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Browns vs. Broncos – Previewing Game #6

Browns vs. Broncos – Previewing Game #6

A Preview of Game #6 – Broncos @ Browns

After splitting a pair of games on the road (both closely contested), the Browns finally head back home. Their next opponent is the undefeated Broncos and Peyton Manning, who has never lost to the orange and brown. The visitors boast one of the top defenses in the league – therefore, this contest will be an extremely difficult one. Let’s take a look at this matchup. 

Offense: 

Quarterback – I got to admit that I did not see that output from Josh McCown last week; however this game’s performance will likely not be nearly as great as the past three. The quarterback must be efficient against the Broncos; he will (more than likely) not eclipse the 300-yard mark, but playing mistake-free football is the bottom line. Keeping all of his guys involved surely helps as well. I anticipate McCown tossing for around 250 yards but will finally throw an interception.

Running Back – Starting with dump off passes should be the game plan to get both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson involved. Hopefully those plays can continue to work, which should pave the way for rushing attempts (and some of a longer variety). It will not be an easy task, but I expect John DeFilippo to work his magic once again to make this offense click on all cylinders. Crowell and Johnson should be able to garner a combined 150 yards via the ground and air – but having them finding the end zone can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Wide Receiver – Travis Benjamin has cooled a bit in his production (and was covered well on deeper routes), but he still remains the team’s best wide receiving target. I am pleased at his development and am confident that will continue all season long. Both Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins are making plays as well – neither is producing tremendously but they are making the most when given the opportunity. Brian Hartline might get more looks in this contest as moving the chains on third down will be of utmost importance in this matchup.

Tight End – Some call him “Big Play Gar” – Gary Barnidge is playing out of this world. He is making huge catches, securing incredible touchdowns, and is fortifying the tight end position. I would love to believe that he can play like this every week, but the odds are against it. Jim Dray and Rob Housler finally got involved last contest – perhaps they can be options should Barnidge receive double coverage. That said, my stance on E.J. Bibbs remains unchanged (and he must play). 

Offensive Line – The unit upfront is continuing to build upon their improving performances. They are still a ways from being stout, but I can feel the gang getting better. This matchup with be extremely tough, as the defensive front tends to shut down running backs and get to signal callers on pass attempts. This might be a week that Cameron Erving is inserted to the lineup for help with pass protection. I do not see a ton of rushing yardage and a few sacks of Josh McCown, but I am hoping the offensive line outperforms my expectations.

Defense:

Defensive Line – It’s a struggling running offense going against a porous run defense. I’d like to say the Brown’s front three are starting to turn the corner, but the mistakes are still apparent. Danny Shelton had a decent outing last week but also made a pair of bone-headed penalties. The return of Desmond Bryant paid dividends early; if they can play that way the entire contest, the Browns will have finally shown a glimpse of how many thought they would perform. 

Linebacker – I do not really know what has to be done with this underachieving group. Scott Solomon’s latest injury will keep him out for a while – and so far no one has stepped up as a rush outside linebacker. Will Armonty Bryant finally break thru and be a force on the edge? Unlikely, and something must click for these guys otherwise they will be embarrassed on a weekly basis. Nate Orchard finally got some playing time late last game; maybe he is the key. With Craig Robertson hobbled, Chris Kirksey and Tank Carder played alongside Karlos Dansby. I am very worried about this position – I am praying they just start making plays.

Secondary – Joe Haden will likely not be available for this contest. Therefore Pierre Desir, K’Waun Williams, and even Johson Bademosi should expect to face Peyton Manning and his group of receivers. It’s time to finally give Justin Gilbert a shot and let him work out his funk. I anticipate at least one interception by the secondary – hopefully the team can make it count. Jordan Poyer was able to hold his own last contest, (provided Tashaun Gipson is held out again) so I would not be extremely concerned about the reserve athlete getting playing time. That “huge play” continues to be missing from the Browns’ safety group; Sunday would be a good point to see this. 

Special Teams: Another solid contest by all parts of the special teams; Travis Coons and Andy Lee have been kicking the ball both far and accurately. There was not much from the return units by either squad – I expect the same to occur against the Broncos. I got a feeling that Travis Benjamin could do something special, however.

Coaching: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, is a common phrase. While I completely agree with that statement – the Browns’ offfense must be careful to not have McCown heaving fifty passes on a weekly basis (especially against a tremendous defense). Defensively, just get it done no matter what. The team needs punts forced, turnovers, and to not give up yards and points. 

Prediction (My Record: 1 – 4): I really want to pick the Browns in this contest, especially with the enthusiasm that came with their win last week. However, I do not see it happening and the Broncos win by the score of 24 – 17.

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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Wishing Upon a Star – How One Chose to Spend a Day with the Browns

Wishing Upon a Star – How One Chose to Spend a Day with the Browns

Hitting a Homerun – How the Browns Did it

It’s impossible at this point of the year when an NFL team can do great things and win on the field. However, the Cleveland Browns came pretty close to this recently – their franchise did their best to stand by a little boy who just had one wish. It’s a sad thing that the national media covered this very little, while Johnny’s tossing a water bottle garnered massive headlines. So what happened in Berea…

Positivity for the Browns

It was Dylan Sutcliffe’s Make-a-Wish (of Ohio) to spend a day with the Browns. Not only did the team do that, put they made it special for the child diagnosed with ataxia telangiectasia (a terrible disease that attacks the body’s nervous and immune systems). Dylan signed a one-day contract, toured the team’s facilities, and received a personalized jersey from the Cleveland Browns. He even got to be introduced by General Manager Ray Farmer (with his family present).

This was a great move made by the team. A way to help out Dylan and give him a daylong thrill should be commended. These types of stories cause all types of emotional reactions to those who read them. I am in fully support of the boy with his battle against the disease and hope his wish was everything he thought it would be.

Conclusion: Holdouts, arrests, and off-the-field disputes appear to be the only things that can be found from NFL media during June. It’s refreshing to hear about something not related to these topics during OTAs. I would not be surprised to hear more stories like Dylan’s down the road. Lets face it, the league should be reaching out and helping out the millions of fans. It is the most powerful league in the country; paying it forward should be the norm.

 
 

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Browns Finally Catching a Break

Browns Finally Catching a Break

NFL Finally got One Right

The league finally handed down their punishment on the Browns’ General Manager this week.  In the end, the team was docked $250,000 and Ray Farmer will be suspended for four games next fall.  Surprisingly, the team will not lose any draft picks as a result – something that was speculated to occur from some media members.  More surprisingly, I actually agree with the league’s decision on something.  Let’s delve into who why this matter was handled properly by the NFL.

Untouched Draft Board

It was the correct move not to hurt the team during draft weekend. Granted, texting down on the field during games is not a wise decision – but it did not give the Browns any sort of advantage over their opponent.  In fact, you could argue it hurt the team – causing infighting, hurt feelings, and the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (allegedly).  Hopefully what comes from this is that the
general manager makes the most of the team’s ten selections in a few weeks.

Hefty Fine

This should not be a shock to anyone, seeing that the team will forfeit a quarter of a million dollars.  While the only one hurt, monetarily at least, is Jimmy Haslam – you can bet that this will be in the back of his mind should Ray Farm make a poor decision regarding personnel.  I am hoping that in a few years the Browns are an
excellent franchise with many All-Pros and this fine is water under the bridge.  We are pretty far from that being a reality, however.

Four Weeks of Vacation

Another aspect of this ruling is that Farmer will be cut off from all team contact during the first four games of the 2015 regular season. Therefore, not only is he expected to draft exceptionally well but he must also have his “ducks in a row” once the exhibition season ends. The Browns’ final roster heading into the 2015 campaign will likely not be tinkered with for at least one month.  They cannot afford
injuries, and Farmer might want to tell Bill Kuharich and his scouts about a few athletes he has his eyes on (provided they are released during the suspension).

Conclusion:  Many Browns’ fans should feel relieved that their favorite team did not foolishly surrender any selections during the upcoming draft.  Although, the franchise’s general manager will have many eyes focused squarely on his moves this upcoming offseason.  Like many signal callers that have donned the orange and brown in the past decade and a half, the guy in charge might be on a “short leash”.  The franchise is more than due for a guy in that scenario to actually become successful at his job.

 

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Browns are in the Crosshairs Again

Browns are in the Crosshairs Again

Here We Go Again – The League’s Punching Bag

Once again, the time of the year has come where national pundits (mostly Jason LaCanfora) target the Cleveland Browns and point them out as to how horrible everyone in that franchise is. Let’s review what this big shot said, and why everyone hired by the team should resign and the team should move altogether.

Alec Scheiner Watched Game Film

God no! The President of the team is watching film with the General Manager – he should be fired! All joking aside, I could not care less whether Alec Scheiner is watching film on Monday mornings. Maybe he is interested in that, and wants to be a part of the film study. However, this is horrendous according to LaCanfora – and those in non-football roles are not allowed to consider acquiring knowledge about the game in any fashion.

Jimmy Haslam is Very Meddlesome

According to LaCanfora, Haslam is a cruel boss who wants to fire everyone every day. People have to agree with each of his decisions at all times – otherwise they will be let go. It’s been reported that he has had his hands in football decisions, and I feel that he has a ways to go until to becoming a great owner. That said, I feel he can continue to improve over time. Maybe LaCanfora wants Randy Lerner still owning the team? How’d that work out? One winning season that he stumbled into? Seven wins are already the second-most victories in a season that Lerner would have had.

Kyle Shanahan is the Modern-Day Bill Walsh

The Browns must be kicking themselves that Kyle Shanahan wanted out of his contract. He had a good year running the zone read with Robert Griffin III in 2012, until defenses game planned for it. Other than that, he’s Mike Shanahan’s son. However, that doesn’t fit into LaCanfora’s agenda – so let’s build up Shanahan as the best coach within the organization. That is the easiest way to hammer the Browns’ organization even more, which is unfounded.

The Environment is Toxic and Everyone Wants to Leave 

This is laughable; if this is actually the case – why hasn’t everyone left then? Why is John DeFilippo joining a staff where everyone wants out?  Let’s dismiss the fact that there are eleven teams with a worse record than the Browns in 2013 (some have been perennial losers as well) – and focus entirely on those in Berea.

Conclusion: Are the Browns a perfect franchise? Of course not, I’ll admit they have their issues. But what is LaCanfora attempting to gain with his article? Does he want the team to leave again? Does he have an agenda against Haslam and his franchise? It seems like he’s just picking on them at this point, and it’s frankly just sad. I’m looking forward to real news for the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Front Office/Coaching, Offseason

 

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Got a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling…Browns’ Scouting

Got a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling…Browns’ Scouting

First-Time Feeling Confident in Scouting

While there are changes (again) to be made to this coaching staff, for the first time in quite a while the general manager and his scouts remain intact for the Cleveland Browns.  Regardless of who is on the field, there are many men in charge to choose the best (former) collegiate athletes to bolster this roster.  There were several seasons where the team was partially represented or not at all during all-star weeks.  Fortunately that is not the case in 2015, and that makes me content with Ray Farmer’s plan of action.

East-West Shrine Game

The perceived “lesser of the two” contest between some of the better athletes occurs at St. Petersburg, Florida.  Typically, these guys are not drafted too high in April – but it would be wise for the Browns’ front office to still study this pool of guys.  The later rounds of the draft and free agent pickups are usually where these football players are selected.  Just looking at last season; Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel, and K’Waun Williams are three guys who the Browns scooped up following the draft.  All three were integral to the team’s success at different parts of the 2014 campaign; can Farmer make note of some under-the-radar guys and have them don orange and brown in the fall of 2015?

Senior Bowl

Mobile, Alabama is typically where most of the NFL travels to in late January.  Coaches, general managers, and television outlets (i.e. NFL Network) all converge to see which top college seniors can improve a professional franchise.  These athletes can be chosen anywhere in the draft, from the first round to a free agent acquisition.  A huge part of scouting centers on understanding the personality of a young athlete – specifically how he treats football.  Is the game a nine-to-five job where the guy is looking to collect checks?  The Browns’ roster has been saddled with those types of players over the
years.  Or, is football a passion and desire of the NFL prospect? Will the athlete study the sport (especially when few others are) and work hard to be the best in the world at his position?  Does he make good decisions, both on and off the field?  I do not want to see any more Johnny Manziel-type of players on this roster; a guy who emulates Russell Wilson would be a tremendous start.

The Browns’ Status

Ray Farmer and his scouts have now gone through an entire calendar year in their current roles with the team.  They should have a good feeling as to whom to look at and which guys should be avoided in the next few weeks.  Of course this is an inexact science, but I have faith that the general manager has the tools and resources to make sage decisions during draft weekend.  If the Browns allow him to “take the bull by the horns” and run this draft, Farmer should be able to secure solid athletes consistently.  One can debate the value of his two picks in the first round in 2014; however 2015 allows him two more shots to redeem himself (meanwhile Gilbert and Manziel still have time to improve).  All that said, I feel much better at this time than I have since 1999.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Offseason, Players

 

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A New-Look Draft for the Cleveland Browns?

A New-Look Draft for the Cleveland Browns?

How the Front Office Turnover Impacts the Draft

After hearing about the change in leadership (from Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi to Ray Farmer), my vision of the Browns’ draft board changed significantly.  Envision an Etch a Sketch with a finalized picture on it and then shaking it to erase everything (that may be a little extreme, but that’s where I am at).  Many media outlets had the draft selections pegged under the old regime; the same cannot be said under Farmer.  A major reason is due to his inexperience as a general manager and the minute information many have about him – including the types of players he supports, dislikes, etc.  Let’s see how the draft weekend will be different now for the Cleveland Browns than it would have been under Banner and Lombardi.

Free agency may affect the draft more this year:

The previous regime did not have to deal with several expiring contracts for top-tier free agents, as well as whether to keep or release multiple tremendous athletes.  With the statuses of Alex Mack, T.J. Ward, and (to a lesser extent) D’Qwell Jackson unknown, as well as decisions to be made surrounding Davone Bess and Greg Little – Ray Farmer will have a tough time in the next month.  He will have a larger assemblage of both solid options to re-sign or acquire and underperforming guys to release.

Having said that, whether the general manager re-signs veterans or not will force the team to alter their draft selections based on the team’s needs.  Will Farmer try to sign several free agents in dire areas or use the draft?  Additionally, could he replace athletes he got rid of with other free agents or go with some fresh out of college?  It’s safe to say that the choices made in February and March will greatly affect what the team tries to accomplish in May.

The fourth overall selection is a wildcard:

If you have been reading my previous articles, you sense my strong impression that the team will no doubt select a quarterback with their first draft pick.  Following the front office overhaul, that still may be true – but I am far from confident about what the franchise is thinking (which is probably a good thing).

The new general manager, ironically, reminds me of coach Pettine; a no-nonsense, detail-oriented, hard worker who is focused on the team concept.  Clearly the franchise needs their future signal caller, but both men in charge strive for the best athletes possible – regardless of position.  That is my speculation after hearing the general manager’s interview on “Cleveland Browns Daily”.  I anticipate some tough, physical guys (on both sides of the ball) will be selected by the Browns during the draft.  Which guy, especially with the fourth-overall choice, continues to be a mystery.

Trades could be plentiful, but in different ways from last year:

In 2013, the Browns were a part of a few trades during the draft weekend.  Two of which were surrendering current selections for future ones, and while those were successful (securing an earlier-round choice as a result), I do not expect that to occur again in 2014.  However, I could still envision moving up to obtain a talented athlete or dropping some spots in order to gather additional options.  There were rumblings that those in the league would be more open to “work with” the Browns now that a change was made in the front office.  Assuming this is the case, the odds are likely that there will be movement by the Cleveland Browns.

The odds of hitting on late round picks increased:

This is not a knock on the past regime, but after listening to the new general manager and others who have met the guy, Ray Farmer comes across as a passionate football guy who eats, sleeps, and breathes the sport.  Much has been made of the Senior Bowl week and how he was the lone representative for the organization there.  Being with the Browns for an entire year, he should have a good handle on what the team needs as well as the value of draft prospects.  Granted, last year’s draft was smaller due to trades but the team only got one guy (Armonty Bryant in the seventh round) who made an impact during the season.  I have an extreme amount of confidence that the new guy in charge can pull some playmakers in the later rounds – they may not be day-one starters but should definitely help the team.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Front Office/Coaching, NFL Draft

 

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