July 22, 2014

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

gordonbrownonbrown

In a recent interview with The Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine reiterated that the team has no plans to cut maligned wide receiver Josh Gordon in the wake of his troubled off-season.

“We’re firm,” said Pettine. “We want to find that middle ground. Josh is a Cleveland Brown. We want to do what’s best for him. We have a player that potentially needs help. Whether it’s him or whether it’s anybody else that wears the uniform, if we can help, we’ll help. We want to make our decisions always, what’s best for the player, and you try to marry it with what’s best for the team. So that’s why I don’t think that cutting him, while it may have worked for some other people, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best option here. It might be the worst option for both — for us and for him. We’re going to wait and see what happens and then act accordingly.”

Pettine would not get into details regarding how the team can, or will, help Gordon as the league is allegedly sensitive to substance abuse issues. Coincidentally, it’s the league that has yet to determine whether or not Gordon—who reportedly violated the league’s policy earlier this offseason—will miss any games for the 2014 season.

Coming off of a Pro Bowl season wherein Gordon led the league in receiving (despite missing two games), the 23-year-old was expected to be the top target for quarterback Brian Hoyer or newly drafted Johnny Manziel this coming year. The Browns added veterans Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin to help bolster an already top-heavy unit. If Gordon misses any time, or even a full season, Pettine iterated that the team will not be able to replace such a talent, but will instead have to draw up creative schemes that will help hide their considerably weak receiving corps.

“You don’t replace him,” said Pettine. “I think you have to get creative. It’s got to be a committee approach, and I think you also have to get creative in how you run your offense whether it’s an extra tight end — that’s where adding Jim Dray and having a veteran like Gary Barnidge helps — [allowing] you to maybe move Jordan [Cameron] around a little bit and play with groupings that maybe involve less wide receivers. You don’t become as wide receiver dependent… I think we have more options there than maybe people think.”

The team believes they will hear word on Gordon’s future within the next 10 days.  The two years remaining on his contract will be tolled if he is indeed suspended. The Browns, theoretically, could have an elite talent at salaries of $825,000 in 2015 and $1.06 million in 2016. Training Camp is set to begin on Saturday, July 26.

 

 

Les Levine talks about LeBron James, Johnny Manziel and local sports media – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-22

WFNY Podcast LogoI haven’t had Les Levine on in a while, but it’s always great to catch up. Here are some of the topics we discussed.

  • Reporting in the modern world
  • Chris Broussard and needing to be right a minute ahead of the next guy
  • Les’ history of reporting things and “being wrong”
  • LeBron James coming home
  • Johnny Manziel’s partying lifestyle and social media
  • Not living dangerously
  • Joe Lull’s report on Dan Gilbert’s plane

Check out this episode!

The Top Five Most Intriguing Players in Cleveland Browns Training Camp

Browns helmets training camp building

As we’re on the precipice of Cleveland Browns training camp, I couldn’t be more excited to see who steps up. The Browns have a lot of question marks as any team should coming off a four-win season. The good news is that there are a lot of new faces to address many of the obvious holes we all complained about at the end of last season. Offensive line, cornerback, linebacker and running back were all areas targeted by the Browns’ front office1 Without further ado, here are my five most intriguing training camp players. [Read more...]

___________________________________________________

Footnotes:

  1. I made the decision to just skip quarterback, by the way. Everyone knows that situation all too well and I think we’ve beaten the Hoyer vs. Manziel camp battle directly into the ground. []

Best selling jersey in the NFL comes from Cleveland

20140614-082419.jpg

Darren Rovell reports that Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel’s jersey is the hottest selling piece of laundry since the draft.

Yep, Manziel beat out Super Bowl winning QB Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Richard Sherman and every other rookie.

Of course, he did have a few celebrity endorsements of the jersey.

lebron-manziel-marketing

Video: Johnny Manziel and other rookies react to their Madden ratings

manziel

We know that Johnny Manziel doesn’t lack confidence. He was a bit humbled by falling on draft night to 22nd. The good folks at EA Sports may have given him a second helping of humble pie.

Several rookies were filmed for their reaction to their Madden rating for the upcoming release of the franchise video game. As a rule, rookies are typically given low scores until their play on the field proves otherwise. The video does not tell us what Manziel’s rating will be, but given Johnny’s reaction, it isn’t in the 80′s or 90′s.

 

Kyle Shanahan, Miracle Worker? While We’re Waiting…

WFNYBanner www

It’s Monday, Monday, gotta get down on Monday….

I’m trying to not get excited. Last year at this time, we were discussing the merits of Norv Turner’s offense and how it was going to be night-and-day compared to that of Pat Shurmur. Gone was the West Coast; here was the vertical game that included the tight end to a larger degree. And while Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon were undoubtedly superb, the Browns’ offense was excruciating to watch—save for the few moments we got to see Brian Hoyer. This, however, is all a long way of leading into Terry Pluto’s latest that discusses the merits of the team’s new offensive coordinator, the 34-year-old Kyle Shanahan.

The pieces all appear to be in place. The strong running game. The mobile quarterbacks. The offensive line. Will it bear fruit? I want to get excited. I want to see Ben Tate rack up 1,000 yards. I want to watch Terrence West truck over would-be tacklers. I want to slice and dice defenses with the zone read. But will these happen?

It has to at least be better than last season. Right?

***

Speaking of the Browns, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece from Tom Reed on linebacker Craig Robertson. By all accounts, Robertson came into last season as a Secret Weapon and left it as one of the worst starting inside linebackers in the game. He was the subject of a Training Camp piece here at WFNY. His defensive coordinator went on to call him the Ace in the Hole. He then went on to get abused in the passing game, putting up marks that were ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus.

But kudos to Robertson for not only knowing how awful his season was, but being willing to discuss it and the challenges that exist ahead with the team adding Christian Kirksey.

***

If you haven’s read enough debates surrounding Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins, here’s a recent 5-on-5 from the folks over at ESPN.com which discusses that very matter!

***

Heave those Hot Takes, here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting:

Awakening the Giant” by Seth Wickersham (ESPN The Magazine): “You remember the picture. Y.A. Tittle is on his knees in the end zone after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Swollen hands on his thigh pads, eyes fixed on the grass, he is helmetless and bleeding from the head, one dark stream snaking down his face, another curling near his ear. His shoulder pads make him seem hunched over, resigned, broken down. The black-and-white photo was taken in 1964, the final year of Tittle’s career. It hangs in a silver frame at his home in Atherton, California, not with the prominence befitting one of the most iconic pictures in sports history but lost among many mementos from a Hall of Fame career.”

Pitchman: How Tom Emansky changed the sport of baseball—and then disappeared” by Erik Malinowski (FOX Sports): “Tens of thousands of times over a decade, people watching any number of sports on TV could usually expect to see one name pop up during a given commercial break: Emanski. A sweetheart deal kept the commercials on the air and the orders rolling in, thereby ensuring that an entire generation of ballplayers grew up with Tom Emanski as the coach they never met.”

…Dan Jenkins deserves some barbecue” by Sally Jenkins (Washington Post): The British Open is better in Texas because you can watch it with barbecue. This is how my father has consoled himself while missing his first golf major championship in 45 years. It seems his doctor felt the bracing air of northwest England might not be good for him, but the medical community said nothing about smokehouse ribs. The fact that Dan Jenkins, 84, stayed home from the British constitutes not just a concession, but some kind of historical event, because the last time he was absent from a major the club heads were made of persimmon, and not every Tour wife was a blonde.”

I got gored in Pamplona. But I will run with the bulls again.” by Bill Hillman (Washington Post): “It was raining off and on that morning. The cobblestones were extra slick. First-time runners were everywhere, and the crowd was roaring. I saw the long willow canes of the pastores, the official herdsmen of the run, poking out above tourists’ heads. Suddenly, a suelto, a lone bull, appeared ahead of me. When a bull has separated from the pack, he loses his herding instinct and sees all runners as predators. That’s exactly what this one did — throwing his horns at the dozens of scattering runners.”

***

A quick note about that Dan Jenkins story. First, I may have been the only sportswriting fan alive who didn’t put two and two together to realize that Sally Jenkins was the daughter of Dan. Talk about bloodlines. Second, think about this for a minute: Dan Jenkins covered every single major golf championship for 45 years. He’s unquestionably the best when it comes to covering the game of golf, but regardless of sport—forty-five years is one hell of a run to have not missed a single major event. No wonder he’s already in the Hall of Fame despite still practicing his craft.

***

These wouldn’t qualify as #ActualSportsWriting, but I wanted to share a couple other links. The first comes in the way of the New York Times where a long-time pickpocket details his life. Stories like these always captivate me. Who would’ve guessed that, amidst all of the technological progress out there, that it would be pickpockets who are being left in the cold? The second link comes from BusinessWeek, and it’s about everyone’s favorite club-thumping shill: Pitbull. BusinessWeek features are terrific on their own. This one, however, detailing  guy who wants a meeting with BitCoin only to later ask “I still want to know, what exactly is Bitcoin?” is next level. And who knew he had ties to Uncle Luke? Anyway…These are both well worth your time.

***

And just because: You nasty, Trevor.

LeBron James, Johnny Manziel, Cleveland and the concept of home – Casual Friday – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-18

It’s been a while since I chatted with Denny, but he had some time this evening so we did it up on the following.

  • LeBron James coming back to Cleveland impacting Denny
  • The vague, but unmistakable feelings of “home”
  • Cleveland and the generational preference for city living
  • athletics impact on cities
  • Raising a family in a city
  • Johnny Manziel and the negative obsession with his partying

Check out this episode!

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Linebackers

paul-kruger-compressor

The Cleveland Browns start training camp in little over a week. They have had a big offseason full of big-name additions and huge stories. One of the positions that the Browns addressed during the offseason once again was linebacker. The weakest part of this group last season was the inside linebackers. So, the Browns knew they had to upgrade these two spots on the team. The first move was the release of D’Qwell Jackson. At the start of free agency, the Browns signed veteran Karlos Dansby to fill the vacant inside linebacker. They also signed Zac Diles in free agency and finished working on the position with the drafting of Christian Kirksey.

The Browns will also look for improvements from the players already on the team to help make this position stronger. Lets take a look at the linebacker depth chart for the 2014-15 NFL season. [Read more...]

Pilot Flying J reaches $92 million deal with government

Pilot Flying J

The good news in Cleveland sports continues into another week as Pilot Flying J has reached a deal with the government that includes an avoidance of criminal charges against the company. From the Knoxville News Sentinel out of Tennessee:

Under the deal made public on Monday, Pilot must pay a $92 million penalty over two years and cooperate with an ongoing criminal investigation into diesel fuel rebate fraud.

Federal prosecutors said in a news release that the Criminal Enforcement Agreement “expressly states that it provides no protection from prosecution to any individual” in connection with the case.

We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us, continuing our efforts to rectify the damage done, regaining our customers’ trust, and getting on with our business,” CEO Jimmy Haslam said in the release.

This is undoubtedly good news for Pilot and its CEO Jimmy Haslam. While it doesn’t appear that anyone’s completely out of the woods just yet, it’s a step in the right direction. Haslam could still be found worthy of prosecution depending on what the investigation continues to uncover. That being said, it would appear that the government is getting at least something of a desirable outcome.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian is quoted in a news release detailed at the Knoxville News’ website. His quote sounds very much like a conclusion of sorts when he says, “The terms of this agreement, including the significant monetary penalty and the very serious consequences if Pilot fails to comply, demonstrate quite clearly that no corporation, no matter how big, influential, or wealthy, is above the law.”

And regardless of other details this is good news for Browns fans. As the owner of the Cleveland Browns, it is much better for Browns fans if the team’s owner isn’t in jeopardy of being imprisoned. With that in mind, this deal with the feds might be another good sign for Browns fans that the renewed focus on stability might actually be achievable.

It seems reasonable to assume that the government has been working hard on this case and uncovered huge amounts of details with ten previous guilty pleas obtained from former Pilot employees. If they were going to catch the biggest of all fish at Pilot, I’m guessing charges would have been filed for Haslam before a settlement agreement was reached.

Browns to unveil live bull mastiff mascot named Swagger

cleveland_browns_dawgReady for a hot sports take? I actually kind of like the name Swagger. It fits the Dawg Pound. It fits the momentum and energy carried over from May’s draft. It fits the tough-nosed defense and head coach Mike Pettine. It fits the revitalization of Cleveland. It’s hip and it’s young. It’s kind of like the Akron Rubberducks; the name is supposed to be over the top.

So if you haven’t heard the news yet, the Browns are set to debut a live dog mascot next season. Its name will be Swagger. The story has, quite predictably, made the rounds on national news circuits. 92.3 The Fan’s Chris Fillar broke the story via Kevin Griffin, the team’s VP of marketing. Fillar initially reported the dog will be a bulldog, but instead, he corrected himself to say it will be a bull mastiff. I’m slightly disappointed in that change but I’ll let it slide for now.

Either way, the Browns have promised more in-stadium excitement for a long time now. This likely came as a direct result of the team’s new Fan Advisory Board, with Griffin serving as the point person for that 20-person committee. Baltimore, Seattle and Denver are the three other NFL teams that use live animal mascots during games. Of course, the University of Georgia is famous for its long history of Uga bulldogs.

We have Chomps, we have the return of Brownie The Elf and now we have Swagger. I’m kinda digging it. Now, you are permitted to tell me how much you hate the name. Go.

Cleveland Browns ranked 22nd in PFT’s preseason power rankings

I have a tendency to obsess on power rankings when they’re out of whack in a bad way. That’s why I felt it necessary to talk about ESPN ranking the Browns dead last in their power rankings from May after this year’s NFL draft. It’s not that I think the Browns should be favored to win the Super Bowl, but my hyper-realistic expectations are simply to demand that they get in the range of going .500 in a season. And as I always say, that’s not a prediction. That’s just a minimum level of standard that I’m willing to accept on an annual basis, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Anyway, I focus too much on the negative, so today I’m focusing on the positive.

Pro Football Talk is rolling out their preseason power rankings and I have been waiting (and waiting) for the Browns and it feels good. PFT has decided right now that the Browns are 22nd. This puts the Browns ahead of the Redskins, Cowboys, and Texans. The Browns are chasing the Lions, Rams, and Jets.

We know all the parts about the Browns’ roster, but PFT has a somewhat optimistic view of the schedule.

The Browns begin their season at nemesis Pittsburgh, then host top-class New Orleans and stout Baltimore before the Week Four bye to end September. However, October and November could be more favorable for Cleveland. Though the Browns play five road games in this stretch, three are against the Jaguars, Titans and Bills. The Browns also have home contests against the Raiders, Buccaneers and Texans. If Cleveland is ready to take a step forward, it will make the most of these two months before closing out the season with home games against tough Cincinnati and Indianapolis and road matchups at Carolina and Baltimore.

While the schedule doesn’t necessarily come into play when making up power rankings, the info is instructive. The Cleveland Browns are a team with lots of question marks, but they retained center Alex Mack, seemingly improved the defense across the board and added one major X-factor in Johnny Manziel, should Brian Hoyer relinquish his position atop the Browns QB depth chart.

That’s just enough promise for the writers at PFT to vote the Browns 22nd.

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Terrance West

Terrance West

Over the next couple weeks on WFNY, I will be breaking down the film on all seven draft picks of the Cleveland Browns. As fans, we often rely on mainstream draft analysts to give us certain traits and characteristics that we use to form our opinions. Rather than simply tell you positives and negatives, the goal of this series is to better inform you by showing evidence, in GIF form, of the skills each prospect possess and areas they each must improve upon.  Past film rooms: Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey

Following a season that featured Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Edwin Baker taking the bulk of snaps at running back, the Cleveland Browns eyed the upcoming NFL Draft and free agency as opportunities to upgrade their backfield. Within the span of two months, the Browns completely re-hauled the position, signing former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate to a two-year contract and drafting former Towson University workhorse Terrance West.

The additions of Tate and West to the Browns backfield give new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan multiple productive backs who fit well with his new zone-blocking scheme. This type of run game greatly differs from the Rob Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur power run offenses in which premier athletes and big-bodied runners succeed. The power run game necessitates a back who can make a fast read, is able to run through a pre-determined hole in the line, and can make defenders miss by virtue of their elite size power or elusiveness. Rather than read the defense as the play happens, backs are taught to hit the hole quickly and reach the second level of the defense where they will be able to use their athleticism or size to pick up large gains. [Read more...]

Texans’ Andre Johnson asks for trade

Houston+Texans+v+Tennessee+Titans+VdPNmkn6uhYl

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Andre Johnson has told the Houston Texans that he wants to be traded.  The rumors of his discontent with the organization has echoed throughout the offseason. He is reportedly upset over his contract and how the Texans’ front office has treated him.  Rapoport states Johnson is upset about a $1 million bonus for attending workouts.  He had missed some of the sessions this offseason, but wanted to earn his money back by working out extra.  The report says the Texans told Johnson that he can not earn back the money.  Johnson believes that he deserves better treatment because of all the things he has done for the organization like restructuring his contract three times for the team.  This fight only adds to his want to play for a winning team and not one rebuilding like the Houston.

According to Rapoport, the Texans have so far said no to this request.  He also reports that four teams have expressed interest in trading for Johnson.  He could not specify who the four teams were though. The Browns could be one of those teams because of the likely suspension of Josh Gordon.  Johnson would give the Browns a number one receiver to replace Gordon and be the main target for the offense. The Browns will have a big hole at wide receiver if Gordon is suspended, so Johnson could be a good option to fill this hole.

(Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Defensive Linemen

Cleveland-Browns-Hoping-Phil-Taylor-Can-Dominate-Nose-Tackle-in-2013

WFNY’s State of the Browns series shifts from the offensive side of the ball to the defensive side. As we saw in the Super Bowl last season, great defenses can lead a team. The Browns are built for the defense to be the backbone of the 2014 Browns season. They will be running a 3-4 hybrid defense with the ability to change to a 4-3 at times. Probably the strongest part of the defense is their defensive line. This group has talent at the top and a lot of depth to keep everyone fresh for the whole season. The team has versatile linemen, who can play multiple positions on the line. The defensive line has players who can put pressure on the quarterback and others who can stop the run. The defensive is pretty much the same group as last season with the exception of a couple undrafted rookie free agents in Calvin Barnett and Jacobbi McDaniel. Let’s take a look at the state of the Browns defensive line! [Read more...]

Josh Gordon’s Appeal Hearing Reportedly Set for Late July

gordonbrownonbrown

The Cleveland Browns have been in limbo ever since the first report of Josh Gordon’s potential suspension.  The team could finally get an answer on his suspension in the next couple weeks. According to ProFootballTalk, the appeal hearing for Josh Gordon’s suspension is scheduled for sometime in late July.  The announcement could be sooner if the NFL and the NFLPA can work out a reduced suspension before the appeal hearing.  He is reportedly facing a year long suspension for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.  The Browns have had no comment about Josh Gordon’s potential suspension until they receive the final verdict.  It will be a huge blow for the Browns if they lose their star number one receiver Josh Gordon.

Nike is not being shy about marketing “Money” Manziel

I hadn’t seen this shirt until it came up on Twitter today via our own Scott. Apparently these shirts had gone out of stock and were selling on eBay for a premium. Thankfully Nike got that rectified so that they can make money on the “money” image that Johnny Manziel created on draft night when he put his fingers in that pose as he strode across the stage.

Money Manziel T-Shirt

And why shouldn’t they make money off of it directly? A quick search of Amazon shows just how many others are trying to enjoy the high profile of Johnny Football as he transitions to the NFL.

Money on Amazon

Sure beats “Now I’m done” from Brady Quinn and of course, Peyton Hillis salsa.

Hillis Salsa

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Tight Ends

Jordan-Cameron1

The tight end position is an evolving group with more emphasis on them being a threat in the passing game. The new style of the NFL tight end is one of a tall and fast player, who is more of receiver rather than a blocker. These players are physical freaks, who can give their teams mismatches in the passing game. A lot of the current tight ends in the NFL are solely either a receiving threat or a blocker. There are only a few tight ends in the league, who can both block and catch the ball. The Browns have one of the best tight ends in the NFL last season in Jordan Cameron. Beyond Cameron, the team has blocking tight ends in Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray. The Browns also have a young versatile player in MarQueis Gray, who could be a bigger threat this season. They also have two young tight ends in Emmanuel Ogbuehi and James Oboh. Let’s take a look at the state of the Browns tight ends.

Projected TE Depth Chart

Tight End Transactions

Additions
1. Jim Dray (Free Agent)
2. Emmanuel Ogbuehi (Waivers)
3. James Oboh (Undrafted Free Agent)

Jordan Cameron

Jordan Cameron had his breakout season last year and put himself in the conversation of being one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Last season, he caught 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He had two games of over 100 yards and had three touchdowns in one game versus the Minnesota Vikings. He was third in receptions, second in receiving yards, and sixth in touchdowns amongst all NFL tight ends last season. He was second in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns for the Browns behind fellow Pro Bowler Josh Gordon. His great season led him to being selected to the Pro Bowl. Cameron is the team’s number two target, but could be the top target this season if Josh Gordon is suspended for any time.

Cameron is a 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound former basketball player with very good athleticism. He posts a huge mismatch for an opposing defense because of his size and speed combination. He is bigger than cornerbacks and fastest than most linebackers. He is a red zone threat for the Browns because of his basketball background. He can go and get the ball at its highest point. Cameron is a very versatile pass catcher in that he can catch balls underneath the coverage and over the top for big gains. He has the ability to make plays after the catch and make big plays. He has very good hands and is a reliable target for the quarterback. According to sportingcharts.com, Cameron only had two drops and a 1.7% drop rate last season. Cameron is a prototypical new age tight end in the NFL.

Cameron emerged as a top target last season for the Browns. But before last season, he had not produced much for the Browns. This will be his biggest question mark coming into this coming season. He needs to show that last season was not a temporary success, but a preview of more to come. He has the talent and ability to be a top five tight end in the NFL. Cameron gives the Browns someone who can line up either on the line, in the slot, or even out wide. He is a huge weapon for the Browns and one could be the backbone of the passing offense this year if Josh Gordon is suspended for an extended period of time. He will look to build on his 2013 Pro Bowl season and be even better for the Browns.

jordan cameron

MarQueis Gray

MarQueis Gray is one of the most versatile players on the Browns’ roster. Gray played at quarterback and wide receiver at the University of Minnesota. He is entering his second season in the NFL and could be in line for a bigger role this year. Last season, Gray was placed in many different positions including wildcat quarterback, full back, and tight end. He had 43 rushing yards and eight receiving yards. He is a young player who showed signs last season that he could be a quality player for the Browns.

Gray has the size to play tight end at 6-feet-4-inch, 242-pounds. He has a combination of speed and strength, which could make him a good tight end. He ran a 4.73 second 40-yard dash and posted 15 reps on the bench press at the 2013 NFL Draft Combine. His speed and agility for a player his size give him the ability to be a pass catching threat who can make plays after the reception. Gray is still raw on being a tight end especially in the blocking aspects. He needs more experience at the position and learn the finer points of being a tight end in the NFL. But, he has the talent to be a weapon for the team because of his athleticism and versatility to play multiple positions.

Gray is being used so far in the offseason as the first team fullback. But, in Shanahan’s offense the fullback acts more as a H-back. I consider the H-back more of a tight end then a fullback because of their proclivity to be a passing threat and lining up in many different positions. He will be lined up in the backfield, on the line, and in the slot. This position is a perfect place for a player with his versatility. He could be a huge part of the offense because of his ability to fit the H-back spot in the new offense. He can give the team another mismatch on the field because of his combination of size and speed. Gray could be a breakout player for the Browns this season.

marqueis gray

Jim Dray

Jim Dray is a blocking tight end, who can also help in the passing game. He was signed in free agency from the Arizona Cardinals. Last season he started 15 of the 16 games he played in and had 26 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Dray is entering his fifth season in the NFL. He played four years at Stanford University before being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cardinals.

Dray is a big tight end with a good frame at 6-feet-5-inches and 255-pounds. He is a blocking tight end, who can give the quarterback another big target in short yardage and goaline situations. He is a strong blocker with the ability to move defenders. He has good technique and footwork, which helps him stay engaged to the defender and finish off blocks well. He can be placed on the end of the line and hold his own in pass and run blocking. Dray is also a tall target for the quarterback to find as his second or third option on a play. He is another player who can help out in goaline situations either blocking or being an endzone target. He also can help out on special teams in blocking for field goals and returns. He will be competing for the backup blocking tight end spot against Gary Barnidge. Dray might be the favorite for the spot because he was selected by the current regime.

Jim Dray

Gary Barnidge

Gary Barnidge is a blocking tight end for the Browns and a short yardage target. Last season, he had 13 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He was not a huge threat in the passing game except in short yardage and goaline opportunities. He has solid hands that allow him to snatch passes without getting much separation from the defender. His biggest role for the Browns was blocking in both running and passing plays. He is a big tight end at 6-feet-6-inches and 250-pounds. In terms of blocking, he has good technique and form. He is a smart player, who knows blocking schemes and how to put himself in the right position to make the block. Barnidge is a lot of times looked upon as an extra offensive lineman. He will not wow people with his talent but he is a good role player for the team. He is a solid backup tight end, who can help out in special teams along with his other duties. He will be competing with Jim Dray for the backup blocking tight end spot. He could be the odd man out because of Dray being the coaching staff’s addition and Barnidge being the previous regime’s addition.

gary barnidge

Emmanuel Ogbuehi

Emmanuel Ogbuehi is entering his second season in the NFL. He was a 2013 undrafted free agent from Georgia State, who was signed by the Washington Redskins after the draft. He was then cut at the end of the preseason and then went to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad for the final four games of last season. The Browns signed him off waivers this offseason. He is an athletic tight end who ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2013. He is a smaller tight end at only 6-feet-3-inches and 230-pounds. He along with Oboh will most likely be competing for a spot on the practice squad. It will be hard for him to him to make a spot on the team and will most likely be cut at the end of the preseason.

emmanuel ogbuehi

James Oboh

James Oboh is a 2014 undrafted free agent from Towson University. Last season at Towson, he had 24 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He is an athletic tight end at 6-feet-4-inches and 250-pounds. He ran a 4.83 second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He will have to make a big impression in training camp and the preseason games in order to make the team. He is probably just competing for a spot on the practice squad for the Browns. He most likely will only be around during the preseason and then cut when the roster is shaved to 53.

james oboh1

(Photo by: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Jordan Cameron changes Twitter profile after Jimmy Graham ruling

One of the issues regarding Jimmy Graham’s fight with the Saints over whether he is a receiver or not had to do with him self-identifying as a tight end on his Twitter profile. I don’t know how much that factored into the fact that he was ultimately ruled a tight end, but Jordan Cameron decided not to take any chances.

Yesterday he changed his twitter profile to read “Pro Bowl pass catcher for the Browns”

Jordan Cameron Twitter

Now, it’s easy for me to call it silly because I wasn’t the one who had $5.3 million on the line like Jimmy Graham did — wide receiver franchise tags go for just over $12 million and tight ends go for just over $7 mil. Still, I do think it’s silly. Jimmy Graham is a tight end. He’s one of the trailblazing tight ends with the ability to re-define the position and yes, his franchise tender amount is wildly low for a player of his production. The mere fact that he’s deserving of a lot more money, however, doesn’t make him a wide receiver.

Nor does Jordan Cameron’s desire for more money — even money comparable to a top wide receiver — make him a wide receiver. I think both players should be rewarded for their production and get contracts commensurate with their value, but gaming the system and pretending that these tight ends are actually wide receivers is just insulting intellectually.

If the game continues to evolve this way, they should get their union to negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement to put all pass-catchers — tight ends and wide receivers — in the same class for the rules of the franchise tag. That’s the way the offensive line works already where they don’t delineate between left tackles, centers or guards.

T.J. Ward talks about Denver’s winning culture vs. Cleveland experience

TJ Ward interception training camp

Whether or not the Browns will miss T.J. Ward as they welcomed Donte Whitner as his replacement this off-season is up for debate, but I tend to think the Browns will be just fine. That says more about Whitner than it does Ward, but there’s little doubt that you’d have to assume T.J. Ward and the Broncos will likely win more games this season than the Cleveland Browns and Whitner. Sure, this is the NFL, anything’s possible, parity, etc, but everyone in their right mind assumes the Broncos will win more games. That being the case, T.J. Ward’s recent comments about the culture differences shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

“Nothing against Cleveland but this is a winning culture,” Ward said. “They’re used to winning and you treat all things the same way, period: with a preparation to win. That’s how the coaches treat you and that’s how the players treat each other. You expect everybody to know their job, do their job and do it the right way.”

That’s a culture of expectation that can only be built with consistency in approach, standards and a little bit of success. That exists in the Broncos organization currently for a lot of reasons, but it wasn’t so long ago that they seemed lost with Josh McDaniels drafting Tim Tebow. But the Broncos recognized the error in their ways, hired John Fox and welcomed back John Elway to guide the team as an exec. Those two made the Broncos lull disappear in a hurry.

Obviously Peyton Manning has something to do with this story as well, but I just can’t discount Elway and Fox as leaders. Maybe the Browns finally have that with Scheiner, Farmer, and Pettine. We’ll know in a couple years if the Browns sign Donte Whitner’s replacement and he talks about joining a Browns team and calls it a “winning culture.”

Browns and Hoyer talking contract extension per report

IMG_20130918_110654_023

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Monday morning that the Cleveland Browns are working to sign quarterback Brian Hoyer to a contract extension.

Hoyer signed a two-year, $1.97 million dollar contract last spring. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2014 season.

Hoyer, coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL, is in a QB battle with Johnny Manziel to be the starter. If Hoyer wins the job and has anything resembling a decent year, it would cost the Browns a lot more than $2 million dollars to keep him.

The need to sign Hoyer to an extension has been talked about in Cleveland internet circles for a while, but the first we saw of it came from Kanicki. Read his piece from before the draft here.

[Related: Jordan Cameron driving a hard bargain]