July 25, 2014

NFL: Former Browns pass rusher Alex Hall crushing QBs in Canada

Former Cleveland Browns player Alex Hall is sacking quarterbacks at an astonishing rate in the CFL. Hall plays for the Roughriders and had 16 sacks in the 18-game regular season. Hall finished second in the league behind Charleston Hughes, who had 18 sacks for the year.

Hall was originally drafted by the Browns in the seventh round in 2008. He had three sacks in his rookie year, but was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles as a part of the Chris Gocong / Sheldon Brown deal.

Here’s an interview with Alex Hall that’s interspersed with some highlights of his play this season.

[Related: NFL Draft Rumors: Browns heavily scouting running backs]

Cleveland Browns missed a big opportunity with first impression

POTUSA rocking Browns fans with "Peaches"

POTUSA rocking Browns fans with “Peaches”

Another year began for the Cleveland Browns as so many years have begun for the Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t a miserable nightmare game. It wasn’t a gut-punch that will last in any sort of misery memory bank. That bank is rich with much bigger and grandiose currency than what transpired yesterday in Cleveland against the Dolphins. Still, it’s not a great look for the latest ownership, front office and coaching staff that is looking to make their own new mark on the franchise.

The team did a wonderful job gold-plating the Cleveland Browns game-day experience. The staff was friendlier than I’ve ever seen them in my life. The Browns had plenty of personnel out in the streets to try and help head off any issues with the new small bag policy they are left to enforce. The music, replays, drum line and the surprise halftime show by The Presidents of the United States of America (POTUSA) were all really great. I’m not being even the slightest bit sarcastic. With apologies to Dustin Fox, I don’t think the Halloween theme being played on third down worked, but these things are fluid. As I’ve said all along, the in-game stuff should be the easy part. And if they didn’t know already, this new Browns organization just learned how difficult it is to build the team on the field.

It’s not all bad, of course. Desmond Bryant looks like a beast along with the rest of the defensive front. The safeties played well in their first game, I thought. [Read more...]

Cleveland Browns 2012- Winners and Losers

I thought today we would eschew the typical gameday winners and losers piece, and just move to a season long winners and losers. Beware of low hanging fruit. Let’s try to be a little insightful or creative with these.

WINNER: Mitchell Schwartz. The second round RT played every snap of every game his rookie season I believe, and was effective doing it. There was a learning curve to the job of course, but Schwartz was up to the challenge and performed well as the season progressed. I challenge anyone not on the Schwartz bandwagon to recall the parade of fail the Browns have had at RT the last ten years. [Read more...]

NFL News: Weeden, Richardson and Brown listed as “out” for Sunday

Cleveland Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown’s streak of consecutive games played will end at 175 and he will miss the team’s Week 17 barn-burner against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brown suffered a concussion midway through the Browns’ Week 16 loss to the Denver Broncos when wide receiver Brandon Stokley lowered a shoulder into him on a pick play to free up Demaryius Thomas on a crossing pattern. The veteran leader will hit the free agent market this offseason as a 34-year-old coming off of a solid season with 57 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown.

Brown will be accompanied on the sidelines by rookies Brandon Weeden (shoulder) and Trent Richardson (ankle) , and tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion). Thaddeus Lewis, Montario Hardesty, and Brad Smelley will all likely see an increased role during the team’s final game of the 2012 season.

[Related: WFNY Podcast – Craig talks to Dave Bryan from SteelersDepot.com]

Browns NFL Draft Needs: Guard or Defensive Playmaker?

To keep up the flow of roundtable conversations this week, I bring to you a discussion I’ve had with long-time friend and occasional writer Jordan Marks, who blogs for Dawg Pound Daily. We tackle the major NFL Draft needs of the Browns and a number of prospects that could be a good fit. Let’s hear your take in the comments.

Jacob: Copied below is a lil spreadsheet of some NFL draft big boards — I picked eight different ones. You’ll see the top 19 guys; the clear players that separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

Position breakdown: 1 QB; 1 WR; 5 O-linemen; 2 LB; 2 CB; 4 DT; 4 DE

[Read more...]

Report: Sheldon Brown Loses Starting CB Job with Browns

According to ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi, CB Sheldon Brown has lost his starting job with the Browns-

Prior to Sunday’s game in Cincinnati, Brown had started 128 of his last 129 games. He did not start in Cincinnati because of a shoulder and neck injury. He’s able to play this week, but on Wednesday Brown told ESPNCleveland that he has been taken off the starting unit.

“I just come in in the nickel package,” he said.

Brown sat out all but one play in Cincinnati. In his place, second-year corner Buster Skrine had what even Skrine described as a rough afternoon. Nevertheless, the Browns apparently have decided that Skrine will improve only by getting more reps.

“Sometimes when you have young guys on the field you go through growing pains like that,” Brown said. “But I genuinely, in the bottom of my heart, I believe in the guys out there. And I know they’re going to get better. You can’t judge a guy off one effort. It’s not fair.”

According to the report, when Brown is on the field he will continue to play the outside position and won’t be assigned to cover the slot receiver. In essence, the move will just decrease the amount of plays that he is on the field by about a fourth.

[Related: Browns young secondary has potential despite rough day]

Browns DB Sheldon Brown was Active to Keep Streak Alive

Cleveland Browns veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown was active on Sunday, playing one play, which kept his consecutive games played streak in tact at 162.

Missing most of the week’s practices due to a shoulder injury, Brown did not start in Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals; second-year cornerback Buster Skrine drew coverage opposite of Dimitiri Patterson. Taking up one of the spots on the team’s active roster, it appears that this decision was made solely out of respect for Brown.

“I’ve mentioned it before,” said Browns head coach Pat Shurmur on Monday afternoon. “I’ve been with Sheldon a long time and I’m a big Sheldon Brown fan, and I’m his coach.

“He was in the game. Those are important things to him as an individual. I think if you ask an unselfish guy like Sheldon, he will tell you, he would give up a streak for a victory. I think that’s what you’d get from him.”

The Browns defensive backfield, without Brown and the suspended Joe Haden, had a rough afternoon, giving up several long pass plays for touchdowns. Shurmur stated that Brown has improved and his role will be different in the coming weeks, and that his shoulder injury will not likely be an issue going forward. The team may also opt to play rookie cornerback Trevin Wade on the outside, keeping the slightly smaller Skrine in the slot.

[Related: Browns’ Young Secondary Still Has Potential Despite Rough Day]

Browns’ Young Secondary Still Has Potential Despite Rough Day

There’s no other way to say it than to say that the young guys were overwhelmed yesterday. Trevin Wade got torched. Buster Skrine seemed overmatched and chasing. Eric Hagg played pedestrian when he wasn’t giving up his own touchdown. Look, it’s difficult to lose your top two cornerbacks in between week one and week two of an NFL season.

No matter how much planning you do to miss Joe Haden during a suspension it doesn’t mean you’ll be prepared. People absolutely crush Sheldon Brown, but there’s just no doubting that he’s the man until someone replaces him. Sunday taught us that there’s still some room for the young corners to grow out of his shadow.

None of this is to say that I’m disappointed that the Browns kept Trevin Wade over other players like James Dockery. I liked Dockery too. He played with aggression and spirit while contributing well on special teams. Who knows? Maybe the Browns don’t give up that punt return TD if he’s still on the squad. [Read more...]

Browns Make Things Interesting Before Falling to Ravens

Your Cleveland Browns were ultimately out-classed today.  Seneca Wallace threw an interception. The Browns bungled the clock at the end of the first half worse than anything anyone could possibly imagine.  Phil Taylor ended it with an inexcusable offsides penalty that Joe Flacco shouldn’t even get credit for.  The Browns got beat on some big plays, but ultimately they didn’t play totally horrendously.  They worked hard to the very end and even got within six points with an opportunity to take the lead. Ultimately Pat Shurmur and the Browns fell short 20-14 on Christmas Eve. [Read more...]

Cleveland Browns Outlast Dreadful Seahawks 6-3

They were close to claiming victory all by themselves, but Red Bryant sealed the victory for the Cleveland Browns with a head-butting ejection personal foul.  Victory formation ensued for Colt McCoy and the banged up Browns.  I’ll need a shower to wash off all the negativity that surrounded this Cleveland Browns victory, but it was a victory.  The only thing worse than winning ugly after a tumultuous week is to lose.  Thankfully the Browns and their fans don’t face that prospect after securing a 6-3 victory at home.

Injuries were the story of the day for both teams.  Marshawn Lynch was a late scratch for a Seahawks team that was starting Charlie Whitehurst at QB in place of Tarvaris Jackson.  By the way, I don’t think there will be any QB controversy forthcoming in Seattle.  The Browns were without Hillis and Fujita before the game and lost Mohamed Massaquoi, Shawn Lauvao, and Ben Watson during it.  Not great news for a team that is looking to improve as a young offensive unit. [Read more...]

Browns vs. Eagles – Browns Bad, But Phil Taylor!

It was a fall to earth for Colt McCoy and the offense and the Browns couldn’t seem to keep LeSean McCoy in their sites, but this game will be remembered for Phil Taylor.  Taylor has had his name mentioned lately for the wrong reasons as people were starting to doubt the Browns’ first round pick.  He did everything he could to rectify that last night in Philadelphia.

Taylor seemed like he started most plays in the Eagles backfield.  That can be a mixed bag when it happens to flush Michael Vick from the pocket.  It bit the Browns a few times, but it was encouraging to see the big man disrupting plays, drawing penalties and opening lanes for linebackers to make tackles and get hits on the QB. [Read more...]

Browns Beat Packers, Show Signs of Depth

The Browns aren’t definitively headed to the Super Bowl this season even after beating the defending Super Bowl Champions 27-17 in their opening pre-season game.  That being said, this weekend, they showed up and did their jobs on the field better than most probably thought they could.  We’ve been hearing about how the Browns, out of all NFL teams, would be behind the eight ball with a new offense, defense and without training camps.  Those thoughts were well-founded, but the Browns did their best to dispel it as myth this weekend against the Pack.

Colt McCoy and the first-team offense’s overall efficiency has been very well-documented since they left the field on Saturday.  McCoy’s ability to work the ball around to Ben Watson, Josh Cribbs, Greg Little, Brian Robiskie, Evan Moore and Peyton Hillis is encouraging to say the least.  The Browns might not have “The Greatest Show on Turf” levels of talent on their roster, but that doesn’t mean as a unit they can’t do some serious damage by being smart and efficient.  They at least showed the beginnings of that this weekend.

For me, the real takeaways from this game were on the defensive side of the ball from a depth standpoint. [Read more...]

NFL Pre-season: What to Watch After Browns Starters Exit

Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur indicated that his starters will play the first quarter on Saturday when they take on the world champion Green Bay Packers.  Obviously, during that quarter, we’ll all be watching the same stuff.  How will Colt McCoy and the offense look against live action defense considering they are all learning a new offense?  How will Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Jayme Mitchell, and Jabaal Shear perform against an opposing offensive line, QB and running attack?  Will any wide receivers step up and identify themselves from the rest of the pack, or will we be talking about tight ends all year long?

What about after the first quarter when the starters exit the game?  Here’s what I’ll be watching, amongst other things. [Read more...]

About the Browns’ Wide Receivers and Tough Decisions Coming

During the lockout a lot of us were thinking about what kinds of options the Browns would explore regarding wide receivers for the upcoming season.  Surely after trading the pick that turned out to be Julio Jones to the Atlanta Falcons, the Browns would find a veteran to come in and be a known entity for a receiving corps of question marks.  As we all know, that hasn’t happened and the Browns are seemingly comfortable letting this season be another fact-finding mission about what kinds of players they have on their roster.

The cast of characters is pretty familiar by now.  Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs are the veterans. Jordan Norwood, Carlton Mitchell and second round draft choice Greg Little are the young guns with an inside track on a job.  Chris Matthews, L.J. Castille, Jonathan Haggerty, Juan Nunez and others are longshots looking to crack the roster.  Somewhere out of those names, the Browns need to find at least two reliable targets who can play every down and then have depth.

According to coach Pat Shurmur, the Browns won’t be holding Josh Cribbs back from any receiving duties to try and preserve him for his return duties.  The company line is that Josh is a tremendous athlete and they think he can handle everything they throw at him.  In previous years with Cribbs returning kicks, running the wildcat and then playing receiver, I would have disagreed.  With the new kickoff rules and a head coach who doesn’t like the wildcat, I can buy it.  Cribbs will have to be even more polished than he was a year ago when he started to impress as a target for Colt McCoy when he was healthy. [Read more...]

NFL Free Agency: Browns Still Looking For a Cornerback?

Last season the Browns were thin at the cornerback position. Many were stunned that they broke camp with just a handful of players including Sheldon Brown, Eric Wright and then rookie Joe Haden. The group managed to stay relatively healthy, but many times gave up big plays.

This year the Browns have started camp without Wright, who signed with the Lions. Haden is now the top cover man in the backfield. Sheldon Brown is a smart veteran player, but will be another year past 30 this season (32). The Browns added Buster Skrine in the 6th round of the draft this season, and signed undrafted rookie James Dockery. Add in Mike Adams (also plays safety) and Coye Francies plus a few other camp invites and you have the cornerback depth chart. Usama Young has also played the position, but was most likely brought to Cleveland to play safety.

Make you a little nervous?

Conventional thinking was that the Browns would look to add a veteran in free agency, especially if they let Eric Wright go. But the big names have come off the market already. Not that we expected the Browns to sign Asomugha, but many felt they would have had a Jonathon Joseph or Josh Wilson type in their sites. [Read more...]

Save Me NFL – You’re My Only Hope

I am a big sports fan.  We all are big sports fans, for the most part.  Ask my wife though.  I am extended well beyond the simple bounds of what Cleveland sports teams have to offer.  This weekend I watched the Tribe drop three in San Francisco.  I watched the U.S. Men’s National Team blow a 2-0 lead in the Gold Cup, losing to Mexico 4-2.  Even the entertaining UFC event that I watched last night had a pall cast over it as Nate Marquardt “failed his medical” and couldn’t fight in the main event.  Point being, I need the NFL to go ahead and use that positive progress, sign their deal and start free agency.

Regardless of what the Browns do in season, they have largely been entertaining to follow in the draft and free agency.  The Browns can’t lose any games during free agency.  We just get to plug holes in the roster in our minds as our total win predictions climb in our dreams every night.  Last year when the Browns brought in guys like Sheldon Brown, Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong and even Tony Pashos, the roster never looked better than it did before a game was played.  Nobody ever imagines for a second that the player that was just signed to an NFL contract will be unable to play at his highest level during the year.  When NFL free agency is taking place, they aren’t real people.  They’re more like the Madden version of themselves with injuries turned off. [Read more...]

The Browns Sign D’Qwell Jackson, Seneca Wallace, Tender Eric Wright and Evan Moore

The Browns were busy yesterday, even as the labor situation remains unsolved.

First, they signed linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to an incentive-laden deal reportedly worth up to $4.5 million.  Don’t get too caught up in that number though.  It won’t mean a whole heck of a lot if D’Qwell can’t get healthy and stay healthy.  In fact, I am guessing that the Browns will be watching carefully during training camp to see if they will keep him.  Of course, what constitutes “training camp” remains to be seen given the labor situation.

Overall, I am happy the Browns are giving D’Qwell a chance.  I know a lot of Browns fans who have been down on D’Qwell. He has been really banged up the last two years, but I am still rooting for him.  D’Qwell amassed a lot of tackles, but one prevalent thought seemed to be that said tackles were always 4-7 yards downfield.  What I saw was some speed and a nose for the ball even without a solid defensive line in front of him.  Either way, it is a low-risk maneuver for the Browns to see if D’Qwell can still play in the NFL.  I am happy to see D’Qwell get a chance to regain a healthy career in Cleveland. [Read more...]

Eric Wright’s Forgettable Season is Finished

Eric Wright was supposed to be a key part of the Browns’ future in the defensive secondary.  He was supposed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and thrive off the competition with Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown and Brandon McDonald.  After winning the starting job opposite Brown and waving goodbye to B-Mac, it should have been all downhill as in “easy.”  Instead it was downhill as in headed to the bottom.   As of yesterday, due to a knee injury Eric Wright’s season is officially done.

It couldn’t possibly come at a worse time for Wright.  He flirted with Browns fans in the off-season referring to himself half-jokingly as “pay da man 2″ with a playful nod to Josh Cribbs and Wright’s own desire to make bigtime NFL dollars.  Wright is in the final year of his rookie deal, and this is the contract where NFL players look to make the richest of their careers.  All was going just fine until Wright met Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco in the third week of this season. [Read more...]

The Browns Will Win If…

The Bye Week is on the horizon. The Browns are really banged up. Colt McCoy is getting his second straight start, this week against the Super Bowl Champs. The “new” Browns actually have a winning record against the Saints, including their first win as an expansion team in 1999, and a convincing win in 2002. The Saints won the last matchup on opening day in 2006.

brownssaints

The Saints’ offense has the potential to be destructive to a weak secondary such as the one the Browns have been trotting out. Drew Brees plays QB at a level the Browns haven’t really yet seen this year. The Browns have question marks at WR—moreso—and are giving Colt McCoy his second straight start. Without further ado…

The Browns Will Win If…

The Complexity of the Browns’ Secondary Problems

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the results so far this season when it comes to defending the pass.  I am starting to feel like a broken record when it comes to this phase of the Browns’ game.  I couldn’t believe that fill-in-the-blank player who came in to replace fill-in-the-blank player could possibly be worse.  Terry Cousin was a name in the blank along with Hank Poteat.  Brandon McDonald eventually found himself on that list for me too.  So certainly this year with the additions of proven veteran Sheldon Brown, rookie Joe Haden and the return of Eric Wright, who had been the best of the worst, meant that the Browns would have to improve, right?  It doesn’t appear that way as they get gashed time and again on big plays.  What’s going on?

Like anything else, it is never as simple as it seems.  I don’t have to be labeled an Eric Wright apologist to say that the “Eric Wright SUX!” tweets that I have been reading are far too reductionist.  Eric Wright has definitely had a rough year this year.  Then again, like most things in life, even those with simple answers, there are some other things going on. [Read more...]