April 23, 2014

Ben Tate is a good signing, but not without risks

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Ben Tate seems intent on making friends in Cleveland. Since his deal with the Cleveland Browns got close he’s taken to social media to ingratiate himself to the Browns faithful. It’s pandering, but in Cleveland it’s much appreciated by the fans. It’s a strategy for a player that works just fine, but I hope Tate realizes that it eventually has to be backed up with actual play on the field. For the Browns, signing Ben Tate is a good move, but it isn’t without risks. No, the two-year commitment and estimated $7 million aren’t a problem at all, at least not in theory. The problems arise if Tate isn’t able to become the featured back the Browns so desperately need.

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NFL News: Browns sign Edwin Baker from Texans practice squad (video)

The Cleveland Browns announced they’ve signed Edwin Baker from the Houston Texans’ practice squad. To make room, they’ve let go of recent QB pickup Caleb Hanie. From the Browns’ release…

Baker is 5-8, 210 pounds and officially in his first NFL season out of Michigan State. Originally a seventh-round draft choice (250th overall) by San Diego in 2012, he spent the first 15 weeks of his rookie season on the Chargers’ practice squad before being inactive the final two games. This year, he spent the first 11 weeks of the season on the Broncos’ practice squad and the past three on the Texans’ practice squad.

He entered the NFL following his junior season at MSU, where he became the sixth sophomore in school history to rush for 1,000 yards, while playing with Kirk Cousins. Baker is from Highland Park, Mich., and attended Oak Park High School in the Detroit area.

Baker gets added to the list of one of the most volatile positions on the Browns this season. The team said goodbye to Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and saw Dion Lewis break his leg in the pre-season before trading Trent Richardson, among other moves. Unless the Browns get very lucky with Baker, this move is likely just another placeholder to help them get through the season after Willis McGahee suffered a concussion in last week’s action against New England.

If you really have some free time on your hands, you can watch Baker run the ball for Michigan State against Notre Dame from 2010.

[Related: For now, belief in Joe Banner overshadows Browns wins and losses]

NFL Draft Rumors: Browns heavily scouting running backs

The Browns basically have no idea what they’re going to do in the draft because they have no idea where they will pick and are constantly analyzing their own roster. Having said that, it’s reasonably to assume with their moves this year – most notably with the Trent Richardson trade – that they would be preparing for the chance to potentially draft a running back. Now, Lane Adkins from the OBR (premium post) indicates that they are scouting that position almost as highly as quarterback.

“The Browns have been scouting running backs, nearly as heavily as they have quarterbacks and offensive linemen and the likelihood of seeing a running back, lineman and quarterback coming to Cleveland via the draft remains high.”

Of course, this still doesn’t mean a lot for the Browns first two picks in the first round between their own and the Colts’ pick. If you believe the early projections at places like WalterFootball, there are only a couple runners who might (emphasis) go in the first round at all. Still, even with all the moving pieces, it’s nice to get a little insight into what the Browns’ scouting priorities are like.

The Browns will also presumably get a healthy Dion Lewis back to compete for carries.

[Related: Video: Browns 2013 highlights so far]

NFL News: Browns claim RB/KR Whittaker, waive Hardesty and Cooper

The Browns today claimed RB/KR claimed Fozzy Whittaker off waivers from San Diego. In addition, the team waived wide receiver Josh Cooper and running back Montario Hardesty, who was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 27.

Whittaker is a 5-10, 202-pound running back in his first NFL season out of Texas. He spent the final two weeks of the 2012 season on Arizona’s practice squad before being acquired by the Chargers via waivers on March 12, 2013. Whittaker appeared in three games this season and returned six kickoffs for 156 yards (26.0 avg.) with a long of 42 yards.

The release of Hardesty is not a surprise, but Cooper’s release was. The Browns had been juggling WR Tori Gurley all season between the regular roster and the practice squad. Cooper could still be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

[Related: Weeden cleared to play but Hoyer will start]

NFL Rumors: Browns to release RB Montario Hardesty

Several reports this morning claim that the Cleveland Browns will release running back Montario Hardesty after he comes off the injury list. Hardesty could be cleared as soon as Monday, and waived shortly thereafter.

The oft-injured Hardesty has rushed for 537 yards in his career with the Browns on 153 attempts. He scored one touchdown.

Hardesty was a second round pick in 2010 out of Tennessee.

[Related: Cleveland Browns inactives against the Bengals]

For the Browns, it’s time for the “next man up” to produce

Garrett Gilkey

Garrett Gilkey

Following Thursday night’s game, Brandon Weeden addressed the injury situation. “I believe we have the depth to overcome them,” Weeden said. “We have a lot of young guys to roll with the ‘twos’ that can fill in. It’s just the next guy, that’s part of playing this sport.”

Weeden may be correct about the next man in line having to step up when his opportunity comes around, but do the Browns have the players waiting in the wings for all of the injuries that are mounting?

“There’s going to be injuries, we just have to find ways to overcome them and the good teams do,” said Weeden, echoing the sentiments that came from head coach Rob Chudzinski.

For the Browns, they now have several spots in which the ‘next man up’ will have their number called immediately.

Fortunately for the Browns, running back Trent Richardson looked good in his return to action. Coach Chudzinski also said that Richardson came out of the game healthy. The depth chart behind him is a lot more murky after Thursday. [Read more...]

NFL News: Montario Hardesty scheduled for arthroscopic surgery

On Thursday, instead of playing in Cleveland’s second preseason game against the Lions, running back Montario Hardesty will be having arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

The knee scope is the latest in a series of physical setbacks for the fourth year player from the University of Tennessee.

Hardesty was hampered with a hamstring injury during camp, and on Monday dislocated his thumb. Coach Rob Chudzinski said that the knee injury isn’t related to the hamstring issue, but that it had been bothering him for some time.

Montario has played in just 46% of the Browns’ games since being drafted, missing all of 2010. He is being pressed for a roster spot by Dion Lewis, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya.

If Hardesty is unable to play for any length of time he could be a candidate to go on the PUP list.

[Related: Craig Robertson working hard to make an impact]

Training Camp News and Notes: Trent Richardson will play Thursday

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The big news on the last day of training camp open to the public was when Rob Chudzinski told reporters that running back Trent Richardson will play “a couple of series” in the upcoming preseason game Thursday against the Detroit Lions.

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Training Camp News and Notes: Richardson and Ward hope to play in the GLC

234-20130726-0600_600“I don’t even know what shin y’all are talking about,” said Trent Richardson to crack up the pool of media around him. He stopped well short of saying he would play in the team’s upcoming pre-season game, deferring to his coach, but said his hopes are tosuit up on Thursday night. The same was said by safety T.J. Ward who also missed action when the Browns defeated the Rams last week. Coach Chudzinski didn’t talk about Ward specifically, but indicated he’d have more information on the the playing time plans for the Browns’ number one running back Tuesday. When Richardson was asked if he thought the Browns were being too careful with him, he said he didn’t know how to answer that.

“I don’t know how you can be too careful with someone,” Richardson said.

The rest of the injury report Monday was mostly about guys coming back, including Jordan Norwood, Oniel Cousins and Chris Owens. Of course one familiar name was added back to the list of injured players. Montario Hardesty came up grabbing at his hand after trying to catch a high snap from center. The injury was reportedly to Hardesty’s thumb. Chud didn’t have much info on the thumb yet, but Hardesty’s frustration at having to leave the practice field was plain to see.

Here are the rest of the notes: [Read more...]

Hardesty and Shurmur: Second-guessing the second-guessing

Before anyone could question or critique any facets of his team’s most recent victory, Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur lobbed the criticism upon himself. Visibly upset, Shurmur stated that he was “pissed” at himself for not handing the ball to reserve running back Montario Hardesty. Given the frequency of scoring drives over the course of the last two seasons, picking nits seems superfluous. But when it came to the team’s second-half drive which tacked on seven additional points, Shurmur pulled no punches when it came to himself.

Hardesty had, once again, provided substantial relief for Trent Richardson, hitting holes that were barely existent, providing bursts and extending drives. Looking every bit like the player Tom Heckert thought he was acquiring when he traded back into the second round in 2010, Hardesty amassed a team-high rushing total in just 10 carries. But it was his play during the end of the third quarter which will be the talk of the town as the team heads into it’s home stretch.

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WFNY Podcast – 2012-12-03 – Craig and Rick talk Browns and fan use of “we”

Rick and I have been talking “offline” about fan use of the word “we” when describing their favorite team. He uses “we” and I do not or at least try my hardest not to do so. Rick and I were wondering if that’s even a compelling topic, but I found it interesting. Let me know if I’m the only one. Additionally we talked about:

  • How impressive was the Browns win over the Raiders?
  • Phil Dawson’s streak ends at 29
  • Tom Heckert’s drafts panning out
  • Using Montario Hardesty
  • Weeden’s rough start
  • Trent Richardson’s solid finish
  • Josh Cribbs returning the ball from 9 yards deep in the end zone
  • Buster Skrine’s struggles
  • Shurmur’s timeout vs. challenge
  • And an update on the gentlemen’s bet Rick and I have over the Redskins vs. Browns spread. This is another topic where we wondered if anyone was remotely interested or not. Again, you can let us know.

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Is this the beginning of a Browns running committee?

The NFL really doesn’t seem to care a lot about the lives of fantasy football “owners.”  How else can you explain the multiple teams that seem to run the ball almost exclusively without exclusivity? Running by committee is a clichéd statement around the NFL, but the committee has pretty much completely avoided Cleveland since 1999. Even when it seemed like the Browns had accidentally found their way into two running backs with breakout performances by Jerome Harrison and Peyton Hillis, it seemed that the Browns could never find a way to mix and match the opportunities for both backs. Yesterday with Montario Hardesty and Trent Richardson, it seemed like the beginnings of something that might just take hold if the Browns’ coaching staff trusts in it.

I made a Twitter joke after Montario Hardesty sat with one carry for 19 yards for an extended period of time. Hardesty came in on the first drive of the game for the Browns and followed up Trent Richardson’s nine yard gain with a much speedier 19 yard run around the left side. The joke, of course, was what the Vegas odds were that Montario Hardesty would complete the game with one carry for 19 yards. My joke was almost completely based in truth. After Hardesty’s 19-yard run in the first quarter, he didn’t receive another carry until giving Trent Richardson a break in the fourth quarter. What a break it was.

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Browns end ugly road losing streak against Raiders 20-17

“Just win baby!” The famous words of deceased Raiders head honcho Al Davis rang so very true in Oakland today as the Browns faced the silver and black. It wasn’t a pretty game. The rain held off, but the field was mucky just the same. The Browns had some big plays including long passes to Mohamed Massaquoi and a 44-yard TD to Josh Gordon. The Browns also turned the ball over via two ugly, early rising fastballs from Brandon Weeden who was wild early. On the Raiders side, I couldn’t tell you how many balls were dropped by Raider receivers, but it was a noticeably high amount. In the end, the Browns had what felt like one of their better offensive games of the season as they won 20-17.

The Browns ended an ugly 12-game road losing streak. Phil Dawson also ended a not-so-ugly streak as he couldn’t escape the ugly Oakland turf. His impressive consecutive field goal streak was ended at 29. Rather than bemoan the end of the streak, it’s much more important to realize just how impressive Dawson has been. The field goal attempt that ultimately missed was a high snap on bad turf and was ultimately blocked as well. Even in missing his first out of thirty attempts, Dawson didn’t go down easily with a common shank.

The game wasn’t even really as close as the final three point margin. The Raiders had one big play to score a touchdown for 64-yards to Rob Streater over Buster Skrine. The Raiders added a 17-yarder to tight end Brandon Meyers with one second on the game clock, but it was already pretty much over, although not before some tense moments. [Read more...]

WFNY Podcast – 2012-11-29 – Craig talks Browns with DP

After talking to Denny earlier in the week, I wasn’t satisfied only talking to one former WFNY’er. So, I decided to track down DP to talk about the Browns and their upcoming matchup with the Raiders. We did talk ever so briefly about the NHL lockout because DP writes about the Blue Jackets for SB Nation, but I promise it’s only a few minutes at the beginning. We get into the Browns very quickly.

  • The Browns vs. the Raiders and how to beat them
  • Would you trade spots with some of the other teams like the Raiders that are at the bottom of NFL power rankings?
  • Where are Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya and other guys?
  • Are disappearing players indicative of an overmatched coach?
  • The Steelers’ fans didn’t like the way they were treated last weekend. Craig and DP weigh in. (Spoiler alert, we’re not sympathetic.)
  • Tom Heckert and his teaching Browns fans the true value of draft picks.
  • Is he gone just the same?
  • And much much more…

 

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NFL Injury News: Ahtyba Rubin out for Sunday’s game against Chargers

The Cleveland Browns might someday dominate the defensive line when they get Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor back. That won’t be the case this Sunday.

The Browns injury report as of Friday says that Rubin, Dimitri Patterson and (of course) Scott Fujita are out.

Mohamed Massaquoi, Trent Richardson and Tashaun Gipson are questionable.

The probables are Montario Hardesty, John Hughes, Tank Carder, Travis Benjamin, Johnson Bademosi, Chris Ogbonnaya, Frostee Rucker, Usama Young, T.J. Ward, Bubba Ventrone, and some others.

Interestingly enough, Montario Hardesty hasn’t really been a frequent guest on the injury report. Between that and Trent Richardson, could it be that Brandon Jackson sees himself as an active member of the roster this weekend?

[Related: WFNY Podcast – 2012-10-26 – Craig and Rick preview Chargers matchup]

Browns Survey Results: 57% of Browns fans expected a win

The Cleveland Browns got a win on Sunday and 57% of Browns fans who filled out our survey expected them to win. And then, of those 57%, the expected spread was seven points. That’s not all bad as the Browns won by ten 34-24. Of those who predicted victory, the average Browns score was 27 points. So the Browns actually out-performed even the optimists’ expectations by a Phil Dawson field goal.

Overall, Browns fans predicted that the Bengals would score 24 points and that the Browns would score 23. Tough to be more split than that. Now for the rest of the guesses.

First up? Sacks. Nailed it. Weeden was sacked twice and the majority of you thought he would be sacked twice.

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Hardesty has big day filling in for Richardson

Montario Hardesty hadn’t seen any action at all this season until Sunday’s win against the Bengals. He also scored his first regular season NFL TD in the win.

Hardesty carried the ball 15 times for 56 yards with a 14-yard long. He also had a catch for nine yards. It’s the third highest rushing yard total of Hardesty’s brief career. He had 95 yards against Seattle and 67 against Miami a year ago.

Hardesty might not have a chance to top his 2012 debut as Trent Richardson seemed confident he’ll play next weekend in Indianapolis.

[Related:Browns “Winn!” Top Bengals 34-24]

NFL News: Trent Richardson injures “flank”

Fantasy news… Browns news… NFL news… Bad news…

Trent Richardson departed the Cleveland Browns’ first victory over the Bengals with an injury to his “flank.” Most assume this means his side, and could even be his ribs. He missed big chunks of the second half of the game after appearing tentative attacking the hole.

Montario Hardesty filled in for the Browns. There is no word on the severity of Richardson’s injury yet.

[Related: Browns Winn! Top Bengals 34-24]

Cleveland Browns Preseason Game #4: Winners and Losers

Who caught your eye? Did someone stand out? Who blew it? That’s what were interested in this morning. Winners and losers.

Well, that was….not…really…that good.

With cuts coming sometime today (deadline is 9pm), the Browns got their final look at several players last night. What they saw might not have been very impressive.

WINNER: Brandon Jackson. Jackson looked strong and determined running the ball. He even seemed to be enjoying himself out there. Of course, Jackson really wasn’t fighting for a roster spot. I bet he is getting more and more fans in the coaches office for the 3rd down back duties. [Read more...]

Montario Hardesty: I Think I Played Well

I think I came and played well. I think I put my best foot forward and we’re going to just go from there. I’m not into this and that, I just try to come out here and work everyday and do the best I can do.  [...] I just go out and take everyday day-by-day. We just have to go out and put our best foot forward. Like I said, if I answer those things and whatever comes out of it, is what will happen.

– Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty, Thursday, following the team’s fourth pre-season game. Fumbling twice in two previous contests, Hardesty finished up the exhibition period by rushing six times for 24 yards. This compares to an abysmal 12 yards on eight carries in the team’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles just one week earlier.

[Related: Bears Backups Beat Browns Backups 28-20]