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Games 9 – 16: Cleveland Browns’ Schedule Analysis

Games 9 – 16:  Cleveland Browns’ Schedule Analysis

Cleveland Browns’ 2016 Schedule: Second Half Breakdown

The second portion of the campaign for the Cleveland Browns features much more AFC North foes on it. Everyone knows that will lead to hard-nosed battles, with possible scuffles and injuries. I would not be surprised if they came away with some victories in these contests. Meanwhile, some traditional powerhouse teams could stumble if they overlook Hue Jackson’s club.

Away Contests: Week 10 @ Baltimore, Week 15 @ Buffalo, and Week 17 @ Pittsburgh 

I’m not going to sugarcoat this; the away stretch of the second half of the regular season will be difficult. All three venues are tough places to play, and the Browns have had little success at each of these stadiums. Honestly, one win out of these three contests should be welcomed (but that is still unlikely). If somehow the Browns can win more than one, it will be a miracle. I suppose the greatest possibility would be at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. 

Home Contests: Week 9 vs. Dallas, Week 11 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 12 vs. New York (Giants), Week 14 vs. Cincinnati, and Week 16 vs. San Diego

On the other side of the coin, this home slate is not as terrible as it could have been a few seasons ago. The Chargers are aging and far from a complete team, while the Giants will not be as tough as they have been under Tom Coughlin. This can tip the scales to the home squad, who needs to prove they are no longer pushovers.

Meanwhile, Dallas is a crapshoot – and I have no idea what to expect from them (especially looking at who their signal caller might be for the matchup). I still have faith the Browns can win divisional games at home. That said, another two or three wins should be anticipated by the orange and brown in these meetings.

Conclusion: Looking back at the schedule and putting realistic expectations on outcomes – five to seven wins feels about right. I would be content with this; the Browns will have greatly improved upon their record in 2015 and will be building towards the future. Finishing the campaign relatively healthy and on an uptick, and I would be finally happy at the end of a Cleveland Browns’ season.

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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in NFL Season

 

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What Happened? Browns vs. Bills – Game #2 Review

What Happened?  Browns vs. Bills – Game #2 Review

Analyzing Browns vs. Bills Preseason Game #2

Well this game was what I was expecting. A sloppy, physical contest that featured two defenses that shut down inept offenses. There were some penalties and mistakes made by both teams, which is to be expected at this time of year. It’s now time to break down the final preseason game played at First Energy Stadium in 2015.

Offense:

Quarterback – Well, unfortunately the Josh McCown that many had come to expect this season was on display at First Energy Stadium. His first two drives ended with poor decisions when tossing the ball – leading to interceptions. Overall, the quarterback made some nice plays, but turnovers are killer. Also this offense is not good enough to overcome multiple interceptions and still win games. Hopefully he can get back on track in Tampa.  As a backup, Manziel led a nice touchdown drive – I love seeing his progression, but I’ll wait to excited about his future.

Running Back – There was nowhere to go but up for the Browns’ running attack. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell did not have tremendous performances, but they at least had some nice gainers not seen since about ten months ago. Those eight-yard-and-over rushes should be expected on a regular basis (we just needed to see them first). My faith has increased in this group, but let’s face it – they still have plenty of room to improve until September 13th.

Wide Receivers – This was not a stat-stuffing contest for the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiving corps. Brian Hartline secured a couple of fine grabs, while Andrew Hawkins was targeted on a few occasions. Other than that, the first team unit did not overwhelm by any means. Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel did not get involved until Manziel came in the game. I would like to see what Terrelle Pryor and Dwayne Bowe add to this offense, but that looks like I will still have to wait.

Tight End – All three veteran tight ends got into the receiving game for the home team. Gary Barnidge made a nice grab early, but tipped up a McCown pass leading to an interception (while leaving the contest with a possible concussion). In his absence, Jim Dray and Rob Housler were able to snare a few tosses as well. None in this unit will ever have a large yardage or reception output, but I just want them to come down with important grabs.

Defense:

Defensive Line – First, the positives for the group. Danny Shelton and Randy Starks each made a couple of nice plays while forcing the action behind the line of scrimmage. Other than that, there were missed tackles and assignments by the gang upfront. I really hope something can click with this group (and soon) so the line can be a much improved unit. Looking at their counterparts, the Browns still have a way to go until they can replicate the type of performance that the Bills’ defensive line has been displaying.

Linebackers – Paul Kruger was the only visible linebacker – outside or inside – for the Browns in the first half of this contest. He had a sack, a hit on Tyrod Taylor, and a great tackle for loss. Scott Solomon whiffed on a Taylor run and was rather disappointing. I hope some guy can step up soon; the Browns cannot afford to only have one reliable athlete on the outside (Orchard played nicely in the third quarter). It was a quiet evening for the trio in the middle – none really stood out but they were not poor either. I’m content with moving on and reevaluating these guys next week.

Secondary – About a billion injuries to the secondary did not provide a realistic gauge when looking at the back four. Johnson Bademosi is a fine special teams member, but should not be starting in the NFL (at least at this point). Fortunately, he held his own against Buffalo. I hope Jordan Poyer did not have a concussion, but if he did – I look for a quick recovery and for him to be ready to go for the regular season. That, and for Joe Haden, Pierre Desir, K’Waun Williams, Tashaun Gipson, and even Justin Gilbert to be healthy as well.

Special Teams: It would appear that Travis Coons might be the front-runner for the kicking job. He made a nice field goal last week and repeated that performance this contest. I just hope he can continue this all year long. Trading for Andy Lee was a great move by this front office – the Browns need to win the field position battle on a weekly basis, and he certainly helps with that.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns vs. Bills – Preseason Game #2 Preview

Browns vs. Bills – Preseason Game #2 Preview

A Preview of Game #2 – Browns vs. Bills

Following a few joint practices, the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills do battle at First Energy Stadium. Both teams are built similarly, physical upfront and reliant on their running attack (and putting less emphasis on the quarterback). This will be a good litmus test for each squad, being a Browns fan I hope the team makes their mark early on in this contest. Let’s take a gander at this matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback – Keep those good times rolling for both Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel. Both signal callers were excellent in hitting receivers last week (which should be expected given the base defense they went against). I would like to see a few longer attempts by both guys in this contest. Keeping away from turnovers is a must, but not the end of the world (as I have faith in this defense).

Running Back – Wilbert Montgomery has tried his best to fire up his part of the Browns’ roster, but up to this point it appears to be fruitless. West and Crowell might want to find holes and squeeze through them, if they do not want to be teammates with Ray Rice. I want to see Duke Johnson finally hit the gridiron, but it may not come in this contest. The ceiling and expectations are extremely high for this unit – Thursday is a giant opportunity to prove they will be ready for the regular season opener.

Wide Receivers – I must admit, a few weeks ago I had Travis Benjamin pegged as a definite cut by the Browns; however his play as of late has changed my opinion significantly. At this point, I would like to see him continue to improve in all facets (including as a returner). Terrelle Pryor is practicing this week, and I expect him to be in the lineup against the Bills. I am pulling for the former Buckeye to make the team, but he’s got a ways to go before he earns his spot.

Tight End – The rise of E.J. Bibbs is not surprising (and something I felt would occur).   The undrafted rookie is slated to grab a roster spot, and it looks like Rob Housler will be the guy out of a job. I am looking for what his contributions are in the blocking game; it may not be pretty, but the coaches need a gauge. Gary Barnidge has had a couple of nice catch and runs during training camp and the team scrimmage – why not show off one of these against the Bills?

Defense: 

Defensive Line – It would be nice if a couple of guys not named Danny Shelton show up in this contest. I know what the two veterans (Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks) can do – but the progression of Xavier Cooper will be something to watch. Billy Winn (when he is recovered from his injury) and John Hughes are two guys who can be options for this run defense. Slowing LeSean McCoy will not be easy, but this is a solid test to see if improvement has occurred.

Linebackers – I liked the play of all three inside linebackers last week and am content they will continue to improve all season long. Therefore, Hayes Pullard is another rookie who had a strong opener and can swipe a roster spot away from a veteran. I want to see what he can do against some first-teamers. On the outside, it appears that Kruger and Solomon might be the two starters – but what does the depth chart look like after these guys? Nate Orchard had an uneven performance last week, but the rookie will get better over time. With Barkevious Mingo on the sidelines, I would not complain if Armonty Bryant makes his case to push out the former first round draft choice.

Secondary – Is this Justin Gilbert’s last stand? The second year pro’s poor assessment last week was a downer. He obviously was not flawless, and no one in the NFL is (even the best know they must improve – i.e. Tom Brady). I don’t expect him to make great plays, but would glad if they happened. The duo I am eager to see is K’Waun Williams and Pierre Desir; they should make Browns fans forget about Buster Skrine. At safety, Ibraheim Campbell was decent against Washington – if he can replicate that against better competition, I would feel better about a potential successor to Donte Whitner.

Special Teams: Making the only field goal last week, it would appear that Travis Coon has a slight advantage in becoming the kicker. After the starters score a few touchdowns (hopefully), I want to see the reserves give these guys shots at nailing some longer kicks. More scoring means more kickoffs – another part of the game that can decide who makes the team. The punt returner position is still not secure, but Benjamin could remove doubt with some excellent gains.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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A Crumby Loss for the Browns

A Crumby Loss for the Browns

Browns @ Bills – Review of Game #11

Yikes, another pathetic performance by the Cleveland Browns. Poor defense, a rough offense, and mistakes for the special teams did in the team. Their playoff chances all but evaporated in Orchard Park – let’s determined what went down.

Offense: That might be the end of an era from Brian Hoyer. Another stinker from the quarterback, as his day included a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns. Johnny Manziel, who finally found the end zone, replaced him. I’m expecting the rookie to be under center from here on out, he is the guy going forward and can make plays with both his arms and legs.

As expected, the running attacked faltered greatly on Sunday. Instead of Isaiah Crowell fumbling the ball this week – it was Terrance West who put the ball on the ground for the Browns. Hopefully the offensive line can become healthy, as the third string center did not hold his own upfront. I’d like to think the running attack will bounce back next Sunday – but again I have my doubts.

Hoyer and Josh Gordon were never in synch in this contest. It showed, as the offense looked less than cohesive. Will Johnny Manziel look better with this group going forward? I would love to find out – as he can use his legs to extend plays. Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel both need to step up going forward; neither was impressive against Buffalo.

Of course the Browns lost their weakness in their offensive line. Backup center Nick McDonald was lost for the game – and the Browns went to his backup against this tremendous defensive front. I am at a loss for words for Joe Thomas – it was easily his worst performance in some time. A few holding calls, a false start penalty, and ineffective blocking really hurt the veteran.

Defense: Not a great job by the defensive front for the Browns. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Desmond Bryant appeared to be the only guys who could hold their own upfront. The unit surrendered over 100 yards on the ground to the Bills. Three tackles and no disruptive plays occurred for Ahtyba Rubin – if the guys upfront want to do their job, it will take great efforts by the veterans.

Where were the linebackers for the Browns this week? Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey played adequately, leading the team with a combined twenty tackles. Paul Kruger played decently, but was never able to take down Kyle Orton. Both Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo were rather irrelevant, as per usual. If fair to say that upgrades need to occur in this area for the Browns to be dominant in the linebacker corps.

Those ticky-tack calls against the secondary made it rather difficult in corralling the wide outs. Joe Haden was a part of a tremendous interception, but outside of that – they were less than average. Hopefully, Justin Gilbert can return next week and give this group a boost. If not, it will be a difficult matchup against Andrew Luck.

Special Teams: That miss of the Billy Cundiff field goal loomed large in the first half. Would it have made a difference in the outcome? Probably not, but who knows for the Cleveland Browns. Otherwise the unit did their job, but it was not enough to seal the win.

Coaching: The offensive game planning was not great for the guests in Buffalo. Too many failed runs early and incomplete passes late was the detriment of the offense. I want to see what Kyle Shanahan does with Manziel going forward – but that remains to be determined.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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A Glance into the Browns Next Matchup

A Glance into the Browns Next Matchup

Browns @ Bills – Previewing Game #12

In the ever-competitive NFL, the Browns have another huge contest on Sunday. The defensive front of the opponent troubles me, especially with the recent poor outings by Brian Hoyer. The Browns can ill-afford to make the same type of mistakes as they did in Atlanta, doing so could lead to a defeat. Let’s go further into this matchup…

Offense: It goes without saying that Brian Hoyer must escape this funk that he currently is in. Committing four turnovers in the past two weeks is unacceptable in this league – the quarterback must get his mind right and his throws on target. Was he having tunnel vision when trying to find Josh Gordon? This could be argued, as the signal caller had multiple poorly thrown passes and a pair of interceptions when targeting the former Baylor star. He could not possibly have three straight bad games, can he? I expect a huge bounce back game for Brian Hoyer.

I believe the roles are becoming more and more defined for Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. The former will be getting a majority of the carries, while the latter will get his shots near the end zone. As long as both backs embrace their roles, this running attack should be hitting on all cylinders. Going against a tough front with Kyle and Mario Williams is not going to be easy, but if both rookies can find a seam they will hit it and gallop forward.

The Josh Gordon reinstatement paid dividends last week for not only the former Baylor wide out, but also for his teammates. Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins had solid performances. I expect that to be close to the norm for Hawkins, who now will not face the top cornerback for the opposing team. You hear about Gordon stretching the defense, and I believe last week was a warm up for this passing game. Hoyer should find pay dirt at least twice in this contest – and all can be right again for Browns’ fans (at least for one week).

The guys upfront will have a tremendous challenge to keep Hoyer upright while paving running lanes for Crowell and West. The unit took a step forward in Atlanta, albeit against a subpar group. Should fans expect the Browns’ line to be lights out? Certainly not; there will be a few negative plays – but I anticipate those five holding their own. If the tight end position can get back Jordan Cameron this week – I will be excited to see how the offense can now perform .

Defense: This is another matchup where the defensive line will have their hands full. Whether it’s C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, or Bryce Brown – the Bills feature capable running backs that can really hurt the Browns. The home team should amass a fair amount of yardage on Sunday, but the defense should focus on making the Bills kick field goals in the red zone. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Ahtyba Rubin, and Desmond Bryant all fared well last week. It might take a repeat performance by this trio to provide confidence that the Browns can win the contest.

I was mildly surprised to see Jabaal Sheard out there last contest. He was healthy enough to play but was far from disruptive. Veteran Paul Kruger appears to be the only man on the outside who can make his presence felt during contests. A sack and a fumble recovery were huge – he needs to replicate that against Kyle Orton. Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey filled in admirably for Karlos Dansby. Who knows how long the veteran will be sidelined with his injury, but if both can continue to improve – the transition will be very smooth.

Another contest, another huge blow to the Browns’ defense. Jim Leonhard and Jordan Poyer will have their work cut out to fill the void left by Tashaun Gipson. However, the improvement of rookies K’Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert gives me faith that the secondary will not skip a beat. Veterans Buster Skrine, Joe Haden, and Donte Whitner have been downright nasty. I hope they come away with at least two interceptions of Orton – and, more importantly, turning them into touchdowns.

Special Teams: While they were far from dominant, the Browns’ special teams avoided a costly mistake last week (with the tackle on Devin Hester). The punt return game must get some sort of positive plays this contest. Making a difference there can really help out the offense.

Coaching: Coach Pettine needs to refrain from clock management mistakes. He got away with it last week, but they should not be the norm. As far as play calling goes, the trend towards the run needs to be strengthened. Hoyer should not be putting up over thirty throws, and the rushers will do their jobs well.

Prediction (My Record: 6 – 5): This will be a low scoring contest that could be ugly at times. I really want to pick the Browns, but the physicality of the Bills is a matchup nightmare. The Browns fall to the home team by the score of 20 – 14.

 

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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