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Goodbye and Hello – Browns Roster Changes

Goodbye and Hello – Browns Roster Changes

Recent Happenings for the Cleveland Browns

Well, the Browns made some more news this past week. They continued to be criticized by the national media – some of it rightly so, while others was “a bit much”. People continue to forget that championships are not won in free agency, but let’s not get in the way of a narrative to disparage a franchise that has been putrid for over a decade and a half. However it was not all about the subtractions, as the team first signed a pair of guys.

Letting the Free Agents Walk

While the Browns might have negotiated with all their top four free agents, each left to play elsewhere in 2016 and going forward. Alex Mack flew the coop to Atlanta, Mitchell Schwartz is the main chief in Kansas City, Travis Benjamin bolted to San Diego, and Tashaun Gipson is another “jag” in Jacksonville. It was a bummer as a fan to see this occur, as the team definitely got weakened as a result. However, I am in the camp supporting the decision to move on from guys who always lose. Will their replacements be winners? Who knows, but I’m not shedding any tears by these losses – but (after listening yo some) you would have thought the team lost four Hall of Famers.

Bye Bye Johnny

In a move that surprised no one, the team jettisoned their troubled signal caller. The previous regime went for the sizzle instead of the steak, and it ultimately cost them their job. I wish him the best personally, but would not be amazed to see that his professional career concluded. The page has been turned and I am ready to move forward as well.

Two New Signings

The team finally secured a pair of athletes during the free agency period.   One is Alvin Bailey, an offensive lineman who previously was with the Seattle Seahawks. It would appear to be a move for depth; a reserve player who could play special teams or spots in the starting role. Bailey had eight starts in three seasons – he is young but still rather inexperienced.

Secondly, Justin Tuggle was acquired from the Houston Texans. The outside linebacker is also youthful and green, garnering just eleven starts in three seasons. I envision him for more of special teams, unless he can shock everyone and become a tremendous pass rusher. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it seems like yesterday that his father Jesse was roaming the sidelines of the Georgia Dome.

Conclusion: The roster purge appears to be on for the Cleveland Browns. The got rid of overpriced guys who were not elite athletes that could impact the game (the way a quarterback or wide receiver could). The draft simply becomes that more important – this is a scary premise as the team has a lousy record at doing this. I will give the new guys a break though.

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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Free Agency, Offseason, Players

 

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Browns vs. Pittsburgh – Game #16 Preview

Browns vs. Pittsburgh – Game #16 Preview

The Final Game of the 2015 Season – Browns vs. Steelers

It’s finally here; after many months of bad football the Browns will finally end the campaign at home against the black and yellow. I have (painfully) witnessed fifteen contests for this franchise over the past few months, so I will fight though one more. Can they win? Sure. Will they compete and actually come out ahead of a playoff-hopeful team? We will discuss below.

Offense:

Quarterback – Since the last time Johnny Manziel faced the Steelers, the quarterback has had some highs and lows (both on and off the field) – but more importantly he has gained vital experience. He reverted more to running last game, but I anticipate he will stick primarily in the pocket and tossing passes to his targets. He will find the end zone in this game, and I do not see a bad interception like his past two contests.

Running Back – Both backs have continued to improve this season; why can’t this continue against the black and yellow? Isaiah Crowell will not get more than seventy-yards on the ground, but should be able to get into the end zone. I would like to think that Duke Johnson could both help in the passing game (as a receiver) as well as providing a decoy on designed runs for Manziel. Hopefully the rookie can do his job exceptionally this week. 

Wide Receiver – Once again, I do not foresee a tremendous amount of output from Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, and company, as that appears to be the norm since Brian Hartline’s injury. The wide outs should be able to haul in passes and move the chains – but that’s all one should anticipate. A score would be icing on the cake in this matchup, but don’t hold your breath. 

Tight End – Gary Barnidge continues to display an ability to be a reliable weapon for this offense. However staying on nine touchdowns should give him (and the team as a whole) a desire to break the franchise’s single season record for touchdowns caught by a tight end. I would be disappointed if he was unable to score a touchdown, but the defense he will face is a stingy one. Perhaps Jim Dray can possibly get involved and help this offense as well.

Offensive Line – The guys upfront continue to look respectable, despite looking lost early and succumbing to injuries late. Even Cam Erving was not terrible last game – I would like to believe he is working through rookie issues but this game will be a tremendous test for the guard. Will this be Alex Mack’s final game as a Cleveland Brown? This would not surprise me, and I hope he goes out a winner and does a fine job during this contest.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Can the Browns make it two games in a row, in terms of limiting opposing running backs from rushing for a great deal of yards? The way things are going; the odds are against this from happening. Danny Shelton is making a play or two but still is not consistent enough to be a force in the middle of the defensive line. Perhaps Desmond Bryant can fill gaps on the edge and meet DeAngelo Williams in the hole – prompting to shorter running plays.

Linebacker – As usual both Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby will be able to provide their services in run support, however struggle in pass coverage. On the outside, I have no idea what to expect from any of the guys. Paul Kruger can still rush the quarterback well, but he is asked to do that only a portion of the time. Rookie Nate Orchard is coming along; maybe he can be the wildcard if the Browns want to score the upset. Getting sacks and securing turnovers would be a reason why the team can earn this victory. 

Secondary – Hopefully K’Waun Williams and Charles Gaines can take their next step improving as professional cornerbacks. They (along with Tramon Williams) had their issues at Heinz Field, but were able to keep up with receivers over the past few games. I really hope both can keep it up, as the opposition will try its hardest to embarrass the secondary. I would be all for Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner being active in this matchup and making an impact – but do not envision this occurring yet again.

Special Teams: I look for fakes on punts; onsides kicks, and changes to blocking in the field goal unit for the Browns this week. This could actually be a part of the game that the Browns can win in – however they must be smart when punting to Antonio Brown.  A winning kick would be a great way to end the season, but many other positives must occur first.

Coaching: I hope John DeFilippo continues to call plays they way he has been the last few games. The offense has not been clicking on all cylinders, but they have been executing more as of late (especially via the running game). Defensively, the Browns pitched a shut out in the second half last week. Whatever Jim O’Neil did needs to be replicated for all four quarters in this game.

Prediction (My Record: 10 – 5): The Browns keep this contest close in the first half, but the Steelers blow it wide open in the third quarter. That leads to a defeat of 30 – 14 and the end to this bad year of Cleveland Browns football.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Breakdown of Browns Game #9

Breakdown of Browns Game #9

Game #9 Analysis – Browns @ Bengals

Could the tides have been turning in this contest for the Cleveland Browns? Sure, they got killed (and my astute prediction was very spot on) – but several young athletes made contributions in this contest. I would like to think about them as growing pains and expect to see improvement over the next seven contests. However, let’s review what went down last night.

Offense:

Quarterback – I have to admit that I am pretty amazed at where Johnny Manziel was versus a year ago. The signal caller had pocket awareness, zip on his passes, and many of his completions were due to drops by his wide outs. I hope he gets the nod the rest of the season, and want to determine whether this game was a fluke or if Manziel really is getting better and can be a franchise quarterback someday. 

Running Back – Once again the stable of running backs could not excel in rushing the ball. Manziel and Crowell each eclipsed thirty yards, but that is not enough in the NFL (especially for a running back). In the second half, the team was down a wide margin and runs did not appear to be fruitful – so I understand why the team turned to the pass more often. Duke Johnson as a receiver continues to make sense for this team.

Wide Receiver – Dwayne Bowe finally got into game action and hauled in three passes, meanwhile Marlon Moore (a special teams ace) did an ample amount of blocking when in the slot. The drops by Taylor Gabriel were disappointing, as he is fighting for his professional career this offseason – and these types of plays surely will not help. Perhaps having Hartline and Hawkins back next game could assist the passing game for Manziel.

Tight End – Gary Barnidge made a couple nice receptions, but it was nowhere near the level of play he has been having. He missed a key third down grab when he stuck his hand out in the first half, and was unable to haul in a touchdown grab as well. E.J. Bibbs was actually active in this contest, alas he was not in the game plans to catch passes and make plays.

Offensive Line – For the first time in the season, I actually saw a Browns’ quarterback have a clean pocket. Granted, it was not on a consistent basis – but it goes to show the potential for the guys upfront. During run blocking, they still had their issues (and the Joel Bitonio injury scare did not help). For what this franchise wants to do, they need to have five guys open holes better than what they are doing. A shakeup is needed in this part of the team.

Defense: 

Defensive Line – The idiocy of Randy Starks amazes me; the underperforming tackle single-handedly gave the Bengals seven points. Committing dumb penalties is unacceptable by the veteran. Desmond Bryant and John Hughes each made a play or two – and Danny Shelton keeps on trying. Overall, they gave up over 150 yards on the ground, which is to be expected, sadly. This offseason will be huge to get another guy (or two) to keep trying to improve the run defense.

Linebacker – Karlos Dansby led the team in tackles, meanwhile Paul Kruger was finally able to generate a sack. The two veterans could have been much worse in this contest. I liked the play of rookie Nate Orchard, who outplayed Barkevious Mingo on the outside spot. I anticipate the team moving on from the first round bust and utilizing another draft pick to compete with Orchard and possibly Kruger.

Secondary – I understand that Joe Haden was not in this contest, but to allow Andy Dalton to complete twenty-one of twenty-seven passes is unacceptable. The secondary was very giving to their counterparts and Pierre Desir and Tramon Williams were far from spectacular at times. It was not an exceptional performance, but I hope this was Justin Gilbert’s entry into this defense. The second year player was at least decent and should be afforded an opportunity going forward.

Special Teams: Pretty much status quo for the special teams. Andy Lee had a few disappointing punts, but made up for them with a great one in the third quarter. Ultimately, this was not the reason why the team lost the contest however.

Coaching: I thought offensively this was the right game plan for both the offense and defense. Manziel was able to execute at times and did not commit a turnover in doing so. They only found the end zone once however and must improve in that department. Defensively, they forced Dalton to beat them and a depleted secondary allowed it to happen. The execution must get better, but I see what the staff was trying to accomplish.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Offensive Outlook – Browns before Training Camp

Offensive Outlook – Browns before Training Camp

Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns – Part I

Now come the multiple weeks in between the Browns holding minicamp and training camp, and our opportunity to analyze the many assets on the roster. Granted, fans have only been able to see the players participate in shorts, but that hasn’t stopped my breakdown before. Training camp and the preseason will be extremely telling for all members of the team – I am hopeful many can continue to improve during that period. First, we look at the offensive side of the ball and thoughts about those athletes.

Quarterbacks: Right now it appears that it is Josh McCown and then a bunch of other guys. I am happy to hear he is looking very well in practice, but he has not been facing pressure and complex defensive schemes. I am reluctant to completely buy in, I just want a quarterback who can keep the team in games and do what it takes to achieve victories. I have no expectations for Johnny Manziel, but if he is able to act like a pro and limit his mistakes this summer – maybe he will get his shot down the road.

Running Backs: I really want to see what this group can do in 2015. Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, and Terrance West each possess unique traits and abilities. The Browns were expected to have a solid running attack unit last year, but the wheels fell off mid-season what Ben Tate lost his mind (not literally). Throwing more to these guys will be a critical part of the offense, and welcomed by me as the Browns have strayed away from this aspect for many years. Each of these three bring something different to the table, and I anticipate weekly offensive game plans to revolve around the team grinding out many yards with the running backs.

Wide Receivers: The lightning rod of the offense, this group has been debated frequent by both local and nation media. Are they the worst group in the NFL, or are they underrated? Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, while not flashy, will run proper routes and secure catches when given an opportunity. I am very excited to see the growth in Taylor Gabriel; he appears to “get it” and should improve upon a solid rookie campaign. Vincent Mayle might surprise us all and have a great rookie campaign, while if Andrew Hawkins performs up to expectations in the slot role – this gang can be a very good one. 

Tight Ends: Rob Housler, Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and maybe E.J. Bibb? That’s whom the Browns are trotting out at tight end this season. Expectations are far from high, but as long as this group does what is asked (hauling in occasional passes and can block consistently), I will not be disappointed. There will not be a Jimmy Graham type of performance from this unit, but making the most of their opportunities is all I ask.

Offensive Line: Here’s where the offense will hang their hat during the 2015 season. Whether it’s opening up holes for rushers or keeping the signal caller upright, the five men upfront should be performing exceptionally from summer to winter. Drafting Cameron Erving should provide depth that was lacking last year. My hopes are high for the line – why can’t the offense flourish with a tremendous front (it worked for the Cowboys in 2014)?

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Players, Training Camp

 

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The Expiration Date on Alex Mack’s Ploy

The Expiration Date on Alex Mack’s Ploy

Starting to Sour on Alex Mack

The transition-tagged center from California is trying his best to shed donning the orange and brown for the rest of his career.  After not re-signing his contract extension a few weeks ago (after multiple members of the front office flew out to “pitch” the Cleveland Browns), his agent Marvin Demoff told the media he would try to construct a contract that would not be matched by his current employer – ensuring his departure.  Now, Mack is meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars and an offer may be the end result.  As a Browns fan, I am beyond disappointed by Mack and his agent – and am leaning towards the Browns making plans for life after Mack.

Despite the team’s favorable salary cap situation, they are under no obligation to pay an exorbitant amount to a center.  I understand the player touches the ball every single play – but there will be a time when athletes like Joe Haden, Josh Gordon, and whoever the franchise quarterback will be, are going to negotiate their own contracts.  I highly favor securing longer deals with players who can impact the game more than an interior offensive lineman.  The exception to that rule is left tackle, as a priority has been given to that position and Joe Thomas has excelled at protecting several guys behind center.

My ideal scenario would be that no team signs Mack to a contract extension, the Browns choose a center (my favorites are Travis Swanson and Weston Richburg) and start him out at guard.  In 2015, this player would then slide to his natural position.  Another option would be that this rookie lines up in the middle near the end of the 2014 season; however that’s only if the campaign is a lost cause.

Should Jacksonville, or another NFL franchise for that matter, ink the center to a contract extension then the Browns will have a difficult decision.  If there is an ample amount of guaranteed money and the annual salary is close to his transition tag amount (just over $10 million), I would be content with Ray Farmer and the front office bidding adieu to the two-time Pro Bowler.  The Browns have ten draft picks this year; heck, take two centers if you are that worried about the position!  Having a solid snapper is important in this league, but as far as the pecking order goes – it is well below quarterback, pass rusher, lock-down cornerback, etc.

If the Browns do match Alex Mack’s deal, I will be pulling for him (just as I would with any of the other fifty-two guys on the roster).  However, it’s apparent he and his agent want to relocate after a futile fife-year run.  Frankly, I don’t really blame him – but the Jacksonville Jaguars are not the model of consistent winning in the league either.  This will-he-or-won’t-he is getting old, and the Browns do not have much leverage at this point.  That can all change after the draft, expediting the process before Mack is mandated to report – training camp starts in mid July.

 

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Latest Roster Moves: Cleveland Browns

Latest Roster Moves: Cleveland Browns

Recent Cleveland Browns transactions (and non-transaction) 

In the window of time before free agency begins, a couple of decisions were made regarding players on the Browns’ roster.  Each spring, an NFL franchise could apply a tag – either a franchise or transition – on a pending free agent.  The difference is the former comes with a higher (one-year) salary, an ability to recoup draft selections should another team sign away the athlete, and an obstacle for other franchises to set the player’s market price.  The opposite is true for the transition tag, a tool utilized for the first time ever by the Cleveland Browns.

Placing the transition tag on center Alex Mack:

This definitely came out of left field, as many outside of the organization believed Mack would either get re-signed or signed by another team.  The positives for doing this are saving roughly $1.6 million (as opposed to the franchise tag tender) as well as the Browns can now match any competing offer; which will likely not be an egregious amount.  However, there is a concern as  this move is likely for 2014 only.  It’s beginning to feel like Mack will not be here long-term, whether he becomes too expensive or simply wants to play elsewhere.  I anticipate the Browns will take a center in the upcoming draft (like a Travis Swanson or Weston Richburg) and possibly plug him in at guard and transition him to the middle in 2015.  I’m a little leery of the transition tag, but I hope the front office can solidify the center spot for years to come (regardless of the athlete).

Not placing a franchise tag on T.J. Ward:

Another somewhat intriguing decision by general manager Ray Farmer was to not place a tag on Ward.  Safety is a position that comes with one of the lowest franchise tag tenders, so it’s expected that teams would likely use it with athletes at that spot – provided a multi-year deal is not agreed upon.  Currently, that’s the case between the Browns and the former Oregon star.  I feel Ward’s fourth season really increased his value (and would argue that he is somewhat over-valued), so there’s a good possibility he played his last home game at First Energy Stadium.  The team wants an athlete stout against the pass; i.e. Jairus Byrd.  Will the Browns sign the free agent safety of the Buffalo Bills, to replace Ward?  His salary could be rather hefty and the team will be in competition with other franchises, so that might not occur.  Assuming it does not, look for a Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon, or a Lamarcus Joyner to be drafted in May to compete with Tashaun Gipson.  Should Ward leave, I would not be upset as the team has solid options to replace the veteran.

Releasing Davone Bess:

Disappointing does not even begin to describe the type of season the wide receiver had after being traded from the Miami Dolphins.  Bess had multiple drops (fourteen in total), a critical muff of a punt in Kansas City, and did not finish the 2013 campaign due to troubling mental issues.  Granted, the team may still owe his 2014 guaranteed salary of just over three million dollars (although they will seek to recoup that amount).  However, this is still an extremely smart move as the Browns have ample money under the salary cap and can wipe their hands clean from this failed experiment.  Another wide receiver will be chosen to complement Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron; I like a replacement (realistically, an upgrade) taken with the twenty-sixth or thirty-fifth spot in the draft.  This was a no-brainer decision and I hope Bess gets the help he needs going forward.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Free Agency, Players

 

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