August 26, 2014

Should the Browns take a look at Stephen Hill?

As the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver issues continue into the fourth week of the preseason, one interesting name is bubbling up in the NFL trade rumor mill in the New York Jets’ Stephen Hill. ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini believes the Jets should and will try and trade Hill, with the player potentially being a roster casualty if a deal is not consummated.

The disappointing wide receiver is expected to play Thursday night in the final preseason game, a clear indication his roster spot is in jeopardy. Starters and key reserves don’t play in the annual Backup Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. Hill was granted that status is his first two years, when he was a big-shot, second-round pick with a bright future. Now he’ll be grinding with the other marginal players, trying to convince the Jets — or another team — he still can be a legit player in the league.

Ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum made Hill—a player who many Browns fans coveted over their eventual second-round pick in tackle Mitchell Schwartz1—the 43rd overall pick in the 2012 draft and traded up to do so. He has since missed nine games in two seasons, and has just 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jets and Browns do not exactly have the best relationship at this point following comments made by head coach Mike Pettine. It’s also believed that New York (while not exactly being the model franchise for offense) is looking to move Hill for a cornerback though a late pick would be more likely. Hill should not cost more than a late-round pick, and he has all the measurables, boasting a 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound frame with 4.36 speed. Unfortunately for the Jets and Hill, the Georgia Tech product has shown terrible hands and has had a penchant for injuries.

He’s been brutal over the course of his first two seasons, but he’s still young and let’s be honest: The Browns are in no position to be picky when it comes to potential receiving threats.

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Footnotes:

  1. Alshon Jeffrey, in hindsight, wouldn’t have been a bad move, eh? []

Browns Preseason Game 3: Winners and Losers

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So are we concerned yet? For the third week in a row, the Cleveland Browns were bettered by their preseason opponents. For the third week in a row, the offense left plenty to be desired. And for the third week in a row, the quarterback situation—despite a starter having been named—remains as a point of scrutiny. Let’s dig in to the winners and loser of the Browns’ Week 3 dress rehearsal.

LOSER: Brian Hoyer. If you just looked at the box score, you may be impressed by a 10-of-16 showing. But if you watched the game, especially from within the confines of FirstEnergy Stadium, you’re well aware that much of the 84 yards that were credited to Hoyer came on passes into the flat. The interception he threw into the middle of the field, with Miles Austin as the intended receiver, was ugly. Had Alec Ogletree not picked it off, one of the other blue jerseys in the area would have. Fans better hope that this is just a vanilla offense that isn’t showing much before the Week 1 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If this is a sign of things to come, look out. [Read more...]

Browns’ Manziel fined $12,000 for giving Redskins bench the finger

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Johnny Manziel’s $4.3 million signing bonus just took a small hit on Friday as the league fined him $12,000 for the Finger Seen ‘Round the World. Per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Manziel is allegedly weighing an appeal.

Why would the rookie appeal something that was captured on live television and retweeted at an epic volume? The fine given to Manziel is just a hair above the standard fine for such an incident.

Hashtag TheBird. Hey, did you hear? There’s a game tomorrow? There will be a football and everything.

[Related: Johnny Manziel can’t call a play?]

 

A two-QB system for Johnny Manziel? Not so fast.

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Mike Pettine isn’t buying in to the hype. With rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel losing the Cleveland Browns’ preseason competition, many throughout the league expected the team to utilize a two-quarterback system that would allow the mobile, play-making Manziel to have a package of plays designed for his unique skill set, subbing him in for Brian Hoyer when needed. Pettine, the first-year head coach, is firmly backing Hoyer, the St. Ignatius product, stating that the first portion of the season will be for his quarterback to build chemistry that he may have lacked during the first two weeks of the preseason.

“People have asked me about potentially a two-quarterback system and having a package for [Johnny Manziel]. That is on the table,” Pettine said in an interview with “The Opening Drive” on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t know if that’s anything that we want to commit to just now, because I think Brian—because of the competition—is a little behind with the chemistry and continuity in working with that first group. I think that is something that we can potentially look at down the road.”

Since awarding Hoyer with the starting quarterback spot, Pettine has been the recipient of both criticism and praise. Rather than caving to the pressure of starting a first-round quarterback, he has opted to roll with the veteran. Earlier this week, Pettine stated that he envisions a scenario in which Manziel, the focus of plenty media attention, does not play at all despite being the No. 22 pick by the Browns.

Several teams have opted for two-quarterback systems over the last several seasons, including the San Francisco 49ers (with Colin Kaepernick) and the New York Jets (with Tim Tebow). Pettine, having ties to the Jets, was able to see first-hand how disruptive such a spectacle can be.

For now, it appears that those wishing to see Manziel take the field will have to get all they can during the final two weeks of the preseason, because if Pettine has his way, the rookie will not see the field for quite a while.

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Did the Browns break an “unwritten rule?”

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The Cleveland Browns made a relatively below-the-radar move earlier this month, adding offensive lineman Michael Bowie after he was waived by the Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable appeared on 710 ESPN Seattle, suggesting that the Seahawks still believed in Bowie and that the Seahawks expected the Browns to stay away from him, citing an “unwritten rule” that allows teams to hide injured players from their 31 opponents.

“Typically when you waive someone injured, they kind of get through [waivers] and you’re going to get them back, fix them and move on,” said Cable. ” Cleveland chose to take him, and whether you agree with it or not, I guess that’s business. It’s kind of an unwritten rule — you just leave each other’s injured players alone and they didn’t.”

Having 90 players and needing to start making space on their roster, the Seahawks waived Bowie due to a shoulder injury despite the 22-year-old starting several games for the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Bowie will require surgery and could be sidelined from four to six months having sustained an injury on the first day of training camp. Seattle had hoped that the Browns would adhere to said unwritten rule where other teams leave injured players alone, allowing them to rehabilitate and return to their original team, but the Browns thought otherwise, adding a 22-year-old player who was in line to start at right tackle for one of the best teams in football.

The Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots made waivers claims for Bowie, too, but the Browns had superior waiver claim. The Patriots violated said rule two years ago with tight end Jake Ballard, and again only days before Bowie was waived with running back Tyler Gaffney.

Bowie, a former seventh-round pick, should be fit for Cleveland spring practices in 2015. One step closer to The Earthquake.

Image: SeattleSeahawks.com

Josh Gordon verdict could take another week

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Looking for some closure in the Josh Gordon saga? You’ll have to wait a bit longer.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Josh Gordon verdict may not be handed down from the NFL before the end of next week. The reasoning this time? Typing speed. Gordon’s two-day appeal hearing with Harold Henderson reportedly contained a high volume of testimony and evidence from both sides, leading to this lengthy delay due to transcription.

Concern is that Gordon, who would not get to apply for reinstatement for one year, would essentially miss all of next year’s training camp due to the longevity of this appeal. ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi has mentioned a potential scenario where even if Gordon gets a one-year ban for violating the league’s drug policy, he’ll be able to apply for reinstatement after eight games and work out with the Browns during this time. Meanwhile, the waiting game continues on.

Gordon started Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Detroit Lions and caught two passes (four targets) for 32 yards. He has missed some time at this week’s training camp due to what’s being called an abdominal ailment.

[Also See: Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga: WFNY FAQs]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Browns Preseason Game 1: Winners and Losers

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With the first weekend of preseason football in the books, we learned some thing about the outlook of the 2014 Browns, both positive and negative, but many important questions remain unanswered. The difficulty of the preseason remains that no one truly knows whether certain players are flashes in the pan or can be counted on in the regular season. But, this is the first opportunity to watch football since January, so overreactions are abundant and to be expected. I’ll try to avoid reactionary instincts, but when you’ve been trying to analyze pictures of your players to gauge whether or not they are engaging in illicit activities in a bathroom, finally being able to evaluate their actions feels like a blessing. Without rambling any further, lets get into the winners and losers of preseason Week 1.

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Browns finally sign Rex Grossman

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After being linked to him through much of the offseason, the Cleveland Browns have agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Rex Grossman.

Grossman is 6-1, 225 pounds and officially in his 12th NFL season out of Florida. Originally, a first-round pick (22nd overall) by Chicago in 2003, Grossman has appeared in 54 games and has compiled a 25-22 (.532) record as a starter. He has completed 863 of 1,562 career passes for 10,232 yards with 56 touchdowns and 60 interceptions. He’s also the subject of one of the sports blogesphere’s most entertaining (and meme-generating) pieces pretty much ever.

Sexy Rexy spent his first six seasons (2003-08) with the Bears and led Chicago to Super Bowl XLI during his first full season as the starter. He spent the past four seasons (2010-13) with the Redskins following one year with the Texans (2009). Last season, he was inactive for 13 games and was active but did not play in the team’s final three contests.

To make room for The Cannon, the Browns waived quarterback Tyler Thigpen.

Preseason Game 1 Preview: Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions

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Rookies and a revamped offense: What we are watching during Week 1 of the NFL Preseason

Football in Cleveland is back and once again, the Browns have brought in a new regime. On Saturday, the Detroit Lions will host new Head Coach Mike Pettine and the new-look Cleveland Browns. Gone are Rob Chudzinski, Joe Banner, and the vertical passing game. In comes Kyle Shanahan and the zone run, play-action pass offense. Brandon Weeden, Willis McGahee, D’Qwell Jackson have been upgraded to Johnny Manziel, Ben Tate, and Karlos Dansby. Given the change in scheme and turnover in personnel at key positions, the preseason is of utmost importance.

[Read more...]

Brian Hoyer to start Browns’ first preseason game under center

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By many accounts, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel “won” training camp on Wednesday, but Brian Hoyer will be getting the start on Saturday when the Browns and Lions lock horns for the 2014 Great Lakes Classic.

Manziel’s playbook wrestling has him behind Hoyer for now, but this competition is far from over. The man they call Johnny Football has begun to earn more first-team reps in practice lately, and is not ruled out to be starting the second preseason game.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine is expected to name his starting quarterback before the team’s third preseason game, at home against the St. Louis Rams. Browns players have gone on record to say that they believe Hoyer will be under center, but Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believes the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft will get the nod.

For now, the Battle of the Barge will be up to the St. Ignatius product. WFNY will have more on Wednesday’s Training Camp later today.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Looking for a $1,395 Johnny Manziel jersey? You’re in luck.

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Happen to have $1,400 burning a hole in the pocket of your cargo shorts? You’re in luck as Cleveland’s own NEXT has some options for you.

Renzo Cardoni, the designer who has proclaimed to have reinvented sportswear jerseys with premium lambskin and suede as well as python leather, has released a Johnny Manziel jersey with lambskin instead of the standard mesh and the rookie quarterback’s name and number stitched with the high-end snakeskin.

If Manziel isn’t your type, fans of the animalistic jerseys can opt for Cleveland’s own Donte Whitner or Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, each in home brown or away white. All of these jerseys have been made exclusively for NEXT and can be purchased in store or online. Have at it, kids.

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Indians games crush summer TV ratings

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Attendance may be down, but numbers don’t lie: Indians fans are tuning in. Since the start of the 2014 MLB season, Cleveland Indians telecasts on FOX Sports’ SportsTime Ohio are the highest-rated and most-viewed programming on television in Northeast Ohio. Per STO (by the way of Nielsen), Indians telecasts are averaging an 6.73 household rating and 100,000 households in prime time (7-11 p.m.), 60 percent higher than the No. 2-ranked CBS (4.21) and whatever CSI they have running during the same period.

The Indians also have the 5th highest local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, including afternoon games.

The highest rated game of the 2014 season to date is the Tribe’s home opener vs. the Minnesota Twins, which garnered a 14.77 HH in simulcast with WKYC (over 219,000 households). The highest rated non-simulcast game of the season so far is the July 9 game vs. the New York Yankees which went from 7 p.m. to midnight and produced a 10.24 HH average (over 150,000 households). Monday night’s 7-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds became the 2nd highest rated non-simulcast game of the season with a 9.39 HH rating (over 138,000 households).

“Fans are passionate and excited about the Indians, and we’re proud to bring them the most in-depth and high quality coverage each game,” said François McGillicuddy, senior vice president and general manager of SportsTime Ohio and FOX Sports Ohio via press release.

The month of July is the third best month ever for the Indians on STO, the best since August, 2011, boasting a 6.9 HH average (over 102,000 households). In 23 games this July on SportsTime Ohio, the Indians were either No. 1 or No. 2 for the entire day 18 times (78 percent of games) and were No. 1 in 16 of them. Overall, the Indians are averaging 6.3 HH which is 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

As of Monday night, the Indians (57-55, fresh off of their fourth victory in a row) sit 2.5 games out of the AL Wild Card.

Everything you need to know about the Josh Gordon saga: WFNY FAQs

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So Josh Gordon’s appeal hearing has come and gone, but it may be a while before we hear anything in the way of an official ruling. Though he has missed a few minutes here and there to tend to some personal matters, Gordon has been in Training Camp this entire time. Oh, and the preseason starts in just a few days.

What was discussed? Who was there? Why is this taking so freaking long?

As the questions pile up, we here at WFNY have compiled a bit of an FAQ of sorts to help guide you through the process. Enjoy.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. What the heck happened? [Read more...]

Dick LeBeau expects Johnny Manziel under center on Week 1

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Could the Cleveland Browns really consider starting a rookie quarterback against Dick LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Week 1? LeBeau appears to think so, taking what has recently transpired in Browns Training Camp and extrapolating it toward the first week of the 2014 regular season.

“I’m expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter,” LeBeau told Cleveland.com’s Tom Reed. “That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams. [...]

“I think he is going to be a handful for all of us,” said LeBeau, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. “You watch all his games and he created plays, he made plays, he kept plays alive.

“He has the ability to see people and the touch with the football to get it in there late in the down. I think he will be successful at this level.”

Could there be some gamesmanship taking place? Reed added that other organizations, while not as willing to go on the record like LeBeau, privately believe that the Browns are slowly moving toward making Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Opening Day starter.

While Brian Hoyer is presently listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the team’s depth chart, and is expected to start this weekend against the Detroit Lions, Manziel has been picking up steam, flashing his ability to create on the run, make smart decisions—throwing out of bounds, sliding before contact—and general growth when it comes to the team’s playbook.

General belief remains that Hoyer will start the season under center, allowing Manziel to take over at some point down the road as the team’s schedule becomes less onerous.

[Related: The Johnny Football smokescreen is covering the Browns]

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Pics: Nate Burleson rocking custom Jordan Brand cleats

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They aren’t likely to get as much fan fare as Johnny Manziel’s Volt Vapor Ultimate cleats, but Browns wide receiver Nate Burleson took to Berea on Monday while wearing a pair of custom Jordan Dominate Pro TD 2s.

To give you a better idea of what these bad boys look like up close, WFNY has you covered.

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The Dominate Pro series comes equipped with all of the essential Nike cleat technologies—Arch Beam propulsion, Lunarlon cushioning. Burleson obviously wanted to crank it up a notch for his new team, giving them an orange and brown makeover.

[Top photo from Kevin Jones/Twitter]

Josh Gordon hearing to continue on Monday

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Read into this what you will, but the Josh Gordon-NFLPA hearing is officially To Be Continued. After convening at 9:30 a.m. EST in New York, New York, the two sides reportedly departed at 7 p.m. EST and will gather again on Monday, August 4.

Gordon’s attorneys, Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, will reportedly argue that the wide receiver—who is looking down the barrel of a season-long ban for violating the NFL’s drug policy—is the victim of inconsistent test results. His “A” and “B” specimens turned up different amounts, one below league threshold, leading  to a huge public relations push under the belief that Gordon should not be subject to banishment from the NFL having allegedly passed 70 additional tests.

No NFL player is believed to have won an appeal with a second-hand smoke defense, but with the PR push and mounting evidence, Gordon’s chances appear to be better than any of those who were heard before him. (He could still face discipline for his July 4 weekend DWI. That hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 26.)

A look at Kyle Shanahan’s Zone Run Game, Part II: Cleveland Browns Film Room

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(If you missed Part I, make sure to check it out here.)

The idea that the NFL has become a passing league does not phase new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. While many other teams turn to more pass-oriented offenses, Shanahan prefers his offense has a similar run-to-pass ratio to teams before the thirty-four year-old was even born. Only in one season since 1982 has the number of rush attempts exceeded the amount of passes thrown in the NFL. Prior to that year, the average number of passes had never once exceeded the amount of rushing attempts.

However, in 2012, Shanahan’s most successful season as an offensive coordinator, the Washington Redskins passed the ball on just 45.99% of their offensive snaps, placing them as the second least frequent passing team in the league, according to Sporting Charts. So, the question must be posed: Why run the ball so often when passing oriented offenses like that of the Broncos are smashing single-season records? For Shanahan, this answer to this question comes down to deceiving the defense.

[Read more...]

No decision on Josh Gordon’s potential suspension is expected Friday

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And the Josh Gordon saga drags on. As the Cleveland Browns continue to roll through Training Camp, wide receiver Josh Gordon is expected to have his appeal hearing on Friday, but no ruling is expected to come out for several days.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be in Canton, Ohio for the 2014 Hall of Fame enshrinement and is expected to meet with Gordon later in the coming week. Gordon’s appeal will instead be heard by arbitrator Harold Henderson in New York with a decision will be handed down “soon.”

No NFL player is believed to have won an appeal with a second-hand smoke defense, but with the PR push and mounting evidence, Gordon’s chances appear to be better than any of those who were heard before him. (He could still face discipline for his July 4 weekend DWI. That hearing on that case is scheduled for Aug. 26.) Gordon’s attorneys, Heather McPhee of the NFLPA and Maurice Suh, will reportedly argue that the wide receiver’s test results were inconsistent—his “A” and “B” specimens turning up different amounts, one below league threshold—and that Gordon should not be subject to banishment from the NFL having allegedly passed 70 additional tests.

Gordon was naturally missing from Thursday morning’s practice session with the Browns, who deemed his absence due to “traveling.” Given that the initial news regarding the possible suspension broke during the NFL Draft, what’s another few days?

[Related: The “Help” Josh Gordon Really Needs]

The “Help” Josh Gordon Really Needs

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Josh Gordon needs help. This has been a common sentence bandied about the vacuum of opinions we call the Internet ever since the news came down that the gazelle-like receiver might have failed yet another drug test. And he does. There is no denying that Gordon’s choice of recreational activities since his college days have been sub par, and it is somewhat unthinkable that he ever made it to the hollowed football fields of the NFL. Whatever your stance on the sticky icky is, the NCAA and NFL don’t take kindly to it being in your system, though Gordon’s issues aren’t only relegated to a somewhat illegal plant. Getting a DWI while driving a vehicle registered to a former college basketball player who was once suspended by the NCAA and enjoys punching children out on the basketball court is a bad look.

But what “help” does Gordon need, exactly? [Read more...]

I woke up in a new Bugatti! Training Camp Notes: 07.31.2014

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Blue skies, orange jerseys.

BEREA, Ohio — Is it possible that Joe Haden, a veteran member of the Cleveland Browns, has never had the chance to wear one of the infamous orange jerseys? On Thursday afternoon, the Pro Bowl, shutdown corner’s fortunes changed as the Browns’ defensive unit was awarded the kits made popular by such noblemen like William Green and Jeff Garcia. Browns head coach Mike Pettine, as a means to keep adrenaline running during Training Camp, has installed end-of-practice challenges—the winning side of the ball getting to sport orange jerseys during their next time out as a morning-long victory lap, a reminder of which side got the job done when called upon.

[Read more...]