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OTA News: Cleveland Browns

OTA News: Cleveland Browns

Organized Team Activities – What’s the Latest?

Despite being bombarded in the local and national news for who is not at voluntary practice, the Cleveland Browns actually held team activities over the past few weeks.  This is last time the guys will be together until training camp starts in late July.  There were headlines coming out for multiple position groups, which could make for interesting competitions this summer.  Let’s look further into what is going on in Berea.

Elephant in the Room

Odell Beckham Jr. has not been a participant in every OTA practice – just to put it out there for the millionth time.  Would I like to see him there every day?  Yes, of course – I want to see camaraderie within the wide receiver room as well as between that group and the quarterbacks.  However, I know he will be a solid (putting it mildly) player this regular season and hopefully postseason.  Making the most of his time at practices is all I am looking for at this point by OBJ.

Duke Johnson has also a been a no-show for the Browns’ practices.  His situation has been different, as he (with help from his agent) is looking forward to moving on to a situation where he is more predominantly featured in the team’s offense.  I don’t really know what I would say to Johnson and his representatives other than the team does not appear to want to trade you and you will have a role in this offense (at least for the first half of the season).  Duke has a right to not show up, but I expect Kitchens will make sure he and all the running backs get a ton of work during training camp.

Linebacker Room

In a not surprising move, Genard Avery has been spending time at both outside linebacker as well as defensive end.  I would love for him to be this team’s Swiss Army Knife, as he would provide depth to a group featuring Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon and could be another great pass rusher on third downs.  Meanwhile, keeping him at linebacker at times will limit the Browns having to employ either a rookie for a career backup as a starter.

Speaking of rookies, Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson have been working with the second units at the Mike (middle) and Will (weak side) linebacker spots, respectively.  This is how things should work in the NFL; for so long the Browns had no talent and depth so rookies came in and had to be the “guy” immediately.  Can one or both jump into the starting roles this season?  Of course, but I would rather them prove it day in and day out on the field first.

Adarius Taylor is the veteran who has been getting first team reps at the Sam (strong side) linebacker spot.  I would be a little surprised if he holds on to that job for the season (at least full-time) but a part-time role would not be a bad move by the club.  I am very eager to see what he, Avery, Takitaki, and Wison do in camp this summer and how the linebacker position group shakes out.

Waiting in the Wings

Highlights have been prominently displayed featuring good plays made by wide receiver Rashard Higgins.  The fourth year target for Baker Mayfield had a slow start to his career, but came on strong to end the 2018 campaign.  Couple that with the fact he will likely see opponent’s fourth best defensive back at any given time, and Higgins has a real shot to make some plays for this offense.  I would be surprised to see him eclipse Antonio Callaway as the team’s third wide out, but knowing (and owning) his role can help himself (via future contract possibilities) in addition to the team.

The Browns’ coaching staff are really liking what Kareem Hunt has been doing on and off the field since becoming a member of the team.  Staying healthy, making wise decisions off the field, and maintaining an appetite for football that can wait until November are three vital traits that Hunt will need this offseason.  I hope he slides right in and looks like the 2017 version of the guy running the ball, but many things need to go right in the next five months prior to that occurring.

 

 

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And It’s Freddie

And It’s Freddie

Browns Name their Guy

The guessing game is over and the Cleveland Browns have filled their head coaching vacancy – with former offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.  In a monumental rise in the ranks, the former Alabama quarterback went from the team’s running backs coach to head coach in under one year.  As previously mentioned, I am good with this move for the franchise.  I’m not over the moon about it, but I am also not disappointed or concerned that there was a better option.

Three things I can cite that help Kitchens are his camaraderie with Baker Mayfield, offensive creativity, and his personality.  It’s no secret that the new head coach and the Browns’ quarterback got along together as evidenced by mic’d up portions of games this year.  The two appear to be on the same page and have a similar mentality (being the underdog – chip on shoulder, etc.), which should be beneficial for both parties.  The play calling we saw last season was so refreshing compared to years prior.  The full-house backfield, end around runs or passes, and vertical routes are a few of the examples of things fans saw during the 2018 campaign – most of which were successful.  I am eager to see what Kitchens will do for an encore, with a full offseason to practice and prepare with the orange and brown.  Finally the personality is one that I support and the team does as well.  Kitchens has a swagger, rooted in confidence and not concerned about external factors.  He mentioned not campaigning for head coaching positions and that he just keeps his head down and works.

Mass Exodus

I want to thank Gregg Williams for the job he did as interim head coach this past season.  He came into a team that was 2-5-1 and one win over the prior two seasons.  Finishing the year at 5-3 with some exciting performances gives the team and fanbase hope going forward.  There is excitement, energy, and confidence in Cleveland – which has been dormant for nearly thirty years.  There was a possibility he could have been given the full time job by John Dorsey – but I can understand his reasoning for going for a younger, offensive-minded guy (which appears to be the new trend).  I wish him all the best (unless he faces the Browns) and I know the fans will give him a warm reception.

New Hires

A pair of guys have agreed to be a part of the 2019 Cleveland Browns.  First is the special teams coach Mike Preifer, who takes over for Amos Jones.  Preifer, who was born in this great city, comes over from the Vikings (where he was in the same role for eight seasons).  It’s a low bar to improve over last seasons output in that department – which included missed kicks, penalties on returns, and poor coverage.  He’s no Brad Seely, but I tend to think that Preifer will improve the unit to at least middle of the road (provided the team can improve at kicker) unit and that’s fine for me.

With Gregg Williams being let go, the team needed to acquire a replacement at defensive coordinator.  They went with Steve Wilks, who was recently the head coach in Arizona and defensive coach for the Panthers for six seasons.  In addition to being a coordinator, Wilks has spent a great amount of time with defensive backs.  The Browns already have a solid secondary room with talent, but I would not be surprised to see them take a leap in production in 2019.  Like special teams, there is room for improvement for the defense and I like this hire.

Conclusion:  As the calendar flips, so do coaches in the NFL.  I cannot wait to see what Kitchens and Wilks do for the team and to see what they can take from the 2018 squad and improve upon.  Of course free agency and the 2019 draft will be critical and are just around the corner.

 

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Very Important Coaching Decision

Very Important Coaching Decision

A Cap on the 2018 Cleveland Browns’ Season

The finale did not go the way the Browns were hoping for, but the narrow defeat to the Ravens was not the end of the world for a few reasons.  First, the Browns showed they can compete with one of the better teams in the league.  They also displayed a toughness on the field and an ability to fight back in contests.  Baker Mayfield broke the rookie passing touchdown record in the process (with twenty-seven scores).  Keeping the Steelers out of the playoffs was also a side effect that did not bother me.  Now that the 2018 campaign is finalized, there are big questions for the front office.

Tough Call for Dorsey

A full time head coach awaits the 2019 Cleveland Browns; making that decision is general manager John Dorsey.  Will he keep it in house with Gregg Williams or Freddie Kitchens?  Could he go for a recently fired head coach (like Mike McCarthy)?  Or will the Browns’ executive go the route of hiring a current assistant?  One thing is certain – there is little to no point to trust or believe reports that person X is the front runner (at least right now). Let’s not forget the erroneous Condolezza Rice report – as someone was falsely spreading information as fact.  If the 2018 NFL Draft is any indication, the Browns are not telling their true plans and all will find out after Dorsey makes his decision.

I am leaning towards an offensive-minded head coach – who can not only be a leader of men but can run his own system with Baker Mayfield and the other ten guys.  Many are saying that Freddie Kitchens is a few years away from being a head coach, which might be the case but his rise within the organization cannot be overlooked.  Everyone points to the Sean McVey hiring by the Rams as the example that a young coach who can succeed.  However, the flip side would be Josh McDaniels’ underperforming time with the Broncos several years ago.

Looking at two other offensive coaching options (Nick Sirianni and Kevin Stefanski) – I’m not sure they would be an upgrade over Kitchens.  Finally, Mike Munchak is getting an opportunity – following stints with the Titans and the Steelers.  While he has had experience, I don’t know if he can lead a team to the promised land.  There are obviously options with defensive coordinators and special teams coaches; but that’s not the route I am hoping the team goes.

Conclusion:  At this time, I am content with the Browns keeping with Williams or Kitchens as the other candidates don’t really seem like upgrades.  Perhaps there will be an under the radar candidate who is better than status quo, which would also be welcomed.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide any good examples at this point (and there might not be any).  At the end of the day, John Dorsey has earned goodwill with this past offseason and I expect a solid coaching hire.

 
 

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Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Cleveland Browns – December and Beyond

Turning that Corner

Just a few months ago, the Cleveland Browns appeared on the HBO Hard Knocks program with Hue Jackson as head coach, Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator, and Tyrod Taylor was the starting quarterback.  We all know those three men’s fate (in additional to other changes in personnel since) – but that time in Browns’ history feels like five years ago.  The elevation of Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens within this franchise has been rather refreshing; the sniping and apparent arguing (between Jackson and Haley) are gone from the building and all coaches seem to be on the same page.  Oh yea, that rookie quarterback is also playing much better now than he was just a month or two ago.  What can Browns’ fans look forward to the rest of the season?

Meaningful Games

Not since 2014 have the Cleveland Browns had any contests of consequence in the month of December.  The Browns, while two games under .500 are still “in the hunt”.  The odds are stacked against them to make the postseason, as the face a trio of formidable foes in as many weeks – but the games are nonetheless important and exciting.  Traveling to Houston (to face the Texans) and Denver historically has been less than ideal for the Cleveland Browns – as the only win over the Texans in Houston was the finale of the 2004 campaign, and the Browns last win in Denver was October 8th, 1990 (yep, you read that right).  In a season where streaks have been broken, it would be nice if the franchise could end those two droughts.

Head Coach Position

For the first time since 1962 (when Paul Brown was fired), the Browns’ head coaching job is viewed by many as extremely attractive.  I am very eager to see what John Dorsey does during the hiring process.  Will he keep the staff status quo, go with a current NFL coordinator, or current NFL or NCAA head coach?  There is an off chance that the next coach does not fit into any of these categories.  However, looking at what Dorsey did last March and April (acquiring on-field talent) – I have faith the general manager can do similar things with the coaching role.  It’s obviously critical that the next person in charge must be in synch with Baker Mayfield via personality and mission to excel.

What to Expect?

Looking short-term, the Browns play the two aforementioned away contests as well as a home matchup versus the Carolina Panthers.  It would be incredible but unlikely that the Browns win all three, and I am hopeful to come away with a 2 – 1 record after these contests.  They will go head-to-head with teams who are solid on both sides of the ball, something that could not be said a majority of last month.  Will Baker Mayfield and the offense continue to grow and excel?  Can the defense limit Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, and the Broncos’ offense?  I’m looking forward to those answers (as well as the development of other rookies and second year players) unfolding.

 
 

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Pre-Season Takeaways

Pre-Season Takeaways

What We Have Learned through Week Three

The Cleveland Browns have now gone through three exhibition games and they have not been the same kind of embarrassment that fans have been accustomed to over the past few seasons.  Whether it was the efficient passing attack against the Giants, or the pounding running game over the past two weeks – the offense has displayed an ability to execute.  Defensively, the team looks a lot more physical than they were a season ago.  Let’s look further into what the Browns are showing.

Running Attack Looks Solid

Both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb are making the most of their opportunities on the ground.  The duo has been getting chunks of yards in each of the last two outings – which is a great thing to see.  Unfortunately there have been multiple zero yards or negative plays, but those will happen in the NFL.  The goal will be to minimize these once the regular season begins.  I expect a healthy dose of rushing attempts this fall; something that has been only a rumor since Hue Jackson took over.  Additionally, Duke Johnson has not received ample opportunities with this offense.  The wildcard on offense will be utilized in the coming weeks, especially in the passing game – which can always use another target.

Waiting on Reinforcements

The wide receiver group has not stood out thus far in the preseason.  Jarvis Landry made a fine sideline catch early on, but has become a blocker ever since (I am not worried about him however).  With Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway inactive on Friday night, there wasn’t  a guy making big plays.  The only two of note to haul in passes were C.J. Board and Derrick Willies; one of the two might make the team over the disappointing Jeff Janis.  Will rookie Damion Ratley find his way on to the team with a big role?  It is trending that way, but the team still needs some reliability in this part of the roster.

Under Pressure

I have been excited to see not only that the Browns are putting heat on opposing quarterbacks, but they are doing it with multiple guys in different points on the field.  It hasn’t been as simple as Myles Garrett off the edge or Mychael Kendricks blitzing through the “A” gap.  Witnessing Carl Nassib, Genard Avery (prior to injury), and B.J. Bello find the backfield gives me faith that Gregg Williams has enough reliable players to accomplish what he wants to.  The end result is a nasty defense that makes it difficult for opponents to operate.

Improved Secondary

Last season was painful to watch the Browns try to cover opponents in the passing game.  The addition of Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and Demarious Randall are a few of the moves to bolster this  unit.  The Browns are both no longer getting burned nor allowing pitch and catches by the opposition.  Granted this is occurring in preseason, but it is still encouraging to witness.  I will feel better once E.J. Gaines comes back at cornerback to provide solid depth, but I am not terribly fearful of these guys.  At safety, Derrick Kindred and Jabril Peppers are co-existing pretty well at the strong safety spot.  It will be refreshing watching safeties being in the right place at the right time for a change.

Conclusion:  I continue to feel better about the 2018 Cleveland Browns; I still anticipate six wins by the club (at least at this point) – however they will be in most games and their physical play will be the reason for that.  Perhaps the quarterback spot improves to where they can win tight games via solid performances.  Looking forward to the opener on September 9th!

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2018 in Cleveland Browns Fans, NFL Season, Players

 

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What to Watch for – Preseason Game #1

What to Watch for – Preseason Game #1

Preseason Game #1 – Browns @ Giants

The time is finally here; the Cleveland Browns are hitting the field and are beginning their exhibition season.  What’s done is done from 2017 and the roster has changed dramatically (thanks to John Dorsey).  The end result is a much improved team who should win games in 2018.  Looking forward to Thursday evening’s contest, what should Browns’ fans look forward to seeing in New Jersey?

Wolfpack and Offensive Line Depth

A few days ago, the Browns shifted former University of Nevada lineman Joel Bitonio from left guard to left tackle.  Meanwhile, his college teammate Austin Corbett fills in the vacated starting position across the line.  Will this be an improvement over an offensive line featuring Shon Coleman at left tackle?  At this point, the coaches believe so.  I want to see the five starters (outside of Kevin Zeitler who will be sidelined for a few weeks) play solidly while protecting Tyrod Taylor.  Meanwhile, having a guy or two stand out in the second team would be welcomed.

Stepping Up without Gordon

The wide receiver room took a shot with the departure of Josh Gordon (and his return time is still not know); in his absence Corey Coleman has elevated with Jarvis Landry in the first team.  This is a huge season for the veteran, who can secure his place with this team with a great year.  Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, and Antonio Callaway are a trio of wideouts who can carve out roles with this franchise.  I would love to see Callaway excel and become that third starer, but perhaps Higgins will come through in his third season (the way many are hoping Coleman will).

Secondary Spots

The starting spot opposite Denzel Ward remains up for grabs.  Many felt T.J. Carrie would have been this guy, however he is not playing exceptionally well this training camp.  The opportunity is there for Terrance Mitchell – who was a part-time starter last year in Kansas City.  I would like to see him defend Sterling Shepard for the Giants.  E.J. Gaines is another guy who can have a shot to start – how will he perform?

Conclusion:  Football is back!  And while it is very exciting, there is a ton to sort out for the Cleveland Browns.  Hopefully the starters hold their own in limited time.  Following that, one would expect to see multiple reserves pushing for starting jobs (including Baker Mayfield).  Obviously a win is not important – just look at last season; but avoiding sloppy play would be a good start to the exhibition season.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2018 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Latest Browns News

Latest Browns News

What’s Going on in Browns Town?

In the months following the NFL Draft but prior to training camp – the Cleveland Browns get together and practice on the field.  Granted it’s not what we will see this fall, but at least fans and reporters can get a first glimpse of the 2018 squad.  So what occurred during this time frame?  I discuss below plus give other thoughts surrounding the orange and brown.

OTAs in Session:

The Browns recently completed a weeklong session of Offseason Training Activities, which will continue for several more weeks.  A few things I took away were the increased expectations of both Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry, possible depth at offensive line, and intrigue in the secondary.

It is appearing that the connection from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Jarvis Landry is nearing pitch and catch.  The duo appears on the same page and are completing a high percentage of passing plays. Having “inside” routes lends itself to a shorter passes and a higher percentage of completions – but there still needs solid players in order for the executions to work.  I believe that Josh Gordon will get in synch with Taylor this summer, however the longer routes centered around timing will need a high number of repetitions first.  I did not hear a tremendous amount of glowing reviews surrounding wideout Corey Coleman.  I firmly believe 2018 will be his final one with the orange and brown – provided he does not improve substantially.  This is a year where he will not see one of the top opposing coverage players,so he will get his shot to prove his worth.

I enjoyed hearing the rotations of both the offensive line and members of the secondary during the OTA practice sessions.  Left tackle is the big question mark, but Shon Coleman and Austin Corbett should put on a solid competition during training camp.  Chris Hubbard appears to be the front runner for the right tackle position, but there will be multiple players attempting to steal his spot.  For the first time in years, it appears that the Browns have a solid unit upfront as opposed to a Joe Thomas and an Alex Mack.  Meanwhile, the Browns have T.J. Carrie, Denzel Ward, E.J. Gaines, and Terrance Mitchell (to name a few) working at the cornerback positions.  I’ll take my chances with these guys, as opposed to groups in the past.  The two favorites at this point would likely be Carrie and Ward, but there could be some shuffling throughout the season.  The safety spot features Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Jabril Peppers, and Demarious Randall – three very capable athletes who can anchor the back end of the secondary.

Gaining Respect for Baker

In a short video which featured several NFL rookies attempting to draw the helmets of their current team, Browns’ signal caller Baker Mayfield was included.  It’s no secret that he had the easiest task, as the Browns do not have a logo on the side – like the other thirty-one clubs.  However, his response to his final drawing what what I took away – “I didn’t draw the stripe because I haven’t earn it yet”.  That says everything you need to know about Mayfield’s mindset heading into training camp.  I believe he is sincere and not just saying what many think he should.  I give him respect for this response, but clearly his play on the field is what matters most.

 

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