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2016 Training Camp: Defensive Competitions

2016 Training Camp: Defensive Competitions

Training Camp Battles:  Defense

In the second part of our two-part series, we switch to the other side of the ball and focus on the defense.  This unit has nowhere to go but up, as they were either ranked last or near last in several categories in 2015.  Thus, the victor in a few competitions for playing time must be head and shoulders above the guy he is replacing from a season ago.

Outside Linebackers:  Armonty Bryant severely cost himself this season, with his four-game suspension to begin this September.  If many guys on the outside linebacker spots perform well in camp, the veteran might be released following his mandated time off.  That said, the Browns have Paul Kruger, Nate Orchard, Barkevious Mingo, and Emmanuel Ogbah as a few worthy members who will man the outside linebacker roles.  Mingo has fallen out of favor (for me and many others), so if the other three can provide a steady rotation – then perhaps this can become a reliable unit for the Browns.

Inside Linebackers:  Christian Kirksey is the lone remaining man in the middle from a season ago.  I would venture to say that he will be a starter once again in 2016, but who will join him?  Free agent acquisition Demario Davis is the likely choice.  Joe Schobert and Scooby Wright will more than likely begin their professional career on special teams (provided they make the final cuts).  However, if one can excel at a single thing (pass coverage, pass rush, etc.), then they might be on the field sooner rather than later.  Justin Tuggle, the free agent pickup appears to be a long shot for playing time.

Safeties:  Turnover was in full force for the safety position after last year’s disappointment.  Ibraheim Campbell is looking to fill the void (left by Whitner and Gipson) at one spot; will Jordan Poyer become the other full-time starter?  Rahim Moore was brought in this offseason – and with his poor 2015 outing, he will have something to prove in Cleveland.  There have also been rumors that former cornerback Pierre Desir could be shuffled to safety this campaign. Coach Horton needs to find guys who can support the run and stay with their man on passing situations (neither of which occurred in 2015).

Defensive Line: John Hughes and Danny Shelton are the favorites as starters for this defensive line.  However, the key decision will be who will be putting in time as a reserve.  Carl Nassib, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper will be attempting to get some opportunities upfront.  I would like to say that the Browns finally have depth at their defensive line – however they must play up to their capabilities in order for this to occur.

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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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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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Defensive Predictions – Browns’ Team Leaders

Defensive Predictions – Browns’ Team Leaders

Cleveland Browns’ Edition of Guess the Stats

I flip it over to the defensive side of the ball and determine which guys will make their mark on the premier part of this team (at least on paper). Most of the Browns’ wins will be in large part set up by this unit – by holding teams to few points while giving the offense short fields to work with.  Let’s see who the anticipated leaders are for the defense.

Defensive Line

Most tackles – Go to Randy Starks

Analysis: The long-time veteran should get a fair amount of snaps this upcoming season – especially during running plays by the opposition. That will lead to many chances to stop rushers, which Starks will succeed in doing. I expected at least north of sixty tackles by the former Miami Dolphin – setting the tone for this new and improved run defense.

Most sacks – Go to Desmond Bryant

Analysis: The drafting of nose tackle Danny Shelton should help many people, primarily those on the end. He, Phil Taylor, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen will make it difficult up the middle – forcing teams so employ additional blockers to occupy the nose tackles. The result is a guy like Desmond Bryant coming off the edge and taking down opposing quarterbacks (with little resistance). Look for at least five sacks by him and the leader in this category by the defensive line.

Linebackers

Most tackles – Go to Karlos Dansby

Analysis: This should come as no surprise, as Dansby has a tremendous ability to make stops up the middle. Going through a full season healthy (knock on wood), should elevate his production from last year. I could see him finish the year with upwards of 110 stops.

Most sacks – Go to Nate Orchard

Analysis: I will admit it, but I am taking the bait here. With Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger, and Armonty Bryant as solid options at getting the most sacks – I still decided on the rookie. He will have a breakout campaign, much like Kamerion Wimbley did a few years ago. The key will be how he responds to his early success (I envision ten sacks) and whether repetition can occur.

Most interceptions – Go to Craig Robertson

Analysis: A likely candidate for this honor, I see the inside linebacker coming away with at least three passes this fall intended for the other team. Fortunately for this defense, I suspect a few guys will have one or two – posing threats all over the place.

Secondary

Most interceptions – Go to Tashaun Gipson

Analysis: Outperforming his teammates last year (prior to his injury), and wanting to prove his worth in a contract season – it all makes sense that Gipson will excel. The safety ought to come away with seven or so interceptions for this secondary, and I expect he will still contribute in other ways.

Longest interception return – Goes to Trammond Williams

Analysis: One gigantic mistake will occur by an opposing quarterback (who hopefully plays in the AFC North), and Williams will make him pay. I predict that the signal caller will be looking for that out route, only to see the former Packer jump it and return the ball over eighty yards en route to a Browns’ touchdown.

Most tackles – Go to Joe Haden

Analysis: Ever since joining the league, Haden has been viewed as a physical cornerback who is not afraid of contact. I have been very pleased by this part of his game – as he can make the difference between a fourth down and one versus a new set of downs for the opponent. Haden figures to have seventy tackles on the outside, which will lead all defensive backs.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in NFL Season, Players

 

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Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Prior to Training Camp – Defensive Outlook

Part II of Where We Stand – the Cleveland Browns

In continuing our look of position groups prior to the commencement of training camp, we turn to the defensive side of the football. I understand there is a bit of speculation when breaking down players at this point of a campaign, but until the athletes are putting themselves on game film – that’s all we got at this point. Let’s take a gander at the guys on defense.

Defensive Line: Depth, depth, and more depth – all the Browns need is to keep away from disastrous injuries. Phil Taylor, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, and Danny Shelton man the interior of the group. I figure they should put up more of a resistance against running backs than their counterparts did a year ago. Meanwhile the outside linemen include Desmond Bryant, Randy Starks, John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Xavier Cooper. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated he might employ more four-men fronts as he has an arsenal of talent at that position. That appears to be a wise move, especially if Cooper shows his first-step burst he displayed in college. At that point, it’s as almost as if there’s an outside linebacker (speed-wise) playing on the defensive line. 

Outside Linebackers: Here is an interesting group for the Cleveland Browns. Barkevious Mingo will be fighting for his job, while Armonty Bryant will do his best to transition from his defensive end spot from a year ago. What should the Browns expect from Nate Orchard? That remains to be seen, but if he can compile tackles and sacks, and either Mingo or Bryant can shine – then Paul Kruger will finally have the company he was hoping for when he signed his free agent deal a few years ago.

Inside Linebackers: This needs to be the year where the Browns go from having a group of serviceable inside linebackers to one where they possess relentless ones who alter game plans. Should the team expect Chris Kirksey, Craig Robertson, and Karlos Dansby to make tackles, excel in coverage, and instill fear? The two youngsters must add to their repertoire beginning in training camp, if they want to become an elite unit. Robertson bettered his coverage skills tremendously in 2014, now he ought to focus on getting to the quarterback and disrupting offenses. I would like to see a fourth member step up in the summer months, will it be veteran Tank Carder or an unsuspecting rookie (i.e. Hayes Pullard)?

Safeties: Not a ton of concern in this group, as the position featured a duo that went to the Pro Bowl. Toss in an improving Jordan Poyer and promising rookie Ibraheim Campbell, and that’s one exceptional gang of safeties. I understand that Donte Whitner is getting long in the tooth and expect to see Poyer (and possibly Campbell) more in passing situations, but the veteran still remains capable on every play. In camp, I will keep an eye on the non-starters to see how they push Whitner and Tashaun Gipson.

Cornerbacks: Another area where the Browns appear to have a dearth of talent. Losing Buster Skrine might have hurt, until they grabbed Tramon Williams in free agency. The group should prevent the big play, but I desire to see what Justin Gilbert, K’Waun Williams, and Pierre Desir can do against Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins (to name a few). If the youngsters appear to pick up this defense, coach O’Neil might have some difficult decisions to make. The talent at cornerback is a plenty, and for the first time in awhile – I think the Browns can actually slow down opposing wide receiving units.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2015 in Players, Training Camp

 

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