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The Calm Before the Storm: Cleveland Browns’ News

The Calm Before the Storm:  Cleveland Browns’ News

More News About the Browns 

There are just two more days until the Browns season finally(unofficially) kicks off! A pair of information nuggets surrounding the orange and brown recently came out; how they affect the team remains to be seen however. Hopefully the team was able to upgrade at one position, will they at another very soon?

Nick Hayden Inked

Well the Browns finally picked up a veteran defensive lineman to replace the injured Desmond Bryant. Free agent Nick Hayden was acquired to provide leadership to a young group upfront. He is not known for his pass rushing ability, so he will largely figure to be a factor on early downs. Hopefully he can prevent longer runs by opponents on the edge. I do not anticipate a great deal from Hayden, however (at least) mediocre play while allowing a rookie to come in and take the reins as the five-technique spot (i.e. Carl Nassib) would easily suffice.

That Gordon Guy 

The wide receiver who had a bunch of yardage three years ago (on a bad team) was recently back in the news – by speaking with the commissioner. On Monday, the suspended star was actually be reinstated into the NFL; under the condition he will still be suspended the first four games of the season.  As a Browns’ fan, I am waiting for his next slip and and am ready to move on. Will Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, and Andrew Hawkins be a feared receiving trio in this league? That is unlikely – especially in 2016 – but one thing is certain; they will be available to play all year long (barring injury). The Browns do not need yet another distraction this upcoming season. Plus isn’t getting kicked out of college, in addition to NFL suspensions in 2013, 2014, and 2015 (and now 2016) enough?  If the Browns can get something in return for the troubled wide out, would be a huge coup (though extremely unlikely).

Third Stringer (or Not?)

A bit has been made about Terrell Watson, the larger running back that coach Hue Jackson signed from his former employer – the Cincinnati Bengals. His upbringing has been documented, being given up by his teenage mother to be raised by his grandparents. It appears that Watson is ok with what happened and persevered though that and with learning disabilities. Last year, the rookie runner was on the practice squad; can he make the leap in 2016? Perhaps his personal over comings can translate onto the football field, but he will have to steal opportunities from either Duke Johnson or Isaiah Crowell. Another option is that he could unseat Malcolm Johnson at the fullback position – while not exactly glamorous, it could lead to the opportunity to stick with an NFL club.

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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in NFL Season, Training Camp

 

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News for the Browns: The Latest from Berea

News for the Browns:  The Latest from Berea

Browns Before Camp

The time is finally here; Cleveland Browns’ training camp begins in just one week! Hopefully Hue Jackson can run a tight ship and put the team in the best shape possible prior to week one. The news will continue to ramp up in the near future, however for now we take a look into another blow for the club as well as facing a future Hall of Famer.

Desmond’s Injury

In a similar fate to what happened a few years ago to former Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor, veteran Desmond Bryant injured his pectoral muscles lifting weights. This led to surgery to repair this injury, which is expected to shelf the lineman for all of 2016 – something the Browns could ill-afford. Guys like Armonty Bryant (after he serves his four-game suspension) and rookie Carl Nassib will have to step up and fill the void at defensive end. I would not be surprised if the team signs another veteran in the next few weeks that could play this position as well. Bryant’s contract with the Browns runs though this season; it will be interesting to see what happens for both sides in February.

Brady’s Opener

This is lesser of a Browns’ story, but it still impacts the franchise headquartered in Berea. Veteran signal caller Tom Brady has finally waived the white flag and has accepted his four-game suspension to begin the regular season. His team then faces the Browns in week five – which will be in Cleveland. Could Brady be rusty and make mistakes allowing the home team pull the upset? Surely, and the quarterback is not getting any younger as well. However, the Patriots have been great since the turn of the century so my faith in the Browns winning this contest is not extremely strong.

Conclusion: As the Republican National Convention leaves town, it’s time to get back to football. The only benefit to an injury this early is that the Browns have time to react and make roster moves to see who can help along the defensive line. Meanwhile, beating the Patriots is no easy chore – facing their quarterback with a chip on his shoulder will not be an advantage for the orange and brown.

 

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Don’t Bring Me Down: Which Brown Should You Pin Your Hopes On (D/ST Edition)?

Earlier this week, we mined the Browns’ offense in search of the best players to follow throughout the season. Today, we look at the defense in hopes that there are some gentlemen worth investing in. Who should be your guy when the foes have the ball? Decide for yourself.

First, look to the secondary—Joe Haden, Donte Whitner and company. Haden is an actual, real-life Pro Bowl cornerback, and more importantly, he has gone all-out in support of the Cavs and Indians. Donte, as you likely know, is a proper Clevelander and Ohioan, having attended Glenville and Ohio State. I sat with his grandmother at training camp last week, and she was a delightful lady (She has not met LeBron yet, and she thinks it’s wonderful that Donte is playing at home again). With any luck at all, the DBs will embrace the Dawg Pound ideal and bark as loud as anyone since Minnifield and Dixon. If youngsters like Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine can follow suit, the defensive backfield will be in good shape. Long live #TeamDBSwag.

The defensive line looks solid, but there doesn’t seem to be any one player who will consistently generate headlines or big stats. Athyba Rubin is sort of like the Browns’ Varejao: We like him because he works hard, and he’s one of the few guys who has been here for more than two years. Phil Taylor is more mountain than human, but this will be his fourth season, and there are more YouTube clips of a professional dart player of the same name than the Browns’ defensive lineman. Still, he plays as though the other team stole his lunch money, and he clubbed Roethlisberger in the head a few years ago, so we can safely assume he is against sexual assault. And speaking of criminal behavior, here’s Desmond Bryant’s mug shot:

Desmond Bryant

The linebackers and rush guys could be the best bets of the bunch. Mike Pettine’s Bills had 57 sacks last year, good for second in the league. In Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, and Barkevious Mingo, the hope is that the Browns have three edge rushers capable of making quarterbacks abandon the pocket and/or evacuate their bowels. Rookie inside ‘backer Chris Kirksey looked spry in the first meaningless preseason game, and his pass coverage drew especially good reviews. Karlos Dansby was an animal in Arizona last year, with 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and two defensive TDs. However, he’s 32 and has over 150 games under his belt, so there may not be much tread left on those tires.

And, of course, there are always the special teamers. You may scoff, but some of the greatest modern era Browns were specialists: Josh Cribbs, Phil Dawson, even the unblockable Chris Gardocki and unflappable (for a time) Ryan Pontbriand. There’s hope with the current bunch too. Travis Benjamin is an over-caffeinated roadrunner on kick returns. Billy Cundiff was pretty good last year, and more importantly, he helped screw up the Ravens’ chances in 2012. And Spencer Lanning is the punter, because a “Spencer Lanning” couldn’t possibly play any other position.

Again, this is an important decision. Seasons are defined by who your guys are. If you chose Charlie Frye in 2006 like I did, it was a long year. If you chose Lee Suggs in 2004 like I did, it was a long year. If you chose Brodney Pool in 2008 like I did – Look, the odds aren’t great. But football fandom is weird, and you’ve gotta do it. Do your best, cross your fingers, and enjoy the ride.

IF You Like...(D/ST)

 
 

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Defensive Players to Watch: Senior Bowl 2014

Players to Watch for – 2014 Senior Bowl:  Defense

 In continuing with our Senior Bowl analysis, let’s take a look on the defensive side of the ball.   With another coaching change (and a likely new defensive system), there will be some turnover from the 2013 roster.  The Browns’ scouting department should spend a good deal of time with several guys in Mobile, Alabama in the coming days.  I omitted punters and kickers, as I feel Spencer Lanning and Billy Cundiff had solid seasons and won’t be replaced by rookies.

Defensive Line:  Tackles – Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh), DaQuan Jones (Penn State), Caraun Reid (Princeton), and Will Sutton (Arizona State).  Ends – Dee Ford (Auburn), Kareem Martin (North Carolina), Trent Murphy (Stanford), and Chris Smith (Arkansas).

– Analysis:  Assuming the base defensive front remains at a 3 – 4, then the Browns may only gloss over this group (at least in the earlier part of the draft).  Donald and Jones are two of the better tackles in this year’s crop, but I anticipate both being chosen before the Browns are ready to take a defensive tackle.  On the outside, Ford really impressed me in the championship game against Florida State – however, he falls into the category of being drafted before the Browns should select a defensive end.  The franchise may draft for defensive line depth and special teams; similarly to how Armonty Bryant was last year.  This could leave Caraun Reid as the only viable option on NFL Draft weekend.

Linebackers:  Outside – Kyle Van Noy (BYU), Michael Sam (Missouri), Marcus Smith (Louisville), and Jonathan Brown (Illinois).  Inside – C.J. Mosley (Alabama), Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA), Christian Kirksey (Iowa), and Christian Jones (Florida State).

– Analysis:  Drafting Barkevious Mingo and picking up Paul Kruger in free agency last season offers few reasons to believe the Browns will take another outside linebacker early in the draft.  Noy is my favorite of the group, but could go as early as the first round.  Perhaps one of the other three athletes will slip into the later rounds and the front office gives him a chance to find the field in the fall.  Many believe that both inside spots could be in flux this offseason.  D’Qwell Jackson is due a huge roster bonus, leading to a potential release, and Craig Robertson had his issues in pass coverage.  I anticipate at least one inside linebacker being added from the college ranks.  Mosley tops the list, but I doubt the Browns take a linebacker with an early pick.  It will be up to several front office members to figure out if any of the other three guys can be a starter and select him when it’s appropriate.

Secondary:  Safeties – Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois), Dontae Johnson (North Carolina State), Ahmad Dixon (Baylor), and Deone Bucannon (Washington State).  Cornerbacks – Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Aaron Colvin (Oklahoma), and Chris Davis (Auburn).

– Analysis:  Another part of the team with a question mark is safety; this relates to pending free agent T.J. Ward and whether the Browns re-sign him.  If that is not the case, they must find his replacement and a rookie could be the option.  Jimmie Ward (no relation) is intriguing, and I hope his smaller size and perceived lesser competition does not hurt his standing with the front office.  Buchannon appears to be more in the mold of the incumbent strong safety, totaling 100 tackles and three forced fumbles last year.  However, if the team wants more of a coverage guy, they may want Dixon who finished 2013 with seven pass breakups.  The Browns took a cornerback (Leon McFadden) with their second pick in last year’s draft; that doesn’t mean the front office will stray from that philosophy in 2014.  I believe both Jean-Baptiste and Dennard could start in the season opener, and the former’s size (six-foot three inches, 220 pounds) may vault the athlete up draft boards.

Conclusion:  It’s widely believed that the front office feels more confident about the Browns’ defense than their offense.  While that may be true, the scouting department must still determine who can be impactful defenders – regardless of the round they are selected (if at all).  There could be one to four new faces on the starting defense in 2014; scouting and drafting the right guys are paramount for success.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in NFL Draft, Players

 

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