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Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Turning that Corner

Just a few months ago, the Cleveland Browns appeared on the HBO Hard Knocks program with Hue Jackson as head coach, Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator, and Tyrod Taylor was the starting quarterback.  We all know those three men’s fate (in additional to other changes in personnel since) – but that time in Browns’ history feels like five years ago.  The elevation of Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens within this franchise has been rather refreshing; the sniping and apparent arguing (between Jackson and Haley) are gone from the building and all coaches seem to be on the same page.  Oh yea, that rookie quarterback is also playing much better now than he was just a month or two ago.  What can Browns’ fans look forward to the rest of the season?

Meaningful Games

Not since 2014 have the Cleveland Browns had any contests of consequence in the month of December.  The Browns, while two games under .500 are still “in the hunt”.  The odds are stacked against them to make the postseason, as the face a trio of formidable foes in as many weeks – but the games are nonetheless important and exciting.  Traveling to Houston (to face the Texans) and Denver historically has been less than ideal for the Cleveland Browns – as the only win over the Texans in Houston was the finale of the 2004 campaign, and the Browns last win in Denver was October 8th, 1990 (yep, you read that right).  In a season where streaks have been broken, it would be nice if the franchise could end those two droughts.

Head Coach Position

For the first time since 1962 (when Paul Brown was fired), the Browns’ head coaching job is viewed by many as extremely attractive.  I am very eager to see what John Dorsey does during the hiring process.  Will he keep the staff status quo, go with a current NFL coordinator, or current NFL or NCAA head coach?  There is an off chance that the next coach does not fit into any of these categories.  However, looking at what Dorsey did last March and April (acquiring on-field talent) – I have faith the general manager can do similar things with the coaching role.  It’s obviously critical that the next person in charge must be in synch with Baker Mayfield via personality and mission to excel.

What to Expect?

Looking short-term, the Browns play the two aforementioned away contests as well as a home matchup versus the Carolina Panthers.  It would be incredible but unlikely that the Browns win all three, and I am hopeful to come away with a 2 – 1 record after these contests.  They will go head-to-head with teams who are solid on both sides of the ball, something that could not be said a majority of last month.  Will Baker Mayfield and the offense continue to grow and excel?  Can the defense limit Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, and the Broncos’ offense?  I’m looking forward to those answers (as well as the development of other rookies and second year players) unfolding.

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Yet Another Crushing Loss for the Browns

Yet Another Crushing Loss for the Browns

Browns vs. Broncos – Analyzing Game #6

Another game against the Broncos, and yet another heartbreaking loss against the orange and blue team. It’s beyond maddening that the Browns cannot get it done versus a team that is not superior in any way, but here we are. On Sunday, the home squad was unable to do what it takes to get the victory. Let’s review what when down at First Energy Stadium. 

Offense:

Quarterback – Two costly mistakes cost Josh McCown from winning this contest. The signal caller threw an interception to Aquib Talib for a touchdown in the first half, and tossed one late in the fourth quarter nullifying a possibility of a late victory. The team has been so close to winning for so long; it’s disappointing that they cannot get over the hump and Josh McCown has not been able to be the guy to do it.

Running Back – The rushing attacking of Robert Turbin, Isaiah Crowell, and Duke Johnson was not extremely effective on the ground (totaling just under 100 yards) but they gave the Broncos’ defense something to think about. I was intrigued with the play of Turbin, as he looked to pick up steam late in the contest, but he was not the difference in this contest – maybe next week.

Wide Receiver – It really looks like Travis Benjamin is the main (and only) wide out option for this football team. Garnering nine grabs for over 100 yards is exceptional, but it would be nice if another target is able to get open and secure grabs for this offense. Brian Hartline has been a disappointment over the past few contests – and the veteran did not make a single catch in this game. The Browns need as many hands on deck during each contest, but it seems like they are unable to get it done. 

Tight End – It was a slow start, but tight end Gary Barnidge did enough to have a solid effort on Sunday. He only came away came away with three grabs, but two were for touchdowns. This has been very pleasant to see the veteran continue to put up great numbers on a weekly basis, but it was not good enough to win the game.

Offensive Line – Four sacks surrendered and less than 100 yards by Browns’ running backs means a losing grade for this offensive line. I understand the opponent is a very good one, but I could count multiple times were the right side of the line lost on a consistent basis (and that is without the services of DeMarcus Ware). Clearly Cameron Erving was not good enough to play in this game, but perhaps that can change down the road. 

Defense: 

Defensive Line – Going against the thirtieth ranked rushing offense, and the Browns gave up 111 yards to Ronnie Hillman. It has been disappointing to say the least, but it is also been extremely consistent by this unit to make their opponent look exceptional. Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks combined for nine tackles but that was not good enough to win at the point of attack. Danny Shelton was not a factor in this matchup – it’s beyond frustrating and Jim O’Neil must figure out some adjustments before it’s too late.

Linebacker – I was pretty pleased with the output by Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey at the linebacker position. The former had a pair of interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Meanwhile, the latter made a couple of nice key stops on third down leading to Broncos punting the ball. Barkevious Mingo even had an interception – but two forced turnovers led to zero points for the Browns (and that was the difference in the game).

Secondary – If it weren’t for a few of dropped passes by Demaryus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, then this secondary would have been embarrassed. Peyton Manning was off target most of the game, while his targets did not help most of the time as well. Pierre Desir gave a huge cushion consistently and was less than stellar. At the safety spot, Donte Whitner missed a few key tackles early and never recovered. The Browns need a solid safety who can make plays, but currently do not have that guy on their roster.

Special Teams: Clearly the team was not ready to give Travis Coons the shot to kick a fifty-yard field goal an opportunity. The offense turned the ball over on downs early in the contest and it was a blown chance for points. Other than that, the special teams were reliable as usual for the home team. The big play was not there – but not giving Travis Benjamin a shot to return punts was a part of the opponent’s game plan. 

Coaching: The game plan was good enough to get a win for the orange and brown but it simply was not executed to the point where they could get the victory. The offense either made one too many mistakes or did not make the most out of what they were given. Meanwhile, the defense could not capitalize on an aging Peyton Manning and his erratic passing. Alas, another loss for the Cleveland Browns.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns vs. Broncos – Previewing Game #6

Browns vs. Broncos – Previewing Game #6

A Preview of Game #6 – Broncos @ Browns

After splitting a pair of games on the road (both closely contested), the Browns finally head back home. Their next opponent is the undefeated Broncos and Peyton Manning, who has never lost to the orange and brown. The visitors boast one of the top defenses in the league – therefore, this contest will be an extremely difficult one. Let’s take a look at this matchup. 

Offense: 

Quarterback – I got to admit that I did not see that output from Josh McCown last week; however this game’s performance will likely not be nearly as great as the past three. The quarterback must be efficient against the Broncos; he will (more than likely) not eclipse the 300-yard mark, but playing mistake-free football is the bottom line. Keeping all of his guys involved surely helps as well. I anticipate McCown tossing for around 250 yards but will finally throw an interception.

Running Back – Starting with dump off passes should be the game plan to get both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson involved. Hopefully those plays can continue to work, which should pave the way for rushing attempts (and some of a longer variety). It will not be an easy task, but I expect John DeFilippo to work his magic once again to make this offense click on all cylinders. Crowell and Johnson should be able to garner a combined 150 yards via the ground and air – but having them finding the end zone can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Wide Receiver – Travis Benjamin has cooled a bit in his production (and was covered well on deeper routes), but he still remains the team’s best wide receiving target. I am pleased at his development and am confident that will continue all season long. Both Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins are making plays as well – neither is producing tremendously but they are making the most when given the opportunity. Brian Hartline might get more looks in this contest as moving the chains on third down will be of utmost importance in this matchup.

Tight End – Some call him “Big Play Gar” – Gary Barnidge is playing out of this world. He is making huge catches, securing incredible touchdowns, and is fortifying the tight end position. I would love to believe that he can play like this every week, but the odds are against it. Jim Dray and Rob Housler finally got involved last contest – perhaps they can be options should Barnidge receive double coverage. That said, my stance on E.J. Bibbs remains unchanged (and he must play). 

Offensive Line – The unit upfront is continuing to build upon their improving performances. They are still a ways from being stout, but I can feel the gang getting better. This matchup with be extremely tough, as the defensive front tends to shut down running backs and get to signal callers on pass attempts. This might be a week that Cameron Erving is inserted to the lineup for help with pass protection. I do not see a ton of rushing yardage and a few sacks of Josh McCown, but I am hoping the offensive line outperforms my expectations.

Defense:

Defensive Line – It’s a struggling running offense going against a porous run defense. I’d like to say the Brown’s front three are starting to turn the corner, but the mistakes are still apparent. Danny Shelton had a decent outing last week but also made a pair of bone-headed penalties. The return of Desmond Bryant paid dividends early; if they can play that way the entire contest, the Browns will have finally shown a glimpse of how many thought they would perform. 

Linebacker – I do not really know what has to be done with this underachieving group. Scott Solomon’s latest injury will keep him out for a while – and so far no one has stepped up as a rush outside linebacker. Will Armonty Bryant finally break thru and be a force on the edge? Unlikely, and something must click for these guys otherwise they will be embarrassed on a weekly basis. Nate Orchard finally got some playing time late last game; maybe he is the key. With Craig Robertson hobbled, Chris Kirksey and Tank Carder played alongside Karlos Dansby. I am very worried about this position – I am praying they just start making plays.

Secondary – Joe Haden will likely not be available for this contest. Therefore Pierre Desir, K’Waun Williams, and even Johson Bademosi should expect to face Peyton Manning and his group of receivers. It’s time to finally give Justin Gilbert a shot and let him work out his funk. I anticipate at least one interception by the secondary – hopefully the team can make it count. Jordan Poyer was able to hold his own last contest, (provided Tashaun Gipson is held out again) so I would not be extremely concerned about the reserve athlete getting playing time. That “huge play” continues to be missing from the Browns’ safety group; Sunday would be a good point to see this. 

Special Teams: Another solid contest by all parts of the special teams; Travis Coons and Andy Lee have been kicking the ball both far and accurately. There was not much from the return units by either squad – I expect the same to occur against the Broncos. I got a feeling that Travis Benjamin could do something special, however.

Coaching: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, is a common phrase. While I completely agree with that statement – the Browns’ offfense must be careful to not have McCown heaving fifty passes on a weekly basis (especially against a tremendous defense). Defensively, just get it done no matter what. The team needs punts forced, turnovers, and to not give up yards and points. 

Prediction (My Record: 1 – 4): I really want to pick the Browns in this contest, especially with the enthusiasm that came with their win last week. However, I do not see it happening and the Broncos win by the score of 24 – 17.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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