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Category Archives: Offseason

Free Agency Recap and Draft Preview

Free Agency Recap and Draft Preview

March’s Happening and Looking Forward to April

The Browns made several moves to enhance their roster for 2019 and beyond.  In doing so, the fans and media (local and national) are noticing – some are even stating the team has most talented skilled positions in the league.  Is it hyperbole?  Possibly, but I’ll take these guys over any group.  That said, let’s review a few things from March and what that means for April for the Cleveland Browns.

Group One:

It was somewhat of a busy month for John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns.  At this point, we are all aware they jettisoned a pair of 2019 draft picks (first and third round), Jabril Peppers, and Kevin Zeitler for Odell Beckham Junior and Olivier Vernon.  These two players fit in category one – full-time starters.  I expect both to be on the field a majority of the time, only coming off the field in certain situations.  I expect both to acclimate quickly to this franchise and locker room (looking at OBJ’s instagram account, it appears he is eager and excited to be on the club).

As a result, the Browns will not make either of these positions a priority in April’s draft.  They could take a flier on a guy in the middle to later rounds, but fans should obviously not anticipate a splash pick at wide out or defense end with their first or second selections.

Group Two:

The Browns fortified the interior of their defensive line by nabbing tackle Sheldon Richardson.  The former first round pick had a tremendous first few seasons with the Jets (averaging 5.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 14.5 hits on the quarterback) before his production dipped in Seattle and Minnesota.  Always a fan for reclamation projects, Dorsey found a guy who could pair well with Larry Ogunjobi in the middle.  I put Richardson in the second category – part-time starter.  He will likely be on the field for the first two downs, and situations will dictate what the team does on third down.  Sheldon will still likely be there in short yards to gain, while passing downs will include multiple pass rushers for the Browns.

This move does not take defensive tackle out of the equation for a early selection (that includes a guy like Jeffrey Simmons – who is a talented DT, but tore his ACL while training for the draft and will likely miss the 2019 campaign).  What the Richardson signing does is fills a gaping hole alongside Ogunjobi and pushes down Trevon Coley further down the depth chart.

Group Three:

The departure of Zeitler allows second year guard Austin Corbett to step into the starting role at right guard.  Searching for reinforcements, the Browns acquired Eric Kush and Kendall Lamm this past month.  Both coming from the Bears; Kush is primarily a guard while Lamm has been at the tackle spot.  Meanwhile Adarius Taylor is now a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, after the Buccaneers let him walk.  Finally Demetrius Harris was signed before the team released Darren Fells at tight end.  These players are the third group:  reserve role/emergency starter.  These are depth signings and I applaud them, but there are more important moves coming.

I think the priority for offensive line and tight end has diminished a bit with these signings.  The Browns could still get a guy in rounds three through seven, but I don’t see either spot being filled at the forty-ninth choice.  I prefer to see the team select either a safety or linebacker with their first choice, as both spots need depth seeing Jamie Collins and Jabril Peppers leave this franchise.

Conclusion:  Exciting times are a coming for northeast Ohio and the professional football team.  Some might want to realize they have not accomplished anything of significance on the field – but the expectations are high nonetheless.  In some aspects I feel the Browns are following the Ohio State model – good offseason, talented players, and fans expecting to win every game.  I am waiting for the type of vitriol from other fan bases that accompanies the scarlet and gray (but that with comes with consistent winning).

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Posted by on March 31, 2019 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, Offseason, Players

 

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And It’s Freddie

And It’s Freddie

Browns Name their Guy

The guessing game is over and the Cleveland Browns have filled their head coaching vacancy – with former offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.  In a monumental rise in the ranks, the former Alabama quarterback went from the team’s running backs coach to head coach in under one year.  As previously mentioned, I am good with this move for the franchise.  I’m not over the moon about it, but I am also not disappointed or concerned that there was a better option.

Three things I can cite that help Kitchens are his camaraderie with Baker Mayfield, offensive creativity, and his personality.  It’s no secret that the new head coach and the Browns’ quarterback got along together as evidenced by mic’d up portions of games this year.  The two appear to be on the same page and have a similar mentality (being the underdog – chip on shoulder, etc.), which should be beneficial for both parties.  The play calling we saw last season was so refreshing compared to years prior.  The full-house backfield, end around runs or passes, and vertical routes are a few of the examples of things fans saw during the 2018 campaign – most of which were successful.  I am eager to see what Kitchens will do for an encore, with a full offseason to practice and prepare with the orange and brown.  Finally the personality is one that I support and the team does as well.  Kitchens has a swagger, rooted in confidence and not concerned about external factors.  He mentioned not campaigning for head coaching positions and that he just keeps his head down and works.

Mass Exodus

I want to thank Gregg Williams for the job he did as interim head coach this past season.  He came into a team that was 2-5-1 and one win over the prior two seasons.  Finishing the year at 5-3 with some exciting performances gives the team and fanbase hope going forward.  There is excitement, energy, and confidence in Cleveland – which has been dormant for nearly thirty years.  There was a possibility he could have been given the full time job by John Dorsey – but I can understand his reasoning for going for a younger, offensive-minded guy (which appears to be the new trend).  I wish him all the best (unless he faces the Browns) and I know the fans will give him a warm reception.

New Hires

A pair of guys have agreed to be a part of the 2019 Cleveland Browns.  First is the special teams coach Mike Preifer, who takes over for Amos Jones.  Preifer, who was born in this great city, comes over from the Vikings (where he was in the same role for eight seasons).  It’s a low bar to improve over last seasons output in that department – which included missed kicks, penalties on returns, and poor coverage.  He’s no Brad Seely, but I tend to think that Preifer will improve the unit to at least middle of the road (provided the team can improve at kicker) unit and that’s fine for me.

With Gregg Williams being let go, the team needed to acquire a replacement at defensive coordinator.  They went with Steve Wilks, who was recently the head coach in Arizona and defensive coach for the Panthers for six seasons.  In addition to being a coordinator, Wilks has spent a great amount of time with defensive backs.  The Browns already have a solid secondary room with talent, but I would not be surprised to see them take a leap in production in 2019.  Like special teams, there is room for improvement for the defense and I like this hire.

Conclusion:  As the calendar flips, so do coaches in the NFL.  I cannot wait to see what Kitchens and Wilks do for the team and to see what they can take from the 2018 squad and improve upon.  Of course free agency and the 2019 draft will be critical and are just around the corner.

 

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Very Important Coaching Decision

Very Important Coaching Decision

A Cap on the 2018 Cleveland Browns’ Season

The finale did not go the way the Browns were hoping for, but the narrow defeat to the Ravens was not the end of the world for a few reasons.  First, the Browns showed they can compete with one of the better teams in the league.  They also displayed a toughness on the field and an ability to fight back in contests.  Baker Mayfield broke the rookie passing touchdown record in the process (with twenty-seven scores).  Keeping the Steelers out of the playoffs was also a side effect that did not bother me.  Now that the 2018 campaign is finalized, there are big questions for the front office.

Tough Call for Dorsey

A full time head coach awaits the 2019 Cleveland Browns; making that decision is general manager John Dorsey.  Will he keep it in house with Gregg Williams or Freddie Kitchens?  Could he go for a recently fired head coach (like Mike McCarthy)?  Or will the Browns’ executive go the route of hiring a current assistant?  One thing is certain – there is little to no point to trust or believe reports that person X is the front runner (at least right now). Let’s not forget the erroneous Condolezza Rice report – as someone was falsely spreading information as fact.  If the 2018 NFL Draft is any indication, the Browns are not telling their true plans and all will find out after Dorsey makes his decision.

I am leaning towards an offensive-minded head coach – who can not only be a leader of men but can run his own system with Baker Mayfield and the other ten guys.  Many are saying that Freddie Kitchens is a few years away from being a head coach, which might be the case but his rise within the organization cannot be overlooked.  Everyone points to the Sean McVey hiring by the Rams as the example that a young coach who can succeed.  However, the flip side would be Josh McDaniels’ underperforming time with the Broncos several years ago.

Looking at two other offensive coaching options (Nick Sirianni and Kevin Stefanski) – I’m not sure they would be an upgrade over Kitchens.  Finally, Mike Munchak is getting an opportunity – following stints with the Titans and the Steelers.  While he has had experience, I don’t know if he can lead a team to the promised land.  There are obviously options with defensive coordinators and special teams coaches; but that’s not the route I am hoping the team goes.

Conclusion:  At this time, I am content with the Browns keeping with Williams or Kitchens as the other candidates don’t really seem like upgrades.  Perhaps there will be an under the radar candidate who is better than status quo, which would also be welcomed.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide any good examples at this point (and there might not be any).  At the end of the day, John Dorsey has earned goodwill with this past offseason and I expect a solid coaching hire.

 
 

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Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Latest from Berea:  What the Browns are Doing

The NFL offseason is in full swing, as free agency kicked off last week.  Guys are signing with new teams and franchises and swapping picks in the NFL Draft.  Let’s review a few things that pertain to the orange and brown.

More Acquisitions

Following the four trades that occurred last weekend, the Browns signed seven (you read that right) free agents.  Some are expected to be starters, while other will simply provide depth and experience on the roster.  Looking at the seven guys, Chris Smith, Terrance Mitchell, and Donald Stephenson are not going to make headlines during contests – perhaps they can overachieve here though.  Darren Fells will be doing the dirty work along the offensive line; the blocking tight end might help the unit move past the Joe Thomas era.  The Browns will more than likely be tipping their hand when he is in games versus David Njoku, but it won’t matter if the offense can perform (regardless of who is in there).

As of now, T.J. Carrie, Chris Hubbard, and Carlos Hyde are slated as game one starters for the Cleveland Browns.  Obviously things can change following the draft, but I see all three as solid selections for the team.  Carrie and Hyde appear to be upgrades from their predecessors and improvement is vital for this franchise.  Hubbard will likely be the starting right tackle, pushing Shon Coleman to take over on the left side.  There will definitely be a drop-off from the past eleven seasons at that position, but you can bet that the players, coaching staff, and management will try to minimize it.

Big Trade Early

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts traded picks yesterday; in surrendering three second round picks in the future, the Jets moved up to secure the number three selection.  It goes without saying that this type of move signals a choice for a quarterback early in the draft.  To reset, the Browns are likely to take a quarterback with the first overall selection and now the Jets are all but guaranteed to do the same thing two spots later.  That leaves all eyes on the New York Giants with the second pick – they could take Saquon Barkley (the top running back), the second quarterback of the draft, or trade back with a handful of teams who will likely take a signal caller.

Regardless of what occurs, the Browns will be in a pretty good position with the fourth selection (provided they do not trade away the choice).  I am tired of seeing the team forgo talent in order to get future draft picks, which don’t always pan out.  Therefore, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward, and Bradley Chubb are my early three frontrunners for the Browns’ second draft selection.  The only trade down that I could get behind is one for a spot or two – where they can still have the aforementioned trio to choose from.  I would be hesitant to trade the fourth pick to the Bills.  I understand the value of multiple draft picks but I agree with John Dorsey’s assessment that the team needs “real football players”.

Conclusion:  The excitement for the 2018 Cleveland Browns continues to increase as they are completely overhauling a roster that went winless a season ago.  Also, the trade for the third pick makes puts the Browns’ choices more in the spotlight.

 

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More Changes for the Browns

More Changes for the Browns

Out with the Old…

Another offseason and yet another overhaul for the orange and brown.  That is not surprising, considering what the franchise has become over the past few seasons.  I remember a younger version of myself where I used to think “now they have it right with (enter new general manager, head coach, etc)”.  However, I cannot get hyped anymore regarding changes with this team – at least until they can show consistent winning – and deep playoff runs.  Nevertheless, let’s look further into a few tweaks to the members of the franchise.

New Guys in the Front Office

Following the replacement of Sashi Brown for John Dorsey – they also added Alonzo Highsmith (for the role of Vice President of Player Personnel) and Eliot Wolf (as the assistant General Manager).  The Browns are putting together a front office that is full of “football guys” after years of having members without much experience with the league or football in general.  They don’t have to do much to improve upon their predecessors and can trip and fall over that low bar.

Turnover in Coaching Ranks

Looking at the offensive side of the football, Ken Zampese replaces David Lee as the Browns’ quarterback coach.  Zampese has worked multiple years with coach Jackson in Cincinnati – but was ousted as offensive coordinator last season amid a struggling offense.  That position remains open for the orange and brown and many are wondering if coach Jackson is willing to give up play calling duties.  Stayed tuned to see what route the Browns take for their 2018 campaign and beyond.

After spending seven years under multiple coaches and general managers, the special teams will no longer be headed by Chris Tabor.  I wish him the best as he seems like a nice guy and a passionate coach – but they Browns were not winning games because of this aspect of their team.  I would be surprised (and disappointed) if the special teams takes a step back under their new coach.

Next Steps

The new front office will be busy over the next few weeks attending several collegiate all-star games across the country.  It’s well-known about their assets in the upcoming draft; it would be nice to see the men selecting draft picks actually take franchise-changing athletes who can significantly improve this team.  Five selections in the first two rounds does not come around every year, thus the Browns must take advantage.

Conclusion:  The anger, frustration, and parade are fortunately over for the 2017 Browns and I am moving forward.  I look for a strong increase in talent and play next fall, but many correct decisions must be made by John Dorsey and Company before that happens.

 

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Defensive Matchups to Watch

Defensive Matchups to Watch

Intriguing Battles on the Defensive Side:  Cleveland Browns Training Camp

In addition to his hard nose (and that’s putting it lightly) mentality, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have to monitor a handful of interesting match-ups among potential starters for the Cleveland Browns.  Being in the business for so long – Williams will be able to identify the right guy; what I would like to see is the coach getting the most of each of the athletes competing for a starting gig.

Logjam at Defensive Tackle

This refers to the three technique spot in the defensive line.  Assuming that Danny Shelton mans the zero/one technique role, and the Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett are the men on the edge – that leaves one spot remaining for the defensive line.  Desmond Bryant, Jamie Meder, Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley, and Carl Nassib could each be the missing link for this unit.  This is easily the most interesting position group to see who emerges from the Browns.  Bryant should be the front runner, but I would not sleep on one of the youngsters.  Meder has filled a role in run support, but perhaps his new contract has made him a bit more eager to improve as a player overall.

Third Linebacker

People have penned Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey as bona-fide linebackers who should be on the field a majority of the snaps during the upcoming question.  With the recent trade of Demario Davis, the question that comes is – who will be the third linebacker?  In addition, will the Browns utilize Nickel and Dime packages (with an additional secondary member or two on the field and one fewer linebacker) instead?  I would not be surprised with the latter, as the NFL has become a pass-heavy league over the years.  As far as the linebackers are concerned, Tank Carder and Dominique Alexander are two viable options, while second year pro Joe Schobert will get a shot.  I am intrigued with Alexander and Schobert and hope one impresses in training camp.  One thing is certain, the Browns desperately need a reliable guy outside of Collins and Kirksey.

Who Plays Safety

Ibrabheim Campbell, Trey Caldwell, Calvin Pryor, and Jabril Peppers are just four of the names who could possibly sew up roles for the safety spots in the orange and brown.  Toss in a Jason McCourty, and the Browns could have options in the defensive backfield.  The big issue is that none of these guys have a proven track record in the NFL – including Pryor, who was a former first round selection.  The door is wide open for Peppers to come in a take a job day one.  Like with other areas on this roster, the Browns will need a gigantic improvement in this part of the team before they can have a competitive defense.

Conclusion:  The offense should feature several good battles in training camp, but I am looking more towards the defense.  This unit could be above average in this league, but all hands will have to be on deck.  Additionally, the Browns can either utilize veterans or rookies on their squad – it will be interesting to see who comes out ahead.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in NFL Season, Offseason, Players

 

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Updating the Cleveland Browns

Updating the Cleveland Browns

The Latest News Coming from Cleveland

Well, there are other things going on in the world of sports – outside of the NBA Finals.  The Browns are making moves both by acquisition and departure, hopefully they were the correct ones.  Meanwhile, a possible issue could be looming for one of the team’s better players.

The Trade (Heard Round the World?)

I am being a tad facetious when I mention the swapping of underachieving athletes between the Browns and the Jets.  The Browns sent linebacker Demario Davis to his former club and agreed to take Calvin Pryor (the former first round safety from the University of Louisville).  I am hoping that Pryor can fill in at the strong safety role for the orange and brown – while rookie Jabril Peppers plays a hybrid linebacker/safety role.  It’s a boom or bust proposition made by the Brown; a gamble I would prefer over Demario Davis.

Potential Contract Dispute?

It will be interesting to determine whether running back Isaiah Crowell will be on the roster for several more years or just though the 2017 campaign.  The veteran signed a restricted free agent tender a couple months ago, guaranteeing his spot on the club this year.  What will happen after this occurs?  The Browns have Duke Johnson and newly acquired Matthew Dayes to compete at the running back position.  I would venture that the team would add another talented runner to this group if they wanted to get rid of Crowell.  I would prefer the team keeps the veteran on this team, but that is the nature of the business – anywhere the team can upgrade, they should do it.

Latest Release

Before he could even put the pads on and get ready for training camp, Tyvis Powell was let go by the orange and brown.  Personally, I would have liked for him to compete on the gridiron to see what will be the best combination of safeties for this franchise.  However, the team did not agree with me and they will go the other direction.  I sincerely hope that Derrick Kindred and Ed Reynolds step up and provide solid play at that position.  Anything similar to what we saw in 2016 and the Browns are in trouble this fall.

Conclusion:  There were some under the radar rumblings for the Cleveland NFL franchise at this point in the season.  I firmly believe they will be improved from a year ago – but am far from confident that they are making all the correct decisions.  Hopefully the team has taken to the new leadership (especially on defense) and fans will see an up close difference during next month’s practices.

 

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