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What’s New for the Browns?

What’s New for the Browns?

Latest Browns News and Notes

This is pretty much the slowest time of year in the NFL offseason. However, the Cleveland Browns are still making news – albeit nothing earth shattering.  Let’s take an in-depth peek into a few happenings with the professional franchise located in northeast Ohio.

Josh McCown Mentorship

Recently the veteran quarterback for the Browns said he is excited for an opportunity to mentor a young quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. This is refreshing, as it is more than likely that a signal caller will be selected with the second overall choice in this year’s draft.

It’s a shame, as McCown was more than ready to take this role last year – but the young guy (in position to start) had too many demons that overshadowed his playing and led to his impending departure from the franchise.  While McCown is not a Hall-of-Fame quarterback; he is still a brilliant guy who has been in the league for many years.  Although he does not possess everything required to be a franchise quarterback, he knows what it takes to become one.  I anticipate he will convey wisdom with the newcomer, and I hope that the rookie can develop exponentially from the veteran as well as Hue Jackson (who knows his way around quarterbacks).

Mack Still Undecided

It’s pretty interesting to hear that the possible free agent-to-be continues to push back his deadline to make a decision whether he will opt out of his current contract with Cleveland Browns.  I still have the belief that he will not be donning orange and brown one way or another, but perhaps Hue Jackson can work his magic to keep the center.  Despite being one of the best centers in the NFL, he will seek nearly nine million dollars per season going forward; the Browns need to utilize their assets on more at positions that can affect the game as opposed to a guy snapping the football.

Guys to Lock Up

There are several members of the 2015 Browns whose contracts will expire next month.  However there are only two who I feel it is vital the team keeps around for several years; Mitchell Schwartz and Travis Benjamin.

With Mack likely gone, it is important that the Browns not create another hole along their offensive line.  I understand that the unit underwhelmed last season but have confidence that they will bounce back this fall (even with Cameron Erving at center).  The new coaching staff alone should help getting more out of the players than what their predecessors were able to do.

If Josh Gordon can come back to this roster, and the team drafts a Josh Doctson or Michael Thomas early in the NFL Draft – then Travis Benjamin would make a solid third receiving option.  The status of Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel with the team is up in the air, as both were injured and underproductive last season.  There will no doubt be turnover with the wide receiving corps, but they must retain a veteran or two (including Brian Hartline) – especially with Gordon being a bad decision away from exiting the league.

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Posted by on February 26, 2016 in Offseason, Players

 

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The Last Game of the Season – Cleveland Browns

The Last Game of the Season – Cleveland Browns

Browns @ Ravens – A Preview of Game #16

It has finally come to this; the Browns conclude their 2014 campaign at the cesspool known as M & T Bank Stadium. Success for the orange and brown there has been few and far between (I recall close wins in 2002 and 2007 – their only winning seasons since 1999). Expectations are low for the visitors, according to national and local pundits. However, they have a shot to make an impact on the AFC playoff picture. Let’s break down this matchup against the purple and black.

Offense: Despite the fact that the Ravens are ranked 30th in the league against the pass, you can bet that they will be baiting Brian Hoyer to throw plenty in this contest. The opponent will be bringing pressure and disguising coverage in order to confuse the passer on drop backs. Can the signal caller make snap decisions and execute plays correctly? I have my doubts, but he at least led a touchdown drive last game.   At a minimum, I want zero turnovers and at least one touchdown by the signal caller.

On the other hand, the opposition has been stout when stopping running backs – surrendering less than ninety yards per game on the ground. That should not be a deterrent from the Browns’ game plan though. I envision the coaching staff putting a plan of attack together similar to the one against the Raiders. Despite rushing for only 1.6 yards per carry, the Browns toted the ball twenty-five times and let the quarterback make some big plays (in that contest). I hope Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West can slip through the defense for some long gainers – that might be the best bet for a solid offensive output.

What to make of this receiving corps; their success has been largely dependent on the play of the quarterback (which should come to no surprise). Over the last month, the play of Taylor Gabriel, Jordan Cameron, and Josh Gordon has greatly diminished. There must be some sort of rapport building between Manziel and his wide outs. I firmly believe Hawkins and Gordon can be a part of an exceptional trio going forward – provided they pick up a stalwart opposite Josh. For the time being, I just want to see some longer receptions and, even more importantly, tough grabs made in traffic.

Will the offensive line get it in gear for this contest? All five must be in synch to excel in both the running and passing games. The Browns have struggled when trying to pick up those “tough yards” in the past few contests – i.e. third down and one. This will not be cleaned up for this contest; even without the services of Haloti Ngata for the Ravens. The Browns will pass to set up the run – which could be a scary thought for Browns fans. Ryan Seymour and Mitchell Schwartz are the keys for the unit – they have allowed defenders to cross their face in some contests when the entire offense was failing.

Defense: The thought of the run defense facing Justin Forsett terrifies me. The veteran has been rushing the ball well all season long, while his counterparts have been extremely disappointing a majority of 2014. Even if John Hughes returns for this contest, I do not have a great deal of faith that the defense can slow down the home team’s running attack. With the future of Ahtyba Rubin still in doubt, the nose tackle must put everything into this contest – if he wants to return to this team next season. Billy Winn will want to prove he can be a full-time starter beginning in 2015; this final meeting could be an early glimpse into his expectations with a large workload.

Will the improved play of Barkevious Mingo continue at Baltimore? The second-year pro is standing out primarily as a pass rusher, but he is much more reliable now than he was in week one. Paul Kruger will try to put on a show against his former squad, and there’s a good chance that he can make some plays. A turnover forced is what I want to see from the former University of Utah standout. Both of the younger inside linebackers are becoming mainstays for this defense. Are they both exceptional, top-tier talents? Not at this point, but give them more playing time and their developments ought to continue.

This contest will be a litmus test for some of the youth in the secondary. This refers to Justin Gilbert, Pierre Desir, and K’Waun Williams. Two of these three rookies have made solid plays in this campaign, while Desir has been battling injuries since training camp. I would love for one to haul in an interception and be a part of multiple pass breakups – thus providing hope going forward. This might be Jim Leonhard’s final NFL game; I want to see him go out in a blaze of glory. He has been a tremendous safety, who does many things well. Why not a recover a fumble and return a punt for more than ten yards?

Special Teams: Can Garrett Hartley hold up if this contest is a close one? He has not had a big kick in quite some time, but he should still (hopefully) be an improvement over his predecessor. The return game has been non-existent for the Browns all season long; just take a knee on kickoffs! As long as the coverage teams limit Jacoby Jones, I would feel content with that part of the team.

Coaching: It’s time to be aggressive and see how the young guys respond. Pettine and Shanahan must put the offense into unpredictable situations (for the defense) where Hoyer can succeed. Defensively, it will continue to be about putting pressure on Flacco. Send a few safety blitzes, as well as some edge rushes – whatever it takes to make the pocket uncomfortable.

Prediction (My Record: 10 – 5): I believe the Browns keep this one close for most of the way, only to see the home squad recover a turnover and expand their lead. The Ravens turn away the Browns by the score of 27 – 16.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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Sneakin’ an Early Peek – Raiders @ Browns

Sneakin’ an Early Peek – Raiders @ Browns

Previewing Game #7 – Raiders @ Browns

What better way for the Browns to get over last week’s dismal performance?  The answer is to go out there and play exceptionally against the Oakland Raiders.  They have their only late afternoon
contest of the season, so hopefully the team’s body clocks are not out of synch.  Win or lose, however, that will not be an acceptable excuse for the fan base.  They expect the Browns to get back on track and dominate the rookie-led franchise with an interim coach.  Let’s look deeper into this matchup.

Offense:  It was one of those days last week in Jacksonville.  Nothing went right for the Cleveland offense and most of the issues were due to the ineptitude of Brian Hoyer.  Will this type of output continue the rest of the 2014 campaign?  That is unlikely, and he should be completing the same types of throws he was just two weeks earlier against the Steelers.  A fumble and an interception were definitely out of character, but Hoyer will succeed in protecting the ball in this contest.  I also expect to see him to complete two touchdown passes, which isn’t much, but it positive momentum for the veteran.

Where does the running game go from here?  Will they continue go with three runners, the way they did last week (which was unsuccessful)?  I foresee a steady dose of Ben Tate primarily between the tackles, and several outside runs for Isaiah Crowell.  That has been the formula for proven efficiency and yardage for this offense.  Even if they have issues running early, I want to see them sticking to the run.  The only way play action passing can work is with the threat of a run; that was non-existent last week and thus they had troubles passing as well.

Andrew Hawkins came back with a fury of a game last week, but it was all for naught.  I loved seeing him record over 100 yards receiving, including a haul of sixty-five yards.  Hopefully he does it again as a part of a victory – he continues to show he can make all sorts of different plays.  Is Jordan Cameron’s injured shoulder still lingering?  Were the Jaguars scheming to take him out of the Browns’ game plan?  Whatever the reason, the tight end is not getting involved in contests.  Like Hawkins’ last outing, I would enjoy seeing an outburst of yards and scores by the free agent to-be this offseason.

Alex Mack is not walking through that door folks (at least as a healthy player).  The offensive line was horrendous last matchup, and Paul McQuistan and John Greco underwhelmed in their first full game starting in new positions.  It might be time to see whether Nick McDonald is ready to play center and slide Greco back to guard; the unit cannot keep getting stuffed up the middle.  My eyes will be focused on this group during the first offensive drive – it may be telling to see whether they can fuel a solid win or if it’s going to be another long day.

Defense:  Despite all the injuries, there is zero excuse (that is reasonable) to explain the Browns’ run defense.  They are still very porous and are letting opponents (both larger and smaller backs)
breeze through open holes.  Will Ahtyba Rubin and/or Billy Winn finally get back on the field this week?  I desperately hope so, as those veterans might be the difference between respectable and despicable.  Garnering an early lead will limit opposing running attempts as well, as Tony Sparano would be forced to utilize the pass to try to catch up.

The three outside linebackers were nowhere to be found – Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, and Jabaal Sheard had a combined six stops and zero impactful plays.  The defense can get by if other athletes step up in their absence, but having little to no outside pressure has been
killing the Browns.  On the flip side, Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby tallied fifteen tackles, two sacks, and a pair of hits on Blake Bortles.  This week, the coaching staff must figure out a way to have the outside linebackers play more like the guys on the inside.  The linebackers have the potential to become a dominant unit, but it all has to come together (which is very easy to be said).

Right place, right time continues to be the motto for Tashaun Gipson. I would not be surprised to see him collect another interception this contest.  Buster Skrine has been inconsistent most of this year but I have confidence he can be solid against a James Jones or Denarius Moore.  Will Joe Haden be invisible once again?  Teams might think twice to pick on him, as the veteran is recovering well from his hip injury.  I hope K’Waun Williams returns this week as his play had added another dimension to this secondary.  The bottom line is, they must force rookie Derek Carr into mistakes – and more importantly capitalize on those with touchdowns.

Special Teams:  That’s now two returners who have mishandled punts for the Browns.  Will they use Jim Leonhard more in this role?  Should they go back to Travis Benjamin?  Chris Tabor’s only huge issue is this part of the game, but it is glaring.  The team is not good enough to overcome large mistakes like the one that occurred last week.

Coaching:  It seems like Mike Pettine has a very aggressive coaching style, some times to his detriment.  I’m always for attempting touchdowns over field goals but sometimes he has to read the situation better.  He’s got to get some of these tough decisions right – I know he has all the confidence in the world in this offense, but if they don’t execute it comes back to Pettine.

Prediction (My Record: 4-2):  Last week’s game was garbage, so let’s toss it out and forget about it.  I think the Browns play the way they should have in Jacksonville and win a game by a decent margin at home. They finish out ahead of the visitors by the score of 24 – 16.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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