August 26, 2014

Browns poor preseason doesn’t guarantee regular season failure

Rams Browns

There’s nothing concrete that I can point to that will make Browns fans feel any better heading into the final preseason game and then Week 1′s contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team has performed badly and it would appear that they’re completely unprepared to start the season. It would appear that this Browns’ preseason is worse than last year. A year ago, Brandon Weeden and company looked good for two games before faltering in the third game and sitting out the fourth. This year’s Browns have struggled for three straight games as Brian Hoyer and the Browns have looked mostly horrendous. All that said, I haven’t given up hope just yet and I feel like I want to provide a calm message with this team right now. [Read more...]

Browns Preseason Game 3: Winners and Losers

WinnersLosers_WFNY

So are we concerned yet? For the third week in a row, the Cleveland Browns were bettered by their preseason opponents. For the third week in a row, the offense left plenty to be desired. And for the third week in a row, the quarterback situation—despite a starter having been named—remains as a point of scrutiny. Let’s dig in to the winners and loser of the Browns’ Week 3 dress rehearsal.

LOSER: Brian Hoyer. If you just looked at the box score, you may be impressed by a 10-of-16 showing. But if you watched the game, especially from within the confines of FirstEnergy Stadium, you’re well aware that much of the 84 yards that were credited to Hoyer came on passes into the flat. The interception he threw into the middle of the field, with Miles Austin as the intended receiver, was ugly. Had Alec Ogletree not picked it off, one of the other blue jerseys in the area would have. Fans better hope that this is just a vanilla offense that isn’t showing much before the Week 1 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If this is a sign of things to come, look out. [Read more...]

Preseason Game 3 Preview: Cleveland Browns vs. St. Louis Rams

Hoyer Pass 140726

Even after last Monday night’s lackluster passing performances by Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, head coach Mike Pettine called for an end to the quarterback competition, naming Hoyer the starter. Whether you believe the he “won” the job rather than had it handed to him, only one thing seemed clear: Manziel is not ready to start week one. While re-watching the game, the thing that struck me about Hoyer was his ability to stand in the pocket, go through his reads, and deliver the ball.

Against the St. Louis Rams, the opposing offenses must focus on neutralizing the pass rushers and staying in the pocket. However, with Robert Quinn and Chris Long rushing from the outside while Aaron Donals and Michael Brockers come up the middle, standing tall against the rush is a daunting task.

[Read more...]

Like Cam Newton in 2011, its Open (pre) Season on Johnny Manziel

Manziel draft

It is officially open season on Johnny Manziel. Go ahead. Take your shots. Shoot your takes. Everyone else is doing it. He’s a petulant child. He is too entitled. His attitude needs to change. He parties too much and values his personal life more than his honing his craft. We’ve heard it all.

By now you know that the Browns lightning rod of a rookie Quarterback lost the latest QB derby to Brian Hoyer, who will take the reins and lead the team into Pittsburgh on September 6.  ((I still maintain this was their plan all along.)) Hoyer will play those first three games, most likely start 0-3 or 1-2 and then turn things over to JFF after the Week 4 bye—Week 7, against Jacksonville (and both Steelers games in the rear view mirror) at the latest.

Neither guy has been good. Hoyer was the lesser of two evils and the veteran who Head Coach Mike Pettine clearly has an affinity for. Manziel didn’t do enough on the field, didn’t help himself off the field or allegedly in the locker room, and boom: Johnny Football is now Johnny Clipboard. [Read more...]

The Curse of Paul Warfield — A loving look at a 45-year slump: Reliving Yesteryear

photo4

Our gazes remained fixed, for an extra moment. As he began to realize, my trivia question wasn’t merely rhetorical.

“Rocky Colavito to Detroit, for Harvey Kuenn. April 17, 1960.” His countenance had morphed into a half-smile/furrowed brow combo. He was clearly thinking: “You’re really coming at me with the easy, ‘what’s the worst trade in Cleveland history?’”

[Read more...]

Through all the offensive woes, the Browns defense stands strong

Browns vs Redskins goal line stand

Johnny Manziel versus Brian Hoyer. This battle has been the talk of Cleveland and the focus of national media—”Johnny Manziel and the Browns!” Seemingly every Browns-related story has been about the quarterback competition or the offensive woes that find the team struggling to find the end zone. But through all of these other story lines, the Browns defense has really shown itself to be a potential top-ranked unit in the NFL. [Read more...]

Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and the undelivered quarterback mandate

Hoyer Pass 140726

Brian Hoyer has been named the starter for the Cleveland Browns as they head one step closer toward the start of the regular season. If you really think about it, it’s not all that surprising. The Browns basically named Brian Hoyer the starter heading into camp. Basically. Nearly. Almost. Not quite. In a lot of ways, Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan would have made their lives infinitely easier if they had just gone that next step and named Hoyer the starter back when the veterans reported for camp, but they seemed to want someone to prove it. That’s understandable.

[Read more...]

Making the cases for Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer as starter

Manziel and Hoyer

Neither Johnny Manziel nor Brian Hoyer have won the Cleveland Browns quarterback job. You can make the case for either quarterback at this point, mostly because you can’t make a good case for either. Rather than haggle over who gets to plant their flag in the rotting soil that has become the Browns’ QB depth chart, I figured I would just make the case for both guys so we can skip the part where we argue about it. In the end, the only thing I’m sure of is that the Browns need to name someone the starter for week one so whoever it is can be the best prepared they can be.
[Read more...]

Browns Preseason Game 2: Winners and Losers

WinnersLosers_WFNY

Oof. Entering Monday night the quarterback competition was really up for grabs, and unfortunately for Browns fans, neither quarterback took the opportunity to win the job.

You know the drill. It’s time for Winners and Losers.

WINNER: Armonty Bryant. The Michael Lombardi seventh-round gamble is having as good a showing in these preseason games as anyone. Bryant earned some time with the starting unit with his performance against the Lions and made the most of his chance on Monday night. He got a sack and put pressure on the QB on at least one other occasion.

WINNER: Phil Taylor and the run defense. Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Billy Winn and John Hughes were all big against the run. Taylor swam and ripped past his blocker on several occasions and just blew up the play. He caused the fumble by Alfred Morris even if he didn’t hit him. And how about the goal-line stand? Morris had four chances from three yards out and the Browns stuffed him. This is not a back that gets stuffed very often. He’s a big back with a low center of gravity—a 224-pound wrecking ball—and the Browns stoned him four times. [Read more...]

Preseason Game 2 Preview: Cleveland Browns v. Washington Redskins

Hoyer Pass2 140726

With one game in the books, the Browns learned some good things (Joel Bitonio, Chris Kirksey, John Hughes all looked great), some bad things (May God help us if we have to play any backup offensive lineman), and took one step closer to deciding on a quarterback. On Tuesday, after Monday night’s game against the Washington, Mike Pettine will reportedly announce who wins the starting position between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Opinions on the matter are plentiful, but this game will provide the coaches the final piece of evidence as to who should start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week one of the regular season.

On the defensive side, Justin Gilbert will be able to showcase his abilities in a game for the first time in a Browns uniform. As a precaution, he was held out the first preseason game, but expect him to play early and often as three Cleveland cornerbacks, Buster Skrine, Pierre Desir, and Isaiah Trufant, did not travel with the team and will not play.

Coach Mike Pettine will use this as the second game in which he will give those on the roster bubble as possible cuts the chance to showcase their abilities. Often, teams use the third preseason game as an opportunity to play the starters a long period of time, giving them a feel for the length and speed of a true NFL regular season game. Because teams must cut their rosters from 90 to 75 players after the third game, the second, and upcoming game, will provide them a platform to play those in danger of being a casualty of the mandatory 15 player cut. [Read more...]

Cleveland Browns Position Battles: Where Things Stand

hoyer and manziel

As we head into the final three days of training camp for the Browns, the position battles have progressed quite a bit. The team has played in one preseason game versus the Detroit Lions and are preparing for their second game on Monday against RG3 and the Washington Redskins.

The biggest battle this preseason continues to be the one at quarterback, but there are many other battles that could determine the direction of the team. The competitions have developed a lot since the beginning of camp. Let’s take a look at where we stand with each one of the position battles we outlined at the beginning of training camp.

[Read more...]

Karlos Dansby appears to be as advertised: Training Camp Notes 08.12.14

Photo1

It wasn’t one of those really action-packed days at camp today. Not a ton of “oohs and ahs” in the crowd. Still, there were some things of note.

I love watching Karlos Dansby play linebacker…

There wasn’t a specific highlight or anything, but I’m enjoying watching first-year Brown Karlos Dansby play. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time. We’ll know soon if he’s still young, athletic and explosive enough to be a difference-maker for real, but everything I’ve read about this defense says that like G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” Dansby really seems to have that instinct to be in the right place and at the right time where he occasionally blasts into the backfield to get a runner behind the line of scrimmage. I don’t know if that’s just practice or whether that’s an advantage for real, but I’m looking forward to seeing him suit up this Monday against the Redskins to see. [Read more...]

Grading Manziel vs. Hoyer: Still Too Close to Call

hoyer and manziel

The Cleveland Browns finally had their chance to play someone other than their fellow teammates. What many fans are watching, however, is the battle within the team as Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer both look to claim the team’s starting quarterback role.

On Saturday, both quarterbacks played about a quarter-and-a-half—or three-to-four offensive drives. Each player had his share of ups and downs during their time under center with the team finishing drives throughout the game, only making four field goals. As we will throughout the rest of the preseason, here’s WFNY’s breakdown of the performances of both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel in their first game in the battle for the starting quarterback job. [Read more...]

Browns Preseason Game 1: Winners and Losers

WinnersLosers_WFNY

With the first weekend of preseason football in the books, we learned some thing about the outlook of the 2014 Browns, both positive and negative, but many important questions remain unanswered. The difficulty of the preseason remains that no one truly knows whether certain players are flashes in the pan or can be counted on in the regular season. But, this is the first opportunity to watch football since January, so overreactions are abundant and to be expected. I’ll try to avoid reactionary instincts, but when you’ve been trying to analyze pictures of your players to gauge whether or not they are engaging in illicit activities in a bathroom, finally being able to evaluate their actions feels like a blessing. Without rambling any further, lets get into the winners and losers of preseason Week 1.

[Read more...]

Kruger Questions Our Dedication: Training Camp Notes: 08.11.14

Gilbert Skrine

The Browns were back on the practice field Monday morning after an off day Sunday. The offense wore the orange winner’s jerseys for just the second time in camp, presumably for a competition won during Friday’s practice and not the preseason loss to the Lions.

The practice started and stayed outdoors, despite the rain that was heavy at certain points during practice. A security guard quipped that the previous two coaching staffs wouldn’t have even started outside. As Mike Pettine would say after practice, “sometimes it rains”. The staff wanted to see the team handle the less than ideal conditions.

As the team went through warm-ups and position drills at the beginning of practice the skies opened up. The majority of the media (myself included) were under the tents by the entrance to the facility waiting the period out before having to venture into the elements when the team gathered for 11-on-11 work. Veteran Paul Kruger ran back to the locker room for something and joked to the media huddled under the tents that if we were really dedicated, we’d be out in the rain looking for the best vantage point to watch. Fair enough Paul.

The rain slowed and eventually seemed to disappear, though the sun never made an appearance. [Read more...]

Johnny Manziel ahead in QB race? I want to see more, but I’m patient

johnny manziel podium

Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Lions wasn’t really anything to write home about. The excitement over Browns football carried me through and I really only want to see the good things. I want to ignore the Browns giving up chunks of yardage to Matthew Stafford and the great field position they gave up on special teams. It’s a pre-season flaw most of us have. Because “it doesn’t mean anything,” we only derive what we’re pre-disposed to want to derive.

All that said, the real takeaway for me from the game is that I’m excited to see more of Johnny Manziel, but just like I was going into the game, I’m willing to wait a bit.

[Read more...]

Preseason Game 1 Preview: Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions

GLC Barge

Rookies and a revamped offense: What we are watching during Week 1 of the NFL Preseason

Football in Cleveland is back and once again, the Browns have brought in a new regime. On Saturday, the Detroit Lions will host new Head Coach Mike Pettine and the new-look Cleveland Browns. Gone are Rob Chudzinski, Joe Banner, and the vertical passing game. In comes Kyle Shanahan and the zone run, play-action pass offense. Brandon Weeden, Willis McGahee, D’Qwell Jackson have been upgraded to Johnny Manziel, Ben Tate, and Karlos Dansby. Given the change in scheme and turnover in personnel at key positions, the preseason is of utmost importance.

[Read more...]

Gilbert, Desir and veteran additions give Browns depth in secondary

photo3

Pierre Desir has an incredible backstory. Born in Haiti, Desir found himself a standout athlete with a pregnant girlfriend at age 15. He didn’t back away from his responsibilities, and went to small Lindenwood University while he took care of his wife and family, including working part time jobs that included removing human feces.

Despite being handed life lesson after life lesson, the tall, lanky cornerback has had much to learn coming to the NFL after being selected by the Clevland Browns in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

[Read more...]

Manziel Runs with the Ones: Training Camp Notes 08.06.14

johnny manziel podium

Johnny Manziel took all the first team reps on Wednesday, even though after practice Mike Pettine announced that Brian Hoyer would start the first preseason game on Saturday against the Lions. During Manziel’s first 11-on-11 session, the team mostly worked the running game, but he did make a few throws including a big gainer to Andrew Hawkins. Manziel also led his unit to a score in 9-on-9 format, connecting again with Hawkins for a big gain on the drive.

Brian Hoyer didn’t exactly shine with the second unit on Wednesday as he threw an interception to end his 9-on-9 series when a low pass bounced off the receiver and landed in K’Waun Williams’ hands. Both quarterbacks were given two series at the end of practice to work an 11-on-11 red zone offense session. The only touchdown of the four series came on Manziel’s first series when he found tight end Jim Dray in the end zone. Hoyer had five completions and only one miss, but his throws were underneath and both drives stalled short of the end zone.

[Read more...]

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Special Teams

Travis Benjamin

Training Camp is in its second week and the preseason is just a couple of days away. To this point, we have gone through every position in the WFNY’s State of the Browns series. The last group we will look at in this weekly look is the special teams.

The special teams unit is a very important group and could be a difference maker in any game. Last season, the team had an average year in both the kicking and punting. The Browns had trouble finding a kick returner, playing multiple players at this spot. The brightest spot of the special teams was punt returner Travis Benjamin, but halfway through the season, the Miami product sustained a season-ending injury. The team hopes he can come back healthy and be their mainstay at returner. Let’s take a look at the state of the Browns special teams unit. [Read more...]