Tag Archives: Danny Shelton

All I want for Christmas: Browns Edition

It’s the holiday season and children everywhere where will be making lists of all the things they want for Christmas. Some of these lists are short and others are longer than a government document. The Browns list is far more like the latter as they have many holes now and could be losing some key players to free agency. So in theme of lists (I love lists!!!!!) here’s a look at what I believe to be what the Browns and their fans what put on their Christmas list.

1. Josh Gordon to return to 2013 form. Number one for me was an easy pick with Manziel showing enough signs of being a quarterback that can turn this team around. Having Josh Gordon back and focused gives the Browns a dynamic play-maker. Plus if we retain future free agent Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge stays healthy Johnny Manziel will have an arsenal capable of putting a chill down the spine of opposing defenses.

2. Our offensive line to be fixed for next year. One of the most perplexing things about this team is figuring out how good the Browns O-Line is. Pro Football Focus has been adamant that the Browns offensive line has been good and that been issues are with the rest of the team are responsible for the offenses shortcomings. Others look at our high sack rate and sky-high rate of being stuffed and put it more on the O-line. Regardless, Mitchell Schwartz will be a free agent after the season. Schwartz is one of the best pass protecting right tackle in the NFL and could command a 7-9 million dollar a year contract. Alex Mack if he wants to can opt out of his contract and become a free agent. He could get more on the open market than the 8 million that’d he’d get if he stays with the Browns. The Browns knew this and drafted a Cameron Erving, a versatile lineman who could replace either if they left. Sadly Erving has been playing terribly lately and is not giving the fans any reason to believe that he can replace them without a significant dip in production. The offensive line has more complex parts than Santa’s workshop, and the Browns really hope they can figure it out, because a poor offensive line can hold back and otherwise competent offense.

3. A clean bill of health for Joe Haden. It’s been a tough year for Joe Haden injury wise. He started out the year with a bum hamstring and only got worse when he broke his finger and had a rib contusion. Then against the Ravens he suffered a concussion and has not seen the field since. Having Joe Haden come back healthy is the first step in making the pass defense worthy of the nickname Lock-down at the Lake.

4. Our young defensive players to continue improving. Danny Shelton started out the year a little slow but has shown more recently. Xavier Cooper is showing promise as a rotational defensive lineman. Armonty Bryant has had some really good games and has shown flashes of being a good pass rusher. And finally Christian Kirksey has shown he can do many things at the linebacker position. If these players can develop in to quality starters our defense will be greatly improved for next year.

Four Downs – Browns at Chargers

The Cleveland Browns took a step back last week after beating the Tennessee Titans the week before. Here’s why the Browns will continue to go backwards this week against the San Diego Chargers.

First Down: Can someone please stop the run?

 Defensive tackle Danny Shelton #71 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton #71 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Fans have been getting on first round pick Danny Shelton for all of the issues relating to the Browns not stopping the run. It is not entirely his fault. Shelton has been busy and doing his job by taking up the double team in a 3-4 defense. Ideally, taking up two defenders in a 3-4 defense will allow the linebackers to step up and make a play. They clearly haven’t.

To me the linebackers are the biggest issue here. Did anyone hear Paul Kruger’s name last week? Anyone? Bueller? Kruger is in the third year of a 5-year, $40 million contract and right now he is no where to be found. If the Browns want to stop the run, especially to the outside, they need Kruger and another first round pick Barkevious Mingo to set the edge on the outside.

Mingo has been a big disappointment so far and is probably another first round bust. The typical sentiment about draft picks is that you will see the biggest growth of a player from year two in the NFL to year three. This is year three. He really needs to step up if he wants to be on this team next year. Mingo single-handedly changed the momentum of the game last week and in a negative way with the roughing the kicker penalty.

The Browns defense has the incredible task of stopping the multi-threat Danny Woodhead and rookie Melvin Gordon of the Chargers. San Diego is averaging over 100 yards of offense on the ground this year and with the way the Browns have defended the run (32nd in the NFL), both of these players could have huge games.

Second Down: Can someone please run the ball?

The Browns have not been able to run the ball this season effectively, they are 26th in the NFL in rushing. The offensive line has been struggling so far this year and it is a wonder if Alex Mack is not fully healthy yet. They have not yet been able to get in sync.

The Chargers, like the Browns are also not very good with stopping the run. This would be a good time for Isaiah Crowell to get a lot of carries and do some damage for the first time this season. Running the ball effectively will finally give the Browns an opportunity to pass the ball off the play-action.

Third Down: Josh McCown has something to prove

Josh McCown needs to prove that Mike Pettine made the right decision at starting quarterback. If McCown struggles again, I could definitely see a change at starting QB after the bye week. I am not a huge fan of Johnny Manziel, he still has a lot to prove to me.

However, he seems to make this offense click. The other players seem to feed off of his energy, including the defense. In the first and third games, we had no pass rush whatsoever. In the second game, the Browns had seven sacks, seven. I don’t know what it is exactly but Johnny seems to make this offense and defense click.

Fourth Down: Prediction

The Browns will not be able to stop the run this week against the likes of Woodhead and Gordon. It will be a long day for the Browns defense after they try to stop the run and Rivers throws the ball over their heads.

Final Score: San Diego 34, Browns 20

My picks this year: 1-2

Five Reasons to be Excited About the Browns

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29:  Running back Isaiah Crowell #34 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland at Raymond James Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
Running back Isaiah Crowell #34 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the preseason game .(Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

Throughout my childhood I always remained optimistic about the Browns chances each and every year. But as I have grown older I find my optimism replaced with an ever-present feeling of hopelessness. This feeling is bothering me so much so I decided I was going to force myself to write about five things us Browns fans have to look forward to this year, that don’t involve the 2016 draft.

1. Our secondary is excellent. The Legion of Boom may get the most press but it was the Browns secondary which was graded the best in coverage by Pro Football Focus. This year they could improve with the addition of Tramon Williams and the continued development of K’Waun Williams, Pierre Desir, and hopefully Justin Gilbert. It will be fun to watch opposing quarterbacks try to beat this unit.

2. Joe Thomas and our offensive line could be dominant. For years now I claimed that Thomas was the best lineman in the league and on pace to be the greatest offensive lineman of ALL TIME. This man has been a top three tackle now eight years running and I know that the rumors of his decline are greatly exaggerated. Next to Thomas is Joel Bitonio, who is quickly looking like the only bright spot of the 2014 draft. He is an All-Pro candidate for this season as is center Alex Mack. The right side is solid with John Greco at guard, Mitchell Schwartz at tackle and Cameron Erving backing everyone up.  Even though our offense will be tough to watch, if you just take your eye off the ball you will see some great work in the trenches.

3. Isaiah Crowell will have more opportunities to run the ball. Last year, Crowell showed lots of potential and became a bit of a fan favorite. But after Alex Mack’s injury Crowell’s production declined and Mike Pettine went all Bill Belichick and started rotating his running backs seemingly randomly. Now Terrance West is gone and Duke Johnson seems like he’s going to be the third down back when he gets healthy. Crowell will now have the chance to sink or swim behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

4. Brian Hartline will be so much fun to cheer for. Cheering for Ohio guys is always fun especially if he becomes that one receiver who always seems to come through on critical third downs. Hopefully he can become like Joe Jurevicius in that way.

5. Lots of fresh faces will see playing time this year. The Browns have a few rookies that could really make a difference this from big defensive tackle Danny Shelton to not so big running back Duke Johnson. These players can quickly make a name for themselves and hopefully give the fans more hope for the future.

Another one bites the dust

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Phillip Taylor #98 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after the Cleveland Browns defeats the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 20-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 25: Defensive tackle Phillip Taylor #98 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after the Cleveland Browns defeats the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 20-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Another one bites the dust.

Phil Taylor has been cut by the Browns. The 21st selection of the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft was battling for a position on the defensive line. Taylor has been associated with Julio Jones because that is the pick that the Browns gave up to trade down and take Taylor.

Now look at the situation that the Browns now have with the defensive line and you can see why Taylor was expendable.

During the preseason, it appears that the Browns have hit a home run with Danny Shelton. The first round pick out of Washington has been a menace for offensive lines in the preseason. Shelton has been able to already command double teams by the opposing teams which has opened the pass rush for other players.

The Browns have 11 sacks in the first three preseason games. As a barometer, the Browns had four sacks in the first three preseason games last year. Shelton has been a big part of that.

The worry of Shelton before the NFL Draft was that he would only be a two-down player. He has quieted that worry so far. However, it is not only the emergence of Shelton, but the emergence of other players.

The Browns signed Randy Starks in the off-season and he has already paid dividends in the improvement of the run defense.

One of the biggest surprises in camp is fellow rookie Xavier Cooper. Cooper was the third round pick in the draft this year. Much like Shelton, he has been disrupting plays constantly.

Jamie Meder was a long shot to make this team after being undrafted out of Ashland. He was on the practice squad last season and has played well in camp and in the preseason games. He also is a favorite of Head Coach Mike Pettine. 

In the 31-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Meder registered five tackles (three solo), a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit in limited playing time. With the Browns also cutting Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Meder has a good shot at making this team.

The Browns have had eight first round picks in the past five years. Only one of which is starting this season, Danny Shelton.

Here is the list:

2011

Phil Taylor – Cut by the Browns today.

2012

Trent Richardson – Traded to Colts for first round pick.

Brandon Weeden – Backup to Tony Romo in Dallas.

2013

Barkevious Mingo – Battling injuries and will be a backup starting the season.

2014

Justin Gilbert – Will be a backup to start the season.

Johnny Manziel – Who knows what will happen here.

2015

Danny Shelton – The only player starting on this list.

Cameron Erving – A backup offensive lineman to start the season.

Despite the production of first round picks, the Browns have a really good defense and a highly-rated offensive line. The age old question for the Browns is if they have enough firepower on the offense to compete this season and help keep the defense off the field.

This is a make it or break it year for Mingo. The biggest jump for NFL players is between their second and third seasons and this is his third. If he does not improve this season, he will end up just like Taylor, Richardson, Weeden and so on and so on.

Washington Huskies: Return of The Dawgs?

When I was growing up you could count on a few things in life. First, you could always watch “Looney Tunes” on a Saturday morning, “The Love Boat” on a Friday night, and knowing that the Washington Huskies would be reigning supreme in the Northwest and the Pac-12 in football. The “Dawgs” as everybody in the Northwest called them were the premier program in the region. Rose Bowls after Rose Bowls, conference titles, and even a National Championship were the norm and what was expected. Anything less was viewed as failure. Oh, how have times changed.

The Huskies are not the “team” in the Northwest anymore. To most of the alumni, their rival in Eugene is now the team in the region. That alone drives Husky fans up the wall. They hate the Duck program with a passion and with every win over the Huskies, every Rose Bowl, or National Championship appearance, that hatred grows deeper. Fans and everybody associated with the Husky program wants that dominance back with the program. Here is the question. What has happened to the once mighty Husky program?

One thing that has happened is that they are not recruiting the type of players it takes to sustain dominance like they had. Don James, the old Husky Head Coach built a fence around the state of Washington and the Northwest and all the great players were coming to him. With his Rose Bowl appearances, Don James could also get his hands on some of Southern California’s best talent and that added to the dominance of the program. When you dominate, you win, so the recruits come to you. Now, Chris Peterson, the current Husky Head Coach has to fight very hard to keep the best Washington recruits from leaving the state. Peterson has vowed to put a fence around the state and keep all the talented in-state. He’s only entering his second season with the Huskies, so his fence is still in the build stage.

The program has languished in mediocrity for the past 20 years after Don James, “The DawgFather”, resigned amid sanctions that found that many of the players at Washington were getting improper benefits. As stated earlier, there was a ton of success in James time as coach. He even had three national coaching honors and a 22 game winning streak to add to the allure of the program. The program had their knees cut from underneath them with these sanctions and they really haven’t recovered. Enter Chris Peterson 20 years later.

Let’s face facts here. Chris Peterson and all his accolades he got in his tenure at Boise State, needs to come up with some success at Washington in his second year. Husky fans are tired of being average and want the return of fear when the Huskies come to town or when the opponents have to enter into Husky Stadium. Husky Stadium can be a very difficult place to play. When I was youngster, and went to Husky Stadium for a couple of games, it was so loud and the fans were right on top of you. Much like it is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. I didn’t think a stadium could be so loud, but this is something Peterson has to restore to the program as well.

Chris Peterson has his work cut out for him, but I do think he is the guy to restore the honor to the program. To me he’s a proven commodity, even though he did the majority of his winning at a smaller school at Boise State. He proved he could beat the bigger schools or at the very least compete with the likes of Oregon, Georgia, and let’s not forget the Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. One of the best college football games I have ever seen. It’s not like he DOESN’T know how to get the job done. Entering this second season at the helm of the Huskies, fans want results yesterday. The honeymoon is over. Was there ever one?

Peterson needs to do better against ranked opponents too. They were 0-5 against those type of teams and that will also cause some more angst in latte’ capital of the world. They also have to win the bowl game they go to as well. They came up short against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe. That didn’t sit well with the UW fan base, plus if you factor in the near upsets by the likes of Eastern Washington and Hawaii and you have a thought that Peterson was lucky to finish with the 8 wins that the team had. Peterson nearly had a very dismal opening in season number one.

The facilities and resources at Washington are such that Peterson can just be average in recruiting or any aspect of major college football. He needs to get the top recruits to the school and build those players into a cohesive unite to compete with the likes of Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, and Utah. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t? Well, if you are the coach Washington, you can’t be scared of a scenario like that in the Pac-12. I don’t think Peterson is scared of anything, if anything he likes a challenge because he faced challenges coaching at Boise State, so something like this challenge is nothing for him. It’s just on a much bigger scale than normal.

In his second year the Huskies and Peterson need to get a big time win, such as beating Oregon or Stanford, plus make strides to being in contention for the Pac-12 title in future years. If this can be accomplished, Peterson will get more of a leash (no pun intended), but if the program continues to be mired in mediocrity then he may not be around that much longer.

One of things that may make that a little more difficult is the huge amount of change on the defensive side of the ball. They lost probably the best DT in the Pac-12 in Danny Shelton and all-everything Shaq Thompson. With the type of wide open offenses in the conference, replacing talent like that is going to be difficult. Offensively he loses Cyler Miles, a quarterback, who has stepped away from football for personal reasons. There will be questions all around this team, but Peterson knows he won’t get any extra leash because his depth chart is shallow. He is known for building programs and he is in the midst of probably his toughest job yet.

The one question I have is…. will Chris Peterson be around long enough to see the success he wants and the success the fans want? I hope so. Go Dawgs!

Cleveland Browns Draft Prospects: Danny Shelton

Last year the Browns run defense was awful, worst in the league awful. This was largely due to injuries and poor performance on our defensive line. It is expected that our best run stopper on the line, Ahtyba Rubin will leave in free agency. This leaves the undersized Billy Winn or the injury prone Phil Taylor as our best option at defensive tackle. What we need is a large nose tackle sized lineman who can can stuff the run in the middle of our hybrid defense.

Enter Danny Shelton. This 6-foot-2 343 pound is exactly what we need to shore up our shoddy run defense. Shelton not only has the size you look for in an interior space eater he also has the strength to disrupt the backfield. He also has surprising quickness and ability to get to the quarterback, evidenced by getting 9 sacks last year. This quickness allows him to make plays as a defensive tackle in the 4-3 as well as nose tackle. In addition to his physical traits Danny Shelton shows a high motor by trying and sometimes succeeding to run down ball carriers outside of the hashes. For example example here’s a play where Shelton is about 10 yards away from the receiver gives chase and recovers the fumble. The only knocks I’ve heard about him are that he sometimes plays too high, and his weight could balloon, but I don’t feel those issues will last that long in the pros with his work ethic.

The players he gets compared to most often are Casey Hampton and Vince Wilfork due to size, and Haloti Ngata for athleticism. In the Browns defense any of these players are greatly needed, especially someone like Haloi Ngata who we could have grabbed in the 2006 draft but instead picked Kamerion Wimbley. Even though none of these players are standouts statistically each of these players helped their respective defenses by eating space, disrupting the backfield and allowing there teammates to make plays.

Players like Danny Shelton are a rare commodity in the NFL so there is a good chance he won’t be available for us at the 12th pick. Looking at Walter Football’s consensus mock draft shows 43% of mocks sending Shelton to Chicago. But luckily after the Bears no team has a need for the large defensive tackle. If he falls to the Browns it seems likely they will take him unless a receiving prospect slips like Kevin White or Amari Cooper. If we do take him he will start right away, perhaps as a 3 down lineman. And in the future he could be one of those big unsung heroes who garner recognition despite playing  position where individual success is hard to find.

Teams Hit Hardest by Early Departures

Another college football season is in the books and with that a litany of players has decided to leave school early to follow their dreams of becoming a pro player. The build-up is about to start for the NFL draft, one of my favorite days of the year. With this time also brings one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s all the lists detailing the “underclassmen” that are leaving school early and declaring for the NFL draft. Why are they called underclassmen when 80% or more of the players on the list are juniors? I’ve been following the draft since I was eight or nine years old so maybe I just haven’t come across the answer. But I’ve never heard it brought up. Is there a reason? Is it something where as soon as I find out the reason I’m going to feel like an idiot? I need answers.

Aside from my personal sanity, there was actually a surprise with these lists this year. There were actually less players that declared early than last year. The number has risen year after year but this year only 86 chose to leave school early as opposed to 102 last year. Many on these lists are from the top teams, which makes sense. Those are the teams that have the best players and thus more likely to have a number of them leaving early and drafted high. Programs can generally last a few years before losing handfuls of players early catches up with them.

So what programs will go into the 2015 fall hurt most by players having decided to leave early? The pure number of players a program loses is part of it, but so is the quality of player and the potential replacements that team has for the departed athlete. Melvin Gordon is a pretty special running back, but Wisconsin still has Corey Clement to lean on next year and hasn’t had trouble running the ball in forever. Here are the five teams I believe are hurt most by players leaving early.

1. Florida State

The Seminoles’ rise to the top the last two seasons was propelled by plenty of five-star recruits developing into pro prospects as hoped. This year Florida State loses Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston. That would already be enough to put them on the list, but the Seminoles will also be without four stand-out defensive players, DL Mario Edwards Jr and Eddie Goldman as well as CBs PJ Williams and Ronald Darby. Florida State might have more top recruits waiting, but the Seminoles defense played significantly worse in 2014 than 2013 after losing multiple top draft picks and 2015 won’t be any easier.

2. Oregon

Like Florida State, Oregon is losing a Heisman winning quarterback. Marcus Mariota’s departure leaves behind a void at quarterback in leadership and maybe the best player under center (or in the shotgun) in college football history statistically. Even if the Ducks have faith in their offensive system, it will be impossible to replicate 2014’s success. Add in DL Arik Armstead, one of the best players on the Ducks’ defense, and Oregon will have a lot of work to do before the 2015 opener.

3. Alabama

By now Alabama is used to losing a bunch of guys to the pros, but it may have started to catch up with them this past year. 2015 might only get worst. The Tide already lost numerous playmakers on offense along with Blake Sims who was arguably the best QB in the conference. Then WR Amari Cooper and RB TJ Yeldon decided to leave early for the draft, leaving the Tide with only a couple offensive starters returning for 2015. The cornerback play should be improved for Alabama next fall, but they could’ve used a return by Landon Collins to help avoid the breakdowns in the secondary that occurred this year.

4. USC

It’s starting to look like the USC of a decade ago with top-flight players. The question is will the Trojans have the depth to replace them now that their sanctions are over. The best player leaving early is DL Leonard Williams who should be a Top 5 pick. The offense was hit hardest in numbers however as RBs Buck Allen and George Farmer and WR Nelson Agholor will be looking to cash in on Sundays next fall. Farmer made little impact during his Trojan career but Allen and Agholor were both All-Pac-12 performers. USC has plenty of momentum going into next year, but a return by either of those guys may have solidified them in pre-season title contender status.

5. Washington

Washington finished 97th in total defense this year. It’s going to take a lot to vastly improve on that with the departures that side of the ball will see. DT Danny Shelton was already on his way to being a first round pick after wrapping up his senior season. Now CB Marcus Peters and LB Shaq Thompson are both on their way out as well, both declaring early for the NFL Draft where they could join teammate Shelton as first round picks. Washington isn’t exactly rolling in five-star recruits to replace these players like the top programs either.

Other schools hit hard: Florida, Louisville, Miami (Fl), Mississippi State, LSU