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Browns @ Bengals Outlook – Game #9

Browns @ Bengals Outlook – Game #9

Previewing the Browns @ Bengals – Game #9

The Browns now head to the second half of their schedule, and limp (somewhat literally) into their next game with two wins and six losses.  The ending of the most previous game was riddled with injuries and mistakes – and many, me included, would rather forget about the outcome.  Now they head south to Cincinnati to play the undefeated Bengals (that hurts typing that).  I anticipate more of the same for the orange and brown – but let’s still break it down.

Offense:

Quarterback – Josh McCown is bruised and battered, but still played all the way into the fourth quarter of last week’s game.  He is hoping to start, but I would bet that he would not finish the game.  That leads the way for Johnny Manziel to see some playing time (unless Pettine goes with Austin Davis).  Hopefully his debacle against the Bengals in 2014 will fuel him to a successful outing this year – it’s unlikely but there’s always a chance.  Realistically I expect more of the same from the Browns’ signal caller; a touchdown or two and a turnover or two.

Running Back – The veteran who everyone expected to steal the starting job faltered against the Cardinals.  Do the Browns go back to Robert Turbin?  Or will Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson prove to be the guys who can shoulder the load.  The frustration at the lack of a running attack has hit a new high, and I do not see this part of the team getting fixed any time soon.  Perhaps we should hope for those dump-offs to Duke Johnson and the long scampers thereafter.

Wide Receiver – Will Brian Hartline continue to be more involved in contests going forward?  Last week was a breakout performance by the veteran, but he still committed a few key drops.  I would hope that whoever is under center could get the ball to the wide out.  Travis Benjamin’s play has cooled greatly over the past few weeks – however that does not mean the team should avoid the speedster.  Perhaps he can be the reason why the offense excels on Thursday night.  I am not going to mention (by name) the high priced free agent who cannot record receptions for this team.

Tight End – Still no E.J. Bibbs for the Cleveland Browns.  Gary Barnidge went back to his productive ways (he even threw in a nice block in pass protection) last week, and I expect that to continue in Cincinnati.  Jim Dray is a solid tight end, but I want to see what the rookie can do on the field.  I wonder what will it take, clearly more than a Rob Housler injury, for the former Iowa State product to get into an NFL contest.  Who knows, maybe he can even make some plays for this offense.

Offensive Line – More of the same for the guys upfront in the run blocking; that is not meant to be a compliment.  The line has not made holes for any back this year.  It took a gimmick for Isiah Crowell to get more than one yard at a time (until the Cardinals prepared for the wildcat play).  It would be unreasonable for someone to think that this group can get their act together, but I still think they should keep Joe Thomas and Alex Mack around for the future.  Cameron Erving starting at right guard could be the shakeup that makes this group what many were expecting.

Defense:

Defensive Line – The positive from last week’s game is that the team did not surrender their usual 150 yards on the ground.  However, facing Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard might be a tough task and it’s likely that the Bengals will employ their running attack throughout the contest.  Armonty and Desmond Bryant each made a few nice plays last Sunday – that type of performance will be required once again to have a shot at knocking off their undefeated rival.

Linebacker – It would look as the edge pass rushers on this team are far from excelling at their jobs.  Quarterbacks have had ample time to pick apart this team and have been doing a fine job at it.  Maybe the Browns should switch the guys on the outside with the duo on the inside to see if Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby can get sacks off the corner (only slightly kidding).  The defense cannot keep doing what they have been doing and expect to see a respectable pass rush.

Secondary – Several injuries are depleting this part of the roster and allowing quarterbacks to embarrass the Browns’ corners and safeties. Ibraheim Campbell, Johnson Bademosi, and Pierre Desir are just a few of the guys who have come in and played following injuries to starters.  Being reserves and special teamers, they are playing at the level that one would expect.  Why shouldn’t the coaches try Justin Gilbert at this point?  I know he could be worse that what is out there – but it can’t be that much worse.

Special Teams:  Like most games in the NFL, this part of the game will be rather even and minimal to the outcome of the contest.  There might be one vital play in this contest – via a kick or a punt return, etc., but that appears to be unlikely in this matchup.

Coaching:  I am not sure what the coaches can formulate to win this meeting.  At least the Bengals are coming off of a tense and physical game in Pittsburgh, and hopefully they are drained.  The Browns’ staff must put the players in the best spots to succeed (including not trotting out injured signal callers).  Other than that, they just need to play smart football.

Prediction (My Record:  4-4):  This one is going to sting a bit for Browns’ fans, as they will falter once again this week to the tune of 31 -13.  Everyone will be calling for coaches, the general manager, and players to evacuate this franchise immediately – oh the joy of being a Browns fan!

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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Previewing the Next Game for the Browns

Previewing the Next Game for the Browns

A Look at Browns vs. Cardinals – Game #8

The team looks bad and is coming off an awful performance, now the Browns are playing one of the best teams in the NFL. Once again the odds are not in their favor – it would take a herculean effort to finally earn a win. Let’s take a gander at what is in store for this matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback – The team might as well see Johnny Manziel for the rest of the season – for evaluation purposes. He will be facing a dominating defensive unit that will likely test him on every play. As long as he can avoid making poor mistakes that his predecessor succumbed to, then there’s a chance that he can succeed with this team. Finding the end zone a few times will be critical.

Running Back – I want to see Robert Turbin get at least twenty carries in this matchup. This litmus test for the veteran might give the Browns assurance that they can actually move the ball via the ground. Duke Johnson should still remain a receiving option, with a handful of carries. Finding out what Isaiah Crowell can do best should be one of John DeFilippo’s priorities going forward.

Wide Receiver – There’s got to be a guy to step up for the Browns’ receiving unit in this contest (outside of Travis Benjamin). If Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel can haul in a long gainer – and more importantly, hold on to the ball – then that will be a big step forward. I would like to see a Browns’ wide out find the end zone in this meeting, but the chances of that happening do not look great.

Tight End – Will anyone besides Gary Barnidge get involved in the passing game (at the tight end spot)? Jim Dray was slightly active last matchup, but the staff refuses to see what E.J. Bibbs is made of. Hopefully they wise up and the undrafted rookie can finally see the field and make plays the way he did in the preseason.

Offensive Line – I don’t know what it’s going to take for the offensive line to finally play well. Is it a change in scheme, play calls, or personnel that will make the difference? The answer is probably a combination of each; however not committing dumb penalties would be a tremendous improvement for the offensive line.  Unfortunately the issues upfront cannot be pinned on a single guy – all five have got to pick it up.

Defense:

Defensive Line – The sieve known as the Browns’ defensive front should give way to many yards to Chris Johnson and company. I really wish I felt more positively about this group, but they have not give me reason to be hopeful. Guys like Randy Starks, Desmond Bryant, and Armonty Bryant can make the occasional play – but not do it on a consistent basis. One of the two rookies might want to pick up the professional game and soon. 

Linebacker – Hopefully Craig Robertson can get back in the lineup and help out the inside linebacker group. Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey have played more than adequately these past few contests. The guys on the outside have been extremely disappointing. I cannot point to one guy who can either rush the passer exceptionally or be reliable in pass coverage.  Like the defensive line, perhaps a rookie can finally be the spark plug for this unit.

Secondary – Having two starters sit out the past few weeks has not been a good thing for this franchise. I would like to see both Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson back on the field; while Pierre Desir has been performing reasonably well, Jordan Poyer has had his issues in preventing the big play. Going against a wide receiving group that features Larry Fitzgerald is a tall order for any team – the Browns need all of their playmakers available to limit these athletes.

Special Teams: Travis Benjamin has not been able to break the long return in the past few weeks – as teams have punted away from the speedy veteran. I like the duo of kickers for the Browns but this game will likely not come down to a field goal by Travis Coons. Overall, this should be a pretty much even matchup between the two teams. 

Coaching: The defense must luck their way into stopping opposing running backs. I do not know what Jim O’Neil can do to put his guys in the best spot possible to succeed. Offensively, if the coaches do not trust the power of the line – they must lean on the passing game to provide an opportunity for rushing attempts. 

Prediction (My Record: 3 – 4): There’s no wavering for me in this contest; the Cardinals will pick up where the Rams left off. I envision the Browns falling behind and never being able to catch up – losing at home by the score of 27 – 13.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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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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Another Loss for the Browns – Game #4 @ Chargers

Another Loss for the Browns – Game #4 @ Chargers

Review of Game #4 – Browns @ Chargers 

It was good, then bad, then good, then bad for the Cleveland Browns. The offense did their part, but the defense let the team down greatly in the second half. The fans’ hopes were dashed late on a offside penalty – giving the Chargers another shot to win. Let’s review the defeat.

Offense:

Quarterback – Was he perfect? No, but did he play good enough to earn a victory? Absolutely, and my faith has somewhat been restored in Josh McCown. The veteran spread the ball around nicely to many targets on a consistent basis. He took a bad sack late, but made up for it in the forth quarter. Hopefully he can continue to play this way all season long – he simply needs some help on the other side of the ball.   356 yards is simply nothing to sneeze at. 

Running Back – This was easily the best game of the year for both Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell. Each had a couple nice receptions and rushes, while the rookie found the end zone early in the matchup. They had a winning performance, and that should be remembered this contest. Getting over 200 yards total by the duo of backs is a necessity in the NFL. I don’t know if we will witness this consistently, but the potential is a positive sign.

Wide Receiver – Brian Hartline’s early injury definitely shuffled things around for the wide receiving units. As a result, Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, and Andrew Hawkins were the beneficiaries. Each had some nice catches – including the game-tying two-point conversion. Dwayne Bowe was his usual disappointing self; not notching a single statistic. This group needs at least one to two more guys next year, someone who can perform up to his potential.

Tight End – Jordan Cameron who? Gary Barnidge is playing just as well, if not better than the departed free agent. The tight end made some excellent grabs, including the overturned incompletion that led to a touchdown. I got to say I am surprised to see him have back-to-back stellar games, but am not sad to see it happen. I’d still like to see E.J. Bibbs finally get some playing time over Rob Housler, but that will not happen just yet.

Offensive Line – The unit finally played like a respectable unit. I understand there were some sacks surrendered – but they were not all the fault of the guys upfront. More importantly, the gang paved holes for Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell on running plays. I believe this is what the fans should expect going forward. Sure there were a breakdown or two; but they were competent enough to be a reliable unit in the NFL.

Defense:

Defensive Line – The rookie duo of Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper played admirably in this contest. They finally did not allow a rusher of over 100 yards, but did make Danny Woodhead look like a great receiver. I got to admit that Randy Starks looked very slow at times, I am not sure what he can still bring to the table but my concerns grow. Jamie Meder was not great, but not terrible either – he is proving to be a dependable rotational guy. 

Linebacker – Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey each made a few nice stops in this contest. I was really surprised by the coverage abilities by Dansby – especially at this point in his career. On the outside, the guys were less than impressive. Paul Kruger was a second away from a sack on multiple occasions; while the only time I saw Barkevious Mingo he was chasing a receiver fifty yards down the field. The team has got to take a look at Nate Orchard sooner rather than later, but the rookie has got to earn his opportunity as well.

Secondary – Without the services of Joe Haden and K’Waun Williams, Phillip Rivers feasted on the Browns’ secondary. Pierre Desir and Tramon Williams each surrendered passes consistently and were the demise of the defense. I would have thought this part of the team would be solid as a rock – but I would then be incorrect. Tashaun Gipson left with an injury and Donte Whitner was ineffective in the second half, the safety spots need to reevaluated and soon.

Special Teams: No win or loss here for the Cleveland Browns. Travis Coons and Andy Lee were solid as usual, as the return units were solid in their production as well. Not a whole lot could be said for the special teams, I wish Tramon Williams would not have jumped offside but he did and the Browns lost.

Coaching: Some will blame coaching on the penalties, but Mike Pettine did not tell his guys to commit infractions. Both the offensive and defensive game plans appeared to be what the team needed. Offensively, the Browns executed and did so rather well. Defensively, they stopped the run and tried to put pressure on Rivers. That was not always the case, and the veteran made them pay. Now it’s a 1 – 3 team who is heading to Baltimore.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Yet Another Loss Breakdown – Browns vs. Raiders

Yet Another Loss Breakdown – Browns vs. Raiders

Review of Raiders @ Browns – Game #2 

What’s that? Another embarrassing performance by the Cleveland Browns against an inferior performance? You better believe it. Turnovers, not stopping the run, and sloppy play did in a team that did not play up to what they should have. I’m pretty embarrassed at their play, and now they face a tough seven game stretch. Let’s review the poor play.

Offense:

Quarterback – I am confident in stating that the Josh McCown experiment is nearing a close. The veteran signal caller was brutal in stepping up in the pocking, avoiding the rush, and hitting his targets. He only hit Brian Hartline and Gary Barnidge in situations and scored only when the team was down but quite a bit. Put in Johnny for the next game, but I fear the coaching staff won’t agree with me for quite some time.

Running Back – This unit failed to improve upon their performance last contest. Isaiah Crowell had a nice scamper to the one-yard line, then the Browns settled for a field goal. That was pretty much all you needed to know; it was a depressing output by the rushing attack. Duke Johnson made a few nice plays, but it was not enough to be content with position group.

Wide Receiver – Not hitting Travis Benjamin on the deeper routes was the downside for the wide outs. He made a few nice grabs, but the receivers did not distinguish themselves in this matchup. I was happy to see Brian Hartline made a few nice catches (especially during third down), but that was not good enough to make me feel good about targets for the signal caller.

Tight End – Outside of Gary Barnidge, the tight end spot was invisible and rather disappointing. The veteran had a score and several nice grabs for the team, however none of the other tight ends could produce on Sunday. I am still looking for E.J. Bibbs to emerge as a reliable option for this group, but the coaching staff still wants Rob Housler to play.

Offensive Line – The continued improvement that I was hoping for did not happen for the guys upfront. I suppose they were ok in opening up holes for Isaiah Crowell, but they did not give Josh McCown plenty of time to throw (especially in the first half). I do not know what it’s going to take to get these guys back on track, but the Browns better fix it soon.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Putting zero pressure on the opposing signal caller will not get you wins in the NFL – I do not care if you are facing Peyton Manning or JaMarcus Russell. For the second time in three weeks, the Browns front three did not breathe on the opponent and it cost them dearly. I guess Armonty Bryant and Randy Starks made a few nice plays in this contest, but surrendering yet another rusher over 100 yards simply is not going to cut it.

Linebacker – Thirteen more games until Barkevious Mingo will no longer roam these sidelines. The former first round draft choice has been a huge bust and has not nearly lived up to his capabilities. I feel back for Paul Kruger, as he is the only guy who can make an impact on the edge. If Craig Robertson is injured for some time, I worry about the depth in the middle. Kirksey and Dansby are fine athletes but not shut down stars.

Secondary – Amari Cooper simply punked Joe Haden in this contest – the rookie got separation and embarrassed the veteran cornerback. Donte Whitner was not good either, and he appeared to be a step slow when in coverage. I am disappointed in the play of Tashaun Gipson – the free safety has not recovered from his injury last season. The only guy who is reliable (at this point) in the secondary appears to be Trammon Williams – maybe Jim O’Neil should put him against the number one wide out going forward.

Special Teams: Let’s look at the positives, Andy Lee is a solid punter and Travis Benjamin should still be a reliable punt returner. Travis Coons appears to have been the right choice at kicker as well. Let’s face it, the Browns did not lose this game due to poor special teams – hopefully they are able to be the reason for a win down the line.

Coaching: Keep Josh McCown at the helm is just delaying the inevitable. Mike Pettine must know that the veteran does not give the team the best opportunity to win an NFL game. Can Johnny Manziel be the guy going forward? Who knows, but the coaching staff has got to find out what they have with the first round draft pick. It will likely happen in a few weeks, but Browns’ fans are impatient (and deservedly so).

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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NFL Season Opener – Browns @ Jets Preview

NFL Season Opener – Browns @ Jets Preview

Preview of Browns @ Jets – Game #1 

After many months of waiting, the 2015 NFL regular season is finally here! I’m not going to display the Browns’ opening day record since re-joining the league in 1999, but let’s just say it is not good. However, this year features another winnable contest for the orange and brown. Let’s take a look into the contest in New Jersey.

Offense 

Quarterback – Josh McCown had a bad exhibition game (Bills), a good one (Buccaneers), and a decent one (Redskins). All of those do not matter once the regular season starts, however. I anticipate him to be on the lower end of risk-taking, which might excite Browns’ fans. Still a few lengthy tosses should be expected – McCown just make sure to drop them in where only his teammates can catch them.

Running Back – Will Duke Johnson be available in this contest? He will provide the Jets’ coaching staff with something extra to game play for. However, if he does not recover from his concussion yet – I have faith that Isaiah Crowell can earn those tough yards between the tackles. Granted, the Jets have a formidable defensive front – but I have a feeling that the best is yet to come for the Browns’ backs. 

Wide Receiver – Here is the wildcard spot for the away squad. Expectations appear to be low (at least listening to the media), but should this unit perform to their capabilities; they can tip the scales towards a victory. Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel ought to continue with their under and drag routes, while Brian Hartline remains a possession receiver and a touchdown threat in the red zone. I foresee one or two scores from this group on Sunday.

Tight End – Making the tough catch in traffic and picking up key first downs is where my expectations lie for the team’s tight ends. Gary Barnidge always seems to come up with a huge grab, and this contest should be no different for the veteran. There might be one huge block by Jim Dray or a great play by Rob Housler in this game as well. 

Offensive Line – I hope the unit upfront picked their game up during this week of practice. They were a far cry from the guys who paved wide alleys and gave the quarterback time to throw last season. I anticipate they will not be that good yet, but will improve from their display in the preseason. As usual, the right side of the line will get the most attention – call it homerism, but I expect John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz to get it done.

Defense:

Defensive Line – It’s finally put-up-or-shut-up time for the Browns’ defensive line. Are they actually improved at stopping the run, or are they just as miserable as they were last season? A steady improvement should occur on a weekly basis; they will not be great but not horrific either on Sunday (Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy totaling just under 100 rushing yards combined). I look for leadership on the edge by veterans Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant.

Linebackers – I really hope that Scott Solomon can be a trusted outside linebacker opposite of Paul Kruger. Besides being the guy who sets the edge, he will be expected to rush Fitzpatrick on occasions. I’m not as high on him as I used to be, but I hope he proves me wrong. On the inside, the trio is expected to be stout – Kirksey, Robertson, and Dansby should have everything under control. An interception would not be surprising from this position group.

Secondary – We all know that Joe Haden struggles against taller wide receivers. Therefore, I figure Tramon Williams will line up more against Brandon Marshall. That would leave Haden covering Eric Decker – who is no slouch either. As we all know, how well the quarterback can get the ball to his targets is of vital importance. This Browns’ defense should make it difficult (via the rush and coverage) to see consistent completions.

Special Teams: I am pulling for the strong performance of the preseason to carry over for the Browns. Travis Benjamin will likely not have a punt return for a score, but he figures to flip the field a few times. Hopefully Travis Coons can remain perfect, as points are huge in this contest.  Andy Lee will have a prominent role as well.

Coaching: Ground and pound will be the blueprint for Pettine and the Browns’ offense. Should that work early, look for some play-action and longer passes later in the contest.   A completion or two can be a backbreaker for the home squad – but many things have to go right before the coaching staff deviates from a conservative game plan.

Prediction (My Record 0-0): It’s the opener once again, and it’s a winnable contest this season. This game will come down to special teams, limiting mistakes, and converting on third down. I give the Browns the advantage in the first two and the last category is a toss up – that provides enough confidence in giving the team a 24 – 20 win over the Jets.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Part II of Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns

In continuing our look of position groups prior to the commencement of training camp, we turn to the defensive side of the football. I understand there is a bit of speculation when breaking down players at this point of a campaign, but until the athletes are putting themselves on game film – that’s all we got at this point. Let’s take a gander at the guys on defense.

Defensive Line: Depth, depth, and more depth – all the Browns need is to keep away from disastrous injuries. Phil Taylor, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Danny Shelton man the interior of the group. I figure they should put up more of a resistance against running backs than their counterparts did a year ago. Meanwhile the outside linemen include Desmond Bryant, Randy Starks, John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Xavier Cooper. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated he might employ more four-men fronts as he has an arsenal of talent at that position. That appears to be a wise move, especially if Cooper shows his first-step burst he displayed in college. At that point, it’s as almost as if there’s an outside linebacker (speed-wise) playing on the defensive line. 

Outside Linebackers: Here is an interesting group for the Cleveland Browns. Barkevious Mingo will be fighting for his job, while Armonty Bryant will do his best to transition from his defensive end spot from a year ago. What should the Browns expect from Nate Orchard? That remains to be seen, but if he can compile tackles and sacks, and either Mingo or Bryant can shine – then Paul Kruger will finally have the company he was hoping for when he signed his free agent deal a few years ago.

Inside Linebackers: This needs to be the year where the Browns go from having a group of serviceable inside linebackers to one where they possess relentless ones who alter game plans. Should the team expect Chris Kirksey, Craig Robertson, and Karlos Dansby to make tackles, excel in coverage, and instill fear? The two youngsters must add to their repertoire beginning in training camp, if they want to become an elite unit. Robertson bettered his coverage skills tremendously in 2014, now he ought to focus on getting to the quarterback and disrupting offenses. I would like to see a fourth member step up in the summer months, will it be veteran Tank Carder or an unsuspecting rookie (i.e. Hayes Pullard)?

Safeties: Not a ton of concern in this group, as the position featured a duo that went to the Pro Bowl. Toss in an improving Jordan Poyer and promising rookie Ibraheim Campbell, and that’s one exceptional gang of safeties. I understand that Donte Whitner is getting long in the tooth and expect to see Poyer (and possibly Campbell) more in passing situations, but the veteran still remains capable on every play. In camp, I will keep an eye on the non-starters to see how they push Whitner and Tashaun Gipson.

Cornerbacks: Another area where the Browns appear to have a dearth of talent. Losing Buster Skrine might have hurt, until they grabbed Tramon Williams in free agency. The group should prevent the big play, but I desire to see what Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams, and Pierre Desir can do against Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins (to name a few). If the youngsters appear to pick up this defense, coach O’Neil might have some difficult decisions to make. The talent at cornerback is a plenty, and for the first time in awhile – I think the Browns can actually slow down opposing wide receiving units.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Players, Training Camp

 

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