Tag Archives: Donte Whitner

What’s New with the Browns?

What’s New with the Browns?

Calm Before the Storm: Cleveland Browns Before the Draft

It’s April, and that means the NFL Draft is just only a few weeks away. It appears that the league is always generating news for all twelve months. That said; let’s see what is currently going down regarding the Cleveland Browns. First, the team said goodbye to a native son, a prevailing thought should be kept in mind by the front office, and the 2016 year kicks off.

Out with the Old

The analytics machine reared its ugly head last week, as veteran Donte Whitner was the latest casualty from the Browns’ roster. The safety played well in spurts in his first campaign with the club, but had his issues in 2015 (and is not getting any younger). Like Karlos Dansby and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu before him, I wish the athlete nothing but the best – as long as he’s not facing the Browns. It will be interesting to figure out how this could potentially shake up the team’s draft plans. Jalen Ramsey is a tremendous talent, but the Browns need a quarterback before they should worry about the safety position.

Reaching for those QBs

It’s extremely obvious that teams typically overvalue quarterbacks (and rightly so on some occasions), therefore teams not needing a signal caller are in line to be the beneficiaries. I have a good feeling that if the Browns take Goff or Wentz with the second overall selection, they will be able to scoop up a valuable athlete that was previously given a first round grade. I am partial to a wide out being taken by the team at the thirty-second position. However, the opening of a need at safety must be considered as well. I know the team needs to improve their offensive line following a pair of departures last month. However, analytics would likely say that this position group could be acquired in the middle rounds of the draft.

Pre-Draft Workouts

Despite the team not practicing plays and running routes, etc., the Browns gathered together and began their strength training for the 2016 campaign. Hopefully the new strength coaches can be improvements upon their predecessors – as the rash of injuries in 2015 was mind numbing. Some camaraderie would also be welcomed; even if the team does not have one of the most talented locker rooms, solidifying a close knit group would be an advantage during the season (especially the tough times).

Conclusion: The news and notes continue to roll out for the Cleveland Browns. The turnover of the 2015 roster continues and the older veterans are on the chopping block. I have faith in this front office, but they must get the right guys to succeed the departed players. The Browns finally got together as a team for the upcoming season; while the Xs and Os will not be a talking point – I’m pulling for this being the start of a vastly improved unit from a year ago.


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Yay! The Browns Finally Won!!

Yay!  The Browns Finally Won!!

What Happened – 49ers @ Browns – Game #13

Well it was exactly what the doctor orders for the Cleveland Browns. The defense had nine sacks, the running backs found the end zone twice, and Johnny Manziel made several plays under center. When the dust settled, the Browns manhandled the 49ers; despite hurting their draft position, I am glad to see that the orange and brown had this in them. Let’s delve into the victory.


Quarterback – Outside of a problematic pass (and interception) Johnny Manziel had a stellar outing. He appears to have progressed and is finding multiple targets during the contest – which has been problematic for the young signal caller. The next three games he will face tremendous defenses, so the odds are he will not excel the rest of the campaign. However, this was a good win for the quarterback and I cannot complain.

Running Back – Who knew that Isaiah Crowell had it in him? The running back belted out several long runs and found pay dirt twice in this matchup. Granted they were not playing a stellar bunch, but I am excited to see him finally play well. Duke Johnson also made a couple of nice gains as well; the rookie back was active in the running and passing game. I am eager to see what he can do in the next few weeks. 

Wide Receiver – It looks like Brian Hartline was the guy for Manziel in this contest. The veteran had over 100 yards and was all over the field in this contest – however he left the game with an injury. That said, he has proven to be a reliable commodity for the Browns. Travis Benjamin was somewhat active as well – he should continue to help out this offense for the final three games.

Tight End – Gary Barnidge did what he normally does in 2015 – and that is scoring touchdowns. The tight end was superb in this contest and was the recipient of a tremendous touchdown in the second half. I am glad to see him with the team for many years (hopefully three) to come. My guy E.J. Bibbs saw some playing time, but was not targeted.

Offensive Line – The guys upfront were exceptional starting out and ending the contest. They were dominated a bit in the time between, but no one is perfect. Even Austin Pazstor had his issues at left guard – it is not just Cameron Erving who struggled at the spot. However the guys were good enough to give Johnny time, as well as lanes for Crowell and Johnson room to run. It could have been worse, so I will take it.


Defensive Line – It took facing a Browns castoff with a depleted offensive line, but the Browns finally shut down an opposing running back. O yeah, and the guys dominated at the point of attack. I was happy to see Xavier Cooper, Desmond Bryant, and Randy Starks all be effective in this meeting. They are not the best at what they do, but they can be called upon when needed. 

Linebacker – Nate Orchard had a pair of sacks, which Paul Kruger was solid in getting to the opposing signal caller. Barkevious Mingo was active but not anywhere near the action, he appears to not be needed for this roster. On the inside Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby were solid on occasions and that was good enough for this unit.

Secondary – Charles Gaines was toasted a few times in coverage, but he stuck it in there and was somewhat reliable late in this contest. Tramon Williams held his own as well – he was very close to multiple interceptions and was nearby opposition wide outs for the opposition. The safeties were not great but not pathetic easy – playing Blaine Gabbert made this game very easy for the secondary.

Special Teams: No big deal, just another blocked field goal by the Cleveland Browns. Other than that, the special teams played well. It was Danny Shelton who allowed pressure up the middle – they have got to take him away from the field goal unit.

Coaching: This game plan was what Pettine and company had envisioned all season long. Run the ball and stop the run – that occurred and the Browns won handily. This is not a consistent happening; but for this week I will take it. It’s now on to Seattle and a extremely tough game next week.

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Posted by on December 13, 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.


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.


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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What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part I

Well, the Browns finally broke their streak of either four or five wins dating back to each season since 2007. They started slow, won some “easier” games in the middle of the schedule, and finished on a tough note. Let’s review what occurred for the Cleveland Browns over the past several months.

Free Agency: The two major acquisitions for the Browns were veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby (formerly of the Arizona Cardinals) and Donte Whitner (previously with the San Francisco 49ers). Both were dubbed as clubhouse leaders, whose mentality would rub off on teammates. Looking back, I am very grateful Ray Farmer secured this duo; I want to see these types of signings to occur annually (or at least until there are multiple verbal leaders already in place). The biggest decision last year to was re-sign center Alex Mack, whose mid-season injury proved the former California Bear’s worth.

2014 NFL Draft: Admittedly, I was surprised by the Browns’ activity on draft day. Instead of drafting fourth (and going for wide out Sammy Watkins), the Browns traded down with the Bills and scooped up Justin Gilbert at the eighth pick. I like obtaining the second first-rounder in 2015, but have been underwhelmed by his play. Hopefully, he gets his act together in his second season.

Many lauded the trade from the twenty-sixth to the twenty-second selection to grab Johnny Manziel. It’ s well known that I preferred Teddy Bridgewater, who put up better numbers as a rookie. The hype surrounding the kid is amazing, but so far the disappointment has been glaring. I really want him to improve (and quickly), but time will only tell.

The Joel Bitonio pick baffled me initially in the second round. News of Josh Gordon’s suspension trickled out a few hours earlier, so I was preparing for a Marquise Lee or Jordan Matthews in the second round. However, the lineman was the right call – the guard had an excellent year and I am glad Ray Farmer chose him. With the porous effort at right tackle, getting an athlete like Bitonio next year is a must.

Chris Kirksey and Terrance West were the other two picks that contributed frequently in their rookie campaigns. Both middle-round selections had their ups and downs, but I am glad that they are members of the Cleveland Browns. The inside linebacker held down the job while veteran Karlos Dansby’s knee injury caused him to miss multiple contests. The rookie rusher will be a fixture of this offense going forward; he filled in well this season, especially after the team jettisoned Ben Tate.

His running mate is one of the two gems the general manager found following the draft. Isaiah Crowell was a free agent pickup that had many great moments running the ball, and found the end zone eight times in the process. His output rivaled that of Trent Richardson, whom was a first-round pick that has declined greatly (in terms of output) since that year. K’Waun Williams is the other find by the Cleveland Browns; the cornerback accepted his role as a part-time (nickel or slot) cornerback over the season. I hope he continues to grow to the point of being a full-time starter as early as 2015.

Conclusion: It would appear that despite a few disappointing early picks; the Browns have some tremendous building blocks looking ahead. I would love to see something to rival this in 2015 – but we have to remember what went down to finish off 2014.

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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, NFL Season, Offseason


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A Crumby Loss for the Browns

A Crumby Loss for the Browns

Browns @ Bills – Review of Game #11

Yikes, another pathetic performance by the Cleveland Browns. Poor defense, a rough offense, and mistakes for the special teams did in the team. Their playoff chances all but evaporated in Orchard Park – let’s determined what went down.

Offense: That might be the end of an era from Brian Hoyer. Another stinker from the quarterback, as his day included a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns. Johnny Manziel, who finally found the end zone, replaced him. I’m expecting the rookie to be under center from here on out, he is the guy going forward and can make plays with both his arms and legs.

As expected, the running attacked faltered greatly on Sunday. Instead of Isaiah Crowell fumbling the ball this week – it was Terrance West who put the ball on the ground for the Browns. Hopefully the offensive line can become healthy, as the third string center did not hold his own upfront. I’d like to think the running attack will bounce back next Sunday – but again I have my doubts.

Hoyer and Josh Gordon were never in synch in this contest. It showed, as the offense looked less than cohesive. Will Johnny Manziel look better with this group going forward? I would love to find out – as he can use his legs to extend plays. Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel both need to step up going forward; neither was impressive against Buffalo.

Of course the Browns lost their weakness in their offensive line. Backup center Nick McDonald was lost for the game – and the Browns went to his backup against this tremendous defensive front. I am at a loss for words for Joe Thomas – it was easily his worst performance in some time. A few holding calls, a false start penalty, and ineffective blocking really hurt the veteran.

Defense: Not a great job by the defensive front for the Browns. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Desmond Bryant appeared to be the only guys who could hold their own upfront. The unit surrendered over 100 yards on the ground to the Bills. Three tackles and no disruptive plays occurred for Ahtyba Rubin – if the guys upfront want to do their job, it will take great efforts by the veterans.

Where were the linebackers for the Browns this week? Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey played adequately, leading the team with a combined twenty tackles. Paul Kruger played decently, but was never able to take down Kyle Orton. Both Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo were rather irrelevant, as per usual. If fair to say that upgrades need to occur in this area for the Browns to be dominant in the linebacker corps.

Those ticky-tack calls against the secondary made it rather difficult in corralling the wide outs. Joe Haden was a part of a tremendous interception, but outside of that – they were less than average. Hopefully, Justin Gilbert can return next week and give this group a boost. If not, it will be a difficult matchup against Andrew Luck.

Special Teams: That miss of the Billy Cundiff field goal loomed large in the first half. Would it have made a difference in the outcome? Probably not, but who knows for the Cleveland Browns. Otherwise the unit did their job, but it was not enough to seal the win.

Coaching: The offensive game planning was not great for the guests in Buffalo. Too many failed runs early and incomplete passes late was the detriment of the offense. I want to see what Kyle Shanahan does with Manziel going forward – but that remains to be determined.

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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in NFL Season


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A Huge Contest on the Ohio River

A Huge Contest on the Ohio River

Previewing Game #9 – Browns @ Bengals

A huge game lies ahead for both teams residing in the State of Ohio. In it, first place in the division could be up for grabs, as well as potentially breaking a horrible streak for the visitors. The Cleveland Browns have been putrid on the road within their own division and (more importantly) have not won in Cincinnati since Lee Suggs was galloping down the sidelines. Will the Browns finally get over the hump? Let’s take a gander at what could go down…

Offense: For the second time in two seasons, Brian Hoyer steps into the spotlight for the Cleveland Browns on national television. Last year did not end very well, as the quarterback was sidelined (for the rest of the season) with an injury. I’m hoping that not only can he stay healthy, but also that he can return to form from just a few weeks ago. Hoyer’s output has not been plentiful, yet he gets it done in crunch time; the final stats will be greatly dictated upon their running game.

The most disappointing part of the Cleveland Browns has been their sudden ineptitude after athletes take handoffs from Brian Hoyer. Isaiah Crowell has had three touches in the past two games combined. I have a sneaking suspicion that the rookie will get some opportunities in the backfield. Terrance West has been outplaying Ben Tate the past few weeks; I look for him to spell Crowell on Thursday. The team’s goal must be at least 100 yards rushing, and anything better than that would be a huge plus.

It is a homecoming game for former Bengal Andrew Hawkins. The Browns’ wide out has had some terrific outings this campaign, and coach Shanahan could devise the offensive game plan to feature the offseason acquisition. Taylor Gabriel’s best game came last week, but I worry he will take a step or two back in Cincinnati. The play of veterans Miles Austin and Travis Benjamin could be the difference in the outcome. The tight end position becomes critical, no matter who is blocking and/or hauling in passes. Jim Dray got robbed last week of a great reception, and must make sure that he makes the most of his opportunities.

Many eyeballs will be focused squarely on the play of Nick McDonald, and for good reason. The center has been dominated and abused, and now goes against the likes of Geno Atkins and Domata Peko – two men who are not easy to block. As a fan, it will be a wing and a prayer rooting that the lineman can hold up, but stranger things have happened. While opponents have been watching film on the Browns’ offensive line, the team has seen what opponents have done to stop them. Just after the halfway part of the season, the offensive coaching staff must finally make the correct adjustments to be competent upfront.

Defense: This will be the most difficult test for the defensive line (in several weeks). Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard (if he plays) make up a fearsome duo that can embarrass defenses. Billy Winn put together a solid performance last week; he and Ahtyba Rubin will need to play lights out to make the opponent rely more on Andy Dalton. The goal should not only be to limit the rushers to just double digit yardage, but it must also be to prevent third and one (or two) from occurring on a frequent basis. Pushing back the point of attack on passing downs wouldn’t hurt either.

The guy, who I am looking for a solid game from, is outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. While his two counterparts (Mingo and Kruger) have stepped their game up over the past few contests, the former Pitt Panther has been far from impressive. Thursday’s outing would be an excellent time to take the orange and black by storm – while making life miserable for the opposing quarterback. While the opponent has some solid pass catchers, Jermaine Gresham is the only option that Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey should have to key on. A turnover by this unit can really make the defense feared – all across the board.

Joe Haden and Donte Whitner have gone from underachievers, to veteran leaders who have made giant plays this season. I have enjoyed seeing the duo team up to steal back the football. Haden has finally played up to his capabilities in coverage as well. The issue has been Buster Skrine and rookie Justin Gilbert. These two have surrendered some longer tosses all year long; Mohamed Sanu and A.J. Green are no slouches either. I got to admit I am worried for these defensive backs in Cincinnati, they better prove themselves.

Special Teams: It won’t be all rosy for the special teams this week, but if they can eliminate long returns and silly penalties then I will be content. The icing on the cake is the punt return game; I shudder when I think of this situation for the Browns. It’s time to get a guy back there with an attitude that he will punish his opponent every time he touches the ball.

Coaching: Mike Pettine will be coaching another game on the road, and I hope he‘s learned from his earlier (aggressive) mistakes. If he takes points over risky situations, the Browns will be in the game later on. With Brian Hoyer under center, I like my chances to pull out an unlikely victory.

Prediction (My Record: 5 – 2): I believe this contest can go one of many ways. The Browns, not surprisingly, fall behind early in this game – only to surge in the second half. At the end, the Browns cannot get it done and lose by the score 27 – 23 and prove they aren’t ready yet for postseason talk just yet.

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Posted by on November 4, 2014 in NFL Season


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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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