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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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Browns Preview Game #10

Browns Preview Game #10

Previewing Game #10 – Browns @ Steelers

It’s a rivalry renewed on Sunday as the Browns have another tough road contest within the AFC North. Heinz Field has been cruel to the Browns, and this week should present all sorts of problems for the orange and brown. Let’s take an inside look at a few of the positions for the visiting squad. 

Offense:

Quarterback – The reins must be handed over to Johnny Manziel at this point. Josh McCown has played relatively well, but the team is not winning with him. The rest of the schedule is an evaluation period for the second year pro. I believe he can continue to progress and get better . Will it be enough for the coaching staff and front office to move forward with the signal caller? I would like to find out after eight more starts from Manziel this season. Finding the end zone multiple times should be his goal in Pittsburgh.

Running Back – Can the coaching staff give an ample amount of carries to Isaiah Crowell? He had nine carries in the first half last week and only one after halftime – he needs to have at least twenty carries to be effective. Duke Johnson should get at least a handful of carries and several receptions as well. He has shown an ability to make plays and this offense sorely needs this consistency. If the team can utilize this duo to their capabilities, then there’s a shot the Browns will be in this contest. 

Wide Receiver – Will the Browns use Dwayne Bowe more as coach Pettine has mentioned? I’d like to see him on some shorter routes – as I have confidence he can haul in passes. I hope Andrew Hawkins can pass the concussion protocol, as Taylor Gabriel was less than spectacular last contest. Travis Benjamin has been a favorite target for Manziel; the coaching staff would be wise to include him regularly in the passing game. I want to see at least one touchdown from this group on Sunday.

Tight End – This should be the week where E.J. Bibbs is finally included in the team’s game plan. Gary Barnidge should come down with his usual output total and hopefully at least one touchdown. However, Bibbs could be flexed out wide and create additional matchup problems for the defense. Frankly, teams do not have any game film on him (outside of a few preseason games) – so let the rookie confuse and expose the opponent. 

Offensive Line – I felt the line finally showed some signs of improvement last week; the coaches must determine whether this can continue. The Browns should stick with the run, even if they are not having success initially. In the passing game, Manziel had some time to think in the pocket – this younger signal caller needs all the help during drop backs and the guys upfront should certainly help with this.

Defense: 

Defensive Line – Well, there’s no Le’Veon Bell to game plan against, as the opposing rusher is out for the season with an injury. Deangelo Williams has somewhat resurrected his career, but he has nowhere near the ability of Bell. I anticipate that he will be hitting holes primarily between the tackles. Therefore John Hughes, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper should stay firm on the edge and funnel action towards the middle. It will be a tough test for Danny Shelton – but it would be nice if he can have his breakout game. 

Linebacker – On the outside, I want to see Nate Orchard continue to gobble up playing time alongside Paul Kruger. Barkevious Mingo has only displayed a moderate ability to cover and nothing else. Armonty Bryant could be inserted primarily as a rusher as well – as he has made some plays in that role thus far. On the inside, the trio has been solid but not great. I hope they can attack the line of scrimmage and limit rushing yardage for the black and yellow.

Secondary – Joe Haden needs to be healthy for this contest. The veteran’s absence has caused opposing signal callers to be playing pitch and catch against the Browns’ secondary. Justin Gilbert should see some time at cornerback as well; last contest he held his own when he was on the field. At the safety spot, Ibraheim Campbell showed physicality and was rather surprising last week. He should be stealing playing time from Donte Whitner. The bottom line for this group is to not get embarrassed by Antonio Brown.

Special Teams: Heinz Field is known for it’s poor field surface, but Travis Coons is still the best kicker on the field. A game winning kick for him would be nice but is not expected. Andy Lee must make sure that Antonio Brown does not get his hands on the ball (during punt returns) with room to run.

Coaching: I do not know what Jim O’Neil can do to improve his run defense (including clogging the middle of the field). They cannot allow Williams to have a big day, which will lead to a blowout. Offensively, the team must attack primarily with their running backs then find Barnidge and Benjamin on the second and third level.

Prediction (My Record: 5 -4): More of the same on Sunday; the Steelers prove to be too much and defeat the Browns at home by the score of 30 – 17. The 2015 season continues to worsen for the orange and brown.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns @ Buccaneers – Breaking Down Game #3

Browns @ Buccaneers – Breaking Down Game #3

Review of Browns @ Buccaneers – Preseason Game #3 

I must admit I did not what to expect from the Cleveland Browns in this contest. They faced an apparent inferior team, and the starters dominated the home team. Outside of a few possible concussions, this was a tremendous outing for the club. I cannot wait to see what they can do in the coming weeks. However, let’s look at last night’s contest first.

Offense:

Quarterback – Facing pressure or not, the Josh McCown displayed a great ability to get the football out of his hand quickly. His passes were not always on target, but they were close enough were only the receiver could secure the grab. It was mostly dink-and-dunk play calls, but if they work and the end result is a score – keep ‘em coming. I loved seeing McCown’s competitiveness during this contest, but diving headfirst is something that I wish he would not do (especially during the preseason – and on multiple occasions). 

Running Backs – It would appear that the three-headed monster was finally unveiled in Tampa. Whether it was West, Johnson, or Crowell – the guy behind the quarterback was effective in this contest. In addition to some solid rushes by the second-year pro, watching Isaiah Crowell catch and run was a sight to see. This part of the offense was sorely needed in 2014; this only makes the unit even more dynamic. That was a scary moment seeing Johnson leave his feet (and getting drilled) during a pass reception. That cannot occur this year, and could lead to a possible huge injury. 

Wide Receivers – Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel each hauled in nice gainers early in this contest. Instead of a sideline fade (like last week), the Browns tossed some quick hitters and under routes for the speedy targets. That’s all I wanted to see in this contest – seeing McCown put his guys in the best position possible to succeed. Brian Hartline’s touchdown was a thing of beauty; the wily veteran knew where to be in the end zone and got both feet down before going out of bounds. My confidence in this unit continues to build, and executing in their proper role is key for the upcoming season.

Tight Ends – An extremely quiet outing for this position group; as Jim Dray’s two short receptions were the only noteworthy play from the starters. I have a feeling that consistency from the tight ends (receiving-wise) will not occur this year. Some of this is due to the game plan, which is to be expected in this chess game known as the NFL. However, if the wide receivers and running backs can pick up the slack, then there should be few worries. 

Offensive Line – For the most part, the five guys upfront dominated their counterparts. McCown stayed relatively clean, and holes were available for all three running backs. Avoiding infractions and free rushers to blow by them is a must – and fortunately that is what the Browns’ line achieved. The incorrect penalty called on John Greco (for a chop block) killed a potential scoring drive; hopefully the calls will go more to the team’s favor during the regular season.

Defense: 

Defensive Line – There’s the run defense that Browns’ fans and coaches were looking for. Winning the point of attack is critical in this league; hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the orange and brown. I really liked what I saw from veteran Desmond Bryant. The defensive end had a pair of sacks during the first quarter, as well as multiple pressures on Jameis Winston. It was not all rosy for this group, as Doug Martin scored on a large rush in the second quarter. That should give the group enough fire to resist complacency. 

Linebackers – Just another game for veteran linebacker Paul Kruger – it seemed that he was always around the signal called once the team dialed up a blitz. Scott Solomon was relegated to more of a run stopping role, which he did an excellent job of doing the dirty work. The key stop of the third and one was amazing, and it all started with Solomon pushing through the Buccaneers’ offensive line. It was a relatively quiet game for the guys on the inside, they were not exceptional but they were not blown off the ball either.

Secondary – Charles Gaines playing in the first quarter – and intercepting Jameis Winston (along with several nice pass break ups)? With K’Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert injured, the rookie made his case to be included with the first team defense. I was encouraged from what I saw, and want to see what he can do early in the contest next week. I noticed one play where Joe Haden came crashing off the edge during a corner blitz. It was unsuccessful, but those types of plays should work (as I have faith that the remaining secondary can cover opposing wide outs).

Special Teams: Now, that wasn’t so hard – was it? Travis Benjamin channeled his 2013 self, by taking the first punt of the game back for a touchdown. I don’t expect to see this on a regular basis, but long gains and threats of a touchdown can finally give this unit the respectability that was missing last year. Now Carey Spear got a shot to shine for the kicking gig – and made the most of his opportunity (with a nice field goal and solid kickoffs). Hopefully the coaching staff can choose the correct kicker for this team.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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