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Browns Preview of Game #11 – Vs. the Ravens

Browns Preview of Game #11 – Vs. the Ravens

Previewing Game #11 – Ravens @ Browns

Well it’s time for the Cleveland Browns to finally hit the field on Monday night. They are going to be on national television for the second (and final) time in 2015, hopefully the team can garner a victory here. Tickets to this event were aplenty, and demand has not been high to watch the two struggling AFC North franchises. Let’s take a look at what is in store.

Offense: 

Quarterback – I will be intrigued to see how Josh McCown performs after getting back his starting role. He is a tremendous leader and teammate – and someone that young quarterbacks should look up to.  I expect once again for the signal caller to have some success in this contest, but not as much as he did earlier this year in Baltimore.

Running Back – Seriously, the Browns have not had a rusher go for over seventy-five yards all season long? This is flat out awful and embarrassing, and the Browns need to curb this streak. I would actually like to see Duke Johnson get a majority of touches, including carries between the tackles. He has been avoided in almost every contest after halftime (providing ample frustration to running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery); why not buck this on Monday night? 

Wide Receiver – At this point, Travis Benjamin appears to be the only wide out that will remain with this team in 2016 (and that’s not even set in stone). The lack of size that Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel possess is glaring, and each has suffered injuries in the past few weeks during crossing routes. I had high hopes for Brian Hartline coming into the campaign, however the veteran has only been productive in spurts. Frankly, this part of the team has its work cut out for them and I do not see tremendous output by the receivers. 

Tight End – Can E.J. Bibbs please get involved in this week’s game plan? I have been clamoring for the undrafted rookie all season long, and with the team going in the tank they should use this time to see whether Bibbs can remain on the roster next season. Gary Barnidge should still be the focus of several passing attempts, but perhaps coverage could be shifted away from the dynamic tight end, as there is another guy on the field who can catch and run.

Offensive Line – I really do not know what to make of the guys upfront, and more importantly how to fix their issues. The Browns cannot afford to rely strictly on their passing attack in order to gain yards and points. I anticipate that this part of the Browns will struggle yet again – causing further frustration by the coaching staff and fans alike.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Speaking of improvement, it would be fantastic if the Browns can take what they did in their last contest and carry it over this game (and for the rest of the campaign). Limiting opposing rushers to fewer than one hundred yards is crucial, and accomplishing this feat is a mindset that is not with the Browns’ defensive line. I believe they are working towards this, but the youngsters need to step up and improve where the veterans have not been able to excel. 

Linebacker – At this point, the Browns should just line two guys up at outside linebacker and have a competition to see who can get to the quarterback. For one reason or another, the team has not had a reliable edge rusher and it has led to several exceptional passing totals by opposing signal callers. Nate Orchard is a rookie I hope they give many shots at rushing the quarterback. There’s not a ton that can change for the inside linebackers – the trio remains to be adequate on the field.

Secondary – It would be a good thing if Joe Haden returns from his second concussion and participates in this contest. Pierre Desir and Charles Gaines have struggled in coverage, but the insertion of Haden into the lineup should relieve this duo of difficult responsibilities. K’Waun Williams has been praised by this coaching staff for his consistency and reliability. Maybe he could surge ahead of Tramon Williams for playing time? I hope Ibraheim Campbell teams up with Tashaun Gipson at the safety spots; this might be the new tandem next year, so continuity should begin now.

Special Teams: It was a game-winning field goal that was the clincher for the Browns during the last meeting. I could see Travis Coons nailing a few kicks, but they might not seal a victory. Andy Lee must get back to the basics and drill long punts in this game; he is expected to be very active in this game.

Coaching: I don’t know what to say for the coaches on either side of the ball. John DeFilippo must utilize his rushing attack early and often; I know this is obvious but it still needs to happen. Defensively, my expectations are very low but maybe embarrassing and humiliating the personnel (in private) can fire up the Browns to play inspired football. 

Prediction (My Record: 6 – 4): I expect the Ravens to get out to an early lead and unlike the last meeting; the Browns will not be able to come back. The Ravens will pull out a 27 – 16 win over the Browns, leading the way to more disappointment along the shores of Lake Erie.

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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns Preview Game #10

Browns Preview Game #10

Previewing Game #10 – Browns @ Steelers

It’s a rivalry renewed on Sunday as the Browns have another tough road contest within the AFC North. Heinz Field has been cruel to the Browns, and this week should present all sorts of problems for the orange and brown. Let’s take an inside look at a few of the positions for the visiting squad. 

Offense:

Quarterback – The reins must be handed over to Johnny Manziel at this point. Josh McCown has played relatively well, but the team is not winning with him. The rest of the schedule is an evaluation period for the second year pro. I believe he can continue to progress and get better . Will it be enough for the coaching staff and front office to move forward with the signal caller? I would like to find out after eight more starts from Manziel this season. Finding the end zone multiple times should be his goal in Pittsburgh.

Running Back – Can the coaching staff give an ample amount of carries to Isaiah Crowell? He had nine carries in the first half last week and only one after halftime – he needs to have at least twenty carries to be effective. Duke Johnson should get at least a handful of carries and several receptions as well. He has shown an ability to make plays and this offense sorely needs this consistency. If the team can utilize this duo to their capabilities, then there’s a shot the Browns will be in this contest. 

Wide Receiver – Will the Browns use Dwayne Bowe more as coach Pettine has mentioned? I’d like to see him on some shorter routes – as I have confidence he can haul in passes. I hope Andrew Hawkins can pass the concussion protocol, as Taylor Gabriel was less than spectacular last contest. Travis Benjamin has been a favorite target for Manziel; the coaching staff would be wise to include him regularly in the passing game. I want to see at least one touchdown from this group on Sunday.

Tight End – This should be the week where E.J. Bibbs is finally included in the team’s game plan. Gary Barnidge should come down with his usual output total and hopefully at least one touchdown. However, Bibbs could be flexed out wide and create additional matchup problems for the defense. Frankly, teams do not have any game film on him (outside of a few preseason games) – so let the rookie confuse and expose the opponent. 

Offensive Line – I felt the line finally showed some signs of improvement last week; the coaches must determine whether this can continue. The Browns should stick with the run, even if they are not having success initially. In the passing game, Manziel had some time to think in the pocket – this younger signal caller needs all the help during drop backs and the guys upfront should certainly help with this.

Defense: 

Defensive Line – Well, there’s no Le’Veon Bell to game plan against, as the opposing rusher is out for the season with an injury. Deangelo Williams has somewhat resurrected his career, but he has nowhere near the ability of Bell. I anticipate that he will be hitting holes primarily between the tackles. Therefore John Hughes, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper should stay firm on the edge and funnel action towards the middle. It will be a tough test for Danny Shelton – but it would be nice if he can have his breakout game. 

Linebacker – On the outside, I want to see Nate Orchard continue to gobble up playing time alongside Paul Kruger. Barkevious Mingo has only displayed a moderate ability to cover and nothing else. Armonty Bryant could be inserted primarily as a rusher as well – as he has made some plays in that role thus far. On the inside, the trio has been solid but not great. I hope they can attack the line of scrimmage and limit rushing yardage for the black and yellow.

Secondary – Joe Haden needs to be healthy for this contest. The veteran’s absence has caused opposing signal callers to be playing pitch and catch against the Browns’ secondary. Justin Gilbert should see some time at cornerback as well; last contest he held his own when he was on the field. At the safety spot, Ibraheim Campbell showed physicality and was rather surprising last week. He should be stealing playing time from Donte Whitner. The bottom line for this group is to not get embarrassed by Antonio Brown.

Special Teams: Heinz Field is known for it’s poor field surface, but Travis Coons is still the best kicker on the field. A game winning kick for him would be nice but is not expected. Andy Lee must make sure that Antonio Brown does not get his hands on the ball (during punt returns) with room to run.

Coaching: I do not know what Jim O’Neil can do to improve his run defense (including clogging the middle of the field). They cannot allow Williams to have a big day, which will lead to a blowout. Offensively, the team must attack primarily with their running backs then find Barnidge and Benjamin on the second and third level.

Prediction (My Record: 5 -4): More of the same on Sunday; the Steelers prove to be too much and defeat the Browns at home by the score of 30 – 17. The 2015 season continues to worsen for the orange and brown.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns vs. Bills – Preseason Game #2 Preview

Browns vs. Bills – Preseason Game #2 Preview

A Preview of Game #2 – Browns vs. Bills

Following a few joint practices, the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills do battle at First Energy Stadium. Both teams are built similarly, physical upfront and reliant on their running attack (and putting less emphasis on the quarterback). This will be a good litmus test for each squad, being a Browns fan I hope the team makes their mark early on in this contest. Let’s take a gander at this matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback – Keep those good times rolling for both Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel. Both signal callers were excellent in hitting receivers last week (which should be expected given the base defense they went against). I would like to see a few longer attempts by both guys in this contest. Keeping away from turnovers is a must, but not the end of the world (as I have faith in this defense).

Running Back – Wilbert Montgomery has tried his best to fire up his part of the Browns’ roster, but up to this point it appears to be fruitless. West and Crowell might want to find holes and squeeze through them, if they do not want to be teammates with Ray Rice. I want to see Duke Johnson finally hit the gridiron, but it may not come in this contest. The ceiling and expectations are extremely high for this unit – Thursday is a giant opportunity to prove they will be ready for the regular season opener.

Wide Receivers – I must admit, a few weeks ago I had Travis Benjamin pegged as a definite cut by the Browns; however his play as of late has changed my opinion significantly. At this point, I would like to see him continue to improve in all facets (including as a returner). Terrelle Pryor is practicing this week, and I expect him to be in the lineup against the Bills. I am pulling for the former Buckeye to make the team, but he’s got a ways to go before he earns his spot.

Tight End – The rise of E.J. Bibbs is not surprising (and something I felt would occur).   The undrafted rookie is slated to grab a roster spot, and it looks like Rob Housler will be the guy out of a job. I am looking for what his contributions are in the blocking game; it may not be pretty, but the coaches need a gauge. Gary Barnidge has had a couple of nice catch and runs during training camp and the team scrimmage – why not show off one of these against the Bills?

Defense: 

Defensive Line – It would be nice if a couple of guys not named Danny Shelton show up in this contest. I know what the two veterans (Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks) can do – but the progression of Xavier Cooper will be something to watch. Billy Winn (when he is recovered from his injury) and John Hughes are two guys who can be options for this run defense. Slowing LeSean McCoy will not be easy, but this is a solid test to see if improvement has occurred.

Linebackers – I liked the play of all three inside linebackers last week and am content they will continue to improve all season long. Therefore, Hayes Pullard is another rookie who had a strong opener and can swipe a roster spot away from a veteran. I want to see what he can do against some first-teamers. On the outside, it appears that Kruger and Solomon might be the two starters – but what does the depth chart look like after these guys? Nate Orchard had an uneven performance last week, but the rookie will get better over time. With Barkevious Mingo on the sidelines, I would not complain if Armonty Bryant makes his case to push out the former first round draft choice.

Secondary – Is this Justin Gilbert’s last stand? The second year pro’s poor assessment last week was a downer. He obviously was not flawless, and no one in the NFL is (even the best know they must improve – i.e. Tom Brady). I don’t expect him to make great plays, but would glad if they happened. The duo I am eager to see is K’Waun Williams and Pierre Desir; they should make Browns fans forget about Buster Skrine. At safety, Ibraheim Campbell was decent against Washington – if he can replicate that against better competition, I would feel better about a potential successor to Donte Whitner.

Special Teams: Making the only field goal last week, it would appear that Travis Coon has a slight advantage in becoming the kicker. After the starters score a few touchdowns (hopefully), I want to see the reserves give these guys shots at nailing some longer kicks. More scoring means more kickoffs – another part of the game that can decide who makes the team. The punt returner position is still not secure, but Benjamin could remove doubt with some excellent gains.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Preseason Game #1 – Washington @ Cleveland – Preview

Preseason Game #1 – Washington @ Cleveland – Preview

Preview of Preseason Game #1 – Browns vs. Redskins

Finally!  After months of waiting, the NFL Draft, Free Agency, and multiple practices – the Cleveland Browns get to take the field against another opponent.  This is an NFC East foe who is not too familiar with the orange and brown, despite a Monday Night Football matchup last exhibition.  Let’s hope the Browns’ offense plays better in 2015 against these guys.  (As usual, I omit coaching from my preview as this is a very vanilla time and they will not tip their hands with play calls.)

Offense:

Quarterback – It’s Josh McCown’s opportunity with this team’s offense.  He has excelled for the most part in practice and has helped his teammates both in the huddle and on the sideline.  I would like him to complete a few passes of different lengths and finish off at least one drive with a touchdown.  As far as backups go, improvement, improvement, improvement is extremely vital.  I know it’s not regular season speed, but Manziel must look a ton better than last fall.

Running Back
– The hamstring injuries to Terrance West and Duke Johnson sort of took the air out of this position group.  My feelings remain the same for this exhibition year as any other – don’t risk any injuries to running backs that will play this fall.  Therefore, maybe Isaiah Crowell should play one series in this contest.  Other than that, it should be Luke Lundy, Shaun Draughn, and one of the new additions shouldering the load against Washington.

Wide Receiver – Here is where things get interesting.  Depending on the type of offense this team will employ on Thursday, I am eager to see which guys are put into certain scenarios.  Bowe and Hartline should each have a grab for a modest gain, while I hope to see Taylor Gabriel attempt a long reception.  The next battle I am eager for is Vince Mayle against Terrelle Pryor and Travis Benjamin.  This trio has gained a lot of positive marks thus far – who will take the first step in securing a final roster spot?

Tight End – It appears that three guys will make this team among four candidates.  The question is whether rookie free agent E.J. Bibbs can knock Rob Housler, Jim Dray, or Gary Barnidge from this roster.  I believe he can steal a spot – but he must make an immediate impact when joining this contest.  He will likely enter in the latter stages, so he ought to excel against guys who probably will not start this fall.  Other than that, I would like to see a couple nice grabs from this group against Washington.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Coach Jim O’Neil has said repeatedly this offseason that “we will stop the run”.  Well, it’s not the regular season – but limiting the opposition on the ground should be the defensive game plan for the Browns.  Danny Shelton, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and John Hughes must be able to hold their own.  On the outside, I would like to see different combinations to determine which guys work best with each other.  It might be a pair of veterans like Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks. Perhaps a speedy rookie (i.e. Xavier Cooper) and a strong veteran might be a solid fit.

Linebacker – Not a whole lot to focus on up the middle, as it might be Tank Carder versus Hayes Pullard for the fourth inside linebacker role.  The other three (Dansby, Kirksey, and Robertson) might play sparingly and I already know what they can do.  The outside is where we can finally get some answers.  Will Scott Solomon get the
nod opposite Paul Kruger?  Can Barkevious Mingo finally live up to the first round hype?  What should we expect from rookie Nate Orchard? Thursday night can be telling.

Secondary – Touted as one of the best in the league, the Browns’ secondary should be hitting on all cylinders; it just might not happen until September.  The fight among K’Waun Williams, Pierre Desir, and Justin Gilbert for the third and fourth cornerback jobs will continue – perhaps one guy will step up tremendously.  I do not expect the safeties to be too active in the exhibition season but I will still keep my eye on Ibraheim Campbell to track the rookie’s development.

Special Teams:

Some modest punt and kick returns would be a welcomed sight for this Cleveland Browns fan.  Both were missing in 2014, and that needs to be a part of this team if they want any chance of offensive success. Travis Benjamin might get the first shot, getting back to his old form is vital if he wants to resume his role as a returner.  I also would like to see what Justin Gilbert, Shane Wynn and Taylor Gabriel bring to the table (as Duke Johnson won’t suit up).

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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