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Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Turning that Corner

Just a few months ago, the Cleveland Browns appeared on the HBO Hard Knocks program with Hue Jackson as head coach, Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator, and Tyrod Taylor was the starting quarterback.  We all know those three men’s fate (in additional to other changes in personnel since) – but that time in Browns’ history feels like five years ago.  The elevation of Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens within this franchise has been rather refreshing; the sniping and apparent arguing (between Jackson and Haley) are gone from the building and all coaches seem to be on the same page.  Oh yea, that rookie quarterback is also playing much better now than he was just a month or two ago.  What can Browns’ fans look forward to the rest of the season?

Meaningful Games

Not since 2014 have the Cleveland Browns had any contests of consequence in the month of December.  The Browns, while two games under .500 are still “in the hunt”.  The odds are stacked against them to make the postseason, as the face a trio of formidable foes in as many weeks – but the games are nonetheless important and exciting.  Traveling to Houston (to face the Texans) and Denver historically has been less than ideal for the Cleveland Browns – as the only win over the Texans in Houston was the finale of the 2004 campaign, and the Browns last win in Denver was October 8th, 1990 (yep, you read that right).  In a season where streaks have been broken, it would be nice if the franchise could end those two droughts.

Head Coach Position

For the first time since 1962 (when Paul Brown was fired), the Browns’ head coaching job is viewed by many as extremely attractive.  I am very eager to see what John Dorsey does during the hiring process.  Will he keep the staff status quo, go with a current NFL coordinator, or current NFL or NCAA head coach?  There is an off chance that the next coach does not fit into any of these categories.  However, looking at what Dorsey did last March and April (acquiring on-field talent) – I have faith the general manager can do similar things with the coaching role.  It’s obviously critical that the next person in charge must be in synch with Baker Mayfield via personality and mission to excel.

What to Expect?

Looking short-term, the Browns play the two aforementioned away contests as well as a home matchup versus the Carolina Panthers.  It would be incredible but unlikely that the Browns win all three, and I am hopeful to come away with a 2 – 1 record after these contests.  They will go head-to-head with teams who are solid on both sides of the ball, something that could not be said a majority of last month.  Will Baker Mayfield and the offense continue to grow and excel?  Can the defense limit Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, and the Broncos’ offense?  I’m looking forward to those answers (as well as the development of other rookies and second year players) unfolding.

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Going from Here – Coming off a Win

Going from Here – Coming off a Win

Handling Success:  Next Steps

Now that the Browns have ended their long (long) losing streak, the main question is – how are they going to react to being successful?  With they assume the team has done their jobs and can go into cruise control?  Or is the young club hungry enough to start rattling off multiple victories in a row?  There are three vital areas surrounding the team that could help determine whether the team will win.

Baker’s First Start

Let’s start with the positive; Baker Mayfield will not enter this game with a fourteen point deficit (barring something wildly terrible
happening for the Browns).  On the other hand, this is the first opportunity for another franchise to game plan for the rookie.  I have faith Baker will have a solid performance, likely not as well as he did last Thursday however.  He should put together a winning output that can propel the offense to victory.

Different Stadium

Baseball dirt in a football stadium?  What year is it?  Where are we?  Ah yes, in Oakland we will see this on Sunday (as the Athletics will continue to use the field for some time).  The Browns will have to ensure they will not lose footing in those areas – be it a wide receiver, quarterback, or kicker.  The Raiders are used to this being their home stadium, but I hope it’s not their home field advantage.

Back to Being a Dog

Following being a home favorite for the first time in nearly three years, the Cleveland Browns are back to being underdogs on the road to a winless club.  I have to admit that I was surprised to see the line open up the way that it did – but perhaps that will put a chip on the shoulders of Baker Mayfield and the rest of the club.  I expect Derek Carr to play better than he has been so far this season, but the Browns’ defense should still make some plays.

Conclusion:  Immediately following the win over the Jets, I looked at the schedule and thought “oh, there’s a ton of wins on the horizon”.  After calming down and taking it week by week, I know that this will be a very tough matchup.  They could afford to get two to three more turnovers, as I fear that will lose at least one themselves.  Whether the offense or defense is on the field at the end of the game, I believe the Browns will win.  I shudder to think about this coming down to special teams – as the Browns have not had the upper hand in that department.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2018 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Getting Work Done

Getting Work Done

John Dorsey Putting in Work

The Browns announced a pair of signings earlier this week, which was music to my ears.  Following the overhaul of the roster a few months ago – general manager John Dorsey acquired a solid free agent and re-signed a reliable pass catching running back.  Not to belabor the point (but I will) – I am finally glad to see a front office acquiring and keeping talent as opposed to letting them walk out the door.  Let’s look into these signings a bit more.

Mychael Kendricks

The Browns added a fourth member to the linebacker corps and a good one at that.  Coming off a Super Bowl championship, Kendricks should help this franchise with his pass rushing ability.  I am eager to see how the rotation will go for this unit.  Will the newcomer supplant the team’s lone Pro Bowler from a season ago (in Joe Schobert)?  Could the Browns put all four linebackers on the field at the same time?  One thing is certain – depth was much needed for this group, and it was the only spot of the team that this was previously not the case.  It’s a shame to see Tank Carder being released as a result, as he was a tremendous special teams’ athlete.  However, upgrading the roster is the name of the game.

Duke Johnson

It was announced that running back Duke Johnson signed a three year contract extension, keeping him on the roster in a short-term window.  While the Browns have Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde already in the running back room (a pair of capable backs), nothing is given at this position.  Injuries and underperformance should be accounted for – thus by having three options here, the team is hedging their bets that at least one guy will work out.  Historically, offensive coordinator Todd Haley utilizes a single back a.k.a. “bell cow” in his offense to carry (and catch) the load.  I am not sure this will be the case in 2018, as Johnson ought to be on the field as a receiver, while either Chubb or Hyde will be getting carries.  Whether that is the actual scenario or not, I am excited to see how the team’s offense shakes out.

Conclusion:  The signings continue for the team, and still might not be over (as there is over a month until training camp).  However, the infusion of talent and the reports that the locker room is drastically better than it was a year ago continue to give me faith that I will enjoy games in the fall.  I hope to make it out for camp next month, but more importantly to not hear about player X getting arrested or suspended for something avoidable.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2018 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Looking Forward to the Season

Looking Forward to the Season

Message to Browns’ Fans:  Buckle Up

The NFL Draft is in the books and rosters are being finalized heading into the minicamp sessions. After the dust settled, the Browns added nine members from Thursday to Saturday night.  Additionally, multiple undrafted free agents chose to sign with the orange and brown.  So, what does this mean for the Cleveland Browns?  Well for starters, they will secure at least one win and should be vastly improved.  Let’s look at a few choices.

Day One Picks:  Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward

My reaction to both the first and fourth overall selections were the same, a one word phrase of “woah”.  This is not to say I was extremely positive or negative about the choices – I was rather surprised that both were taken that early.  I admit I am a prisoner of reading NFL “experts” (over the past few months) who had Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb rated as superior prospects.  However, thinking about it rationally – there is no guarantee that those “experts” are right.  Likewise, John Dorsey might not get these choices correct either.  Mayfield was probably my second choice for quarterback but I am willing to give him a chance (once the team does).  Meanwhile, I really like Denzel Ward – sure the team could have solidified their defensive line, but their secondary was embarrassing last year.  I would rate these two as solid choices with a ceiling of two routine Pro Bowlers and a floor of a pair of mediocre athletes.

Day Two Picks:  Austin Corbett, Nick Chubb, and Chad Thomas

A trio of large, tough football players were acquired on the second day of the NFL Draft.  Corbett is a left tackle who will be given a shot to compete with Shon Coleman to replace Joe Thomas.  I will admit that I have not heard of the lineman, but that doesn’t mean he can’t excel in the pros.  I like the selection of Chubb, who should tote the football between tackles for the orange and brown.  Could he take the lion’s share of carries from Carlos Hyde?  That remains to be seen, but I would not put it past Chubb.  The running back competition should be a fun one to watch this summer.  Thomas is another guy who I had not heard about prior to the draft weekend.  It appears that he is a solid in run defense but can also be a force as an edge rusher.  He will be eased into this lineup, as Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah do not appear to surrender  playing time soon.  Overall, I would label these choices as boom or bust – the team could find two reliable starters and a quality rotational guy.  Or the worst case is they have three backups who make little impact.

Day Three Picks:  Antonio Callaway, Genard Avery, Damion Ratley, and Simeon Thomas

Rounds four through seven of the draft typically see reserve players, special team athletes, projects, and risks.  That was the case for the Cleveland Browns as they selected four members during these rounds and all fit into at least on of the above categories.  Callaway and Thomas have had troubles with the law and missed time in the NCAA as a result.  The difference between the two is Callaway has a longer rap sheet but also has tremendous upside (provided he keeps his head screwed on).  Avery is destined to be a special teamer for the Browns, but might get his opportunity at linebacker some day.  Ratley did not finish his collegiate career with eye popping statistics, but he should focus on hanging around on the roster until he learns the wide receiver position at the pro level.  My conclusion is these four guys are strictly question marks and I am pulling that at least one actually contributes to this team for several seasons.

Final Analysis:  The cliche is that “the team got better” after draft weekend.  For once, I actually think this might be true for the Browns.  I read criticisms that Ward might be the only day one starter – to which I ask, why is that a bad thing?  It would be refreshing not having to see a rookie quarterback, safety, and tight end forced into action prematurely as there was little competition on the roster (as this was the case last season).  Perhaps the veterans on the Browns actually have talent and can help this team win games.  The bottom line is that fall will be fun again and things will be different in 2018.

 

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The Hay is in the Barn – NFL Draft

The Hay is in the Barn – NFL Draft

All Ready to Go for April 26 – 28

The Browns have done their homework, talked to prospects in person, and made transactions to both acquire guys who can help this franchise as well as gain value for members who would have likely been released in the coming months.  It appears that they are ready to go for the NFL Draft that is just under three weeks away.  We take a deeper look into their recent activity.

Turning Over the Quarterback Room

A few weeks after former starting quarterback DeShone Kizer was traded away, now the remaining two signal callers met the same fate.  Cody Kessler was shipped to Jacksonville for a conditional seventh round pick next year.  Also, Kevin Hogan is now a member of the Washington Redskins, who agreed to swap sixth round selections later this month.  Looking back at it, the Browns got relatively nothing for either guy.  Clearly John Dorsey saw little value in either guy and was happy to get whatever he could.  Having only two quarterbacks currently on the roster would lead me to believe that they will get a pair more prior to training camp beginning.  Will it be the first overall selection and one in the later rounds?  Or, will the Browns scoop up another veteran in the coming months?  The latter is the more likely option, but one thing is for certain.  Whomever the Browns choose as their franchise quarterback will have a dearth of knowledge to bounce ideas off of and questions to ask in the quarterback room.  This was clearly not the case in 2017 and it showed.

Another Pickup

The Browns recently added wideout Jeff Janis to the roster.  The former Packer is expected to perform well on special teams and might get some opportunities as a wide receiver.  Granted he had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, but Janis did make some spectacular plays a few seasons ago.  He will not have that luxury here, but perhaps he can still perform well.  I’m tired of seeing poor special teams play by the Browns and expect Janis to help in this area.  Any help on offense would be a bonus.

Draft Talk

All the headlines appear to gravitate towards former college head coaches and announcers not vouching that “their guy” gets selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns.  Whether I am referring to Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, people appear to have taken their sides (as to whom is better) and are using the aforementioned comments as to reasons why the Browns should take a certain player at number one.  I am still on board with not caring which quarterback the team takes – as long as it is the right guy.

At number four, I simply want to see the team take an outstanding playmaker.  I appreciate what Saquon Barkley can do on a football field, but taking a running back that early would not be my choice.  The Browns have solidified their secondary in free agency, but there are still two great options to choose (Ward and Fitzpatrick).  Meanwhile, the defensive line is still far from set and adding Chubb to the mix would not be a terrible idea either.

 

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Here Come the Moves!

Here Come the Moves!

Browns are Active in Free Agency

In an eventful Friday evening, the Cleveland Browns made a trio of trades to bring in some talented veteran football players.  Granted, these cannot be made official until the league year begins next Wednesday – but many fans of the organization appear to be excited.  I completely understand this line of thinking for two reasons:  the Browns are getting guys under contract (not simply castoffs) who are still young enough to be productive for many years, and they are the franchise being aggressive and acquiring talent as opposed to letting their own free agents walk.  Let’s look at the three moves.

Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver

What has been the knock on the Cleveland Browns for the last handful of seasons (if not longer)?  The have been ranked at the bottom or close to that, in terms of the wide receivers’ output.  Trading only a fourth and a seventh round draft selection for a productive veteran appears to be a shrewd move, but going the veteran wide receiver route has underwhelmed in the past.  I believe Landry has a better head on his shoulders than Dwayne Bowe and Kenny Britt – so I think the Browns were the winner in this trade.  That said, upon hearing the news I was excited but noted that he needs someone good to throw to him.

Tyrod Taylor – Quarterback

Not much longer after the Landry deal was announced, the Browns gave up their third round draft selection to acquire a playoff signal caller from last season.  In a bit of a surprising move, the team has their bridge quarterback – and in that a guy who has one of the lowest turnover rates at that position over the past two seasons.  This was a huge detriment to the 2017 offense, who frequently gave the ball to the other team (especially in the red zone).  Personally, I am ok with this move – Taylor is not my favorite option as a veteran signal caller but the team could do a lot worse than him.  The only concern is that Taylor might be a different style of player than the guy they draft.  This begs the question, will there be issues with the rookie’s development?

Demarious Randall – Cornerback

The final move of the day left the Browns with a new starting cornerback in exchange for DeShone Kizer and swapping positions in the fourth and fifth round selections.  I hate to see the team give up so quickly on Kizer, but I have to believe John Dorsey knows what he’s doing.  They have already upgraded at that position and will fortify it furthermore in the draft.  Back to the trade – Randall should be familiar to Browns’ fans as he blanketed Josh Gordon last season.  He’s not a lockdown cornerback but at the very least he fills the void left by Joe Haden (who was released last season).  I expect another secondary member to be added to the franchise, but it will be interesting when (in what round of the draft) and whether it’s a safety or cornerback.  I am in full support of this move and hope Randall is a cornerstone of Gregg William’s defense for years to come.

Conclusion:  The Browns got better by a handful of transactions.  I know they have nowhere to go but up from last year, but if this is any indication of John Dorsey – I expect a solid draft.  Next week could further this excitement or be anti-climactic, but this was still a great start for the 2018 Cleveland Browns.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2018 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, NFL Season, Players

 

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Cleveland Browns – Bye Week

Cleveland Browns – Bye Week

The Bye Week Blues:  Cleveland Browns

Another midseason break and the Browns do not have a win to their name – just like the 2016 squad.  Despite not playing a contest this weekend, negative news continued to trickle out around Berea.  Both local and national media continue to pile on the orange and brown (and probably rightly so).  The train has gone off the rails (or further from the rails, depending on who you ask) and the dissension within the ranks is becoming more apparent.  Now, let’s take a look at some of the recent happenings for the team.

Trade that Didn’t Occur

A second and a third round selection for a backup quarterback (who is not named Steve Young)?  That was the apparent asking price for A.J. McCarron by the Cincinnati Bengals – and the Browns were inches from pulling the trigger on the deal.  There have been conflicting reports of who supported the swap and who didn’t, but I am glad the team did not approve the trade.  Honestly I don’t care who did what – but I am concerned that ONCE AGAIN the front office and the coaches appear to not be on the same page.  I am glad the team did not throw away a pair of selections for a mediocre signal caller, but more of the same for this franchise.

Josh Gordon Reinstatement

The second bit of news to hit the news is the suspension being lifted for troubled wide out Josh Gordon.  The Browns’ star had a tremendous campaign in 2013, but has largely been held out of games in his professional career – due to drug and other substance abuse infractions.  Personally, I anticipate he will not play a snap for the orange and brown (and a release might be granted in the near future).  Having said that, my expectations are low if he does appear in a contest for the Browns.  I understand he is only twenty-six years old, but all those games off will keep him ill-prepared for the rigors of the NFL.  Stay tuned, Browns fans.

Where We Go from Here?

The Browns are staring down the barrel of a defeated season with the coach stating that they have to play perfectly to win a game.  Other than that, all is well in Browns town.  I don’t know what the team is planning on doing for the rest of the season or this offseason, but I would just love to witness several wins (more than two is probably asking too much).  Avoiding an 0-16 season would be ideal.

Conclusion:  I’m not going to lie, these past three and a half seasons have taken a toll on me as a Browns’ fan and blogger.  They used to play poor football and would still win a few games – making those Sundays enjoyable.  Now, it’s sheer misery each and every week with this team.  I try not to pile on (like everyone else), but they are making it extremely difficult.  When will things finally improve?

 
 

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