April 20, 2014

Calling out the worst of all NFL draft clichés

2012 NFL Draft

Leading up to an NFL draft, there are a lot of hackneyed conversations that will drive a fan absolutely crazy. It seems that some fans want to rely on simplistic rules to simplify the NFL draft for themselves. It’s a coping mechanism to help deal with the fact that most fans have do not possess nearly enough information to truly decide what their team needs or how they should build for the future. It’s not an indictment of fans to not know, but it is an indictment for fans who pretend like they do.

Know what, exactly? It’s infuriating this time of year, but how many fans do you come across — at the bar, calling sports talk radio or on Twitter — who think of themselves as the only one qualified to run the war room of their favorite football team? Imagine every nugget of their “wisdom” being delivered with a confident, smug smile that says, “I just know I’m right.” Instead of looking at each team like a complex system that needs lots of different pieces, we get a lot of vague, simplistic misconceptions. And with that, here are my least favorite draft clichés.

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The Browns have a lot of money, so why not just spend it all?

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Even before we can get into what the Cleveland Browns should do with their numerous draft picks, we’ll start to get some clues about their goals this season by what they do with free agency. We’ve learned quite a bit already as the Browns made the decision to cut D’Qwell Jackson last week. The agent for Ahtyba Rubin indicated to the press that the Browns and their giant defensive lineman are on good terms, so unless he’s really playing a high stakes poker game, it appears Rubin won’t follow DQ52 out the door. The Browns are consistently linked to Bills free safety Jairus Byrd due to his connections to Mike Pettine in Buffalo. In addition, the Browns still haven’t finalized anything with either strong safety T.J. Ward, center Alex Mack, or even an early extension with cornerback Joe Haden. That’s a lot of moving pieces, but what should the team do? They’ve got lots of money available in cap space. Shouldn’t they just line them all up and pay everyone? Not necessarily.

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Are the Browns gearing to release Ahtyba Rubin?

Rubin

Just days after the Cleveland Browns released their team captain and leader in tackles in D’Qwell Jackson, reports are circulating that they may do the same with 27-year-old Ahtyba Rubin.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests that, with Rubin entering the final year of a four-year, $27.6 million contract, the defensive lineman’s  $8.175 million cap number may be a bit too much for a new front office to take on. Having a boat load of cap space, it is not as if the Browns are handcuffed in a financial sense, but they could save themselves $6.8 million against the cap by releasing Rubin, a former seventh-round selection who started 14 games at left end last season, tallying 52 tackles and two sacks.

Rubin’s best season arguably came in 2011 (then in Dick Jauron’s 4-3 defense), recording 82 tackles and five quarterback sacks, playing in all 16 games. The Browns, as discussed within a recent WFNY podcast, are rife with depth on the defensive line. If the team felt they could better utilize their funds, or that he is not a fit for their defense going forward, releasing Rubin would make sense. To say that the 330-pounder has—to borrow a phrase—”diminishing skills,” however, would be a vast understatement.

(Image: Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

For now, belief in Joe Banner overshadows Browns wins and losses

Joe BannerOne of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Cleveland Browns is that despite the losses on the field, I’m still very satisfied with the organizational structure that’s been built in Berea. The organizational structure they’ve put in place is by far the most comprehensive of any I can remember since 1999, and that starts at the top with CEO Joe Banner. I’ve said on a number of occasions that Joe Banner is likely the most qualified executive to ever be hired in Berea. After polling fans last week, it seems that my fellow fans are of the same opinion. Joe Banner had 47% of fans above the “No opinion” line and 84% were at least neutral or better overall. That really says a lot about the belief in an executive who has given Browns fans some very good sound bites and an on-field product with only four wins so far. And despite my continued criticisms of the won-loss record, I voted “Like him” at this point as well.

Despite the current optimism, the challenges awaiting Joe Banner this off-season are numerous. There are plenty of draft picks, including Indianapolis’ first rounder, that need to be chosen. Many fans will have a watchful eye on how the Browns handle their own free agents, namely T.J. Ward and Alex Mack. It’s very difficult to say just how good Mack and Ward are compared to what they’ll garner in their next contract, but it’s also very difficult to envision improving the Browns year-over-year while also allowing those two positions to become holes that need filling. [Read more...]

Browns defense disappointed following loss to Detroit Lions

IMG_20131013_164955_371The Browns came into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions with a top-10 rated defense, and more quarterback sacks than 30 other NFL teams. They ranked fourth in yards-per-game allowed and ninth in points allowed, and they were well on their way to padding those numbers heading into the locker room for halftime.

In the first half Detroit was just 2-for-7 in third-down conversions. They had 109 yards of total offense. For comparison sake, the Browns had 115 rushing yards alone. Detroit’s running backs were held to a 2.4 yards-per-carry average and Matthew Stafford had completed less than half his pass attempts. A single touchdown was all the Lions had on the board.

Three times in the first half the Lions went three-and-out. A fourth drive manged a single first down before another punt. In all they punted five times.

Which makes what happened in the second half that much harder to swallow.

After halftime ended, the Lions never punted. They scored three touchdowns and a field goal, and had a ball intercepted in the end zone. [Read more...]

Ahtyba Rubin to miss second-straight game with calf injury

The Cleveland Browns have declared Ahtyba Rubin, Brian Hoyer, MarQueis Gray, Martin Wallace, Shawn Lauvao, Armonty Bryant and Paul Hazel inactive for Week 2′s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Rubin injured his calf in the Friday practice before the team’s Home Opener loss to the Miami Dolphins. Billy Winn will start in Rubin’s place as the Browns front seven looks to replicate their successes against a division rival. Fellow second-year lineman John Hughes is also expected to see time. The two combined for five tackles during Week 1.

Strong safety TJ Ward, who was on the team’s injury report this week with a shoulder injury, is active.

[Related: Barkevious Mingo’s return Sunday can’t come soon enough]

NFL News: Mingo, Rubin among Browns’ inactives for game vs Dolphins

The Browns announced this morning that LB Barkevious Mingo, DL Ahtyba Rubin, QB Brian Hoyer, OL Shaun Lauvao, TE MarQueis Gray, OL Martin Wallace and LB Paul Hazel will be inactive for today’s opener against the Miami Dolphins.

Mingo is still recovering from a bruised lung. Ahtyba Rubin injured his calf during the week.

Buster Skrine is active and expected to play today.

[Related: No new deal for Alex Mack]

NFL Week 1 – Previewing the Dolphins vs. the Browns – WFNY Podcast – 2013-09-06

WFNY Podcast LogoWeek one is finally here! Craig and Andrew break down the matchup week one between the Cleveland Browns and the Dolphins.

Ravens vs. the Broncos
The value of Anquan Boldin
What do you make of the Dolphins?
Can the Browns come out and take care of business week one
Moving on after the departure of Reggie Bush
Browns leading by playing defense and running the ball  [Read more...]

NFL News: Ahtyba Rubin and Buster Skrine listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday

The Browns released their injury report Friday afternoon, and there was a new name on the list. Defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin did not participate in practice with a calf injury. Defensive back Buster Skrine was also listed as questionable with his shoulder injury.

Friday’s report:

- G Shaun Lavauo (ankle) OUT

- LB Barkevious Mingo (lung) OUT

- DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf) limited participation, QUESTIONABLE

- CB Buster Skrine (shoulder) limited participation, QUESTIONABLE

- DL Desmond Bryant (back) full participation, PROBABLE

- WR Davone Bess (knee) full participation, PROBABLE

- TE Jordan Cameron (groin) full participation, PROBABLE

- LB Eric Martin (foot) full participation, PROBABLE

- DB Chris Owens (foot) full participation, PROBABLE

- LB Jabaal Sheard (illness) full participation, PROBABLE

[Related: Barkevious Mingo ruled out for Sunday]

Do the Browns have too much unused salary cap space in 2013?

Joe BannerAs the Browns head toward their first pre-season game and we wonder who is going to win starting jobs at cornerback and safety, it’s worth looking at the Browns’ unused salary cap space for a minute. This available space is one of the more controversial topics among Browns fans. In a league that is rife with parity, is unused cap space a sign that a team is content with not putting the absolute best team on the field? Is there something else at work that might make sense as to why the team is being so thrifty right now? While I think those questions are important, I think there are some logical answers.

According to the latest figures from spotrac.com the Browns have somewhere in the neighborhood of $29.24 million in cap space available right now. It’s something less than that as their latest information doesn’t appear to account for John Greco’s latest deal for five years $13.2 million with $3 million guaranteed. So assume the Browns have somewhere around $25 million in cap space, give or take. Here are some potential expenses that I think have left the Browns looking conservative for now. [Read more...]

Browns defensive line is a deep, versatile group

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On Wednesday the Browns rotated five players into three positions on the defensive line with the starting group. They have used as many as seven different players in those spots over the course of the first week of practice.

Penciled in as starters are defensive ends Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin and nose tackle Phil Taylor. While Bryant has been out with back spasms second year end Billy Winn stepped in and has looked good as well. In the middle John Hughes has filled in for Phil Taylor. Brian Sanford and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen have also gotten reps with the ones and held their own.

Unlike say the tight end position, looking at the defensive line depth chart reveals plenty of experience and production. You can look on paper and see depth, but when you watch the Browns in practice, it jumps out at you. As a group they are quick and can be explosive off the ball. They are also quite versatile, and it starts with defensive end Ahtyba Rubin. Rubin has played inside and outside in his five years in the league. This year he will start on the outside, something he hasn’t done in a few years since playing for Rob Ryan. [Read more...]

NFL News – Nate Ulrich on Tebow coverage, Browns position battles, Josh Gordon suspension, contract extensions and more – WFNY Podcast – 2013-06-14

WFNY Podcast LogoAlways good to catch up with the Browns observations with Nate Ulrich from the Akron Beacon Journal. Here’s all that we discussed.

  • How good do you feel not having to talk Tebow?
  • Bill Belichick out to prove he doesn’t have to talk about anything.
  • Gregg Popovich and how he just defies everyone to do what he wants.
  • Ray Horton’s new attacking scheme and how evident it might or might not be at this point
  • T.J. Ward in the box a bit more, maybe like Troy Polamalu?
  • Ray Horton’s Phoenix radio station and how it was going to mirror that of the Steelers
  • Maybe Horton’s change in tune is to avoid player comparisons from Pittsburgh
  • Josh Gordon and the league’s CBA that limits the fact-finding
  • Dawgs by Nature post about changing to Drew Rosenhaus and the timing with the change
  • Joe Haden and his change to Drew Rosenhaus as well
  • Davone Bess and his ability to fill in for Josh Gordon
  • Davone Bess replacing Josh Cribbs as the leader of the wide receivers
  • Fullback and Cleveland Browns and Vonta Leach
  • Leach’s agent talked to Mike Lombardi but no visit was scheduled
  • No real interest on the Browns’ part
  • Owen Marecic’s future and Brad Smelley’s future with the Browns
  • Browns had two backs in the backfield a lot including Ogbonnaya and Hardesty together
  • The Brandon Jackson signing and how weird it was
  • The injury history of Trent Richardson and at the RB position in general
  • If there was one position group where the Browns might supplement the roster, which one would it be?
  • Chris Owens, Buster Skrine, Leon McFadden all battling it out opposite Haden and in the nickel
  • Brandon Bogotay and his competition with Shayne Graham
  • Expected player extensions and why we haven’t seen any just yet
  • Mike Lombardi said it was “a little early”
  • Moving training camp to 4-6:30 PM and how packed camp has been anyway
  • Fan experience and how important it seems to be to the new regime


Check out this episode

Brendan Leister talks Browns pickups – WFNY Podcast – 2013-03-13

WFNY Podcast LogoI’ve known about Brendan Leister and his work analyzing the Browns for a long time. He’s been active in various capacities for years, in fact. 70,000+ tweets if you need him. Anyway, he doesn’t approach the Browns like a fan, preferring to stick to the technical scouting approach. With that in mind, I wanted to talk to him about the Browns’ signings so far, what it means right now and what it means down the road into the draft.

You can find Brendan and his crew doing their excellent work over at DraftBrowns.com and you can find him on Twitter @BrendanLeister. I implore you to check out their site. Ryan is a good writer and Mikey is another Excel nerd1 who actually understands roster construction and salary cap issues.

Here’s what we talked about.

  • Paul Kruger and the level of excitement for him
  • Did the Browns overpay for Kruger?
  • Desmond Bryant should excite Browns fans more than Kruger
  • Five technique player?
  • Ray Horton’s nickel as the 2-4-5
  • Desmond Bryant’s ability against the run
  • Will Ahtyba Rubin get moved or cut next offseason?
  • Quentin Groves and is it a depth signing?
  • The Browns linebacking corps and fitting them all together
  • Craig Robertson as a cover linebacker
  • Draft plans should include another pass rusher?
  • Should the Browns take a chance on Geno Smith?
  • Do the Browns already know their opinion on Geno Smith?
  • Mike Wallace and $$$ vs. Travis Benjamin
  • Cornerback and who the Browns are going to get
  • Sheldon Brown and how well he played this season
  • Keenan Lewis and his ability to play opposite Joe Haden
  • Josh Gordon and his ceiling as the third youngest player in the NFL

 

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Compliment []

Browns free agency overload with Rick – WFNY Podcast – 2013-03-13

WFNY Podcast LogoLast night Rick and I were intent on talking Browns. We didn’t know all the details of Desmond Bryant’s deal yet, let alone the Quentin Groves pickup. Still, there’s a lot of good Kruger talk.

Here’s what else…

  • Paul Kruger signing and whether he’ll be a “leader”
  • Signing starters, team leaders, or both
  • Comparing signings to Scott Fujita
  • Desmond Bryant and “the mugshot”
  • Could the Browns trade any of their defensive linemen now?
  • Billy Winn, John Hughes, Kitchen
  • Who next? Keenan Lewis?
  • Talking Dolphins with Ellerbe and Mike Wallace
  • How happy would Browns fans be with Greg Jennings?
  • How happy are Browns fans to not have Mike Wallace making $12+ million?

[Read more...]

NFL News: Browns Agree To Terms With DT Desmond Bryant

The Browns made their second splash on Opening Day of NFL Free Agency, adding former Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant. The team signed him to a 5-year, $34 million contract with $15 million guaranteed.

Bryant, 27, attended Harvard and is in his fifth NFL season. Missing just one game in those first four years, he has started 18 games the last two years (8 in 2012). Last season, he recorded 36 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. He was also tied for 7th among defensive tackles with 12 quarterback hits.

It was mentioned by several sources that there were multiple suitors for Bryant, and he was one of the hotter names under the radar in free agency.

This acquisition gives the Browns incredible depth on the defensive line with their corresponding move to defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense. Bryant joins starter quality defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor along with Billy Winn, John Hughes, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who all made an impact in their rookie season. Here’s one national writer’s takes on how all that could shake out.

Bryant is the second free agent addition of the day, following the acquisition of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger.

There’s also the matter of Bryant’s mugshot from a recent arrest, which can be found here.

Related: Banner Report: Defensive Line

 

Banner Report: Defensive Line

Banner Report LowYou may remember back in 2010 (you know the last time there was a complete overhaul in Berea) we wanted to give incoming President Mike Holmgren a hand evaluating the roster. We are nothing if not equal opportunity. The Browns have a completely new group in charge this year. Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Ray Horton take over a 5-11 team. They have plenty of important decisions to make about the roster between now and the 2013 NFL Draft. WFNY wants to offer our assistance with The Banner Position Reports. Previous reports:LBQBRB, DBs

Let me just crack my knuckles a little bit as I take on the position group that might need the smallest amount of work for the Browns this off-season. If there is any debate at all about Tom Heckert’s ability to acquire talent, I don’t think we should look at this position as proof that he needs to improve. Heckert inherited the premier player on the defensive line in Ahtyba Rubin, but other than that it was all Tom Heckert’s work.

Tom Heckert acquired Phil Taylor with the 21st pick in the 2011 draft after trading with Atlanta, who picked wide receiver Julio Jones. Regardless of whether you like that trade or not, Phil Taylor has done his part to make it look better. Despite being injured last season and only appearing in eight games, the talented mix of size and speed in Taylor is unmistakable. Watching a 6’3″ monster at 335 pounds chase plays down from behind is astonishing. Beyond that, Heckert found really good value in the draft with John Hughes (3rd round) Billy Winn (6th round,)  and undrafted Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. Even with the departures of 4-3 scheme players like Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker, the Browns’ defensive line appears to be in pretty good shape going into 2013. [Read more...]

WFNY Podcast – 2012-12-29 – Craig talks to Dave Bryan from SteelersDepot.com about the Steelers matchup on Sunday

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I set about to talk to a Steelers blogger about the matchup this weekend between Thad Lewis’ Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I ended up getting some really nice insight from a real pro who has vast knowledge of the league in general and the Steelers and AFC North in particular. He was quite objective as I think most at WFNY try to be with regard to the Browns. Although, I’m not sure that he and I will ever agree on James Harrison.

You can find Dave Bryan at SteelersDepot.com and on Twitter.

And I’m not sure if you want to listen to it due to topic, but Dave produces one of the best sounding and most professional podcasts I’ve heard. The Terrible Podcast.

Here’s what else we touched on:

  • Mike Tomlin and how reactionary some Steelers fans can be
  • Should the Browns put an asterisk next to the first victory over the Steelers?
  • Some Steelers fans think the team should lose this game for draft status.
  • Dave and Craig both hate the thought of losing games on purpose and think it’s stupid
  • Is James Harrison a head hunter? Craig thinks yes. Dave thinks no. Both try to make rational points about their opinions.
  • Who could be let go from the vaunted Steelers defense before next season?
  • Mike Tomlin’s questionable in-game decisions and how similar some of them sound to Pat Shurmur
  • The difference between winning and losing in the NFL
  • Trap games and whether they truly exist ina league with parity
  • Keys to the game and ultimately Dave’s prediction that the Steelers blow out Thad Lewis and the Browns
  • Craig not being able to disagree with that assessment, unfortunately.
  • Have the Browns packed it in with a lame duck head coach?
  • Should Pat Shumur have another year?

Listen at Stitcher

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NFL News: Skrine, Cooper more involved in Thursday’s practice

Some positive news from today’s Browns practice: cornerback Buster Skrine and wide receiver Josh Cooper each saw increased reps as they battle their respective injuries.

Skrine (concussion) was a limited participant Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday. Cooper (knee) was a full participant after being limited the day before.

In other notable injury news, Joe Haden (olbique) and Ahytba Rubin (calf/back) both remained limited participants in Thursday’s agenda. Defensive backs and special team guys Dmitri Patterson (ankle) and Ray Ventrone (calf) both did not practice again.

I’m certain we’ll hear more as the week continues, as Haden and Rubin will likely be the focus of more questions as Sunday’s Steelers game approaches.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Film Room: Game 10, Under Pressure]

Shurmur: Billy Winn could see time at defensive end

The bye week is over and Browns fans dreams of seeing Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin together have never seemed more real. That news doesn’t exist in a vacuum though. What about the young guys who filled in so admirably in Taylor and Rubin’s stead? At least for Billy Winn, it could mean some time at defensive end for the Browns.

(On the possibility of Billy Winn playing defensive tackle and end with Taylor’s return) – “Yeah, that’s a good point. When you have more defensive tackles that’ll allow Billy, if we choose to, play him at end more. Which gives us a little flexibility there.”

(On if Winn’s quickness would work at the end position) – “I think he has the body type to play end and he has quickness. Yeah, I think he could do it.”

If there’s any chance at the Browns making any kind of run in the second half of the season, you have to think one of the keys would be on the defensive line. Jabaal Sheard has struggled in his sophomore effort, and we’ll soon find out if that has had more to do with missing pieces in the middle of the line. Now it also could mean a game-tested tryout for Billy Winn to see if he can be a 4-3 defensive end.

[Related: Safe to say Haslam meant what he said regarding changes]

NFL Report: Browns add defensive lineman to practice squad

From the Browns-

“The Cleveland Browns today signed defensive lineman Hall Davis to the practice squad.

Originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the fifth round (149th overall) of the 2010 draft, Davis has appeared in one regular season contest. He spent 10 weeks on the Titans’ practice squad in 2010, before being signed to the active roster where he appeared in one game. He spent training camp with Raiders this season before being waived on final roster cuts on August 31. A two-year starter at Louisiana-Lafayette, he totaled three sacks and one interception in 12 games as a senior. Born March 2, 1987, the 6-4, 270-pound Davis is a native of Baton Rouge, La., where he attended University High School.”

DT Ahtyba Rubin did not practice again today for the Browns. Emmanuel Stephens was placed on the IR yesterday. DT Phil Taylor expects to be active this week against the Ravens, taking Stephens’ spot on the roster.

[Related: Shurmur on young players gaining confidence]