August 26, 2014

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Defensive Linemen


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...]

NFL News: Joe Haden, four other key players inactive for Browns finale

All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden is among five key contributors that will be inactive for the Browns regular season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers today.

The 24-year-old Haden will miss the game because of a hip pointer that has bugged him over the last week. Rookie Leon McFadden will make his first career start in Haden’s absence.

In addition, both Phil Taylor (concussion) and John Hughes (knee) on the defensive line are out. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Billy Winn will get the starts there.

On the offensive side, guards Jason Pinkston (concussion) and Shawn Lauvao (thigh) will not play. John Greco will switch over to right guard and start, while rookie Garrett Gilkey will make his first career start at left guard.

Tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) is active and expected to start.

With all of these injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is lined up for a field day at home. Receiver Antonio Brown ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards and already was a matchup nightmare. Without Haden, the Steelers could pass all over the Browns, who also are missing one of their most disruptive forces on the line. It could be a long end to the season.

[Related: NFL Draft 2014: Quick thoughts on QBs before Browns finale]

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.


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...]

Browns defensive line is a deep, versatile group


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...]

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?

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ESPN: Browns’ Gordon and Hughes primed for “breakouts”

Though his focus will likely be turning to who the Cleveland Browns will be drafting come this spring, two members of the current team make ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper’s list of potential breakout players for 2013 — wide receiver Josh Gordon and defensive tackle John Hughes.

On Gordon:

Technically, he shouldn’t be here, as he was one of the top rookie WRs overall. But it wasn’t until Nov. 18 that he caught four passes in a game. He had rust to work off, and after a 50-catch rookie season, he could be a 1,000-yard guy for years to come with plenty of big plays as part of his repertoire.

And on Hughes:

Billy Winn was the story early on for the Cleveland D-line, filling in for the injured Phil Taylor. But it was Hughes who played really well in the second half. If he has a great camp, he could start next to Taylor on the D-line in Week 1 next season.

While the likelihood of Hughes usurping Athyba Rubin as the starting tackle remains low, it’s refreshing that the two players listed were two of the biggest question marks heading into 2012. Gordon will technically be this year’s second-round selection, so the added benefit of having an NFL season under his belt cannot be overstated. Hughes was universally panned by those with the desire to instantly grade a draft, but if he can prove to build off of his second half, Tom Heckert will be able to add yet another rough-rooted diamond to his résumé.

[Related: WFNY Podcast – Brian Spaeth challenges Craig on Browns and media]

WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2012: #3 Trent Richardson Headlines Browns’ Youth Movement

2012 was one crazy year in the wild wacky world of Cleveland Sports. Some would tell you 2012 was as bad as it has ever been here. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last four years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started the Buckeyes Final Four trip. Number nine is something that happened just a short two weeks ago. The Ohio State perfect 12-0 season was number eight while Chris Perez’ harsh and honest words clocked in at number seven. Our sixth-biggest story saw our first of two straight from the Cavaliers, the drafting of Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Up next was Kyrie Irving receiving the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Coming in at number four was Manny Acta’s fall from managerial grace.

#3 Trent Richardson Headlines Browns’ Youth Movement

This season the Browns were led by rookies in passing, rushing and receiving. (Still mad I didn’t get so much as a cap tip from the Browns stat department. You’re welcome.)

Trent Richardson’s 950 yards didn’t just lead the team this year, they were the most by a Browns rookie RB ever. Yes, he played in more games and had more attempts than Jim Brown in his rookie season. Stop for a moment though and think about the comparison. You want to split hairs about Richardson’s season compared to Jim Brown? Ok. I fully submit Richardson’s rookie year was only the second best in franchise history. And that’s good enough. He also set a club rookie marks for rushing touchdowns. [Read more...]

NFL News: Phil Taylor to return to practice on Wednesday

As the Cleveland Browns prepare to stop Ryan Matthews and the San Diego Chargers this Sunday, they will be one step closer to having an improved run defense with defensive tackle Phil Taylor returning to practice for the first time since the start of the 2012 regular season.

Taylor injured his pectoral muscle during an off-season workout and was subsequently placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Earlier this week, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur hinted that last year’s first-round draft selection would see the practice field “this week.” With fellow defensive tackle Athyba Rubin reaggravating his calf injury, Taylor’s return will be a huge boost to a defense that was abused by a committee of reserves in Indianapolis just one week ago. Rookies Billy Winn and John Hughes have seen their snap counts increase in the wake of these injuries.

As a team through 2012, the Browns have allowed 133.7 yards per game on the ground, good enough for 25th in the NFL.

Taylor played in all 16 games as a rookie out of Baylor, recording 59 tackles and four sacks to go with a forced fumble. There is no word on Taylor’s participation level or when he will be deemed ready to return to the playing field on Sunday.

[Related: Mike Holmgren gives way to Jimmy Haslam in his final address]

Phil Taylor to start practicing this week

During his Monday press conference with the Cleveland media, Pat Shurmur revealed that Phil Taylor will be returning to practice after missing the first seven games of the season.

And not a moment too soon, considering that Ahtyba Rubin wasn’t able to play the full game against the Colts with his calf injury. Maybe someday the Browns will have a full complement of defensive linemen at their disposal.

In Taylor and Rubin’s absences, the Browns have played rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn most frequently.

[Related:Browns Lose….But Weeden Improves]

Phil Taylor on schedule to return to practice

News out of Browns practice today was that Phil Taylor is on pace to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list when he is eligible to come back.  Barring any setbacks, of course, this is great news for the Browns. Taylor underwent surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle from off-season weight-lifting training. Due to NFL PUP list rules, Taylor isn’t eligible to return to the team until after the week six game against the Bengals.

The Browns’ defense has had a tough time being full-strength this season and Phil Taylor’s injury hit Browns fans in pre-season like a ton of bricks. With the return of Joe Haden from suspension and the expected return of Phil Taylor, maybe the Browns’ defense can turn around what is turning out to be a statistically woeful year for the unit.

Since Taylor has been out the Browns have used draft picks John Hughes and Billy Winn among others. Tom Heckert has spoken of wanting depth on the defensive line and with the impending return of Taylor and the emergence of capable rookies, he might finally have it.

[Related: Bengals vs. Browns 2 – Reader Survey]

Phil Taylor eager to get back but “won’t push it”

One of the nicer stories in an otherwise disappointing year so far for the Browns has been the defensive line. Much-maligned John Hughes and surprising late-rounder Billy Winn have been surprisingly good filling in for Phil Taylor. While it is a nice story, there’s no doubt that it would be an even better one if they were coming in to spell Taylor rather than filling in for him completely due to a torn pec sustained lifting weights this off-season. He’s getting closer and is eager to play, but he and the Browns also seem to be eager not to rush.

“I want to get back, but I’m not going to push it,” Taylor said in the locker room Monday. “My body will let me know when I’m ready to play.”

You hate to look too far ahead, and the Browns are expected to compete week-in and week-out despite injuries. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the second half of the season when the Browns will hopefully have both Taylor and suspended corner, Joe Haden, back on the field. While nothing is guaranteed, you have to look at it as at least an opportunity for things to really come together for the young, inconsistent defense.

[Related: “Cleveland ’95: A Football Life” will be mandatory viewing for me]

Browns’ John Hughes Preparing For First Season in the NFL

When John Hughes was drafted in the third round by the Browns, he was surprised. Surprised might be putting it mildly. His draft watch party with his family wasn’t even until the next day, when they thought he might hear his name called.

The Browns thought enough of the Cincinnati Bearcat that they pulled the trigger and picked him 87th overall.

Cleveland was looking to add depth to the defensive line that already included defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and last year’s first round pick Phil Taylor. The pick was met with criticism, as many of the “draft experts” thought Hughes was a big reach with a third round pick. But when Taylor was injured in the off-season, expectations of Hughes shifted from depth player to probable starter- at least from the fan base.

Fast forward to yesterday, the last day of training camp. Hughes worked mostly with the second unit during practice. He started the first two preseason games, but has had to battle all camp long for the spot.

“I think it went great, especially being a rookie just being able to come out here and compete.” said Hughes of training camp. “Especially with the vets and learning the plays and the system. That’s the big thing learning the system, then coming out here and playing your best.” [Read more...]

NFL News: Browns Confirm Taylor Has Torn Pectoral

When the news initially broke, Browns fans feared the worst. Not even one day later, the Cleveland front office confirms that second-year defensive tackle Phil Taylor has in fact torn his left pectoral muscle lifting weights. The result will be surgery with the first-round draft pick missing the entire 2012 season.

Taylor does have an advantage in that the injury occurred four months before the season opener. The timetable should be in the 4-6 month range, leaving Taylor as a candidate to open the season on the PUP list.

Third-round draft pick John Hughes will likely step in in Taylor’s absence. Brian Schaffering, Scott Paxson and rookie Billy Winn will also get additional snaps.

This is a big hit to a Browns defense which was among the league’s worst in stopping the run in 2011.

[Related: What could Trent Richardson’s contract look like?]

Browns Agree to Terms with Hughes, Smelley, Johnson, and Wade

The Cleveland Browns have agreed to terms with the recently drafted John Hughes, Brad Smelley, James-Michael Johnson and Trevin Wade with all four players getting four-year deals.

Hughes, the third-round draft selection who drew much hand-wringing from fans, is the highest-drafted player to agree to terms with the Browns this off-season. His four-year deal currently comes with undisclosed terms.

Fullback/H-back Brad Smelley, aper the Akron-Beacon Journal, signed a deal is worth $2.14 million and includes a $45,890 signing bonus. The Browns drafted Smelley in the seventh round out of Alabama where the 235-pounder was a versitle weapon for Nick Saban, hauling in a team-high seven catches in the BCS National Championship game against LSU.

Nate Ulrich also reports that James-Michael Johnson inked a four-year deal worth $2.52 million. The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Johnson has experience playing on the strong side as well as the middle; he’s expected to provide depth to a linebacking corps that was abused by opposing running backs in 2011.

And finally, Trevin Wade, the seventh-round cornerback selected out of Arizona, also agreed to a four-year deal. His terms, at this time, are undisclosed.

These signed rookies will join the 15 undrafted free agents, along with any players who agree to terms in the near future, in the Browns minicamp which will kick off this Friday.

[Related: What could Trent Richardson’s contract look like?]

ESPN Cleveland: John Hughes was in demand

The John Hughes pick has been slammed pretty universally ever since it occurred during the Browns’ 2012 draft. Hughes was even the subject of some pretty negative and difficult questioning by Kevin Kiley during his late (he overslept) appearance on their show this morning. Now the other sports talk station, ESPN Cleveland, has dug up some info that could shed some light on why they Browns made their pick and felt lucky to get Hughes. Will Burge has the report.

A league source tells ESPN Cleveland that Hughes would have been selected before the end of the 3rdround if the Browns had not selected him. The source said that Hughes had been fielding calls from multiple teams indicating they would select him with their third round pick. The Browns just pulled the trigger first…

It seems as though Heckert had a right to be concerned. The source also said the New Orleans Saints, who owned the #89 pick in the draft, were going to take Hughes if he was there. The Saints ended up selecting Regina defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who is almost the exact same size as Hughes.

Maybe this explains why Tom Heckert was so dismissive of questions surrounding the pick and how much of a “reach” it might have been. It is certainly a compelling report, and if accurate just goes to show how much difference there can be between draft experts in the media and the front offices of NFL clubs who must make the picks.

[Related: A few additional Browns post-draft thoughts]

A few additional Browns post-draft thoughts

We’ve all weighed in on any number of details with regard to the draft this weekend and today, but I do have a few more things I wanted to discuss. None of these things are sourced, but these are the conclusions I am left with after draft day.

Colt McCoy will not get a fair shot to win the QB job this year. I’m not even saying he should get a “fair shot” either because the Browns have seemingly decided that the ceiling just isn’t high enough. Colt McCoy didn’t make the throws last year, but I am still not sure if he couldn’t or if he wouldn’t. Well, I know that he wouldn’t because he was king of the dump-off.

All that being said, I think it is possible that Colt McCoy could be better prepared to play QB for the Browns in the offense this season than Weeden. Regardless, I don’t think Colt will get the same chance as Weeden will be getting all the attention of the coaching staff in full groom mode. [Read more...]

NFL Draft: Cleveland selections talk about being Browns

The Browns have made six selections to this point in the draft. They are all expected to contribute something to the team this year. Here’s what they had to say about joining the Browns. [Read more...]

Cleveland Browns Draft Reset: Day Three

After two days, your Cleveland Browns have been among the most active NFL franchises thus far during the NFL Draft. In terms of number of trades, peculiar selections and noteworthy storylines, the Browns have been one of the leading organizations in the past 40 hours. Will that eventually equate to winning football come September? Who knows, but we all at least have one more day in which we can celebrate our favorite past time of the April draft.

Looking forward, here are the remaining picks the Browns have in the third and final day of the draft, which begins at 12 p.m. EST today:

-Round 4, pick 5
-Round 4, pick 25 [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Browns’ Curious Calls, Cavs’ Departures, Bryce Stowell Emerges

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at

Very strong arguments made in this recap of the Browns drafting so far: “Do you know what we found out today? The front office must be pretty content sticking with the likes of Greg Little, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Jordan Norwood at wide receiver for another year. … Position-wise, there is nothing wrong with taking a defensive tackle. Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are the clear starters, but both of them, particularly Rubin, has been overworked in his young career.” [Chris Pokorny/Dawgs By Nature]

Looking back to Thursday night, at least some optimism still reigns: “Giving up three “precious” mid-to-late-round picks for Trent Richardson was easy math. The Browns need quality over quantity, particularly on offense. Getting the best running back in the draft, an impact guy who won’t even turn 21 until July, is more than worth a few picks who would likely serve as depth for their first year or two of service, should they pan out at all.” [Doug/Cleveland Sports Torture]

Byron Scott’s recent quote hesitation has a former WFNY weekend scribe thinking about what could be the future for two upcoming Cavs free agents: “It was that fourth “if” that had me standing there thinking that maybe it’s possible one of these two guys do come back next season afterall. Hopefully that’s Jamison then, I thought, in a reserve role off the bench where he provides a scoring punch and veteran leadership as a sixth or seventh man on a one-year $5 million deal. Because there’s now way he can be referring to the possibility of bringing Anthony Parker back next season with all those “if’s”, right?” [Brendan Bowers/Stepien Rules]

Some instant analysis on what it means for the Cavs in winning the coin tosses Friday: “This may not seem like a huge deal, but to me, it is. In my opinion (which could be changed as I watch more and more film as the draft approaches), there are six really good players in this draft. Those players are Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Drummond. After that, it gets a bit murky. By having a top-6 pick guaranteed, the Cavaliers can draft one of those players if their board is similar to mine.” [Conrad Kaczmarek/Fear The Sword]

One of my favorite basketball blogs makes a great point about ESPN’s role in stopping tanking: “However, television companies could take another route. They could refuse to put up with tanking. What if after a certain mark in the season (how about the All-Star break, we use it for everything) TV stations are allowed replace “bad games” and the team they replace doesn’t get paid?” [Dre/Wages of Wins]

Great to read more about this prospect re-emerging with the Tribe: “It is early, but it looks like Double-A Akron right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell is back to the dominating pitcher he was during the 2010 season. Stowell, 25, has been near-perfect and flat out dominating in the early going at Akron where in four appearances covering 7.0 innings he has yet to allow a run and has given up three hits, no walks, and has 15 strikeouts.” [Tony Lastoria/Indians Prospect Insider]

To end today, Kyle Dodson, an incoming freshman offensive tackle from Cleveland Heights, said the recent Sporting News report on Urban Meyer was filled with lies. This quote was particularly poignant: “‘No they did not. I do not know where they come up with these lies; they are probably making them up so they can attract readers for their publication.’” [Michael Chung/The Silver Bullet]

John Hughes Didn’t Initially Invite Family for Friday Night

Yeah, the selection of John Hughes surprised a lot of Cleveland Browns fans at No. 87 in the third round. But, wouldn’t you know it, the announcement also surprised Hughes himself.

The University of Cincinnati defensive tackle said he initially decided against inviting his family over Friday night, since he had presumed he’d be taken in the fourth round or later. After the call came from the Browns however, the Hughes family started to gather up again.

According to a conference call late Friday night after the selection, the not-well-regarded prospect said he was taken aback by the selection:

“I really had no idea,” Hughes said on a conference call with the Cleveland media late Friday night. “I don’t think anyone has a good idea of where they’re going, but I thought the Browns were for sure, the Saints maybe, the Bears. There were a lot of teams out there. My family’s still going to come over, so we’re going to have a nice cookout or something here to celebrate.”

I’m positive this will be a conversation topic for the rest of the weekend for the next few weeks as the Browns explain this selection. For a back-up position, this was an awful high slot, and we’ll see if the Browns can fill some other more immediate needs in the next few rounds.

[Related: Pick #87: Browns Select John Hughes]