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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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Updating the Cleveland Browns

Updating the Cleveland Browns

The Latest News Coming from Cleveland

Well, there are other things going on in the world of sports – outside of the NBA Finals.  The Browns are making moves both by acquisition and departure, hopefully they were the correct ones.  Meanwhile, a possible issue could be looming for one of the team’s better players.

The Trade (Heard Round the World?)

I am being a tad facetious when I mention the swapping of underachieving athletes between the Browns and the Jets.  The Browns sent linebacker Demario Davis to his former club and agreed to take Calvin Pryor (the former first round safety from the University of Louisville).  I am hoping that Pryor can fill in at the strong safety role for the orange and brown – while rookie Jabril Peppers plays a hybrid linebacker/safety role.  It’s a boom or bust proposition made by the Brown; a gamble I would prefer over Demario Davis.

Potential Contract Dispute?

It will be interesting to determine whether running back Isaiah Crowell will be on the roster for several more years or just though the 2017 campaign.  The veteran signed a restricted free agent tender a couple months ago, guaranteeing his spot on the club this year.  What will happen after this occurs?  The Browns have Duke Johnson and newly acquired Matthew Dayes to compete at the running back position.  I would venture that the team would add another talented runner to this group if they wanted to get rid of Crowell.  I would prefer the team keeps the veteran on this team, but that is the nature of the business – anywhere the team can upgrade, they should do it.

Latest Release

Before he could even put the pads on and get ready for training camp, Tyvis Powell was let go by the orange and brown.  Personally, I would have liked for him to compete on the gridiron to see what will be the best combination of safeties for this franchise.  However, the team did not agree with me and they will go the other direction.  I sincerely hope that Derrick Kindred and Ed Reynolds step up and provide solid play at that position.  Anything similar to what we saw in 2016 and the Browns are in trouble this fall.

Conclusion:  There were some under the radar rumblings for the Cleveland NFL franchise at this point in the season.  I firmly believe they will be improved from a year ago – but am far from confident that they are making all the correct decisions.  Hopefully the team has taken to the new leadership (especially on defense) and fans will see an up close difference during next month’s practices.

 

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Training Camp and What I Saw – Cleveland Browns

Training Camp and What I Saw – Cleveland Browns

Sight and Sounds from Training Camp

I recently traveled west to Berea and watched the Cleveland Browns training camp practice – for the first time in nine years. During that time frame, the franchise has gone though a number of changes; most notably the countless number of personnel. I would like to believe they are on the path towards greatness in 2016; however there is still a great deal of work that has to be done before success is accomplished. What happened during practice? I’ll fill you in below:

More “Team” Practicing

This relates to witnessing more eleven versus eleven on the football field – it should be fairly obvious, but the best way to get better is to simulate game situations. I understand positional group practicing is important (especially for technique tips and improvements), but going head to head is important. The fact that coach Jackson had multiple situations like this makes me feel a little better about this team’s chances this fall. Hopefully this translates to better learning and execution during games.

Larger Guys

I don’t know if I am getting smaller or if Browns players are getting bigger, but standing up close to a few guys – I have noticed that the Browns have quite a bit of large individuals. Josh Gordon, Terrelle Pryor, and Shon Coleman (to name a few) definitely have the physical abilities to play in the league – it is another story as to whether they can compete each and every play with their counter parts. 

Coaching is Present

In the midst of the day’s first eleven on eleven portion, head coach Hue Jackson (loudly) corrected Cody Kessler under center. While the athlete did not particularly like to hear this, it should set him up for expectations in the future. I believe Jackson can continue to mentor the young guys and work to instill the correct work habits, techniques, and mindset to become excellent football players.

Conclusion: Not surprisingly, the amount of contact was not abundantly clear during the Browns’ training camp I recently went to. However, the drills appear to help with tackling (using an inflatable wheel teaching to wrap up) and other vital skills that appear to be lost in today’s NFL. It’s still too early to make a final prediction for this season’s record – but this remains the optimistic season and Hue Jackson and company at least provide more faith than his last few predecessors.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in NFL Season

 

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The Calm Before the Storm: Cleveland Browns’ News

The Calm Before the Storm:  Cleveland Browns’ News

More News About the Browns 

There are just two more days until the Browns season finally(unofficially) kicks off! A pair of information nuggets surrounding the orange and brown recently came out; how they affect the team remains to be seen however. Hopefully the team was able to upgrade at one position, will they at another very soon?

Nick Hayden Inked

Well the Browns finally picked up a veteran defensive lineman to replace the injured Desmond Bryant. Free agent Nick Hayden was acquired to provide leadership to a young group upfront. He is not known for his pass rushing ability, so he will largely figure to be a factor on early downs. Hopefully he can prevent longer runs by opponents on the edge. I do not anticipate a great deal from Hayden, however (at least) mediocre play while allowing a rookie to come in and take the reins as the five-technique spot (i.e. Carl Nassib) would easily suffice.

That Gordon Guy 

The wide receiver who had a bunch of yardage three years ago (on a bad team) was recently back in the news – by speaking with the commissioner. On Monday, the suspended star was actually be reinstated into the NFL; under the condition he will still be suspended the first four games of the season.  As a Browns’ fan, I am waiting for his next slip and and am ready to move on. Will Corey Coleman, Rashard Higgins, and Andrew Hawkins be a feared receiving trio in this league? That is unlikely – especially in 2016 – but one thing is certain; they will be available to play all year long (barring injury). The Browns do not need yet another distraction this upcoming season. Plus isn’t getting kicked out of college, in addition to NFL suspensions in 2013, 2014, and 2015 (and now 2016) enough?  If the Browns can get something in return for the troubled wide out, would be a huge coup (though extremely unlikely).

Third Stringer (or Not?)

A bit has been made about Terrell Watson, the larger running back that coach Hue Jackson signed from his former employer – the Cincinnati Bengals. His upbringing has been documented, being given up by his teenage mother to be raised by his grandparents. It appears that Watson is ok with what happened and persevered though that and with learning disabilities. Last year, the rookie runner was on the practice squad; can he make the leap in 2016? Perhaps his personal over comings can translate onto the football field, but he will have to steal opportunities from either Duke Johnson or Isaiah Crowell. Another option is that he could unseat Malcolm Johnson at the fullback position – while not exactly glamorous, it could lead to the opportunity to stick with an NFL club.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in NFL Season, Training Camp

 

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2016 Training Camp: Defensive Competitions

2016 Training Camp: Defensive Competitions

Training Camp Battles:  Defense

In the second part of our two-part series, we switch to the other side of the ball and focus on the defense.  This unit has nowhere to go but up, as they were either ranked last or near last in several categories in 2015.  Thus, the victor in a few competitions for playing time must be head and shoulders above the guy he is replacing from a season ago.

Outside Linebackers:  Armonty Bryant severely cost himself this season, with his four-game suspension to begin this September.  If many guys on the outside linebacker spots perform well in camp, the veteran might be released following his mandated time off.  That said, the Browns have Paul Kruger, Nate Orchard, Barkevious Mingo, and Emmanuel Ogbah as a few worthy members who will man the outside linebacker roles.  Mingo has fallen out of favor (for me and many others), so if the other three can provide a steady rotation – then perhaps this can become a reliable unit for the Browns.

Inside Linebackers:  Christian Kirksey is the lone remaining man in the middle from a season ago.  I would venture to say that he will be a starter once again in 2016, but who will join him?  Free agent acquisition Demario Davis is the likely choice.  Joe Schobert and Scooby Wright will more than likely begin their professional career on special teams (provided they make the final cuts).  However, if one can excel at a single thing (pass coverage, pass rush, etc.), then they might be on the field sooner rather than later.  Justin Tuggle, the free agent pickup appears to be a long shot for playing time.

Safeties:  Turnover was in full force for the safety position after last year’s disappointment.  Ibraheim Campbell is looking to fill the void (left by Whitner and Gipson) at one spot; will Jordan Poyer become the other full-time starter?  Rahim Moore was brought in this offseason – and with his poor 2015 outing, he will have something to prove in Cleveland.  There have also been rumors that former cornerback Pierre Desir could be shuffled to safety this campaign. Coach Horton needs to find guys who can support the run and stay with their man on passing situations (neither of which occurred in 2015).

Defensive Line: John Hughes and Danny Shelton are the favorites as starters for this defensive line.  However, the key decision will be who will be putting in time as a reserve.  Carl Nassib, Jamie Meder, and Xavier Cooper will be attempting to get some opportunities upfront.  I would like to say that the Browns finally have depth at their defensive line – however they must play up to their capabilities in order for this to occur.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in NFL Season, Players, Training Camp

 

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2016 Training Camp: Competition Among Teammates – Offense

2016 Training Camp: Competition Among Teammates – Offense

Training Camp Battles: Offense

Well the calendar has flipped, and it is finally July – the same month that training camp starts for the Cleveland Browns!  Granted, it might not commence for several weeks – but it is never too soon to start looking at several position groups that need sorted out before the first regular season game in Philadelphia.  In the first of our two-part series, we take a look into the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback:  The most important position in football (and probably all of sports) is all but Robert Griffin’s to lose.  Though coach Jackson will not admit to it publicly, he will be the man under center to begin the regular season.  There have been conflicting media reports about Griffin play during minicamp, nonetheless training camp is his time to shine.  I would hope he can separate himself from Josh McCown and rookie Cody Kessler in these practice sessions.  Doing so would help give me a little bit more faith headed into the regular season campaign.  Cody’s time will come, but not in September 2016.

Right Tackle:  The departure of Mitchell Schwartz can either loom largely or not at all over the orange and brown this fall.  That is dependent on the play of his successor; which raises the question, whom will it be?  Alvin Bailey (a veteran) appears to have a leg up over rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman.  However, the youngsters might get their opportunity to unseat Bailey in the starting lineup. One thing is certain – protecting the quarterback and walling off defenders is vital for this offense to have any type of success.

Wide Receiver:  Well, someone’s got to catch the football for this offense.  Veterans Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel will get first crack at fitting into the starting roles – however, their final roster spot is still not guaranteed.  A pair of rookies might be out on the field to start game one – possibly Corey Coleman and Rashard Higgins. Terrelle Pryor has been getting praise from his offensive coaches; it will be very interesting to see where he ends up on the depth chart.

X-Factor:  This can go a myriad of ways.  The first is utilizing Duke Johnson as a slot receiver, while Isaiah Crowell is lined up at running back – giving defenses something to think about.  The second is the capability of Corey Coleman and what kind of spark he can provide to this offense.  Finally, rookie Seth DeValve is a large receiving option and could present mismatches on the field – especially when paired up with Gary Barnidge at tight end.  I am eager to see what Hue has up his sleeve for this offense.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Offseason, Players, Training Camp

 

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What Now for the Browns?

What Now for the Browns?

Latest Updates from Berea

The news cycle continues to go on during this period of OTAs for the Cleveland Browns.  The transactions persist for the team, much to the chagrin of some veterans.  However, when a team laden with older players fails miserably – it should come to no surprise that younger athletes will likely be brought in as replacements the following season. Speaking of which, it would appear that getting to know their predecessors is a good thing for these young men. This is especially the case, as those elder athletes got to the playoffs and performed at a high level game in and game out.

Release of Hartline

Veteran wide receiver Brian Hartline was let go by the Cleveland Browns last week in a move that was not completely surprising. Looking at what the team has been doing over the past few months – youth has been a big factor (especially at skilled positions).  Brian simply did not fit that mold with this team, and the fact that the Browns drafted four wide outs did not help things either.  Could his veteran leadership have helped out the wide receiving unit?  Sure, but more production on the field was needed from the athlete as well.  Like many other guys who are moving on from the orange and brown – I wish him good luck and have no ill will towards the athlete.

Alumni on Hand

It was a solid move to have former players on hand during the OTAs for the Cleveland Browns. Hanford Dixon, Felix Wright, and (gasp) Bernie Kosar were in attendance talking to today’s team. For about thirty-one franchises, doing this is not a big deal and a typical thing done by squads in the NFL. However, it seems to be a problem for the Browns, especially with their frosty relationship with their former quarterback in the 1980s and 90s. Perhaps this is the olive branch that was needed to link the old teams (the ones who actually had success) to the current crop. Will it lead to future success for the orange and brown? Who knows, but I will take whatever positive karma is out there for this club.

Time off for Thomas

The veteran days off for Joe Thomas appear to be a hot button for the Cleveland media. I frankly do not have a problem with it, but I understand where it could cause problems within the locker room.  Face it, everyone would like some time off once in a while.  Maybe if the team is in a playoff push (I understand that’s unlikely, but I can dream) – perhaps Thomas can put on a good face and give his all each and every practice. At the end of the day, having Thomas available and reliable (each game) is what matters for this franchise, however.

Conclusion: It’s almost the down time for the Browns; that period between mini camps and training camps. Hopefully the team is getting up to speed and learning what Hue Jackson is all about. Rookies like Jordan Payton (still in classes) have been hurt by not practicing, but they can still make up for that in the coming months. Not hearing about idiots failing drug tests or going on benders in Las Vegas the next few months will be refreshing this season.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Offseason, Players, Training Camp

 

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