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Archive for December, 2011

Another week another heartbreaking loss by the Browns. Last week I gave my two cents on the Browns offense so far this year and now I’d like to share my thoughts on the Browns defense thus far.

Going into the season I don’t think many fans had huge expectations out of the Browns defense. With the lockout-shortened off-season, a new defensive coordinator (Dick Jauron) and switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense ¬†the odds were stacked against them from the get-go. While the dismal 4-10 record looks awful, it’s not due to lack of solid performances from many players on the Browns D.

Looking at the defensive line, that was probably the biggest weakness heading into last year’s NFL Draft. With the switch from the 3-4 to a 4-3 there’s an immediate need for more defensive linemen. Then, you look at what the Browns had to begin with and you realize it was a HUGE need. Going into the season the Browns only had starting DT Ahtyba Rubin under contract. They resigned reserve DL Jayme Mitchell who was a nobody before this season and that was about it. The Browns then spent their first two draft picks on linemen – DT Phil Taylor and DR Jabaal Sheard. Both have been GREAT at times during the season. Sheard started slow, but when he moved from RE to LE he flourished racking up 48 tackles, 7.5 sacks and a whopping 5 forced fumbles with two games to go. Taylor is more of a run-stuffer at DT but his numbers are solid too. 52 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble of his own. The only weakness I see heading into next season is finding a starting RE and getting depth along the line.

From the line we move back to the linebackers. This is an area which had zero depth going into the season with starters WLB Chris Gocong, MLB D’Qwell Jackson and SLB Scott Fujuta. ¬†Jackson is having a Pro-Bowl worthy year with 138 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 1 interception and forced fumble. The Browns MUST re-sign Jackson going into 2012!!! Gocong has been solid and versatile all year but really struggles in pass coverage. Finally, as much as I like Fujita as a leader of the defense and a tough guy, he’s showing his age and is now done for the year due to concussions. The Browns desperately need LB’s next season with a starter to replace Fujita and depth behind all three.

Finally we review the defensive backs. This is an area which was fairly solid going into the season with a Pro-Bowl caliber CB in Joe Haden, a surprising SS T.J. Ward and the veteran CB Sheldon Brown. The Browns thankfully jettisoned Eric Wright this off-season (ask the Lions how they like him) and replaced him with former Eagle CB Dmitri Patterson. Haden has had another Pro-Bowl type season and Patterson has been solid in the slot for most of the season. Sheldon Brown is starting to look old and may need to move to Safety in the near future. The biggest hole for the Browns DB’s has to be Free Safety. Mike Adams makes one great play and then makes three bonehead plays. Usama Young is afraid to make a tackle and really hasn’t shown much of anything all year. I do like what I’ve seen out of 7th round pick Eric Hagg so far, but he was hurt most of the year. Finally, Buster Skrine has been a pleasant surprise as the Dime CB and may have a future as a slot-corner in the near future. Looking ahead, T.J. Ward needs to get healthy and I think they need to look at another CB in the draft.

In summary, I think the Browns have a lot of really good and a couple of potentially great individuals on defense. The biggest problem is absolutely no depth which is apparent in the 4th quarter of every game. I think with another good draft by Tom Heckert and a full off-season under Dick Jauron that the Browns defense can been good enough to finally compete in the AFC North and is definitely heading in the right direction. In the draft, keep an eye on LB’s and DE’s with the Browns second First Round pick or their Second Round pick.

This isn’t related to defense…but I LOVE Baylor QB Robert Griffin III. After watching more of his highlights, listening to him talk to the media, and seeing what he accomplished at Baylor I want him with our Top-Five pick!!!

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Another NFL season is winding down and the Cleveland Browns have managed to deliver another lackluster 4-win effort this year with only three games to go. As a Browns fan, now is one of the hardest times of the season because on one hand you want to cheer for your team and on the other hand you are ok with a loss knowing that the NFL draft is only about 4 months away!

I’ve watched nearly every single play of the season and here are my thoughts related to this season and also looking ahead to next year (we’re good at that here in Cleveland!). First, let’s look at the most important position on the field…Quarterback. Colt McCoy has been absolutely average all year. People here in Cleveland are mostly “haters” but here are a couple things to look at with McCoy. Outside of Cleveland can anyone name two receivers on the Browns? The Browns don’t have a #1 receiver and while Greg Little has shown flashes this year he’s not a #1 yet. Also, I saw a disturbing stat during the Steelers game last week. About 75% of his passes have been thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Every defense the Browns play knows this and their corners and safeties can camp out between 8-12 yards and the Browns are screwed. If they had a deep threat they wouldn’t be able to do this for fear of getting beaten on a deep ball, but that’s not the case and this is killing McCoy and the offense. All that being said, here are some things I really like about McCoy. First, he makes good decisions a majority of the time whether it is throwing a ball away when no one is open, tucking it and running for a first down, or even taking a sack rather than trying to force a throw. Secondly, he seems to be a leader on the field and has good command of the team and offense. Do I think he’s Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers? No, but he’s serviceable and can’t be kicked to the curb yet. Give him another year.

The next area to look at are the skill positions on offense. I’ve touched on the WR’s a little bit, but I think Little has potential to be a decent #1 or a really good #2 receiver but people forget he didn’t even play football last year. Massaquoi is decent but he’s had numerous concussions, isn’t dominant and is a #3 receiver on most teams. Josh Cribbs has shown flashes but he can’t seem to get open other than on the deep ball. Jordan Norwood has come out of nowhere and I really think he could be a good slot receiver next year.

The TE’s are good as a group, but since the O-Line can’t be trusted the TE’s have been used for blocking a lot more this season. Ben Watson is older but still can get the job done. Evan Moore has potential but hasn’t gotten much playing time. Every time he gets in he makes a play, but no one seems to know why he isn’t getting more chances. Alex Smith may as well be an O-Lineman as his main role is as a blocker. Jury is still out on Jordan Cameron from USC as he hasn’t gotten many reps all year other than on special teams.

To wrap up the skill positions we look at the RB’s. You have to start with Peyton Hillis who has been banged up and killed by the media all year. What bothers me are old, fat, out-of-shape, non-athletic media folks trying to downplay a muscle strain or pull. Anyone who’s pulled a muscle knows how painful and frustrating it can be. Give Hillis a damn break! In the Steelers game you could see his frustration when he was getting hit two yards deep in the backfield every time he touched the ball. How is that his fault? I seriously think the Browns will Franchise Tag him going into 2012 and we’ll see the old Hillis again. The Franchise Tag for RB’s in 2012 will be around $7.7 million which is a lot but the Browns have tons of cap space. Montario Hardesty runs hard and I really like him, but he can’t stay healthy. Lastly, Chris Ogbonnaya has been a nice find from the Texans and I think he starts the 2012 season as the third-down back. Oh, and don’t forget, the Browns get Brandon Jackson back in 2012 who was lost for the season during the pre-season.

To wrap up the offense we move on to the O-Line. Going into the season the O-Line had the potential to be pretty good. Joe Thomas and Alex Mack were Pro-Bowlers and Eric Steinbach is a very good LG. On the right side it was going to be a battle between Shaun Luavao, Jason Pinkston and John Greco for the RG job and Tony Pashos would start at RT. Then, Steinbach went down for the season and Pashos hurt his ankle. Pinkston, a rookie 5th round pick, moves into the starting lineup at LG and RT turns into a revolving door between Artis Hicks and Oniel Cousins. Neither of those two guys should be in the NFL and they nearly got McCoy killed at the beginning of the season. When Pashos came back he wasn’t much better and that’s who is stuck there now. Looking at 2012 I think between Luavao and Pinkston one of them can be a solid RG and if Steinbach comes back that leaves one hole at RT. Not terrible compared to a lot of teams.

Looking forward to 2012 here are the areas which will need to be addressed on offense. First and foremost…find a #1 WR. If the Browns can keep losing they will be right in the thick of the Justin Blackmon (WR – Oklahoma State) sweepstakes in the draft. If he’s gone the next best WR may be Michael Floyd from Notre Dame. In free agency they could look at DeSean Jackson but he doesn’t quite fit their philosophy of actually playing hard. How about Wes Welker, Marques Colston, Vincent Jackson, or Dwayne Bowe? Next I think the focus HAS to be on finding a long-term answer at RT. They may try Pinkston there, but they can’t go another year without trying someone else at RT. Wrapping up the offense, I can see the Browns looking at a QB with a second or third round pick in 2012, but I really don’t think they’re ready to give up on McCoy.

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