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What’s New for the Browns?

What’s New for the Browns?

Latest Browns News and Notes

This is pretty much the slowest time of year in the NFL offseason. However, the Cleveland Browns are still making news – albeit nothing earth shattering.  Let’s take an in-depth peek into a few happenings with the professional franchise located in northeast Ohio.

Josh McCown Mentorship

Recently the veteran quarterback for the Browns said he is excited for an opportunity to mentor a young quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. This is refreshing, as it is more than likely that a signal caller will be selected with the second overall choice in this year’s draft.

It’s a shame, as McCown was more than ready to take this role last year – but the young guy (in position to start) had too many demons that overshadowed his playing and led to his impending departure from the franchise.  While McCown is not a Hall-of-Fame quarterback; he is still a brilliant guy who has been in the league for many years.  Although he does not possess everything required to be a franchise quarterback, he knows what it takes to become one.  I anticipate he will convey wisdom with the newcomer, and I hope that the rookie can develop exponentially from the veteran as well as Hue Jackson (who knows his way around quarterbacks).

Mack Still Undecided

It’s pretty interesting to hear that the possible free agent-to-be continues to push back his deadline to make a decision whether he will opt out of his current contract with Cleveland Browns.  I still have the belief that he will not be donning orange and brown one way or another, but perhaps Hue Jackson can work his magic to keep the center.  Despite being one of the best centers in the NFL, he will seek nearly nine million dollars per season going forward; the Browns need to utilize their assets on more at positions that can affect the game as opposed to a guy snapping the football.

Guys to Lock Up

There are several members of the 2015 Browns whose contracts will expire next month.  However there are only two who I feel it is vital the team keeps around for several years; Mitchell Schwartz and Travis Benjamin.

With Mack likely gone, it is important that the Browns not create another hole along their offensive line.  I understand that the unit underwhelmed last season but have confidence that they will bounce back this fall (even with Cameron Erving at center).  The new coaching staff alone should help getting more out of the players than what their predecessors were able to do.

If Josh Gordon can come back to this roster, and the team drafts a Josh Doctson or Michael Thomas early in the NFL Draft – then Travis Benjamin would make a solid third receiving option.  The status of Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel with the team is up in the air, as both were injured and underproductive last season.  There will no doubt be turnover with the wide receiving corps, but they must retain a veteran or two (including Brian Hartline) – especially with Gordon being a bad decision away from exiting the league.

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Posted by on February 26, 2016 in Offseason, Players

 

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Yay! The Browns Finally Won!!

Yay!  The Browns Finally Won!!

What Happened – 49ers @ Browns – Game #13

Well it was exactly what the doctor orders for the Cleveland Browns. The defense had nine sacks, the running backs found the end zone twice, and Johnny Manziel made several plays under center. When the dust settled, the Browns manhandled the 49ers; despite hurting their draft position, I am glad to see that the orange and brown had this in them. Let’s delve into the victory.

Offense:

Quarterback – Outside of a problematic pass (and interception) Johnny Manziel had a stellar outing. He appears to have progressed and is finding multiple targets during the contest – which has been problematic for the young signal caller. The next three games he will face tremendous defenses, so the odds are he will not excel the rest of the campaign. However, this was a good win for the quarterback and I cannot complain.

Running Back – Who knew that Isaiah Crowell had it in him? The running back belted out several long runs and found pay dirt twice in this matchup. Granted they were not playing a stellar bunch, but I am excited to see him finally play well. Duke Johnson also made a couple of nice gains as well; the rookie back was active in the running and passing game. I am eager to see what he can do in the next few weeks. 

Wide Receiver – It looks like Brian Hartline was the guy for Manziel in this contest. The veteran had over 100 yards and was all over the field in this contest – however he left the game with an injury. That said, he has proven to be a reliable commodity for the Browns. Travis Benjamin was somewhat active as well – he should continue to help out this offense for the final three games.

Tight End – Gary Barnidge did what he normally does in 2015 – and that is scoring touchdowns. The tight end was superb in this contest and was the recipient of a tremendous touchdown in the second half. I am glad to see him with the team for many years (hopefully three) to come. My guy E.J. Bibbs saw some playing time, but was not targeted.

Offensive Line – The guys upfront were exceptional starting out and ending the contest. They were dominated a bit in the time between, but no one is perfect. Even Austin Pazstor had his issues at left guard – it is not just Cameron Erving who struggled at the spot. However the guys were good enough to give Johnny time, as well as lanes for Crowell and Johnson room to run. It could have been worse, so I will take it.

Defense: 

Defensive Line – It took facing a Browns castoff with a depleted offensive line, but the Browns finally shut down an opposing running back. O yeah, and the guys dominated at the point of attack. I was happy to see Xavier Cooper, Desmond Bryant, and Randy Starks all be effective in this meeting. They are not the best at what they do, but they can be called upon when needed. 

Linebacker – Nate Orchard had a pair of sacks, which Paul Kruger was solid in getting to the opposing signal caller. Barkevious Mingo was active but not anywhere near the action, he appears to not be needed for this roster. On the inside Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby were solid on occasions and that was good enough for this unit.

Secondary – Charles Gaines was toasted a few times in coverage, but he stuck it in there and was somewhat reliable late in this contest. Tramon Williams held his own as well – he was very close to multiple interceptions and was nearby opposition wide outs for the opposition. The safeties were not great but not pathetic easy – playing Blaine Gabbert made this game very easy for the secondary.

Special Teams: No big deal, just another blocked field goal by the Cleveland Browns. Other than that, the special teams played well. It was Danny Shelton who allowed pressure up the middle – they have got to take him away from the field goal unit.

Coaching: This game plan was what Pettine and company had envisioned all season long. Run the ball and stop the run – that occurred and the Browns won handily. This is not a consistent happening; but for this week I will take it. It’s now on to Seattle and a extremely tough game next week.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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Browns @ Bengals Outlook – Game #9

Browns @ Bengals Outlook – Game #9

Previewing the Browns @ Bengals – Game #9

The Browns now head to the second half of their schedule, and limp (somewhat literally) into their next game with two wins and six losses.  The ending of the most previous game was riddled with injuries and mistakes – and many, me included, would rather forget about the outcome.  Now they head south to Cincinnati to play the undefeated Bengals (that hurts typing that).  I anticipate more of the same for the orange and brown – but let’s still break it down.

Offense:

Quarterback – Josh McCown is bruised and battered, but still played all the way into the fourth quarter of last week’s game.  He is hoping to start, but I would bet that he would not finish the game.  That leads the way for Johnny Manziel to see some playing time (unless Pettine goes with Austin Davis).  Hopefully his debacle against the Bengals in 2014 will fuel him to a successful outing this year – it’s unlikely but there’s always a chance.  Realistically I expect more of the same from the Browns’ signal caller; a touchdown or two and a turnover or two.

Running Back – The veteran who everyone expected to steal the starting job faltered against the Cardinals.  Do the Browns go back to Robert Turbin?  Or will Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson prove to be the guys who can shoulder the load.  The frustration at the lack of a running attack has hit a new high, and I do not see this part of the team getting fixed any time soon.  Perhaps we should hope for those dump-offs to Duke Johnson and the long scampers thereafter.

Wide Receiver – Will Brian Hartline continue to be more involved in contests going forward?  Last week was a breakout performance by the veteran, but he still committed a few key drops.  I would hope that whoever is under center could get the ball to the wide out.  Travis Benjamin’s play has cooled greatly over the past few weeks – however that does not mean the team should avoid the speedster.  Perhaps he can be the reason why the offense excels on Thursday night.  I am not going to mention (by name) the high priced free agent who cannot record receptions for this team.

Tight End – Still no E.J. Bibbs for the Cleveland Browns.  Gary Barnidge went back to his productive ways (he even threw in a nice block in pass protection) last week, and I expect that to continue in Cincinnati.  Jim Dray is a solid tight end, but I want to see what the rookie can do on the field.  I wonder what will it take, clearly more than a Rob Housler injury, for the former Iowa State product to get into an NFL contest.  Who knows, maybe he can even make some plays for this offense.

Offensive Line – More of the same for the guys upfront in the run blocking; that is not meant to be a compliment.  The line has not made holes for any back this year.  It took a gimmick for Isiah Crowell to get more than one yard at a time (until the Cardinals prepared for the wildcat play).  It would be unreasonable for someone to think that this group can get their act together, but I still think they should keep Joe Thomas and Alex Mack around for the future.  Cameron Erving starting at right guard could be the shakeup that makes this group what many were expecting.

Defense:

Defensive Line – The positive from last week’s game is that the team did not surrender their usual 150 yards on the ground.  However, facing Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard might be a tough task and it’s likely that the Bengals will employ their running attack throughout the contest.  Armonty and Desmond Bryant each made a few nice plays last Sunday – that type of performance will be required once again to have a shot at knocking off their undefeated rival.

Linebacker – It would look as the edge pass rushers on this team are far from excelling at their jobs.  Quarterbacks have had ample time to pick apart this team and have been doing a fine job at it.  Maybe the Browns should switch the guys on the outside with the duo on the inside to see if Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby can get sacks off the corner (only slightly kidding).  The defense cannot keep doing what they have been doing and expect to see a respectable pass rush.

Secondary – Several injuries are depleting this part of the roster and allowing quarterbacks to embarrass the Browns’ corners and safeties. Ibraheim Campbell, Johnson Bademosi, and Pierre Desir are just a few of the guys who have come in and played following injuries to starters.  Being reserves and special teamers, they are playing at the level that one would expect.  Why shouldn’t the coaches try Justin Gilbert at this point?  I know he could be worse that what is out there – but it can’t be that much worse.

Special Teams:  Like most games in the NFL, this part of the game will be rather even and minimal to the outcome of the contest.  There might be one vital play in this contest – via a kick or a punt return, etc., but that appears to be unlikely in this matchup.

Coaching:  I am not sure what the coaches can formulate to win this meeting.  At least the Bengals are coming off of a tense and physical game in Pittsburgh, and hopefully they are drained.  The Browns’ staff must put the players in the best spots to succeed (including not trotting out injured signal callers).  Other than that, they just need to play smart football.

Prediction (My Record:  4-4):  This one is going to sting a bit for Browns’ fans, as they will falter once again this week to the tune of 31 -13.  Everyone will be calling for coaches, the general manager, and players to evacuate this franchise immediately – oh the joy of being a Browns fan!

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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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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Good Win for the Browns – Game 2 Recap

Good Win for the Browns – Game 2 Recap

Review of Titans @ Browns – Game #2 

Well, the Browns got out-gained by the rush and the pass and lost the time of possession battle – however there was more to the story. The home team played mistake-free football and came away with a huge win. It was up-and-down for the Browns, but they made the plays when it mattered most. Let’s review what 

Offense:

Quarterback – The coaching staff put Johnny Manziel in a spot to only toss shorter throws with a greater percentage of a completion. The second-year pro pretty much executed that game plan well, going eight of fifteen passes for 172 yards – toss in some timely deep touchdowns, and it was a solid outing. I don’t know if he will start next week, but he continues to display improvement.

Running Back – I was extremely glad to witness Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson finally resembles viable running backs this season. The duo combined to eclipse the one hundred mark on the ground, while Crowell’s touchdown was exceptional for the orange and brown offense. If they can keep it up, then the odds for this offense will be much greater. 

Wide Receiver – It was Travis Benjamin and that’s about it for the wide receiver corps. On Sunday, that was all home team needed in the passing game, as his two deep scores was the difference in the score. Andrew Hawkins also had three receptions, but totaled just forty-three yards. I look forward to seeing Brian Hartline contribute more in the passing game beginning next week.

Tight End – Gary Barnidge’s lone reception was the only bright spot for the tight end group – as least in the passing game. I recall seeing a couple of great blocks on the edge by Jim Dray, but that’s not going to be on any highlight reel. Hopefully this unit can make it easy on the quarterback by securing multiple grabs and moving the sticks regularly.

Offensive Line – I think the five guys (and sometimes six) upfront finally got a push. The Browns’ line finally paved the way for the running backs, while keeping the guy under center clean during drop backs. This appears to be the starting point of improvement by this group, should they get back to where they were in the middle of last season – then the sky is the limit for the offense.

Defense:

Defensive Line – Sacks, hits on the quarterback, and a fumble recovery? The Browns’ defensive line appears to have turned a corner. Many guys contributed to this game, not just rookie Danny Shelton. I was really glad Jamie Meder and Randy Starks get it going – whether being a younger athlete or an aging veteran, the team needs all hands on deck.

Linebacker – As far as impact is concerned, the guys in the middle were more impactful for the home team’s defense. Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson tallied to most and fourth most tackles with the team, while Chris Kirksey made some plays as well. I was a bit disappointed by Barkevious Mingo (a whiff on Mariota in the open field) – maybe things can change next week though. It would have been nice to see a guy in this unit actually cover a tight end, but they apparently refused to (maybe next week?)

Secondary – Joe Haden definitely bounced back from the season opener, as the veteran was always around the football and made a great fumble recovery. Tramon Williams looked like a viable starter as well in this matchup. Personally, I would have liked to see the safeties a bit more active in this contest (outside of a few stops by Donte Whitner). Perhaps they will be included more in the defensive game plan next week.

Special Teams: A punt return touchdown, several great punts, and great coverage – I would say the Cleveland Browns won the special teams battle. This type of domination should not be expected every week, but it was very great on Sunday. Just keep it up and there will be no complaints.

Coaching: This was a solid game plan by both sides of the ball. John DeFilippo limited Manziel’s passes and potential for a mistake, while Jim O’Neil put pressure on Marcus Mariota. Both worked out well and the Browns got to a 1 – 1 record. This was a great win, but the team still has miles to go to be great.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in NFL Season

 

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A Win is a Win…

A Win is a Win…

Browns @ Titans – Review of Game #4

Phew, that was a close, and a lucky, one but I will more than take it. Falling behind 28-3, it looked like the Browns were going to get steamrolled. However, the injury to Locker and some second-half touchdowns and the Browns came away with a huge victory. It was definitely a team effort – offense in the first half and the defense stepping up after halftime. Let’s review the dramatic victory…

Offense: Brian Hoyer does it again…another fourth quarter victory for the veteran. He threw his first interception of the season, but was also able to toss for three touchdowns. I expected Manziel to come in to the contest, but the Browns were playing well enough that it was not necessary. Despite missing a few plays, Hoyer made it count when it mattered…once again, I’ll take it.

It was an excellent comeback for veteran Ben Tate. Finishing with twenty-two carries for 123 yards, I was glad to see him return to action. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell finished with fifteen yards on thirteen carries – I haven’t lost faith in the rookies, but they came back to earth – in terms of playing well. I still believe they will get ample amounts of yards going forward however, especially with twelve games remaining.

I might be going on a limb here, but Taylor Gabriel might be the best receiver in this group. The undrafted rookie led the way with four grabs for ninety-five yards and made several huge plays. Miles Austin was next in line with only two grabs – however one an impressive, sideline snare. Once again, this unit has not been great, but good enough to win in the NFL. I was glad to see Jordan Cameron collect three receptions – he will be relied upon heavily down the road.

Brian Hoyer surrendered a sack early in this contest, however following that – the offensive line locked down and played tremendously. I had to rewind a few plays to show others the great blocking of Joel Bitonio; the rookie is making all of us believers. I am glad this offensive line maintains their stability; they have been like good referees. You don’t realize how good they are – until they are not. I cannot wait to see them go into battle the rest of the season.

Defense: For most of the game (once again) it was not a pretty effort by the defensive front, but they did enough to get it done. Paving the way was Armonty Bryant, who finished with six tackles, a sack, and a hit on the quarterback. Phil Taylor left the game in the second half – can Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn shoulder the load during the veteran’s absence? I sure hope so; but the defensive line still has miles to go until they become a respectable unit.

As far as linebackers go; none were terrible but also no athletes were dominant in this contest for the Browns. Karlos Dansby and Chris Kirksey combined for fifteen tackles – they were far from excellent but I will take it. Jabaal Sheard was the only linebacker who was able to get a sack for this defense – he has been underwhelming so far in the 2014 campaign but Sunday was a solid outing for the veteran. I believe the linebackers will continue to improve as the season progresses.

I don’t know what to make of the secondary; they have more than a disappointing unit thus far.   Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert simply cannot corral receivers – is K’Waun Williams the answer? The undrafted rookie had six tackles, a sack, and a pass defended in this contest. Granted the Titans did not scout for this athlete, but he made the most of his opportunity. I would like to see more of him going forward, but still believe Haden and Gilbert will vastly improve. The safeties were rather quiet, but both Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner were not beat regularly either.   On a scale of 1-10, I would give the secondary a 3 but feel great that number could easily be higher.

Special Teams: It was a wise move to remove Travis Benjamin as a punt returner. It took a turnover (which was negated with a penalty) to take him out, but Jordan Poyer seems to be better at that spot. The field goal unit played as expected, which is much better than the group did two weeks ago. Last game was an aberration, and I do not feel bad about any of the groups.

Coaching: While many second-guessed the two fourth down attempts (which failed), I stood by coach Pettine. The offense got another shot and Hoyer took advantage – finding the end zone. The coach might not get opportunities like that more often but for now, I cannot complain. It was a shaky (but needed) win, and now they must get back to business against the Steeelers at home.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2014 in NFL Season

 

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