August 15, 2014

Josh Gordon verdict could take another week

Gordon Lomo 140726 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. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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)