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What’s New with the Browns?

What’s New with the Browns?

Calm Before the Storm: Cleveland Browns Before the Draft

It’s April, and that means the NFL Draft is just only a few weeks away. It appears that the league is always generating news for all twelve months. That said; let’s see what is currently going down regarding the Cleveland Browns. First, the team said goodbye to a native son, a prevailing thought should be kept in mind by the front office, and the 2016 year kicks off.

Out with the Old

The analytics machine reared its ugly head last week, as veteran Donte Whitner was the latest casualty from the Browns’ roster. The safety played well in spurts in his first campaign with the club, but had his issues in 2015 (and is not getting any younger). Like Karlos Dansby and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu before him, I wish the athlete nothing but the best – as long as he’s not facing the Browns. It will be interesting to figure out how this could potentially shake up the team’s draft plans. Jalen Ramsey is a tremendous talent, but the Browns need a quarterback before they should worry about the safety position.

Reaching for those QBs

It’s extremely obvious that teams typically overvalue quarterbacks (and rightly so on some occasions), therefore teams not needing a signal caller are in line to be the beneficiaries. I have a good feeling that if the Browns take Goff or Wentz with the second overall selection, they will be able to scoop up a valuable athlete that was previously given a first round grade. I am partial to a wide out being taken by the team at the thirty-second position. However, the opening of a need at safety must be considered as well. I know the team needs to improve their offensive line following a pair of departures last month. However, analytics would likely say that this position group could be acquired in the middle rounds of the draft.

Pre-Draft Workouts

Despite the team not practicing plays and running routes, etc., the Browns gathered together and began their strength training for the 2016 campaign. Hopefully the new strength coaches can be improvements upon their predecessors – as the rash of injuries in 2015 was mind numbing. Some camaraderie would also be welcomed; even if the team does not have one of the most talented locker rooms, solidifying a close knit group would be an advantage during the season (especially the tough times).

Conclusion: The news and notes continue to roll out for the Cleveland Browns. The turnover of the 2015 roster continues and the older veterans are on the chopping block. I have faith in this front office, but they must get the right guys to succeed the departed players. The Browns finally got together as a team for the upcoming season; while the Xs and Os will not be a talking point – I’m pulling for this being the start of a vastly improved unit from a year ago.

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Yet Another Loss for the Orange and Brown

Yet Another Loss for the Orange and Brown

Another Loss – Game #15 – Browns @ Chiefs 

It was a miserable start, but at least the Browns made it interesting before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs. There were ample errors, a turnover, and several missed opportunities for the Browns. The end result was a tough defeat and yet the team hanging their heads at the end of the contest. Let’s remember what went down for the orange and brown.

Offense:

Quarterback – I guess you could say that Johnny Manziel had a decent game. The signal caller made several plays – via mostly by his legs. However, the quarterback missed a few targets and heaved a costly interception early in this matchup. I still feel he should get the shot to start the final game next wee, but worry about his future going forward (a fair amount will be dictated by the front office, however).

Running Back – Both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson was active in this matchup – both as rushers and as receiving options. I still feel each can help with this offense, provided the guy under center can move the ball at a reasonable pace. Duke once again displayed a solid ability to catch and run, while Crowell carried the ball well between the tackles. It will be interesting to see what happens between the pair.

Wide Receiver – It appears that finally the injuries to the wide receiver spot have taken a toll on the group. Travis Benjamin and Darius Jennings were less than stellar; Manziel targeted his tight ends and running backs more as a result. I guess Dwayne Bowe played in this matchup – he was as productive as expected. Maybe next season the Browns can get guys who can move the chains and excel as athletes.

Tight End – Gary Barnidge made a few plays when given an opportunity to catch and run. Several time Manziel over through his target and missed connection was a result – unfortunately that hurt the offense. Jim Dray mad a few receptions, but it was not enough to help the offense. I was disappointed to see E.J. Bibbs not get any chances, but what is new.

Offensive Line – I was extremely pleased to see Cameron Erving not get blown up and destroyed by the defensive line. I do not know whether the rookie has improved or if he was not getting challenged as much as he usually has been in contests. However, Manziel and the backs were not being harassed at the point of attack the way they have been.

Defense:

Defensive Line – I guess keeping Charcandrick West from getting 100 yards plus on the ground was a positive for this defensive line. They ground was far from dominant, but they could have been a whole lot worse. Danny Shelton was around the ball a decent amount, but I would have liked to see Xavier Cooper, Randy Starks, and Desmond Bryant corral Alex Smith in the pocket.

Linebacker – Along the lines of limiting the signal caller, I was terribly disappointed to witness the opposing signal caller run down the field on occasions. I guess one could argue that Craig Robertson and Nate Orchard made a few plays (including teaming for an interception), however there were many missed opportunities by this unit. Barkevious Mingo whiffed on a wide open shot at a sack – one more game until this awful bust is hopefully off this squad.

Secondary – Maybe Charles Gaines has turned a corner at cornerback? The rookie was not burned as badly as he usually has been, and was actually somewhat respectable. Tramon Williams, on the other hand, was picked on and could not help his teammates in defending the pass. I though K’Waun Williams did a decent job this game, at some point he may have to get an increased role in the NFL.

Special Teams: The fake punt was a thing of beauty – I was expecting it, and they were able to execute the play. However, another blocked field goal occurred in this matchup – this is beyond frustrating.

Coaching: In the second half of this game, the offensive staff finally turned Manziel loose and allowed the quarterback to run and pick up yards while not throwing the ball. While it will not work most of the time, it was successful at times in this contest. Defensively, they were not embarrassing – it will be too little too late for this unit and many will wonder why the Brown could not limit teams all season long. Another defeat and a game against the black and yellow is next.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Another Defeat – Browns Analysis of Game #7

Another Defeat – Browns Analysis of Game #7

Browns @ Rams – Breaking Down Game #7

Ball security was clearly not a priority for the Cleveland Browns today and it showed. The Browns surrendered four fumbles, and also got dominated in the trenches. Overall, the team played uninspired football and it was their worst lost of the year – let’s remember the game. 

Offense:

Quarterback – He tossed for over 200 yards, but Josh McCown also lost a pair of fumbles and did not find the end zone. I guess the positive is that he did not hurt an interception – but not trying the deep pass surely did not help. McCown left the contest with a right shoulder injury, so his availability for next game is still in question. 

Running Back – Robert Turbin was the leading rusher for the Browns on Sunday, however he was only able to garner thirty yards on the ground. The lack of the run game is utterly disappointing, and the fact that this is occurring on a regular basis is beyond alarming. At least Duke Johnson has been a dependable receiver, as he was able to collect seventy-three yards on Sunday.

Wide Receiver – Without Travis Benjamin breaking out in this matchup, the wide receiving corps was less than stellar. Couple that with the fact that Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel lost a fumble – and this unit was a weak point. Brian Hartline finally got involved in a contest; he needs to build upon this performance going forward.

Tight End – Despite the fact that Gary Barnidge did not find the end zone for the first time in weeks, the athlete still put up pretty good numbers (six receptions for 101 yards). I am confident this will continue, but would like to see a counterpart step up. Jim Dray hauled in a pair of passes for ten yards – that is not enough to help out this position group. Maybe E.J. Bibbs can help at some point this year.

Offensive Line – I cannot explain how frustrated I am at the level of performance of the Browns’ offensive line. They cannot open holes for any running backs – and their pass protection is average at best. Oh yea, and they commit dumb penalties that kill drives.  Cameron Erving replaced John Greco at right guard late in the contest, I doubt this will be the answer but I would like to see what he can do next contest.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Well on the positive side, Desmond Bryant, Armonty Bryant, and Randy Starks all made impactful plays for the defensive line. However, that was not nearly enough as rookie Todd Gurley made light work of the run defense of the visiting squad. Danny Shelton could not muster any stats – I know he is a great player, but he must figure out a way to make a consistent impact during contests. 

Linebacker – The duo of Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby were more than solid in game – as they combined for fifteen tackles and were always around opposing receivers. However, once again, the edge rushers could neither put pressure on the quarterback nor make a play in coverage. Nate Orchard led this group with two tackles, but has to got to be much better than he has been. 

Secondary – The cornerbacks and safeties were not expected to make big plays, and they limited Nick Foles to less than 200 yards through the air. Unfortunately the run support was a second or two late consistently and it cost the Browns. Jordan Poyer is trying is best, but he cannot find himself at the best spot during plays.

Special Teams: I guess the Browns won this area, as Travis Coons won the kicking battle. The Rams easily won the field position battle, as the Browns could not move the ball when pinned deep in their own territory. 

Coaching: The calls have already arrived for the departure of defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil. The defense cannot stop any opposing running back, and it is not allowing any wiggle room for victories for the orange and brown. I know there is a better way to help this unit, but I (and the team apparently) cannot figure out the answer.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Titans @ Browns – Previewing Game #2

Titans @ Browns – Previewing Game #2

A Glance into Game #2 – Titans @ Browns

Following their annual opening day loss (which is now an NFL record of eleven consecutive), the Browns get to play their first home game of the season. It would once again appear that this is a very winnable contest for the orange and brown against a rookie signal caller. However, they made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a Hall of Famer in the opener. I expect the team to display some improvement; will it be enough to secure their first win?

Offense: 

Quarterback – As of now, it looks like Johnny Manziel is in line to get the nod under center (while Josh McCown recovers from his concussion). I actually felt a little bit of confidence in the little guy last contest; that was never the case in 2014. He still had severe issues with controlling the ball – hopefully the Jets’ game was the first step towards his improved pocket awareness. I expect one touchdown and just one turnover by the second year pro.

Running Back – I am mystified and really don’t know what to make out of the Browns’ rushing attack (and I use that term loosely). In the chicken-or-egg debate, neither the offensive line nor running backs are doing their jobs effectively during running attempts. I am not sure what’s it going to take for Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to get it going, but the team might want to figure that out – and soon. 

Wide Receiver – Is Travis Benjamin becoming the number one wide out for this team? It would appear so, as the veteran had a solid exhibition season and carried that over thus far by leading the team in receiving yards (including the team’s only touchdown). Obviously he is not a guy who should be used in jump ball situations, but utilizing his speed is his strong suit. I would not be surprised if either Taylor Gabriel or Andrew Hawkins had a few grabs in this matchup.

Tight End – This position group was pretty much invisible in New Jersey, and that will likely be a running theme all season long. Rookie E.J. Bibbs looks like he can bring something to the table; once he is ready for regular season football. I hope that time comes soon – I want to see multiple downfield attempts (and completions) to the tight ends. Who knows, maybe this unit can even become a reliable red zone threat.

Offensive Line – Could Cameron Erving be the difference in transforming the gang upfront from an underachieving one to one of the better lines in the league? It’s unlikely, as pretty much all five guys have struggled at one point or another. The coaching staff needs to do whatever it takes to witness success. Perhaps more three-step drops could replace rushing attempts and problematic run blocking. 

Defense: 

Defensive Line – Stopping the run has been something that has evaded the Cleveland Browns for some time, and I would be surprised if that did not continue. Sunday “Words into action” has been the mantra from Mike Pettine about this team, and they have not lived up to this (at least in the run stuffing department). I would love to see the starters dominate at the point of attack and make it hard for Bishop Sankey to move down the field – but they cannot have a performance like they did in the second half of last contest.

Linebacker – This part of the roster was up there for biggest disappointment in the season opener. Sure there were a couple of nice plays, but the defense generated zero pass rush and could not corral rushers closer to the line of scrimmage. Scott Solomon’s ankle injury didn’t help either – will Barkevious Mingo start to resemble the first round pick that many had hoped? Confusion for the Titans’ offense must begin and end with the Browns’ linebackers; I expect a couple of sacks and turnovers. 

Secondary – I think Joe Haden would be the first guy to tell you that he underachieved last week. He will have a bounce back performance at home, while the other guys should continue to excel as well. Tashun Gipson admitted being stripped after his interception lingered with him the rest of the contest; if he wants to secure that long-term deal he’s got to be stronger physically and mentally. Some interceptions off a rookie quarterback would be a welcomed sight for this team.

Special Teams: Knock on wood, but the special teams have been a solid part of this roster. I have no questions about Andy Lee and Travis Coons doing their jobs exceptionally . Who knows, maybe we will even see a few nice returns by the Browns as well (hopefully there are more punt returns and less kickoff returns).

Coaching: Granted the offensive game plan was pretty much thrown out after the McCown injury last week, but the coaching staff did their best to adjust to Manziel under center. I would like to see this be further reinforced, in addition to reducing the potential of a costly turnover. Defensively, it’s all about the blitz – the Browns need to come hard and often towards Marcus Mariota. I have a feeling he can come back to Earth following his great opener.

Prediction (My Record 0 – 1): I have no idea what to think about this outcome. I believe the Browns will be much better than what they showed in the season opener. However, the Titans looked great – and that is enough to pick them to win this game by the score of 19 – 16.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

What Went Down in 2014 – Part I

Cleveland Browns – 2014 Season in Review – Part I

Well, the Browns finally broke their streak of either four or five wins dating back to each season since 2007. They started slow, won some “easier” games in the middle of the schedule, and finished on a tough note. Let’s review what occurred for the Cleveland Browns over the past several months.

Free Agency: The two major acquisitions for the Browns were veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby (formerly of the Arizona Cardinals) and Donte Whitner (previously with the San Francisco 49ers). Both were dubbed as clubhouse leaders, whose mentality would rub off on teammates. Looking back, I am very grateful Ray Farmer secured this duo; I want to see these types of signings to occur annually (or at least until there are multiple verbal leaders already in place). The biggest decision last year to was re-sign center Alex Mack, whose mid-season injury proved the former California Bear’s worth.

2014 NFL Draft: Admittedly, I was surprised by the Browns’ activity on draft day. Instead of drafting fourth (and going for wide out Sammy Watkins), the Browns traded down with the Bills and scooped up Justin Gilbert at the eighth pick. I like obtaining the second first-rounder in 2015, but have been underwhelmed by his play. Hopefully, he gets his act together in his second season.

Many lauded the trade from the twenty-sixth to the twenty-second selection to grab Johnny Manziel. It’ s well known that I preferred Teddy Bridgewater, who put up better numbers as a rookie. The hype surrounding the kid is amazing, but so far the disappointment has been glaring. I really want him to improve (and quickly), but time will only tell.

The Joel Bitonio pick baffled me initially in the second round. News of Josh Gordon’s suspension trickled out a few hours earlier, so I was preparing for a Marquise Lee or Jordan Matthews in the second round. However, the lineman was the right call – the guard had an excellent year and I am glad Ray Farmer chose him. With the porous effort at right tackle, getting an athlete like Bitonio next year is a must.

Chris Kirksey and Terrance West were the other two picks that contributed frequently in their rookie campaigns. Both middle-round selections had their ups and downs, but I am glad that they are members of the Cleveland Browns. The inside linebacker held down the job while veteran Karlos Dansby’s knee injury caused him to miss multiple contests. The rookie rusher will be a fixture of this offense going forward; he filled in well this season, especially after the team jettisoned Ben Tate.

His running mate is one of the two gems the general manager found following the draft. Isaiah Crowell was a free agent pickup that had many great moments running the ball, and found the end zone eight times in the process. His output rivaled that of Trent Richardson, whom was a first-round pick that has declined greatly (in terms of output) since that year. K’Waun Williams is the other find by the Cleveland Browns; the cornerback accepted his role as a part-time (nickel or slot) cornerback over the season. I hope he continues to grow to the point of being a full-time starter as early as 2015.

Conclusion: It would appear that despite a few disappointing early picks; the Browns have some tremendous building blocks looking ahead. I would love to see something to rival this in 2015 – but we have to remember what went down to finish off 2014.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Free Agency, NFL Draft, NFL Season, Offseason

 

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Ugh…Another Browns Loss

Ugh…Another Browns Loss

Browns @ Panthers – A Look Back at Game #15

Well, what we learned again on Sunday is that Brian Hoyer is a better professional quarterback (right now) than Johnny Manziel. Overall, the team was dysfunctional, and they made their poor opponents look good.   When it was all said and done, it was another loss by the Browns. Let’s take a look back at the fourth loss in a row for the orange and brown…

Offense: The injury to Johnny Manziel was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Browns’ offense. The unit actually got their stuff together, and the signal caller hit Jordan Cameron for a long touchdown. Personally, I would like to see Hoyer back with this team next season, but that will likely not occur. Manziel has been horrific in 2014, if he is on the bench next season with Hoyer at the helm – then I could be complacent.

Isaiah Crowell got a few carries in this contest, and he was the only running back who got a shot at running the ball. He finished with just fifty-five yards on sixteen carries and gave the only glimpse of a running attack for the Browns. I was surprised that Terrance West did not get a carry – and the running game was not utilized at all. This is another area where the Browns can excel; it just takes a tremendous effort by the line and the backs.

Once Hoyer was re-inserted into the lineup, the wide outs finally got involved into this contest. This includes Andrew Hawkins, Josh Gordon, and Jordan Cameron. The latter had a tremendous touchdown – something a veteran signal caller would only see.   Gordon dropped an easy play on third down early and caught a few tough from Hoyer. I just want to see the veteran under center – he gets the most from the wide outs.

The injury to Ryan Seymour led to Nick McDonald playing back at center. The offensive line was less than stellar, but the guys upfront were less than consistent. At least Joe Thomas didn’t commit any penalties in this contest – the left tackle held his own reasonably well. I would still like to see the team draft a guy up the middle to help with blocking. We shall see, but that could really be huge for the Browns going forward.

Defense: Well, at least this game ended. The run defense got smoked in this contest, and gave up a fair amount of yards on the ground. Jonathan Stewart ran easily and had more than 100 yards in the first half alone. None of the guys upfront had success with great ease. The Browns’ defensive has been miserable recently; I’d like to believe they will get better going forward. The team needs to find some reliable guys upfront and soon.

So Solomon was the only guy who put a big of a pass rush against the Panthers. I was completely impressed with the play of the new member of the Browns on the edge, but no one else was very impressive in this contest. The inside backers played adequately in this contest – unfortunately if was not good enough to win this contest. Neither guy inside played well, but it was decent enough if the offense was good enough.

The secondary played good enough just to win, but they had to cover Kelvin Benjamin. The rookie tore up the defensive group, and converted against the secondary against the secondary. Buster Skrine played his best, but was unable to shut down the offensive unit. It was a respectable effort, but they will need a great effort to win on Sundays.

Special Teams: Garrett Harttley made a pair of a field goals, that was the best for the Browns’ special teams. The coverage team did not hold their own, but the offense did not give them a great opportunity to succeed.

Coaching: They let Johnny Football be himself, and it did not work. I was disappointed to see the lack of execution by his part. Granted, he is still a rookie, but he did himself no favors going forward. I always wanted Teddy Bridgewater last spring, and this game cemented this, hopefully Hoyer can play well the last game and the team makes a wise decision going forward.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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Delving into the Browns-Colts Matchup

Delving into the Browns-Colts Matchup

Previewing Game #12 – Browns vs. Colts

This may be the last gasp for the playoffs for the Cleveland Browns this season. They cannot make the same type of mistakes that has riddled them over the past few contests. I understand they are playing at the friendly confines of First Energy Stadium – but they are up against a tough foe who they have only beaten once since 1999 (and that was the year in between Manning and Luck).

Offense: After holding down the fort a majority of this season, Brian Hoyer (after keeping his seat as the starting quarterback) is on a short leash. I would love to see what Johnny Manziel could do for his team from here on out, but that will not be the case as of now.  Hoyer has had two miserable outings the past few weeks – and a November to forget.  I’d like to think he can turn it around, but I doubt it.

Another fumble by Terrance West last week opens up the gate for Isaiah Crowell to be the feature back for this offense. The rookie from Alabama State has held the ball better as of late and has been much more explosive going through the line of scrimmage. What the offense needs are those early bursts to lead to long gainers; similar to the ones in Atlanta.  Could we see some Glenn Winston this week?

After an exceptional first game, Josh Gordon had a setback last week. I would like to believe that starting Manziel would help the veteran out, as his and Hoyer’s timing appeared to be off last week. With the injury to Miles Austin, Travis Benjamin and Taylor Gabriel’s roles could be increased this week. Why can’t get back to a solid passing attack? The home crowd should definitely pump up Gordon for this matchup.

It’s one step forward and two steps backward for this offensive line. Just when you think they are continuing their progress towards respectability – they get manhandled by the Buffalo Bills. This is a more favorable matchup for the guys upfront – including Joe Thomas. The longtime veteran had a rough outing last week, committing a few penalties and allowing defenders to blow by him.

Defense: In theory, the defensive line should be licking its chops for this matchup. Trent Richardson, known around here as a bust, continues to be mediocre. Desmond Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen will have to corral the former Ohio State back Boom Herron primarily. Putting pressure on Andrew Luck will be difficult task, given the quarterback’s size and mobility. However, if the Browns can succeed here – who’s to say they cannot win.

The injury to Karlos Dansby continues to spell doom for the inside linebackers. Both Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson have neither been able to make game-changing plays with the veteran sidelined. Meanwhile, Paul Kruger is the only man on the outside who has been impactful for the Cleveland Browns. Depth has definitely been tested for this part of the team. I anticipate Luck tormenting this unit on Sunday.

This ought to be another test for the Browns’ secondary. T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, and Coby Fleener are just some of the members who can make defenders pay. Last week, Joe Haden was the only guy who showed up for the orange and brown. A healthy Justin Gilbert can help on Sunday – provided Buster Skrine and K’Waun Williams to their part. I was greatly impressed with Jim Leonhard’s play last week in place of Tashaun Gipson. He needs to keep this up if the secondary wants success.

Special Teams: This might be the second-to-last game at First Energy Stadium for kicker Billy Cundiff. The veteran has now missed four kicks less than fifty yards this season – something not accustomed to NFL kickers. All other phases of the special teams were adequate last week. The only thing that worries me is giving up a huge return to Josh Cribbs (or even a score).

Coaching: With Brian Hoyer at the helm, the offensive play calling should be relatively the same.  No matter who is in the backfield, the Browns have got to hinge their game plan on the running game. Defensively, the game plan must center on forcing the opposing quarterback to feel uncomfortable in the pocket. While this won’t be easy, it is a huge factor in the team’s success.

Prediction (My Record: 7 – 5): It would take a miracle for the Cleveland Browns to win this contest. And although I love their toughness and ability to fight back, they simply do not have what it takes to beat the Colts. The guests come away for a 27 – 17 victory and send the Browns into their first two-game losing streak of 2014.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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