Tag Archives: Miles Austin

Browns' Free Agency 2015: The Last Minute Preview

On Tuesday afternoon, the 2015 NFL free agency period officially opens. Since Saturday, teams have been able to begin talking to free-agents-to-be, however without agreeing to terms or explicitly discussing potential numbers. Nonetheless, expect to see a slew of big signings in the 15 minutes after free agency officially opens. It will be unlikely that any of these quick signings are by the Browns, as General Manager Ray Farmer tends to be a bit slower and more deliberate with his signings, although I guess you never really know. Do expect to see the Browns sign a few players over the next week though. If last year was any indication, a lot of these signings will be veteran players who can serve as role players and mentors and who will be on the somewhat cheaper side, although with just short of $50 million in cap space, the Browns could surprise everyone and make a big splash with a monster signing. Again, you never really know, definitely with a young GM at the helm. Anyway, here is who to keep an eye on this free agency period when discussing the Browns:

Browns’ Free-Agents-To-Be That Need To Be Re-signed:

Before we look at new players who the Browns could potentially sign, we need to take a quick look at players that the Browns need to keep in Cleveland. These are all guys who the Browns could let walk, but really shouldn’t:

CB Buster Skrine

Skrine reportedly wants to test the open waters, which seems to be a good decision. The Browns, however, need to keep him around. They will have to pay more for him than they otherwise would’ve, but I think he is easily worth the $8 million or so a year that they will have to dish out. Skrine has started the past two seasons and has been quite solid across from Joe Haden. As a bonus, he is an extremely talented nickelback, so if Justin Gilbert ever decides to start playing actual football, he can easily slide inside. Additionally, replacing him would end up costing just about as much as resigning him if the Browns want to sign a player close to his caliber. I expect him to be resigned, with a deal to the tune of 4 years and $30 million.

DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

I like Kitchen a lot. He played well last year when everyone else on the line went down with injuries. He wouldn’t cost that much to retain. And he is an Ohio native who would most likely enjoy remaining close to home. Plus he is the owner of what was voted the best sack dance in the NFL. Offer him a nice little 2 year, $1.5 million deal, and let him stick around.

 S Tashaun Gipson

He is one of the top safeties in the league, has an absurd affinity for creating turnovers, and is only  24. There is no doubt in my mind that he will remain among the top players at his position for at  least the next five years, and as such, the Browns need to sign him to a long term deal as soon as  possible. It would be cheaper to do this now, and they could probably keep him around for as little  as $4 million a year, which in a couple of years will look like a steal.

S Johnson Bademosi

Although he made a couple of really stupid mistakes during games last year, he still is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, and would be simple to retain.

LB Craig Robertson

He played well last year. He will play well this year. And he will serve as a good backup when Christian Kirksey is fully ready to start. He should remain on the team next year.

TE Andre Smith

Depth is always appreciated. There is no need to show him the door.

WR Miles Austin

He played well last year until his kidney decided to misbehave. He obviously is not a long term option, but he is a serviceable role player and can serve as a mentor for whichever receiver the Browns draft this year.

Now that we have handled that, and maintaining the assumption that all of those players are resigned, the Browns have a few areas of need that they can address in free agency…

Wide Receiver

This is clearly a monster need for the Browns, especially with Josh Gordon suspended once again. Currently, the Browns have Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Travis Benjamin as the only experienced receivers on the roster. They will also should have Austin. It is safe to assume that the Browns will probably spend at least one pick in the Draft on a receiver, leaving them with five players who can have impact at the position. They will, however, still be looking to sign another one in free agency. The question is merely “who?”

Randall Cobb (Packers)

Cobb is clearly the best receiver on the market, but it would be stupid to bring him too Cleveland. At 5’10” and 192 lbs, Cobb is another slot-type receiver, of which the Browns already have two in Hawkins and Gabriel. Although Cobb, being the best slot receiver in the NFL at the moment, would clearly be an upgrade, he would not be a practical or smart use of what would amount to a lot of money.

Torrey Smith (Ravens)

Pair him with a talented first round pick and Hawkins and Gabriel inside, and the Browns suddenly have a rather potent group of wideouts. Smith would essentially be a more versatile and effective version of Benjamin. Speedy as all hell (4.43 in the 40), Smith is a receiver who specializes in the deep ball and would be able to stretch out defenses so that Hawkins and Gabriel could work underneath. Personally, I think he would be a great player to bring in, although he will be on the slightly costlier side. It would be cool to use an old Ravens player against them though. There is nothing worse than seeing a player you let go of completely wreck you twice a year.

Michael Crabtree (49ers)

Crabtree is an option, but not a great one. He’s been largely ineffective since tearing his achilles in 2013, and even before that he was pretty consistently disappointing. He may come on the cheaper side though.

Cecil Shorts (Jaguars)

The Cleveland-area native is ready for a change in scenery from Jacksonville, and may be drawn to come home. The Browns have shown heightened interest in him, and might even be willing to fork over a few extra dollars to bring him onboard. The only hurdle is that Shorts has said he is tired of losing and that he just wants to win. Cleveland isn’t usually viewed as a team that wins a lot, but there is the chance that the blind faith that Clevelanders and Browns fans learn could make him turn a blind eye to the fact that the Browns aren’t sure-fire winners. I think that this is the receiver the Browns are most likely to sign. Even more so if they decide to not bring Austin back.

Hakeem Nicks (Colts)

Nicks was clearly talented at some point, and someone is going to sign him hoping that they can find that talent again. But it shouldn’t be the Browns. The Browns need to take safer steps that clearly move them forward, and signing a player who sat behind an aging and less effective Reggie Wayne for the past year doesn’t fit into that category of decisions.

Brian Hartline (Dolphins)

Only a year removed from consecutive 1000-yd campaigns, Hartline could be a nice option for the Browns. Despite his ineffectiveness last year, expect Hartline to bounce back and put up respectable numbers no matter where he lands this year. He has already visited with the Browns, but has also been the subject of interest from a number of other teams. I don’t think the Browns like him enough to engage in some kind of bidding war, so unless he comes cheap, expect him to land somewhere else.

Defensive Tackle

Without a doubt the Browns’ biggest area of need this offseason. Luckily, there is a slew of talented players available both in the Draft and in free agency. Ahtyba Rubin likely on the way out, the Browns will need to pick up a big body during free agency.

Ndamukong Suh (Lions)

There is not a better tackle on the market. There is no arguing with that statement. However, Suh will not land in Cleveland. I would really love him to, as it is extremely rare to be able to sign a hall-of-fame caliber player in his prime, but I don’t see Farmer being willing to spend the cash that would be necessary. Suh is looking to become the highest paid defender in the league, and there are teams who are willing to grant him his wish, just not the Browns.

Nick Fairley (Lions)

Suh’s soon-to-be-former teammate might be second to only Suh in terms of talent among free agents at the defensive tackle position. When he’s motivated, he can play like one of the best linemen in the league. However that whole “when he’s motivated” phrase is key. Fairley has shown a history of getting easily discouraged, and when that happens his level of play falls substantially. Playing for a program with the ups and downs that the Browns have probably wouldn’t be the best fit for him. Additionally, schematically there are better options.

 Terrance Knighton (Broncos)

A better option schematically. Knighton is one of the top nose tackles in the league  and is stellar against the run. After housing the worst run defense in the NFL in  2014, the Browns need to focus on picking up a run-stuffing tackle more than a pass-  rushing one, and Knighton would be a great option.

 Dan Williams (Cardinals)

Another great option, and one that might come slightly cheaper than Knighton. He  has gotten better every year that he has been in the NFL, is just hitting his prime,  and seems to be the kind of high value signing that Farmer likes to try to make. I  could see the Browns spending a few dollars to bring him in.

 BJ Raji (Packers)

Although he hasn’t really been effective since 2011, he is a player that is talented  enough that he could bounce back. If he does, he could be a bargain.

Barry Cofield (Redskins)

At 30, he is past his prime and is coming off an injury-plagued season. Nonetheless, he is still one of the better run stuffers in the NFL. Also, having grown up in Cleveland Heights, he may be interested in coming home.

Stephen Paea (Bears), Henry Melton (Cowboys), Kendall Langford (Rams)

While all talented, they are more pass-oriented linemen. None would be a great fit in Cleveland.

Kendrick Ellis (Jets)

He has worked with Pettine before, and thus might be inclined to come play for him again. He would probably serve in a backup’s role as he never has really had a large impact in the NFL.

Tight End

If the Browns are going to spend heavy money anywhere during free agency, it will be here. With Jordan Cameron out due to concussion issues and only Gary Barnidge, Jim Dray, and Andre Smith on the roster, the Browns need to pickup a high impact player who can spark their offense and give them a reliable option in the middle of the field.

Julius Thomas (Broncos)

He is one of the top 3 tight ends in the NFL and, at 26, is in his prime. It is unusual for a player of his caliber to hit the open market, and as a result he will demand big bucks. He has had some ankle issues over the past year or so, but still creates absurd mismatches over the middle. He isn’t the best blocker though, so he might be better suited for a more pass-oriented offense.

Virgil Green (Broncos)

Thomas’s sooon-to-be-former teammate is also set to hit the open market, although the Broncos seem to be trying to keep him in the Mile High City. He’s a decent enough blocker, is athletic enough to make an impact, and could come on the cheaper side due to his limited playtime and experience.

Rob Housler (Cardinals)

 Personally, I think that he is the most exciting tight end available this year. At 6’5″  and 250 lbs, he can run a 4.46 second 40. So basically he’s a freak athletically who is  going to emerge over the next two years to become one of the top 5 tight ends in the  NFL. Underutilization in Arizona due to his poor ability to block stymied his  development a little bit, but used in tandem with a better-blocking tight end such as  Jim Dray, I think Housler could be a very effective option.

 Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)

On the other end of the spectrum, Gresham is just about the blandest option at this  position. He has always been alright, but never special. Unfortunately, he has been  linked to the Browns more than any other tight end this offseason.

Pass Rusher (OLB/DE)

With Jabaal Sheard‘s likely departure, the Browns need to secure themselves a new outside linebacker. Pettine wouldn’t be too opposed to bringing in a strong pass-rushing defensive end as well, and there are plenty of options on both fronts.

Trent Cole (Eagles)

Although he is on the older side, he has the versatility to serve as a DE or an OLB in the Browns system. He still is a solid player, although he would only be able to contribute for a couple of years. He visited the Browns this weekend, so a deal may be in the works.

Jerry Hughes (Bills)

A soon-to-be-former member of the talented Bills defensive line, he has been overshadowed by his teammates. Despite that though, he has still racked up 10 sacks a year over the last couple, and he might could be interested in a reunion with his old boss.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins)

His career has been marred with injuries, but when he is healthy he is still one of the better players at his position. His injury history could make him a bit cheaper, but he is definitely a risky signing. High reward is everything works out though.

Brandon Graham (Eagles)

At 26, he is just entering his prime. He has shown that he can be an effective pass rusher when utilized, racking up 5.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season for the Eagles. His ability to create turnovers makes him an enticing option that Farmer and Pettine might be drawn to.

Pernell McPhee (Ravens)

The highest-rated outside linebacker available this year, he racked up 7.5 sacks in limited (540) snaps last season. Although there is a risk that he is simply a product of the system, he has shown an immense amount of talent and his just entering his prime. I think that he would be a high-impact player for the Browns, although he may take a season or so to fully develop into an effective player in the Browns system. Nonetheless, the combination of him and Paul Kruger (or Barkevious Mingo if he finally breaks out) has the potential to be rather lethal.

Quarterback

I still would like to see Hoyer remain in Cleveland, but with the Josh McCown signing that is unlikely. That, unfortunately, means that the Browns have no starting-caliber quarterbacks on their roster. So that will be fun…    There is still the possibility that the Browns sign another signal caller in free agency, and they will no doubt take a quarterback at some point in the Draft, but I honestly cannot really tell what Pettine is planning here.

Offensive Line

The right side of the line is not the strongest, and I would love to see someone like Bryan Bulaga come in and take over for Mitchell Schwartz. Pettine, however, has suggested that he doesn’t see a huge need to upgrade the position, so don’t be expecting to see any big signings in this department. A few depth-oriented signings could be made here, definitely at the center position.

…And that’s about it folks. There will no doubt be players signed that I didn’t cover here, since that is just how the NFL works. However, above are lists of some of the better options in the areas where the Browns most need help. Hopefully Farmer can repeat the success that he had last offseason, when he made a number of smart signings that didn’t break the bank. I guess we will see soon…

Cleveland Browns Draft Prospects: DeVante Parker

Wide receiver has been the Brown’s biggest need ever since  their plan of having Gordon returning to be our number one receiver went down the tube like those 4 drinks on the plane.  Luckily, there are a lot of good free agent receivers, but even if the Browns pickup someone like Torrey Smith or Cecil Shorts III they still will need to draft someone. The main issue with the receivers we have now is their lack of height. Besides free agent to be Miles Austin, every receiver on the roster who has seen the field is 5-foot-10 or shorter. Plus the 3 guys we have are all quick slot-type receivers, making our need for a tall strong outside receiver even greater.

DeVante Parker has the size you look for in a receiver. He stands 6-foot-3 with an 80 inch wingspan that he uses to high point the ball. He is also very athletic, evidenced by his strong 4.45 40 time, 10-foot-5 broad jump,  and 36 inch vertical. He is quick for a man his size and can get separation on routes and make some moves in the open field, but that’s not his best trait. The only issue with him is his durability, especially because of his light frame (only 209 pounds) and injury history including a foot injury that kept him out the first 7 games of 2014. Like almost all young receivers there are some questions about how well Parker run routes and creates separation off the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t have any character issues and displayed toughness in returning strong from injury.

His best game came against the mighty Florida State and their vaunted secondary. He burned their safety Tyler Hunter on the first snap for 71 yards, just part of the 214 yards he had overall in the game. Even more shocking was that he had 65% of the teams total receiving yards for the game. He also ran this beautiful fade route against PJ Williams, a corner who could very well go in the first or second round. You can view this play here. His play against Florida State shows he can be one of those guys who is always open due to his height, frame, wingspan and ability to adjust to the ball.

At best DeVante Parker seems like a poor man’s AJ Green, with his length speed and athleticism, can come into the league and immediately start. Doesn’t have the potential or the pure athleticism that AJ Green and Julio Jones had but has all the tools needed to be a very productive in the league.

According to Walter Football’s consensus mock draft which looks at hundreds of mocks DeVante Parker was tabbed to go to us in the 12th pick in 18% of the mocks in the database. The only prospect mocked more often to us at 12 is Kevin White who sadly ran in the 40 like he was trying to get out of position for the Browns to draft him. Sadly Parker might be out of reach as well. The wide receiver starved Vikings hold the pick ahead of us and have Parker’s old quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. But if Parker were to fall to the Browns he will be the outside threat our offense needs. He will start immediately and knock the top off a defense. Eventually he could become the consistent Pro-Bowl receiver the Browns have been looking for.

 

 

Cleveland Browns Ten Best of 2014

Well, here we are again. The door has finally closed on the most recent Browns season. It may actually be more appropriate to say that the lid has finally been closed on the casket, but hey, semantics. 2014 ended much the same way that every season seemingly ends. The Browns strolled into one of their rival’s stadiums with their third string quarterback while nursing a massive losing streak, and proceeded to put up a valiant (pathetic) performance that came up short.

In what has become the saddest, most infuriating and depressing holiday tradition around these parts, the Browns train flew off the tracks halfway through the season and careened down the hillside in flames. The details of this particular fiery wreck were a little different than seasons past, as is normally the case, but the end result was eerily familiar. The only thing that is slightly unfamiliar to me is that I have to write about it this year for an adoring public clamoring for my thoughts on the year that was.

(Deliberate pause for everyone to get in their prolonged eye rolls)

As is the case with an NFL season, especially one involving the team that plays on the Northern edge of downtown Cleveland, there is so much that happens that trying to pack it all into one article would be borderline irresponsible. It would also eat up content that could be stretched out for a few weeks, but let’s go with the previous sentence. It sounds much better. That being said, over the next month or so I’ll be taking a look back at all things 2014 Cleveland Browns before we get to start talking about the offseason and our favorite civic past time which is, of course, the NFL Draft. Today I’ll be starting off with the positive and counting down the Cleveland Browns ten best of 2014.

10. Kyle Shanahan

We’ll start things off with the Browns young offensive coordinator. Granted, there were some issues with his offense that showed after starting center Alex Mack went down, but I have to say that I really do like his offense overall and saw a lot of positives that give me hope for the future. He’ll be getting interviews for Head Coaching jobs elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he actually landed on of them, but if he comes back the Browns will have a year under their belt with him and I would be willing to bet the Browns offense improves come next season. If you look at what he did, especially early on, with some limitations at certain positions and his ability to adjust, I have to give a very positive review of Kyle Shanahan’s job in his first season with the team.

9. “Scrap Heap” Wide Receiver Acquisitions

I wasn’t exactly sure how to title this one. When I made my list for this I ended up with fourteen players and coaches that I wanted to mention. Unfortunately, a top fourteen list doesn’t quite have the ring to it that a top ten list does, so I had to make some edits. The first of those was combining three guys that I thought clearly needed to be mentioned into one item. Those guys, in no particular order, are Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, and Miles Austin. These three were each acquired through different ways and all made their mark at a position that was thought to be among the worst on the team.

To be clear, none of these receivers will be mistaken for an elite player. But each of them were extremely pleasant surprises that had very good first seasons with the Browns. There were big plays made by all of them, they brought a sure handedness that we had been sorely lacking, and I would wholeheartedly support all three of them being back next season. As sad as it is, there aren’t many receivers that have played for the Browns the past decade or so that I could say any of those things about, let alone all three.

8. Karlos Dansby

One of the big offseason acquisitions for the Browns, Dansby was brought in for both his on field performance and his veteran presence in the locker room. And he exceeded all expectations that I had for both of those things. He may have been higher on this list had his season not been cut short by injury, but there is no doubt that the signing of Karlos Dansby was an incredibly important one for the development of a winning culture, and there is also no doubt that he still has something left in the tank.

7. Paul Kruger

After signing a huge free agent deal and having a disappointing first season, Kruger came back in a big way this year. He was a guy that I thought could be gone if his second season went the same way as his first, but he turned things around and was one of the better players on the defensive side of the ball throughout 2014. Kruger ended up with 11.5 sacks and he was one of the only players, if not the only, who applied consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

6. The Baby Backs

You may know them by their given names Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, but together they were known throughout the season as the Baby Backs. And while each of them had some issues during their rookie year, they both showed enough flashes that I think we can all be satisfied with the running back position going into next season. The talent is obvious and as long they can clean up their respective problems the Browns will have a great 1-2 punch for the foreseeable future.

5. Mike Pettine

There were definitely mistakes made by the Browns rookie Head Coach, but he is someone that I have to put in this top ten. I’m positive that I will have much more on Pettine in the very near future, but for now I’ll slot him right smack in the middle of this list. There are almost certainly other coaches that we all would have liked the Browns to have hired the past few years using hindsight, but we ended up with Mike Pettine. And I have to say that I have a much better feeling in my gut regarding him than I had for all of his predecessors dating back to Butch Davis. I love his honesty, I love his relatability, and I love the type of program that he’s trying to build here. I’m only hoping that he gets the time needed to build that program.

4. Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas, Pro Bowl, All Pro. Rinse, wash, repeat. The Browns veteran left tackle caught a lot of flack for having a down season and nearing the end of his career as an elite lineman. This Browns columnist would like to tell you that that is all a steaming pile of crap. Sure, he may not have had his best season, but let’s remember that his best season ranks among the elite for the entire history of the NFL. Rumors of his demise are far, far exaggerated and we should all continue to count our lucky stars that we have him on our team. Here’s hoping that he actually gets to play in the postseason before his Hall of Fame career ends.

3. Joel Bitonio

It would make sense that the high second round draft pick that practically no one in Cleveland had ever heard of would be higher on this list than the future Hall of Famer that he played next to, right? In Browns world, of course it would. The pick of Bitonio either enraged fans because he wasn’t a wide receiver or befuddled fans because they had no clue who he was. There really wasn’t much in between, me included. I fell into the second category, but instantly fell in love with the guy after listening to his conference call after the second day of the Draft and reading up on him. And then he went out and had himself a fantastic rookie season at left guard. He’s the kind of person you want in the locker room, and judging by his first year with the Browns he’s also the kind of player you want on the field. Barring injury, you can set it in stone that he’ll be playing in some Pro Bowls and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he’s the guy who ends up taking over at left tackle when Joe Thomas calls it quits.

2. The Secondary

Again, this is kind of cheating. I had three players that definitely needed to be mentioned, and a couple others who were close to making the list. But, for the sake of not leaving out some of the others, I have combined them all and will talk about them as a unit. The Browns secondary in 2014 contained two players who made the Pro Bowl in Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson, two steadfast veterans who played well in Buster Skrine and Donte Whitner, and a surprising undrafted rookie who was fantastic before getting hurt in K’Waun Williams.

I mainly wanted to make sure that Haden, Gipson, and Williams were mentioned, but it seems fitting for me to include the unit as a whole. Gipson had his coming out party this year, leading the league in interceptions before suffering a season ending injury, and K’Waun Williams was an incredibly pleasant surprise, vastly outplaying first round pick Justin Gilbert.

But mostly, I have to talk about Joe Haden. After a slow start that could probably be attributed to being banged up out of the gate and adjusting to the new restrictive rules for defenders, Haden played at as high a level as anyone could given the restrictions on defensive backs in today’s NFL. To put it much more simply, Joe Haden was out of this world fantastic and showed why he continues to be among the best at his position in all of the NFL. He came up with a couple of the more ridiculous pass break ups and interceptions that you’ll ever see and, as far as I can tell, continues to be a great presence in the locker room. I should probably qualify everything I write about him with the fact that he will probably go down as one of my favorite Cleveland athletes of all time, but I won’t right now because his play on the field doesn’t need any qualifiers.

1. Alex Mack

I stewed over whether the secondary or Mack should earn the number one spot on this list. After all, the secondary encompassed a half dozen players who ranged from fantastic to good, had two Pro Bowl nominations, and a myriad of other points for other players going for it. As much of a cop out as it may have been, part of me couldn’t see how anything from the 2014 Browns could top the resume of that unit.

But then there was that other part of me. The part that saw the offense in the first five games before Alex Mack went down with a season ending injury. The part that saw an offensive line, a unit, and an entire team that could impose their will on any team and dictate the tempo. The same part of me that saw a team with a new identity that could play with any team in the league, and was winning more than they were losing.

Sadly, that part of me, and all parts of me really, were slowly devastated in the weeks and months following Mack’s injury. Sure, there were some wins against bad teams and a few good performances against playoff bound squads, but for all intents and purposes the season ended when Alex Mack was carted off the field in October during the bludgeoning of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I would never have believed that a center could have such a monumental impact on a team. Hell, I think I even wrote as much last offseason when talking about whether the Browns should keep T.J. Ward or Mack. But I have never seen an injury, aside from a quarterback, affect a team as much as Mack’s injury did to the Browns. I honestly still can’t believe how staggering the difference was. I’ll have more on this in the next few weeks, but there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that Alex Mack was the most valuable player on the Browns in 2014. There’s no way we would have ever known it had he not gotten hurt and had he stayed healthy it would have certainly been someone else.

But, unfortunately for all of us, he did get hurt. His season was ended prematurely. And the team went into a tailspin that was impressive even for the Browns. And a center who didn’t even play five games ends up atop my list of the best of the 2014 Cleveland Browns. It’s almost unbelievable.

Almost.

It's A Happy New Year For The Browns

First off, happy New Year everybody. May 2015 be better than 2014. Especially for us Browns fans.

That five game skid to end the season was painful. I have to admit, when we were sitting atop the division in early November, I really truly believed that we would sneak into the playoffs, and I was 100% certain that we would at least finish with a winning record. Alas, neither of those things happened, and us Browns fans had to suffer through a skid that was reminiscent of past years. But despite that ickiness to end the season, we fans have many a reason to be happy and excited heading into this new year:

1. Our Coaches Don’t Take Bullshit

Mike Pettine’s reaction to Johnny Manziel’s alleged party and its after-math (in which Josh Gordon, Justin Gilbert, and Manziel were all late to mandatory team-related activities) shows that he does not have patience for players who don’t put their team and their job first. Suspending Gordon and forcing the rookie tandem to remain in the locker room for the duration of the game showed that Pettine isn’t willing to waste time on individuals who are unwilling to make sacrifices for the team. Although this sort of attitude has adverse effects on the team in the short-term (I’m sure Connor Shaw could’ve benefitted from Gordon’s presence), over the long-term it will lead to a team that is more… well, teamly. The players will trust each other more without this type of toxicity in the locker room, and as a result the team will play better on the field.

2. The Injury Bug Can Only Eat So Much

Armonty Bryant (11 games missed), Alex Mack (11), John Hughes (10), Phil Taylor (11), Miles Austin (4), Paul McQuistan (1), Desmond Bryant (1), Pierre Desir (1), Barkevious Mingo (1), Jordan Cameron (5), Ben Tate (2), Ahtyba Rubin (3), Billy Winn (3), K’Waun Williams (3), Johnson Bademosi (2), Andrew Hawkins (1), Marlon Moore (2), Karlos Dansby (4), Tashaun Gipson (5), Gary Barnidge (3), Joe Haden (1), Brian Hoyer (1), Ryan Seymour (1), Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (1), Johnny Manziel (1). Every single one of those players was inactive due to injury at some point during the season. Considering the caliber of the players on the list, I think it is fair to say that the Browns got unfairly roughed up this season. And yet still managed to improve vastly from previous years. Sure, there will inevitably be injuries next season, but I just don’t see there being as many as this season. With more of our core players remaining in the game, expect improvement.

3. Ray Farmer is Kind of a Minor Personnel Genius

The number of rookies who contributed significantly this season was astounding. Joel Bitonio, K’Waun Williams, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell all played big roles for the Browns. Pierre Desir and Connor Shaw both out played expectations. Both Manziel and Gilbert disappointed, but they are both talented enough to turn themselves around this offseason. Combine the rookies with the free agent signings of the past year (which include Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Miles Austin, and Andrew Hawkins, among others), and Ray Farmer’s first class of personnel changes is astounding. With two first round picks this year and less holes to patch up, Farmer is set up to have another great offseason.

4. The Curse of Eternal Browns Optimism

 This is probably the biggest reason we fans should be excited going into next year – we always are. Realistically we often know that the Browns are not going to have a great year, but nonetheless the most exciting time of the year is when Week 1 rolls around. Even if this team was set for a decline, we would still be excited for next season. Life is just not the same without football, and win or lose we are always going to be there cheering (and complaining).

I’m really bummed that I have to suffer through watching the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all play this coming weekend, but I’m still happy with what the Browns did. They are an organization that is poised to keep improving over the next few years, and I have little doubt that we will be playing in January in the next season or two.

Cheers and Happy New Year.

The Browns' Midweek Report, Week 14: Pass Game Problems

So…..Johnny?

Mike Pettine’s choice to play Manziel last Sunday caught me off guard, but looking back now it really shouldn’t have. Pettine hasn’t proven to one to shy away from making decisions regardless of the opinions of fans and analysts, and with Hoyer playing as poorly as he was, the offense at a standstill, and the game basically lost, it was the perfect time to put in Manziel to see how the offense reacted. And it ended up working. Kind of. I mean he was able to move the ball, but it was against what was a soft prevent defense, so it only kind of counts. Nonetheless, Manziel provided the offense with an energy that hadn’t been seen all day. However, Pettine announced that Hoyer will again be in the driver’s seat this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, which many are lauding as the correct decision…

…which it is. Hoyer is 10-5 in his career as a starter in Cleveland, and he has led the team this far. Sure, he has been sliding a bit the past few weeks, but he is still someone that the players and coaches trust in, and he is capable of running this offense adequately. The question becomes though, how much of a leash will he be given?, and how much should he actually get?. Here’s my guesses/opinions:

How much of a leash will Hoyer be given?

The Colts’ defense is not anywhere as strong as the Bills’, meaning that, at least in theory, the Browns offense should find more success moving the ball. Facing a front line that isn’t close to as dominant, the Browns should be able to get the ground game going this week. If this happens, Shanahan will be able to employ more play-action passes into his game plan, an area where Hoyer really excels. Given those opportunities, I think Hoyer will be given a somewhat short leash. This is a game that he should play well in, so, due to those high expectations, I feel the coaching staff will not give him too much room to screw up. Two interceptions off of poor throws, or a string of failed third down conversions due to poor execution or poor decision making, and we will be seeing Johnny take the field again.

That being said, I don’t expect to see Johnny this weekend, except for during the numerous camera shots of him pacing around the sidelines that will inevitably occur. Knowing that his job is probably on the line, Hoyer is going to elevate his game back to the level that we saw earlier on in the season in order to make sure he is able to remain on the field.

How much of a leash should Hoyer be given?

Not much. In an ideal world, Hoyer is given a short leash and is informed that he has a short leash. …Ok let me rephrase, ’cause in “an ideal world” right now, the Browns would be perfect and just rolling over everybody…. In my opinion, the correct decision would be to give Hoyer a short leash and inform him of that decision. This will put him under a significant amount of pressure, which is very important. You see, I believe that the Browns are going to make the playoffs this year, or are at least going to be in the running to through the final week of the season. As the season inches closer and closer to its conclusion, the pressure to perform well keeps rising higher. If Hoyer “Andy Dalton’s” under pressure, I would rather have the opportunity to correct that now and get Johnny a little experience than wait till the playoffs to implode.

I say that if the offense is fairly ineffective throughout the first half, then Pettine should throw in Manziel coming out the gate to start the second half. Manziel has the ability to spark an immobile offense, and coming out to start the second half with him would give the Colts less time to react, and the Browns would be given a few more minutes to prepare.

On top of letting Hoyer know he is on a short leash, Pettine should make the information public. It would help feed the ever-ravenous fans and analysts, and the real threat of having Manziel on the field will force the Colts to spend more time working on two defensive playbooks, which would be helpful for a Browns team that right now is looking like it’s going to need all the help it can get.

In other Browns passing game news, Miles Austin, our most reliable third down option, has been placed on IR due to a kidney problem, ending his season. So that sucks. A lot. Sure, his production was declining with Josh Gordon’s return, but he was one of the few players who actually moved the chains last week. For a team struggling on third down, this will not help in the least.

Despite all of that though, I still have faith in the Browns, especially this weekend. This game is huge, not only for the time, but for Brian Hoyer too. I’m expecting a performance on the level of the Bengals game. The defense is going to step up in big ways and force at least three turnovers. Hoyer is going to eclipse 300 yards passing to go with a pair of touchdowns in a very clean game, and Isaiah Crowell is going to top the century mark and find the endzone. The Josh Gordon of last year is going to pay the Dawg Pound a visit this weekend, and it is going to be glorious.

Prediction: Browns 38 – Colts 24

A Cleveland Browns Thanksgiving

After years of mediocrity, it finally looks like (knock on wood) Cleveland Browns fans have a team they can be thankful for and proud of this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the team is currently 7-4 and right in the thick of the playoff hunt. All of this got some of the Browns writers here at More Than A Fan: Cleveland thinking, what should the Cleveland Browns be thankful for this year? Here is what we came up with.

Dave Jack

-For starters, the Browns as an organization should still be thankful for the Indianapolis Colts. While the current administration had nothing to do with executing the Trent Richardson deal, they certainly did benefit from it. It’s far too early to determine whether the trade ultimately worked out in their favor, but the added first round pick allowed the Browns flexibility to move around in that round and do what they wanted.

-To piggyback off of that, Ray Farmer and company should propose a Thanksgiving toast to Joe Banner. Banner wasn’t perfect, but he did have the foresight to stockpile draft picks for the 2014 NFL Draft (much to the detriment of the 2013 draft), one that he predicted (so far, correctly) would have much more talent. He also left the new regime in a very good position financially.

-We found out the hard way that everyone should be thankful for center Alex Mack. The offensive line as a whole took a noticeable step back in the couple games following his injury. This was no doubt partly due to chemistry, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that was it. Joe Thomas is probably the better lineman at a more integral position, but Mack was the general and possibly the best run blocker out of the bunch. Missing him shows that Mack is worth every penny of his $42 million contract.

Andy Metzger

First and foremost, the Browns should be thankful for the defensive secondary unit. If it hadn’t been for their stellar play all season, the Browns record would be much different. The secondary has collected 13 total interceptions this season, led by Tashaun Gipson with six of them. Joe Haden has played lights out this season and is earning that big contract. While he had early struggles, Justin Gilbert has shown tremendous progress the last few games and made a huge pass defense against the Falcons in a tight game. It is because of the secondary unit that Brian Hoyer has had extra opportunities per game.

Second, the Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel *ducks*. Now, hear me out on this. When the Browns selected Johnny Manziel in the first round in the draft, the Browns suddenly became a relevant team in the NFL in the eyes of the national media. With that, Brian Hoyer knew he needed to work his butt off to be the starting QB of the Cleveland Browns. This is just speculation, but I assume Hoyer also brought his game up on the intangibles that rookies have a hard time with. Namely, leadership. There’s no doubt that Brian Hoyer is the leader of the offense. He has command of the huddle and the respect of his peers. Sometimes it is that confidence that boosts your game to another level. The Browns should be thankful for Johnny Manziel, it lit a fire under Brian Hoyer. I just hope his inconsistent passes don’t lock us out of the playoffs *ducks*.

Last, but certainly not least, the Browns should be thankful for Ray Farmer. More specifically, Ray Farmer and his scout team. Where older regimes refused to bring in free agents because “they’re free agents for a reason,” Ray Farmer brought in Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Jim Dray, Ben Tate, Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins. As for the draft, they snagged Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, Pierre Desir as well as gaining extra 2015 1st, 4th and a 6th round draft pics. For undrafted rookies, the Browns collected an impressive haul that are major contributors on both sides of the ball. Cleveland signed Ray Agnew, Isaiah Crowell, Taylor Gabriel and K’Waun Williams. Without the players Ray Farmer signed, this would be a very different looking team. So, not only the Browns, but I, too, am thankful for Ray Farmer and his scout team. They did a fantastic job in the first year and cannot wait to see what they can do in the years to come.

Nico Ericksen-Deriso

Local(ish) High Schools – With four players from the Youngstown and Cleveland areas, the Browns ought to be thankful for the local talent that has reached them. Brian Hoyer went to high school at local powerhouse St. Ignatius. After spending time working behind Tom Brady in New England, Hoyer has emerged in Cleveland to lead the team’s offense, racking up 2864 yards through the air on a 55.9% completion rate to go along with 11 touchdowns thus far this year. On defense, one of his counterparts is also a Cleveland native. Donte Whitner attended Glenville High School before heading to Ohio State. In his first year with the Browns, he has been instrumental so far, finding himself second on the team in tackles with 73. He also has an interception and a forced fumble to go along. Two Browns linemen hail from the Youngstown area: Ishmaa’ily Kitchen on defense, and John Greco on offense. Kitchen attended Cardinal Mooney High before pursuing a career in the NFL. After seeing little time on the field in September, Kitchen has stepped up to the tune of 23 tackles since Week 6 as injuries have slowly decimated the Browns’ defensive line. On the other hand, John Greco, who attended Boardman High in Youngstown, has started every game for the Browns this season, primarily at right guard.
A Kyle Shanahan Offense – Shanahan’s offense has created a functional unit for the Browns. Despite losing one of their best players in Alex Mack, Cleveland has still been able to produce at a greater rate than last year, often powered to victory on the backs of their duo of rookie running backs and Hoyer’s mistake-minimizing arm. However, I can’t say that this has been all good, as their have been a few games when the offense has just straight up failed. However, overall, Shanahan’s presence in Cleveland has been a blessing.
The Cincinnati Bengals – “Wait what?! The Bengals? That makes so much sense, being thankful for one of our rivals and the division leader. Except not!”…Well, if you really think about it, it does. The Browns have three big reasons to be thankful for the Bengals. First off, former Bengal Andrew Hawkins leads the team in receiving with 50 receptions for 694 yards and two touchdowns. Secondly, the Bengals were kind enough to drop a huge deuce on Thursday Night Football. And lastly, the Bengals were dumb enough to help make sure the Browns improved this year by signing Greg “Brickhand” Little, guaranteeing that Cleveland’s worst nightmare would never haunt the team again. As hard as it is to admit, the Browns owe the Bengals a polite nod at dinner this Thanksgiving.

Stephen Thomas

I’m thankful that Mike Smith knows less about clock management than Andy Reid.

I’m thankful for reactionary Browns fans on Twitter, who handle each third down failure and incomplete pass with the grace and tact of a sorority girl in a zombie apocalypse movie.

I’m thankful for Joel Bitonio and Joe Thomas, who could block their way out of Nakatomi Plaza.

I’m thankful for Steelers fans, because as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack “The world needs ditch diggers, too.”

Ryan Jones

Mike Pettine – I routinely make jokes about the corpses that have roamed the sidelines for the Cleveland Browns over the past two or so decades, but know that I make those jokes in the most masochistic way imaginable. It kills me every time that I do it, but I think we might just be able to move on from all of that. Granted, Mike Pettine has had a couple time management blunders during his rookie campaign, but I get the feeling that he is an actual NFL caliber head coach. It’s a relatively small sample size but I’m absolutely loving him at the helm of my team thus far.

Josh Gordon – Quite simply the most talented football player that I have ever seen play for the Browns during my lifetime. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Josh Gordon was the singular reason that I was able to watch and enjoy the second half of last season. He is that good. And the Browns were that bad. There were quite a few local media members who advocated for his release this offseason. You most likely won’t hear them address that, but you will hear me reaffirm my love of Josh Gordon and the fact that I wrote a series of articles championing the fact that releasing him would have been a disastrous mistake. Seeing number twelve out on the field in Brown and Orange might just be the best thing in my life right now. Please don’t tell my girlfriend.

Seven and four. Seven wins and four losses. Seven wins at Thanksgiving and a team that is squarely in the mix for a playoff spot. I’m sorry, but after the putrid and depressing football that I have been subjected to my entire life, that is definitely the thing that I am most thankful for. Again, please don’t let my girlfriend or loved ones read this. Or, actually, let them read this. They know I have an irrational love for this football team. They’ll understand. All of us understand. Or, at least, should. The Browns have a huge game against Buffalo on Sunday, and they are poised to enter the month of December fighting for the division and the playoffs. How can we not be thankful for that?


 

As you can see, the Browns organization has a lot to be thankful for. One consensus among all of the writers was that the Browns should be thankful for their fans. These are fans who have stuck it out through multiple two, three and four win seasons. Fans who have begged just to have a team with a .500 record. Fans who can boast that they are some of the best fans in the NFL, as well as the most numerous.

The staff at More Than A Fan: Cleveland would like to wish all of you, our readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Even if you’ve only read one post or disagree with everything we say on a regular basis, we are still thankful for taking the time to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving

Bridging the Gap: The Midweek Report, Week 8

It’s nice seeing a win. Or actually, I should say that it’s nice to see that the Browns won. Unfortunately, I had to spend the weekend working on a project in Washington DC, so I was unable to tune into the game and watch the Browns come out on top. On the bright side though, y’all will be spared my rambling about what went wrong, who I was disappointed with, and what needs to be improved looking forward. So instead I will just touch on a bit of other Browns news from the past few days, as well as give a short preview of this weekend’s game:

– The loss of Jordan Cameron (again) is big. But how big? While Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray have performed well when they have been targeted (5 catches for 54 yards on 8 targets and 9 catches on 11 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown, respectively), neither can really be considered a receiving tight end in the way that Cameron is. Although he has been relatively quiet and ineffective this season so far, his loss for the next game or two will have a significant impact on the offense. Brian Hoyer has been struggling over the past few weeks, and with no running game to lean on ever since the loss of Alex Mack, he has started to lean more heavily on Cameron. If the running game repeats last week (25 carries for 39 yards) against the Buccaneers on Sunday, then this game will be quite ugly for Cleveland. Although Andrew Hawkins has been playing well, Miles Austin has been consistently making key plays, and Taylor Gabriel has been out-performing everyone’s wildest expectations, an offense that expects to be successful and consistently move the chains while depending just on those three players is not at all realistic. The running game needs to step back up to early season form this week in order to make up for the absence of Cameron, otherwise a repeat of Jacksonville should be expected.

– Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neill has instituted a really cool system in the Browns’ locker room. Each defensive player has been given a dog collar that hangs in their locker. For each “Play Like A Brown” play they make during a game, they are gifted a dog bone to hang from their collars. Now, I’m not quite sure what the heck a “Play Like A Brown” play is or means, but I love this idea. Being the overly competitive freak that I am, the idea of receiving some type of little reward to symbolize my dominance and success at whatever I am doing is beautiful. This type of system creates a lot of healthy competition among players in the locker room, as each tries to outplay and outdo the others in order to win a bone. Although systems like this could potentially be detrimental to a team’s on-field cooperation, the way this system is set up has the opposite effect. From my understanding, a “Play Like A Brown” play doesn’t only refer to things like sacks or forced turnovers, but also can refer to acts such as absorbing multiple blockers at the line of scrimmage or successfully disrupting the timing of a receiver and causing the quarterback to make a poor pass or decision. This kind of system enhances the functionality of a squad by successfully incentivizing players to create opportunities for their teammates to make big plays and get the glory, thus making the team as a whole better. The other added benefit, at least in my eyes, of this system is that it gives players extra reason to play hard even when they are comfortably ahead in a game and have room to relax a little. Similarly, it incentivizes players to continue to give it their all even when the came seems out of reach, helping create the opportunities for comebacks like the one that occurred against the Tennessee Titans. Basically, what I am trying to say here is props to O’Neill for coming up with a brilliant and simple system to keep his players invested in playing well.

– As for this week, the Browns face a third bottom-dweller in a row. With injuries really hindering them right now, this is quite fortunate for the Browns. Sitting only one game out of first place in the division, this game is a must win for the Browns, and realistically it is one that they can and should take. The Buccaneers have been spectacularly bad this year, with what was lauded as a talented defense falling disgustingly short of expectations. Lavonte David has been playing very well, already having racked up 80 tackles on the year, while Gerald McCoy has also been performing at a high level. But two players do not make a defense, and there have been times where it has appeared that they were the only two actually on the field. Unfortunately for them, their offense has been nearly as poor as their defense, with the passing unit ranked 28th this year while the ground attack is 29th. Doug Martin has been a non-factor this year, and Vincent Jackson has been disappointing all season as well. The Browns defense should be able to continue to come up with turnovers this week, and a weakened offense should be able to do enough against a poor defense to give the Browns the victory this week:

Prediction: Browns 27 – Bucs 13

Browns Fantasy Football Update Week 9

The Browns offense has really changed since the loss of Alex Mack. Plus after the game against Tampa the Browns schedule gets much tougher as we face 5 teams that are likely headed to the playoffs in the next eight games. Considering all of the above factors here is my Browns fantasy football update for week 9.

QB- Brian Hoyer: While Brian Hoyer may not have looked that great against the Raiders, he still managed to have a decent performance in fantasy. Fun Fact: Hoyer has thrown between 215 and 290 passing yards in every game. Should do fine against the Bucs.

QB- Johnny Manziel- Unless Hoyer  gets hurt he is not worth owning.

RB- Ben Tate: Wow it literally feels like the Browns went from having one of the best running games to having one of the worst. I wouldn’t recommend benching him unless you are stacked at RB I would just know that until his O-Line improves pretty much all of his value will come from touchdowns.

RB- Terrance West: West is now a third string RB on a team that is struggling to run the ball. He is a complete waste of a roster spot right now.

RB- Isaiah Crowell- Crowell only had 2 touches against the Raiders while Ben Tate had 16. Crowell needs to get a higher percentage in order to be relevant.

WR- Andrew Hawkins- Hawkins finally had his first touchdown! But  his status as a good PPR WR3 remains. Feels like a lock to get about 7 catches and 70 yards every week.

WR- Miles Austin- Miles Austin has earned 15 fantasy points in the past four weeks.

WR- Josh Gordon- 3 more weeks and he’s back. Not really confident in him immediately returning to form. He has to adjust to a new offense and a new QB. Won’t be as easy as everyone thinks.

TE- Jordan Cameron- A concussion complicates things. He probably won’t play against Tampa but hopefully he’ll return soon after. Not worth dropping yet.

K- Billy Cundiff- Billy Cundiff has scored the 20th most fantasy points out of all kickers and the second most fantasy points out of all Browns players.

DEF- The Defense was the 7th in fantasy last week and 8th the week before that. They will continue this positive trend against the

Rapid React: Browns 23 Raiders 13

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You’re not allowed to gripe about a win. That’s a rule. Browns fans have gotten so few of these things called victory over the last 15+ years that you have to appreciate every instance of adding a number to the win column.

In the end, the offense was able to take advantage of opportunities and punch the ball into the endzone. The final nail in the coffin came when Ben Tate scored from five yards out to put the home team up 23-6, completing his 15 carry 26 yard day on the ground. Ugly is just the way it has to be for this team. For a team that was supposed to feature their running game, there is nothing but shame in a first half total of 17 rushing yards.

127Raiders Browns Football

Tate’s scoring run marked the second time they found the endzone in the fourth quarter, an intriguing development in these eyes that didn’t believe they were capable of scoring touchdowns without the aid of Alex Mack. Cleveland was held to six points in four quarters in Jacksonville a week ago.

It appeared they’d only score in increments of three before Joe Haden’s fumble return set them up for an Andrew Hawkins touchdown catch from 4 yards away. His first touchdown in a Browns uniform came early in the fourth quarter and gave the Browns a slightly more comfortable 16-6 lead. At the very least, fans should be happy with the big win in the turnover battle. They turned all three takeaways into point, 17 in all.

For the first time all season, we were somewhat sold on the defense. Sure, they gave up more first downs (19) than we’d care to see anyone surrender to Oakland, but the unit didn’t play down to the lesser opponent. Derek Carr gashed them for 328 yards, but they made plays without making penalties and avoided the big play.

The Raiders were kept out of the endzone until Andre Holmes brought the game back to within two possessions with seven ticks left on the clock, but it was only about changing numbers on the scoreboard at that point. The Browns had already won the game.

Brian Hoyer didn’t have an ultra-inspiring performance. A great deal of his 275 yards in the air should be credited to the legs of his speedy receivers. He is definitely favoring Jordan Cameron as a target, and it’s hard to discourage that strategy, but the dynamic tight end left in the second quarter with a possible concussion. His status is unknown at this point

Without Cameron and a competent running game, it leaves us to wonder what the Browns can possibly do on offense in the coming weeks. They’ll play 3 games in 12 days. For now, they should probably just enjoy the win.

Cleveland Browns Week Seven: The Good, Bad and Ugly

For the Cleveland Browns, last Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was their worst defeat of the season thus far. Sure, losing to the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers in last minute fashion is heartbreaking, but to be embarrassed by (arguably) the worst team in the NFL when you are favored to win on the road is demoralizing. A lot went wrong this past Sunday in Jacksonville, but it wasn’t all bad. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from last Sunday’s Browns game.

The Good

GipsonYes there was some good in this game, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. For starters, safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted two Blake Bortles passes and is now tied for the league lead in interceptions with four so far this season. Gipson, a player I admittedly wasn’t as high on as others, is proving himself to be a ball-hawking, centerfield type safety. While he does struggle a bit in run support, quarterbacks this season have just a 46.2 QB Rating when throwing into his coverage. Gipson was not alone in the secondary this week either. Despite having an up and down (with more down than up) rookie season, Justin Gilbert turned in a solid performance on Sunday. Gilbert started the game for the Browns and saw 46 of 74 possible defensive snaps, the most for him since week two. He managed to get a hit on Blake Bortles and, while he only saw three passes come into his coverage, just allowed one completion for three yards. Also, despite allowing a touchdown, Buster Skrine turned in a solid performance. He was targeted 12 times throughout the game, limiting the damage to just 6 catches for 70 yards. He also broke up one pass and intercepted another. Overall, this was probably the best the Browns secondary played all season (Joe Haden, paging Joe Haden).

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Karlos Dansby continued to earn his paycheck. Dansby got to Bortles twice on Sunday, once for a hurry and once for a sack, and managed six stops. Chris Kirksey also played well in limited action (39 snaps), getting a positive grade from Pro Football Focus and leading the team in total tackles on Sunday with nine.

The Bad

The Browns rushing attack only managed 69 total yards on 30 rushing attempts. Ben Tate received the most carries with 16, but only managed 36 rushing yards. Combined, Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West had 28 carries, 62 yards (2.2 yards per carry) and no touchdowns. This was in part due to Jacksonville’s commitment to stop the run and struggles along the offensive line, however there is plenty of blame to heap upon the running backs as they at times missed holes and generally failed to capitalize on what was considered to be a porous run defense in Jacksonville.

While Brian Hoyer was far from good Sunday, his receivers didn’t help matters either. Browns receivers, who had just four dropped passes coming into play Sunday, dropped four on Sunday. Andrew Hawkins, who otherwise had a fairly good day, dropped two passes while Miles Austin and Travis Benjamin each dropped one.

The Ugly

Brian Hoyer, Telvin SmithOffensively, the Browns were a train wreck. For starters, the absence of Alex Mack (out for the season) really showed as the Browns offensive line was generally bullied at the point of attack. Individually, Joe Thomas had a solid game (per usual) and Joel Bitonio wasn’t bad either (getting a barely positive grade from Pro Football Focus), however overall the unit struggled. The right side of the line may as well have been a red carpet to the backfield. Combined Paul McQuistan and Mitchell Schwartz allowed one sack, three QB hits and four QB hurries. The Browns offensive line also failed to consistently run block effectively, which is partly why the ground game suffered.

Despite being under some pressure, Brian Hoyer easily had the worst start of his career. Pressure was present, however only on 14 of his 44 drop backs. Hoyer was just 2/11 for 14 yards and an interception when under pressure. While statistically he hasn’t been great while under pressure all year (58 dropbacks under pressure this season, going just 16/49) Hoyer was obviously struggling more than usual. Even when he wasn’t under pressure (30 of his 44 dropbacks were pressure free) he still only completed 46.7% of his passes. Hoyer was also inaccurate, beyond just going 16/41 on the day. His passes were off target, most notably missing a wide open Jordan Cameron in the end zone from four yards out. He hasn’t been the most accurate passer all year anyway (completing just over 60% of his passes entering play), however Sunday was far and away his worst showing.

Browns special teams, and notably the return game, has been very underwhelming this season. That trend continued Sunday, however if Special Teams was just simply bland that would’ve been fine in hindsight. With the game still in the balance, Jordan Poyer went back to receive a punt with 6:12 left to play in the game. This could’ve/should’ve setup another Brian Hoyer game winning drive. What happened was pretty much the exact opposite. Poyer backed up to receive the ball on the two yard line. This alone should make anybody scratch their heads. With the ball looking to be extremely close to the end zone, why not let it bounce and (more than likely) go into the end zone for a touchback? Why fair catch the ball on the two yard line? Not only does Poyer stupidly call for the fair catch, the ball then bounces off of his facemask and is recovered by the Jaguars. On the very next play the Jags score a touchdown. If you aren’t going to be an electric retuner (Poyer isn’t) at least be a smart one. Poyar was neither.

In Conclusion

While overall the game on Sunday was a nightmare for the Browns, there were a handful of bright spots. Up to this point the Browns have (generally) played fairly well. Looking ahead, the Browns have two winnable games against the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Browns can make this past Sunday the exception instead of the rule, all will be forgiven. If not, well we all know what that means.