August 26, 2014

Johnny Manziel completes bomb to Travis Benjamin

Training camp stats are for the birds, but I recently noted that I didn’t feel as if the Browns were successful going long in camp. Between Hoyer and Manziel, I just haven’t seen a lot of long completions challenging the back of the defense. When the Browns do toss those kinds of passes, it’s a host of overthrows and passes defensed.

Not yesterday when Manziel found Travis Benjamin on this bomb.

WFNY’s State of the Browns: Special Teams

Travis Benjamin

Training Camp is in its second week and the preseason is just a couple of days away. To this point, we have gone through every position in the WFNY’s State of the Browns series. The last group we will look at in this weekly look is the special teams.

The special teams unit is a very important group and could be a difference maker in any game. Last season, the team had an average year in both the kicking and punting. The Browns had trouble finding a kick returner, playing multiple players at this spot. The brightest spot of the special teams was punt returner Travis Benjamin, but halfway through the season, the Miami product sustained a season-ending injury. The team hopes he can come back healthy and be their mainstay at returner. Let’s take a look at the state of the Browns special teams unit. [Read more...]

In the 2014 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns should consolidate picks

2012 NFL Draft

The Cleveland Browns have a lot of picks in the 2014 NFL draft, but they don’t need 10 new players by the time the weekend is done. The Browns have plenty of needs and should do plenty of work to address those needs in the draft, but more important than anything, they need as many star-level players as possible. I know a lot of this sounds very obvious, but I get the sense that because many think of this as a “deep” draft that the idea of trading down has become palatable to increase the number of picks. While I can’t lay out an actual game plan for what I want the Browns to do, as a general rule for this draft, I’m less interested in having all those third- and fourth-round picks become players than I am seeing if they could be consolidated into one or two picks in higher rounds.

[Read more...]

What should the Browns do with Greg Little?

Greg Little FilteredAs we make our way through the off-season and think about various positions on the roster, nobody’s position might be stranger than Greg Little’s. Little is a good guy with very good physical attributes. He’s a receiver who “flashes” on occasion, but then disappears for long stretches when he isn’t dropping passes. Despite some mostly meaningless traffic incidents that served to bring him a bit of negative attention, he largely does and says all the right things. He works as hard as he can whether it’s extra time catching passes or learning hand-fighting techniques of defensive linemen in the pre-season. Greg Little is, in many ways, exactly what you want a young player to be and yet, he was rumored to be a guy that Browns brass wanted Rob Chudzinski to cut to send a message. Chud is gone of course, but for now Greg Little is still here.

If you were to poll Browns fans and ask them if Greg Little should be cut from the team, I bet the vote would be 50/50. I can’t even tell you what I would say, personally. After his third year, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not a number two wide receiver, let alone a number one. I know for a fact that he’s not a guy I want returning kickoffs either. By the way, despite that infuriating chapter of the 2013 Browns season, Little averaged 21.57 yards per return in seven attempts. I would have bet it was nowhere near that good an average. And that’s kind of instructive for Greg Little’s entire career. [Read more...]

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Brian Hoyer

The hometown kid rejuvinated a bitter and beaten fan base (Diamond Images/Getty Images)

The hometown kid rejuvinated a bitter and beaten fan base
(Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by a WFNY writer.

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Video: Browns 2013 highlights so far

Not everyone took the bye week off. One YouTube user decided to compile a bunch of the Browns’ highlights from the year and do it up like a college kid would do his scouting highlights with loud hip hop featuring NSFW language. It’s an entertaining watch, and I recommend muting it so you don’t pollute your virgin ears with the harsh language of youthful music. It’ll remind you that this team has been lots of fun to watch at times this season.

Make sure you watch until the end to see Greg Little rocking a mic and dancing.

[Related: NFL News: John Moffitt says Browns failed his physical due to salary dispute]

ACLs and Futures: What to expect from Travis Benjamin and Brian Hoyer

TBenjamin3It was the middle of the winter, roughly five or six years ago, where I walked in to the gymnasium at the Brecksville recreation center with the plan of watching a few friends school some Winter League opponents in a basketball game only to find a good friend, Jeff, sprawled out on the basketball court near the intersection of the baseline and sideline, pounding on the floor while wincing in pain. A horse of a human being, Jeff had not just played, but excelled in sports through our entire adolescence. To this day, he has hit the furthest home run I’ve ever seen in a travel league game, doing so having not taken a swing in the on-deck circle; he could kick the living hell out of a soccer ball, a process aided by having tree trunks for legs; while not the fleetest of foot, he used his size in the paint to anchor the frontcourt for any basketball team. Terrific shape and still in his 20s, he had merely crumbled to the floor like a bag of bricks, his knee having given out, his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, torn to shreds. [Read more...]

NFL News: Browns WR/PR Travis Benjamin out for the season

As if things couldn’t get any worse….

Head Coach Rob Chudzinski announced at his press conference that Wide Receiver and ace punt returner Travis Benjamin has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Its a big blow to the Browns special teams who were thriving on punt returns with the speedy Benjamin a threat to take one back every time.

The play happened in the third quarter of yesterday’s game in KC, forcing the Browns to go to Devone Bess in his place. We know how that turned out. Benjamin was averaging 11.7 yards per return with one TD, second best in the AFC. As a receiver, the 23 year old second year speedster had five catches for 105 yards and one rush for 45 yards.

Chudzinski said that Bess will handle the punt return duties but that CB Joe Haden will also get a look.

Cleveland Browns Game 7: Winner and Losers

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

WinnersLosers_WFNY

Ugh. The Browns loss yesterday to the Packers had a familiar look to it. Which means we might struggle to find anything positive.

LOSER: Brandon Kyle Weeden. Yes, there was a point in the game where Weeden completed a few passes in a row and moved the Browns a little. Too little, too late however. Weeden looked awful completing only 40% of his passes. He missed several open targets and had the announcing crew bemoaning his lack of quick decision making. We even saw a sequel to the infamous ‘underhand flip’.

WINNER: Travis Benjamin. Benjamin was given a chance to return a kick-off, something fans and the media have been asking about for weeks. Benjamin fielded the kick in the back of the end zone and scampered 86 yards to set the Browns up in great field position. Benjamin didn’t get another chance. [Read more...]

Browns are bad and boring in loss to Packers

WeedenYawn. Every NFL fan’s worst nightmare is reality once again in Cleveland. The team is not only bad, but a deadly combination of bad and boring. That’s my takeaway from Green Bay as the Browns failed to do nearly anything offensively all day. The Browns end up falling to the Packers 31 to 13.

It wasn’t just the Brandon Weeden-led offense. The defense started the day off poorly as well. The Browns spotted the Pack a 14-0 first quarter lead. They missed tackles left and right, most notably on tight end Jermichael Finley. They continued their streak of not being able to get pressure on the quarterback from last game and ultimately paid the price twice. The Browns defense did get better as the game went along, but it was far too late by the time they started to play. At least it was too late for an offense like the Browns trotted out on the field.

Brandon Weeden won’t escape criticism this week. No, he didn’t have a “flipperception,”1 but Weeden started off the game with the football equivalent of his Rick Ankiel impression. That resulted in first quarter drives that went punt, interception, punt for the Browns. And the only reason Weeden was granted an opportunity to throw the interception was because Jake Stoneburner ran into Spencer Lanning’s plant leg for a penalty that gave the Browns the ball back. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Although he was really REALLY close to throwing ANOTHER one. []

NFL News: Travis Benjamin named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

After a franchise-record 179 punt return yards last Thursday, Browns receiver Travis Benjamin was honored today with the title of the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

Benjamin is the second Browns player to earn this honor this season. Punter Spencer Lanning also received the award after Cleveland’s Week 3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The previous franchise record was 166, set by Eric Metcalf back in 1993. Benjamin’s performance was just the seventh NFL game all-time with at least 175 punt return yards.

After setting up a score with a 57-yard return in the first quarter, the second-year speedster out of Miami recorded his second-ever punt return for a touchdown on a spectacular 79-yard dash in the second quarter. He finished with seven total returns in the game, clearly affecting Buffalo’s every move.

Per the Browns, Benjamin now ranks second in the NFL with both an average of 15.1 yards per return and 256 total punt return yards. He is the NFL’s only player with two 50+ yard returns in a single game this year.

Cleveland returns home on Sunday to face the Detroit Lions in Week 6.

[Related: Fun with Numbers: Browns stats as they improve to 3-2]

Fun with Numbers: Browns stats as they improve to 3-2

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland BrownsIt sure is fun to have a win in the books before Sunday. The Browns managed to do that with their back-and-forth dramatic victory on Thursday night, despite losing resurgent quarterback Brian Hoyer for the season.

As we look back at how the Browns are suddenly on top of the AFC North Division – yes, it’s true – here are a number of intriguing statistics that I’ve found, courtesy of the fine folks at Pro-Football-Reference.com.

0.23 – Difference in yards per rushing attempt between Trent Richardson (3.39) and all other Cleveland Browns running backs this season (3.16). The Browns again rank as one of the worst rushing teams in football this season, but have capitalized on adding a first-round draft pick for a drop of only about 7% in relative rushing efficiency. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting…Weeden lights it up

While We’re Waiting is the daily morning link roundup that WFNY has been serving up for breakfast for the last several years. We hope you enjoy the following recent collection of yummy and nutritious Cleveland sports-related articles. Anything else to add? Email us at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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“The Browns are counting on Weeden to take a major step following an up-and-down rookie year. Chudzinski and new coordinator Norv Turner have tailored Cleveland’s offense to better suit Weeden, who has won over his teammates with his work ethic during the offseason.

Now, all the soon-to-be 30-year-old has to do is convince skeptical Cleveland fans that he can be the man. This was an ideal start.

Weeden looked composed as he led the Browns to 10 points on their first two possessions.

He went 5 of 8 on Cleveland’s first drive, which included wide receiver Greg Little — a former basketball player — making a leaping catch of a pass that deflected off tight end Jordan Cameron’s facemask. Brian Bogotay’s 25-yard field goal gave Cleveland a 3-0 lead.

Weeden was even better the second time the Browns got the ball. He completed all five passes, connecting on a 30-yard crossing route to Cameron before capping the drive with his TD strike to Lewis, who juked Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree before hauling in Weeden’s throw.

”I thought he did a good job,” Chudzinski said of Weeden. ”He was efficient and led us to some drives. Ultimately, doing that is what his job is all about.”

Cleveland’s revamped offense clicked even without Richardson, kept out as a precaution as he recovers from a shin injury. Weeden saw plenty of progress.

”We maneuvered well,” he said. ”We didn’t have any penalties. We didn’t do anything to move backwards. We were moving forward. For the first game out, I think we did some good things.”

Benjamin gave the Browns reason to believe they won’t miss spectacular return specialist Josh Cribbs, who signed with Oakland. With Cleveland leading 10-0, Benjamin backpedaled and caught a punt at his 9. He broke toward the left sideline, picked up a couple blocks, one by rookie Barkevious Mingo, and went untouched to the end zone.

”Freaky fast,” Weeden said, describing Benjamin.” [Associated Press]

[Read more...]

Browns vs Rams: What I’m watching

The preseason opens tonight for the Cleveland Browns. Will they be a different team in 2013? These are the things I’ll be watching for…

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When the starters are in:

1) Can the offense and specifically Brandon Weeden find a rhythm and move the ball? Weeden has been a bit inconsistent in training camp. We know that the Browns aren’t going to open up the playbook a whole lot, as Rob Chudzinski has said they are going to work the base offense and defense. Weeden needs to show that he has a grasp on that basic offense and be able to move the team against a defense that likely won’t be diving deep into the playbook either.

We’ve heard and seen the offense work on a quicker pace or tempo. How will that translate to the first game? Watch the playclock. The Browns have been working on snapping the ball with about 8 seconds left on the clock. That might be a good indicator of whether or not they are playing at the same pace that they practiced.  [Read more...]

Training Camp News and Notes: Roger Goodell visits Berea

Roger GoodellToday was a big day in Berea with the commissioner in town for a special youth “Heads Up” promotion aimed at teaching football fundamentals to help avoid head injuries. After participating in that, Goodell entered the media scrum to avoid answering much of anything about Jimmy Haslam. It wasn’t at all surprising that Goodell refused to play the “What if?” game with regards to the word “indictment.” Also when asked if the NFL could have known or done better vetting for the Pilot Flying J troubles, the commissioner spoke of just how big a surprise it was for everyone and that the NFL continues to monitor the situation.

Goodell wasn’t the only big name in camp today in Berea. National sideline reporter Pam Oliver was on hand to see what the Browns have going on, as was Peter King. King made the rounds on radio row and spent a good amount of time filming a M.M.Q.B. segment with Browns’ first round draft pick Barkevious Mingo. Now, for the actual football stuff… [Read more...]

Could Travis Benjamin have a breakout year in 2013?

Benjamin interviewThe Cleveland Browns brought seven new wide receivers to training camp this year. None of those seven are expected to unseat Josh Gordon1 or Greg Little from their starting spots. The Browns traded for Davone Bess to help move the chains on third down, something Bess had been very good at throughout his career.

They also signed the 6-foot-5-inch David Nelson in free agency. Nelson is recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon, but the Browns are hoping that the former Buffalo Bill can someday duplicate or better his 2011 season in which he caught over 60 passes and scored five touchdowns. The Browns are taking an affordable gamble on him.

While Gordon, Little and Bess take the majority of the first team snaps, one other Browns receiver is having a very good camp.

Second year receiver Travis Benjamin is catching passes and getting noticed. That’s a good thing. He’s almost the forgotten man on that offense. When Browns fans talk about how the offense could be improved this season, rarely does Benjamin’s name come up.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Gordon will serve a two game suspension of course, which means a starting spot is up for grabs the first two weeks. []

Brandon Weeden on Travis Benjamin: “He’s stuck out”

Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote a detailed article on the state of the Cleveland Browns wide receiver corps on Monday. Although the piece was mostly about the value of recently acquired Davone Bess, it also featured this stand-out quote from quarterback Brandon Weeden on fellow second-year Travis Benjamin:

“Travis had at least as many catches if not more than anybody in camp,” Weeden said. “His route running is phenomenal, probably because he’s so fast. Guys have to honor him running by them. He’s been getting in and out of breaks so well. Whether it’s in-breaking routes or out-breaking routes, he’s really found a knack of getting separation and giving me a chance to complete some balls. He’s had a lot of catches this camp. He’s stuck out.”

Benjamin, a speedy 23-year-old, was the team’s 4th-round draft pick out of Miami last season. With the loss of returner Josh Cribbs, Benjamin figures to be even more involved on special teams this year — along with the offense as well.

In 14 games last season, Benjamin had just 6 total returns (3 on kick-offs, 3 on punts) and 20 total touches on offense (14 catches, 6 carries). Yet, he made the most of those limited opportunities, totaling a remarkable 589 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. His two main highlights were his 93-yard punt return for touchdown in Week 13 against Kansas City and his 69-yard touchdown pass in Week 14 against Washington.

Benjamin is a 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, while the veteran slot receiver Bess is a similar 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Both will be counted on not only for their possession abilities, but also for the big-play opportunity at least for the start of the season without Gordon.

Certainly, Weeden’s comments promote excitement about how Benjamin could quickly contribute this season. Head coach Rob Chudzinski utilized All-Pro 5-foot-9 receiver Steve Smith to perfection back in 2011 for Carolina, mixing in the downfield throw with occasional intermediate catches.

[Related: Banner Report: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends]

In 2013 the Browns are betting on defense and hoping for offense

Kruger jerseyThe off-season isn’t over, but it’s not time to look at what the Browns have put together to try and figure out how they’re going to compete in 2013. When you’re caught up in all the details of free agency and the draft it’s much more difficult to get the overall picture, but now more than ever it seems readily apparent what the Browns are trying to do. It’s also apparent what this team could look like in 2013 as they look to improve on their 5-11 season with a whole new coaching staff and brand new looks on offense and defense.

It starts with the defense. The Browns spent almost all of their resources in free agency and the draft on defense. The combination of switching schemes and the defensive performance in 2012 demanded some serious attention. The Browns were second-worst in the NFL in terms of number of offensive plays that opposing teams ran against them. The Browns allowed opposing teams to run 1095 plays showing an inability to get off the field. They gave up the fifth-most number of first downs and the 14th most points. The Browns were truly middle of the road in terms of pressuring the quarterback with their 38 sacks and 6.0% sack rate.1

So take that group of defenders, put them with an aggressive coordinator, add Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves and sixth overall pick Barkevious Mingo and all of a sudden I think we’ve seen pretty much exactly where the Browns hope to be able to compete in 2013. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Sack rate is the number of sacks divided by pass attempts + sacks []

Farewell to Josh Cribbs (for now)

Josh Cribbs shares with rookie receivers

Josh Cribbs shares with rookie receivers

I have a sister in mourning over the impending departure of Josh Cribbs. It stinks to ever have to say goodbye to players that you love as a fan of a team. Even as much as people tend to dislike Ray Lewis outside of Baltimore, there’s no denying that his career there couldn’t have ended more perfectly for his fans. Those situations aren’t the norm and certainly not with the history of the Cleveland Browns since Josh Cribbs has been in Cleveland. I will argue that this Cleveland Browns ending with Josh Cribbs is perfect enough though.

The heart and head aren’t usually aligned when fans think about NFL players. It is a brutal sport dominated mostly by young people who have yet to put themselves through the numerous car crashes it takes to endure an NFL season. That punishment and ability to withstand it is part of the mystique of NFL players that fans end up gravitating toward.

Few have played the game under those conditions with as much passion and zeal as Josh Cribbs. The fact is that it is precisely and obviously why a universe of Browns fans loves Cribbs. Yet it’s also obvious to most that the best thing for the team they love and their future is to continue to get younger and plan for a future beyond the presumed expiration date of Josh Cribbs’ next contract. [Read more...]

Brendan Leister talks Browns pickups – WFNY Podcast – 2013-03-13

WFNY Podcast LogoI’ve known about Brendan Leister and his work analyzing the Browns for a long time. He’s been active in various capacities for years, in fact. 70,000+ tweets if you need him. Anyway, he doesn’t approach the Browns like a fan, preferring to stick to the technical scouting approach. With that in mind, I wanted to talk to him about the Browns’ signings so far, what it means right now and what it means down the road into the draft.

You can find Brendan and his crew doing their excellent work over at DraftBrowns.com and you can find him on Twitter @BrendanLeister. I implore you to check out their site. Ryan is a good writer and Mikey is another Excel nerd1 who actually understands roster construction and salary cap issues.

Here’s what we talked about.

  • Paul Kruger and the level of excitement for him
  • Did the Browns overpay for Kruger?
  • Desmond Bryant should excite Browns fans more than Kruger
  • Five technique player?
  • Ray Horton’s nickel as the 2-4-5
  • Desmond Bryant’s ability against the run
  • Will Ahtyba Rubin get moved or cut next offseason?
  • Quentin Groves and is it a depth signing?
  • The Browns linebacking corps and fitting them all together
  • Craig Robertson as a cover linebacker
  • Draft plans should include another pass rusher?
  • Should the Browns take a chance on Geno Smith?
  • Do the Browns already know their opinion on Geno Smith?
  • Mike Wallace and $$$ vs. Travis Benjamin
  • Cornerback and who the Browns are going to get
  • Sheldon Brown and how well he played this season
  • Keenan Lewis and his ability to play opposite Joe Haden
  • Josh Gordon and his ceiling as the third youngest player in the NFL

 

[powerpress url="http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WFNYPodcast2013-03-13-2.mp3"] [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Compliment []