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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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Hogan’s Heroes?

Hogan’s Heroes?

New Starter and the Meaning

Following the mild success of quarterback Kevin Hogan (over Deshone Kizer’s ouput), coach Hue Jackson gave him the nod against the Houston Texans.  The second year pro is good for a touchdown and an interception each game – but is he good for a win this Sunday?  The Browns are double-digit underdogs during their matchup down south, and frankly I don’t expect a close outcome.  However, are there a few areas on the gridiron that give the team hope?

Defensive Injuries

Unless you have been living under a rock inside of a cave, you have heard of the unfortunate injury to defensive stalwart J.J. Watt, which occurred last contest.  He, defensive end Whitney Mercilus, and a starting defensive back to two might be out for the home squad.  I got to figure that will the help the Browns’ offense a bit in this game.  Hogan already has a quick release in the pocket, but having more time to throw should only help.  The running attack should benefit as well – provided Hue Jackson chooses to dial it up the way he did last contest.

Long to Release

Many have gotten on quarterback Deshone Kizer’s lengthy delivery of the football (as it is greater than Kevin Hogan) – but let’s not forget the Deshaun Watson is also getting the football out in over two-and-a-half seconds.  That just means the Browns defense has to blow by their guys and get to the rookie signal caller.  I envision Myles Garret to be a benfactor of this, but it would be nice if a few teammates could join him.  If the Browns can find a way to limit Watson’s threat to run the football – they might actually be successful in attacking the opposing offense.

Conclusion:  I would not be surprised to witness a blowout in this this contest.  However, the Browns could actually could make it a game if a few things break their way (forcing turnovers, winning the special teams matchup, etc).  As the past two seasons have gone, the breaks will go to the home team and the Texans will more than likely come out comfortably ahead in this contest.  When will the Browns win a game this year?

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in NFL Season, Players


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What an Embarrassment by the Browns

What an Embarrassment by the Browns

Review of Browns vs. Texans – Game #10

I believe this one falls into the “same ol’ Browns” category, have a huge, winnable game at home – only to lay a giant egg. If it were not for a questionable personal foul on J.J. Watt, this contest would have been a shutout. Pretty much every aspect was pitiful for the Browns, and an embarrassment from their recent performance. Should Browns fans have been surprised? Not entirely, but let’s review the horrible outcome…

Offense: It’s a good thing that the Browns didn’t sign a wide out named broad side of a barn, because Brian Hoyer would have not been able to hit him. The quarterback easily had his worst game of the season, completing only twenty of his fifty tosses including an interception. Several throws were nowhere near an intended target. It was rather disappointing for the home crowd, and I expect the veteran to play better – but the calls for Manziel were deafening.

The fumble by Isaiah Crowell was the play of the game for the visitors. Tied at seven, the Browns were in the red zone ready to take the lead. The turnover by the home team led to a score by the guests, who never looked back. The unit compiled just fifty-eight yards on the ground, but veteran Ben Tate had only two carries for negative nine yards (not a misprint).   The run game must get better if the team wants a shot at the playoffs.

Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel put up respectable numbers on a combined twenty-six targets. Hauling in a total of eleven grabs for 189 yards and a score is not terrible, but when the quarterback is throwing it fifty times – better production is expected. Both targets and Miles Austin had some drops, something unaccustomed to this unit. I hope they do not have issues in the cold weather, or this could be a rough remaining six contests.

As expected, the guys upfront struggled in all facets of blocking. J.J. Watt dictated the play calling, and Mitchell Schwartz had trouble blocking the defensive end. The result was a pair of sacks allowed and an ineffective running attack. The offensive line in this contest beyond disappointed me – they took a giant step back from last Thursday. We shall see what goes down next week, but this was a pathetic performance.

Defense: No Phil Taylor, no Armonty Bryant, and no John Hughes – and it showed. The Browns allowed some dude named Blue to run for 156 yards on thirty-six carries. They were lucky Arian Foster did not play, or he could have eclipsed 200 yards on the ground. I believe the attrition has finally caught up to this part of the team. The Browns have been getting by all year long, and they will struggle from here on out with all these injuries.

The injury to veteran Karlos Dansby was a killer for the linebacking corps. They had issues covering and stopping the opponent running the football, after the veteran left the contest. I really like Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson but am not sure they are ready to both play full-time. Barkevious Mingo was surprisingly the best outside linebacker (statistically) for the Browns. He had seven stops and was there on a few big plays. Paul Kruger nearly had an interception, but that was the story for the defense – just close enough but could not make the big play.

Where was the secondary? Joe Haden and Buster Skrine made Andre Johnson look like he was 23 years old again – providing cushion and room to easily catch Ryan Mallet’s passes. I was embarrassed to see the Tom Brady backup look good in this contest, and the secondary did not do anything to make it hard on him. All goodwill that was give to this group has now been taken away. Back to the drawing board, before they play an actual good quarterback in Matt Ryan next week.

Special Teams: A missed thirty-eight yarder and a near fumble in a kickoff return was the story for the Browns’ special teams. They did nothing to stand out, and I hope they can get much better. The unit has a giant task next week, but this game was a head-dropper.

Coaching: For the first time all season, I was surprised the Browns strayed from the running game. They put the ball in Brian Hoyer’s hands, and it failed them miserably. Could they have won the game by sticking to the run? I doubt it, but would have liked their chances a bit more. It was the most disappointing game by the Browns since the Jaguars clunker – and proof they are far from a good team.

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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in NFL Season


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Peeking into the Browns vs. Texans – Game #10

Peeking into the Browns vs. Texans – Game #10

Game #10 Preview – Browns vs. Texans 

Following an emotional victory on national television, and a bit more rest, the Browns take on a Texans squad who is looking for an upset. As with all NFL games, this will be far from an easy victory for the Browns, but if they can play team football (performing well in all three phases) then the sky is the limit. Let’s delve more into this key matchup for the orange and brown.

Offense: With all the talk of Brian Hoyer not finding the end zone in the most recent victory, anticipate Kyle Shanahan to dial up passing plays in the red zone. The quarterback should toss for a couple scores in this contest – to a tight end and a wide receiver. An important part of this week’s game plan is to avoid a horrendous decision or injury. J.J. Watt will be in the backfield a few times, but I can guarantee that the quarterback will avoid tossing a dumb interception or being on the receiving end of a bone-crushing hit.

Who will take the carries for the Browns’ offense? Will Terrance West be the workhorse from here on out? Some of those questions may be answered on Sunday – but I have a hunch that the pair of rookies will have multiple attempts in the backfield. The running game has been improving slowly and steadily since the Mack injury. Sunday is a great opportunity to keep it going and flex their muscles on their opponents. That includes salting away a contest late, when the team has the lead.

With the return of Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins – the offense will likely test their opponent’s limits downfield. Additionally, the role of Miles Austin cannot be undersold. The veteran has caught several huge tosses on third downs, and moved the chains as a result. This receiving unit is far from flashy, but they and Hoyer are getting it done. The return of Josh Gordon next week should give defenses another worry – but for now Hawkins, Gabriel, and Benjamin will have to continue to do their jobs well against the Texans.

I’d like to believe the five guys upfront for the Browns would continue to improve over time. Last week, they dominated the line of scrimmage but this week features a very tough task. In addition to Watt, Whitney Mercilius has been great at stopping the run and making tackles. The Browns’ will have their hands full – but I know they can get it done. Besides getting better overall, what I would like from Nick McDonald is to eliminate the one “blowup” play. This is when a defender drives the center back and takes down Hoyer in the backfield. Cleaning this up is huge for the line.

Defense: To steal a cliché phrase in the NFL – the defensive front of the Browns’ should pin their ears back and force pressure upon Ryan Mallett. Desmond Bryant is coming off of a breakout performance (with a pair of sacks), while Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are pushing back the point of attack. Worst-case scenario, assuming they’re performing their jobs, is that the guys behind him take down whoever has the ball for the Texans – behind the line of scrimmage.   As far as defending the run goes, Arian Foster is not playing the way he has several years ago – but should still be keyed upon on most plays.

It would be great if Barkevious Mingo could join the party that Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are already at. This refers to getting sacks and making offensive linemen nervous when seeing them on the outside. Something’s got to click for the LSU standout, and Sunday would be an excellent opportunity for him to finally prove his worth. Both Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey saw some snaps at inside linebacker opposite Karlos Dansby. I’ve enjoyed seeing them making plays over the course of the season – be it against the run or pass. I envision one of these guys make a huge one again on Sunday.

The Browns’ secondary is finally coming around – almost every guy is doing his part for this defense. Once Justin Gilbert determines his role better, look out. Buster Skrine and Tashaun Gipson have been picking off tosses, while Joe Haden and Donte Whitner have been excellent in defending the run. K’Waun Williams continues to be the wild card for the unit. Facing a guy like Mallett (who has not started a game in the NFL), I would figure the secondary can steal two passes or more – it is just a matter of who will do it.

Special Teams: Should Browns’ fans expect only fair catches from here on out? Perhaps the elements could dictate that, but it’s becoming evident that Jim Leonhard is the only guy the coaching staff trusts right now. I wouldn’t mind that during the extra few days, the staff had a tryout for other returners but time will tell. Not a whole lot to say about other special team units – they have been reliable and consistent. I do not see why that should not continue.

Coaching: The visiting team will likely utilize a more conservative game plan with their new quarterback. Thus the run defense must be focused on by Pettine and O’Neil – taking that away from their opponent is critical. Offensively, it should be more ground and pound to set up deeper heaves.

Prediction (My Record: 6 – 3): I like the Browns to come out strong, falter a bit, but regain the lead and hold on against the Texans. The running game ices a huge win, and the Browns go 7 – 3 following a 27 – 20 victory.

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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in NFL Season


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The Next Quarter: Looking at Games 9 to 12

The Next Quarter:  Looking at Games 9 to 12

Continuing our Preview of the 2014 Browns Regular Season

A Look into the Third Quarter of the Campaign: Games 9 -12

At this point of the regular season, coaches (and fans) should pretty much know what to expect from the Browns on a weekly basis.  More often than not, amidst a putrid season, the Browns have faltered in late games.  Let’s hope that’s not the case in 2014, and the team continues for a rare successful year.  Unlike games five through eight, these are primarily on the road – but I would not count the Cleveland Browns out of these contests just yet.

Thursday, November 6th – @ Cincinnati

Known for sloppy play in recent history, it’s hard to believe that the nation will be extremely excited for the Thursday night battle between the Ohio foes.  Fans vividly remember the Browns’ game last year, where both starting quarterbacks had major injuries and Brandon Weeden finished out the victorious contest.  I’m looking forward to the Browns breaking whatever hex there is at Paul Brown Stadium, but that is a tall order.  It may take a huge effort – by the defense or maybe even Johnny Manziel.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 3

Sunday, November 16th – vs. Houston

In the first of three games that can go either way, I like that this contest is at First Energy Stadium.  A lot of new faces will be on the roster for the guests.  Can Jadeveon Clowney become that bookend star opposite J.J. Watt?  There’s a good opportunity for that to occur, but on the other side of the ball I’m one for betting against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage.  A great deal of carries should be given to former Texan Ben Tate this contest.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 5

Sunday, November 23rd – @ Atlanta

I firmly believe 2013 was an aberration for the Falcons, who have a tremendous roster – injuries led to their downfall and a multitude of losses.  This appears to be an extremely difficult matchup for the Browns and should feature several touchdowns.  I am pulling for Joe Haden and the secondary to force a few errant throws by Matt Ryan. There’s a good probability that doing so might be the only way the visitors have a chance to leave the Georgia Dome (for the final time) with a win.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 4

Sunday, November 30th – @ Buffalo

An annual matchup between defending cellar dwellers (of their respective divisions), the Browns once again face the Bills.  This time Mike Pettine will be on the sidelines of the orange and brown, but with the number of changes that occur annually in the NFL it’s going to be difficult to believe he will have intimate knowledge of his former defense.   Both rosters appear to be improved from last season and another tight contest should be expected.  Current odds of victory (1-10): 6

Conclusion:  Outside of the nationally televised contest to start this stretch, I am firmly on the fence (at least right now) in terms of the Browns winning games.  Things could become clearer in the near future – i.e. hot streaks, injuries, etc. – but I am far from guaranteeing anything.  It’s safe to say that while all contests in the NFL are important (specifically intra-divisional matchups); securing winnable ones are huge building blocks.  That is exactly the scenario for the Browns during games nine through twelve.

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in NFL Season


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