Tag Archives: mike pettine

Browns Hope to Spoil the Steelers Season

 (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

While most 3-12 teams don’t have many reasons to play hard in week 17, the Browns have plenty of incentive to give their last game of the season everything they have.

First the Browns are going against their biggest rival in a game where they have the chance to keep them out of the playoffs. Second rumors are running rampant that Ray Farmer and or Mike Pettine could get fired, so players will go all out to help their coach, and put more good plays on tape for the potential new staff to look at.

There are some other factors that could keep this game close as the Steelers struggle on the road and they have a porous defense.

When the Browns have the ball:

The Browns are going to need to attack the Steelers through the air as they struggle in pass defense. One player to watch in the Steelers defensive backfield is corner Antwon Blake who is on pace to allow more receiving yards than any corner in Pro Football Focus’ records (since 2007). Odds are even Austin Davis can find ways to exploit this secondary. The Steelers run defense is better than average, so establishing the run could prove challenging. Overall, I feel that the Browns have enough firepower to put 20 or more points against the Steelers. After all Ryan Mallett, Buck Allen, and Kamar Aiken were able to.

When the Steelers have the ball:

The Browns need to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger if they’re going to have any chance. Tramon Williams and Charles Gaines stand no chance against Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton  and Martavis Bryant if Big Ben has a clean pocket. Last time these two teams played the Browns did a good job limiting DeAngelo Williams to only 54 yards. Perhaps the Browns can duplicate those results.

Prediction:

Steelers look rusty again (as they normally do against lousy opponents) but the Browns give up some late touchdowns and lose in some typical Cleveland Brown-like way.

Steelers 26 Browns 24

Job Security, Health, and Midges Dominate Cleveland

Welcome back to my little corner of More Than a Fan. I took last week off from the column for the holidays, but don’t worry, my terrible record of picking games this season kept right on chugging.

On Johnny ManzielHis time in Cleveland is through. Maybe he’ll end up on the field in a Browns uniform at some point to finish out 2015, but I can’t see any plausible scenario in which Johnny sticks around, regardless of anything at all that takes place on the football field…

…Unless Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer get fired. I have flip-flopped on my opinion of whether these two should get canned, whether only one of them should be shown the door, and, if one of the other, I can’t decide which should get the pink slip1Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned..

[Read – The Browns Broke Me – by Jeff Rich]

Sometimes I think that Pettine really has the veterans in the locker room. That he gets their respect because he holds players accountable and rewards guys who work hard. The flip side of that coin is the perception2/pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. that Pettine won’t play Farmer’s guys out of spite, because the two can’t get on the same page.

Oh, there’s also the terrible clock management, his buddy Jim’s terrible defense, and the offensive coordinator doing everything he can to not pass the buck while passing the buck.

Let’s also not forget that this headline happened today; “Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges discussion about his future could be in Jimmy Haslam’s plans.3This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.

Ray Farmer is terrible at picking players, and considering that’s his most important job, things aren’t looking good the former prodigy. No, Bernie Kosar could not be the GM of a football team. I would love to see him working with scouts, though.

[Subscribe – Railbird’s Nest Podcast. Recent guests include Ken Carman, Hayden Grove, and Tony Mazur.]

Someday the Cavs will be healthy. With health will come more meaningful rest for LeBron James, Love, and the back court crew that started the season playing heavier than normal minutes due to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert‘s injuries.

When isn’t important. There are plenty of things that happen in losses that can be pointed to and harped on for improvement, and the Cavs five losses so far this year are no exceptions to that rule4Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.. The Cavs are NOT a perfect team that sometimes takes a loss just because. Yes, there is real room for improvement.

That improvement will come. The players and coaching staff will settle in more each week, especially as the team’s health starts to improve. Glorious revenge will be ours.

Alright. Maybe I’m getting carried away.

I think Timofey Mozgov‘s knee is still messed up. This is a completely unsubstantiated opinion based on nothing but the fact that I’ve wasted thousands of hours watching basketball games. Maybe Mozzy’s knee is fine, but I remember trying to tell people Kevin Love looked like an old man with a back issue last season, and it turned out he was. 

The Indians signed Joba Chamberlain.  There’s no punchline.

Mark Shapiro lured Indians VP of Player Personnel Ross Atkins away to become the General Manager in Toronto. This is a cool promotion for Atkins, who gets to put GM in front of his name, and work with a colleague with whom he’s comfortable in the process.

This looks like bad news for Blue Jays fans. Don’t believe me?

“But increasingly, front-office executives with GM experience, like Shapiro, are hiring GMs who function, in many ways, like an assistant would in the old model.” – Brendan Kennedy Toronto Star

Mark Shapiro, the not-GM who will act like a GM, even though he hired a GM.

I’m sorry, Canada.

Picks

Packers @Lions
Jets @Giants
Cardinals @Rams
Falcons @Buccaneers
Panthers @Saints
Seahawks @Vikings
Texans @Bills
Ravens @Dolphins
Bengals @Browns
Jaguars @Titans
49ers @Bears
Broncos @Chargers
Chiefs @Raiders
Eagles @Patriots
Colts @Steelers
Cowboys @Redskins

 

   [ + ]

1. Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned.
2. /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
3. This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.
4. Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.

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

Browns Bring Home A Complete Victory

Well, that one certainly went better than expected.

Not many people expected the Cleveland Browns to win Sunday’s home opener against the Tennessee Titans. There were a few you didn’t expect the Browns to even be COMPETITIVE, especially when starting quarterback Josh McCown wasn’t cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol by Friday.

That meant that beleaguered second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel – he of the dismal two starts as a rookie and the stay in substance-abuse rehab this past winter and the tendonitis in his throwing elbow that had him splitting first-team reps in practice this week – was going to make his first start of the regular season. And, after an up-and-down performance in relief during the Browns’ season-opening 31-10 loss to the New York Jets last Sunday, you really didn’t know what you were going to get.

With fellow Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who threw four touchdown passes in his first half of NFL football (which was three more than Manziel had thrown in his entire NFL career) and compiled a perfect passer rating last Sunday, coming to town with the 1-0 Tennessee Titans, the story line looked to be how much better one Heisman winner would be than the other.

Well, not many people – except maybe the most diehard of “Johnny Football Fan” – expected that the Heisman Trophy winner who would be better – albeit not by much – was Manziel, and that Manziel’s team would wind up higher on the scoreboard than Mariota’s. But that’s what happened.

Despite going just 8 of 15 for 157 yards, two long touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin, a defense that

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown reception during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.The Browns defeated the Titans 28-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown reception during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.The Browns defeated the Titans 28-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

sacked Mariota seven times, and a running attack that carried the ball 30 times for 116 yards was enough for Manziel and the Browns to defeat the Titans, 28-14. It was the Browns’ second-straight win in a home opener, marking the first time that had happened since 1989-90.

What happened? Well, here are a few thoughts and observations from a guy who obsesses over everything Cleveland Browns:

1.       Travis Benjamin was ‘The Man’: Benjamin came into this season with his spot on the Browns firmly on the bubble. Coming back from a torn ACL, he lost his punt returning job last season due to muffed kicks, fumbles and poor decisions. But he made enough plays during training camp and the preseason to keep his job, and, through two games, he’s made that decision a wise one. He made a great fingertip catch on the Browns’ second play from scrimmage for a 60-yard touchdown, ripped off a 78-yard punt return touchdown during the second quarter that also involved him hurdling the Titans’ punter, and improvised on a route that led to a game-clinching 50-yard touchdown catch with just under three minute remaining. Benjamin has scored four of the Browns’ five touchdowns this season and has caught every single one of Manziel’s TD passes – of 54, 60 and 50 yards, respectively. If Benjamin isn’t the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week at the very least, it’s a crime. On a team desperately seeking a playmaker, Benjamin has emerged as one through two games.

2.       Manziel looked better, but had his moments: Forgive me if I’m not one of the several in the local media who are now clamoring for the Browns to turn the quarterback job over to Manziel. While it was clearly the best game of Manziel’s young career – and a victory, to boot – it wasn’t “outstanding.” Like the Jets game and the Bills game when he made his first rookie relief appearance, Manziel came out of the gate looking great. He hit Benjamin in stride for a 60-yard touchdown pass on the second play from scrimmage, but then looked mortal. He had trouble sustaining any semblance of a long drive all game. His fumbling problems continued, putting two more on the ground that, fortunately, his linemen were able to recover. The offensive gameplan seemed very conservative – calling twice as many run plays as passes. He failed to pick up a foot on a fourth-and-short inside the red zone during the second quarter that could have put the Browns up by three scores. And, after Mariota led a fourth-quarter scoring drive that cut the deficit to seven, things didn’t look good. But Manziel ended the game like he began it, hitting Benjamin for a long touchdown pass that seemed to catch the Titans off guard. His quarterback rating of 133.9 was the highest for a Browns quarterback since Derek Anderson on Oct. 28, 2007 (140.3). The bottom line is he won, which he did for the first time in his NFL career.  But keep in mind that fans wanted the team to “Fail for Cardale” just days before this game.

3.       Mariota looked better: Mariota struggled in his second pro start. The Browns put pressure on him all game, sacking him seven times and hurrying a lot of throws. He made some head-scratching decisions at times. However, in the second half, Mariota looked like the better quarterback. He led two long touchdown drives that turned a 21-0 halftime deficit into a 21-14 deficit. And, many fans feared that Mariota would gash the suddenly tired Browns defense for a third scoring drive if Manziel couldn’t get anything going. Fortunately, Manziel and Benjamin came through, preventing the unthinkable from happening. Mariota wound up 21 of 37 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. But he tasted defeat for the first time in his young career. He’s now lost to both Ohio State and the Browns in the same calendar year, just sayin’.

4.       THAT’S our defense: The Browns came into this season expecting to be one of the NFL’s best defenses. After the hapless Jets tore them apart last week, many believed that the unit was overrated. However, for the most part Sunday, the Browns’ defense looked better than Dick LeBeau’s Titans defense. The Browns forced three turnovers and held Mariota scoreless in the first half a week after he erupted for four first-half touchdowns against the Buccaneers. They put the rookie on the ground seven times for sacks, harassed him into several hurried throws and into some mistakes that looked, dare I say it, Manziel-like. They were running out of gas in the second half, and Joe Haden was burned for a big touchdown by a rookie receiver late in the game, which was concerning. And, Dexter McCluster gashed the team for 98 rushing yards on just 10 carries. But it was a marked improvement from a week before.

5.       West isn’t the best: Terrence West was literally given away to the Titans just days after the NFL’s final cut day due to what have been called attitude problems when he was with the Browns. Everyone knew that the Browns’ leading rusher from a year ago would be licking his chops at his first crack at his former team, and would nothing more than to do well against Mike Pettine and the team’s other decision makers who cast him aside so quickly. But it turned into a forgettable game for the Towson product. West fumbled on his first carry of the game, which led to the Browns’ second touchdown (scored by Isiah Crowell, to add insult to injury), and he finished with just three carries for 10 yards. Vindication, thy name is Pettine.

6.       The kicking game looked awesome … again: Andy Lee may be one of the highest-paid punters in the NFL, and he deserves every single penny. Lee punted six times for a 53.2-yard average and put two inside the 20. He kept field position tipped in the Browns’ favor most of the day. Travis Coons didn’t attempt any field goals, but converted all three of his 33-yard extra points. And, Benjamin’s punt-return touchdown and 154 return yards certainly didn’t help a banner day for the special teams.

7.       Feed The Crow: There were questions about Crowell heading into the season, and the second-year man out of Alabama State did little to answer those questions last Sunday. However, against the Titans, Crowell gained a team-best 72 yards on 15 carries (4.8 average) with a touchdown. His 15-yard run from the 20 on the first play following the Titans’ fourth quarter touchdown may have helped set up the big 50-yard touchdown pass six plays later.

It always feels good to be a fan after a victory Sunday. All of those “Fail for Cardale” cries and the fears of an 0-16 season are a distant memory. A lot of what was concerning last week was rectified this week. With an Oakland Raiders team coming to town riding high on their upset of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, next Sunday’s game won’t be easy. Expect a week full of quarterback questions – with McCown expected to come off the NFL’s concussion protocol, the annual Browns QB controversy is about to return. Does McCown get his job back, or do the Browns give Manziel another look? We’ll see, but you already feel more optimistic about our chances next week no matter what the answer is.

Four Downs – Titans at Browns

 

Well, I foolishly picked the Cleveland Browns to win last week and conquer their season opener streak. I couldn’t possibly pick them two weeks in a row could I? Well it may be foolish, but I believe the Browns will win this week against the Tennessee Titans.

First Down: Johnny Football is Starting

Head Coach Mike Pettine revealed on Friday that last week’s start Josh McCown had still not passed the concussion protocol and Johnny Manziel will make the start on Sunday.

Here you can see the awesome gif of why McCown is not starting this week.

McCown

Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner, will get another chance to start. This week, he will be going against another Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota. There was talk around the NFL Draft that the Browns could move up and take Mariota but that did not ultimately happen.

This will be Manziel’s third start of his career with his previous two not going so well. Some folks believe that this week is make it or break it for Manziel. That is entirely not the case. If Manziel performs well on Sunday, he will be on track to start the rest of the season. If he does poorly, once McCown passes the concussion test, McCown will be the starter going forward.

Look for Manziel to roll out a lot this week to try and move the pocket. But the key success for the Browns this week will be the running game.

Second Down: A Dwayne Bowe Sighting?

Dwayne Bowe was a surprise scratch last week before the game started and the Browns seemed to have missed him mightily.

The sole saving grace from the Browns receivers group last weekend was the move that Travis Benjamin put on his defender to get wide open for a long touchdown.

This group needs to step up and Dwayne Bowe needs to be the leader of this group. The only way he is going to do that is to get on the field.

Bowe is the biggest Browns receiver and would be a welcome target for Manziel as a red zone threat. They greatly missed that last week on the 19 play opening drive that ended in McCown getting concussed.

Third Down: Where did the pass rush go?

The Browns recorded zero, zilch, gooseegg in terms of sacks last week. The defense also only registered ONE hit on the quarterback.

They really need to get the pass rush going to be successful. I fully expect it to be back this week against a rookie quarterback in Mariota.

Throwing different pass rushes at Mariota should hopefully result into some rookie mistakes and by rookie mistakes I mean turnovers. The Browns did force one turnover last week but Tashaun Gipson was pickpocketed during the interception return.

Fourth Down: Prediction

The Browns will win this game in front of the Dawg Pound in their home opener.

The Browns will force Mariota into mistakes and make him turnover the ball while also playing ball control offense with the running game.

Hopefully this week I am not as foolish as I was last week.

Final Score: Browns 23, Titans 20

Browns Season Is Far From Over

Despite the fact that my beloved Browns got gashed by the Jets last Sunday I still feel that there are plenty of reasons the Browns can beat the Tennessee Titans this Sunday.

1. We are not going against the Jets defense. The Jets defensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they did a marvelous job neutralizing our run game. The Titans don’t have near the talent on the defensive line, so we should be able to get our ground game going early which will open up things for our passing game.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the New York Jets during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the New York Jets during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

2. Johnny Manziel will have a full week to prepare for the Titans if Josh McCown isn’t ready. Manziel had a decent performance against the Jets but you could see that he was a bit flustered out there. Now if he can get the start over McCown he can play with what should be a better run game and better preparation.

3. Joe Thomas is just fine. Thomas struggled a bit toward the end of the year but he looked like his usual self posting a top five grade among left tackles this weeks according to Pro Football Focus. He should have continued success this week against the Titans.

4. This is Marcus Mariota’s first regular season on the road. Mariota looked great against Tampa Bay at home but he could struggle on the road against a defensive secondary looking to rebound after a poor performance against the Jets.

5. It can’t get any worse. The team is bound to get better. There is no way our defense is as poor as it played Sunday. The team has to feel angry about the loss Sunday. Mike Pettine is a good coach and the team will make enough adjustments to make this a competitive game against Titans.

New Season But Same Old Browns

Coming into Sunday’s opener against the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns were hit with all kinds of media distractions … then played like a team that had to deal with those distractions.

From trading Terrance West and Billy Winn for conditional late-round draft picks to the whole Terrelle Pryor saga (keeping him over the clubhouse popular Josh Lenz and then cutting him for injured running back Robert Turbin) to the suspension of offensive line coach Andy Moeller over a domestic violence incident to the road-rage incident from maligned second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert – and that doesn’t even include the fact that general manager Ray Farmer began his league-imposed four-game suspension for texting coaches during games last season – the Browns were in the news for all the wrong reasons this past week.

All of that intensified following a dismal 31-10 loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium – the Browns’ 11th

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13: Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns is congratulated by teammate Joel Bitonio #75 after he caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 13: Travis Benjamin #11 of the Cleveland Browns is congratulated by teammate Joel Bitonio #75 after he caught a touchdown pass during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on September 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 31-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

straight loss on opening day and dropping them to 1-16 in openers since they returned in 1999. And, despite playing with a backup quarterback who spent most of his offseason in substance-abuse rehab in Johnny Manziel, the Browns actually led 10-7 midway through the second quarter and looked like the better team up to that point.

But the wheels came off in a hurry, and when they did, the game tilted decidedly to the Jets’ favor. And let’s not forget the Jets went 4-12 last season, were being coached by a first-time head coach in Todd Bowles and playing with supposed backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. It was the Jets who looked like the team that went 7-9 last season while the Browns looked like the perennial 4-12 team they were before last season.

What happened? Well, here are a few thoughts and observations from a guy who obsesses over everything Cleveland Browns:

1.       The Browns missed Josh McCown: McCown, the 36-year-old veteran journeyman signed to replace Brian Hoyer in the offseason, looked more like the guy who stood out for the Bears two years ago and not the guy who struggled for the Buccaneers last season in his only drive with the Browns. McCown drove the Browns 90 yards in 17 plays, completing 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards, and melted almost 10 minutes off the clock before disaster struck. On a third-and-goal play, McCown took off toward the end zone and attempted to dive in for a touchdown. However, he was hit by two Jet defenders, was helicoptered and fumbled the ball just before he crossed the plane. He was taken to the locker room for concussion protocol and was ruled out for the game. I will not fault McCown for trying for the touchdown – had he slid down at the 2, I’m sure all the Manziel-honks would have been screaming about how he should have went for the touchdown and how they need to take him out. He’s a competitive player and that’s what competitive players do. Unfortunately, it not only cost the Browns a touchdown, but cost them their starting quarterback. While Manziel did OK in relief, one could imagine how much better the Browns’ offense would have looked with the steady McCown under center, considering how well he moved the team in his only possession.

2.       Manziel faded fast: Those who know me know that I’m one of the biggest Manziel critics in Cleveland. And his play Sunday did little to make me ease up on that criticism. Sure, he came in and hit Travis Benjamin for a big 54-yard touchdown pass – the first of his career – and then led another scoring drive. However, Manziel quickly reverted to the guy we saw flounder in two starts against the Bengals and Panthers last year. He threw a costly interception on the first possession of the second half, which was turned into a Jets’ touchdown and helped switch momentum firmly to the hosts. He later lost two key fumbles on two ill-advised scrambles and took some big hits. The stats look decent – 13-of-24 for 182 yards and 35 more on five carries – but Manziel looked like a guy who is too small and too undisciplined to be a standout NFL quarterback. If anything, he did little to answer the questions folks may have had after his dismal rookie season and looks more like yet another first-round Browns quarterback bust than the potential savior. Some, like the Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot, tried to use his lack of first-team reps as an excuse, but I refuse to do that. I’d rather see Austin Davis next week if McCown isn’t cleared.

3.       Running struggles: The Browns were a team that wanted to rely on the running game on offense and felt they would be better at stopping the run after the drafting of Danny Shelton in the first round last April, among other free agent signing. Instead, the run defense looked like the 32nd-ranked unit from last season, getting gashed by Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell en route to 154 yards allowed on the ground. And the Browns’ rushing offense? When your top two ground gainers are quarterbacks, that is inexcusable. Isaiah Crowell only averaged 1.7 yards-per-carry, which will not fly out of a No. 1 running back, and backups Duke Johnson and Shaun Draughn only had eight carries for 26 yards combined. If this running game is non-existent and we’re relying on McCown, Manziel or Davis to win games with their arms, it’s gonna be a long season.

4.       Where’s the line?: Maybe getting their position coach suspended just days before the season opener led to their struggles. But the offensive line was dominated by the Jets’ defensive front all day long. Right guard John Greco was lost due to injury, pushing rookie first-rounder Cameron Erving into action, but the line struggled before this happened. Many false start and holding penalties did little to offset their struggles. Both McCown and Manziel had to run more than they intended due to the poor protection provided. For a line that boasts two perennial Pro Bowlers, three first-round picks (including Erving) and two second-rounders, including an All-Rookie selection, this performance is unacceptable.

5.       Haden Island: Joe Haden has a reputation as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks and has become a perennial Pro Bowler. However, the taller Brandon Marshall – a receiver viewed on the downside of his career – abused Haden all game long Sunday. The touchdown reception by Marshall over Haden was the highlight play. The secondary, as a whole, struggled mightily. Even when things went right, like Tashaun Gipson’s interception, it turned into a negative when Gipson allowed himself to get stripped by Marshall. The Browns defense allowed four touchdowns to the Jets. Imagine what a team with a good offense could do against them – scary thought. Titans’ rookie QB Marcus Mariota, who torched Tampa Bay for four first-half touchdown passes, is probably licking his chops for next Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

6.       The kicking game looked awesome: If there ever was a bright spot from Sunday’s game, it is Browns veteran punter Andy Lee and rookie kicker Travis Coons. Coons’ first NFL point was the league’s longest extra point ever – 48 yards – thanks to two stupid penalties and he later drilled a 26-yard field goal. Lee, obtained for a seventh-round choice from the 49ers, only punted twice, but averaged 60.5 yards on the two kicks. The guy will likely be the AFC Pro Bowl punter this year, so at least the Browns will have one Pro Bowler this year.

7.       Coach ‘em up: Mike Pettine blamed himself and his coaching staff for the loss following the game, and he won’t find many people disagreeing with him. The Browns looked undisciplined thanks to 12 penalties for 109 yards and four lost fumbles and five total turnovers. You can’t blame the officiating for these penalties – the Browns made mistake after mistake after mistake. They looked unorganized at times. The defense was atrocious and the offense wasn’t much better. The Jets looked like the better coached team, and that’s just sad. Their decision to roll with two QBs almost bit them in the butt on Sunday – Manziel took some tough shots, and that’s to be expected for the remainder of his career. I respect Pettine greatly and believe he is the man to coach this team over the hump. However, he and his coaches need to do a better job if they want to hold on to their jobs.

Hopefully, the week leading into the home opener against the Titans will not be rife with off-the-field distractions, but I doubt it. With McCown hurt, the QB controversy questions won’t go away, and surely the focus will go to veteran receiver Dwayne Bowe, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game and leaving a unit heavy on possession receivers to try to make plays against the Jets. Unlike last year’s season opener, which was a loss to the hated Steelers but included a dramatic second-half turnaround, there is not much optimism going forward

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.

Does Ray Farmer Text Too Much?

Well, according to the NFL, yes.

On Monday, the NFL announced that it was suspending Browns’ GM Ray Farmer for the first four games of the 2015 season, as well as fining the Browns $250,000, as punishment for violating the NFL’s electronic device policy during the 2014 season. Now, if you’re like me, you vaguely recall this texting scandal coming to light sometime around the middle of February. However, again if you’re like me, you probably never really understood what exactly occurred, or why it was that relevant. And honestly you probably didn’t care that much since you figured that it was inconsequential. Well, now is the point where I admit that I was wrong to assume that this scandal meant nothing. But for you all that still aren’t really sure what exactly happened, here’s the gist of it:

During a number of games last season, Ray Farmer exchanged text messages with former Browns’ QB Coach Dowell Loggains. Why? Well, they were supposedly talking about the ongoing games, as Farmer attempted to discern upcoming decisions by Loggains and former OC Kyle Shanahan and potentially influence ones he did not agree with.

But why? As in for what reason?

By the time that Farmer is able to compose a text message, send it, have Loggains read, and then have Loggains come up with a cogent and convincing argument to present to Shanahan as to why a certain decision should be made, the relevant decision is already null as the situation will have already passed. I mean, we are talking about the NFL here. There isn’t really time for a long back and forth arguing over playcalls and the like – those are kind of split-second decisions. And there really is no use in sitting around actively criticizing the calls of your OC during the game. I mean wait until Monday morning in the meeting room, or postgame in the locker room. Hell, if the calls bother you that much then fire the bastard, but don’t sit around texting the guy one rung below him on the ladder. That’s just stupid, and nowhere close to worth the associated risks.

At the same time though, four games?!! Are you serious!?! For using a mobile device during a game?! I mean correct me if I’m wrong here, but what is essentially happening is that a General Manager is being punished for being too involved in his team. That is, because he was attempting to manage his team in a close and hands-on way (and not in a general manner I guess?), he is being forced into missing one quarter of the season. And this is by no means the least important quarter of the year – this is the first quarter of the regular season. You know, the time of year when coaches and managers are still working out the kinks and quirks in their rosters and are having to cut players and sign casualties of preseason roster cuts. So yeah, now the Browns get to go through that without Ray Farmer. So yay for that dumb decision.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love Ray Farmer. I personally think he is among the top tier of managers in the League right now, and although he is still working out being in the position in which he is, I trust his decision making abilities, and he very clearly has what is best for the time at the forefront of his mind. Who knows, maybe this texting thing was a whole elaborate hoax designed to make Shanahan angry and to force him to leave of his own decision. He could be taking one for the team right now, knowing that Shanahan wasn’t the correct fit for this team and that wasting another year with him running the offense would be a waste of time. I mean yes, that is a bit farfetched, but you never know…

Anyway, the point is, Ray Farmer made what appears to be a real dumb decision that will hurt the team somewhat next season during the suspension. But he is still a hell of a manager, and him and Mike Pettine are the future of this team. So, just as you did in February, go ahead and sweep this whole texting thing under the rug and forget about it. Come our wildcard victory over former Browns QB Brian Hoyer and the Texans, none of us fans are going to remember or care.

Browns' Free Agency 2015: First Wave Recap

Well…That was disappointing, to say the least. But I mean I guess it is what was expected. The Browns stuck to their plan and went out, made a few veteran signings at positions of need for reasonable prices, and marginally improved the team. Hopefully at least. They definitely did not do anything sexy though. That being said, welcome to Cleveland…

Brian Hartline (WR – Dolphins)

Hartline was a player who had been linked to the Browns for a couple of weeks before free agency opened, and, as he had been released by the Dolphins (meaning his contract wasn’t simply expiring), the Browns were able to sign him on Tuesday morning before free agency actually formally opened. As the team is right now, it would be reasonable to expect Hartline to start next season, and if, for some terrible and stupid reason, the Browns don’t pick up another free agency between now and August, Hartline will be the Browns #1. Which would not be good. To be clear, I’m not saying that Hartline isn’t a good signing. To the contrary, I expect him to be a significant contributor this next year (to the tune of at least 800 yards and 4 touchdowns) as the #2 for the Browns, but he simply is not a #1 receiver. That position still needs to be addressed in the first round of the Draft. Overall though, this is a strong signing, definitely considering that the contract is a simple 2-year, $6 million deal ($1.5 guaranteed), meaning it doesn’t involve too much commitment if Hartline fails to meet expectations.

Tramon Williams (CB – Packers)

I was extremely bummed to see Buster Skrine walk, but Williams is an adequate replacement. Were he in his prime, he would be more than adequate, but considering the fact that he is already 32, he is past his peak and slightly on the decline. Nonetheless, he will be a solid starter across from Joe Haden, and his 3-year ($21 million) contract will give Justin Gilbert plenty of time to mature and develop into a legitimate starter. Or, if that doesn’t happen, it will give the Browns enough time to find a long-term option at the position. Williams himself was quite effective at Green Bay, and his ability to create turnovers (28 career interceptions) and his skill in coverage (at least 14 passes defended in each of the last 7 seasons) make him an excellent fit for the Browns’ system. Additionally, coming from Green Bay, he is already used to the cold, which is always a nice little bonus.

Randy Starks (DE – Dolphins)

Starks was another veteran player brought in to replace a departing defensive starter. With Ahtyba Rubin on the way out, the Browns needed to bring in another big body for the defense. A two-time Pro-Bowler, Starks is a solid run-stopper who is also stout in the pass game, having racked up 41 career sacks, a significant amount for a linemen who plays primarily on the inside. While not a long-term solution (he’s 31), Starks will hopefully be able to help mentor whichever defensive tackle the Browns draft in the first round this year (since that will happen). Or, if he ends up losing what can be assumed to be a starter’s role during preseason, he will still serve as a solid rotational player.

…and those are the three really important signings so far for the Browns. They also inked Thad Lewis to a contract, but hopefully that will end up being an inconsequential signing, because if he is relevant next season, then the Browns are royally screwed. Additionally, the Browns negotiated a new contract with DL John Hughes, agreeing to pay the 26-year-old $14.4 million over 4 years, bouncing him into the top-20 in terms of pay at his position. This was somewhat perplexing to me. I mean, he is a talented player and all, and he is young, but he is definitely not among the top-20 at his position. Unless Pettine sees some immense amount of potential in practice that the rest of the world simply isn’t picking up, this move doesn’t make too much sense.

One other thing so far doesn’t make much sense: the lack of pursuit of a tight end. I mean, unless the Browns are planning on using a Jim Dray-Gary Barnidge combination for the whole season (an idea that I don’t think anyone is really that hot on), then we have a huge huge hole, especially considering the need to spend earlier draft picks on areas such as DT and WR. Luckily for us, Rob Housler is still chilling on the open market. After a couple weeks where he hasn’t truly been linked to any teams (except maybe the Falcons, but their overall interest is questionable), he will come on the cheap side. And he has the receiving ability to greatly aid whichever poor man ends up starting at QB for the Browns. Sure, his blocking game is weak, but we already have other blocking tight ends, as well as a strong enough line to supplement slight weakness at the position. I maintain he would be an awesome addition to the roster.

Overall though, the Browns have attacked free agency exactly how they said they would – by making deliberate moves to bring in veteran players that have the potential to start in weak areas. They of course will also address these areas of need through the Draft, but these acquisitions guarantee that the Browns at least have a starting-caliber player at the position. Although they have achieved owner Jimmy Haslam’s goal of not overspending in free agency, I will be interested to see what exactly the Browns do with all of their extra cap space. As of right now, the Browns are still looking at about $35 million dollars in cap space. Some of that will hopefully go towards signing Housler, and a portion may go towards bringing in Dwayne Bowe, but that would still leave them with at least $27 million or so to allocate to incoming draft picks. They don’t need near that much, and if they don’t spend enough this year, then they will have to spend a bit extra next season to stay above the salary floor that exists in the NFL right now.

So who knows, maybe the Browns make a surprise move over the next couple of weeks. I guess we will just have to wait and see.