July 24, 2014

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Linebackers

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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...]

Browns ink Terrance West, discuss extension with Jabaal Sheard

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As the Cleveland Browns inch toward the completion of minicamp, they have officially signed third-round running back Terrance West to a four-year, $2.796 million contract, including a $527,400 signing bonus.

The 5-foot-9, 230-pound bowling ball of a running back was the 94th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. He rushed for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season at Towson before declaring for the NFL draft following his junior year. He finished with 4,854 career rushing yards and 86 touchdowns. He is largely expected to back up Ben Tate, but is seeing his stock rise after the team has appeared to focus a lot of their offensive emphasis on the running game as led by the Kyle Shanahan zone-blocking scheme.

The Browns have also reportedly discussed a contract extension with outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. Sheard is due roughly $995,000 this season as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“Hopefully it works out,” Sheard said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time. I can only worry about this year. I love it here, I love the fans here, I love the support I’ve been getting, the teammates. The locker room is growing on me. I feel more comfortable now than I did when I first got here.

“I want to be here when this city erupts. I just know it’s coming. Hopefully this year is the year.”

NFL salary cap could jump to $160 million by 2016

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 9.31.31 AMLast week the NFL set the salary cap for 2014 at $133 million which was higher than many thought it would be. According to league sources in contact with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, it could be a trend that continues.

One source with knowledge of the process…  tells PFT that the cap could spike to $145 million in 2015 and a whopping $160 million in 2016.

While the Browns are still struggling to get out of the basement of the league and shouldn’t probably be working too hard to spend all their money to maintain the status quo on their roster, it’s still good news. The Browns have a ton of money available to them this year, and this just means they’ll have that much more going forward.

Even as the Browns haven’t been successful on the field yet, there are still some players that the Browns will want to take care of and presumably keep using that money. Jordan Cameron, Jabaal Sheard, and Phil Taylor will be free agents after the 2014 NFL season. Add Joe Haden to the list if the Browns don’t get his extension done earlier.

The following year could shape up to be a biggie too if Josh Gordon can keep his nose clean and continues to play at the Pro Bowl level he played in 2013. Oh yeah, and if the Browns win the lottery and Brian Hoyer proves he’s a legitimate NFL starter, his $1.25 million salary for 2014 won’t be good enough to bring him back in 2015.

This rise in the salary cap also means that the free agency pool is likely to get even less efficient as the same players who were fighting for a piece of $126 million now get to chase a piece of $133 million.

Cleveland Browns lose 27-26 thanks to key pass interference call

Brady Edelman Pats BrownsYou really can’t spend a lot of time talking about NFL football and talking about refereeing. It has a tendency to go both ways and good teams overcome all kinds of bad calls all the time. It’s a part of the game, period. Of course I open my recap that way because today is not one of those days.

Today, I have no choice. The Cleveland Browns were called for pass interference in the end zone on one of the softest calls I’ve ever seen while clinging to a 26-21 lead in New England. The Pats, who’d been trailing the whole game received the bail out call to end all bail out calls. Tom Brady threw long to Josh Boyce and Leon McFadden had great coverage as he and Boyce dove for the ball. The ball went past them both and the cowardly official tossed his flag on the field to make sure that the action wasn’t decided by the actual players making good football plays. Can you tell I’m still pretty fired up about it.

Serenity now… [Read more...]

WWBD – What will Banner do?

Gordon and CameronIt is no secret that the Browns are still a team in transition, building for the future. Team President and GM Mike Lombardi have already shown they have their own agenda and anyone who was brought in during the run of the previous regime shouldn’t feel safe.

Today at 4:00 PM, the NFL has its trade deadline. It has been no secret that certain members of the team have appeal and could be had for the right price. If you don’t think that Banner isn’t shopping players despite what his coach Rob Chudzinski said yesterday, then you are fooling yourself.  You didn’t think Trent Richardson was going to go anywhere either did you?  [Read more...]

Reign On Spotlight Player of the Week: Jabaal Sheard

As a local market representative and league manager of one of 16 teams invited to be a part of Crown Royal’s inaugural Fantasy Football League dubbed “First and Crown,” I will be using this spot every Sunday before the Browns kick off against their respective opponent to tell you who I’ll be watching during this Week’s contest.

This week’s spotlight shines on: Jabaal Sheard

Sheard talkingThe Cleveland Browns defense is undoubtedly the team’s strength, putting up top-seven numbers through the season thus far. Said “strength” has also struggled over the last two weeks, letting the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions combine for 55 points. While Jabaal Sheard missed the team’s Week 4 win against the Cincinnati Bengals, he was still nursing his knee injury over the course of the last two weeks, forcing a tighter rotation at the outside linebacker spot.

Facing arguably the league’s best quarterback in the NFL at Lambeau Field this week and Sheard’s return could not be more timely. While rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo faired well during his extended time, Sheard’s ability to get to the quarterback as well as move down the line to defend the run is imperative. Rob Chudzinski isn’t committing to immediately reinserting him into the starting lineup, but adding someone with Sheard’s skill set to the mix will instantly add a threat that will have to be accounted for by the Green Bay Packers offensive line. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked on 23 percent of all plays where pressure is provided, the fourth-worst mark in the league. Conversely, Sheard’s pass-rushing productivity, as graded by Pro Football Focus, is good enough for fourth best in the entire NFL.

Extended drives will only serve to fatigue a unit that has been on the field entirely too often as of late. Getting to Rodgers early and often will be key for the Browns. Having Jabaal Sheard back in the fold should only serve to help this cause.

Previous Spotlight Players:

Josh Gordon, WR
Barkevious Mingo, OLB
Brandon Weeden, QB

While We’re Waiting… Uncle Drew coming back soon

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Looks like Uncle Drew will be back again shortly. Check out Pepsi Max’s teaser YouTube and Instagram videos from the other day. [Read more...]

NFL News: Jabaal Sheard and Jason Pinkston back to practice

The injury news is better for the Cleveland Browns this week. OLB Jabaal Sheard is practicing today, and head coach Rob Chudzinski said he was very close to being able to play last Sunday. The team expects Sheard should be able to play in Green Bay on Sunday barring any setbacks.

Also returning to practice was guard Jason Pinkston who was injured in the second preseason game against the Lions. Pinkston was placed on the injured reserve list, meaning the earliest he would be available to play would be week eight. Pinkston’s injury came in his first game action since a blood clot was discovered in his lung early last season, wiping out his year.

Defensive lineman Billy Winn was held out again from practicing.

[Related: Jason Pinkston back on the field, and he'd rather forget the last ten months]

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...]

Browns vs Lions Week Six Inactives include Winn, Sheard; Calvin Johnson will play

The Browns ruled Billy Winn out of today’s game during the week. Joining him on the inactive list today are LB Jabaal Sheard who went through a pregame warm-up routine but was scratched. It is his third game missed with the hamstring injury. TE Keavon Milton, OL Patrick Lewis, Martin Wallace, Garrett Gilkey and newly signed WR Charles Johnson are the other inactives.

Quentin Groves will be active today for the Browns. He will provide rest for Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.

The big news on the other side of the ball is Lions’ WR Calvin Johnson. The Deroit star was questionable all week long and limited in practice, but he will play against the Browns. He most certainly is not 100%.

[Related: Thoughts on the Cleveland/Detroit rivalry]

NFL News: Browns re-sign Josh Cooper, Desmond Bryant practices

Wide receiver Josh Cooper signed again with the Cleveland Browns today as the team prepares for life with Brandon Weeden back at quarterback.

Cooper, a slot receiver at Oklahoma State who caught eight passes for the Browns last season, was released just last Monday. Then today, the team signed him back to the practice squad and released linebacker Justin Staples.

In other practice news for the Browns, defensive end Desmond Bryant returned to form today. He left Thursday night’s game in an ambulance because he was experiencing shortness of breath. It appeared to be a scary incident, but it’s good to see he’s back at work.

Running back Chris Ogbonnaya (concussion), linebacker Jabaal Sheard (knee) and linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) all worked out with trainers in various regimens today as they continue their roads back to health. Defensive lineman Billy Winn (quad) did not practice.

[Related: Fun with Numbers: Browns stats as they improve to 3-2]

NFL News: Cleveland Browns inactives against Buffalo

Quarterback Jason Campbell headlines the Browns’ list of inactives for the Thursday night game against the Bills. Brandon Weeden will be active and will be the second string quarterback.

The Browns will not have the services of DE Billy Winn for the second game in a row with a quad injury. Linebacker Quentin Groves will miss his third game with an ankle injury.

Jabaal Sheard will also not be able to play again, meaning rookie Barkevious Mingo will get his second start of the season.

Shaun Lauvao is active, but no word yet on who will start at RG. John Hughes is active despite missing significant practice time to injury.

Newly acquired Fozzy Whittaker is inactive. Offensive linemen Patrick Lewis and Martin Wallace round out the inactives.

[Related: Dear Browns, I have a favor to ask]

Browns building dominant defense

Groves_SheardJabaal Sheard missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Quentin Groves was also out. Defensive lineman Billy Winn wasn’t able to go. Those are three productive players on the Browns’ front seven.

And the defense didn’t miss a beat.

The Browns are building a defense that other teams have to take notice of. The term ‘front seven’ generally refers to the defensive line and linebackers that that are in the front of the defense and have the primary responsibility of stopping the running game and getting pressure on the quarterback.

For the Browns, the front ‘seven’ includes Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, Quentin Groves, Barkevious Mingo, D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson, Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and John Hughes. Yes, that’s eleven players.

The Browns have managed to build not just a very good starting defense, but one with depth. That depth was tested Sunday as Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo played every snap on defense. In fact, eight Browns defenders played every snap including both Jackson and Robertson as well as Joe Haden, Tashuan Gipson, T.J. Ward and Buster Skrine. [Read more...]

NFL News: Weeden, Winn, Sheard, Groves, Wallace, Lauvao, Milton all inactive for Browns vs Bengals

The Cleveland Browns released their list of inactive players for the ‘Battle of Ohio’ today at FirstEnergy Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden will sit out again with a strained thumb. Quentin Groves is out with his ankle injury that could linger for a few more weeks. Billy Winn hurt his quad in the win against the Vikings and is out. Linebacker Jabaal Sheard was also hurt in the Minnesota game and will sit out today with a knee injury. Shaun Lauvao was listed inactive as well, ending speculation that he might start today.

Also inactive are OL Martin Wallace and TE Keavon Milton.

[Related: Spotlight player of the week, Barkevious Mingo]

 

Cleveland Browns Film Room Game Three: Pressure!

For the third consecutive year, we’ll take a seat each week in our very own WFNY Browns film room and break down a little tape from the game, with a specific focus.  Do enjoy.

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So, first a bit of an explanation. There was no film room last week. Actually there was, but it was never published. Here’s why. I spent three days working on the question ‘Who is the better third down back, Ogbonnaya or Richardson’? I put the finishing touches on it about an hour before the trade went down. A low point in film room history to be sure.

This week I wanted to get over to the defensive side of the ball. I’ve wanted to study this defense since Horton was named the coordinator. What better place to start than the times the Browns got to Ponder this week. Let’s go to the tape. [Read more...]

NFL News: Buster Skrine added to Browns’ injury report

Cleveland defensive back Buster Skrine was added to the injury report with an undisclosed shoulder injury. He was listed as a limited participant. DE Jabaal Sheard was also added Thursday with an illness, but also was a full participant in practice.

Thursday’s full report:

- G Shaun Lavauo (ankle) did not participate in practice

- DL Desmond Bryant (back) limited participation

- LB Barkevious Mingo (lung)  limited participation

- CB Buster Skrine (shoulder) limited participation

- WR Davone Bess (knee) full participation

- TE Jordan Cameron (groin) full participation

- LB Eric Martin (foot) full participation

- DB Chris Owens (foot) full participation

- LB Jabaal Sheard (illness) full participation

[Related: 2013 WFNY Browns predictions]

NFL Rumors: Barkevious Mingo not going to play for “a while”

Browns fans in search of positive news following Saturday Night’s 27-6 loss to Indianpolis will have to keep searching as Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer is reporting Browns’ first round draft pick who missed yesterday’s “dress rehearsal” will not be back on the field any time soon.

In his weekly Sunday column  Pluto explains the highly touted pass rusher could miss more time than the 2-3 weeks originally reported by The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot.

Yes, Barkevious Mingo’s absence with a bruised lung is a big deal. The Browns won’t say that because what are they supposed to do about it? He’s not going to play for a while. Could be weeks, could be more than that.

Bruised lungs are not a common injury, and it’s impossible to make a reasonable guess about his return. But this much is certain — the coaches loved how he was playing.

While the news on the injury is frustrating, it is good to see Mingo had been living up to his billing in the eyes of coaching staff. Mingo is listed on the depth chart behind Jabaal Sheard at outside linebacker, but is sure to see plenty of time on the field in Ray Horton’s varying blitz packages once he returns to health.

A bruised lung is a far different animal of an injury than the usual ankle, or a groin. The Browns have to be itching to get Mingo back into action as soon as possible, but with an injury of these sorts all necessary precautions must be taken to ensure Mingo is fully healed and eliminate any risk of a potentially serious health issue.

With  Sheard and Mingo both missing from the defense against the Colts, Quinton Groves was given the start at outside linebacker opposite Paul Kruger. Kruger and Groves had success getting pressure against the Colts’ offensive line, but both lack the burst provided by Mingo and Sheard. The speed of Sheard and Mingo off the edge is crucial for a Browns defense that many around the league are projecting to be a top 10 unit.

[Related: Sunday Six Pack: Reasons to be optimistic following loss to Colts]

Browns vs Rams: Evaluating the performances

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On Thursday, I gave you five things I was watching for each the starters and the reserves. This is the evaluation of those topics.

From the starters:

1) The Browns did have a rhythm on offense. Unlike many games last season, Weeden came out and hit receivers early. The first play from scrimmage saw Weeden hit Lewis on a little swing pass out of the backfield. He hit on his next three passes as well. Is there a coincidence that eight of Cleveland’s first 14 plays in the drive were from the shotgun? I don’t think so either. Not only that, but seven of Weeden’s eight passes in that drive were out of the gun.

In the second series Weeden played more from under center, with only three plays coming from out of the shotgun. All three of those were passes and all of those were completions. The last one went for a touchdown to Lewis on Weeden’s final play. Even when Campbell was in, the offense kept the same pace, which I took as a good sign.

[Read more...]

Cleveland Browns training camp primer

The Browns kick off another training camp in Berea today. Practices open to the public will be held from 4:00 to 6:30. Gates will open an hour before practice is scheduled to start. The first day for the team in full pads will be on Saturday. Remember, inclement weather could force the team indoors, which would close practice to the public. Check ClevelandBrowns.com or call 877-6BROWNS for updated practice information.

Training camp line of scrimmage helmets

If you plan to go watch the practices, here are a few things you might want to pay attention to.

1) Don’t get too excited about anything that happens on the offensive and defensive lines until Saturday when the teams put the pads on. Playing the line in shorts and t-shirts just doesn’t make a ton of sense. A player’s footwork can be watched, especially the offensive tackles on outside speed rushes. Watch rookie Barkevious Mingo whenever he goes against Joe Thomas if you want to get a good sense for how fast Mingo is or isn’t. Mitchell Schwartz had some struggles in camp last year against Jabaal Sheard’s speed rush. Obviously Schwartz improved as the year progressed. Once the pads go on it will be interesting to see the two lines go at it. They should be the units of strength for the Browns. [Read more...]

Ray Horton on Jabaal Sheard: “One of the surprises of OTAs”

On Tuesday, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton called Jabaal Sheard “one of the surprises of OTAs and mini-camp”.

“Fantastic.” said Horton of Sheard’s move to OLB from DE. “He was one of the surprises of OTAs and mini-camp for me.  He transitioned from left to right, and now we’re playing him on both sides and everybody’s worried about well, can he stand up, can he do this and do that. I think when you have good athletes they can do a lot and they just say coach use me, put me where you want to and he has really done a good job of absorbing the defense playing both sides and he’s going to be a versatile player where I can use him and move him around, and use his skill to the best of his ability.”

Horton also said he was pleasantly surprised with ILB Craig Robertson. Horton hadn’t seen or heard much about Robertson before coming to Cleveland. He knows about him now. “He was what I envisioned, what I hoped he would be. He’s a young athletic backer that is savvy. When I came in I wasn’t sure what his instincts were as far as picking up a new defense. He’s been everything I want. That’s my little ace in the hole I hope.”

The new Browns defensive coach also addressed questions about rookie Barkevious Mingo’s weight and transition. He confirmed what Mingo said yesterday that the staff is fine with where Mingo is weight wise, and that the sixth overall pick in the draft is mentally right where he should be as a rookie heading into camp.

Cleveland opens training camp on Thursday with practice open to the public from 4:00 to 6:30.

[Related: The growing expectations of the Browns defense]