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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Leaders of the Browns’ Offense: A Prediction

Leaders of the Browns’ Offense: A Prediction

Predict the Stats – Cleveland Browns’ Version 

In preparing for the upcoming season, I take an educated guess to determine which guys will stand out statistically from the rest. I look to review this in several months to see how right or wrong I really was. But for now, let’s take a gander at some guesses.

Quarterback

Yards, Touchdowns, Completions, Attempts – All go to Josh McCown

Analysis: I envision 2015 to be similar to last year, where the team’s long-timeveteran plays a majority of the season and not Johnny Manziel. Hopefully McCown can perform well enough to put the team in the playoffs (for the first time since 2002). I am figuring around 2,500 yards for the starter, just over 210 completions, and sixteen touchdowns (with twelve interceptions) finishing with a reasonable record this year.

Running Backs

Rushing Yards and Touchdowns – Go to Isaiah Crowell

Analysis: The Crow is expected to be the team’s featured back heading into the season. The way the second-year pro gobbles up yards on the ground and finds the end zone with ease makes this guess a no-brainer. I expect him to make life much easier for Josh McCown (to the tune of 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns).

Rushing Attempts – Go to Terrance West

Analysis: I am going out on a limb here, as many feel that West is slated as the third-string running back for the team. In the middle part of the season, however, John Defilippo hands the keys to the offense to the former Towson star – leading to multiple carries of the ball for not many yards. Somehow, he finishes the year with more attempts (just over 200) than Crowell and Johnson.

Receiving Yards and Receptions – Go to Duke Johnson

Analysis: Being a receiver is this rookie’s forte, and he is expected to add a few wrinkles to this offense that was not present in 2014. Motioning, lining up in the slot, and simply getting out in the open from the backfield is what Johnson is projected to do. 550 yards and forty catches would not surprise me by the former Miami Hurricane.

Wide Receivers

Receptions – Go to Brian Hartline

Analysis: The crafty veteran figures to secure multiple slant and shorter routes tossed by Josh McCown. While this will not necessarily put points on the board or instill fear in defenders, it will move the chains consistently. Hartline should finish the campaign hauling in at least sixty passes from his teammate(s).

Yards – Go to Taylor Gabriel

Analysis: The yardage-per-reception leader should have an advantage here in 2015. Those fly routes, out-and-ups, and other deep patterns will permit Gabriel to garner a large chunk of yards while breezing by defenders. Can 1,100 yards be eclipsed by the second-year pro? I think so.

Touchdowns – Go to Andrew Hawkins

Analysis: Here is another tough decision where I took a risk. Hawkins is not the tallest or fastest guy on the team, but he excels in getting open. This is the ultimate need in the red zone – and being in the slot will allow for many different options for the veteran and this offense. Look for a modest seven scores through the air (up from a team-high three in 2014).

Tight Ends

Receptions and Yards – Gary Barnidge

Analysis: This is another difficult choice, but I went with the sure-handed veteran. Barnidge should haul in about fifteen grabs or so totaling just over 200 yards. I know I’m not predicting overwhelming amounts here, but I have no idea what to expect from this group.

Touchdowns – Rob Housler

Analysis: Sure, why not? The newly acquired veteran has height and should figure into a few goal line scores. I am thinking he will find pay dirt at least three times in 2015 and become a respectable option for this offense.

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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Competitions Among the Browns in Training Camp – Defense

Competitions Among the Browns in Training Camp – Defense

Defensive/Special Teams Top Training Camp Battles

In part two of our series, we continue tobreak down matchups between athletes at the same position spots for the Cleveland Browns.  When camp commences in a few weeks, guys will go all out to prove they are the best man for the job.  Some battles are for a potential starting spot, while others are for a guaranteed place on the roster.  Who are the players that figure into exciting competitions?

Defensive Line:  Phil Taylor vs. Billy Winn vs. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

The fact that Taylor and Winn are entering their final year of their rookie contracts adds a little spice to this matchup.  Last year, I would have thought that both would be safe and with the team for years to come, but the signing of Randy Starks and drafting of Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper all but changed that.  Being able to display an ability to play all three positions will be critical for these defensive linemen – as only one guy from this trio might be suiting up for the orange and brown in September.

Linebacker:  Scott Solomon vs. Barkevious Mingo

On the outside, this is a battle of opposites.  On one hand, there is a top-ten draft pick with both a pass rushing ability and a knack for covering opposing receivers.  Mingo’s main downfall has been his injuries and not being able to perform to elevated expectations that come with being a top draft choice.  In the other corner is an undrafted free agent who came out of nowhere to have a few nice games for the Browns in 2014. Solomon entered the team with low expectations and has easily exceeded those.  Not known for his coverage skills, he will be facing an uphill battle against Mingo.  Both should get playing time this season, but only one will be lining up with Paul Kruger in the first quarter – whom will it be?

Safety:  Jordan Poyer vs. Tashaun Gipson

Whilst holding out of minicamp and OTAs, Tashaun Gipson opened an opportunity for others to start at free safety.  The main beneficiary of that was Jordan Poyer, who filled in admirably during the June practices.  Can that continue for the coming months?  I suspect that Gipson will be able to fend off his counterpart for a majority of the year, but if Poyer can prove to be a reliable reserve safety in this defense – that could be a victory in itself.

Cornerback:  Justin Gilbert vs. K’Waun Williams vs. Pierre Desir

It would appear that veterans Joe Haden and Tramon Williams will be holding down the starting (outside) cornerback spots.  Therefore, in order to crack into this lineup – the trio listed above must compete at nickel and dime spots (at least initially).  Gilbert was the early draft pick, while the other two have proven more on the field – despite being taken in the later rounds or not being drafted at all. I anticipate this being the fiercest competition in camp; as the stakes are very high and there is plenty of talent among the three.

Kicker:  Travis Coons vs. Carey Spear vs. Free Agent?

Well, somebody’s got to kick all of those extra points, right?  Both Billy Cundiff and Garrett Hartley are neither on the roster; so a new guy will have to take over in 2015.  Spear is the local kid who provided a few punishing tackles on kickoffs (in college) – other than that I have to admit I am pretty green in terms of knowledge between the duo.  Hopefully one guy can come out in camp, show (near) perfection, and maintain that in the regular season.  It especially won’t be easy during the tail end of the year with the cold, wind, and snow, but the last thing this team needs is another question mark.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in NFL Season, Training Camp

 

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Cleveland Browns Training Camp – Offense – Competitions

Cleveland Browns Training Camp – Offense – Competitions

Top Training Camp Battles – Offense

Well, let’s face it – while all on the same roster, not everyone will play nice with other guys in their position group.  The NFL is a job and everyone is fighting for a gig, thus making for intriguing competitions in training camp.  Let’s review a few that will occur with the offense, which will amp up intensity this summer in Berea.

Quarterback:  Johnny Manziel vs. All Quarterbacks not Named Josh McCown

According to the media, it’s a foregone conclusion that Josh McCown is the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in 2015.  That could be debated, but his play in minicamp and OTAs has reinforced this. While Manziel is still vying for a shot at the starting role, he must make sure he can hold off the likes of Connor Shaw (who had a decent start to close the 2014 campaign) and Thaddeus Lewis (who had a couple nice starts in the league).  Nothing is given in the NFL, but I would be disappointed to see Manziel struggle mightily in training camp while one of the other signal callers steals the backup job.

Running Back:  Terrance West vs. Duke Johnson

Is Isaiah Crowell the leader for a majority of carries with the Cleveland Browns?  He arguably played the best of the bunch in 2014 and was not called out onto the carpet the way West was by coach Pettine.  Therefore, the second-year pro from Towson will be tested against highly touted Duke Johnson to see who will shoulder the load when Crowell is not.  Their styles are a little bit different, but whoever can hit the lane quicker and can display catch-and-run ability better will have a leg up.

Wide Receiver:  Terrelle Pryor vs. Travis Benjamin vs. Vincent Mayle

The fifth and sixth spots at wide receiver appear to be up for grabs among this trio.  A year ago, Travis Benjamin was coming off an excellent year as a returner and a deep threat at wide out.  However, a tumultuous year returning punts and a quiet year as a receiver (sans the Titans victory) leaves his position with the team in doubt.  In comes rookie Vincent Mayle and former NFL quarterback Terrelle Pryor; there’s a chance that either two of these guys make the roster or none of them do. I am eager to find out which guy stands out and gets that opportunity to perform in the fall.

Offensive Line:  Right side of the Offensive Line

In looking at John Greco, Mitchell Schwartz, Cameron Erving, and Michael Bowie – this is likely the least exciting offensive competition for two reasons.  One, all four (barring something wildly unexpected) will make the roster.  Two, not a ton of people will focus on the blocking upfront this July and August.  Nonetheless, two of these guys will likely start on the right side of the offensive line – while the others will be primary reserves.  Speed, athleticism, and versatility will be scrutinized to ensure the best five athletes are on the field a majority of the regular season for the Browns.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2015 in Players, Training Camp

 

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Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Part II of Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns

In continuing our look of position groups prior to the commencement of training camp, we turn to the defensive side of the football. I understand there is a bit of speculation when breaking down players at this point of a campaign, but until the athletes are putting themselves on game film – that’s all we got at this point. Let’s take a gander at the guys on defense.

Defensive Line: Depth, depth, and more depth – all the Browns need is to keep away from disastrous injuries. Phil Taylor, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Danny Shelton man the interior of the group. I figure they should put up more of a resistance against running backs than their counterparts did a year ago. Meanwhile the outside linemen include Desmond Bryant, Randy Starks, John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Xavier Cooper. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated he might employ more four-men fronts as he has an arsenal of talent at that position. That appears to be a wise move, especially if Cooper shows his first-step burst he displayed in college. At that point, it’s as almost as if there’s an outside linebacker (speed-wise) playing on the defensive line. 

Outside Linebackers: Here is an interesting group for the Cleveland Browns. Barkevious Mingo will be fighting for his job, while Armonty Bryant will do his best to transition from his defensive end spot from a year ago. What should the Browns expect from Nate Orchard? That remains to be seen, but if he can compile tackles and sacks, and either Mingo or Bryant can shine – then Paul Kruger will finally have the company he was hoping for when he signed his free agent deal a few years ago.

Inside Linebackers: This needs to be the year where the Browns go from having a group of serviceable inside linebackers to one where they possess relentless ones who alter game plans. Should the team expect Chris Kirksey, Craig Robertson, and Karlos Dansby to make tackles, excel in coverage, and instill fear? The two youngsters must add to their repertoire beginning in training camp, if they want to become an elite unit. Robertson bettered his coverage skills tremendously in 2014, now he ought to focus on getting to the quarterback and disrupting offenses. I would like to see a fourth member step up in the summer months, will it be veteran Tank Carder or an unsuspecting rookie (i.e. Hayes Pullard)?

Safeties: Not a ton of concern in this group, as the position featured a duo that went to the Pro Bowl. Toss in an improving Jordan Poyer and promising rookie Ibraheim Campbell, and that’s one exceptional gang of safeties. I understand that Donte Whitner is getting long in the tooth and expect to see Poyer (and possibly Campbell) more in passing situations, but the veteran still remains capable on every play. In camp, I will keep an eye on the non-starters to see how they push Whitner and Tashaun Gipson.

Cornerbacks: Another area where the Browns appear to have a dearth of talent. Losing Buster Skrine might have hurt, until they grabbed Tramon Williams in free agency. The group should prevent the big play, but I desire to see what Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams, and Pierre Desir can do against Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins (to name a few). If the youngsters appear to pick up this defense, coach O’Neil might have some difficult decisions to make. The talent at cornerback is a plenty, and for the first time in awhile – I think the Browns can actually slow down opposing wide receiving units.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Players, Training Camp

 

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