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Browns vs. Giants Preview

Browns vs. Giants Preview

Browns – Giants Matchup

It’s another contest for the orange and brown and the red-hot Giants come to town.  Once again, expectations for success should be low – but let’s review why.

Locker Room Chatter

Following last week’s horrid performance, Browns players finally sounded off about the state of the franchise.  I can’t imagine everyone shaking that off and coming together for a victory.  What is more likely is continued frustration and finger pointing at others.

McCown Back

Again, I respect Josh McCown and the type of guy he is, but he will not win a game for the Browns.  Anticipate a costly turnover or two – maybe with a touchdown in there too.  Bottom line is that it will not be good enough for the orange and brown.

The Giants are Good

Let’s not forget who the Cleveland Browns are facing.  Eli Manning does have a history of throwing multiple interceptions, while the opponent does not feature a stout rushing attack.  However, Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard will likely see handfuls of attempts, yardage, and possibly touchdowns.

That Offensive Line

Let’s not forget about the unit upfront who has been ill-equipped to either run block or not kill the guy under center.  Jason Pierre-Paul and company should feast on their counterparts at First Energy Stadium.

Conclusion:  I’m predicting the Browns to lose again on Sunday – by at least two touchdowns.  The good news is that the team finally hits their bye week after this matchup.

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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in NFL Season, Players, Uncategorized

 

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Another Loss

Another Loss

Browns Lose Again

It was painful to watch and hard to stomach, but the Browns got destroyed by another mediocre team yesterday.  I don’t have a lot more to add other than:

Calling it on Kessler – I am now ready to proclaim that Cody Kessler is not the guy going forward.  That was evident as he took sacks and couldn’t hit targets consistently.

Draft a New Line – The Browns’ offensive line looked just as bad as ever, as they surrendered eight sacks.  The team must put a high priority on upgrading here, starting with the replacement of Cam Erving.

Defense Not Working – The Browns couldn’t put any pressure on big Ben.  However, they also couldn’t stop the run or the pass either.  I hope it’s just the coach but it appears that the players aren’t too good either.

Conclusion:  Just five more games left in this putrid season.  I am looking forward to the holiday this week and can forget about the orange and brown for a few days.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in NFL Season, Players, Uncategorized

 

Browns vs. Redskins – Review of Game #1

Browns vs. Redskins – Review of Game #1

Review of Game #1 – Browns vs. Redskins

It was nothing flashy, but a respectable outing by the Cleveland Browns. The starting units held their own against the visitors and were beneficiaries of a few costly mistakes early. Overall it was a solid starting point for the 2015 campaign. Let’s review what went down at First Energy Stadium.

Offense:

Quarterback – The game plan for the offense appeared to be, “take what the defense gives you”. No matter if it was Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel under center; the Browns were content in dumping shorter routes as opposed to attempting longer throws. McCown ushered a seventy-five yard touchdown, while Manziel ran in a score as well. There’s quite a bit of room to grow, but not a terrible start for this duo.

Running Back – I believe this position will be extremely deemphasized during all of this exhibition season. This is probably for the best, as there is little to gain, while the threat of injuries loom large. That said, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West had a pedestrian performance in this contest (Crowell’s biggest play might have been a tackle on special teams). I am not too concerned about this group right now – but improvement will be needed in the coming weeks.

Wide Receivers – McCown hit a few of his targets early on – that was the hightlight of the receiving game for the Browns. Brian Hartline made some nice moves in open field, while Travis Benjamin got open and advanced the ball. The duo combined for five grabs, tops for all guys in the first half. I would still like to see the whole group be available (including Dwayne Bowe and Terrelle Pryor) but that might not come for some time.

Tight End – Not a tremendous amount of output by the tight ends. Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and Rob Housler could not secure a catch with the first and second units. However, rookie E.J. Bibbs had one reception for five yards – leading the group when most of the starters were playing. I expect the team to utilize this position group in the regular season, which athletes and how many targets is the question.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Danny Shelton led the unit that held the Redskins in check when rushing the football. It was not until the backups went in when the orange and brown struggled in stopping their opponents on the ground. Other that that, it was a quiet night for this group (which is not surprising). There were zero designed edge rushers and nothing to confuse their opponents. Hopefully we will get more of a look at this group next Thursday.

Linebackers – It was somewhat quiet by this unit as well, at least early on. The trio in the inside was solid in making plays when given the opportunities. All three had key stops in the first half of this contest. Only Paul Kruger’s hit on Robert Griffin III was noteworthy by the outside linebackers – the rest was forgettable. Without Barkevious Mingo available, Scott Solomon could not stand out as a viable replacement. However, next week is another opportunity for the veteran to make his mark.

Secondary – The absences of Joe Haden and Pierre Desir were felt early and often. Justin Gilbert was picked on during the first two drives of the Redskins. Aside from Pierre Garcon getting behind him and dropping an easy pass – Gilbert looked decent in coverage. He’s got to improve tremendously (and fast), but I suppose this game can be a stepping-stone for the second year pro. Tashaun Gipson made a few nice plays at safety; I am glad he picked up where he left off in 2014.

Special Teams: Forcing a pair of turnovers early, successfully making a field goal, and having decent returns on kickoffs and punts all occurred by the orange and brown. That’s about all you can ask for in the first game of the preseason. I envision necessary growth by this unit during the regular season.

Overall, I am content that the Browns can build from this performance. They were not great, but much better than they have been in years past in exhibition openers – and ahead of their counterparts (at least when the starters were playing).

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Heading South and East for the Summer – Browns’ Style

Heading South and East for the Summer – Browns’ Style

Expanding the Brand 

Last year, I mentioned why the Browns ought to move practices out of Berea during the summer months (https://intentionalhounding.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/why-possibly-moving-training-camp-is-a-good-idea/). It sounds like the franchise has listened, and will sprinkle in a few new cities during the month of August. Obviously I fully support the team’s decision – let’s review what will go down in the coming weeks.

Orange and Brown Scrimmage

The team will head down Interstate 71 to the state capitol to practice at Ohio Stadium. This will occur on a Friday night (August seventh), so there will likely not be as many in attendance as there would be on a Saturday night. Nonetheless, I expect there to be a bump from last year’s scrimmage held in Infocision Stadium in Akron.

There’s a large fan base of Browns fans in Columbus, and I hope they are out in full force to support the orange and brown. This new tradition of moving the intrasquad scrimmage around, might lead to steady growth – no matter if the team heads to Toledo, Canton, or Dayton. Perhaps fans will get a glimpse of what can be expected from young veterans or the beginning of greatness from a pair of 2014 rookies who struggled mightily.

Browns vs. Bills 

On August seventeenth and eighteenth, the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills will hold joint practices in St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., prior to their preseason matchup a few days later in First Energy Stadium. These are foreign to the orange and brown, but several clubs have been a part of these in the past few seasons (most notably the New England Patriots).

The Mike Pettine/Rex Ryan storyline should be intriguing during one week of the exhibition season. The former mentor and pupil will be butting heads (maybe literally) both in New York and Ohio. The coaches should excel at firing up their fans during this week – and onlookers should hear a fair amount of pads popping. I could not think of a better coupling for these NFL practices. Once again, if the teams can use this experience to get positive publicity, then it will have been deemed a success.

Conclusion: On paper, it would appear that the Cleveland Browns were wise in practicing in front of a few new crowds this summer. Whether it’s in the Buckeye state or not, some new eyeballs will gaze upon the roster. Will this convert onlookers to be new fans of the orange and brown? That remains to be seen, but if they can display toughness, attitude, and camaraderie – perhaps they will finally start to expand their brand name. (Victories in the fall will further this substantially).

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Bronze Barge! Get Pumped for the Great Lakes Classic

Preseason football is a methadone oasis for NFL fans in the heroin- and football-free summertime desert.  Something like that, based on what I’ve read in the lead up to the year’s first full-contact action.

This is not a screed against the preseason.  We’ve been waiting to see these guys in action for months or more.  We want to see what Johnny and co. look like in actual football jerseys.  We want to see if he’ll wear his Volt-colored cleats.  We want to see if he’ll hide a vial of coke in his helmet.  This is an exciting time!  It’s where it all begins!  It’s okay to get excited!  Use exclamation points!

Great Lakes Classic Trophy

That said, the Great Lakes Classic — the since-2002 preseason “rivalry” between the Browns and Lions, with the winner taking home a bronze barge trophy — is among the very dumbest ideas in the combined history of sports and statues.

My main beef with the GLC is its premise: a preseason rivalry game.  The idea just doesn’t click.  Rivalries do not exist in the preseason.  That’s why it’s the preseason.  Rivalries are built in the playoffs, or at least in the freaking regular season.  Do you think Browns newcomers like Justin Gilbert or Miles Austin, or even stalwarts like Joe Thomas, care about this thing?  Like, at all?  The whole idea is so silly that it even inspired a song:

The trophy itself isn’t awful if you’re a huge fan of barges.  It’s a handsome bronze, and it reportedly has some heft to it.  The Browns are at the stern, which lends itself to all sorts of cheap jokes, but that’s okay — the same issue would exist if the Lions were at the back.  You know, like they are in the NFC North.  Also, if you could have described from memory with any accuracy what the trophy looks like, then you are a true diehard who may also be living too hard.

But really, it’s a nice trophy.  If you can look past the fact that it’s a preseason prize, and that the Browns and Lions have seriously, seriously sucked for the past fifteen years, it’s not a bad piece of hardware.  If Cleveland State and Wayne State ever start up a football rivalry, maybe they can repurpose the thing.  After all, it reportedly cost $10,000 to make.

Read that last sentence again.

If the reports are true, that means the following: Someone proposed a ten thousand dollar preseason trophy, to be awarded to one of the two worst teams in modern football.  Someone else greenlit that idea.  Someone else was commissioned to build the trophy itself.  Again, to recap: There was an actual transaction in which someone was paid five figures to make a boat with the Browns’ and Lions’ helmets on it.

The high cost explains why we see so much of the trophy, right?  Wait, what?  You haven’t seen it in years, if at all?  Why would that be?

Well, according to now-years old reports from Jeff Schudel and Tony Grossi, the trophy stopped changing hands in 2005 when former Browns president Carmen Policy, ahem, jumped ship.  The trophy was last seen “collecting dust” at Browns headquarters, either on a side table or in a broom closet, depending on which report you believe.

Still, it’s football.  I’ll be pulling for the Browns and hoping for the best out of the rookies.  Maybe Johnny will look like a star, or maybe Hoyer will.  Maybe Joel Bitonio will look like the mean SOB that we’ve wanted on the offensive line.  Maybe Andrew Hawkins will be the first NFL player to hit a growth spurt while scoring a touchdown.  It’s an exciting time.

But for me, there is only one Great Lakes Classic.  If you make a habit of watching ESPN2 at 3 AM, you know what I mean.  Long live Parker Bohn III.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Where Will You Be When the Browns Win the Super Bowl?

Browns-1

I was talking with my friend Brian at his apartment in downtown Cleveland.  It’s one of those cool converted warehouse apartments with big windows hugged by brick walls.  It is right in the center of downtown, with views of Lake Erie, Terminal Tower, and FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns.

I asked him a question that I’ve asked many friends: Where are you going to be when the Browns win the Super Bowl?

It’s a question that many young Browns fans ask themselves, one that can inspire tremendous hope and angst.  Despite the franchise’s pitiful history since its return in 1999, Browns fans hold fast onto tales of triumph.  They grow hazier with each passing season, but the legends of Otto Graham and Jim Brown still resonate in Cleveland.  All fans know the truism that the Browns were once dominant.  With every draft, today’s fans wonder who will be the player to take their Browns to the promised land.

So where will those fans be when the big day comes?  Some swear that they will be at the game, no matter the cost.  Others say they will be downtown, ready to join the party that no one can accurately predict because of the absurdity of the premise.  I posed the question to Brian.  He answered quickly, and with frightening conviction and amusement.

“Oh, I’ll be dead.”

The Browns are at a crossroads.  A great many Cleveland fans insist that they are the best fans in football.  They continue to sell out games and there have been no blackouts since 1999.  They have dealt with a crap team (or no team) for two decades, which is the best way to score fan street cred.  They are known as one of the most tortured fan bases in sports.

That said, there is evidence that Browns fans’ support is waning.  They did not crack the top 10 of Forbes NFL’s Best Fans list, which is based on five criteria: stadium attendance, TV ratings, merchandise sales, social media reach, and fan club presence.  They placed 15th in Sports Illustrated’s players poll of most intimidating fans, a far cry from the days of the old Dawg Pound.  A 2008 ESPN ranking, however, placed Browns fans as the third-best in the league.  What’s changed?

In short, nothing has changed, and that’s the problem.  The Browns have sucked since 1999, save a couple of seasons.  They haven’t had a strong multi-year streak like the Indians had in the 90s.  They’ve barely been competent during that stretch.  They have had eight head coaches since 1999, a number that actually seemed low to me.  Same goes for the six GMs.  Everyone gets fired every three years.

It’s getting harder every year to convince young Browns fans that this is a franchise worth investing in.  My then three year-old nephew was watching a game with his dad last season.  They live in Pittsburgh.  Trying to keep a potential Browns fan on track in enemy territory is no easy task.  When my nephew realized the Browns were on TV, he was incredulous.  He turned to his father and said, matter-of-factly,

“Dad, the Browns always lose.”

Smart kid.

What I’m getting at is that the next few years are very important for the Browns.  They don’t need to win a Super Bowl, but they do need to be competent.  Fans need to see progress during games and believe in the front office.  It doesn’t matter if Johnny Manziel is the starter or who the best player is.  This team just needs to be consistently less awful.  The tales of fifty year-old championships are gathering cobwebs, and the Browns are turning into the Franchise That Cried Next Year.  Few fans will come out and say that they are growing less avid, but the empty orange seats say otherwise.

I hope they turn it around.  I hope that my Super Bowl plans come to fruition one day.  I know that when the Browns get there, I’ll be downtown, running around like Jimmy V. in ’83.  It doesn’t matter where in the city I am.  I just want to be in Cleveland and around Clevelanders.  I’ll be hugging weird-looking strangers like it’s the end of Major League.  I just hope that I’m alive when it happens.  I hope Brian is, too.

 

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