came down to whether the Cleveland Browns chose between veterans Brian Hoyer or Josh McCown. In a stunning move, the team took a guy who was six years older and was less-than-successful on the field (winning one contest in eleven attempts last year). Going head-to-head, I would be in the camp that would prefer to have Hoyer on my roster – but I can understand what the team was thinking.

McCown is a veteran who should be a better teacher to the younger signal callers (Manziel, Shaw, and whomever else), as he has been in the league for over twelve years. He also will be content with starting or supporting the starter from the sideline – the same cannot be said for Hoyer. Whether he is right or not, it appears that this type of attitude might not be the best thing for the Browns’ locker room. I wish Brian Hoyer all the best, but I am not sure there is a place where he will be a guaranteed starter in 2015.

I am very eager to see the team’s next move at quarterback now – as I would not expect them to only have McCown, Manziel, and Shaw on their opening day roster. Will it be Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson, or Bryce Petty? I am hopeful the Browns can get their guy in the middle rounds of the draft, have McCown show him the ropes, and figure out if he or Manziel can be the quarterback past 2015.

Brian Hartline in Town

The former Miami Dolphin (and local product) was in for a visit this week, after he was released by his former team a few days prior. All local connections aside, I would be content to see him sign a contract with the Browns. He would provide a viable option as a number two wide out, and give whoever is under center a dependable target to throw to.

Regardless of if he signs, the team must still find their top receiver in April’s draft. I want one of the “top three” – but it would likely only be DeVante Parker with the twelfth selection. Hartline and Parker would really improve the passing offense next season, and it might not be that hard to accomplish that feat.

Conclusion: The offseason continues to be the most exciting part of the year for the Cleveland Browns. The quarterback carousel continues to turn, and it’s likely to turn some more in the next few months. Additionally, an area of weakness could be improved significantly in the near future. There are still many athletes that need to be acquired to make this franchise a title contender – but my hope is that the wheels are in motion to improve this team from their 2014 unit.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Free Agency, Offseason, Players

 

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Defensive Options – Early Rounds of the Draft

Defensive Options – Early Rounds of the Draft

NFL Scouting Combine – Part Two

Defensive Line

It all starts upfront for the Clevleand Browns. If you cannot prevent the opposition from slamming the ball down your throat, your odds of winning are somewhere near zero. I’m always in full support of athletic guys – but the Browns need a large athlete who can clog the interior gaps (i.e. a zero-technique player). Should the front office go for this position of the roster early, there would be a few to keep an eye on. It appears that Danny Shelton may no longer be an option, which is a downer but understandable.

An athlete who could be taken by Ray Farmer in the first round is Malcom Brown. Possessing versatility is something that Mike Pettine would love to utilize, and Brown fits that description. Not only would he be counted on to contribute at tackle, the team could use him at end alongside Phil Taylor or John Hughes. I would enjoy seeing him in the trenches for the Cleveland Browns, but there is one huge question that remains. Do the Browns value this position over an offensive game-breaker?

Strictly speaking as a run defender, Eddie Goldman is a man among boys. The defender consistently displays strength and tenacity when offenses keep the ball on the ground. He would likely just play in the middle, while Taylor, Hughes, and Billy Winn would rotate on the ends. There’s a chance the Browns could wait and still pick him up with their second or third pick, and pair him with a Kevin White or DaVante Parker. That’s not a bad consolation prize, but that is dependent on many things falling into place.

Outside Linebacker

Getting to the quarterback and making his life miserable is something the Browns’ defense should subscribe to – they are getting to that point, but it is still relatively lacking. Being able to bolster three rushers (assuming Barkevious Mingo can improve drastically) who opponents must game plan for, and the defense will be feared on third downs. 

Should Jabaal Sheard leave as a free agent, might the Browns go for Vic Beasley? The athlete was impressive during the combine, and his speed is undeniable – the main concern is, how can he progress as a pro? Will Vic underwhelm as some first-round pass rushers have over the past few years (Aaron Maybin and Vernon Gholston come to mind)? Or will the former Clemson standout be the type of player that many compare him to – Bruce Irvin? There’s no doubt the team needs to have depth and reliability at this position, but when should they nab this guy draft weekend?

Bud Dupree could be a value pick if the Browns choose him after the first round. While not as explosive as his counterpart from Clemson, he size is intriguing. The Browns took Barkevious Mingo a few years ago in the first round, and he appears too light to be counted upon an every down basis. Dupree packs on an additional thirty pounds from Mingo (most of which is muscle) – and that could help against the run as well his usual pass-rushing role. He should definitely be an option for the team, provided Ray Farmer values pass rushers very highly.

Safety

With Jim Leonhard retiring, and Donte Whitner nearing his completion of his professional career – the Browns would be wise to find a stud at safety to pair with Tashaun Gipson for the next few years. It would appear the team would be in the market for a more physical athlete, one who excels in run support. Ideally, if he can hold his own in coverage – then that would be a home run.

If the Browns get their guy early (possibly the second round), they could do a lot worse than Landon Collins. The tenacious “in the box” defender has the size and speed that teams are looking for. Being six feet tall is a great start, but his hitting of opponents is what stands out on film. You can be sure that Whitner would be a great teammate and show him the ropes. The back end of the defense will be pretty close to complete – depending on what occurs at the corner spot.

Conclusion: While the Browns’ defense was ahead of their counterparts last year, there is a great deal of room to improve all over. They need both speed and attitude at all three levels of the defense, but it is very possible that Ray Farmer can secure multiple players that posses those traits during the draft.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in NFL Combine, NFL Draft, Players

 

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