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Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Signings and Trades, Heading Towards the Draft

Latest from Berea:  What the Browns are Doing

The NFL offseason is in full swing, as free agency kicked off last week.  Guys are signing with new teams and franchises and swapping picks in the NFL Draft.  Let’s review a few things that pertain to the orange and brown.

More Acquisitions

Following the four trades that occurred last weekend, the Browns signed seven (you read that right) free agents.  Some are expected to be starters, while other will simply provide depth and experience on the roster.  Looking at the seven guys, Chris Smith, Terrance Mitchell, and Donald Stephenson are not going to make headlines during contests – perhaps they can overachieve here though.  Darren Fells will be doing the dirty work along the offensive line; the blocking tight end might help the unit move past the Joe Thomas era.  The Browns will more than likely be tipping their hand when he is in games versus David Njoku, but it won’t matter if the offense can perform (regardless of who is in there).

As of now, T.J. Carrie, Chris Hubbard, and Carlos Hyde are slated as game one starters for the Cleveland Browns.  Obviously things can change following the draft, but I see all three as solid selections for the team.  Carrie and Hyde appear to be upgrades from their predecessors and improvement is vital for this franchise.  Hubbard will likely be the starting right tackle, pushing Shon Coleman to take over on the left side.  There will definitely be a drop-off from the past eleven seasons at that position, but you can bet that the players, coaching staff, and management will try to minimize it.

Big Trade Early

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts traded picks yesterday; in surrendering three second round picks in the future, the Jets moved up to secure the number three selection.  It goes without saying that this type of move signals a choice for a quarterback early in the draft.  To reset, the Browns are likely to take a quarterback with the first overall selection and now the Jets are all but guaranteed to do the same thing two spots later.  That leaves all eyes on the New York Giants with the second pick – they could take Saquon Barkley (the top running back), the second quarterback of the draft, or trade back with a handful of teams who will likely take a signal caller.

Regardless of what occurs, the Browns will be in a pretty good position with the fourth selection (provided they do not trade away the choice).  I am tired of seeing the team forgo talent in order to get future draft picks, which don’t always pan out.  Therefore, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward, and Bradley Chubb are my early three frontrunners for the Browns’ second draft selection.  The only trade down that I could get behind is one for a spot or two – where they can still have the aforementioned trio to choose from.  I would be hesitant to trade the fourth pick to the Bills.  I understand the value of multiple draft picks but I agree with John Dorsey’s assessment that the team needs “real football players”.

Conclusion:  The excitement for the 2018 Cleveland Browns continues to increase as they are completely overhauling a roster that went winless a season ago.  Also, the trade for the third pick makes puts the Browns’ choices more in the spotlight.

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Browns Game #8 vs. Jets – Breakdown

Browns Game #8 vs. Jets – Breakdown

Browns vs. Jets – Game #8 Preview

Well, for the first time in several weeks the Browns actually have a chance at winning a game on Sunday. Despite winning their last contest, the Jets come to town as an underwhelming bunch with quarterback issues. That being said, the Browns obviously have an bleak outlook at multiple positions on their roster. This game is likely to be a boring one…let’s have a look see.

Offense: 

Quarterback: I’m going to assume that Kevin Hogan will get a majority of snaps in this contest for the Browns (until he gets hurt). At that point, the Browns will have to yield to gimmicks and trick plays – their “traditional” quarterback position has not been spectacular at this point. I actually think that they can win this game without great play from this spot however.

Running Back: Despite being out gained by the backup quarterback, Isaiah Crowell did a solid job of gaining rushing yards. He will continue to get the lion’s share of carries this season, and depending on who is behind center – Crowell can get back to the level he was in the first few games. My weekly rant of getting Duke Johnson more involved continues; the reserve runner has been making the most of his opportunities. It would be nice to see him get an increased workload.

Wide Receiver: It’s extremely hard to evaluate a position group that is primarily based on the quarterback – especially when the team is on its sixth man under center. However, last game saw Andrew Hawkins, Terrelle Pryor, Rashard Higgins, and Ricardo Louis all get involved in the passing game. Pryor was not completely healthy, but he did his best to still make plays on the field. I want to see Higgins and Louis excel (while Corey Coleman is out), but the constant injuries to the quarterback makes it a little difficult for that to occur.

Tight End: Surprisingly, Gary Barnidge saw his most targets in quite some time last contest. The veteran did admirably, though his receptions did not produce a tremendous output (in terms of yardage). He can be a security blanket for a young quarterback, I would just prefer that guy under center be Cody Kessler and not Kevin Hogan. Another target outside of Barnidge would be nice, but the Browns can’t seem to find one.

Offensive Line: It appears that Cam Erving will miss more time going forward, thus John Greco will more than likely be the center for a bit. It will be interesting if Jonathan Cooper breaks through and finds an opportunity with this unit, or if Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman will continue to get the repetitions with the offensive line. It’s obvious that this part of the team is the reason why the quarterbacks are getting killed – hopefully the coaching staff can finally find a combination that can prevent a rush and a rash of injuries.

Defense: 

Defensive Line: As mentioned before, (against the Bengals) the run defense for the Browns was good in spurts but surrendered several long runs. I have faith in Danny Shelton, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper, but they need to be more consistent in stuffing the run for the opposition. Matt Forte is not nearly as great as Jeremy Hill (at least at this point in his career), but nonetheless the Browns will have a large challenge on their hands. One would expect the Jets to rely heavily on their ground game – the home team must prepare and shut this unit down.

Outside Linebacker: While Emmanuel Ogbah has been getting better and making plays, Joe Schobert has regressed a bit as an outside linebacker. I understand he is a middle round draft pick rookie, but he has not been tremendously involved in the Browns’ defensive highlights. I would like to think that his position group can get to the signal caller on a bad team like the Jets – but the Browns have not proved that they can do that up to this point. 

Inside Linebacker: I thought Chris Kirksey actually made some solid plays in last contest. It would be nice to see this continue, as the defense could use more consistency up the middle. Demario Davis ought to be active in the middle of the defense as well in this game. I’m still waiting on the big play to come from this unit, but that appears to be wishing for too much.

Safety: Tracy Howard is trying his best at the safety spot, but is playing just as well as his predecessors. The undrafted rookie has been invisible in coverage and when trying to stop the run. Not surprisingly, Derrick Kindred has not been any better either. The Jets feature one of the worst tight end situations in the NFL – but that is not any reason for Browns’ fans to breathe a sigh of relief.   All I ask is that this unit does not get burned on multiple occasions. 

Cornerback: I thought Briean Boddy-Calhoun was the best cornerback for the Browns last contest. While he has been ok, an undrafted rookie should not be leading a position group (especially this  early in the campaign). Brandon Marshall is the key option for the opposing team – he could make the Browns pay, given an opportunity. However, I have faith that the Browns will bounce back from last week – as A.J. Green is not on their roster. 

Special Teams: It appears that the special teams for Cleveland has somewhat settled down. They are not great, but also not the reason why they are losing ball games. I would really like to see the orange and brown do something to put the Jets in a bind – though recent history is not on their side.

Coaching: Hue Jackson continues to make play calls based on who he has available to play in contests. I haven’t found reason to second-guess the head coach, but there is a great deal of games remaining. I would like to see him put the offense in spots to beat the visiting team, but executing this is of the utmost importance.

Prediction (My Record: 7 – 0): I think the Browns can actually win this game, but until I see more I am not ready to pick them to succeed. The Jets come away with a 27 – 17 win at First Energy Stadium.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns 2016 Schedule Breakdown: Games 1 – 8

Browns 2016 Schedule Breakdown: Games 1 – 8

Cleveland Browns’ 2016 Schedule: First Half Analysis

It’s never too soon to take a peek into the regular season schedule for the Browns, which begins just around four months from now. Some people are (already) predicting doom and gloom and noted that the Browns are underdogs in each contest. However, that was prior to the draft and many things can happen before September – including player development and injuries. Let’s take a gander at the team’s first eight games.

Away Contests: Week 1 @ Philadelphia, Week 3 @ Miami, Week 4 @ Washington, Week 6 @ Tennessee, and Week 7 @ Cincinnati

I have to admit that this stretch is not a murderer’s row as some people are making it out to be. All five contests are winnable; yes even the game against the Bengals. I admittedly am always a Browns optimist (until things crash and burn), but do not envision the type of drubbing that the Browns are accustomed to. Realistically I could see two or three wins coming against this group of foes. If they were against Philadelphia and Tennessee – that would be even sweeter (as the Browns will get their future draft picks, and losses will only help with draft positioning). The team will be turning heads by the way the play well on the road.

Home Contests: Week 2 vs. Baltimore, Week 5 vs. New England, and Week 8 vs. New York (Jets)

Many are in the camp that “the sky is falling”, when previewing the early schedule for games played at First Energy Stadium. The matchup against the Patriots, I will concede that as a loss. This only becomes solidified if Tom Brady’s suspension remains upheld and this is his first game in 2016. The other two contests can be had by the orange and brown though. The Ravens’ drafting has steadily been in decline, and I don’t see a tremendous roster. If this defense can put pressure on Joe Flacco, then a victory is likely for the home team. Who knows what will happen for gang green? Will Christian Hackenburg be their signal caller for this game? If that’s the case, I would feel comfortable penciling in a “W” for the Browns.

Conclusion: The first half of this season’s schedule is not as daunting as several people are leading us to believe. I firmly envision three to five victories during this stretch – any more would be excellent and any fewer would be a disappointment. Sorry, I refuse to believe that the team will go 1 – 15 and be the worst team in the league.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2016 in NFL Season

 

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The Browns lose another opener – call me not surprised

The Browns lose another opener – call me not surprised

Review of Browns @ Jets – Game #1 

Another opening game for the Browns and yet another loss for the orange and brown. It was a gruesome performance, and being there I wish I did not have to witness that performance. Let’s remember the debauchery that ensued in New Jersey.

Offense:

Quarterback – Ever since Josh McCown decided to be a hero and dive like a helicopter – across the goal line, the offense was not the same. The signal caller got hurt (leading to a concussion) and then Johnny Manziel came into to toss a touchdown, an interception, and fumbled twice. This type of performance was not the kind of winning way that is needed by signal callers. Thirteen of twenty-four is not bad passing statistics, but turning the ball over is unacceptable.

Running Back – Well Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson combined for forty-two yards, and both quarterbacks led the team in rushing. This part of the roster really needed to step up and that was simply not the case in this contest. Hopefully the Browns can get back on track next week, but time will tell.

Wide Receiver – One long grab and run for Travis Benjamin was pretty much it for this wide receiving unit. His long touchdown (fifty-four yards) was a thing of beauty, but that was it for the team. Brian Hartline secured two nice grabs, I would have liked to see more plays by the veteran – but that was not in the cards for the team.

Tight End – I suppose Gary Barnidge played well at tight end. He had three receptions for thirty-eight yards, but had a key drop on third down (leading to a punt). I thought the Browns had the edge going into this contest – in regards to the tight end matchup. However, the away squad could not muster any more than one reception for thirteen yards, and the Browns lost this battle once again.

Offensive Line – Multiple false start penalties, issues with pass blocking, and not opening alleys for Crowell and Johnson – that was the summary for the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line. I don’t expect them to be completely dominant in this contest – however there was much more they could have done to excel in this game.

Defense:

Defensive Line – The guys upfront did not really do anything spectacular against the Jets. They surrendered 154 yards on the ground and could not win at the point of attack. Hopefully Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant will do a better job at funneling the action towards the middle of the field. I liked what rookie Danny Shelton did, perhaps he can continue this going forward.

Linebacker – The guys on the outside were expected to make their mark for the Browns. Yet Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo were pretty much invisible in this game, unfortunately for the Browns. They could not get to Ryan Fitzpatrick at all, and that was their Achilles heel. The trio in the middle was not much better either, which was a bit surprising by this unit. I expect them to pick it up next week – but they were miles away from where I wanted them to play.

Secondary – Tashaun Gipson committed the best and worst play of the game. His interception and strip by Brandon Marshall was a huge momentum changer – which cost the Browns greatly in this contest. Neither cornerback stood out, and Donte Whitner was far from great as well. I want to see the Browns’ secondary be exceptional going forward – but I am a bit concerned that will occur.

Special Teams: Andy Lee is good – so there’s that. Having two punts averaging over sixty yards is exceptional, but he’s just a cog in the Browns’ big wheel. Travis Coons belted a field goal and a long extra point; I suppose that is a bonus for the team.

Coaching: It’s hard to say whether Mike Pettine made good coaching decisions in this contest. The lack of execution by the offense and defense really made it hard for him to look smart. Oh well, this game is over and it’s on to the next game.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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NFL Season Opener – Browns @ Jets Preview

NFL Season Opener – Browns @ Jets Preview

Preview of Browns @ Jets – Game #1 

After many months of waiting, the 2015 NFL regular season is finally here! I’m not going to display the Browns’ opening day record since re-joining the league in 1999, but let’s just say it is not good. However, this year features another winnable contest for the orange and brown. Let’s take a look into the contest in New Jersey.

Offense 

Quarterback – Josh McCown had a bad exhibition game (Bills), a good one (Buccaneers), and a decent one (Redskins). All of those do not matter once the regular season starts, however. I anticipate him to be on the lower end of risk-taking, which might excite Browns’ fans. Still a few lengthy tosses should be expected – McCown just make sure to drop them in where only his teammates can catch them.

Running Back – Will Duke Johnson be available in this contest? He will provide the Jets’ coaching staff with something extra to game play for. However, if he does not recover from his concussion yet – I have faith that Isaiah Crowell can earn those tough yards between the tackles. Granted, the Jets have a formidable defensive front – but I have a feeling that the best is yet to come for the Browns’ backs. 

Wide Receiver – Here is the wildcard spot for the away squad. Expectations appear to be low (at least listening to the media), but should this unit perform to their capabilities; they can tip the scales towards a victory. Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel ought to continue with their under and drag routes, while Brian Hartline remains a possession receiver and a touchdown threat in the red zone. I foresee one or two scores from this group on Sunday.

Tight End – Making the tough catch in traffic and picking up key first downs is where my expectations lie for the team’s tight ends. Gary Barnidge always seems to come up with a huge grab, and this contest should be no different for the veteran. There might be one huge block by Jim Dray or a great play by Rob Housler in this game as well. 

Offensive Line – I hope the unit upfront picked their game up during this week of practice. They were a far cry from the guys who paved wide alleys and gave the quarterback time to throw last season. I anticipate they will not be that good yet, but will improve from their display in the preseason. As usual, the right side of the line will get the most attention – call it homerism, but I expect John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz to get it done.

Defense:

Defensive Line – It’s finally put-up-or-shut-up time for the Browns’ defensive line. Are they actually improved at stopping the run, or are they just as miserable as they were last season? A steady improvement should occur on a weekly basis; they will not be great but not horrific either on Sunday (Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy totaling just under 100 rushing yards combined). I look for leadership on the edge by veterans Randy Starks and Desmond Bryant.

Linebackers – I really hope that Scott Solomon can be a trusted outside linebacker opposite of Paul Kruger. Besides being the guy who sets the edge, he will be expected to rush Fitzpatrick on occasions. I’m not as high on him as I used to be, but I hope he proves me wrong. On the inside, the trio is expected to be stout – Kirksey, Robertson, and Dansby should have everything under control. An interception would not be surprising from this position group.

Secondary – We all know that Joe Haden struggles against taller wide receivers. Therefore, I figure Tramon Williams will line up more against Brandon Marshall. That would leave Haden covering Eric Decker – who is no slouch either. As we all know, how well the quarterback can get the ball to his targets is of vital importance. This Browns’ defense should make it difficult (via the rush and coverage) to see consistent completions.

Special Teams: I am pulling for the strong performance of the preseason to carry over for the Browns. Travis Benjamin will likely not have a punt return for a score, but he figures to flip the field a few times. Hopefully Travis Coons can remain perfect, as points are huge in this contest.  Andy Lee will have a prominent role as well.

Coaching: Ground and pound will be the blueprint for Pettine and the Browns’ offense. Should that work early, look for some play-action and longer passes later in the contest.   A completion or two can be a backbreaker for the home squad – but many things have to go right before the coaching staff deviates from a conservative game plan.

Prediction (My Record 0-0): It’s the opener once again, and it’s a winnable contest this season. This game will come down to special teams, limiting mistakes, and converting on third down. I give the Browns the advantage in the first two and the last category is a toss up – that provides enough confidence in giving the team a 24 – 20 win over the Jets.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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