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Defensive Matchups to Watch

Defensive Matchups to Watch

Intriguing Battles on the Defensive Side:  Cleveland Browns Training Camp

In addition to his hard nose (and that’s putting it lightly) mentality, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have to monitor a handful of interesting match-ups among potential starters for the Cleveland Browns.  Being in the business for so long – Williams will be able to identify the right guy; what I would like to see is the coach getting the most of each of the athletes competing for a starting gig.

Logjam at Defensive Tackle

This refers to the three technique spot in the defensive line.  Assuming that Danny Shelton mans the zero/one technique role, and the Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett are the men on the edge – that leaves one spot remaining for the defensive line.  Desmond Bryant, Jamie Meder, Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley, and Carl Nassib could each be the missing link for this unit.  This is easily the most interesting position group to see who emerges from the Browns.  Bryant should be the front runner, but I would not sleep on one of the youngsters.  Meder has filled a role in run support, but perhaps his new contract has made him a bit more eager to improve as a player overall.

Third Linebacker

People have penned Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey as bona-fide linebackers who should be on the field a majority of the snaps during the upcoming question.  With the recent trade of Demario Davis, the question that comes is – who will be the third linebacker?  In addition, will the Browns utilize Nickel and Dime packages (with an additional secondary member or two on the field and one fewer linebacker) instead?  I would not be surprised with the latter, as the NFL has become a pass-heavy league over the years.  As far as the linebackers are concerned, Tank Carder and Dominique Alexander are two viable options, while second year pro Joe Schobert will get a shot.  I am intrigued with Alexander and Schobert and hope one impresses in training camp.  One thing is certain, the Browns desperately need a reliable guy outside of Collins and Kirksey.

Who Plays Safety

Ibrabheim Campbell, Trey Caldwell, Calvin Pryor, and Jabril Peppers are just four of the names who could possibly sew up roles for the safety spots in the orange and brown.  Toss in a Jason McCourty, and the Browns could have options in the defensive backfield.  The big issue is that none of these guys have a proven track record in the NFL – including Pryor, who was a former first round selection.  The door is wide open for Peppers to come in a take a job day one.  Like with other areas on this roster, the Browns will need a gigantic improvement in this part of the team before they can have a competitive defense.

Conclusion:  The offense should feature several good battles in training camp, but I am looking more towards the defense.  This unit could be above average in this league, but all hands will have to be on deck.  Additionally, the Browns can either utilize veterans or rookies on their squad – it will be interesting to see who comes out ahead.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2017 in NFL Season, Offseason, Players

 

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A Glance into Game #7 – Browns @ Bengals

A Glance into Game #7 – Browns @ Bengals

Browns @ Bengals – Game #7 Preview

The frustration continues as the Browns head south to face the Bengals in Cincinnati.  For the first time in three seasons, the two will not be playing in Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday night – which is a bit of relief for the orange and brown.  I feel a little bit more confident in this game than I did before the season started, but is that enough to predict a win?  Here’s a breakdown of the matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback:  I look for more progression from rookie quarterback Cody Kessler in this contest.  He has been inconsistent at times in contests, but still has been making plays throughout.  Being outmanned basically everywhere makes it hard for the signal caller, but I give him a ton of credit.  I figure he should keep them in this contest with a touchdown or two – hopefully he can limit his mistakes against a tremendous defensive front.

Running Back:  I really do not know what to expect from this position group, as they have been bottled up during the past two contests.  The moving parts (and subsequent poor play) by the five upfront has made running the football rather difficult for both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.  More of the same should occur this Sunday – as the Browns will be lucky to eclipse seventy-five yards on the ground.  Maybe some late heroics might help this position group garner some respectable statistics.

Wide Receiver:  I cannot wait to see Corey Coleman return to this lineup, as the receiving corps is missing “something”.  Their M.O. has been Terrelle Pryor having an extremely productive first half, then the defense adjusting, followed by the Browns being shut down in the passing game in the second half.  Ricardo Louis continues to progress as an threat, but his drops are glaring and do not inspire confidence the way Coleman could.  I do not have high hopes for this group, but a touchdown should still be projected.

Tight End:  It would appear that Connor Hamlett’s breakout game a few weeks ago did not convert over into last contest (which is no surprise).  Gary Barnidge continues to be the only viable option at this position, but even his production has been down from a year ago – also expected.  Perhaps he wins on a coverage mismatch and is able to score for the orange and brown in this game.  The offense could sorely use it.

Offensive Line:  Cody Kessler’s health might be of concern in this contest – the guys upfront have not been holding their end of the bargain.  I would not be opposed to moving John Greco back to center and inserting either Spencer Drango or Shon Coleman at right guard to see if that is a better group that one with Cameron Erving at center. I understand it’s a developmental year; thus the Browns ought to find out which lineup works best (for the future).  Not getting their signal caller killed would be welcomed as well.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  What I am seeing from Danny Shelton (and to a lesser extent, Jamie Meder and Stephen Paea) really gives me hope for the future of this defensive line.  They are coming off a contest where they stonewalled one of the best rushing teams in the league.  Jeremy Hill is a feisty back however, and he is eager to embarrass his AFC North foes (as he did in 2014).  I predict a step back for the Browns’ defensive front, but they should not get gashed by Paul Brown’s second professional football club.

Outside Linebacker:  Outside from one sack from Emmanuel Ogbah, the depleted position has not been productive in any way this season.  Joe Schobert dropped an early interception last contest; everything (from the rookie) that followed that was rather mediocre.  Andy Dalton is a bit more mobile that many give him credit for – thus he should evade the pass rush with ease.  Who knows, maybe these guys will generate a coverage sack on Sunday.

Inside Linebacker:  Despite getting moderate play each contest, Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis cannot break through and finish a game-changing play.  Historically, this position group has (occasionally) been able to intercept Dalton.  I would like to see this occur once again, but that is a tall order for this duo.  Preventing any long gains on the ground must be a priority – if the
Browns want to have a chance at victory.

Safety:  Tracy Howard is in line to get the start in this contest at free safety.  The undrafted rookie has not been great by any stretch, but can he be any worse than any other safety for the Browns?  At least Tyler Eifert will not be available for this contest; otherwise the tight end would make the Browns’ defenders pay.  My expectations are extremely low and seeing A.J. Green and other wide outs getting behind safeties will (more than likely) be on display.

Cornerback:  Speaking of Green, he should be putting up big numbers in the contest – regardless of Joe Haden’s availability.  The veteran has missed multiple games due to his groin injury and was less than effective when being out on the field.  More of the same should be predicted, which means Dalton will find open targets early and often in this matchup.

Special Teams:  The blunders, i.e. turnovers, were not apparent last meeting, but the Browns were penalized an exorbitant number of times.  This led to awful field position and the team not being able to dig them out of a tough spot.  I hope they can improve upon this part of their team but it will likely take time, with all of the youngsters on the roster.

Coaching:  So Marvin Lewis says he misses Hue Jackson very much.  I hope that is motivation for Jackson to prove to Mike Brown that being “a head coach in waiting” was not good enough and that he can make his former franchise pay.  I still support Jackson and his play calling decisions; hopefully they can be the difference.

Prediction (My Record: 6 – 0):  I got a blemish-free record, why should I jeopardize that?  The Browns play hard and lose once again by the score of 32 – 20.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Next Game: Browns @ Titans – Game #6 Preview

Next Game: Browns @ Titans – Game #6 Preview

A Glance into Game #6 – Browns @ Titans 

After another dismal performance, the Browns dust themselves off and travel south to Tennessee to face the Titans. Prior to the beginning of the regular season, I strongly considered this as a potential victory for the Browns. However the injuries are piling up and the team’s play has been less than inspiring. Let’s look into this matchup regardless.

Offense:

Quarterback – I got to be honest, I was going to wait to share my thoughts about this position after the team named their starter for this game. But does it really matter? The starter will probably get hurt and the backup might also go down with an injury. What a dismal season for Browns’ quarterbacks – they cannot do anything right.

Running Back – Isaiah Crowell was not effective when a team focused on stopping him (last game). Was the lack of yardage an aberration, or should fans not expect the runner to be extremely effective anymore. I envision a middle ground, where Crowell puts up decent yardage but is far from perfect. Hopefully Duke Johnson can find touches (and more importantly) yards in this game. Regardless of who is under center – they need a reliable running attack to help out the offense.

Wide Receiver – The Browns could really use the services of rookie Corey Coleman, as the franchise is still looking for another reliable target opposite Terrelle Pryor. Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis have had a few opportunities – but it will take time for them to hit their stride. Andrew Hawkins is making the most of his targets; perhaps he can usher a respectable game for the starting signal caller. However, I do not anticipate a great deal from this unit.

Tight End – Is Connor Hamlett a one-hit wonder, or could he be a fixture for this offense for years to come? Last week was a solid start, but he’s got a ways to go to be a consistent option. I do like the physical tools the youngster brings, but doing the little things will be extremely important (i.e. blocking, finding the soft spot in defenses, etc.) in his development. Gary Barnidge continues to haul in tosses for moderate gains; he is playing with a new signal caller every week but still helps out the Browns’ offense. I could possibly see a touchdown come from this duo. 

Offensive Line – How about the goal of this game is to not get a quarterback hurt? The line has allowed defenders to breeze through the line of scrimmage on multiple occasions. The Titans do not present a tremendous defensive front, but that does not mean the Browns will have an easy time upfront. Alvin Bailey was adequate after being re-inserted into this lineup; hopefully he will play with a chip on his shoulder after getting a second chance. I would like to see a clean pocket on drop backs and running lanes for Crowell and Johnson – but I have some reservations.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Danny Shelton continues to play pretty well in the middle. I understand that he is not filling the stat sheet in tackles and sacks; but he is disruptive against opposing running backs. The Titans bring a tremendous running attack (which includes their quarterback) in this game. This should be a great challenge for the guys upfront, and I believe they can hold their own. After missing a few games, Carl Nassib came back last contest. Despite not being extremely effective, I anticipate he will improve and make a handful of plays in this contest. 

Outside Linebacker – The duo of Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert were pretty much invisible in last week’s game. They did not put pressure on the quarterback nor did they enforce the edge on runs. I hope the pair of rookies play better, but these are some of the growing pains that accompany rookies. Marcus Mariota is very mobile, so both guys will have to keep their head on a swivel or the Browns could see large gains from the opponent. I do not expect a lot from this bunch so I hope I am surprised. 

Inside Linebacker – Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis must be very good to great in this contest, in order for the Browns to have a chance. They will see plenty of carries between the tackles, as well as crossing routes by pass catchers. I can count on both of these guys for solid play on a consistent basis, but I fear that one big play (or two) will occur when the inside linebackers are out of position. Defending tight ends has been a nightmare for the orange and brown, so if you have Delaine Walker on your Fantasy Football team you might want to start him.

Safety – The disappointment train continues to roll on at the safety positions. Did Jordan Poyer and Derrick Kindred even play last game? The ineffective duo has made a play here or there, but overall they have to improve. I am worried that the Titans will carve up the safeties in the passing game. The only saving grace is that Kindred might be useful in creeping up and stopping the opposing running game. 

Cornerback – Ah, the weakest of weak spots for the Cleveland Browns. I have no hope or faith that Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun can slow down the trio of Tajae Sharpe, Andre Johnson, and Kendall Wright. The home team should collect three or four passing touchdowns in this contest and give Browns’ fans more headaches on Sunday. Any good plays by the cornerbacks would be greatly welcomed but should not be expected.

Special Teams: This part of the team was respectable last contest. If the Browns can force their opponent to punt on more of a regular basis, then perhaps they can have an advantage over their counterparts. After a brutal first game, Cody Parkey is coming into his own and is making kicks. The Browns could use a big play by their special teams, a la a long return or a forced turnover. 

Coaching: I mean, it’s hard to fault the coaching staff with this roster. Coach Jackson is still putting the team in the best spot to win – he can’t help it that his players keep on getting hurt. I would like to see Ray Horton do something to help out this secondary, but I do not know what can be done to actually see positive results. 

Prediction (My Record: 5 – 0): Another game and another loss is on the horizon. The Browns lose this one by the score of 31 – 17 and the team will suffer their sixth defeat of the 2016 campaign.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Defeat #2 – Browns vs. Ravens and Refs

Defeat #2 – Browns vs. Ravens and Refs

A Last Second Loss for the Browns

Clearly the zebras did not want the home team to win on Sunday – and a pair of suspect calls ensured that the team in purple got to steal a victory.  In the game, there were some encouraging things – but at the end of the day they did not pull out a win (despite leading 20 – 0 at one point).  Let’s look back:

Offense:

Quarterback:  Despite Baltimore’s best efforts to injure the signal caller, Josh McCown finished the contest.  He played well (outside of two poorly thrown passes) and was an improvement over Robert Griffin.  However, McCown will definitely not finish this season looking at the way he plays.  However, the quarterback was not a liability for the Browns in this contest – as he his Corey Coleman twice in the first quarter.  We’ll see his availability going forward.

Running Back:  Isaiah Crowell had a tremendous touchdown early in this game.  The runner has improved significantly from his 2015 form and I expect this to continue all season long.  He has been hitting open holes with authority and finding yards on the ground.  It would appear that Duke Johnson’s role is limited to occasional receptions – the back has breakaway speed, Perhaps he will see more touches down the road, but the opponent might dictate that.

Wide Receiver:  Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor are growing in this offense.  Each made multiple receptions and moved the ball well from the quarterback’s hand.  What was great to see was Pryor excelling at crossing routes – something not seen in the preseason.  I expect more big things from this duo.  Meanwhile Andrew Hawkins has been a guy who can move chains and is a key for this offense.  Hopefully the other rookies can find their roles in this offense as well.

Tight End:  Gary Barnidge has reemerged back into this offense; the veteran made some plays in this contest and is contributing to this unit.  I figure McCown (or Kessler) will be looking his way a fair amount the rest of the campaign.  I don’t know if Seth DeValve will be inserted into this lineup following the injury to Randall Telfair – but the Browns would be wise to carry two active members at this position group.

Offensive Line:  Overall, the offensive line improved significantly from week one.  Cameron Erving made a critical error in the third quarter, but it still was not as bad as his high snap.  Sacks and pressures are going to happen agains the Ravens, but I felt that the guys upfront did their job to limit the number of these occasions.  They have another tough test next Sunday on the road.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  Carl Nassib continues to play well upfront, and I saw a fair amount of him coming off the edge.  The guys upfront played exceptionally against the run; hopefully this is a building block where they can improve upon this performance.  There were no long gashes, and the team did not surrender several consecutive long gainers.  Danny Shelton did not stand out either positively or negatively in this matchup; I feel he is starting to settle in the middle of the defense.  I can’t wait to see them play next week.

Linebackers:  On the outside, Emmanuel Ogbah was all over the field both against the run and the pass.  The rookie was not dominant, however he continues to be solid in his production.  Nate Orchard tallied three tackles and could have been more involved in this matchup.  Meanwhile, Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey combined for sixteen stops and were around the ball consistently.  Dennis Pitta made too many receptions to my liking, but the linebackers cannot be perfect.  I would really like to see these guys take down quarterbacks more often; the came close multiple times, but Flacco was able to squirm away with little to no damage.

Secondary:  Amid much criticism, Joe Haden returned to form on Sunday.  The veteran hauled in two interceptions and kept Steve Smith in check (despite several passes headed his way).  It will be difficult to replicate this type of output, but I would not be surprised to see Haden play more like this than he did in Philadelphia.  As far as the safeties are concerned, Derrick Kindred showed he is an upgrade over Ibraheim Campbell.  The rookie was extremely active and his physicality was infectious.  He nearly had an interception as well – the Browns’ defense needs more players like him on this roster.

Special Teams:  Here is a spot where the Browns might have lost this game.  A blocked extra point, which was returned for two points by the opposition, and another field goal was tipped and sailed wide.  The Browns are not good enough (at this point) to surrender points these ways and still come out ahead.  Hopefully this will get cleaned up immediately.

Coaching:  It’s easy for some to blame Hue Jackson for the play calling after the first quarter.  However, the Browns had two third down conversions in the second half wiped out by penalties (which could have led to points).  Jackson knows what he’s doing and talked some sense into Coleman after his penalty.  The Browns are in good hands for the future, but there will be growing pains (which we saw on Sunday).

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns vs. Ravens – Game #2 Preview

Browns vs. Ravens – Game #2 Preview

Game #2 Preview – Ravens @ Browns

It only took one week, but the Browns are already in the cellar of the AFC North.  Speaking of which, they face their first divisional opponent on Sunday – a team who defeated the Bills a week before.  The Browns looked pretty bad in the season opener (what’s new?); can they turn it around at First Energy Stadium?  We will analyze this matchup.

Offense:

Quarterback:  Coming off a poor performance (and an injured left shoulder), signal caller Robert Griffin will be missing at least several weeks of action.  In comes veteran Josh McCown, who also has an injury history.  The Ravens’ defense held their own last week – so the assumption would be that the Browns would not be able to move the football with ease.  I expect McCown to enter this game make a few smart plays down the field and actually find the end zone this week.  However, the opposition will bait him into a mistake as well.  Hopefully the next signal caller can be precise on his throws – or this contest can get away from the team in a hurry. McCown did not sparkle in the preseason, but that’s not necessarily a true indicator for the regular season.

Running Back:  It is time for this offense to feature Duke Johnson in a more prominent role.  The second-year veteran had some nifty moves last week, and could cause problems in the passing game (for the defense).  Isaiah Crowell proved he can still run the ball rather well (provided the offensive line can pave the way).  I wouldn’t mind seeing the runner garner early carries in the matchup to soften up the defense.  Getting to one hundred yards on the ground will not come easy, and I envision the Browns being bottled up until they are down a couple of scores.

Wide Receivers:  The slant route, albeit juggled, was something I was glad to see hauled in from Terrelle Pryor last contest.  He is beginning to show he is more than a one-trick pony – and I am anticipating on him to continue to grow in this offense.  Corey
Coleman struggled a bit but snagged a deep pass in the second half; he should see more targets this week.  Andrew Hawkins continues to disappoint in his role with the offense.  I would like to see him get back on track, as the team could surely use another threat in the passing game.  At the end of the day, outside of some nice grabs I do not expect too much from the wide outs.

Tight Ends:  Gary Barnidge desperately needs to shake off last contest and get back to his 2015 form.  Not catching a pass is just as unacceptable as is dropping easy throws which killed offensive drives.  He will more than likely get a couple of early targets (to build confidence), then should be available for underneath routes to complement longer passes.  This offense is not too far from being reliable, but all hands must be on deck for that to occur.

Offensive Line:  The two problematic positions for the offensive line reared their ugly heads in Philadelphia.  Can Austin Pasztor and Cameron Erving get out of their funks and solidify this unit?  Pasztor got blown up a few times (and got away with holding a time or two), he cannot afford to continue to play this way.  Meanwhile, Erving did improve at pass protection from a season ago – however his high snap was embarrassing.  If this is not cleaned up soon, the Browns might be looking for the replacement of the replacement for Alex Mack soon.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  The team took a step forward last contest – in terms of their run defense.  They were not spectacular, but they were also not nearly as horrendous as they have been.   I was actually watching Danny Shelton get up the field a time or two in the contest.  Should he continue this on a regular basis, as well as Carl Nassib being a threat on the edge, and the Browns’ defensive line might be a respectable unit in 2016.  John Hughes needs to step up on the opposing edge, otherwise the Ravens will exploit this time and time again.

Outside Linebackers:  If Emmanuel Ogbah, Nate Orchard, and Joe Schobert could not get to a rookie quarterback – then I do not envision this trio making life tough in the pocket for Joe Flacco.  Granted they are young and can improve, but I would be surprised to see them make a jump this early in the campaign.  The only saving grace is the old adage that “teams improve the most between weeks one and two”.

Inside Linebackers:  Despite not making any tremendous plays in the opener, both Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey graded out well.  Being dependable is something that is necessary for inside linebackers – however I want to see them blow up offensive plays now and again.  The Ravens’ tight end situation is one riddled with injuries, so this duo should not have to worry about many guys crossing their face trying to catch passes (the way Zach Ertz did).  I could see a big play coming from this position group on Sunday.

Safeties:  Derrick Kindred displayed some tenacity in his first NFL game, and then turned his ankle.  The Browns need a thumper at safety – and hopefully the rookie can come back healthy for this game.  Otherwise the team will have to turn to Ibraheim Campbell, who is capable but not a standout safety.  Jordan Poyer was all around the ball last contest but could not come away with the big interception. He will likely need the assistance of teammates (via a tipped pass or help in coverage) in order to generate a turnover from the opposition.  Overall the safety spot has not been great, but they are an improvement from the guys on the edge.

Cornerbacks:  This is easily the worst unit of the Browns – they were unable to cover any wide receiver last week.  That said, I figure more of the same at First Energy Stadium and a boatload of passing yards surrendered by the orange and brown.  I do not know what it is going to take for the coverage to improve (and apparently neither do the Browns).  I’m hoping they can simply get lucky and one of Haden, Taylor, or Williams can be at the right place at the right time for a change.

Special Teams:  Can the Browns change momentum in this game on a single play?  That would be great, and perhaps special teams could be the spark the team needs.  Whether it is a long return or a key stop, the Browns need to be the beneficiaries of a big play and use it to their advantage.

Coaching:  I can assure you that fake punts and offensive linemen split out wide will not be a part of the Browns’ game plan this week.  Neither worked last Sunday, and Hue Jackson and company must be smart in trying to pull a fast one over the opposing coaching staff.

Prediction (My Record: 1 – 0):  I look to keep my record perfect and choose against the team that has not come out ahead in five tries.  Joe Flacco will make one too many great throws and the Ravens will come away with a 27 – 13 victory at First Energy Stadium.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Bummin…Another Browns Loss

Bummin…Another Browns Loss

Game #1 Review – Browns @ Eagles

Ahh, another year is upon; and yet another season is complete without the Browns winning their opening game. They are now a record one win and sixteen losses in the first game of the campaign – when will the madness end? We will have to wait another year to answer this question; for now let us look back at Sunday’s debacle. 

Offense: 

Quarterback – It could have been much worse for Robert Griffin; the signal caller had a decent outing, and was able to find the end zone. The problem occurred in the latter stages of the contest – when Griffin airmailed several tosses by substantial amount. I still have a decent amount of confidence in the quarterback, but he could have played a bit better on Sunday.

Running Back – As expected, the Browns gained most of their yardage when the game did not matter (mostly long gains by Isaiah Crowell). I felt Duke Johnson was underutilized in this matchup and would have liked to see him given opportunities to succeed. Alas, that was not the case and the Browns had to settle for yet another disappointing outcome. 

Wide Receiver – Terrelle Pryor continues to be a bright spot for the wide receiving unit. The veteran had a couple of great grabs, including a down field haul early in this matchup. I am rather impressed at his turnaround from the 2015 season. Rookie Corey Coleman could have played a bit better – the wide out had a few drops and did not make the most of his opportunities in this matchup. 

Tight End – Speaking of poor outings, what was up with Gary Barnidge? The tight end coming off a Pro Bowl appearance had a pair of drops and then did not have a target the rest of the campaign. I understand the Browns’ passing attack does not have to revolve around Barnidge, but having him as an option would be a welcomed sight.

Offensive Line – I thought the guys upfront held their own in the first half of this matchup. Meanwhile, the Browns trudged their way though this contest, and the offensive line had their issues later in the contest (including Joe Thomas surrendering a sack).  The horrible snap surrendered by Cameron Erving was the game changer – and not for the good.  It could have been better for this unit, and I have no idea if they will improve going forward. 

Defense: 

Defensive Line – Outside of Carl Nassib giving pressure on the edge, were there any other athletes playing along the defensive line? It was hard to find an athlete or two who could disrupt the offensive sets of the Eagles on a consistent basis. Danny Shelton made one or two nice plays, but that is not nearly enough for a first round selection. This unit needs a great deal of work going forward. 

Linebacker – The linebacker corps appears to be a mess; in the middle only a handful of plays appear to be memorable. Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis had their hand in a few stops, but were not nearly as important as I would have imagined. Emmanuel Ogbah, Joe Schobert, and Nate Orchard were rather underwhelming as outside pass rushers. I hope their lack of experience is the reason why they struggled and the group continues to improve as the season moves along. 

Secondary – Well Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams did not accomplish anything to give me any sort of excitement. Meanwhile, Joe Haden was rather quiet until surrendering another deep touchdown pass. I can’t recall anything from the safety postion of notes as well; Derrick Kindred had a solid hit or two but that was about it. Overall, the Browns’ secondary was abysmal and I am extremely worried that they will be torched on a weekly basis. This is a passing league and the Browns cannot defend it.

Special Teams: Outside of a poor punt coverage in the first half, the Browns and Eagles had an even matchup in the battle for special teams. I think Andy Murray did an adequate job as a kicker, and Brittion Colquitt was not perfect – but far from terrible. In the end, the Browns still have room to grow but immediate improvement would be preferred.

Coaching: I would have liked to have seen more blitzes by the defense; they showed (in limited opportunities) that they could be effective, but the Browns did not utilize them too often. Meanwhile, the play calling could have featured more of swing passes to Duke Johnson and in routes (maybe the early drops curtailed this). Nonetheless, the Browns did not do enough and lost yet another opening game. Now, it’s on to week two.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Browns @ Eagles – Game #1 Preview

Browns @ Eagles – Game #1 Preview

Browns Game #1 Preview – @ Philadelphia Eagles

Well, here we are – the Cleveland Browns’ 2016 season is finally underway!  Yes, this is the season opener and we know how unkind this has been for this franchise.  But the team will hit the road in a very winnable game against another franchise that has a new coach, an unproven quarterback, and lowered expectations.  Where have I heard this before?  I figure there will be some big plays in this contest; but it might come down to not committing the big mistake.  Let’s get to some analyzing:

Offense:

Quarterback:  Robert Griffin had a decent exhibition season, but how will things change when the regular season begins?  I figure Hue will put his signal caller in situations to avoid sacks and possible injuries when being flushed from the pocket.  Hitting the underneath routes in stride has not been his forte, but he must get this down to help with the “long ball” – which was his bread and butter in August.  I could see a few short runs and a touchdown or two from the quarterback.  Not committing a turnover is vital if the Browns want to win this game.

Running Back:  For some reason, I could see solid performances by this position group of the Browns.  Isaiah Crowell might not a tremendous amount of yardage, but he should find the end zone.  Meanwhile, Duke Johnson ought to hall in a couple of passes and find room to run on the ground.  Provided he can score a touchdown as well; this can be a great start for the running backs.  Eclipsing the 100 yard total is a must by this duo, although it will not come easy.

Wide Receiver:  On the flip side, I am not as confident in the wide receiving unit as I thought I would be entering the season.  The obvious reason for this is that Josh Gordon will not be participating in this matchup.  Additionally, Corey Coleman will more than likely not be up to speed and therefore rather mediocre in this game. Terrelle Pryor has been only been excelling at one aspect (fade routes) on the field – which begs the question, who will step up at wide out in this game?

Tight End:  Gary Barnidge could be the wildcard for this offense in this contest.   I do not anticipate on him being as productive as he was a year ago, but the veteran could make things easier for Griffin and company.  Some key grabs to move the chains is the minimum I would accept from the position group.  Anything above this would be icing on the cake.  I am eager to see if a second tight end option can (begin to) establish himself in this matchup.

Offensive Line:  For the first time since 2008, the Browns will not have Alex Mack snapping the football during the regular season.  The turnover upfront had led to a great deal of fear by fans and media alike.  Will Griffin come away from this game (relatively) unscathed after multiple drop backs?  Can the unit open holes for Crowell and Johnson?  I would not be surprised to see a guy or two struggle against the Eagles but hopefully they will be able to quickly recover.

Defense:

Defensive Line:  Will this be the game where the Browns escape their horrid run defense that has plagued them for many years?  Not trying to be too pessimistic just yet, but the Eagles will more than likely have their way on the ground (as they will lean on this to primarily move the ball).  I am not sure whether it will be Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood, or Darren Sproles who will be doing the damage – but the trio might make the Browns pay.  It’s simply hope (at this time) to believe that Danny Shelton and Jamie Meder can win at the point of attack and allow the guys behind them to make plays in a matter of seconds.  Being proven wrong by the defensive line would be excellent.

Outside Linebackers:  The recent shuffling of this unit has put a sizable amount of pressure on Nate Orchard and Emmanuel Ogbah – as their roles have increased significantly as a result.  Frankly, I have no idea as to whether they will be able to get to the quarterback and affect the Eagles’ passing attack.  Can these two (along with Joe Schobert) cover Sproles out of the backfield?  I am a little fearful of that situation presenting itself, but hopefully the safeties will be able to assist their teammates in this department.

Inside Linebackers:  Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis have been underwhelming during the preseason – outside of a few respectable plays.  The Eagles will likely attack the middle of the field, via both the run and the pass.  I cringe at the thought of Zach Ertz (Wentz’s safety valve) running free with the football against little resistance by the defense.  Perhaps the linebackers can step their games up, especially when corralling opposing running backs.  I do not anticipate this part of the team to stand out via great plays, but if they cannot be a glaring weakness – then that might be a victory in itself.

Safeties:  Over the past few seasons, the safety positions have been able to make a few nice plays in games.  However, that has yet to be the case in 2016 and the Browns are waiting for that big hit or critical interception from this tandem.  I want to think that Jordan Poyer could lure the rookie quarterback into an errant pass and flip the field for the offense.  Perhaps an outstanding stop on a toss sweep is what this group needs to get rolling.

Cornerbacks:  I have little to no expectations for this position group – but perhaps going against a rookie can be a great starting point.  The best case scenario is that Joe Haden locks down on one side of the field, while the other corners hold their own with help (in coverage) over the top.  Jamar Taylor and Tramon Williams have not been exceptional in the preseason, but they should not be getting burnt by Jordan Matthews or Dorial Green-Beckham.  Whether it’s a dink-and-dunk game plan or longer tosses, I still worry that the Browns are simply a step too slow.

Special Teams:  A new kicker (who missed a chip shot in the preseason finale) and a brand new punter (who is not turning heads) are what the Browns currently have on their roster.  Hopefully the coverage units can manhandle their competition, or else the team will get thoroughly beaten in the special teams battle.  I predict the home squad will have a decided advantage in this phase of the contest.

Coaching:  A bright spot is that this coaching staff is miles ahead of their predecessors; the talent might not be great on the field – but those in charge will provide the athletes opportunities to succeed.  I only hope that Ray Horton can come up with a game plan to make the defense look respectable; if this is not the case, it could be a very long game (and season).

Prediction (My Record 0-0):  This is going to be an ugly second half for the Cleveland Browns; the guests should keep it early going into intermission but the Eagles will pull away late.  I figure this game will finish up 20 – 13, handing yet another opening game defeat for the orange and brown.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2016 in NFL Season, Players

 

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