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Thoughts Before Monday Night’s Contest

Thoughts Before Monday Night’s Contest

Cleveland Browns:  What is Going on Prior to their Next Game

Last contest was not pretty, but it was a victory for the Browns nonetheless.  Having said that, in addition to some solid plays made by the team – the first half of the contest was less than stellar.  Can this be blamed on poor play by one guy?  Certainly that is not the case, but a handful of guys should be concerned heading into next Monday’s game against the Giants.

Cam’s Gotta Go

Former first round draft pick Cameron Erving simply is not cutting it; no matter which position he is playing on the offensive line – the athlete has been largely underwhelming.  Committing Penalties, allowing defenders to make plays, and not blocking effectively are three areas of Erving’s game that are alarming and will be the reason why he does not make the 2017 roster.  The sooner, the better (in my opinion) would be a good time to let the guy go and provide an opportunity for another youngster along the line.

Wideouts are a Problem

Kenny Britt could not haul in a touchdown grab on three occasions in the first half of last week.  In addition to that, none of the guys were able to get a reasonable amount of separation from the Saints’ defenders.  I was glad to see Ricardo Louis and company get past the sticks and secure a first down grab on a few occasions, but my hopes are not tremendously high for this group.  I hope that Corey Coleman can turn this group around – but they are currently miles from a solid bunch.  The NFL requires more than chain movers.

Kizer Conundrum

It was just one game, but I have all the faith in the world that rookie DeShone Kizer is the best signal caller on the squad.  I still expect that Brock Osweiler (as Kizer’s inexperience will be the reason) will begin the regular season under center – but how long is the huge question.  The first four regular season contests are far from easy, so the change at quarterback to the rookie could still come rather early.  Ideally, Kizer will dominate the remainder of training camp to force Hue Jackson into giving him the nod on September 10th.  As it stands, Jackson has a tough decision on his hands though.

Sharpening that Saw

I was rather unimpressed with the starting defense last Thursday; Garrett Grayson and Chase Daniels are two quarterbacks who should not have any success against your franchise.  Yet that was the case, and reserve running backs played solidly as well against the Browns.  Gregg Williams has got to wake this sleeping giant of a defensive unit (I will give him credit for building the start of a foundation for this), but so far a handful of good plays is all we have seen.  Hopefully they can improve every week as a whole.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2017 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Early Camp Observations

Early Camp Observations

Cleveland Browns Training Camp – What is Going on

Well, their first few practices did not include the players wearing pads – however that does not mean that a few things did not stand out for the orange and brown.  As expected, there were a handful of guys who excelled on the practice field.  From what I am reading, the team looks vastly improved (both by the size of the athletes, as well as in their play) from the 2016 crew.  Let’s delve further into a few areas of note.

Kizer’s Charge

Understandably, this is a time of the year for very positive (fluff) pieces regarding players on a historically struggling franchise.  Enter rookie signal caller Deshone Kizer – who has been receiving praise on his work ethic and study habits of the game.  He still has a large mountain to climb if he wants to become the Browns starting quarterback, but I like hearing good news about his attitude.  Using the past few campaigns as a guide, he will likely see some playing this fall following injuries at the quarterback position.

Offense Making Plays

Another less than shocking statistic is that the Browns’ offense has been moving the football against their defense.  It is hard to judge how well players are performing without pads, but I am glad to hear that Kenny Britt is trying to have fans forget about that guy who sold trinkets in college for tattoos (I’m not bitter though).  It is expected that veterans are stepping up early, but what about the younger receivers?  Going forward, I hope to read about the strides that Ricaro Louis and Rashard Higgins are making in Berea.

Rookies Making Mistakes

This refers to David Njoku succumbing to a pair of strips by defenders, causing the ball to come loose during practice.  The tight end later went on the Jugs machine and was scolded by Hue Jackson after practice was completed.  I am not surprised to hear about this sort of news – but I would prefer to read about Njoku learning from this and eliminating this from his game.  What kind of mistakes will Myles Garrett, Kizer, and Jabril Peppers make – and just as importantly, will they occur in camp or in the fourth quarter of game in December?

Conclusion:  It is extremely early in the 2017 NFL season, but I am hearing positive stories about the Cleveland Browns.  Obviously, the regular (and possibly post) season will not alway go smoothly – but getting out of the gates will be vital for this franchise.  That comes down to great preparation and practice in July and August.  How will putting on the pads change the team as a whole?  We will find out over the next few days.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in NFL Season, Set Up, Training Camp

 

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Intriguing Battles for the Roster – Offense

Intriguing Battles for the Roster – Offense

Guys to Keep an Eye on Next Month

Well, the Cleveland Browns are not full of Joe Thomases and Joel Bitionios – therefore several positions are up for grabs as the team gets back on the field in Berea in July.  Outside of the obvious (and annual) quarterback derby that has already been underway, there are a few key spots where one guy who can separate himself from the rest of the pack.  Let’s look further into those position groups.

Right Tackle

It appears that Shon Coleman will have the first crack at the starting lineup for the orange and brown.  He is big, mean, and has a solid track record in college; however the second-year athlete has yet to prove he can make it work (consistently) in the NFL.  I have faith that coach Bob Wylie will work his “magic” (pun intended) with the former Auburn star.  Meanwhile Spencer Drango and Cameron Erving are waiting in the wings for their opportunity.  I have mixed feelings about Erving, who has been rather underwhelming since joining the team.  Drango had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but getting another training camp under his belt should help his progress.

Tight End

The release of veteran Gary Barnidge opens the door completely for a guy or two to secure the starting position.  The frontrunners are rookie David Njoku and Seth DeValve, who have been impressing the coaching staff up to this point.  Both are receiving threats but could use some work attempting to develop as a run blocker.  Randall Telfair and maybe a wildcard could earn some playing time; however, I would be surprised if the aforementioned duo does not get the lion’s share of snaps.  The question might be, can DeValve hold off the first round rookie?

Wide Receiver

Under the assumption that Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt remain healthy and play up to their capabilities, the Browns will have their top two wide out options.  That still leaves another athlete or two who the team will be counting on to haul in passes for the franchise.  Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, and Rannell Hall are three options to fill a void that was missing in 2016.  Like some of the tight ends, a young athlete (Louis) has been garnering solid reviews from his supervisors.  However, I am intrigued to see how Hall bounces back from a promising 2016 exhibition season prior to missing the entire year due to a broken leg.

Conclusion:  There is a long way to go until the regular season kicks off in just over two months.  However, the roster must be settled prior to that point in time.  This would include several competitions at position groups, hopefully with the best man winning the gig.  I would like to believe that these include guys who can play in the NFL and not roles just needing to be filled.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2017 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Another New Coach for the Browns

Another New Coach for the Browns

On to the Next One – Cleveland Browns’ Coach

Well the next Browns’ head coach has been announced to be Hue Jackson, the former offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. I am in “wait and see” mode and am far from excited, but I am willing to give him a chance. I must admit that Hue’s personality comes across much better than his predecessor’s. Jackson appears genuine, friendly, personable, and eager to attack this new opportunity.

Quarterback Whisperer 

A positive that could possibly come with this new coach, is that he actually knows how to groom signal callers. Andy Dalton is a pretty good example; while not one of the most talented athletes in the league, the quarterback has improved over the past few years and was exceptional this season (prior to his hand injury) while leading his team to another divisional crown.

Here in Cleveland, fans are used to quarterback controversies and poor play at this position on an annual basis. I’d like to believe that the Browns will take their franchise quarterback with the second draft pick, provide him with great leadership, and see him bloom into an All Pro and a multi Super Bowl champion.

Chasing Greatness

It’s extremely early but this looks to be the new theme of Hue Jackson and the Browns’ locker room. Is it better than “Play Like a Brown”? I suppose, but like anything else with this franchise – I just want to see some wins first before I get excited about new players, coaches, or mantras.

Maybe the word greatness can rub off on players, which will allow them to fight harder day in and day out – towards excellent output. Heck, we need any sort of hope at this point.

Done it Before

Another thing that Jackson has gone though that Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, and Mike Pettine have not is prior NFL head coaching experience. Granted it was for only one season and he finished with a modest record, but many feel this will help in 2016 and beyond.

Hopefully the head coach will be able to use what he learned in Oakland and improve upon that in Cleveland. Jackson ought to know that much more goes into being “the man” on the sidelines as opposed to a coordinator position. It all comes down to getting everyone on the same page and executing the way they should be.

Conclusion: Who knows what will happen with the hiring of Hue Jackson in Cleveland. The head coach faces an uphill battle and will encounter many challenges (hopefully none of which are internal) with his job. Yet, it would appear that it was a good hire by Jimmy Haslam – something that has rarely been said since he’s owned the team. Now the Browns need to surround the coach with excellent assistants as well as guys who can play the game at an exceptional level.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Front Office/Coaching, Offseason

 

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A Glance into Game #7 – Browns @ Rams

A Glance into Game #7 – Browns @ Rams

Previewing the Browns @ Rams – Game #7

These tough losses have somewhat hurt my enthusiasm for the Browns, but I am still ready to preview their upcoming matchup.  They travel to visit a well-rested Rams team, who will be another difficult matchup for the orange and brown.  I don’t feel they need a huge overhaul and are very close to finally getting over the hump.  Will they be able to slay the demons and win in St. Louis?

Offense:

Quarterback – The real Josh McCown was (likely) the one on display last week – but here’s hoping he can be better than that this week. Turning the ball over three times is unacceptable; I anticipate the Rams to bring pressure consistently to force the signal caller into the same kind of mistakes.  Not throwing that mind-numbing interception will be vital in this matchup, but that still may not be enough to earn a victory for the Browns.

Running Back – Now the Browns have a stable of three running backs. Robert Turbin’s style would appear that he is best man to run between the tackles.  I would still like to see Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell get carries, but their ability as receivers should be on display more often.  Pairing Turbin with one of the other backs would be an interesting move and could give the Rams’ staff something extra to think about.

Wide Receiver – It would be nice if another wide receiver could step up and be as dependable as Travis Benjamin has been.  Andrew Hawkins has been progressing as of late, but he really needs to take that step forward and display separation on routes.  Brian Hartline is beyond due to get involved in games; hopefully he can secure a few key grabs in this contest.  Having another option in the passing game would be a sage move for this team.

Tight End – What more can you say about Gary Barnidge?  The veteran has been as solid as a rock and a touchdown machine in the process.  I anticipate he will find the end zone once again this week, but I would like to see him with more receptions between the twenty-yard lines. Rob Housler left last game with an injury – perhaps E.J. Bibbs can finally see the field this Sunday.

Offensive Line – The guys upfront got embarrassed on a few pass blocking assignments last contest.  I fear I will see similar results against a Rams’ front that features Chris Long, Aaron Donald, and many other talented athletes.  If John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz continue to get driven back with ease, as well as have their issues at the point of attack – the change to Cameron Erving might be around the corner.

Defense:

Defensive Line – This one could get ugly for the guys upfront – I fully expect Todd Gurley to continue the streak of 100 plus rushing yards against the Browns’ defense.  The coaches and players both know it’s coming – and yet they are still unable to slow down opposing running backs.  I don’t know if there should be personnel changes or if they should bring up an outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage, but the Browns are being the definition of insane in terms to trying to stop the run.

Linebacker – The positives are that Barkevious Mingo has had a knack for defending lob passes.  Other than that, the outside linebackers have been either invisible or unproductive.  They have been extremely distant from opposing signal callers – allowing them to complete passes with ease.  Should Mingo be a pure rusher?  Can Nate Orchard make the transition to an every down linebacker (and soon)?  Something has got to give.  That was one of the best performances by the Browns’ inside linebackers last game – unfortunately it was not enough.  I hope Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey can keep it going, but it won’t be easy.

Secondary – The drops by Demaryus Thomas made the Browns’ secondary look better than they actually were.  The missed tackles and blown coverage are visible on a weekly basis – Nick Foles will take advantage of this inferior part of the defense.  I am not certain of the availability of Tashaun Gipson and Joe Haden – but frankly I don’t even think that will matter in this contest.

Special Teams:  For the first time in a while, the Browns do not have a clear advantage in the matchup between special teams.  The key reason is Tavon Austin; the speedster can change this game in the matter of seconds.  I hope the Browns can limit his return yards – but a long gainer remains possible.

Coaching:  Last week coach Pettine started the game with an aggressive plan and finished with a conservative one.  He should look for the “ground and pound” to start this contest and see how things sort their way out.  Defensively, they know they will get run on – find a way to stop it!

Prediction (My Record: 2 – 4):  Another game, another loss is what I am seeing for the orange and brown.  The Rams hold off the visitors by the score of 27 – 23, and the Browns fall to a 2 – 5 record.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns vs. Chargers – Game #4 Breakdown

Browns vs. Chargers – Game #4 Breakdown

Browns @ Chargers – A Preview of Game #4

A bad loss, poor play, and a report that players want a different quarterback under center than the guy who is currently there – all is right in the NFL world for the Cleveland Browns.  It usually takes the franchise many weeks (or at least well into October) before the wheels fall off, yet they might have set a new record in 2015.  Nonetheless, the team still has to go out there and play an away game versus a better team.  What can we expect from them?

Offense

Quarterback:  My faith in Josh McCown as the Browns’ quarterback was never really high to begin with; two losses under center help to lower my belief that he is a viable option.  I understand that he moved the ball and made some plays last week – but it was when the team was multiple scores down (and the defense was in the prevent mode).  I have been advocating putting in Johnny Manziel to both give this offense a spark and, more importantly, to see whether he appears to be the signal caller of the future.  Alas, that will not be the case – and fans will be treated to likely a touchdown or two as well as a couple costly turnovers.

Running Back:  What is going on with the running backs?  Isaiah Crowell cannot find open holes to run, while Duke Johnson gets blown up trying to block defenders.  Maybe the Robert Turbin signing was not a bad idea for this franchise – however it will be still a few weeks until he hits the field.  The coaching staff has got to find a way to get this part of the team going.  The Browns cannot have their quarterback heaving the ball nearly fifty times a game (regardless of who it is).  I will continue to be skeptical until they prove me wrong, but I do not envision Crowell and Johnson combining to eclipse the century mark yardage-wise.

Wide Receiver:  One positive from last week’s debacle was that other targets not named Travis Benjamin got involved.  Brian Hartline is a security blanket and the signal caller should be keying in on the veteran in situations where a reception is vital (mostly third downs). I would like to see Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins get more involved; the coach’s mantra (words into actions) applies to this occurring though.  I figure to see at least one score from this group – consistently beating their secondary would be nice to see as well.

Tight End:  Gary Barnidge is attempting to emulate Jordan Cameron – a dependable receiving tight end who is allergic to blocking.  He displayed both last week, and should be put more in situations to catch the ball.  It’s time to take Rob Housler off the field and put in rookie E.J. Bibbs – the former Cyclone might not be the next Rob Gronkowski, but I believe he can be an improvement over the veteran who was acquired a few months ago.  Overall this unit is playing slightly better than expected; perhaps Bibbs can alter that to well above expectations.

Offensive Line:  I have seen some horrible offensive lines in my day, and most have been donning the orange and brown.  However, this year is different in that the outlook was through the roof for this unit. There is no push, holes are hard to come by, and they have been only adequate in pass protection.  Just as depressing, I do not believe rookie first-round draft pick Cameron Erving can make much of a difference either.  My hope in the guys upfront is wavering – the staff must fix this deficiency or the team should not anticipate winning more than a couple more games this campaign.

Defense

Defensive Line:  The definition of insanity applies to the defensive line of the Cleveland Browns.  They are continuing to try to stop the run and it is not working.  I’m not going to place all of the blame on the three guys up front, as there are four more capable men behind them who can make tackles.  However, the margin for error is rather small for this group – and mistakes like the one Xavier Cooper made last week are killer (jumping offside and allowing a giant hole for Latavius Murray to run through).  Another one hundred yard rusher for the opponent is expected.

Linebacker:  Losing Craig Robertson to an injury makes it vital that Chris Kirksey steps up this week.  He surrendered a touchdown against the Raiders; hopefully he can get back on track on Sunday.  No other linebacker looked even decent last week (I understand Karlos Dansby is playing through an injury).  I really would like to see if Nate Orchard could oust Barkevious Mingo in the rotation off the edge; the coaches must feel otherwise.  It’s been proven that this team needs to pressure signal callers to win contests – how that happens appears to be a mystery.

Secondary:  Here is yet another underperforming area for the Browns; the three returning Pro Bowlers have looked lost on the gridiron.  I give credit to Tramon Williams – his play has prevented the secondary from being the worst in the league.  Maybe K’Waun Williams can return this week and give the unit a boost that is sorely needed.  One thing to keep in mind is that almost any NFL quarterback can embarrass a defense; all he needs is time to throw and zero pressure.  Being at the right place at the right time would be a good start for Joe Haden and the guys, though.

Special Teams:  Following weeks of solid play, it all was bad last game.  The Browns cannot surrender turnovers or commit penalties (giving additional possessions to the opponent) during special teams and expect to win.  I predict that Chris Tabor will get this cleaned up this week, but that will likely not enough to earn a victory.  All phases must excel to defeat the Chargers.

Coaching:  If the team cannot run or stop the run, there’s not a lot the coaches can do.  Hopefully they put McCown in spots to complete passes and move the offense.  Defensively, they should try to flood gaps and overwhelm offensive linemen – en route to a stable pass rush.

Prediction (My Record: 0 – 3):  From my slant in a few position groups, people should know where I stand with this outcome.  I feel the Browns will keep it close to the end, only to witness Phillip Rivers pulling out a victory – by the score of 24 – 14.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Leaders of the Browns’ Offense: A Prediction

Leaders of the Browns’ Offense: A Prediction

Predict the Stats – Cleveland Browns’ Version 

In preparing for the upcoming season, I take an educated guess to determine which guys will stand out statistically from the rest. I look to review this in several months to see how right or wrong I really was. But for now, let’s take a gander at some guesses.

Quarterback

Yards, Touchdowns, Completions, Attempts – All go to Josh McCown

Analysis: I envision 2015 to be similar to last year, where the team’s long-timeveteran plays a majority of the season and not Johnny Manziel. Hopefully McCown can perform well enough to put the team in the playoffs (for the first time since 2002). I am figuring around 2,500 yards for the starter, just over 210 completions, and sixteen touchdowns (with twelve interceptions) finishing with a reasonable record this year.

Running Backs

Rushing Yards and Touchdowns – Go to Isaiah Crowell

Analysis: The Crow is expected to be the team’s featured back heading into the season. The way the second-year pro gobbles up yards on the ground and finds the end zone with ease makes this guess a no-brainer. I expect him to make life much easier for Josh McCown (to the tune of 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns).

Rushing Attempts – Go to Terrance West

Analysis: I am going out on a limb here, as many feel that West is slated as the third-string running back for the team. In the middle part of the season, however, John Defilippo hands the keys to the offense to the former Towson star – leading to multiple carries of the ball for not many yards. Somehow, he finishes the year with more attempts (just over 200) than Crowell and Johnson.

Receiving Yards and Receptions – Go to Duke Johnson

Analysis: Being a receiver is this rookie’s forte, and he is expected to add a few wrinkles to this offense that was not present in 2014. Motioning, lining up in the slot, and simply getting out in the open from the backfield is what Johnson is projected to do. 550 yards and forty catches would not surprise me by the former Miami Hurricane.

Wide Receivers

Receptions – Go to Brian Hartline

Analysis: The crafty veteran figures to secure multiple slant and shorter routes tossed by Josh McCown. While this will not necessarily put points on the board or instill fear in defenders, it will move the chains consistently. Hartline should finish the campaign hauling in at least sixty passes from his teammate(s).

Yards – Go to Taylor Gabriel

Analysis: The yardage-per-reception leader should have an advantage here in 2015. Those fly routes, out-and-ups, and other deep patterns will permit Gabriel to garner a large chunk of yards while breezing by defenders. Can 1,100 yards be eclipsed by the second-year pro? I think so.

Touchdowns – Go to Andrew Hawkins

Analysis: Here is another tough decision where I took a risk. Hawkins is not the tallest or fastest guy on the team, but he excels in getting open. This is the ultimate need in the red zone – and being in the slot will allow for many different options for the veteran and this offense. Look for a modest seven scores through the air (up from a team-high three in 2014).

Tight Ends

Receptions and Yards – Gary Barnidge

Analysis: This is another difficult choice, but I went with the sure-handed veteran. Barnidge should haul in about fifteen grabs or so totaling just over 200 yards. I know I’m not predicting overwhelming amounts here, but I have no idea what to expect from this group.

Touchdowns – Rob Housler

Analysis: Sure, why not? The newly acquired veteran has height and should figure into a few goal line scores. I am thinking he will find pay dirt at least three times in 2015 and become a respectable option for this offense.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in NFL Season, Players

 

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