August 1, 2014

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.

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

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Another year in Cleveland, another coaching change for the Browns. And yet, like clockwork, training camp rolls around and fans become cautiously optimistic about their team. It is no different this year.

“THIS Year. This is it, man! Last year, everyone thought that would be the year, but c’mon, now: You know THIS is the one. This Pettine dude is the real deal. I mean, look at what he’s already done this offseason with the draft and free agency. He has that feel about him that you just don’t get with everyone else. A true leader.”

Whether you have had preemptively positive thoughts about about Bill Belichick, Butch Davis, in the past few weeks with Pettine, or at any point in the past couple decades in the seemingly unending search for a head coach, the idea that the Browns finally made the correct hire has certainly crossed your mind. This optimism evolves after every coaching search and before any meaningful games are ever played for a few reasons.

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Internal Goals: Barkevious Mingo looks forward to his sophomore season

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With twelve minutes and twenty-four seconds left in the fourth quarter of a tie game against the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson harnessed a hand-off from his quarterback, Christian Ponder, and took two quick strides forward, finding himself just inside of his left tackle, Matt Kalil. Peterson, widely considered to be one of the best—if not the best—running backs in the league since being drafted in 2007, immediately darted to his left where he would run past several would-be tacklers for what would amount to a five-yard gain. One of those defenders, a guy tasked with doing everything within his power to meet Peterson behind the line of scrimmage, yearning to beat him to the quarterback immediately following the snap, was Barkevious Mingo.

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Jerry Jones almost drafted Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Cleveland was this close to being Johnny Dallas. We know that the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Zach Martin with their first-round pick, but team owner Jerry Jones says that that almost wasn’t the case. Jones went into detail on how tough of a choice it was during Sunday’s edition of NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live, saying that Johnny Manziel was very close to being a Cowboy.

“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Jones told NFL Media’s Rich Eisen and Michael Irvin from Cowboys camp in Oxnard, California. “I looked over to my son, Stephen, our chief executive officer, and I said ‘I took the right pick.’ … He was the top player by three players on our board at the time that we were sitting there looking at him.”

The Cowboys have Tony Romo in place and may have made the better move in finding him some protection, but there’s no denying that Jones’ penchant for flash matches that of the player who ultimately went No. 22 overall to Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns. Since arriving to Cleveland, Manziel has been a mixed bag of hard work and off-field headlines. He’s firmly entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback in Browns camp, but occasionally shows flashes of the player he was at Texas A&M.

Listening to Jones, it appears that he’s anticipating much more in the way of growth and that Browns fans will have a special player to cheer for over the course of the next several years.

“Manziel is special,” added Jones. “I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League. And it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably for the rest of my career think about.”

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Browns expect Brian Hoyer to start Week 1

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According to ESPN’s Bob Holtzman, the “feeling in the Cleveland locker room” is the Browns will start Brian Hoyer in Week 1.

Earlier this week, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that he would make the starting quarterback proclamation during the third week of Training Camp, heading into the team’s first home game of the 2014 season. Holtzman, however, expects Pettine to make the announcement “well before” the third preseason game, inferring that the decision has been all but made despite the team using a first-round draft pick on Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and the proclamation of a quarterback battle heading into the season.

“We’re all expecting Hoyer to start,” one player reportedly told Holtzman. In an interview with 850AM/WKNR earlier this week, Pettine suggested that Manziel could spend his rookie season as a “package quarterback,” similar to how Colin Kaepernick opened his career in San Francisco, thinking being that the Heisman Trophy winner would bring additional threat of a ground game to the Browns’ backfield.

Hoyer is expected to practice without limitations as the team begins Training Camp on Saturday. The regular season kicks of on September 7 when the Browns travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.

[Related: A look at Browns Training Camp position battles]

(Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer)

Alex Mack and Paul Kruger named to “All-Bad Contracts” team on Grantland

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I read articles like this the way some people slowly peak at a poker hand hoping to find aces, except opposite. I’m hoping beyond hope that as I scroll through a Bill Barnwell list of bad contracts that there are no Cleveland Browns on the list. Unfortunately, due to the way the Browns’ off-season unfolded with Alex Mack, they find themselves listed prominently. Here’s Barnwell’s explanation.

Mack’s five-year, $42 million contract guarantees him a staggering $26 million, $7 million more than any other center in football. He’ll have a 2014 cap hit of $10 million; no other centers cost more than $7.3 million. Because the Jaguars structured the deal to discourage Cleveland from matching, they also left Mack with a player option in 2016, which he can use to hit free agency again. No center is worth this sort of deal, even a good one.

Obviously I agree with him that Alex Mack is overpaid. I guess, I might try and lessen the blow of that by saying it’s not like overpaying a quarterback. I think even if Alex Mack is overpaid, he’s likely to earn somewhere around 80% of the money he’s been given. Also, giving that money to an incumbent player on the offensive line should be easier to project than using money on a receiver or other skill position player to come in from another system. Then again, I very well could be looking at this through Browns-colored glasses.

The Browns don’t go unscathed on defense either thanks to last year’s acquisition of Paul Kruger from Baltimore.

Cleveland saw the possibility to steal a young pass-rusher away from its rivals and gave Kruger a mammoth five-year, $40.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. He mustered up a mere 4.5 sacks in his first year with the team, often looking like their third-best pass-rusher behind rookie Barkevious Mingo and supplanted incumbent Jabaal Sheard.

There’s a silver lining here for the Browns on Kruger though. The team smartly front-loaded the Kruger deal and a quick look at my notes from back when Kruger was signed shows that it won’t be horrible if they have to cut him loose after this year.  The way the Browns designed the deal by front-loading it with a roster bonus, they can cut him heading into 2015 and it will only cost them $3.86 in dead money while saving them $4.34 million should they need it. There’s always a third option of converting some base salary to bonus to spread it out, but they’ll likely opt for just cutting him if he doesn’t play better in Pettine’s defense this year than he did last year.

I recommend reading the whole piece though. While it’s not fun to read about bad Browns contracts, it’s a gas to see Joe Flacco and Troy Polamalu listed prominently.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Mike Pettine: Josh Gordon is a Cleveland Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Pierre Desir

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

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Each NFL Draft class brings in a melting pot of former college athletes from all kinds of backgrounds. Some grow up in the classic middle-class, two parents house-hold with the picket fence that the media glorifies. Others struggle their whole lives to not just make it to the NFL, but the survive. Despite the struggle many prospects go through, rarely is this fight to make “The League” more obstacle-laden than the journey of rookie cornerback Pierre Desir.

[Read more...]

Browns to unveil live bull mastiff mascot named Swagger

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

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

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

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

Jordan Cameron to “drive a hard bargain” during contract talks

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While the Cleveland Browns are still looking to lock up their No. 1 draft selection in cornerback Justin Gilbert, all eyes will be aimed directly at tight end Jordan Cameron who will reportedly “drive a hard bargain” when it comes time to ink an extension.

Cameron is coming off of a season where he hauled in 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also coming into a season where he’s hired super agent Tom Condon (his third agent this offseason) and will be the focal point of an offense that will be without Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon for an undefined amount of time. He’ll be leaving a system that was extremely friendly to tight ends (thanks, Norv Turner!) and entering one that is predicated upon the run game. This said, Kyle Shanahan has molded career years out of tight ends like Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed—the most recent finishing with 45 catches, 499 yards, and three touchdowns despite missing the final six games of the season.

Sure, Cameron could be tagged in 2015 rather than going through all of the bound-to-be-painful extension talks. But it goes without saying that Cameron, who lined up in the slot many times this past season, will keep an eye on the ruling over New Orleans and their tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end, but the NFLPA is arguing he should be paid as a wide receiver after lining up in the slot or outside on 67 percent of his 2013 snaps. The tight end tag is worth $5.3 million less than the wideout tag.

Cameron will likely look to better the deal signed by Jared Cook a little over a year ago, as the tight end inked a deal with the Rams for four year and $35 million, with $19 million guaranteed. He is set to make just $645,000 as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.

(Photo: Pioneer Press/Sherri LaRose-Chiglo)

Is Kyrie Irving “all in” on Cleveland? While We’re Waiting…

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Griff dropping subtle hints? In the 24 hours immediately following the NBA Draft, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was carefully selecting his words, seen by many to be verbal warning shots. When the Cavs used the No. 1 pick on Andrew Wiggins, Griffin—in what was a change from previous years—immediately addressed the pick via conference call. During said address, he made sure to mention that Wiggins wanted to be in Cleveland, which was seen by many to be a jab at Jabari Parker, the player taken with the No. 2 pick, who allegedly tanked his workout with the team.

But was this a shot at a player he didn’t draft? A day later, Griffin used the term “all in on Cleveland” to describe Wiggins, a descriptor he used to describe himself just weeks earlier when he won the team’s general manager job. In his Sunday column, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto iterated that Griffin’s word choice may in fact be aimed in the direction of one of his current players in Kyrie Irving.

Irving is reportedly on board with the selecting of Wiggins. He was one of the first to usher in David Blatt as the team’s new head coach. The Cavs will offer him the maximum contract extension allowable by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If Irving is “all in,” he’ll accept the deal. If he tries to be cute, Pluto believes the team will try to trade him. This leads to an intriguing, if not potentially agonizing, topic that has gone a bit under-discussed: The extensions signed by John Wall and Paul George last season were not inked until July 31 and September 22, respectively. Just because Irving doesn’t sign on July 1 doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland.

The two-time All-Star has a crazy summer ahead of him—Team USA responsibilities will keep him in Las Vegas (OMG LAS VEGAS!?) in late July, Chicago and New York (OMG NEW YORK!?) in mid-August, Spain in late August through the middle of September. Sure, Jeff Wechsler (his agent) will be the one doing the bulk of the work, but it’s not like Irving will be sitting in Independence deliberating until a decision is made. These things take time—just enough for the rumors to swirl in countless directions, whether he’s “all in” or not.

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Bringing back the ground and pound? The writing is on the wall for the Cleveland Browns to pull a 180 this season and become a run-first team. Several local papers focused an ample amount of coverage on Ben Tate and what he brings to the fold (we’ll throw the ABJ a bone here) as the team reverts away from being one that led the entire NFL in passing attempts a season ago. Browns OC Kyle Shanahan’s offense will reportedly be “predicated on being able to run effectively while mixing in the pass,” which means that Tate and his colleagues (Terrence West, for starters) will be seeing plenty of work while Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel will be asked to keep the defenses honest. After a season of having nary a run game, the zone-blocking scheme mixed with talented running backs could make for an interesting season on the lakefront.

The Browns’ offense will never be confused for the Broncos or Saints, but if things go according to plan, there will be some methodical movements of the ball as they wear down the opposition and strike when the time is right.

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These photos of this weekend’s Rock Hall yoga event from Ariel Agents over at Cleveland Scene are worth your time.

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So remember that “fan advisory board” the Browns were putting together? Apparently they sounded off during their first meeting. Topics of disdain? The lack of care for season-ticket holders (compared to the Cavs and Indians, the Browns are AWFUL when it comes to taking care of their top clients), the constant turnover within the franchise, and the way FirstEnergy Stadium is constantly overrun with opposing fans. There are some interesting tidbits that err on the side of vague regarding the Dawg Pound—a concept that it appears the team would like to have transcend just one section of the stadium. The Browns appear to be “all in” on modeling themselves after the Seattle Seawhawks and their incredible fan base. We’ll see if this initiative helps.

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Flush those listicles, folks. Here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportsWriting:

How Scott Kazmir came back” by Tim Keown (ESPN The Magazine): “He needed silence as an asylum from judgment and expectation. He needed to be alone with his doubts and embarrassment and confusion, to retreat from the well-meaning cacophony of advice, away from the Angels’ stadium parking attendant who told him he needed to keep his front side closed a bit longer, away from the usher who thought his stride was too short, away from even his father, who said he’d be every bit as proud of his son if he never threw a baseball again. Yes, Scott Kazmir needed the noise — the infinite chirping of an infinite number of birds — to cease. He needed the only voice in his head to be his own.”

From St. Louis to Recife in search of “the spot” by Chris Jones (ESPNFC blog): “A man called simply The Mustache unlocked the gate for Steven Lange, and he took his first few steps onto the grass, still wet from Thursday’s calamitous rain. By Friday morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the high sun lit every quiet corner of Estadio Ilha do Retiro, the storied home of Sport Recife, a local first-division side.”

Astro-Matic Baseball” by Ben Reiter (Sports Illustrated, with bonus points for production): “It is one thing to commit to only making decisions that will lead to a long-term goal, and another to figure out how to make those decisions. Blackjack is an exercise in hard probabilities. Evaluating baseball players is something else. Some information you can gather about a baseball player is hard: how fast he can throw a fastball, how quickly he can reach first base. But much of it is soft: how diligently he will work, how his power stroke might develop, how likely he is to become injured.”

A century of American Soccer anxiety” by Ian Crouch (The New Yorker): “Haven’t we reached a point where it is enough simply to watch the games? Millions of people do, taking pleasure in seeing top-flight soccer and in the tournament’s distinctive global drama. For newcomers, it can be met with curiosity, even wonder, rather than contempt dressed up as national pride. We can be shy about soccer, but we don’t need to be afraid.”

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And just because: Bartolo being Bartolo…

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Christian Kirksey

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

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Having watched film of all six members of the Cleveland Browns’ 2014 NFL Draft class, a clear theme is apparent. Each draftee possesses a very particular set of skills that perfectly fit into what Mike Pettine desires to do with his defense or how Kyle Shannahan plans to run his offense. The selection of Christian Kirksey continues to push this message as he provides the Browns with his elite coverage abilities, of which the Browns desperately needed last season, and fits the mold of an incredibly versatile linebacker.

[Read more...]

Mike Pettine clarifies “playbook” talk

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Rex Ryan may have his panties in a bunch, but Mike Pettine isn’t backing down from comments that were made to SI.com’s Greg Bedard regarding opposing team playbooks.

Earlier this week, Pettine was the subject of a story wherein he was quoted saying that he keeps playbooks very simple out of fear that competitors could find one in their possession—only he specifically named the New England Patriots. This quote drew the ire of Ryan who inferred that Pettine was out of line in his comments to the media. On Friday, Pettine dug deeper in a discussion with PFT, saying that, if anything, his words were complimentary.

“Most playbooks are very broad,” Pettine said via phone from Hawaii, where he is vacationing.  “We’ll have 80 [defensive formations] in a playbook, 30 in a game plan.  We’ll add six or seven new ones for a given game. It’s a credit that [the Patriots] have been able to get that information. I didn’t mean to imply it was gathered illegally. . . .  To me, it’s a sign of a smart team.  We’re not actively pursuing playbooks, but when they fall in your laps, you’ll study it. That’s it.

“We’re all in the business of gathering information,” Pettine explained.  “If I can get someone’s blueprint for how they build their offense or defense, of course I’m going to look at it.”

While both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban (who was dragged into the story) have denied any wrongdoing. Pettine reiterated that the Browns defensive playbook wouldn’t do many teams favors in it’s present form, saying that it’s just the skeleton—not the “meat on the bones.”

Cleveland Browns Film Room: A look at Joel Bitonio

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

Joel Bitonio

Although Cleveland fans have been taught year after year to always anticipate the worst, no one ever sees the drop in the emotional roller coaster coming. Following the first day of the 2014 NFL Draft, fans and analysts alike gave the Browns an immense amount of credit in acquiring their top cornerback, top quarterback, and a future first round pick. Within 12 hours of selecting Johnny Manziel, 1,500 more season tickets sold. And then, out of nowhere, Outside The Lines killed the buzz. Josh Gordon: Suspended.

As information on the suspension was leaked (we somehow still do not have a ruling), Cleveland fans started panicking, questioning the front office, calling for Gordon’s release, but worst of all, coming to the realization that Greg Little topped the wide receiver depth chart!

“Should the Browns have selected Sammy Watkins at 4? Did Ray Farmer intend to select Mike Evans at 8, only to have the Buccaneers take him with the seventh pick? Marquise Lee is a lock in the second round, right? Santonio Holmes is a free agent… For the love of Joe Jurevicius, please draft someone who can catch the ball!”

Yet, despite the mounting pressure and unexpected suspension, Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine refused to budge, sticking to their pre-draft philosophies and selecting offensive lineman Joel Bitonio from the University of Nevada. Disregarding the fact that the Browns desperately needed a competent lineman to play at guard or hopefully, right tackle, this pick will be long-remembered as the pick they should have used on name-one-of-the-seven-second-round-receivers.

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Rex Ryan takes a shot at Mike Pettine for talking to media

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Certain people always find a way to have their names in headlines, even when things are supposed to be slow. New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is one of said people, his latest coming in the way of a few shots taken at former colleague and current Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine.

Pettine was recently the subject of a well-written profilish piece written by Monday Morning QB’s Greg Bedard. (If you haven’t read it yet, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.) Within the story, Pettine was quoted throughout, dropping all sorts of science—scheme, philosophy, the NFL Draft, you name it. But in a passage about his playbook and how he goes about educating his players, the rookie head coach dropped this gem:

“The initial playbook itself is actually quite thin, and that’s by design. I don’t put a lot of graduate-level information in it. We know in places like New England, it’s only a matter of time that they somehow mysteriously end up with our playbook.”

Pettine added that Ryan used to hand out his defensive playbooks “like candy,” and that they would always, somehow, find their way into the hands of Bill Belichick. Ryan, needless to say, was not too pleased with this nugget of information.

“Everyone needs to talk to Mike Pettine because he’s got all the answers,” said Ryan. “I don’t understand what he’s trying to gain by it. He needs to learn to be quiet.”

This take by Ryan was just the spark. The inferno would take place when a few thirsty media members added some fuel to the mix, calling Pettine names like “ultimate snitch,” and that he was the one to leak all information to the New York media during the Tebow-Sanchez season.

Taken in context with the entire story, it would appear that there was little in the way of malice with Pettine’s comments—he simply does not provide much in the way of depth when the roster is still at 90 players. There is little to gain on providing propriety information to individuals who may not be with the team come late-August. Could Pettine have chosen another team or simply spoke in generalities? Probably.

While it’s unclear as to the cause, Ryan claimed that his relationship with Pettine is “in a bad spot.” This mid-week barb isn’t likely to mend the fences any time soon.

 

Browns officially sign Johnny Manziel

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Money Manziel officially has more, well, money as the Cleveland Browns have announced that they have agreed to terms with their second first-round draft selection. The deal is reported to be for four years worth approximately $8.3 million. Manziel will receive a signing bonus of $4.3 million with 94 percent of his contract guaranteed—sixty-five percent of which hits in Year 4. He also has a $250,000 roster bonus due in March leading into Year 4.

Manziel, the No. 22 pick in the recent NFL Draft, compiled a 20-6 record over two years as a starter at Texas A&M. He completed 595 of 863 passes for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns. On the ground, he compiled 2,160 yards and 30 touchdowns. Manziel averaged 384.9 yards of total offense per game.

Speaking last Thursday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine confirmed that Brian Hoyer will enter training camp as the Browns’ starter, but that he does not have an “insurmountable” lead on the highly-scrutinized Manziel.

No word on if Johnny negotiated his deal over the Money Phone. [rubs fingers]

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Offensive Linemen

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The offensive line is the backbone of the offense in the NFL. They are in charge of keeping the quarterback upright and making holes in the run game. If you look at the top offenses like the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, the offensive line is a strength of the team. The Browns have two of the best linemen in the NFL in Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. These two lead the group by example through their stellar play and consistent playing time, but the team was not a complete unit because of several holes primarily on the right side of the line. The Browns addressed this issue with the drafting of Joel Bitonio and the signing of Paul McQuistan as these two look to improve the guard positions with more talent and depth.

Let’s dig in to the rest of the meat up front.
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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.”

Nate Burleson on Browns-Lions preseason game: “I’m going to get a fine.”

Nate Burleson Cleveland Browns

On August 9, the Cleveland Browns will face the Detroit Lions in their annual Battle for the Barge—The Great Lakes Classic.  While this overblown preseason game will get lots of burn for its contrived tradition, it’s also going to be a focal point for Browns fans as wide receiver Nate Burleson plans on making the most of his return back to his former home stadium.

“Man, I’m wracking my brain figuring out what celebration I’m going to do — because I’m going to get a fine,” Burleson said, laughing, in an interview with MLive.com. “I’m going to get a fine, period. I’m going to go to my coach and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to get a fine. I’m going to do something crazy.’

“It’s going to be a little bit of an appreciation celebration to the fans and the city of Detroit. But it’s also going to be a poke in the back, saying, ‘You should have kept me because I’m still balling.’”

Though productive when healthy, the veteran receiver played just six games in 2012 due to a broken leg, then just nine last year after suffering a broken arm. He’s currently rehabilitating an injury to the same arm that occurred earlier this offseason. Taking Burleson’s spot in Detroit—across from All-World receiver Calvin Johnson—is Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.

Burleson was added to the fold in Cleveland to help mentor an otherwise young receiving corps that has since been subject to potential suspensions and releases. He’s expected to line up alongside fellow free agent additions Andrew Hawkins, Earl Bennett and Miles Austin, as well as holdovers Travis Benjamin and Charles Johnson. While a full season out of the oft-injured veteran would be nice, Burleson plans on making the most out of his preseason reunion, jokes and all.

“I plan to get off that game,” he said. “It might be the best game of the year for me. Guarantee it. I’m going crazy that game. Probably like 200 yards. Fantasy points through the roof, man.”

[Related: "Nate's Room" now resides in Cleveland]

Photo: Mark Duncan/AP