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In the Playoff Hunt?

In the Playoff Hunt?

Latest from the Cleveland Browns

Despite being less than a month away from the Scouting Combine and just over a month the free agency, the Cleveland Browns found their way back in the NFL news yesterday.  Additionally, a major apparent injury occurred for a likely first round draft choice this week – which could cause a minor shakeup in the middle portion of day one in this draft.  Away we go, let’s dive into these topics.

Kareem’s Dream

After being released for an assault to a woman in a Cleveland hotel last year, running back Kareem Hunt has been looking for an opportunity to re-join the NFL.  Along comes John Dorsey who originally drafted Hunt in Kansas City in 2017.  Since that time, the back has accrued 2,151 rushing yards and 833 receiving yards with 25 total touchdowns.  Looking at his on-the-field production, this seems like a no-brainer.  However, there is obviously more to the story.

Kareem’s history of awful decisions off the field really puts the Browns in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.  Dorsey has been lauded for multiple shrewd moves, but many are asking whether getting Hunt is worth the risk.  First and foremost, he will be suspended multiple games in 2019 (thus raising the question of what will he do with his free time).  Secondly, will Hunt’s behavior rub off on other players?  The hope is that Christian Kirksey, Baker Mayfield, and Jarvis Landry can reign him in and get him on the same page as the rest of the locker room.  Finally, he’s on a zero tolerance policy with the team – one slip-up and the Browns are ready to move on.  I’ve gotten tired of this several years ago with Josh Gordon; I understand it’s a different person and a different situation but having that hang over a franchise’s head could be detrimental.

For the positives:  The Browns could end up with a great player who could excel for many years.  This will be Hunt’s third season in this league (provided he plays) so his productivity might last for quite some time.  Dorsey did not give up any assets for the running back as well.  If Hunt takes another misstep or is suspended for a lengthly time, then the Browns are not out a tremendous amount of assets.

Personally, I don’t think this move will work out and I would not have signed the former Toledo running back.  I would love to be proven wrong, but after missing time I don’t envision a scenario where Kareem joins the team and is the reason why they enter and go deep into the playoffs.  I fully understand those fans willing to forget about his past but also get why some will never root for Hunt.  This is a tough spot for the Browns.

Simmons Hurt

Defensive tackle prospect Jeffrey Simmons succumbed to an apparent ACL tear earlier this week while preparing for the NFL Draft.  His position was one the Browns were looking to upgrade and Simmons would have likely been a target in the first round.  Now, Simmons’ position is up in the air and the Browns have one fewer option at number seventeen.  I would be ok with the team still taking Simmons later in the draft (and prepare him for the 2020 season), but would like to see them secure two athletes before that decision.

Conclusion:  The Browns made a bold move on Monday and it can either be another gem or a waste of time.  I’m not a big fan but I’ll give John Dorsey the benefit of the doubt.  Meanwhile, Jeffrey Simmons will more than likely not be chosen by the Browns in the first round.  I’m not sure who they get instead but have high hopes.

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Very Important Coaching Decision

Very Important Coaching Decision

A Cap on the 2018 Cleveland Browns’ Season

The finale did not go the way the Browns were hoping for, but the narrow defeat to the Ravens was not the end of the world for a few reasons.  First, the Browns showed they can compete with one of the better teams in the league.  They also displayed a toughness on the field and an ability to fight back in contests.  Baker Mayfield broke the rookie passing touchdown record in the process (with twenty-seven scores).  Keeping the Steelers out of the playoffs was also a side effect that did not bother me.  Now that the 2018 campaign is finalized, there are big questions for the front office.

Tough Call for Dorsey

A full time head coach awaits the 2019 Cleveland Browns; making that decision is general manager John Dorsey.  Will he keep it in house with Gregg Williams or Freddie Kitchens?  Could he go for a recently fired head coach (like Mike McCarthy)?  Or will the Browns’ executive go the route of hiring a current assistant?  One thing is certain – there is little to no point to trust or believe reports that person X is the front runner (at least right now). Let’s not forget the erroneous Condolezza Rice report – as someone was falsely spreading information as fact.  If the 2018 NFL Draft is any indication, the Browns are not telling their true plans and all will find out after Dorsey makes his decision.

I am leaning towards an offensive-minded head coach – who can not only be a leader of men but can run his own system with Baker Mayfield and the other ten guys.  Many are saying that Freddie Kitchens is a few years away from being a head coach, which might be the case but his rise within the organization cannot be overlooked.  Everyone points to the Sean McVey hiring by the Rams as the example that a young coach who can succeed.  However, the flip side would be Josh McDaniels’ underperforming time with the Broncos several years ago.

Looking at two other offensive coaching options (Nick Sirianni and Kevin Stefanski) – I’m not sure they would be an upgrade over Kitchens.  Finally, Mike Munchak is getting an opportunity – following stints with the Titans and the Steelers.  While he has had experience, I don’t know if he can lead a team to the promised land.  There are obviously options with defensive coordinators and special teams coaches; but that’s not the route I am hoping the team goes.

Conclusion:  At this time, I am content with the Browns keeping with Williams or Kitchens as the other candidates don’t really seem like upgrades.  Perhaps there will be an under the radar candidate who is better than status quo, which would also be welcomed.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide any good examples at this point (and there might not be any).  At the end of the day, John Dorsey has earned goodwill with this past offseason and I expect a solid coaching hire.

 
 

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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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