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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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News Before Preseason Game #1

News Before Preseason Game #1

What is Going on Just Before the First Game

There has been multiple practices, as well as an intra-squad scrimmage now for the orange and brown.  In that timeframe several members of this franchise have gone through some highs and lows.  The depth chart of this roster is shuffling and some tough decisions will have to be made soon by Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson.  In the meantime, the team is gearing up for the Saints next Thursday – so what has been going on prior to this meeting?

Myles Ahead of the Reserves

Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett is shooting up the depth chart, as the athlete is now in line for a starting role.  While this was expected, it was good to hear that the number one overall selection is actually earning his spot on this starting unit.  I look forward to him competing against guys with different colored uniforms next Thursday.  Additionally, I am eager to see how this allows Emmanuel Ogbah to play more freely – granted that opportunity might not come until September.

Cody’s Issues

There has been ample coverage by the Browns’s media mentioning that quarterback Cody Kessler is not lighting the world on fire in practice (or the team scrimmage).  The second year pro has allowed himself to be sacked on multiple occasions, as well as missing his targets on occasions.  I would not be surprised to see him third on the depth chart for the signal callers (provided all three guys are kept).  Regardless of who starts, I just would like the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns do well this fall – for a change.

Defense Dominating

Outside of a couple of drives in the first practices of camp, the Browns’ defense is showing their counterparts a thing or two.  Again, this was to be expected – but I would have anticipated a bit more resistance from the offensive unit.  Perhaps one of the quarterbacks will step up, take the starting role, and find his rhythm in this offense.  Thus in turn, he would be able to finally excel against this defense.

Conclusion:  While I will not have an analysis against the Saints in the preseason – I am hoping the Browns get their issues out of the way early.  I want them to avoid sloppy plays and to witness some flashes on both sides of the ball.  Seeing a kicker step up in this game wouldn’t be the worst thing either.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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Victory! The Browns Beat the Saints!

Victory! The Browns Beat the Saints!

A Review of Game #2 – Browns vs. Saints

They didn’t look superb in all facets of the game the entire contest – but one thing was for certain. The Browns were simply good enough to win an NFL game, against a tremendous opponent nonetheless. I definitely felt some highs and lows in this contest, but let’s take a glance at what went down at First Energy Stadium.

Offense: Efficient and game manager are valid applications for Brian Hoyer in this game. The signal caller just went over 200 passing yards for the game, but also failed to make the huge mistake – he did make a couple horrific incompletions though. All in all, Hoyer led a game-winning drive when fans weren’t so sure he could (starting inside their own ten yard line). Hoyer hit nine different targets and didn’t let the Manziel “package” faze him. This outing is likely the ceiling for the veteran, but it was good for a win over the Saints. “Just good enough” works for me – at least for the time being.

I really enjoyed seeing the running attack not missing a beat. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell combined for 122 yards on thirty carries and found the end zone once. Both run hard, and while their styles differ, they both know how to find holes in the defense. My guess is that Crowell will be worked more in the game plan as the season continues to wear on, but Terrance West is doing a fine job as the feature back.

The Andrew Hawkins acquisition continues to look like a shrewd move by Ray Farmer. The former Bengals led all receivers with seventy yards on six grabs, and had the huge catch to set up the game winner. I was happy to see Miles Austin get involved in this matchup. He hauled in six tosses for forty-four yards and had a touchdown. The growing pains are evident with the wide receiving corps, but perhaps this two-minute drive could be something that can be built upon. Like Hoyer, this group was far from exceptional but was “just good enough”.

None of the five guys upfront stood out in a negative way, and that’s a good thing. Mitchell Schwartz is always under scrutiny and he fared well against a unit that is not known for their tenacity upfront. However, there is nothing to complain about and that is refreshing. They opened holes for the running game and gave Hoyer time to throw. It was a job well done by the offensive line of the Cleveland Browns.

Defense: The return of defensive end Desmond Bryant gave me a ton of confidence that the home team would shut down the rushing attack of the Saints. 174 yards later and that was not really the case. It was rather frustrating seeing Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson take handoffs and dart down the field. However, when it came to the red zone the Browns stopped their opponent from running one in. I expect this group to get back on track next week with Bryant having a full game under his belt – but for now this was “good enough” to win.

Not having Barkevious Mingo limited the speed of the linebackers greatly, and Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard could not fill in the voids. Kruger had a sack, a hit on the quarterback, and a pass defended. Sheard had six stops and a pass defended – it was a decent outing but the guys (on the outside) were far from exceptional. Karlos Dansby led all defenders with twelve tackles and made a huge sack to prevent the Saints from going up four points late in the contest. Overall the linebackers made some plays and played well enough to seal the win.

Outside of a Tashaun Gipson interception return for a touchdown, the secondary for the Browns did not do anything exceptional. Joe Haden had the unenviable task of covering Jimmy Graham and surrendered a pair of touchdowns along the way. Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine were rarely beaten deep, but the Saints always seemed to convert a third down and long – especially in the second half. Donte Whitner has become invisible in this secondary, is veteran Jim Leonhard going to steal some snaps from the Cleveland native?

Special Teams: It was a solid improvement by the special teams units by the Browns. They did not allow any large returns from the kickoff and punt units and Billy Cundiff’s field goal was the difference. That’s about all you could ask for these guys – to not be the reason why the team lost. I figure this will continue a majority of this season, and I won’t have to worry about the performance of the special teams.

Coaching: This was a great win for coach Pettine. He stuck to the run game, knew the offense’s capabilities, and orchestrated a blitz that led to only needing a field goal to win. I am glad this coaching staff earned their first win and got “the monkey off their backs” – many victories should follow down the road. They now play at home again versus a familiar foe, as my confidence in this team continues to increase.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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Early Glance – Saints @ Browns

Early Glance – Saints @ Browns

Previewing Game #2 – Browns vs. Saints

All the good feelings and positive momentum were wiped away with a late field goal last Sunday, now the Browns face an unhappy Saints team who also lost on a field goal. The teams are nearly polar opposites; one is offensive-oriented with a so-so defense while the other relies on their defense and ball-controlled offense. I didn’t think the Browns had a shot last week, and they almost won it. Can the home team actually steal a win on Sunday?

Offense: The tale of two halves at Pittsburgh makes you wonder which Brian Hoyer will show up this week. The likely option is that it will be somewhere in the middle; if he can be smart with the ball and find the end zone a time or two then that could be enough for the win. The no-huddle offense seemed to work well for the Browns’ offense – but as other teams have film on it, they must make correct adjustments. I think Hoyer will be amped for this contest and have a fine outing.

The two rookies rushed exceptionally in the absence of starter Ben Tate. Terrance West looks to be the guy to tire out defenses (who have to chase him), while Isaiah Crowell simply runs over and through guys. At least in their opener, the Browns stuck to their running game – even when trailing by twenty-four points. I think these guys are the reason why the Browns will have any chance to win this contest. Hopefully other areas of the team step up as well.

Andrew Hawkins was the only receiving threat on the outside for the Browns. I believe he will garner more attention as a result, and athletes like Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel will get additional opportunities to shine. I’d like to see some shorter, high-percentage throws to this duo – where they can have room to blow by defenders. All three tight ends had at least a reception last week. While none were amazing efforts, that position group (especially Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge) can unexpectedly help this offense out.

It will be interesting to see whether the Browns have to chip defenders coming off the edge against Mitchell Schwartz this week. There’s no doubt Rob Ryan will be flooding that side of the line a copious number of times. I’d like some up-tempo strikes as a result, when receivers can be in areas no longer occupied by linebackers. Running-wise, the offensive line did an exceptional job at opening holes – regardless of who was in the backfield. That is just another reason why a run-dominated offense should be in the Browns’ game plans.

Defense: The play of the defensive line, during the second half last game, also must come out in this contest. They cannot let Mark Ingram and the Saints’ running attack have a type of performance like Le’Veon Bell did. I’m pulling for a guy upfront to be consistent in bringing pressure on Drew Brees. Pettine’s defense typically rotates roles for all his defenders – can a Ahtyba Rubin or Phil Taylor be the man who terrorizes the opposing signal caller? I really enjoyed Taylor’s hustle last week (chasing down rushers in the first half); perhaps the coaching staff wants to put his “speed” to the test.

Following a subpar season, Paul Kruger had a masterful contest in week one. I was very glad to see him return to his 2012 form and am confident he can repeat that output on a regular basis. Outside of a Karlos Dansby interception, the guys inside did not have inspiring contests. Maybe the home crowd can get the two young guys (Kirksey and Robertson) pumped to make some plays on Sunday. One thing is certain, this trio must excel at coverage or the Browns’ defense will be in trouble.

Many fingers have been pointed at the poor secondary play against the Steelers – especially at Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert. They gave up multiple, deep passes to Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown – my guess is that the Saints will attempt to replicate this attack. Gilbert just finished his first professional contest, while Haden seems to always struggle against Brown. I’d like to believe this duo and Buster Skrine will play lights out against the pass – but I simply just don’t see it.

Special Teams: Why is Travis Benjamin fair catching everything? Is he afraid of additional injuries? Whatever the reason, he is killing the team’s field position on punt returns. Chris Tabor either must demand that Benjamin fights for yards or just allows the speedster to only return kickoffs. On the other side, the Browns must improve greatly on punt returns – they surrendered way too many yards. Giving the Saints’ offense a short field is a recipe for disaster.

Coaching: I know it was only one game, but Pettine gets it. He got fired up on the sideline (the way Shurmur and Chud never did) and saw through the “moral victory” loser talk. Now, that’s great and all – but it’s time for him to get his first win as an NFL coach. He and his staff must notice what worked in the second half and make magic happen this Sunday.

Prediction (My Record: 1 – 0): Well, I got the loss correct but I have to give the Browns credit for fighting back last week. I think they play in another high scoring affair, only to come up a play short. The Saints take this one 30 – 24, and the Browns fall once again to 0 – 2.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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Previewing of First Quarter of 2014 Schedule

Previewing of First Quarter of 2014 Schedule

A Very-Early Look at the 2014 Schedule: Games 1-4

It’s never too soon to examine the upcoming campaign for the Cleveland Browns.  In this four-part series, we delve a little deeper into the sixteen guaranteed matchups this upcoming fall and winter.  While it might be a bit premature to make predictions at this point, it’s never a bad idea to get your hopes up (there’s not really another option at this point for Browns fans).

Sunday, September 7th – @ Pittsburgh

It is not the easiest of season openers for this youthful team.  However, an upset victory at Heinz Field – could be a springboard for a potentially promising 2014 season.  I’m sick and tired of the Browns looking putrid and sluggish (and terrible) in their openers.  Hopefully coach Pettine understands this and the Browns hit the ground
running in game one.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 3

Sunday, September 14th – vs. New Orleans

Somehow the Browns won the matchup with the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints the last time these two squared off (in 2010).  The Saints are much better at home and are hit-and-miss when it comes to starting off the regular season.  So, while it appears that the Browns will have little shot to win it here, a W would not be surprising.  However, it will all come down to how well the defense plays.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 5

Sunday, September 21st – vs. Baltimore

Expect another tough, physical matchup between the Browns and Ravens; despite the fact that the visitors appear to be more reliant on their passing game.  A victory will require an entire team effort but I am much more excited and hopeful for this AFC North contest than the one two weeks earlier.  One big play could be the difference in this contest.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 6

Sunday, September 28th – BYE Week

I was extremely disappointed when the NFL schedule was released and such an early bye was given to the Browns.  Playing thirteen straight weeks after this time off appears to be daunting, but perhaps the young squad can maintain their health at a reasonable level.  It’s unlikely that the team gains ground within the division while off – but that could also mean that they are beyond due for some things to go in their favor.

Sunday, October 5th – @ Tennessee

In my opinion, this is the most winnable contest during the first quarter of their schedule.  Despite being on the road, the Browns should have little to fear regarding a team that has not been consistent winners for multiple years.  While prior teams might be overconfident entering contests, I think this unit is much tougher mentally.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 7

Conclusion:  Escaping this portion relatively unscathed should be the bare minimum here.  I truly believe the Browns are a vastly improved team this year and can compete with all four franchises above.  Will they have a 4 – 0 record at this point?  I doubt it, but I would also not be surprised if they snuck out several narrow victories.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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