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Pre-Season Takeaways

Pre-Season Takeaways

What We Have Learned through Week Three

The Cleveland Browns have now gone through three exhibition games and they have not been the same kind of embarrassment that fans have been accustomed to over the past few seasons.  Whether it was the efficient passing attack against the Giants, or the pounding running game over the past two weeks – the offense has displayed an ability to execute.  Defensively, the team looks a lot more physical than they were a season ago.  Let’s look further into what the Browns are showing.

Running Attack Looks Solid

Both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb are making the most of their opportunities on the ground.  The duo has been getting chunks of yards in each of the last two outings – which is a great thing to see.  Unfortunately there have been multiple zero yards or negative plays, but those will happen in the NFL.  The goal will be to minimize these once the regular season begins.  I expect a healthy dose of rushing attempts this fall; something that has been only a rumor since Hue Jackson took over.  Additionally, Duke Johnson has not received ample opportunities with this offense.  The wildcard on offense will be utilized in the coming weeks, especially in the passing game – which can always use another target.

Waiting on Reinforcements

The wide receiver group has not stood out thus far in the preseason.  Jarvis Landry made a fine sideline catch early on, but has become a blocker ever since (I am not worried about him however).  With Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway inactive on Friday night, there wasn’t  a guy making big plays.  The only two of note to haul in passes were C.J. Board and Derrick Willies; one of the two might make the team over the disappointing Jeff Janis.  Will rookie Damion Ratley find his way on to the team with a big role?  It is trending that way, but the team still needs some reliability in this part of the roster.

Under Pressure

I have been excited to see not only that the Browns are putting heat on opposing quarterbacks, but they are doing it with multiple guys in different points on the field.  It hasn’t been as simple as Myles Garrett off the edge or Mychael Kendricks blitzing through the “A” gap.  Witnessing Carl Nassib, Genard Avery (prior to injury), and B.J. Bello find the backfield gives me faith that Gregg Williams has enough reliable players to accomplish what he wants to.  The end result is a nasty defense that makes it difficult for opponents to operate.

Improved Secondary

Last season was painful to watch the Browns try to cover opponents in the passing game.  The addition of Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and Demarious Randall are a few of the moves to bolster this  unit.  The Browns are both no longer getting burned nor allowing pitch and catches by the opposition.  Granted this is occurring in preseason, but it is still encouraging to witness.  I will feel better once E.J. Gaines comes back at cornerback to provide solid depth, but I am not terribly fearful of these guys.  At safety, Derrick Kindred and Jabril Peppers are co-existing pretty well at the strong safety spot.  It will be refreshing watching safeties being in the right place at the right time for a change.

Conclusion:  I continue to feel better about the 2018 Cleveland Browns; I still anticipate six wins by the club (at least at this point) – however they will be in most games and their physical play will be the reason for that.  Perhaps the quarterback spot improves to where they can win tight games via solid performances.  Looking forward to the opener on September 9th!

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Posted by on August 25, 2018 in Cleveland Browns Fans, NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns Game #8 vs. Jets – Breakdown

Browns Game #8 vs. Jets – Breakdown

Browns vs. Jets – Game #8 Preview

Well, for the first time in several weeks the Browns actually have a chance at winning a game on Sunday. Despite winning their last contest, the Jets come to town as an underwhelming bunch with quarterback issues. That being said, the Browns obviously have an bleak outlook at multiple positions on their roster. This game is likely to be a boring one…let’s have a look see.

Offense: 

Quarterback: I’m going to assume that Kevin Hogan will get a majority of snaps in this contest for the Browns (until he gets hurt). At that point, the Browns will have to yield to gimmicks and trick plays – their “traditional” quarterback position has not been spectacular at this point. I actually think that they can win this game without great play from this spot however.

Running Back: Despite being out gained by the backup quarterback, Isaiah Crowell did a solid job of gaining rushing yards. He will continue to get the lion’s share of carries this season, and depending on who is behind center – Crowell can get back to the level he was in the first few games. My weekly rant of getting Duke Johnson more involved continues; the reserve runner has been making the most of his opportunities. It would be nice to see him get an increased workload.

Wide Receiver: It’s extremely hard to evaluate a position group that is primarily based on the quarterback – especially when the team is on its sixth man under center. However, last game saw Andrew Hawkins, Terrelle Pryor, Rashard Higgins, and Ricardo Louis all get involved in the passing game. Pryor was not completely healthy, but he did his best to still make plays on the field. I want to see Higgins and Louis excel (while Corey Coleman is out), but the constant injuries to the quarterback makes it a little difficult for that to occur.

Tight End: Surprisingly, Gary Barnidge saw his most targets in quite some time last contest. The veteran did admirably, though his receptions did not produce a tremendous output (in terms of yardage). He can be a security blanket for a young quarterback, I would just prefer that guy under center be Cody Kessler and not Kevin Hogan. Another target outside of Barnidge would be nice, but the Browns can’t seem to find one.

Offensive Line: It appears that Cam Erving will miss more time going forward, thus John Greco will more than likely be the center for a bit. It will be interesting if Jonathan Cooper breaks through and finds an opportunity with this unit, or if Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman will continue to get the repetitions with the offensive line. It’s obvious that this part of the team is the reason why the quarterbacks are getting killed – hopefully the coaching staff can finally find a combination that can prevent a rush and a rash of injuries.

Defense: 

Defensive Line: As mentioned before, (against the Bengals) the run defense for the Browns was good in spurts but surrendered several long runs. I have faith in Danny Shelton, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper, but they need to be more consistent in stuffing the run for the opposition. Matt Forte is not nearly as great as Jeremy Hill (at least at this point in his career), but nonetheless the Browns will have a large challenge on their hands. One would expect the Jets to rely heavily on their ground game – the home team must prepare and shut this unit down.

Outside Linebacker: While Emmanuel Ogbah has been getting better and making plays, Joe Schobert has regressed a bit as an outside linebacker. I understand he is a middle round draft pick rookie, but he has not been tremendously involved in the Browns’ defensive highlights. I would like to think that his position group can get to the signal caller on a bad team like the Jets – but the Browns have not proved that they can do that up to this point. 

Inside Linebacker: I thought Chris Kirksey actually made some solid plays in last contest. It would be nice to see this continue, as the defense could use more consistency up the middle. Demario Davis ought to be active in the middle of the defense as well in this game. I’m still waiting on the big play to come from this unit, but that appears to be wishing for too much.

Safety: Tracy Howard is trying his best at the safety spot, but is playing just as well as his predecessors. The undrafted rookie has been invisible in coverage and when trying to stop the run. Not surprisingly, Derrick Kindred has not been any better either. The Jets feature one of the worst tight end situations in the NFL – but that is not any reason for Browns’ fans to breathe a sigh of relief.   All I ask is that this unit does not get burned on multiple occasions. 

Cornerback: I thought Briean Boddy-Calhoun was the best cornerback for the Browns last contest. While he has been ok, an undrafted rookie should not be leading a position group (especially this  early in the campaign). Brandon Marshall is the key option for the opposing team – he could make the Browns pay, given an opportunity. However, I have faith that the Browns will bounce back from last week – as A.J. Green is not on their roster. 

Special Teams: It appears that the special teams for Cleveland has somewhat settled down. They are not great, but also not the reason why they are losing ball games. I would really like to see the orange and brown do something to put the Jets in a bind – though recent history is not on their side.

Coaching: Hue Jackson continues to make play calls based on who he has available to play in contests. I haven’t found reason to second-guess the head coach, but there is a great deal of games remaining. I would like to see him put the offense in spots to beat the visiting team, but executing this is of the utmost importance.

Prediction (My Record: 7 – 0): I think the Browns can actually win this game, but until I see more I am not ready to pick them to succeed. The Jets come away with a 27 – 17 win at First Energy Stadium.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns @ Dolphins – Week #3 Preview

Browns @ Dolphins – Week #3 Preview

The Browns are Taking their Talents…

On the road again, the Cleveland Browns head south to face another defeated franchise in the Miami Dolphins.  It will be a hot one, and there might not be a ton of great football to be played – but hopefully our annual road trip (for yours truly) will generate a Browns’ win.  There have been injuries to both teams already – who will be the guys to step up?

Offense:

Quarterback:  Another game and another quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.  Cody Kessler gets his trial by fire and has to look across at Cameron Wake, Mario Williams,  and Ndamukong Suh – not an enviable position.  The signal caller threw a touchdown on his first pass of the preseason, and then everything else has gone downhill since.  I anticipate Hue Jackson will pare down the playbook and limit the number of tosses (especially deep) in this contest.  Assuming he attempts quick screens and outs, I can envision a decent passing percentage.  However, I do not see any touchdowns or big plays by the quarterback.

Running Back:  One would imagine that both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson would receive ample opportunities against the Dolphins’ defense.  Their game plan will more than likely feature “stacking the box” to try and take away the Browns’ running attack.  With two capable rushers at the helm, the Browns can opt for runs or pass attempts to either guy.  It will come down to scheming and how Jackson can outfox Adam Gase’s defense.  I expect Duke Johnson to get an expanded role, but Crowell will obviously not have another tremendous output.

Wide Receivers:  In following the theme of short, quick passes – the two beneficiaries of this should be Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins.  Hopefully they can get a larger guy (i.e. Terrelle Pryor or Gary Barnidge) on the edge that could block down field for a larger gain.  Many are concerned about the stunting of the growth of Coleman (as he is now paired with a rookie).  This is hard to argue against; he and all wide outs will underperform until a veteran returns under center.

Tight End:  A tight end is predominantly utilized as a safety valve for green signal callers.  Gary Barnidge should more than help this offense – provided Kessler dials up his target and complete passes. He made some key catches last week at home but I have no idea as to how he will fare in this contest.  The injury to Randall Telfair might allow another guy (Seth DeValve) to come in and play.  However, with all of their quarterbacks getting hurt, the coaching staff might employ the tight end as more of a blocker for maximum protection.

Offensive Line:  For all the complainers about Cameron Erving and his porous play – they will get their wish (for a while, at least), as the second year pro will be out of action.  I am confident in John Greco as his replacement but am unsure of Alvin Bailey at right guard.  One thing that Kessler can do to help himself – is to get the football out of his hand as quickly as possible.  The guys upfront have not been consistent blocking, so not leaning on them to propel this unit might not be a wise idea.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  The broken hand suffered by Carl Nassib really hurts the defensive line – the rookie was playing well which helped a few of his teammates.  In his absence, Xavier Cooper must step up and be a force on the edge.  He has been mediocre so far in 2016 – but could continue to improve in only his second season.  Speaking of which, Danny Shelton proved that he can actually be disruptive in the middle of the line.  I hope he can not only force action elsewhere, but move the point of attack behind the line of scrimmage.  The status of runner Arian Foster is not set in stone, so a hobbled runner or a backup should help the Browns’ run defense.

Outside Linebacker:  Emmanuel Ogbah was one of the pass rushers who was aided by Nassib’s early performances.  Without his services, the rookie linebacker will have to find another way to be a force on the outside.  Meanwhile, Joe Schobert took a step back last game and was hardly visible during the contest.  With Nate Orchard seeing regular playing time behind him, there’s a chance that he could surpass the rookie as the starter.  Regardless of who is out there, they must be fast on the edge and force everything to the middle of the field.

Inside Linebacker:  (Not surprisingly) the pair of veterans in the middle are doing a great job of showing the way for the younger guys.  Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey have not been brilliant, but stout enough against both the run and pass where they are warranting their playing time.  I would like to see them either notch a few sacks on Tannehill or even secure a huge interception.  A big play like that might be the difference in this contest.

Cornerbacks:  Outside of the rejuvenated Joe Haden, I am very fearful of Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams going against Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, or Kenny Stills.  I hope that Taylor’s return to Miami will lead him to play inspired football and make some key plays – but that is admittedly wishful thinking.  Tannehill will likely hit at least two targets in the end zone in this contest and propel the offense to a solid afternoon.

Safeties:  Derrick Kindred is getting “there” and Jordan Poyer is trying to get “there”.  The rookie has been awful active in games and around the ball on multiple occasions.  I could see him jarring a football loose in this contest and turning the tide to Kessler and company.  Meanwhile, Poyer nearly had an interception last meeting.  He improved from week one, but must be better in his coverage than just a play or two each contest.

Special Teams:  Here is where the Browns really need to see tremendous improvement going forward.  They cannot get field goals (or extra points) blocked anymore, nor can they surrender longer returns.  In a conservative offensive game plan, will the Browns attempt a fourth and short situation or go for a longer field goal attempt?  Let’s hope coach Jackson makes the right call on Sunday.

Coaching:  As previously referenced, there will be a vanilla offense run by this group to move the football while not getting their third quarterback hurt in as many weeks.  I do not have high hopes for this unit, but perhaps the staff can silence the doubters.  The defense will be relied upon more than usual – so more aggressive play calls could be seen.

Prediction (My Record: 2 – 0):  I don’t know what to think about this team with all the injuries and young guys, so I’ll keep the
expectations at a minimum.  The Dolphins and Browns will compete in an ugly contest, with the home team coming out ahead by the score of 20 – 6.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in Cleveland Browns Fans, NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns @ Eagles – Game #1 Preview

Browns @ Eagles – Game #1 Preview

Browns Game #1 Preview – @ Philadelphia Eagles

Well, here we are – the Cleveland Browns’ 2016 season is finally underway!  Yes, this is the season opener and we know how unkind this has been for this franchise.  But the team will hit the road in a very winnable game against another franchise that has a new coach, an unproven quarterback, and lowered expectations.  Where have I heard this before?  I figure there will be some big plays in this contest; but it might come down to not committing the big mistake.  Let’s get to some analyzing:

Offense:

Quarterback:  Robert Griffin had a decent exhibition season, but how will things change when the regular season begins?  I figure Hue will put his signal caller in situations to avoid sacks and possible injuries when being flushed from the pocket.  Hitting the underneath routes in stride has not been his forte, but he must get this down to help with the “long ball” – which was his bread and butter in August.  I could see a few short runs and a touchdown or two from the quarterback.  Not committing a turnover is vital if the Browns want to win this game.

Running Back:  For some reason, I could see solid performances by this position group of the Browns.  Isaiah Crowell might not a tremendous amount of yardage, but he should find the end zone.  Meanwhile, Duke Johnson ought to hall in a couple of passes and find room to run on the ground.  Provided he can score a touchdown as well; this can be a great start for the running backs.  Eclipsing the 100 yard total is a must by this duo, although it will not come easy.

Wide Receiver:  On the flip side, I am not as confident in the wide receiving unit as I thought I would be entering the season.  The obvious reason for this is that Josh Gordon will not be participating in this matchup.  Additionally, Corey Coleman will more than likely not be up to speed and therefore rather mediocre in this game. Terrelle Pryor has been only been excelling at one aspect (fade routes) on the field – which begs the question, who will step up at wide out in this game?

Tight End:  Gary Barnidge could be the wildcard for this offense in this contest.   I do not anticipate on him being as productive as he was a year ago, but the veteran could make things easier for Griffin and company.  Some key grabs to move the chains is the minimum I would accept from the position group.  Anything above this would be icing on the cake.  I am eager to see if a second tight end option can (begin to) establish himself in this matchup.

Offensive Line:  For the first time since 2008, the Browns will not have Alex Mack snapping the football during the regular season.  The turnover upfront had led to a great deal of fear by fans and media alike.  Will Griffin come away from this game (relatively) unscathed after multiple drop backs?  Can the unit open holes for Crowell and Johnson?  I would not be surprised to see a guy or two struggle against the Eagles but hopefully they will be able to quickly recover.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  Will this be the game where the Browns escape their horrid run defense that has plagued them for many years?  Not trying to be too pessimistic just yet, but the Eagles will more than likely have their way on the ground (as they will lean on this to primarily move the ball).  I am not sure whether it will be Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood, or Darren Sproles who will be doing the damage – but the trio might make the Browns pay.  It’s simply hope (at this time) to believe that Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder can win at the point of attack and allow the guys behind them to make plays in a matter of seconds.  Being proven wrong by the defensive line would be excellent.

Outside Linebackers:  The recent shuffling of this unit has put a sizable amount of pressure on Nate Orchard and Emmanuel Ogbah – as their roles have increased significantly as a result.  Frankly, I have no idea as to whether they will be able to get to the quarterback and affect the Eagles’ passing attack.  Can these two (along with Joe Schobert) cover Sproles out of the backfield?  I am a little fearful of that situation presenting itself, but hopefully the safeties will be able to assist their teammates in this department.

Inside Linebackers:  Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis have been underwhelming during the preseason – outside of a few respectable plays.  The Eagles will likely attack the middle of the field, via both the run and the pass.  I cringe at the thought of Zach Ertz (Wentz’s safety valve) running free with the football against little resistance by the defense.  Perhaps the linebackers can step their games up, especially when corralling opposing running backs.  I do not anticipate this part of the team to stand out via great plays, but if they cannot be a glaring weakness – then that might be a victory in itself.

Safeties:  Over the past few seasons, the safety positions have been able to make a few nice plays in games.  However, that has yet to be the case in 2016 and the Browns are waiting for that big hit or critical interception from this tandem.  I want to think that Jordan Poyer could lure the rookie quarterback into an errant pass and flip the field for the offense.  Perhaps an outstanding stop on a toss sweep is what this group needs to get rolling.

Cornerbacks:  I have little to no expectations for this position group – but perhaps going against a rookie can be a great starting point.  The best case scenario is that Joe Haden locks down on one side of the field, while the other corners hold their own with help (in coverage) over the top.  Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams have not been exceptional in the preseason, but they should not be getting burnt by Jordan Matthews or Dorial Green-Beckham.  Whether it’s a dink-and-dunk game plan or longer tosses, I still worry that the Browns are simply a step too slow.

Special Teams:  A new kicker (who missed a chip shot in the preseason finale) and a brand new punter (who is not turning heads) are what the Browns currently have on their roster.  Hopefully the coverage units can manhandle their competition, or else the team will get thoroughly beaten in the special teams battle.  I predict the home squad will have a decided advantage in this phase of the contest.

Coaching:  A bright spot is that this coaching staff is miles ahead of their predecessors; the talent might not be great on the field – but those in charge will provide the athletes opportunities to succeed.  I only hope that Ray Horton can come up with a game plan to make the defense look respectable; if this is not the case, it could be a very long game (and season).

Prediction (My Record 0-0):  This is going to be an ugly second half for the Cleveland Browns; the guests should keep it early going into intermission but the Eagles will pull away late.  I figure this game will finish up 20 – 13, handing yet another opening game defeat for the orange and brown.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns Preseason Game #3 – An Early Look

Browns Preseason Game #3 – An Early Look

Browns @ Buccaneers – Preseason Game #3 Preview

After a few joint practices in Florida, the Browns and Buccaneers hit the field on Friday for the ever-important third preseason game of the 2016 schedule.  I expect the heat and humidity help with the Browns’ conditioning for the regular season.  Last year, this contest was one of the few highlights of the orange and brown’s season; as they made Jameis Winston look like the rookie he was.  However, they have improved vastly since then – will a new man in charge (in Tampa) help or hinder this development?

Offense:

Quarterback:  It’s time for Robert Griffin to take what he did last week and continue to grow in the Hue Jackson offense.  He should see time under center from the start into the third quarter; I figure we should witness a majority of the route tree on display.  Hitting those receivers either on point or in stride is vital at this point of the year – which he has excelled at thusfar.  As far as the reserves are concerned, I just want to see Cody Kessler continue to improve (he has a long ways to go).  Josh McCown is a reliable veteran and needs minimal participation to be prepared for the regular season.

Running Back:  Will the running game feature Isaiah Crowell with a dash of Duke Johnson mixed in?  Will it be vice versa, or should Browns’ fans expect another guy (a.k.a. Raheem Mostert) to join this stable and knock off one of the incumbents for playing time?  Consistent, long gainers ought to be goal for the Cleveland Browns – as this part of the team performed better against Atlanta, but still needs work to get to its capabilities.  I really feel that Mostert will continue to push for playing time and would not be surprised to see him make the most of his opportunity in Tampa.

Wide Receiver:  Terrelle Pryor continues to be the darling of this season’s exhibition season at wide out.  I would feel a bit more
comfortable if Corey Coleman can throw his hat in the ring for this honor – as the rookie has been battling an injury for a few weeks.  I anticipate he will see a few opportunities and should come down with multiple receptions in this contest.  This is Rashard Higgins’s chance to really push for playing time this fall.  The rookie has more upside than some veterans, and he has shown an ability to pluck the ball in mid-air and make a move or two on defenders.

Tight End:  This contest could be the decider among Connor Hamlett, Randall Telfair, and E.J. Bibbs to see who makes it at tight end (behind veteran Gary Barnidge).  They each bring something different to the table; Telfair appears to have a leg up as he is the only guy who is willing block defenders.  With the fullback position far from locked down (especially with Malcolm Johnson disappointing) – would Bibbs get the nod over Hamlett as he has lined up in the backfield more than his counterpart?  I anticipate a few nice receptions by this group in Tampa.

Offensive Line:  Well, the starting rotations could come to an end after this matchup – or Hue Jackson could continue to tinker with the five up front.  Cameron Erving is slated as the starter at center; he has been inconsistent in his play but showed improvement last contest.  Meanwhile, Austin Pasztor still appears to have an edge over Spencer Drango at right tackle (however Drango was no slouch when on the field).  I would be overjoyed if Pastzor can wall off defenders crashing off their left edge – as it means that he is keeping the signal caller’s right side clean.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  I’m all for Ray Horton putting the three best guys upfront – regardless of how they joined this franchise.  Jamie Meder has been exceeding expectations and the undrafted veteran might have found his way to becoming a starter.  Would it be at the expense of Danny Shelton or Xavier Cooper?  That is a big question, as Meder (as well as all defensive linemen) appears to perform better against the run as opposed to being a pass rusher.

I don’t really have a gauge at this point for Nick Hayden and hope he can come out in this contest and prove his worth.  Stopping the run has been an obvious weakness for this franchise for the last couple of seasons (and this year so far).  Changing this starts now; as the “new” attitude (and willingness) must be apparent by all watching this game against the Buccaneers.

Linebackers:  Ok, how are the Browns going to get to opposing signal callers this year?  Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger are expected to get a majority of blitzes off the edge this campaign, but what should we anticipate from the two rookies?  Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib have flashed this preseason the way a former first-rounder was expected to (who shall remain nameless).  Provided this continues, I would like to see Horton utilize these athletes to confuse quarterbacks – a sneak
peek in this game would be welcomed.

Stopping runners from getting to the third level should be a key focal point for the inside linebackers of the Cleveland Browns.  It would appear that this is not a great challenge for Chris Kirksey, Demario Davis, and the other guys as the Bucs do not feature a fearsome rushing attack.  Therefore, actually stopping running backs would be nice and building off of his would be excellent.

Secondary:  I do not feel great about the cornerbacks for this team. Joe Haden is the only reliable one, but recent injuries leave me wondering.  I want someone (whether it’s a young guy like Charles Gaines or Tracy Howard or a veteran like Tramon Williams) to blanket Mike Evans Friday night.  Jameis is young and still learning; the Browns might want to bait him into mistakes.

Is Jordan Poyer the center fielder (at free safety) that many feel he is capable of being?  The youngster has not had many chances at intercepting passes nor making plays in the middle of the field, but something tells me this could change during this meeting.  It would appear that the nickel back role is Jamar Taylor’s to lose – it would be a great story to see the Browns rehab the career of a perceived disappointment.  He ought to be standing out, for all the right reasons.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns Preseason Game #2 – Breakdown

Browns Preseason Game #2 – Breakdown

Review of Browns vs. Falcons Contest 

Regardless of the final score, the Browns held a halftime lead (when it mattered). The Falcons are not the best team in the league, but the home squad more than held their own against a playoff-hopeful franchise. Let’s look at a couple key highs and lows for this contest.

Offense: 

Quarterback – Good – Well, Robert Griffin definitely stepped his game up significantly from the preseason opener. His touchdown passes to Pryor and Barnidge were excellent; I don’t know how much the team can rely on it during the season – but for now I will take it.

Bad – I suppose what went wrong for the starter is that he took a few sacks. It’s not the end of the world, but this offense is not good enough to overcome these and sustain scoring drives (at least at this point).

Ugly – I hope I continue this trend, but I cannot think of something in this category for Griffin. He threw the ball away when he knew nothing was available. His jump from game one to game two was huge.

Running Back – Good – I think Isaiah Crowell took a step ahead of Duke Johnson for the starting gig. The veteran was crisper in hitting the hole and gained yards at a much better rate than his counter part. Granted most were option (give/pull) reads, but I feel better about him gaining those tough yards.

Bad – Duke Johnson’s output was less than great. The athlete touched the ball on multiple occasions but was only able to garner a few yards here or there. Toss in a key drop on third down, and the feeling is magnified. I know he will improve over time, but this was not an inspiring performance.

Ugly – Nothing too ugly for this group either. I guess you could count Malcolm Johnson’s whiff on a block (leading to a sack) as a horrendous display of keeping away defenders.

Wide Receiver – Good – I liked the tenacity that Terrelle Pryor displayed in this contest. He jostled pretty good with Isaiah Trufant (which was a bad penalty), and he caught a deep touchdown early. This was desperately needed for this position group. I don’t have a tight end group listed in preseason, but Barnidge’s catch warrants a “good” rating as well.

Bad – I guess you could say that outside of Pryor, the wide outs were not explosive. However, this is taken with a grain of salt as the players can only run the routes that were drawn up by the coaches.

Ugly – I can’t even fake an example (like I just did in the “Bad” group) here. This unit pleasantly surprised me; even rookie Rashard Higgins made a nice grab in the first half. I feel this position group will be the biggest surprise of the team in 2016.

Offensive Line – Good – Against the starting defense, the Browns were respectable upfront. It was fairly obvious that Joe Thomas was held out of this game, and the combination of Spencer Drango and Dan France did not surrender pressures and/or sacks. Is depth actually being built for this offensive line?

Bad – Following a touchdown drive and a good stop on defense, the Browns definitely had momentum. However, a silly holding penalty by Joel Bitonio (called on Dan France) ultimately stopped the drive. It’s just the exhibition, but the team cannot afford these types of costly mistakes.

Ugly – That Cameron Erving awful snap in the second quarter (that went over Griffin’s head). The team was fortunate to get a face mask infraction on the play, but that mistake is unacceptable.  I wonder if the team will refrain or limit long snaps in the regular season, provided Erving is the center.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Good – Carl Nassib continues to impress upfront for the orange and brown. The rookie had a tipped pass and a sack (nullified by an unnecessary penalty) in his first series on the field. He definitely is earning more playing time as this season continues.

Bad – Danny Shelton lost at the point of attack again in this game. The only time he got up field was on a screen play, which insists on him being out of position. I want to see him improve and quickly, but am extremely concerned at the first-rounder’s play up to this point.

Ugly – The stretch or off-tackle running plays against the Browns were highly successful in this contest. The front seven desperately needs to work on their pursuit angles and close in on the ball carrier a few seconds earlier. If this trend continues, it will be a long year for this run defense.

Linebackers – Good – I’ll be nice and fill this category. Chris Kirksey made a few solid stops early on in this contest – one of them being on special teams. He was ok in his play, but the best of this underperforming bunch.

Bad – Pretty much all other starting linebackers for the Cleveland Browns in the game; were they even playing? The unit could not cover, tackle, or get to the quarterback – especially against the starters.

Ugly – Just hammering home the point that the group as a whole could not hold up their end of the bargain. Perhaps the best play made by a linebacker in the first half was the stop by Tank Carder on a toss sweep.

Secondary – Good – No one really stood out (positively) in this position group, but Jamar Taylor was decent in coverage. The nickel back made a key pass breakup early in the contest; and while not spectacular in coverage – he was always surrounding the ball.

Bad – The second string cornerbacks made Matt Schaub look like a decent NFL player. I will get over this, but this cannot happen. The secondary must step up; especially against subpar signal callers in this league.

Ugly – Justin Gilbert just does not get it. The veteran was out of position and committed a dumb penalty in the second quarter. The Browns have little to no use for the guy and are giving him every opportunity. I don’t think he has what it takes to make this final roster.

Conclusion: I thought the Browns had their up and downs in this contest. The defense still needs a great deal of work, but the coverage was a bit better. If they cannot stop the run – their chances to win games remains extremely low. The offense improved greatly; perhaps they will actually resemble an actual professional unit this season.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns @ Packers – Preseason Game #1 Preview

Browns @ Packers – Preseason Game #1 Preview

Looking into Preseason Game #1 – @ Green Bay

It’s hard to believe, but the Cleveland Browns are finally going to be hitting the field once again. Following a tumultuous 2015 campaign, the team had massive turnover and will see how their next season goes. Up first is a travel to Lambeau Field against a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Green Bay Packers. The same goes for this year as it does every other one – the preseason is more about not looking bad as it is looking good. Let’s look a bit more into this matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback – I don’t expect to see a great deal of Robert Griffin in this game. However, I would prefer to see him take a few chances when under center. This mainly refers to looking downfield and squeezing the ball in tight windows. As far as backups are concerned; will Josh McCown be the guy, or will he be traded away? I am eager to see what rookie Cody Kessler is able to do in a game. Granted, it will not make or break his career – but I need some sort of barometer.

Running Back – This matchup will likely feature the battle for the third option at running back between Terrell Watson and maybe Glenn Winston. Raheem Mostert is also listed at the position, but might only make the squad as a kick returner. An injury-free game for this bunch would be huge.

Wide Receiver – There are four rookie wide outs that were drafted by the Browns last April. I would venture to say that we should expect to see all of them in some capacity Friday night. Each player’s development will be interesting; Coleman appears to be head and shoulders above his counterparts. Meanwhile, there is little news of Jordan Payton and Ricardo Lewis.  Regardless, the team desperately needs some production from this unit.

Tight End – With Gary Barnidge seeing limited time in training camp, other tight ends will be given a chance to shine. Will Connor Hamlett, E.J. Bibbs, or Randall Telfel be that guy? That remains to be seen, especially that each athlete fills a unique role. Bibbs was a preseason standout in 2015; a repeat performance heightens his chances of making this team again in 2016.

Offensive Line – The right tackle battle and the backups at center will be my focal point for the offensive line in this matchup. Rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman look to duke it out for the edge of the right side – perhaps one guy can see an opportunity for a great deal of playing time this fall. Meanwhile, will Mike Matthews make this team? In what capacity will he serve? Perhaps this game will be the beginning of something special for the undrafted rookie.

Defense:

Defensive Line – I’ll keep my eye on a pair of rookies during this contest. Carl Nassib and Emanuel Ogbah are expecting to begin as reserve defensive ends for this defense. The injury to Desmond Bryant will force some into action sooner than anticipated; however it will be exciting to see how the young guys respond. Will Danny Shelton transition from an underachieving rookie to a productive veteran? Friday’s game could be the beginning for the nose tackle. In the reserve role – Jamie Meder will attempt to lock up a spot on this team.

Linebackers – Will the Browns actually get to opposing quarterbacks this season? Let’s hope so, as it has not been their forte for the past few years. Joe Schobert and Barkevious Mingo are a tandum to keep an eye one. One is a rookie trying to break in with this team, while the other might be his last chance to be a member of the orange and brown. Will Scooby Wright be more than a special teams player? That is unlikely early, but some solid plays in the exhibition season surely would not hurt.

Secondary – The secondary is a huge question mark, especially without the services of Joe Haden. Someone has to step up on the outside, and it appears that Justin Gilbert will not be that guy. I hope he proves me wrong, but Charles Gaines (as an example) has proven more on the field than the former first round draft pick. What will Rahim Moore’s role be with this team? I would hope the veteran can prove he deserves with the starting unit – however he has been quiet up to this point.

Note: I will continue my tradition of not analyzing special teams or coaching during the preseason. There are a few reasons for this: the players vying for special teams roles in the regular season will be mainly on offense or defense (with exceptions) in the preseason, it will likely be Andy Lee and Travis Coons for the Browns at punter and kicker, and Hue Jackson and company will not be going all out when coaching this contest.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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